Hello, and welcome to this message from Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque. Skip's teachings are shared globally. And we're thrilled to hear how God's using them to transform lives with the truth of Christ.
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In this series, where lives are changed, we break down the vision of Calvary Albuquerque and explain who we are as a fellowship of believers. One important thing that we do is to explain the relevance of the Bible to empower and transform lives for service.
Now let's turn our Bibles to Acts chapter 2 as Skip begins the message "We pursue God by the word."
Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to Acts 2. Acts 2 this morning. Someone noted that if everyone in America decided to read their Bibles at once, we would have the worst dust storm in history.
By the way, did you know that the most widely known Bible verse in this country-- besides John 3:16-- the most widely known Bible verse in this country is not a Bible verse. The most widely thought Bible verse in this country is, God helps those who help themselves. 82% of Americans think that's in the Bible.
Some of you are looking at me like, it's not? No, I think you know better by now, but 81% of those who call themselves born again Christians also believe that verse is in the Bible. It was spoken, of course, by Benjamin Franklin. It is not a portion of the scripture.
But according to the Gallup organization, one third don't know who gave the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, in this poll research that I found, not only did a third of those polled believe-- only a third knew that Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount-- a large majority of them thought Billy Graham was the one that gave the Sermon on the Mount. Now Billy's getting up there, but he's not that old. He's 97. Yesterday was his birthday. So we want to honor him for that.
In the same poll, fewer than half could name the first book in the Bible. Leading the Gallup organization to make this statement, as Americans we revere the Bible. We just don't read it. And their conclusion is that America has become a nation of Biblical illiteracy.
Now, I know I'm preaching to the choir. I know that you guys are different. You truly are you. You love the scripture. You love the exposition of the Bible. You've come to expect that over the years. And that's one of the things I love about you is that you love God's word.
But teaching the Bible has always been central to this church. And though you know that, and we know that, and we do that. Some of you may be new to this church, a couple months old, or even a year. And you don't understand the foundations of where this flock, this expression of the body of Christ, how it was birthed, and how it came about.
So a series like we have been doing on the vision of this church is, I think, extremely helpful. Because what we've tried to do is re-discover the biblical vision for the church. We don't believe this is our vision, like we came up with it. All we did was synthesize and put into a statement, or a couple of statements, what we believe the biblical vision for the church is, for God's people are.
And so, our vision statement, as we've been saying the last few weeks is simply this, we pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do it with one another through worship by the word and to the world. And we, today, are discovering what that by the word is all about. That we do it by the word of God, by the word of God.
Christianity is the Church of Jesus Christ being called out of the world to become a new group. And do you know that the Church is the only institution that Jesus promised to build and to bless?
He said, upon this rock I will build my church. So it's the only institution He promised to build and to bless, but the way He builds it, and the way He blesses it is in part by the word.
We believe that it's the word of God that does the work of God. The word of God does the work of God by the Spirit of God in the lives of the people of God. That's sort of been our mantra over the many years.
Now if you know your New Testament, you know that there are different analogies, different word pictures, metaphors, to describe the church. We're called the flock of God. He is the shepherd, we're the sheep. It's called the bride of Christ. He's the bridegroom, we're the bride. It's called the building of God.
But, perhaps the most famous, certainly I think Paul the Apostles' favorite analogy, is that we are the body of Christ. And as a body, we need to eat. We need nourishment. And the nourishment comes from the word of God. Job said, I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
And Jeremiah said, your words were found and I did eat them. And they were to me the joy and the rejoicing of my heart. The scripture says, and Jesus quoted it, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
So, turning to Acts 2, and in particular verse 42, we want to today examine-- get this-- one half of one verse. That's really all we're going to look at, one half of one verse. But I want to drill deep. I want to unpack one half of one verse. And that is verse 42.
And what I want you to see in that one half of one verse is the early church's relationship, in particular, to the scriptures, to the word of God. We will discover that they were learning Number 1, that they were learning truth, Number 2, and that they were learning truth continually, Number 3. They were learning truth, and they were doing it continually.
And as we look at this one verse and examine these things, I want to make three statements about us, about you, and three decisions that we need to make concerning the scriptures. Before I do that, allow me to give you a little context of where we find ourselves, once again, in the Book of Acts. It's the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
Pentecost is 50 days after Passover. It's the day the church was born. It's the day the Holy Spirit descended on this group of people, 120 in an upper room. Peter goes outside and he preaches a sermon. And remember, how many people came to faith that day? 3,000 converts. 3,000 born again believers.
