Those who followed the early Church did so at a great cost. It cost them their time, their talents, and treasure. They joined other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and fellowship.
September 20, 2023
Speaker: Greg Sanders
Passage: Acts 2:41-42
Sometimes, it’s good when you are away to come back with fresh eyes. So coming back from sabbatical with fresh eyes, I realized I see a lot of the same people week in and week out serving on teams helping make this thing happen.
I don’t think that’s the way the Lord built it. I don’t think that’s what was intended. If we begin with this idea that we just camped on, which is that we were created because of His love,
it’s His heart and His idea.
Jesus makes a statement that says, because of My love, I will build My church. The enemy of your soul will never be able to conquer you. I know that’s the paraphrase, the gates of hell will not prevail against it. But the truth is, the enemy of your soul will not be able to conquer you.
I have been chewing on this thought for a few weeks. If it was His idea for the church, my quest since we began Vintage was the hope of trying to capture something that the early church would recognize. I know we have different technology now. But that they would recognize the ethos in how we gather, why we gather, and what our hearts are aimed at.
I went into Acts two, which is a fairly familiar passage about the early church. Chapter two, verses 41 through 42, says, “And those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church, about 3000 in all. They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.”
This is the birth of the church. I would say that, in its birth, we might find a more pure Genesis. There hadn’t been any time for anything to be systematized. How many know that we, as humans, are great at systemically removing life from things? It’s a gift and a curse at times.
The early church, this is just their first response. I have read this hundreds of times. Most of you have probably heard it hundreds of times. There were two things that jumped out at me that I had never seen. It’s in this phrase, “those who believed,” when Peter said, “were baptized and added to the church.”
Baptism in our culture is a Sunday morning every fourth Sunday or whatever we do. We do it a lot. Even though we’re not technically Baptists, we baptize a lot. I love it. It’s beautiful. It’s one of my favorite things. I weep every time it happens, and it’s wonderful.
Baptism in this culture was different. Baptism in this culture meant a public renouncing of your family of origin’s faith, a public renouncing of any other way of living. It was a declaration that I am now following Jesus Christ, and I’m going to be taught by Jesus how to live. I’m going to live as He said and I’m letting go of any life I had prior to Him.
We don’t do that. In the modern church, we tend to believe that we’ve added Christ to our life instead of being added to His. It’s a fundamental paradox that’s really, really important. Because if I believe I’ve added Jesus to my life, then everything about how I live continues, and Jesus gets added to it, and He will slowly coach me out of stupidity.
If I believe that I’ve been added to Christ instead of Him being added to me, now there’s a full stop in my life, and everything about my life moving forward is up to Him. I do it the way He said.
What’s the first thing they do after making that declaration of baptism? They’re added to the church. I had never seen this before in as many times as I’ve talked about church growth or studied it. There are two words that happen. They were added to the church, about 3000 in all, and they joined with the other believers and devoted themselves. There are four devotions that they give themselves to. We talk about these a lot in our Connect class. That’s not what I want to deal with today.
I want to look at this wordplay. Because the words “added to the church” and “joined with the other believers” are words that have to be linked in Greek. They’re connected. In this context, they don’t work without the other. What it means is that they were added to the church, something happened, and they continued the adding, so to speak.
It blew my mind to consider they were added to the family that they were birthed into. We have this weird, strange — I would almost say I think it might not be from Heaven — idea that we get to pick and choose the church, and we decide where we want to go. But that’s not the Biblical model. The Biblical model is that He adds us to a house. You can argue, well, there was only one church. There was. But tell me that humanity wouldn’t figure it out before too long how to get offended and walk away from that house.
What we see is the early church had a discipline, which is because my life stopped. The fact that it didn’t work for me is no longer an issue. I’ve been added to a group of believers, and my job given to me by the Holy Spirit is to continue in that pursuit. I’m going to join with them.
There’s something that happens when we join with other people. Our individualism breaks down, our isolation breaks down, and we become vulnerable to other people’s stupidity. Because if I isolate and stay disconnected, I can’t be influenced very heavily by others. They don’t have a significant imprint on me.
The moment I decide to go shoulder-to-shoulder with them and join in with them, I’m now subject to their nuance. Have you ever noticed that co-worker who always shows up in a bad mood, and you have to fight it from affecting your day? Has anybody besides me had that happen? Not here, at other jobs.
