SYR

Sermon October 30, 2022

KaB FKB (Volker Aßmann)

Unstoppable – Living Church

Acts 2:41-47

This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here

 

“The people who accepted His message were immersed (baptized) in water that same day.
About three thousand people were added to the congregation that day.
This is how they organized their everyday life:
They took the teachings of the authorized ambassadors of Jesus (apostles) as a standard for their lives.
They shared their lives together, breaking bread in celebration and dedicating themselves to prayer.
All people were in awe as many signs and wonders were performed by the apostles.
All who lived in trust in God in this way focused on the common goal and saw everything as
community property.
They sold their possessions and goods and divided them among everyone according to whether anyone was in need.
Day after day they were together in great unanimity
on the temple grounds.
And in the houses they solemnly broke bread and ate with hymns of joy and with a heart set on God.
They praised God and were well respected by all the people.
And the LORD Himself added people day by day,
who accepted His salvation.”
(From “The Book” by Roland Werner)

 

Unstoppable – the kingdom of God that began with Jesus, who was crucified and rose from the dead.
Unstoppable – the Holy Spirit.
Unstoppable – Word of God.
Unstoppable – the church of God.

 

  1. The first church – a living church
That is certainly one of the most challenging things about the Acts of the Apostles, that some understand this early period of the Church of God as so unique that for them the Acts of the Apostles has nothing to do with us today. What we read here was unique and is not the norm for us today. Others develop a teaching from Acts of the Apostles as to how the church should be today. Everything we discover here must also happen here today.
Yes, dogmatics, a teaching of the church, we find that much more in the letters of the apostles in the New Testament.
But we certainly don’t understand the Acts of the Apostles correctly and we don’t do justice to God’s Word and His claim on us today if we don’t let ourselves be infected by the reports of the first church and the first churches almost 2000 years ago and learn from them and use them as a model for make us
The first church in Jerusalem at Pentecost and thereafter was a living church. Something spectacular happened here. But above all something about the unstoppableness of God, of what Jesus had done and preached, of the unstoppableness of the Holy Spirit and the church that Jesus had brought into being.
The first community was not shaped by orthodoxy, nor by tradition and forms. She really didn’t have the opportunity to do that, because she had only just come into being.
But the age of the congregation/church, now almost 2000 years, is no excuse for “standing and freeze” in tradition, orthodoxy and forms.
Orthodoxy means to be “orthodox, strict believer”.
In the process, life, vitality and dynamism are often lost quickly and especially over time. Maybe out of fear of doing something wrong.
If our world needs the church/congregation, then in its unstoppable power and vitality, because it is God’s church and congregation.
And as is so often the case, many people live in the wrong alternatives:
liveliness and dynamics or, on the contrary: right, orthodox…
The first church in Jerusalem is a strong example that these are false alternatives.
They were lively, dynamic, unstoppable and yet they had firm and deep roots from the very beginning.
“In which they persisted, in which they persisted, in which they persevered…” (Acts 2:42)
Don’t sit by the fire and keep the ashes of tradition, but pass on the fire! – It’s all about this!
“Tradition is not the worship of the ashes, but the passing on of the fire.”
Anyone who refers to tradition for the church must know this: “If we only do what our fathers (and mothers) did, then we are not doing what they did!”
I think we can learn a lot from the community life of the first Christians today and live it in our lives. So that today our congregation is also irresistibly making circles in our city and world and, like back then, is becoming a center of attraction and magnet for the people around us.
Not because we copy what they did, but because we get it.
Because we discover principles of God and His Spirit and they live as individual Christians in the church that belongs to Jesus.
 
  1. Ordinary church life (2:42)
Is this claim not outdated and no longer appropriate in our time to speak of a “normal church life”? It contains the word “norm”.
Is there a norm for church and church life? Can such a standard even exist? Or do we sink into orthodoxy and tradition, far removed from life?
Watchman Nee a Chinese Christian wrote a book called Normal Church Life almost 100 years ago. And I read it in the 70’s and this week.
Before we get into anything like a norm or normal, we should discover that Watchman Nee is not writing about the ISO 9000 norm or the like of the church, but about church life!
Community can only be alive when community is lived , when there are living followers of Jesus who share their faith with others who have not “found faith or decided to believe” at some point, but who are here and today (see above). like that time in Jerusalem) really live their faith in Jesus Christ.
When God’s Word and the Holy Spirit are visible and recognizable in their lives and we make room for this unstoppable God in our lives and in the church.
For the first Christians and for the first church there was no contradiction between persisting in a few but crucial aspects of their faith and church life and the dynamism and vitality of the church.
I believe that precisely why they were so alive and dynamic and changed their world because they had firm and deep roots and a clear foundation for their life and faith.
Perhaps this sentence in the Elberfeld Bible sounds old-fashioned and old-fashioned to us:
“But they persevered in the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayer.” (Acts 2:42 Elberfeld Bible)
Stability means God in His faithfulness and steadfastness
To let love work on us and let it change us.
 
Keep going! Remain!
What do you think are the things and elements that make up church?
How much of what was indispensable and elementary for the living first church do we live today?

 

  • The Teaching (of the Apostles)
Faith in Jesus is above all a life of trust in Jesus and in a personal and living relationship with HIM.
Gerhard Brüning wrote:
> We do not trust any god or a higher power, but the God of the Bible . This book tells everything we need to know about God (and ourselves). We believe in a God who reveals (shows) Himself. By reflecting on God and His Word, people should be able to prove their faith in everyday life .<
For that we need the Bible, which is God’s Word. Credible, reliable and true.
A living church is a church that listens to God’s word, reads it and aligns its life with God’s word. And this both in personal faith and life as well as in community life.
Without God’s word, we as Christians and as a church lack the foundation and we simply swim with the mainstream.
 