Now as soon as they come into the church, these 3,000 new people will find themselves in a hostile environment. First of all their leader now, the Messiah, Jesus, he's been executed six weeks prior. And religious elite of that city, and even the civil government, has their eye on this new group of believers. Now, 3,120 of them. And so the spotlight is on them. And the persecution will be turned up.
So here's a question. What do we do with these 3,000? What do we train them to do? How will they survive? What priorities do they need to incorporate into their lives so that they can survive, and thrive, mature, and grow?
With that question, we get the answer in verse 42, but let me take you to verse 41, for just a little bit of context. "Then, those who gladly received his word were baptized. And that day about 3,000 souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine." That's the one half of the one verse I want to cover.
But, let's indulge ourselves, let's finish the verse, shall we? "They continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship in the breaking of bread and in prayers."
Now let me make the first statement, the first decision, we need to make regarding our relationship with the scripture. Here it is, to grow, you must learn. To grow, you must learn.
Notice it says, they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine. What does that mean, doctrine? Well, it simply means instruction. It means truth taught. Truth that is taught.
To be honest, I feel sorry for the word doctrine. There are some words in the Bible that I look at and I go, I feel sorry for that word. And I feel sorry for the word doctrine because it has been so marginalized by people. People say things like, oh doctrine, we're not into doctrine. That's that technical stuff.
But doctrine simply means good, wholesome, instruction, or truth that is taught. We get doctrine through this book, through the Bible. It is our owner's manual to life. But you know, I am concerned, I fear, because so many people treat their lives like they treat the gadgets they buy.
You know, we buy gadgets. And they all come with an owner's manual, either in the software, built-in, or on paper, like they used to. But sometimes the owner's manual they're quite large. I got a stereo this last year for my car. And the owner's manual for the stereo is about as big as the stereo.
So I did what any American does, I didn't read it. I just put it in, figured I can figure this out, but I couldn't. There's lots of little things that does that I need to go to the manual to figure out what to do.
But a lot of people treat their lives like the gadget. They just sort of try to wing it themselves without figuring out what the manufacturer said about who they are, and how to live their life at peak.
I think we do that when it comes to the scriptures. That is my concern. There is really an absence of theology in our churches. And I'm laying the blame squarely on the churches and the pastors. There's an absence of that. Doctor Michael Vlach, I agree with him, said, "There's a crisis of biblical knowledge in the American church."
A lot of people don't want knowledge, they just want an experience. They want to feel something, and then walk away after the feeling. But there's a crisis of biblical knowledge in the American church.
Remember what God said through the prophet Hosea? My people are destroyed because of lack of knowledge. Peter in the New Testament said, grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Proverbs 19:2, "Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge."
So here are the Apostles giving these 3,000 believers knowledge, doctrine, instruction. John Stott, a commentator on this section of scripture, writes, "One might say that the Holy Spirit opened a school in Jerusalem that day. The school teachers were the Apostles whom Jesus had appointed, and trained, and there were 3,000 new pupils in kindergarten that day."
I like that. To grow, you must learn Apostles' doctrine. Something else. Look at verse 42 again, and notice, really, there are four activities that are mentioned. It's really a list that is given, of activities that they did. So if you look at it in terms of a list, they continued steadfastly Number 1, in the Apostles' doctrine; Number 2, in fellowship; Number 3, in the breaking of bread; and Number 4, in prayer.
So if you look at it like a list, I want you to notice that on their priority list, Number 1 is the word of God. And I bring that up, because if we were writing the list, I don't think we'd necessarily put that as Number 1. If we were to write a list of what a church ought to do and what ought to be the priority, some would write singing as Number 1. Or they would do praying as Number 1, or missions as Number 1, or serving as Number 1. But according to scripture, their survival priority list Number 1 was the Apostles' doctrine.
But let me ask you a question. How many people do you know that are devoted to doctrine, honestly? Just ask your Christian friends, hey are you devoted to doctrine? If you go to Christian bookstores, books on doctrine are not the best sellers. They are hardly sold. Best sellers are the fix-me book kind of things.
But doctrine was first on their list. Why? Because it's the basis of everything.
Over the years, I've been asked questions like, why do you preach expository sermons? I mean, why do you feel, Skip, like you have to tether everything to the text, and point out nouns, and pronouns, and word meanings, and all that stuff? Why do you spend so much time studying, and reading, and teaching?
