*This was a recent sermon preached at SSFBC and the sermonic elements remain.
Lottie moon set sail for China when she was 32 years old. She had turned down a marriage proposal and left her job in order to follow God’s lead. For 39 years she preached the gospel in mainland China. She adopted traditional Chinese dress, learned the language and customs, all in order to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
She died in 1912 weighing a mere 50 pounds. She had given everything for the people she loved and the Savior she served.
Fast forward to 2018 when Chinese police officers demolished the country’s largest evangelical church. Using heavy machinery and dynamite, the police demolished a church that once housed 50,000 Christians in worship. The Golden Lampstand Church was one of at least two Christian churches demolished in the span of a two weeks as a part of a national effort to regulate spiritual life in China.
Today there an estimated 100 million Christians in China. Yet, they are heavily persecuted. Churches are harassed and destroyed, Bibles are burned, and Christians are arrested. This has driven most believers underground. Secret house churches are how millions of Chinese Christians gather.
Today we continue our study of the discipleship strategy of SSFBC. As we look at “gather” I wonder if you take the gathering of the church for granted?
Join me in reading Acts 2:41-47.
Gather with God.
In a world where Christians are persecuted for faith in Jesus Christ, we are blessed with freedom. Let us not take it for granted. Let us gather with God. This includes an individual level. Your faith is personal. You can’t live off the faith of your parents, your neighbor, your coworker, or the person in the pew next to you. You can’t live off the faith of your pastor.
You need to have a consistent and fruitful devotional life. You need committed time to bow your life before God.
We have the example of Jesus. Luke 5:16 tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” If he did it. You need to do it. If he did it, how much more do you need to do it?
We’ve provided you with a tool: God’s God for God’s People. This is our Bible reading emphasis for the year. It is a tool to help you gather with God each day. If you haven’t picked it up – do so today. We have paper copies and its also available on our app. If you haven’t started reading – do so today.
Along with Bible reading, prayer is a significant portion of gathering with God each day. I want to provide you with a tool from my own toolbelt. I recommend creating a prayer list that you keep tucked into your Bible. On my list I have a handful of Bible verses converted into prayers that I offer to the Lord each day. I have a small list of things I want to pray for each day – people, situations, ministries. This takes the thought process out of it for me. With my Bible reading plan and prayer list in hand, I can gather with God in the blink of an eye.
Gather with God.
Gather with God in community.
Your faith is personal, but it is not private. God never intended you to follow Jesus in isolation. Our passage this morning is an incredible display of Christian community.
I want to correct a common misconception. Many Bibles place a heading between verse 41 and verse 42. Thus, we separate the end of Acts 2 into two passages … to our own detriment.
We tend to read verses 42-47 as if were reading about a group of super Christians or a group of Navy Seal Christians. Yet, remove the heading and reread the transition between verse 41 and 42. This is not a group of super Christians! Rather, this is a reference to the very group of newly baptized Christians who came to faith in the previous passage. And once they become followers of Jesus Christ, they immediately gain entrance into Christian community.
Definition of Christian Community: People committed to relationship and partnership due to impact of Jesus Christ.
This makes church different than the Lions Club or the Booster Club. Jesus Christ is the driving force and he leads us to relationship and partnership. Relationship means you actually get to know one another. It’s that simple. Partnership means you actually do things together. It’s that simple.
This passage shows us relationship and partnership that leads to devotion to Scripture and prayer, fellowship, sharing meals, meeting needs, and making more disciples.
This is why we gather each week. We offer you opportunities on Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings, and Sunday evenings for you to gather. We offer other various meetings and ministries. Do not take the gathering of the church for granted. Don’t neglect the gathering of the church.
Some might say: I can do this on my own! The church is filled with hypocrites! I want to show you the importance of gathering in community by using the Lord’s Prayer as example. Jesus provides it as a model prayer for the church:
This, then, is how you should pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
– Matthew 6:9-13
Notice you don’t find it filled with I, Me, Mine. Rather, it is filled with Our, Us, and We. The model prayer is communal. Gather with God in community.
Gather for the purpose of worship.
We gather with God and we gather with God in community for the purpose of worship. We don’t gather out of obligation or religious ritual. We have a God worthy of worship. A God bigger than us. A God wiser than us. A God who is holy, powerful, and eternal. When we think of worship, we usually reduce it to music. Yet, worship is much, much more.
Worship is attributing ultimate value. If you give ultimate value to your job, money, family, social status, appearance than you worship your job, money, family, social status, appearance. In our gatherings we are attributing to God ultimate value. Each time we gather we our reminding ourselves that God belongs at the center of our lives. Each time we gather we are fixing our gaze on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Each time we gather we are orientating our lives and placing God on the throne.
We gather for the purpose of worship.
Last week we discussed that in order for First Baptist to thrive, we must make disciples. Our discipleship strategy begins with gather. We gather with God. We gather in community. We gather for the purpose of worship. If we don’t gather, we won’t make disciples.