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In This Together

socialmedia@cityrise.org February 22, 2021 sermons, acts, baptist, cityrise, houston, Roger Patterson, texas,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Roger Patterson on Sunday February 21, 2021 at our Crosspoint Church – Bellaire Campus. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTube. To listen to the message, check out our podcast page.Introduction:

This has been quite the challenging week, hasn’t it?  (February 2021 Winter Storm Uri and His fury!!!)

Our electrical systems were challenged and most failed.

Our water systems were challenged…and most failed.

Did anyone have busted pipes?

Our gas and grocery supplies were certainly challenged.

And…our ability to not stink and stay in our cold homes was certainly challenged.

Did anyone relocate for a few days?

One of our staff send me a note simply saying, “2020 won’t let go!”

Like many of you, we had a pipe break. It was a minor outset wall break and it could have been a whole lot worse.

I stopped by one family’s home this week and their entire first floor fo their home will need to be completely remodeled, as a pipe between the first and second floors busted and drained down on top of the kitchen and stove.  As a matter of fact, he showed me his stove and how, as the went through the demolition process, and as they moved it, water poured out of it.

These days we have walked through, both this week, and through these past 11 months have given us many challenged.

You know, the early church was familiar with challenges.  They faced intense pressure from every angel — governmental persecution, rejection from the community, economic distress, etc. 

And a simple question that we might ask ourselves is this:

How did the early church get through it?  What did they do to push through, persevere and overcome?=

The simple answer is this:  The early church got through challenging seasons by STICKING TOGETHER!  They chose Jesus and one another! And they developed communal rhythms from the very beginning that allowed them to navigate hardship.

How did they stick together?  Let’s read Acts 2:42-27 together this morning.

Acts 2:42-47

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

How did they stick together?

Here are three simple answers to that question.

How the Early Church Navigated Challenging Times

  1. They were Steadfast in their Spiritual Disciplines
  2. They Shared Freely with One Another
  3. They Gathered Regularly for Worship and Fellowship

Let’s spend a minute with each of these.

How did the early church navigate challenging times?

I. They were Steadfast in their Spiritual Disciplines

Read verse 42 again with me.

Acts 2:42

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

The NAS says, “They continually devoted themselves…”

Is your mindset one of continual devotion to Christ?  Are you sort of devoted?  Kind of devoted?  Or are you continually devoted to Jesus.

Continual devotion – This is to be the mindset of every Christian!

  1. Continual Devotion – The best Definition I found is, “To persist obstinately in a steadfast commitment to.”

How many of you have begun a new diet and work out plan since the first of the year?  New Year, New You!  You know, many of us, when the calendar rolled around to January 1, decided to get back on the treadmill, the elliptical, go back to the gym and lose weight.

For me, it is a battle that I have felt defeated over for much of my life. Like I Yo-Yo, I have gone down in weight and then gone back up.

As a kid, I was chubby.  As I grew and, in particular, as a teenager and swimmer in high school, I was trim and athletic.

In college, I was trim as well and didn’t really struggle with my weight.

A few years into married life, and I looked up and saw the scale numbers larger than ever.  Through time, I have gone up and down, up and down.

I have lost the battle more than I have won, and what I am realizing now, more than ever, is that this is a fight I must be devoted to every single day.

With my struggle with weight, it takes a constant devotion – an obstinent persistence with a steadfast commitment if I am going to be healthy and in the shape I need to be in.

But guess what, if I make this type of commitment, if I am living every day with this type of devotion, you know what?  It will change my life!

For the early church, to be devoted was to have an obstinent persistence toward 4 spiritual disciplines that literally changed their lives and those they influenced.

Let’s look at Acts 2:42 again:

Acts 2:42

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

  1.  They were continually devoted to the Apostle’s Teaching.

The New King James Version says, “42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…”

What was this doctrine that they were devoted to?  What was this teaching that they constantly attended to?

The Gospel of Grace! 

  • This was a message of the grace of God through a new covenant established by Jesus Christ.
  • The message was that the law was given to show us that we could not satisfy God’s righteous requirements and standards.
  • The teaching was to show that how through the Old Testament Witness, one was coming who would fulfill all of the Prophecies that the law and prophets spoke of.
  • The teaching of the Apostles was the ministry of Jesus and the content of the gospels.
  • The teaching of the Apostles was the Cross of Jesus Christ and his resurrection and salvation that is available to all men because of his sacrifice for our sins.
  • The teaching of the Apostles was the Gospel of Grace and how Grace interrupts our lives and changes everything!
  • In essence, the Apostles would preach and say to those listening, “Here is the good news of grace. You should try it, it will change your life!”

Now, What is the design of Doctrine?  What is the aim of teaching?

Application!  The design of doctrine, the aim of teaching is the application of that teaching into our lives.

So, when they grasped this amazing grace, it impacted the grace they had for one another in their fellowship.  It impacted their sweetness of breaking bread together. It impacted their prayer lives and how they would pray for God to move.

More than that, it grew their faith.  And in this, they saw the Holy Spirit of God move in their midst.

Notice this in Acts 2:43.

Acts 2:43

“And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.”

Awe came upon every soul.  What an amazing moment in their lives this must have been!  They were filled with the fullness of Christ. They were basking in His grace.  They were consumed by his love. They were in awe of the fact that He loved them so much.  And God was using the Apostles in profound ways.

My friends, when the gospel is preached…when the gospel of grace is received by faith, it changes your life.  It impacts every bit of one’s being. Have you tasted of this gospel of grace?

How else did they stick together and navigate challenging times?