And why on Wednesday nights do you preach an hour, through a book of the Bible? Actually you should count yourself fortunate. It used to be like an hour and 20 minutes, so I've cut back.
And let me tell you why, why I'm so insistent on that. Because basically, when you come to church, I'm asking you to trust God. I'm asking you to trust him. I'm asking you to put your life in his hands. If I'm asking you to put your life in his hands, don't you want to know the one I'm asking you to entrust your life to? You want to know a little bit about him.
And so that's why we focus on the scriptures. I get to know my Bible, I get to know my God. Now, you can know about God a number of different ways. The moral law, the conscience that God has given every one of us. The creation that we live in. You look, around creation, it tells you about God. But if you want to get to know God, He gives His self-disclosure, His full revelation, in His word principally. Principally.
That's why we study it. That's why we seek to apply it, and understand it, continually. Psalm 19, David writes, about this theme, he says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day, they utter their speech, night unto night they reveal knowledge. There is no speech, nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone throughout all of the earth, and their words to the end of the world."
But then he says this, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statues of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. More to be desired than gold, more than much fine gold are these. Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them, your servant is warned. And in keeping them, there is great reward."
Here's what he's saying, you can look around your world, and you can look at the stars and the beauty of nature, and it will tell you about God. He's glorious. He's powerful. He's creative. But if you want to get to know God in His perfection, the law of the Lord is perfect. That's where you really have God set before you by His scriptures.
When I was a brand new believer, I was in a bookstore, and I'm walking by a bookshelf and there was a title that grabbed my attention. It was the title that sold the book. It was a book by J. I. Packer called Knowing God. It's one of the best books I've ever read.
I would recommend it to you, but when I took it home and cracked it open, I was disappointed. I was disappointed because the book said Knowing God, but essentially, this book was a theology text, a systematic theology in layman's terms. So I'm walking away going, I'm sort of disappointed in this book. It say Knowing God, and it's about theology.
But then it struck me, I think he's on to something. I think he's absolutely right. If I want to know God, I have to know God in the means that God has disclosed Himself. And that is principally through the scriptures. So no wonder, the afternoon I gave my life to Christ after Billy Graham led the audience in The Sinner's Prayer, he turned and he said, and make sure that you go to church this Sunday.
The reason he wanted people to go to church on Sundays, because church-- at least then-- was the place where you'll get the teaching from The Bible. To grow, you must learn. Peter said as newborn babes desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.
So that's the first statement, that's the first decision. To grow, you must learn.
Here's the second. To learn, you must hear. To learn, you must hear. Jesus said, whoever has ears to hear, let him hear. Now look at verse 42, since we're dealing with the text. It says, "they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine."
Notice the modifier to doctrine, it's not any doctrine, it's the Apostles' doctrine. There were many false doctrines going around back then. There were the doctrine of the Pharisees, the legalistic doctrine. There was the doctrine of the Sadducees, very liberal doctrine.
This was the Apostles' doctrine. What does that mean? Simply this. The Apostles preached, they spoke, they taught with their mouths to the people, what the Old Testament said about what they were going through at that time. Keep in mind they didn't have the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts Romans, et cetera. They had the Old Testament.
So the Apostles' doctrine was taking the Old Testament scriptures and applying it in a New Testament setting. That was the Apostles' doctrine. I want to show this to you. Go back in chapter 2, same chapter of Acts. Go back a few verses to verse 14.
The setting is Peter is preaching. The Holy Spirit has come upon the church. It created a real stir because they were speaking in languages. The people were wondering what the commotion was, so Peter, verse 14 standing up with the 11, raised his voice and said, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and heed my words. For these are not drunk as you suppose, since it's only the third hour of the day."
That was the accusation, these guys sound like they're drunk. Peter saying, it's way too early for that, it's only 9 o'clock.
But look at verse 16, "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel. And it shall come to pass-- now he's quoting Joel-- it to come to pass in the last days says God, I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams."
So what is Peter doing? Peter's quoting the Old Testament book of Joel 2 and showing them that the scripture is fulfilled. But what I want you to see is that Peter's sermon is rooted in a text of scripture. Not some kind of emotion, or some kind of feeling, or some kind of an opinion. It's rooted in the text of Old Testament scripture.
Go down a couple verses, verse 23. Peter continues, referring to Christ, "Him being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, and crucified, and put to death. Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death because it was not possible that He should be held by it."