  • Cohesion in mutual love and helpfulness – Koinonia (community)
Through the Holy Spirit we are brought together in the church of God as very different people, with different pasts, backgrounds and lifestyles, like in a family.
Together in the church , God has called us as His children to serve Him and people, to worship Him, and to invite people to Him.
Just as we must cultivate and live every friendship and relationship, we must invest in life together as a church and nurture our relationships with one another.
Just as some may not invest much in their marriage for some time after marriage, some Christians live in church and then wonder why their marriage breaks up and church becomes an unimportant appendage of their lives.
They live and maintain relationships outside rather than within the community. Of course it is also important to cultivate relationships with people who do not yet trust Jesus.
But God’s idea of church was and is “family ,” togetherness, being there for one another, appreciating and loving one another.
That was one, if not the hallmark, of the first and living church that radiated outward and was attractive—their love for one another.
What shapes our community?
Binding community life is no longer modern. And maybe that’s why the so-called boomers are booming. Internet communities where you can enjoy and consume what is good for you and without rubbing shoulders with other real Christians on site.
It is only in actual relationship with Christians (in the church) that we can learn to love and live forgiveness and respect and thus show how the Holy Spirit transforms our lives.
Instead, we pull out and back out when things get tough and we don’t like something.
Only the common life of Christians and the community they cultivate will attract other people or they will move on disappointed.
 

 

  • The Lord’s Supper
Especially in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Lord’s Supper) this concretely lived community of Christians became clear, at the beginning almost always connected with eating together.
And in doing so, they made sure again and again what the foundation of their faith and life was: Jesus Christ died on the cross for our guilt and only here can we find forgiveness. And Jesus Christ is the winner, HE has overcome and conquered sin and death.
> In the Lord’s Supper, the congregation learns and experiences fellowship with the crucified and risen LORD JESUS and with one another.
She is reminded that she is the church of pardoned sinners. At Communion all are equal before the LORD. <
(Gerhard Bruening)
Yes, I know that the Lord’s Supper is not the only way to celebrate and express all of this and worship God, but I ask myself (and you): why does the Lord’s Supper have such a low profile in the church today?
How much blessing and strength and vitality might we miss as a result?
 

 

  • The prayer
The first church and living church to this day was and is a praying church . We will hear much more in the next few chapters about how the earth shook from Christian prayer, miracles happened, prison doors were thrown open, people were healed, and the gospel had power to save and transform many people.
Why do I pray so little? Why do you pray so little?
Not to fulfill any form or duty, but to cultivate our personal relationship with Jesus and to be empowered ourselves and to experience God’s power in our lives and in our world.
Yes, that’s not the measure of things either, but it’s also a symptom that we don’t manage, or only with great effort, to fill every hour of our 24-hour prayer twice a year.
“Who can say and appreciate how much salvation is lost unless we turn to Him in prayer?”
This is a line from the well-known song: “What a friend is our Jesus”.
It’s not about fulfilling forms, it’s about rediscovering and living it and also expressing through prayer that we have a great friend, Jesus, who is absolutely worth talking to and worshiping and spending time with.
If it is true that the heart of faith beats in prayer, then there are many heart-dead Christians and churches.
But that was very different with the first and living church.

 

  1. Unstoppable – the community continues to make circles today
The congregational life of the first congregation and the first Christians had powerful effects and inexorably spread circles.
“Every man (and woman) in Jerusalem was in a deep awe of God…” (Acts 2:43)
Because they saw Christians living their faith and honoring God, learning from Him and expecting and praying for great things and miracles from Him.
In the next verses we read about the great solidarity of the Christians in the church, about the great willingness to help and to serve others.
“they stuck together,” “they shared everything,” “they helped those in need,” “with one accord and with great fidelity, they met day after day,” “they met daily in homes,” ” their meetings were filled with exuberant joy and sincere cordiality”. (Acts 2:44-46)
I am convinced that individualism and self-centredness, selfishness…is death to a living church. And that this is exactly where the question is decided: How much influence (let’s call it a blessing) do we have in the lives of people in Frankenberg and our world?
They shared their lives and everything they had with each other . Living community as a community of help and service.
There were always Christians who, for example, made a law for them out of this practice of the first church. And so they sold everything they had, their apartments and houses, cars and passed on all the money to others.
But then, church has no place to invite people, no home, no place to share food, warmth, shelter, the gospel, etc. with others.
The problem is not whether we give away what we have, but whether we share what we have with others and have open houses. And whether we open our lives to others?!
I am convinced that we may soon be happy and grateful for what we have to share with others.
The problem is when we say it’s mine, I need my free time, my money…
…and then not sharing it with those in need in the community and beyond.
 
  1. Longing for God’s Church?
I want to close with this personal question: Do you long for God’s work in your life and in our society?
Do you long for fellowship with the people in the church who believe with you in the same God?
Do you long for a living relationship with Jesus and may HE change your life?
If so, then we will be a living church in and with which we can experience God’s work and we will see how attractive the church is for the people of our time and world.
If no, then perhaps we will represent, not live, some church tradition and form, and we will get stuck in some religious form and miss the unstoppable work of God and the Holy Spirit and the church of God.
How will you decide today?