A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
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We say that we want to be a New Testament church. What does that mean?
It isnt easy to control, and the path to having that same Spirit comes in surrendering control to the Almighty God and the Lord Christ who empower that Holy Spirit within us. It means living with the impact of what God has done in Christ. A fact that changes everything a reality that continues to work in our world. If we are really and truly going to be a New Testament church then here are a few items we need to consider . . .
- We might answer that it means being the church described in the New Testament. Of course there are a lot of churches described in the New Testament and they are very different, but we might mean that a New Testament church embodies what they have in common.
- We might answer that it means sharing the same doctrine and belief as the New Testament church. We can focus on their practices in particular and we have to be careful that we dont cherry pick a few items and put together our own idea of what church should be, but it is possible to read through the New Testament and read about some of the ways the church lived and worshipped.
- But how often do we think about having the same spirit as the church in the New Testament? How often do we read about the enthusiasm, the joy, the awe of the churches that followed Christ and the changed behavior that resulted and we answer, Thats what we ought to be like. Its a very clean process to highlight the sort of things we ought to do to be like the New Testament church. We are Americans and we like to focus on doing. But its very different to focus on being and thus having that same Spirit. Thats not as easy to control, is it?
- Living like Resurrection People
- The presence of the church is the surest evidence of the resurrection. A people whose lives and life together is so unique that it can only be explained by the truthfulness and significance of the resurrection.
- 32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them.
- Maybe the world doubts or ignores the resurrection not because we have failed to preach it, explain it, or make convincing arguments but maybe because we havent always behaved like resurrection people.
- Imagine a group of believers today who are sold out to the revelation that Christ is risen from the dead and continues to work within his people and in this world. Would that alter our values? Would it change the way we treat one another? As we imagine this, lets remember that this is who we are called to be.
- Overcoming Materialism
- 36Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.
- What is materialism? Its faith in stuff. It is trust in our possessions to give us security. In ancient times, people hoarded their food, fought over land, locked up treasures. We are more sophisticated in our times and in our nation, but we are still so very concerned about security. We want to secure our lives, secure our future, secure our survival.
- If we are filled with the spirit of Jesus, then we take seriously his teaching about treasure. Where is our treasure? Thats where our heart will be.
- It is interesting that Luke describes the New Testament church as a community that shares everything. They have a different sort of economy that involves security in Gods power and sharing of all things. Letting go of things that are not eternal.
- Resurrection people are not troubled by reports of a sour economy. Neither do we put our faith and security in bull markets or political policies. Our economy is very different. We overcome materialism and worry about security because our treasure is in heaven. Our future is secure.
- If we think that we need to get away from all this talk about money in worship and focus on more spiritual things, please understand that the New Testament church seemed to regard economic issues as very spiritual. They seemed to regard it as a matter of life and death.
- Giving in to the Awe of God
- The people were in awe of what God was doing among them. Outsiders were in awe because of the great grace and wonders within this community the kind of wonders represented by sharing everything.
- Ananais and Saphira want to be a part of this awe, wonder, and sharing. But they also want to secure their own security. So, they work out a plan to pay their dues to the community but also secretly stash away a part of it just in case. Wheres their treasure? Wheres their heart? Do they want to share with the rest of the church, or do they want what the church can share with them?
- The church does share something with Ananias and Saphira. They share a respectful burial service. The wild, untamed power of God and the fear of the Holy Spirit seems to contradict our expectations.
- Joy and gladness vs awe, fear, reverence both of these can exist in a community that lives with much grace.
Sum up a description of the New Testament church (identifying marks of the church):
- a church in which no one suffers from need,
- a church that shares everything they have,
- a church that is one in heart and mind,
- a church that lives with much grace upon everyone,
- a church that testifies to the resurrection of Jesus with power
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 13 September 2009
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