Now look at what he does, "for David says concerning Him-- now he's quoting Psalm 16-- I foresaw the Lord always before my face. He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken."
Peter is showing them that the death of Jesus Christ and His Resurrection was foretold by the scripture. And he uses the text to do it. What I'd like you to see is this. The Apostolic preaching, the preaching of the Apostles, was expository preaching. That is, they let the text speak for itself. They let the text speak.
You see, an expository preacher believes in the power of the text more than the personality of the teacher. That's what it's rooted in. It's not like, watch this I can go back and forth and I can make a lot of noise and whoop people's emotions up. But I believe there's power just in the text itself. And if I unleash it, that's God's power displayed to change a life. That's what they were doing.
So to grow, you must learn, to learn you must hear. The Apostles were preaching , just as God sent prophets in the Old Testament, God sent Apostles in the New Testament, and teachers, and preachers, and pastors. Ephesians 4, God gave some to be Apostles, some to be prophets, some to be pastors, and teachers.
So they preached, they spoke, and people listened and lives were changed. 1 Corinthians 1, Paul's premise is the world doesn't know God by its own wisdom. And so Paul writes, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
Again, in Romans 10:14, "How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed, how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?"
So you see, in general, people grow by learning. And they learn by hearing. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17.
One of my favorite authors of late, who wrote a good book on teaching and preaching is Dr. Al Mohler. And in the book that I'm referencing, he writes, "Rarely do we hear these days, that a church is distinguished primarily by its preaching. When we hear people speak about their own congregations, generally, they speak about something other than preaching.
They might speak of a church's ministry in general, they might speak of specialized programs for senior adults or young people. They might speak of a church's music. But sometimes they speak of things more superficial, and yet rarely, rarely, do you hear a church described first and foremost by the character, power, and content of it's preaching. And this is because," he writes, "few preachers today are true servants of the word."
What I want you to see is that the Apostles were true servants of the word. They spoke to the people what the word said. And they were tethered to the text of scripture.
So to grow, you must learn. To learn, you must hear. Here's the third and the final statement, decision we need to make. To hear, you must commit. To hear, you must commit.
To grow, you must learn. To learn, you must hear. To hear, you must commit.
Look back at verse 42. We are told, and they continued steadfastly. Stop there. They continued steadfastly. Two words are given one word in the original Greek, proskartereo, means to persevere constantly. In other words, this isn't an activity they just started with and then eventually left, and went on to other things.
It's not like somebody came along and said, yeah, you know, I used to go to the Apostles' church. I used to be in the Apostles' doctrine, but I wanted something more dynamical that what Peter and John were dishing out.
You know how ludicrous that would sound? That's like saying, Yeah, I used to eat at one time. But you know what, mom though she cooked some good stuff growing up, I've moved on to junk food now. No, they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine. What they started, they continued with.
There's an interesting thing about hearing truth. Once you stop hearing truth for a while, you start growing deaf to its instruction. You start marginalizing and becoming hardened to the insistence, and the claims, that it makes on your life.
And it's easy to see why, because we hear so many other voices in the world telling us exactly the opposite. They're much louder, and they're more of them. So unless we are constantly being exposed to the truth of scripture, what we hear, day in and day out, takes over in terms of its influence.
Now, some people when they crack open The Bible, they expect the word of God to sort of hit them like a jolt of adrenaline. Like they're going to read a text, and it's just going to slap them upside the head or something. Bam. That's God's word to me.
Now sometimes that happens. I've had jolts before. I've read a text of scripture in my quiet time and it's like man, I needed to hear that. That's just-- but for the most part, I've discovered, instead of a jolt, it's like taking vitamins. Nobody who takes a vitamin expects as soon as I put this in my mouth, I'm going to have this surge of strength and energy.
The reason they're taking vitamins is they believe that over along the haul, they're going to see improved benefits, stamina, strength. They're going to improve their health over time. It's a cumulative effect.
And so my exhortation to you is continue in the truth. Don't stop. Keep doing it. Continue making the truth a priority.
Otherwise, we fall into the category of warning, like Jesus put in Mark 4, he said the ones that were sown on the stony ground are those who when they hear the word immediately receive it with gladness, but they have no root in themselves. And so they endure only for awhile. And afterward, when tribulation, or persecution, arises for the word's sake, immediately, they stumble.
