Printable PDF: 1-14-2018 Stewardship 1 Sermon – 2018
Vicar Jordan Bence ~ Stewardship 1 ~ January 14, 2018 ~ Acts 2:42-47
How Is Christ Using Me?
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Fellow Redeemed,
I know that this may come as a shock to some of you, but I work out. I have a nice fitness center attached to my apartment complex that makes any excuse to skip out invalid and is only a couple steps away. As I attempted to work out this last Monday, I noticed something different than usual. A small exercise room that was usually occupied by no more than three or four people at a time was now filled to the brim with people I had never seen before. A room that was usually empty enough to move around in was now more packed than a clown car on its way to the circus. What had changed? Why so many people? Because with the new year comes a “new me.” With a new year comes new resolutions and promises people make to themselves that they look forward to fulfilling during this great new year. Something I always chuckle at is that with the beginning of the new year we often spend so much time looking ahead we rarely take time to look back. We rarely take time to assess how last year’s resolutions went. Or take time to check and see if any of our goals were accomplished. This Sunday we begin a new sermon series. We are going to take time and look back at how we have managed the gifts God has given us to extend his kingdom in our own life, in our church, and in our world and see how we can better use these gifts moving forward. Our text for today focuses us on Christ’s kingdom extended in our own lives. We will ask ourselves individually how is Christ using me to serve his kingdom?
The text that we are taking a look at today is from the book of Acts. The second book of Luke’s two-volume set which gives us a detailed account of Jesus’ ministry, as well as the earliest days of the Christian church. Our verses come right after the events of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit filled the apostles and allowed them to proclaim the wonders of God in many tongues. Following the events of that day over 3,000 were added to the body of believers in Jerusalem. Our text for today follows these events at Pentecost and tells us about the actions of these newly converted believers.
- TO GROW IN FAITH
Concerning these newly baptized Christians we hear, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The key word in this phrase is devoted. Following their baptisms these Christians were immediately devoted to growing in their faith. We’re told they were devoted to the apostle’s teachings, which we know was not the apostles’ but Christ’s. Everything that the apostles were teaching was commanded and instructed first by Christ and was always about Christ. The teachings of the apostles was the message of the gospel. These new believers were devoted to gathering together around the apostle’s to hear this comforting message. This was like the apostles’ Super Saturday course. Time spent together growing in the wisdom of the Lord and the teachings of scripture.
They were also devoted to fellowship. They were devoted to gathering and spending time together with other members in the body of Christ. They saw closeness to one another as a blessing and were devoted to spending time with one another on a regular basis. This led to the breaking of bread together. Time spent gathering together and breaking bread in participation of an agape meal, but also the sacred breaking of bread in the Lord’s Supper. These new believers joyfully received the means of grace together. They wanted to share in the joy of forgiveness of sins and new life that this supper offers. They were not ok with taking this sacrament once in a while but insisted on celebrating this blessing regularly together. Lastly, they were devoted to prayer. This was a time that they could lift up their praise to the Lord in prayer. It was also a time they could humbly bring their requests to their loving God. This was another blessing in which they joyfully participated together.
As we look at the actions of the Jerusalem congregation they almost seem too good to be true. Why on earth did they do these things? Were Peter and the apostles forcing them to doing these things? What was their motivation? This takes us back to the big phrase we find in the text, “They were devoted.” They weren’t forced to do any of these things but they devoted themselves to these things on their own. The joy they found in their baptism after Pentecost, which declared them to be redeemed children of God led them to devote themselves to grow in faith by these gifts God had given them.
As we read about these actions of the Jerusalem Christians I now ask you, are you devoted? To what are you devoted? Many things may come to mind. Maybe you think of your devotion to your family. The dedication you have to your spouse or your children. To your parents and your siblings. Maybe you think of your devotion to your job. The countless hours you have spent showing your loyalty to your career. I think devotion to our phone would be a pretty easy one to admit. Our devotion to Facebook, snapchat, YouTube. There are many things to which we are devoted. But are you devoted to the Lord? Are you devoted, like these Jerusalem Christians to growing in your faith, as a child of God? Perhaps you are realizing that you’re not as devoted to him as you wish. As you look back you remember times when you wish you would’ve shown a devotion similar to these new believers. You admit that you have taken these blessings for granted and haven’t always put them to good use. But those faults we humbly lay at the feet of the cross and trust in the forgiveness that Jesus offers for those failures. We know that those sins were paid for on the cross just like any other.
