They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
“The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
What a contrast we have here in the two sections of scripture read today. The first scripture from Acts is the first description of the early church. In it we find the keys to kingdom success and did you catch the key points?
1. They didn’t just halfheartedly, just every now and then, only on Sunday, learn about the lessons of Jesus and do some fellowship…..they DEVOTED themselves.
2. Apostles, simple people touched by Jesus, were out and about doing wonders and signs.
3. They willingly took their possessions and took care of those that needed help.
4. They praised God with glad and generous hearts for His providence.
5. The people saw what they were doing and wanted to see what was up.
So because of what they did in the way they lived their simple lives, THE LORD added to their number. That was the fruit of ALL the people, not just the leader
Isn’t it striking that it was so simple. Devotion to the teaching and the community. Prayers. Praising God for what He provided and not thinking from a self point of view. Is this you? They were blessed by God and they blessed others. They didn’t treat the blessings as their property, they gave back large amounts. They gave back large amounts of time too. They focused outward, they didn’t give the leftovers back did they? Man, that’s radical. Again, it might convict us as to how we treat our possessions and time, and what we give to the Lord.
As a community, is that us? There isn’t any mention as to keeping the blessings or protecting the blessing of God. The focus was not if there was money left in the budget for missions after they took care of themselves, it was a focus on being a force in the community and really the world. It was not driven by internal, let’s be sure we are taken care off attitude at all. Yes it was truly focused outward, and day by day the Lord added to their number. Man that’s radical. They were blessed and understood that they were to be a blessing to others. Let us consider today what that really means to our life.
Sometimes we as disciples of Jesus act like the rich fool. In our scripture we find that his land produced abundantly. Consider this as a parallel, in our life when we accept Jesus as our Savior, our life is abundant and we are blessed. Praise the Lord, by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross our sins are forgiven. What a free blessing given by God and now we are faced with what does God request of us to do.
Well, all too often we slide into the parallel of building bigger barns. We concentrate on the fact that we now know that Jesus loves ME. Jesus died for ME. Christianity’s object is ME. God what you gonna do for me. When we have ME as the focal point then we look for a church that best fits ME and the programs that best fit ME and MY family. Pastor, what you gonna do for me. I look for how it might serve ME and I don’t volunteer unless they ask ME. We think that since God has blessed ME, he will bless ME with the best life and career, the best house and car, the best spouse for ME.
The message of the Gospel, Jesus’ message is not just that He loves you period and so He has blessed you and so it stops there and you reap the rewards. The message of the Gospel is that “God loves me so that I might make Him – his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness – known among all the nations. That means that we are called to be a blessing from you to the whole world.
The psalmist knew it today. “O God, be gracious to us and bless us and make your face shine upon us, that your way may be known upon the earth, your saving power among all nations.” The Samaritan woman at the well knew it. When she figured out that Jesus was the Messiah she ran into town and told everyone and they came to believe. Many of the healed in the Bible found themselves blessed and they went and were a blessing to others. There wasn’t this idea of keeping it to themselves often even when Jesus told them too, they were not quiet at all, they most often publically shouted out to their world that God healed them.
They were blessed to be a blessing to others and doing that is radically living the life of being a disciple of Jesus. Blessing others is what Jesus was all about and we find this in the use of the word agape by Jesus. Agape love is loving others without expectation of reward. Love the Lord with your heart, body, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself used the word agape.
We tend to think of it as “love” in our sense and often that is a transaction. But I propose to you that when you read Jesus’ words when he says love you consider adding in “serve” and “bless.” That makes it radical.
Let’s consider the ramifications of this and what we are called to do to be a blessing in the world. Let’s radically rethink what would happen if we change from a “what’s in it for me” mindset to a “we have been blessed by the salvation of Jesus so I am going to do all I can to bless the world” mindset.
Married couples, consider what that mindset would change in your life? With divorce being rampant and if you combine that with a bunch of unhappy lifeless marriages, what do you think is the root cause? “What’s in it for me” and I am not getting what “I” want, he/she isn’t blessing me etc. God it’s all about me.
What does the Bible say? Add serve and bless to love here. Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love (serve and bless) your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
In the same way, husbands should love (serve and bless) their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves (serves and blesses) his wife loves himself. And yes wives, this relationship is to be reciprocal. If marriages did this, wouldn’t there be a radical change? This is biblical. By the way ladies, read Proverbs 30:10-31.
Many parents have been blessed by children and also grandchildren. I admit that this is one thing we seem good at blessing them. But children, and yes I include young ones to us old ones, let’s be sure to be a blessing to our elders.
Where else can we be a blessing to others? Paul let’s us know that we are to bless others in the workplace. Paul said in Ephesians 6 :Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm. Think about the impact you can make not only on your boss but your fellow workers. And yes Paul addressed the boss too: And, masters, do the same to them.
Radical disciples of Christ love (serve and bless) the church. Our example was shown in the Acts scripture today. Churchgoers with this attitude don’t look at what the body of Christ can do for them but they always look at what they can do for the church. They volunteer before being asked, their attitude isn’t “let someone else do it” and they are always careful before they say “that’s the pastor’s JOB.” They remember they have been gifts by God to be used, even when sometimes they think they don’t have gifts. Try it, you might like it, trust in God.
Think about the impact that happens when you support your community too and you show Jesus to others as you serve. But, but, but recognize where this priority lies in the list. Now I firmly believe that this falls behind one more very important thing and that is what we call missions. All too often missions gets the leftovers after all the above. Churches often think about their internal issues and finances and then if we got any left in terms of time and money, missions can have that.
Backwards! That’s backwards! Research it all you want and you will find that mission oriented churches blessing local, regional, national, and global missions far beyond a “tithing” amount thrive and God makes them grow. This seems backward but remember, God turns the world view up side down. Read Acts, it was an outside the four walls paradigm. Our Psalm today is about going to all nations. Jesus said take it to all nations. Balance it out, and serve and bless.
This is where the church can make the greatest impact. If you think the government gives out too much, then the church MUST step up and take care of the poor, the downtrodden, the hurting. It is time to have the disciples of Jesus look at how we can change this. All of the prophets warned the nations that without helping the poor, the needy, the orphaned, the widows, the destitute, the immigrant ..the nation would fall out of favor with God.
When Jesus said that we would always have the poor, he absolutely didn’t give us an excuse to ignore them. He reached out to them and so are we to do as Jesus did. The final point is that when find the word “nations’ in what the psalmist said, we need to be very careful to think that it is only about our nation. The Hebrew word used is closer to “people of all kinds” not really nations. Let me tell you about a story. Don Metz. Vs. Donna Pierce.
You see this is what I find when people think national versus all people. Usually those who wonder about the need to think globally due little locally. In closing in Jesus’ time there was no middle class. The word “rich” meant “greedy.” Are you greedy with the blessings that God has given you? Selfish / me Are you greedy with your time and service? Are you greedy with your money? Are you a rich fool?
Jesus said: “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” Think about the radical change that can happen when you go over the top blessing others. Trust God, do that and I am convinced that I am convinced, and the Bible shows, that you will be blessed beyond measure. That’s radical living like Jesus.