Tuesday 14 May 2024

 Acts 2 v 42

On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a message to the crowds who had gathered at the festival.  Those who accepted the message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day; such was the work of the Holy Spirit.

In the passage from Acts 2, the Bible gives a model of how a Church should act. I accept that this was in a distant age, but it is still a model which could serve us well in the present day.

The essential ingredient is that it was a bible believing one.  This may seem to be obvious, but it is far from being so now; in too many churches the bible has been cast aside

The Bible states, ‘they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching’.  It must be remembered the teaching of the Apostles was special for they were taught by the Lord, and God richly blessed their ministry. To authenticate that they were able to perform miraculous acts, and obviously made a deep impression, for the people we are told devoted themselves to attend.  There was no coercion or inducements; they were filled with awe and inspiration.  Accompanying the bible teaching, they were singing and praising God. How many services do you attend where you come away inspired and filled with awe?

Here is there recipe for successful worship; joyful praise and faithful bible teaching. People like to sing, and must have tunes that are pleasing to sing. When we have faithful preaching of the Bible coupled with such praise, we can wait for God to bless us.

A significant sentence ends this passage; and the Lord added to their numbers. It is God who adds to a Church.  He may use a preacher, and work through him, but it is God who turns a heart towards Jesus and gives that person the choice of responding or rejecting the offer to follow Jesus.

 People also turn to follow him through the witness of friends or family members, and by the way they see church members acting. However, alternatively when people see church members breaking the moral and ethical standards of the Bible they are equally turned off, possibly for good, and understandably think of hypocrisy.

There we have the vision and a pattern of the church God wants us to be.

The most pressing problem the Church faces at the present time is falling attendances. We have reached a position where the Church plays little if any part in the lives of people.  It is reported that less than 2% of the population attend Church on any regular basis.  In the majority of Churches the congregations are in the older age range, and predominantly female.  (just look around).A large contributory factor in that is the Church is not fulfilling the purpose for which the Lord created it.

Think as I speak to you this morning, ‘do YOU think the Church is fit for purpose; the purpose for which our Lord created it.

Is it making disciples?  Is it leading people to worship?

Is it teaching Jesus as the ONLY Saviour of mankind?

Does it abide by the teaching of how the life of Christians should be lived as God set out in the Bible?

Does it accept the Bible as the complete authority for teaching?

The Church is expected to be the conscience of the nation and offer guidance on moral, social and ethical matters as well as spiritual guidance. This it is unable to do because there is no clear belief; there are those who believe in a liberal code opposing a biblical standard.

Liberalism is tearing the Church apart by trying to supplant biblical authority for cultural expression and denying the infallibility of the Bible, with trendy social issues replacing the Cross of Christ.    

It is not too strong to say immorality is permeating into Churches.  People are not being taught the thoughts of God, but following blindly after the culture of society.     

Secular humanists and aggressive activists have set out an agenda which is well organised and aggressively pursued, with the aim of changing our culture by an attack on the family, the moral climate, and to faze Christianity right out of the public arena. Inroads have been made into ethical and moral values whereby there are no absolutes and all is relative, everyone just sets up their own standards.

A most important verse in the Bible is found in the small Letter of Jude; ‘Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’, and every word matters. The faith that is being referred to is the teaching of the Apostles.

To ‘contend’ means literally to fight and defend the gospel; we are in a battle, I see little defending, rather capitulation. 

Every day in this country Christians are suffering because of iniquitous legislation introduced  for cheap political ends, which is in direct contravention of bible teaching, and added to that are prohibitions on anyone passing adverse comments on it.  We too often lack conviction.  When laws are introduced which are contrary to Biblical teaching the Church should not meekly acquiesce, but instead protest loudly.    

The Bible calls on us not to be ashamed of the gospel. Paul says he was not ashamed, in fact he glorified in the gospel and that is what all Christians should do.  But sadly I fear we all do not. How many Church members are embarrassed when asked if they believe?  Indeed how many are ready to acknowledge they attend Church?  How would we answer is asked to give our opinion on moral questions?  

If you are not ashamed you are ready to speak out about your faith.  Some people are fearful of their friends finding out they attend Church in case they get mocked, or because it might restrict the way they want to behave. Some will worry will they be called narrow minded or old fashioned.  Remember the words of Jesus, ‘for whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father’.

The reason we do not hear senior figures in the Church speaking clearly on moral issues is because they too are ashamed of the gospel.  Why call for the Bible’s teaching on marriage to be abandoned? Why should there be those within the Church who consider we should re-interpret the Bible to meet modern ideas of morality.  This suggests that God has got it wrong and He should adjust to the age.  Why not challenge all the attacks and penalties on those Christians who take a stand for their faith; some even losing their employment for holding to traditional morality?       

 Faith is the gospel story of Jesus Christ who gave Himself to be crucified for our sins in order to reconcile us to God. For in the gospel righteousness from God is revealed; for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. God’s purpose for the Church is to lead people to salvation.  We have to tell people God loves them and wants all to be saved, but there has to be an acceptance of Jesus as Saviour and a commitment to live according to his commands

 Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story?  We all no doubt are ashamed of things we have done in our lives, and the things we have said but wished we hadn’t, and that is understandable.  But we allow ourselves to become ashamed of something for which there is no need to be ashamed of.

 This faith has been ‘entrusted’ to the saints, the biblical name for Christians, and we are called to guard and protect the truth, for  Christianity is in danger of being fazed out by secularists here and in other Western Countries

 It was given ‘one and for all’.  It was not a temporary statement of faith, and it was not meant to be added to, amended or re-interpreted.  It was based on the teaching of the Apostles, who were commissioned by Jesus to proclaim.

What troubled Jude was; he found preachers within the Church who were preaching false doctrine and advocating a gospel which fitted within their personal desires, and we face the same problem now.  They taught that the grace of God would forgive any sin; just act as you wish God will forgive you. Jude saw this as rejection of God’s word.  We have to face an identical situation.  There are godless men, (and women) who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny the clear teaching of Jesus Christ. 

The time has come for Christians to be as devoted to the teaching of the Apostles as those first Christians were; to be as committed to contending for Christianity as other faiths are for proclaiming their faith. To be as vociferous in protesting when our holy book is mocked as Islam is when their holy book or faith is treated discourteously.

  My friends, it is the duty of the Church to teach the gospel and not to budge from it.  We are not to be blown by every new spiritual wind so that we drift from our moorings.  We are not to be superficial believers. Hold fast to the gospel once given by the Apostles who were taught by the Master Himself.      

You and I are called to contend for the truth.  Do not let anyone tell you that you do not count.  You count tremendously, so glory in what God has called you to do and be faithful to His command.   Our Lord’s last great commission was to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations; let us not fail Him.

To paraphrase a famous saying, ‘do not ask what can God do for me, ask what can I do for God?’



May God bless His Word to us and may His Holy Name be Praised

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