Just to make sure we are all on the same page, Acts 2:42 reads:
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
The early church, the faithful group of 120 (Acts 1:15) which instantaneously swelled to over 3,000 after just one sermon (Acts 2:41), now had a logistical problem on their hands. How were they to disciple all those people from all those different nationalities, backgrounds and languages?” (Acts 1:9-11). What was their course of action?
We, today, would spend hours upon hours bringing them through our Membership Class which would primarily focus on, well, us— our church, our vision, our mission statement, our history, our beliefs, our values, our ministries, our affiliation and, of course, our pastor. In fact, if they were lucky, our celebrity pastor might even show up at the end of the last session, say a few parting words, shake a few hands, and work the room, much like a politician on one of his election year fundraisers. We would leave them some literature, maybe a tote bag with the church logo embossed on it, and we would be sure they understood their responsibility to the church. They were to (1) support the vision, (2) support the leadership and, most important (3) support the ongoing ministry of the church with their tithes and offerings.
But the early church was different. They had been with Jesus and had heard Him speak. They had first-hand knowledge of the Sermon on the Mount and had seen, with their own eyes, the loaves and fishes, Lazarus’ discarded grave clothes, and the incredible wine made from simple water. The early church clearly understood that the best way to mature a believer is to bring them to Jesus and let them learn from Him. Therefore the focus of all their discipleship was love and loyalty and obedience to Jesus, not the church, nor the institution or the denomination, not even the apostles— but simply to Jesus. And to Him alone.
Instinctively, and without any formal theological training, the apostles directed the church to focus on four things, four disciplines. And they did more than just direct them. The word for “continued steadfast” means to be “continually devoted.” It’s more than Sunday morning, maybe Sunday evening, but seldom Wednesday night. It’s to fully embrace something, to be immersed in something, almost to the point of being a fanatic. In other words, the early church totally and completely devoted and fully immersed themselves, even to the point of the exclusion of everything else, to (1) the apostles’ doctrine, (2) fellowship, (3) in the breaking of bread, (4) and in prayers (Acts 2:42).
And why not, the simple fact that they had met the Messiah and had been forgiven all their sins, by definition, would require a realignment of their priorities. It would seem that what had been important to them before Christ— possessions, family, money, retirement, prestige, entertainment, popularity, land, security, and the like— would seem like nothing to them after Christ. Why? Because they had just met the Son of God! And what does the creation have that compares with the Creator?
So what are we “devoted” to? What do we, as the church, “continue steadfast” in? Is it the things of the Lord? Or, are we still wallowing around in the stuff of this world, the stuff of today, the stuff that centers around us?
I have found that one of the easiest ways to figure out our priorities is to look closely at what we pray for. You know, to examine the content, time and frequency of our prayers. After all, Jesus said it was what comes out of a man that defiles him. Remember? He said that “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” and it was these things that defile a man (Matt. 15:18-20). And defiling words can also come out of our lips in prayer.
Think about it. How much time do you spend in declaring the beauty, majesty and holiness of the name of God?
“Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9).
How much time do you spend praising Him for His sovereignty, for the fact that He see the “end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10) and that “our God is in the heavens, and He does what He pleases” (Ps. 115:3)?
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).
Or do you spend most of your prayer time fixated on the me, on the here and now, on the common, day to day needs that He has already promised to take care of (Matt. 6:33)?
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11).
If you find you spend more time in prayer on Matt. 6:11 than you do on Matt. 6:9-10, then you also appear to need some re-adjusting of your priorities and learn how to be “devoted” to something more than you and your life. Maybe the selfish, narcissistic words you pray are actually an act of defilement to a pure and holy God. If you spend little time praising the One Who created you but spend all your time with a selfish grocery list of the things you want and need, much like a child’s letter to Santa, maybe those very words show the condition of our own heart. Maybe they reveal more about your priorities than you would dare to admit. Maybe you need to take a lesson from the early church. In fact, maybe we all need to take a lesson from the heroes of old.
We’ll look more into that tomorrow.