How to Maintain Close Fellowship Part 1

Pastor Mike will be speaking on How to Maintain Close Fellowship Part 1. He will be reading out of Acts 2:42-47.

Let me help you. When you take the Lord’s Supper, you are saying that I still believe in what Christ did for me on the cross. I am not trusting in my own works to get me to heaven, but I am trusting in Christ to get me to heaven.

Hello, this is Pastor Mike Sanders, and it’s that time of the week again. It’s time for Hope Worth Having, and I’m glad that you’ve dialed into our program today and that you’re ready to hear the Word of God.

We’re going to be in Acts 2, verse 42. We’re going to talk about maintaining close fellowship in the church. So let’s get our Bibles and let’s begin to study together. Acts, chapter 2, and verses 42 through 47 are our text this morning.

Now, it is very unfortunate that we live in an age where someone can be recognized as a respectable church member without being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. The word disciple has the idea of discipline in it.

It’s unfortunate that people would identify themselves with Christianity, but not really show the discipline that is required to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was clear that if any man is going to be my disciple, he must be willing to deny himself, take up the cross, and follow him.

The point is that in our faith, as we are living out these disciplines, what we often refer to as spiritual disciplines or spiritual habits, there is to be a steady progression in our journey of faith.

We are to consider whether we are growing or whether we are not. As we look at those disciplines in the early church in Acts chapter 2, one of the things that we are going to see is the early church never separated their faith from their disciplines or their habits as believers.

The continuation of the things that matter to God is a good sign that we are truly His, that we are truly a part of the family of God. God expects His people to be a faithful people, not just faithful that we have faith, but faithful to the patterns, the commands that are in the Bible, and the disciplines.

The Scripture says, moreover, that it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. It is human nature to ignore instruction, which is difficult or which does not fit into our plans. When we do so with what the Bible teaches about the patterns and the disciplines of the early church, we are doing it at our own risk.

Now, there are times that members will come to me and they’ll say, well, Pastor, why don’t we do it like this church? Why don’t we do it like that church? And I say to them because we’re not trying to be like that church.

The model, the pattern for our church, and should be for all churches and for all Christians, is that we want to follow the pattern and the model that was given to us in the book of Acts. The New Testament church, we’re not trying to have a program like somebody else.

We’re not trying to model after another church here. What we’re trying to do is open the Bible and say, how did the early church do it? How did they practice their faith? How did they follow the commands of God?

How did they demonstrate the authenticity of their faith? So when we come to Acts chapter 2, what we see is a pretty dynamic chapter in which Peter in boldness got up and he preached repentance. He preached that the church is called after they believe in Christ.

Every Christian is called to be baptized, and then they are called to follow Christ. How did they do that? Well, when we pick up in verse 42, this is immediately after three… 3,000 people have come to Christ.

What did those 3,000 new believers do? Well, the Bible says in verse 42, that they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers. And then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

Now all who believed were together and had all things in common and sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Now what I want to do is bring this down to a practical level for us. As we look at the disciplines of the early church, I want us to understand how to maintain close fellowship with God and how to maintain close fellowship within the family of God.

So I want to give you four quick principles here this morning. I want you to follow along. Number one is that every Christian needs to be a part of a Bible study. The mistake that many of you make and the reason that your faith becomes so anemic and limited is that you think that just coming to Sunday morning once a month or twice a month is sufficient.

But the truth is, is that every one of us as believers needs to be a part of a Bible study. Why do you say that, pastor? Because the early church assembled for apostolic teaching. Go back to chapter two and again look at verse 42.

They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine. Underscore that. That was their first discipline. We see in Acts chapter five in verse 42 that the Bible says they were daily in the temple and in every house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

You see in the early church there were no large buildings where they could all gather. They did not own property. They did not have the ability to build a place for them all to worship the Lord. So they met at home.

They met in homes and that took place for the first 300 years of the church. And they met in homes and they came together and when they came together what did they do? That’s what this text is teaching us that they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine.

Every believer gathered to study the Bible. You say what is the apostle’s doctrine? It is the word of God. It’s the Bible that you hold in your heart. hand. Again we see an example of this in Romans 16 5.

Likewise, the Apostle Paul teaches the church. Likewise, greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epanetus who is the first fruits of Achaia unto Christ. Meaning he was one of the first people when the Apostle came to that region that came to Christ.

He’s part of that first fruit of believers and he is saying that when you get together in this particular person’s house to worship the Lord when you come together you make sure that you greet one another.