How the Early Church Navigated Challenging Times

  1. They were Steadfast in their Spiritual Disciplines
  2. They Shared Freely with One Another
  3. They Gathered Regularly for Worship and Fellowship

II. They Shared Freely with One Another

Notice verses 44-45.

Acts 2:44-45

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

We see a fuller treatment of this in Acts 4:34-37.

Acts 4:34-37

“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

Here, we have the natural expression of the gospel of grace.  Do you know what the natural expression of the gospel of grace looks like?

It’s called GENEROSITY.

There was not a needy person among them!  Why?  Because the gospel of grace so impacted their lives, they couldn’t help but open their hands and give to meet needs.

I saw this once again, first hand, this week. I posted about standing in line at the Home Depot and I received 6 or 7 calls from our members offering to come over and help.  I turned down the help, as I had isolated the small leak and believed I could fix it.  Well, it wasn’t too long thereafter my attempted fix that I realized I needed help. A couple of guys here in the church reached out to me and came by the next morning.  They got my line capped and we got water pressure restored.  Then, they said, where else can we go?   We had two other staff members who had line problems.  They got those resolved, and one of the guys who was a recipient of their generosity looked at me and said, “Man, this is so amazing!”  I looked right back at him and said, “That’s the church!”

Generosity is the currency of grace.  Generosity is what moves grace into people’s hearts.  And what’s so beautiful about the gospel is that as a believer in Jesus, you are constantly receiving the generosity of God into your life.

Brandon Baca is the CEO of Attack Poverty.  He and his family, like many of you, had a pipe burst in his garage.  He was told it would be three weeks before he could have a plumber come to his house.  Kathleen Yarborough sent her husband Steve, and Joe Hafemeister to his home to fix his plumbing issue.  I was on a group text with Brandon about something entirely different when one of the guys asked how we were here in Houston.

Brandon said,

“I’m at a warming center serving folks here in Fort Bend and I get word that two guys showed up to fix my plumbing issues…it brought me to tears.”

That’s the Body of Christ…the beautiful body of Christ…we give and received from one another, especially when times are tough. And that’s what our church has been doing for 93 years in the heart of this city.  And now we do it on three campuses throughout our city.

Generosity is the Currency of Grace.

How can you continue to be generous this week?  Today?

What else did the church do in difficult times?

How the Early Church Navigated Challenging Times

  1. They were Steadfast in their Spiritual Disciplines
  2. They Shared Freely with One Another
  3. They Gathered Regularly for Worship and Fellowship

III. They Gathered Regularly for Worship and Fellowship

Look at Acts 2:46-47

Acts 2:46

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Now, as we began this message, we saw that these new disciples were continuously devoted to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and to prayer.

Verse 46-47  shows us a focus of these last three disciplines in how they practiced their faith.   These disciples would go to the temple for daily prayer (see chapter 3:1, as Peter and John went to the temple at the hour of prayer), and it was there that they would PRAISE GOD and PRAY. They would Encourage one another.  And then they would open their homes and fellowship with each other.

So what does a continual devotion to Worship & Fellowship look like?

It is a persistent, obstinate, steadfast commitment to our Lord and one another, while making room for someone new.

Texans Chapel in 2012

Sharing with these men about being united around the idea of making Jesus Christ famous.  I was sharing a message with them that I had shared with you – that as Christians, we must understand that

  • It is the Father’s heart that his son be made famous
  • It is the Father’s heart that loves the world with the same love that He has for the Son,
  • And that the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus is for believers to unify around this cause.

I then began to address this idea of unity.

I said, “You know, Christian people will fight over the silliest of matters.  Across Orthodox Christianity, there is about 90 – 95% of Doctrine that we will agree with, but it is the 5 – 10% of the Doctrines that divide us and keeps us from being unified.

I then started talking about how this can happen to teams.

The offense gets frustrated with the defense or the line backers don’t like the defense linemen. Now these guys can understand that.

About that time, Daniel Manning, the Texans Safety, bends down the front row to pick something up.

As he does, I realize he is wearing a Texans t-shirt with Matt Schaub’s name and # on it.

I went over to him and pointed out what I was trying to get at.

Guys, here is an example of what unity looks like.  It is a devotion to being together, united in battle, upholding one another.

We need this type of devotion to one another.

When the church is radically committed to Christ and one another, it is one of the most compelling places you can be.

Beginning Easter Sunday, we will launch our Restore, Regather, Re-deploy Program.  You see, we need to be back together.  We need to be physically present in one another’s lives.  We need to get back to church…back into each other’s lives.

Now, we know that we won’t be back to 100% right away.  And that is going to take some time.  But we also know that many of you will have received the vaccine by then and that we need to begin to normalize through the summer months.

Rabbi Brian Strauss is a friend of mine. Brian and I have known one another for a number of years.  Like me, he was the associate rabbi in his congregation and became the senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Yeshuran.

Rabbi Strauss reached out to me the other day for an update on our return to church plans and how it was going.  Did you know what I was able to tell him?

I said, “Brian, we have been back on-campus since May 31, 2020 and we cannot trace a single transmission of Covid -19 to our worship gatherings in all of these months.”

Friends, did you hear that?  We offer 8 worship services a weekend and we haven’t seen a single case of Covid 19 transmission that can be traced back to our worship gatherings.

We will stay masked for quite some time.  And we will continue to offer it online for you and as a way to reach others.  But hear me please: there is nothing like gathering with the saints of God in the Sanctuary of God!

Now, what happens when a church is committed to one another this way?

It prospers!

It grows!

People’s lives are changed.

Notice this in Acts 2:47.

Acts 2:47

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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