God did something powerful and unique in Jesus' death and in Jesus' resurrection. In Jesus' death God gave us powerful gifts: forgiveness, redemption, atonement, sanctification, justification. In Jesus' resurrection God showed us that He is more powerful than death. Not only can He reverse the effects of death, but He can use physical death as our door to eternal life.

This morning I want to begin by calling your attention to this statement in Acts 2:43-47.
Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

  1. I would like to challenge you to form even deeper insights into this scripture.
    1. If the only insights we develop are taken from a search that seeks to determine what is and is not a command, we miss the key lesson, the key point.
      1. The first thing we must remember is that the church in Jerusalem began with highly religious, very devout people.
        1. The vast majority of the "about 3000" people who were baptized because they believed in Jesus' identity were pilgrims who came to Jerusalem to observe one of the national holy days Israel observed by God's command for centuries.
        2. All of them were either devout Jews or devout Jewish converts (proselytes).
        3. The church did not begin with a group of people who did not know God and who were not committed to God--these people prior to conversion were so devoted to God that they made a pilgrimage to praise God on a national festival day!
        4. Acts 2 tells us that those who heard this first sermon came from throughout the Roman world--for many of these people the pilgrimage was an expensive, time consuming trip.
        5. My point is quite specific--the first converts to Jesus as the resurrected Christ were very religious, very devout, and likely very knowledgeable people.
      2. Carefully notice that even though they were highly religious people prior to conversion, there is a remarkable difference in them after conversion.
        1. One reason they were different: they wanted to belong to Jesus Christ because they knew that God worked in his life, his death, and his resurrection.
        2. Remember: the difference is not explained by declaring that non-religious people became religious, but that religious people were obviously different.
        3. Another reason for the difference: they saw God at work in Jesus.
      3. Look at the differences:
        1. There was this continual sense of awe among them.
        2. They saw the impact of the apostles' miracles, they saw the impact of this new spiritual community on Jerusalem, they saw God at work in Jesus Christ, and they were overwhelmed with what they saw.
        3. They shared with each other.
        4. They sacrificed to help those in need.
        5. They worshipped every day.
        6. They had daily fellowship with each other.
        7. There was a sense of gladness, a sense of heart devotion among them that was new.
      4. There were three things that resulted from these powerful changes.
        1. They were continually praising God.
        2. They were respected by other people.
        3. The Lord was adding believers to them every day--people could look at them and see God at work in Jesus Christ!
    2. Let's ask a question that should be asked: what was happening?
      1. God placed a tremendous emphasis in Israel on helping the poor and the helpless.
        1. Allow me to share with you just two examples.
        2. The first example is a series of emphases on what Israel should do for its poor found in Deuteronomy 15.
          1. At the end of every seven years they were to forgive debts.
          2. If an Israelite among them was in such poverty that he could not meet his responsibilities, they were to allow him to be a servant for six years.
            1. On the seventh year they were to release that man.
            2. When they released him, they were to give him so many different gifts that he could begin a new life with a fresh start.
        3. The second example had to do with a practice called gleaning commanded in Leviticus 23:22.
          1. Remember they were an agricultural society.
          2. When they harvested their crops, they were not to harvest the entire field.
          3. Certain parts of the field were to be left untouched.
          4. The needy and alien were to be allowed to harvest those areas.
      2. Let me ask you to look at what happened in Acts 2 perhaps in a way you have never considered it before.
        1. These new converts were saying, "At last we understand what You wanted Your people to be from the beginning."
        2. "You were not merely giving us a bunch of laws in order for us to jump through Your hoops! You were not creating a religious obstacle course!"
        3. "You wanted us to be a specific kind of people, a people who reflected You."
        4. "Now that we understand who Jesus was and what You are about in Jesus' life and death, we understand--and we are astounded!"
        5. "There is only one appropriate response--to live the lives of the people You always wanted! We praise You for the opportunity to do that!"
    3. That is what I want us to be--a people who are in awe because of the ways God can express Himself in us and use us--all because of what He did in Jesus Christ!

  2. In the past few weeks several close friends have asked me if I was okay or asked about my future, and I deeply appreciate the asking and the concern.
    1. Usually when I am asked, it is in the context of Chris and Karen coming to work with us.
      1. There are some things you need to understand.
      2. The first thing you need to understand is that I am looking forward to their being a part of us.
        1. In no way is Chris being a part of our staff a threat to me.
        2. He and I not only want to tell you that; we want to show you that.
        3. There is simply too much to be done in this congregation for Brad and I to be the only two full-time staff members in a congregation of this size.
        4. I think I can speak for Brad as well as myself by saying we both are really happy to have someone else to work full-time with us.
      3. The second thing you need to know is that I talk to Chris every week.
        1. Chris and Karen are going through a very challenging time right now--any time a minister leaves one congregation and goes to another, it is a demanding time.
        2. Believe me, I know from experience, that is the one time in the life of a minister and his family when they do not belong anywhere.
          1. You are leaving friends you love and care about, and that is not easy.
          2. You are excited about meeting new people, making new friends, and falling in love with another congregation, but you are not there yet.
          3. I imagine there are all kinds of emotions in both Chris and Karen as they think about moving back to their home area.
        3. You are nervous because you have a house to sell.
        4. You are a excited because you have new challenges ahead.
        5. It is just plain difficult; they surely need our prayers.
        6. They know more people here now than I knew when I moved here, but they still have a lot of you to meet and get close to.
      4. The third thing you need to know is that I realize my limitations.
        1. No, I have no plans for retiring.
        2. No, I have no plans for moving.
        3. No, I have no sense of someone else taking my place.
        4. I understand something--I could not continue to work much longer at the present level without burning out.
        5. With Chris' help and involvement, I have every reason to believe that I can live among you and work with you for several years--that is my hope!
      5. The fourth thing you need to know is that I want my relationship with you just to keep on growing.
        1. I try to show in what I am how much I love you and care about you.
        2. I try to live what I share with you--I really try to show you as well as teach you.
        3. I try to teach you what I understand so none of us will face God and say in shame, "I didn't know that!"

  3. There is something in Acts 2 I want to be true of us.
    1. I want God to increasingly open our eyes so that we see the incredible thing God does for us in Jesus Christ.
      1. While I surely want us to see Jesus as Savior, I want us to understand what it means for God to give us a Savior.
      2. I want us to grow out of perspectives that see God's commands as religious hoops to jump through, or a religious obstacle course to be completed.
      3. I want us to realize that God wants us to be what He has always intended His people to be.
      4. I want us to see God's purposes in Jesus, and to want God to use us in accomplishing those purposes.
    2. I want us to be in awe of what God is doing.
      1. I want us to be filled with a desire to praise God.
      2. I want us not only to feel but to nourish a special bond between us.
      3. I want people to see us as a special blessing from God.
      4. I want the Lord to add to us those who are being saved.

I neither want nor expect any of us to be flawlessly perfect. That cannot be. We are all human and we all will make mistakes. I only want this: I want it to be obvious that God is in charge of our lives.

Chris, Brad, and I all want the same thing. We all want us to be God's people--no more, and no less. We all have just one request. Put God in charge of your life.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 26 October 2003

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