What did they do? They made the teaching of the Bible the centerpiece of their life. Christianity and following Christ is not something you just add to your life of the many things that you’re doing.

Your faith is the foundation of your life and practicing your faith is the center of your life. It is the focus of your life. Again, we see in Acts chapter 8 and verse 3, that the Bible says that Saul, who would later become Paul, made havoc on the church.

How did he do that? Entering into every house and dragging men and women, committed them to prison. What did Paul do? He knew that the church gathered in their homes. He knew that they would assemble together.

They were told not to forsake that assembling, and so he would go into their homes while they were gathering, and he would drag them out. And thus, they were guilty. They were guilty of having faith in Christ.

They were guilty of assembling together. They were guilty of studying the Bible together. The question you might consider is, would you be guilty? Would you be guilty if somebody came in here and started causing havoc and dragging out Christians and throwing them in prison, never in America?

All my friends, we are fast-tracking. We are fast-tracking. We will find out soon who are the true believers, who are willing to stand up for their faith, even if it means persecution. We see another example in the scriptures in Acts chapter 16, verse 40, that they went out of prison and entered into the house of Lydia, and when they had seen the brethren, where did they see the brethren?

At the house of Lydia. Why were the brethren at the house of Lydia? Because that’s where the church gathered. The Bible says they comforted them and departed. You see, what I want you to know is that the church was committed to coming together and learning the Bible.

They were committed to that. Now, there are two types of church meetings. There are large groups where we worship and we are preaching the Word of God and we are teaching the Word of God, but there are also small groups where we practice one another.

are deepening our fellowship with the family of God. At the Opendoor Church, we believe our church must grow larger and smaller at the same time. We believe that the only way that you are going to max the potential of your faith is to get plugged into a Bible study, to get plugged into a Sunday school class.

Our Bible study groups, and our Sunday school classes, will be the most effective way to close the back door of our church family. Now I know and I understand, I want to give this caveat because I understand that some of you have some physical challenges.

Now don’t be offended by everything Pastor Mike says. The Bible says, Great Peace have they that love thy law and nothing shall offend them. In general, as I’m speaking to the body of Christ, to those who are capable and able, Physically, it’s important for you to be connected to a Bible study.

It’s important for you to be connected to a class, because that is where you are going to be able to practice one another’s faith, and you are going to live out the discipline of Bible study.

How do we maintain close fellowship? Every Christian needs to be a part of a Bible study. Number two, every Christian needs to commit to the functions of the church. Now we are told that God’s people, after they were saved, continued steadfastly in their new way of life.

Look again in verse 42, they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, in prayer. You see, there were some things that were necessary to the life of every believer in the early church, and they have not changed.

And though the church may try different antics and different programs, the bottom line is that the functions of the church that are modeled here in Acts chapter 2 are essential for your spiritual growth and growing in your fellowship with God and your fellowship with other believers.

The Bible says they continued steadfastly, which is a phrase that simply means to persevere, to give constant attention to something. And nothing makes the clear statement that you are truly born again, that you truly love Christ more than your steadfast perseverance in the things that God has called us to do.

Now, a lot of Christians vacillate, and they neglect these disciplines, A, maybe they get tired of them, B, maybe… they feel like they’re not as effective. Or C, maybe they feel like they’ve grown beyond the basics of Christianity.

I wanna assure you that no one has grown beyond the basics of Christianity. But I want you to know that God has chosen to bring spiritual growth into your life and he is forming your spiritual life as you are steadfastly persevering in the patterns that God set forth in the New Testament.

James 2:18 tells us, yes, a man may say, thou has faith and I have works. Show me thy faith without thy works and I will show thee my faith by my works. Do you understand what I say to you? And it may upset the apple cart this morning, but when I say to you, that when you demonstrate steadfastly the patterns that were modeled in the New Testament, the disciplines that we are to do, like being faithful to God in Bible study, being faithful to God to worship Him, being faithful to God, whether in small groups and large groups, that that is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate that you truly are born again.

The reason I make such an audacious statement to you is because of James chapter two and verse 18. So what were these functions? What were these disciplines that the early church was committed to?

We already mentioned one of them, but again, let’s just reiterate it, Bible study. Can you imagine what it was like for these new believers? The majority of them are from a Jewish background. And then on that day, those 3,000 people came to Christ and the Bible teaches us that they were steadfast.