In the early church, there was a requirement to join in. To do life together. I’ve been trying to solve this riddle for about 13 years while leading a church. I figured out where I think it lands when we get together in teams, and we join with other people to accomplish the Kingdom. There are all kinds of administrations that are necessary to run the church and to run the gatherings.
Why do we do it? We do it because God called us very clearly to be a dwelling place, a geographic location for His presence, and there are all these incredible opportunities that we serve. We set the table so the Lord can do what He wants to do and influence our city.
When we connect with teams, we put ourselves in an environment to both know others and be known by others. That gets scary because all of a sudden, now I’m not able to make my own dumb decisions and get away with it because I’ve got people who love me and love Jesus who will call me on my stuff.
That is what’s at risk. Are you willing to give yourself to this system of accountability that the Lord created? Which is that those around you, who love you, get to say, you don’t get to do that, that’s not okay. How many have ever been in a spot in your married life where it took friends to talk you into staying married?
What happened for Belinda and me was we had accountability. We had a relationship network around us in the Kingdom, who said, I’m not willing to let you be dumb on your own. So we’re going to speak to it. We’re gonna beg you to quit being idiots.
It works across the board. It’s not just a marriage issue. It works in jobs. It works in interpersonal relationships. It works in all kinds of stuff when you have the vulnerability to say I want to be known by you so you can help me stay on the way, and I can help you stay on.
I want to remind us that this thing happens because He loves us. He has a dream for His kids to do life together and supernaturally transform the world the way they love each other.
Shoulder-to-shoulder life works. When we do life together, how many have noticed that you have a deeper respect for the people you work with?
Lastly, we’re taught by Jesus to serve. The Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve and give His life away as a ransom for many. What does that mean? We’re taught to sacrificially give our lives away. What I love about that is it means that we don’t have to love what we do. We don’t even have to get excited about it. Sometimes, it’s okay to say, I’m doing this because Jesus told me to. Or I’m doing this because this is where my family has need.
How many adults in here have ever had more than one job because you needed to for your family? It’s this weird privilege where you realize, I’m working harder than I have to because I love you. It’s this internal thing where you don’t even have to put it into words. I’m doing this because I care about you so much that I’m willing to. If you did it and got resentful, you did it for the wrong reason. If it wasn’t for serving, it was for the wrong reason. That’s a free tip.
I decided today that we would set the tables up, and we’d bribe you with donuts. The standard issue mantra for the church at large is that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. I would love that to not be Vintage’s story. I’d love for Vintage’s story to say, we all work together because it’s what Jesus told us. None of us have this idea that we just show up and go home. We’ve all decided to link arms and do this together.
I’m not plugging individual teams because I want you to be led by the Holy Spirit. If you don’t care what you do and you just want to help, that’s great. The two teams that have the highest demand numerically are the Children’s Ministry and our Life Safety Team, our security team. Those are the two biggest drawing agents in the culture.
However, we’ve got lots of teams. My dream in this is that we get to know each other and build a real family, not where there’s a small family that’s serving a greater family, but it’s all of us. We get to know each other, and we learn how to walk the Kingdom out because those around us can help us do it.
Maybe you’re new or haven’t been here very long. Pastor Matt’s over here at the Connect TV. I’d love for you to go see him. He’ll take five minutes and walk you through who we are and how you can become a member.
For the rest of us, would you join me in hanging out? Grab a donut, meet some people, and connect to a team so we can do life together. If you’ve had a mindset that says, I’m not going to do that, I’m just going to show up and go home, would you at least ask the Lord if that’s okay?
Don’t assume you get to make that choice. Because last time I checked, we exchanged our life for His. Paul’s statement is, I’m crucified with Christ yet this life I live now I don’t live according to what I want. I live it according to what He says.
Jesus, we love You. We honor You. Lord, that phrase, ‘all my love is for you. All my love is yours. We’ve made a place for you.” I want that to be the heartbeat of this house. We walk in these doors, and everything about it is we are so excited to create a place for You to dwell. We’re so excited to be the people of God that You could dwell upon. When we gather, our goal is to create an incredible throne for You so the lost walk in, and they’re like, what in the world is this? We can point them to You and say You should join us. Because Jesus has changed us. He’s emancipated. He’s forgiven. He’s transformed. May Your face shine upon us. We love You. We honor You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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