September 17, 2017
Acts 2:42-43, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Acts 2:47
In the relatively short time that you’ve known me, you’ve probably learned really quickly that I like food. If you get our weekly e-newsletter, you saw that my favorite food from Dahlia’s is the Chicken fried chicken with jalapeno gravy. But this right here, these cheese puffs, these are my kryptonite. This is a party sized bag and I’ve ate pretty much the whole thing so far. Anne had a few and Dave might have had one. Otherwise, it’s been all me. The only reason I haven’t eaten the whole bag yet is because I was planning on using it as a sermon prop. In fact, I didn’t want to open it until after the sermon, but I couldn’t help myself.
The only problem is that this isn’t exactly healthy for me. It’s not horrible, but it’s definitely not the best. Yet, I could sit here and eat this entire bag no problem. And honestly, I probably wouldn’t have any regrets other than I don’t have any for tomorrow. But it’s not good for me.
Now compare that with how I feel about broccoli. Broccoli is super good for you. Your body runs better when you are eating good and healthy foods like broccoli and other vegetables. But if I’m honest, I don’t crave broccoli. I don’t look forward to it. When Anne tells me we are having broccoli for dinner, I don’t day dream about dinner all day. There are zero times in my life where I finished dinner and said, “Man, I’m bummed that we don’t have more broccoli.” The food that’s not the best for me, I could eat all day, but the food that’s good for me, I don’t really want. It’s crazy!
What am I even talking about up here? Here’s the connection: it’s easy to fill our life and our soul with the junk food. But the good stuff that our soul needs, we don’t necessarily look forward too or even willing want all that much.
I was talking with someone last week, and I asked him if he was hungry. He said, “No, but the thing is that I can always eat. I love food.” Then he said, “It’s too bad I’m not like that with God’s Word. I don’t say, ‘Mmm. That was good. I have to have more of God’s Word. I don’t generally say that.”
Last week, we looked at worship. Today we are looking at our second step in the discipleship process and that is to connect. And much like broccoli, we don’t crave this step, but it’s a step that is so good for us. We are in Acts 2.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
We want to connect and grow in our relationship with God.
What’s going on? Jesus rose from the dead Easter morning. 40 days later, he ascended into heaven. 10 days after he ascended, the Holy Spirit rushed in on Pentecost and opened the apostle’s eyes and minds to understand the Old Testament. They finally understood what Jesus was all about. So, they taught God’s Word. And all the people devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching- in other words God’s word. Remember, the New testament hadn’t been written yet. It was unfolding before their eyes. They couldn’t just go and pick up a bible and read it. But man did they crave it. They wanted to learn it. They wanted to know how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament. They wanted to find out how Jesus was the Savior and grow in the peace that brings.
Fellowship- they devoted themselves to sharing in the common faith and in the Word and sacraments.
Breaking of bread- This is most likely the Lord’s supper in context here. Later on we’ll see they ate together as well, but this is lumped in in the God’s Word section.
Why were they so devoted? Because they couldn’t get enough of it. They had lived the majority of their lives not knowing about the Savior and now that they had, they wanted more and more. Can you imagine living the majority of your life thinking you weren’t worthy for God? But then you heard this amazing news that because of Jesus, you can come into God’s presence. Because of Jesus you are accepted, but even more than that you can be sure God loves you. Can you imagine living the majority of your life thinking that you had to be morally good in order for God to love you, but even then you could never be sure? But then you heard that you can be sure that God loves you because of Jesus. Because of his life, death, and resurrection, you can be sure that God loves you. They could connect and grow in God’s love and forgiveness without fear.
And that’s what we want to do too right? We want to connect with God and grow in our relationship with him. We want to connect and grow in his love and forgiveness for us as well. Faith is never just status quo. It is either living and growing, or its starving and dying. It’s much like our body. Our bodies need to eat. They need food to maintain, run efficient, and survive. Would you ever say, “I only need to eat once a week?” No, of course not. We would never do that. The scary thing is that we our faith doesn’t tell us when it is hungry. Our bodies let us know we need to eat. We start feeling the hunger pains, but our faith doesn’t let us know that.
The only food we have four our faith is God’s Word, and yet too often we view that as broccoli. We don’t look forward to it. We consume just a little bit and say that’s good! And we have every excuse in the book as to why we only connect with God on Sunday mornings and we don’t feed our souls during the week.
I’m not a reader. So my devotional life is not much. Have you heard someone say that before? Have you said it? And it’s true. You may not be someone who likes to sit down and read a novel. But how much do you read about your favorite sports team? How much news do you read every day? How much of your newsfeed on Facebook are you looking at? How many tweets do you scroll through or pictures on Instagram? See, we read a lot. We just prefer to read spiritual junk food than connect with God. Instead, get a bible app, and have them send you push notifications with bible verse throughout the day. Feed your faith.