I take the Bible at face value that they were steadfast, that every one of them, 3,000 were steadfast in Bible study and learning the apostle’s doctrine and how amazing it must have been for them to see the types and the prophecies of the Old Testament finding their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

They were hungry, they were thirsty, not only for God’s righteousness but for the knowledge of God and for the knowledge of Christ. Only the word of God can nourish us to the fullness in Christ. You are not gonna find your fulfillment out in the world as a believer.

As a matter of fact, you’re gonna find dissatisfaction. You’re gonna find that all the dreams and all the things that you’re pursuing in the world are never satisfied. But when you come to Christ and give your life fully to Him and you as a believer, as you are pursuing these disciplines, you will find that God is nourishing you He is fulfilling you and you are gonna find meaning.

in life as you follow these patterns. The second discipline of the early church was not only Bible study, but it was fellowship. Look at verse 46, just jump down there. It says they continued daily with one accord in the temple.

They were breaking bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity. Now back up again, verse 42, they continue steadfastly. And he begins to give us a series of things that they were steadfast in.

So it’s not just that they were steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine, but the Bible says they were steadfast in fellowship. They were steadfast in fellowship. They assembled for fellowship. It’s the Greek word koroneia, and it implies the idea of being together and sharing together.

There was a desire within the hearts of the new believers to be together and to be with God’s people. Now, the Bible says one of the evidence that your faith is real is that you have a love for the brethren.

You see, if there’s something in your heart that says, I hate my brother, I hate my sister in Christ, can I just tell you that you are only reflecting that you’re not a true believer? And I know it’s hard for us to swallow these things, but again, I challenge you to read the scriptures.

I challenge you to look at them and let the Spirit of God speak to your heart. But they were committed to the fellowship of the believers together. Now, the third function that we see or discipline is communion and what is often can be confession.

We see again in verse 42 that they were steadfast in breaking bread. We see down in verse 46 that they were in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, so they not only gathered in the temple relating to the synagogue, but if the Jews would allow them, then they were in the house to house and they were breaking bread.

The early church regularly observed the Lord’s supper. I have some things to say here that again are going to make you uncomfortable. But if you came hoping that Pastor Mike would not tell you the truth, then you’re at the wrong church.

The early church regularly observed the Lord’s supper. Christians regularly participated in the ceremonial meal. I’m not sure how a Christian can go through the whole year and never participate in the Lord’s supper and say I’m a believer.

I honestly have to be straight with you. It’s hard for me to comprehend it. How could you go through the whole year and say I’m not going to take the Lord’s supper When we are commanded to take it, we see a pattern in verses 42 through 47.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 11, 26, as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are showing the Lord’s death till he comes. What does that mean that you are showing? Some translations put it that you are demonstrating.

And what he is literally saying to us is that every time you partake of the Lord’s supper, here’s what you are testifying to all who are present and you are testifying to the God in heaven who is watching us participate in these wonderful disciplines that he has established for us, we are saying to him and to all of our family and all of our believers in Christ, I still believe in Jesus Christ.

Let me help you. When you take the Lord’s supper, you are saying that I still believe in what Christ did for me on the cross. I am not trusting in my own works to get me to heaven, but I am trusting in Christ to get me to heaven.

And that’s what we’re doing. That’s what the apostle was saying, that you are showing the Lord’s death till he comes. You are showing your faith. You are showing your belief in the Lord’s death on the cross until he comes and takes us home.

In observing the Lord’s Supper, the church is testifying to the death and resurrection and the soon coming of Jesus Christ. When we partake in the Lord’s Supper, we are looking back at the cross. We take the bread, which is symbolic of the body of Christ that suffered and was sacrificed for us.

We partake of the cup, which is a picture of the blood of Christ. Again, you may say, these are meaningless to me. These memorials and these ceremonies are insignificant to me. Then I say to you, why did Jesus command it?

Why? Now listen, church, I’m being straight with you. But the point is simply this. We do what we want to do. Well, Pastor Mike, you do these communions in the evening. And what’s your point? It is the Lord’s Supper.

Sunday morning, we try to do a lot of outreach. We know that the Lord’s Supper, that there is a command, that if you take it with the wrong heart, that there is judgment of God. So I want to make sure everybody is sincere.

Yes, it may be a little bit of extra sacrifice. And yes, it may be a little bit extra effort for us to come and gather and take the Lord’s Supper. But why would that be a bother to us? Because Jesus gave his very life for us.

And so we not only look back, but we look ahead. You see, the Lord’s Supper is not only calling you to look back to the cross but to look ahead to the return of Christ. For the Bible tells us till he comes.

Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 26, I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day. when I drink it with you in my father’s kingdom. There’s gonna be a big banquet in heaven.

