Gospel Communities | Devoted Rightly 1.0 | "The devoted themselves..."
In the last post (posted last week, titled "Gospel Communities | Introduction | What Are We Even Doing Here? Search back and read if you have not yet done so), we introduced the fact that we as the Anthem leadership have spent time praying, seeking, and reading in order to determine a healthy and fruitful reorientation of our gospel community groups (GCs).
After prayer, discussion, and consideration, the elders were led to the following text, found in the second chapter of Acts:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:42-47
WHAT IS OUR JOB?
With this as the agreed upon template for restructuring, three principles were brought forth through prayerful exegesis, core values that would help to provide the framework for our efforts to live as a biblical, gospel-centered community. This passage in Acts 2 shows that the disciples were
1. Devoted Rightly
2. Together Frequently
3. Giving Generously
We are to be devoted rightly, so that everything we do abides in a proper understanding and experience of the Gospel, which is our spiritual worship.
We are to be together frequently, so we might edify one another to good works as contributing citizens in the church and the world.
We are to be giving generously, so our mission to the greater world is the implication of a generous people made new by the good and generous news of the Gospel itself.
These responsibilities eventually lead to implications for us as the church and for the missional context in which we live. These implications will be explained after the principles.
DEVOTED RIGHTLY 1.0 – “DEVOTED THEMSELVES”
We will first turn our attention to what it means to be devoted rightly.
Communities are focused around something, often a common interest or goal. Whether a noble cause, a sports team, a television show, food… people are drawn to others and form communities based on common interests, goals, life stages, and a number of other factors.
Our passage in Acts 2 finds the disciples devoted as well, fully given in a manner that marked them as a community. What were they devoted to?
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” – Acts 2:42
Before diving into the subject of their devotion, it is important to note that the text clearly states that the disciples devoted themselves; in the original language the phrase means “to give constant attention to a thing” or to continue steadfastly in a thing. The wording suggests both initiative and ownership. The early disciples initiated their devotion. They were certainly empowered by the Holy Spirit, just as we are, and we know that their salvation was certainly not contingent on any effort of their own but was gained by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. However, what we do see here is that the early followers of Jesus understood that seeking the Lord and growing in intimacy with him, in all of the ways he asks us to, requires effort on our part. If we are waiting for someone else to initiate our devotion to him, our obedience, our activity, our inclusion, or anything else, we have missed the lesson their example provides for us.
Of course, God is the one who gives any growth (1 Corinthians 3:7), but we must take up the call to seek first the kingdom if we are to expect benefit from our involvement in community (Matthew 6:33). There’s always the chance that someone will bring us water if we are thirsting, and certainly there are seasons where life’s burning rays make us too weak to walk, and we are called to bear one another’s burdens and help (Galatians 6:1-2). However, most times the duty of seeking water where it may be found is ours, and Christ has made this possible for us (Hebrew 4:16). There is a time in our walk with Christ when it is appropriate to be served like children, but we must also heed the call to grow in putting childish things behind us (1 Corinthians 13:11).