I just don’t have time to sit down and do a devotion. My question: do you have time to eat during the day? Of course you do. But wait a second, you need to eat or your body starts to shut down. So does your faith. I remember when the 7th Harry Potter book came out. I got it as soon as it came out at midnight. I stayed up till 3 am reading it. Got up at 9 and read all day and finished it later that night. Close to 1000 pages. I was devoted. Sadly, I couldn’t find the time to sit and spend connecting with my Lord and Savior.
I already know that Jesus is my Savior. I’m good to go. Would you ever say, “Ya know, I ate some chicken and broccoli or green beans when I was 15 years old. So I’m good for the rest of my life.” You would never say that. You already know that Jesus is your Savior? Praise God! Praise God! But it’s that message that faith needs every single day. Every day it needs the nutrition of hearing that Jesus lived perfectly. It needs to hear how he was constantly in the Temple and growing in God’s Word. We hear how he went off by himself and prayed and connected with God.
Now think about this. Why did he do it? He was God, holy and perfect! Did he really need to connect with God? As God, he did not. So why did he do it? For you and me. Because we fail to connect with God, and sometimes we flat out don’t want to. How do you think God feels about that? But Jesus cherished God’s Word in your place as your perfect substitute. He lived the perfect life and connected perfectly with God in your place. And that’s what we hear in God’s Word. That’s what our faith hears and feeds on. And then your faith gets to grow deeper in the fact that Jesus died to take away those sins of yours. All of them.
It’s only by hearing that message regularly and connecting with God daily that your faith will grow. Then your worries and anxieties will be calm, your guilty conscience soothed, your restless heart eased. So connect with God daily. Give your faith the spiritual broccoli it needs to be healthy.
But that’s just one aspect of connecting. Let’s see the other aspect.
We want to connect and grow in our relationship with others
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. That’s incredible! Every single day this group of believers met together to connect in God’s Word and with each other. But then what did they do? They went to someone’s house and had dinner!
Now I know what you’re tempted to think: these people had way more relaxed lives than us. Maybe a little bit, but they still had jobs. They still had to make a living. They didn’t just have all day to sit around and do nothing. But they still made it a priority to connect with others around God’s Word to rejoice that the Lord came to save them, that he was present in their lives, and that he would come again to take his church to heaven with him. And that’s what we want to do as well. We want to connect together around God’s Word as we all fill ourselves with healthy spiritual food.
Some of you may be thinking, “But can’t I do this on my own? Do I really need to come during the week and connect with others?” Let’s look at Ecclesiastes 4.
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Two are better than one. When we connect with Christians around God’s Word, we are connecting with people and building lasting relationships. It is in those relationships that we have emotional, physical, and spiritual support. Too many times people want to take advantage of us, use us, or have some motive for being our friends. When we connect with Christians around God’s Word, there’s no agenda except to grow in Christ’s love for us. We can pray for each other, we can receive encouragement to fight the good fight of faith, we have people to pray with and rejoice with us. We have people we can celebrate the love and forgiveness that God so graciously offers to every single one of us. That’s what the first century Christians did!
That’s why we want to start these connect groups, and get them in people’s homes. There you will be able to connect with fellow Christians around God’s Word.
But I have kids, I can’t do that. Great! Imagine what example you’ll be given your kids if you find a group of other parents who have kids, and you get together to talk about the bible. What an example! Maybe you meet for dinner so its early enough for your kids to get home, do homework, and get to bed. Or maybe you meet Saturday mornings before lunch. Maybe it’s Sunday evenings that you meet. You could even all pitch in for a babysitter if you want.
The time just doesn’t work for you. Find a time that does work for you, tell me, and I will find other people for whom that time does work!
I don’t like to open up. That’s fine. No one is comfortable opening up with people that they don’t know. Come and start to talk to people and as those relationships grow, you’ll feel more comfortable. Maybe you don’t necessarily share a lot, but you can support others, pray for them, and encourage.
We can all be part of a connect group, we just have to be willing to make it a priority. Anytime can work. Do you see why this is like broccoli? We know it’d be good for us, but if we’re honest, we aren’t necessarily looking forward to it. But let me show you something.
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Why do you think the Lord added their number daily? We aren’t told directly, but I think we can make an educated guess. There was something attractive about this group and what was it? Deep and meaningful relationships. People who actually care about each other. People who are connected not just physically but spiritually. Others see a group of people who love each other, forgive each other, and say, “I want that. I want to feel loved and included.” Then when they come to you, we get to tell them about the Savior and what he’s done for you. That he loved you so much, that he lived and died for you. He loves you so much that he carries you in his arms through life’s burdens. He loves you with an unconditional and unending love. Then you can tell them that that’s how he loves them too.
At first broccoli wasn’t very fun to eat, but the more I’ve eaten it the more I’ve come to appreciate it. Why? Because I don’t feel like garbage after eating it. Connecting with God and others regularly might not be fun at first. But the more you do it, the more you’ll come to love it and look forward to it because you’ll feel better and healthier. That’s because as you connect, you’ll grow in your Savior’s love for you. You’ll grow in his forgiveness, and you’ll grow in meaningful relationships with people who truly care about you.