And we’re gonna sit at the table at the banquet of the Lord and the bride of Christ will gather around that table and we again will partake of communion with the Lord Jesus Christ and we will rejoice and we will rule and reign with him and it will be utopian.

And all that you have desired in this world and all that you have wanted in this world will finally be manifested and true in the kingdom of God. Communion is a corporate act of remembering. It is a corporate act of looking forward to the hope that is found in Christ.

What was the next discipline that they practiced steadfastly? I want you to see it, it’s prayer. It is prayer. We’re looking at verse 42 and in… Prayer they were steadfast in prayer the early church prayed with fervency the early church Understood how important prayer was to the life of the church Prayer not programming was the priority of the first believers It is God’s people praying You don’t have to wait for a call from the pastor to pray you can yourself through the power of the Spirit of God Initiate corporate prayer in the family of God whether it’s in your Bible studies your classes or just spontaneously meeting and gathering with God’s people and praying because this is a priority in the church It is not only a priority that we pray corporately, but that we pray privately Spurgeon said that the neglect of private prayer is the locust which devours the strength of the church this church will never move forward on its feet, but only on its knees as we seek God and Pray to him.

I encourage all of us to make a commitment like never before Individually and corporately to be a people of prayer, but I also want you to see another discipline that they practice it is called Support they supported one another as a family of God verse 44 now all who believed were together Doesn’t say they were separate but they were together and had all things in common and sold their possessions Goods and divided them among all as anyone had need So continuing daily with one accord in the temple breaking bread from house to house They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.

There’s a lot that can be said here But what I want to point out is this there is enthusiastic cooperation in the family of God He’s not teaching us socialism or even communism He’s just simply teaching us that in this time the church that was facing a lot of persecution And was in desperate need because as these Jewish believers came to Christ and they manifested that commitment by their baptism and they followed Christ and started practicing the disciplines that God gave them to follow.

I want you to know that they were isolated. They were ostracized. They were considered dead by their Jewish families. And so they were in desperate need. Some of them lost their job. Some of them were forced out of their homes.

But the Bible says that they were in one accord. There was a unity in the family. Verse 46, they were with one accord. There was unity in helping each other. The people in the church rallied together to meet the needs of other believers.

This is important for us because, in our selfish culture, we must encourage each other to live more simply in order to meet the needs of others. You and I must recognize all that God has blessed us with, the resources that God wants us to use, not only to take care of our families but to be a blessing to each other.

This church has been amazing at that. Many times you’ve stepped up in big ways to help people with tremendous needs in the congregation, missionaries who have tremendous needs, and I want you to know that I encourage us to continue to show that support, and I encourage us to look for those opportunities.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:4, look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. What was another discipline? I want you to hang in there. Singing, praising, and worshiping God.

Verse 43, there was great fear. Many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. In verse 47, they were praising God and having favor with all the people and the Lord added to the church. They were committed to coming together and worshiping and praising God corporately.

Well, Mike, I can worship God out in the woods. I hope so. I hope you’re out there before you get that deer. I hope you’re worshiping God. But anyway, what I’m trying to say is, yes, I know you can worship God anywhere.

You’re not teaching me anything new, but what I’m trying to emphasize to you is that just because we can worship God anywhere doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worship God somewhere. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t come together on the Lord’s Day and follow the practice of the early church and worship God together.

We should make that part of our discipline. Oh, it’s hard to get up on Sunday morning. It’s the only time for me to sleep in. Now, you know what? That’s the way I thought when I was a teenager. And here’s what the apostle Paul said.

When I was a child, well, I did the things of a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things. It’s time to move forward. It’s time to sacrifice. Take up your cross. And yes, you may have to get up a little bit.

early and it may be the only time you get to sleep in. And I feel sad for you that you don’t get to sleep in on Saturday or you don’t get to sleep in on another day. But I want you to know it should never stop your coming together.

There should be great jubilation and anticipation when God’s people come. There is nothing more beautiful than when the saints of God come together in unity, worship and praise their Redeemer. So we hope that you’ve been encouraged.

And if you’ve gotten out of church, let’s get back in church. Let’s find a Bible-believing church. You say, man, I’m having a hard time finding one. Well, reach out to us and we’ll try to help you connect with some good Bible-believing churches across America, close to your area where you can worship God and learn the Word and be encouraged and fellowship with other believers.

So, I want you to take advantage of that. This is Pastor Mike Sanders reminding you that in Christ there is hope worth having.

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