So as we just keep this up, what we're doing. Just keep this up. Just persevere, one foot in front of the other. Keep coming to Bible study. Keep coming to church. Keep reading that text.
When you persevere in this, you'll find that you're able to persevere in life. So when you lose your job, or the doctor says it's cancer, or somebody leaves you in a relationship, all the things that happen in life, it won't crush you, it won't devastate you. You will resort to a promise of scripture that holds you firm.
There was a text. I knew it was in The Bible. I couldn't find it. And I finally dug this week and discovered it. It's something David said. And I wanted to find it to share with you. I found it in Psalm 56. David is writing about his enemies that are surrounding him. And he's fearing because they're saying things about him that are untrue, and leveling accusations that are false, and wanting to attack him and do him in. And so he writes this psalm of trust. And this is what he says, Psalm 56, then my enemies will turn back. This I know because God is for me. Now listen to what he writes, in God-- and then he puts in parentheses-- I will praise His word. In the Lord, and again, I will praise his word. In the Lord, I will trust.
I find that fascinating. In the Lord, I praise His word. In God, I praise His word. What is he saying? God you have spoken to me, and I've exposed myself to your truth. And I praise your word.
Because in another Psalm David said, God has revered His word, even above His name. That is, when life is crashing in around you like this, you can hold fast to His promises.
So make God's word your priority. In times of delight, as well as times of distress. When the cupboards are full, when the cupboards are bare. When there are smiles around you, or frowns around you, like in David's life. It's the primary way you will hear from God. Jesus said, sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth.
So all of that to simply say that teaching absolutely dominated the life of the early church. And learning dominated the individual lives of the early church. So that a true church-- we can say categorically, based on scripture-- a true church is one that is immersed in the study of biblical truth and does so continually.
That's why we study. That's why we teach. That's why it's always open your Bibles to, whatever text. Because when Paul wrote to Timothy about how to conduct himself in church in 1 Timothy 3:15, listen to what he says, "The house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." The pillar and ground at the truth.
In ancient times, there were temples everywhere, dotted the landscape. And temples had a foundation and always had pillars, marble pillars. Solid marble, usually, that supported the upper structure. And the house was supported on the pillars.
So the idea is that the church holds up the truth like pillars hold up a temple. They give people a foundation for life. And so that is the reason. That's the reason we set the scripture before you, because we believe we're setting the Lord Himself before you.
Not that we worship the Bible, we've been accused of that by the way. Oh yeah, that Calvary Church, that's that-- you're bibliologers. I've been called that. What is that? Bibliologer. Oh, you worship the Bible. Father, Son, and Holy Bible. I've heard that.
And I think it's always a cop-out by people who don't want to read their Bibles, study their Bibles. God has given us his word that we might know Him.
There was a man who asked a friend of his, who was a Gideon, for a Bible. Do know what a Gideon is? The Gideon Society. They put Bibles in hotel rooms, the Gideon's Bible. God bless the Gideons. Do we have any Gideons or people that work with them? Oh, God bless you. All right. So thank you for that.
So a friend asked his buddy who was a Gideon representative for a Gideon Bible. And he said, Yeah why do you want it? And he said, well to be honest with you, the pages are so thin, so fine, they're perfect for rolling cigarettes. But listen.
The Gideon was insightful. He goes, I'll tell you what, I'll make a deal with you. I'll give you the Gideon Bible to roll your cigarettes on one condition that before-- when you rip out a page to roll your cigs, that you'll first read the page, front and back. And then, have at it. Smoke away.
The guy said, OK, I'll do that. So, he smoked his way through Matthew, and Mark, and Luke. That's a lot of tobacco, a lot of pages. By the time he got to John, especially that wonderful verse in chapter 3 that is, also one of the most widely known verses besides for God helps those who help themselves. It says, for God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life. That man gave his life to Christ.
The word has the effect of enlightening the eyes. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. Perfect revelation of God.
So The Bible. Learn it to be mature. Hear it to be instructed. Believe it to be safe. And continue in it to be holy and healthy.
Father, thank you for the word of God, which is not just a bunch of books of people saying things, of giving opinions, but a seamless instrument by which You have spoken to mankind, giving us an instruction manual.
And so we want to be devoted to it, from the beginning to the end, for Your glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Our desire at Calvary is to see believers growing in the word of God, so they can experience abundant life in Christ. How have the teachings of Calvary impacted your life? We would love to know, so email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving.
Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.