So let’s not dwell on the past, but let’s look to the future. Let’s look and see how we can grow in our faith with the devotion that the Jerusalem Christians had. The devotion to grow in God’s grace in my own life in order that I can serve his kingdom and be a tool that he uses to extend his grace to others. Like the Jerusalem congregation this begins in God’s Word. We base all of our growth on the scriptures and the wisdom that they hold. This is why we set aside time to joyfully ponder God’s grace found in his Word. To open up the scriptures and spend time daily growing closer to our God in his word. This leads us to want to grow together and participate in the body of believers. We enjoy spending time surrounded by fellow followers of Christ inside and outside of God’s house. We are there for one another during the good and the bad. Taking that walk of faith as one body in Christ. We participate in the Lord’s Supper together which reminds us of that life after death that we will enjoy together. Growing in my own ministry as I partake of the Lord’s body and blood with fellow children of God. And don’t ever forget the last of these blessings; prayer. As we grow in our faith together, rooted in God’s Word, we exercise that faith as we pray to our Heavenly Father. Just as a child sits on the lap of their parents to tell them the good and the bad of the day, so also in prayer we sit at the feet of your Heavenly Father. Laying before him our humble requests and our utmost praise. Growing in your relationship with him together as believers. Being built up in his grace and being comforted by his love for us.
- TO SERVE HIS KINGDOM
As we grow in faith in our own lives this leads to service for God’s kingdom. We see this happen in the lives of the believers in Jerusalem as some of them sold their possessions and supported those less fortunate, as they met continually in the temple courts, as they broke bread and ate together in each other’s homes. All of these things, all of this service was a result of them individually growing in faith motivated by the gospel message that Peter had preached to them in his sermon at Pentecost.
If you remember back to Peter’s message to these people moments before. Where he told them about Jesus of Nazareth. One who was sent by God not only to perform signs and wonders, but also to fulfill God’s perfect plan according to his will. Peter reminds them that they, “put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” Peter laid the guilt of Christ’s death at their feet. But he also laid God’s grace there as well, as he reminded them why Jesus came, why Jesus died, and the joyful proclamation of Christ’s life after death. Peter reminded them that this Jesus is not dead, “because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” No, the Messiah that they serve lives! He reigns! He fully devoted himself to them and now they have a chance to fully devote themselves to serving him. This was their motivation. This is our motivation as well.
Peter’s sermon is for us as well. He reminds us that the guilt of Christ’s death is on us, too. We may not have been there to pound the nails into Jesus’ hands, or in the crowds yelling, “Crucify him, crucify him!”, but our sins were the reason he was there. Just like these new believers we rejoice in knowing our Messiah lives. Our Messiah sits at the right hand of God continuing to serve as our king. Out of joy we serve him and his kingdom, in order that he might extend the gospel through us.
So how can you serve? How can you participate? Do you have to sell all of your possessions like the Jerusalem church and give them to the poor? No, but now might be a great time for you to sit down and prayerfully consider your offerings to the Lord. Use this as an opportunity to thank God for blessing you with such an abundance of gifts. This is a wonderful opportunity to offer up the first fruits to the Lord. But money is not the only thing we can give. There are many opportunities for us to devote ourselves to serve elsewhere. There are a number of formal means of service such as boards and committees that are wonderful opportunities to serve. But there are also informal opportunities that all of us can use to serve. This might be a phone call to someone who has been sick lately. This might be an encouraging word to someone struggling in their own life. This might be many things. There are many ways we can serve God’s kingdom. Whatever your personal ministry might be is an opportunity for Christ to use you to extend his kingdom in your life.
As the new year begins we rarely take time to look back, but instead usually spend all of our time looking forward. As we look at our text for today we realize now is a great time to look back. A great time to assess our growth in faith and our service to the Lord. As we look back we are reminded that we have failed. We have not used all of God’s gifts to us perfectly. But that’s why Jesus came. He came to die for our shortcomings and lead the life we couldn’t. This brings us such joy that we want to live our lives out of thanks for him and his mercy. We want to grow in our own faith in order that we might serve him and his kingdom better. As we look back we ask ourselves, “How is Christ using me?” We know he is using us to grow in faith so that we might serve his kingdom. Amen.