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On Your Mark, Get Set…GROW! - Part 1 - Acts 2:42

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What did the very first church look like? If we can answer that question, we can determine two things: First, we will be able to see the model we are expected to follow as a church. Second, we will be able to see why we need the church, since these things speak to core needs that we all have. The first church in Jerusalem was a learning church, a caring church, a worshipping church and a generous church. Let’s consider the first mark today, and the place that apostolic teaching and preaching had on the very first assembly.

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5/17/2009
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On Your Mark, Get Set…GROW! - Part 1
Acts 2:42
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
What did the very first church look like? If we can answer that question, we can determine two things: First, we will be able to see the model we are expected to follow as a church. Second, we will be able to see why we need the church, since these things speak to core needs that we all have. The first church in Jerusalem was a learning church, a caring church, a worshipping church and a generous church. Let’s consider the first mark today, and the place that apostolic teaching and preaching had on the very first assembly.
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Church? Who Needs It

Church? Who Needs It

The Church. Who really needs to be a part of it? Why should we belong to something so archaic and so narrow? The culture around us seems to ask this question relentlessly, but what is the answer? Pastor Skip Heitzig presents a series of reasons why the church, as Christ established it, is so vitally important to the Christian walk. From God's original intent for His church, to the ways in which He uses us today, and the reasons why people attend and leave the church, this series emphasizes the importance of the Church and the need to revere it as divinely established.


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Detailed Notes

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I. Learning Leads to Growing ("Doctrine")



II. Preaching Leads to Practicing ("Apostles'Doctrine")



III. Continuing Leads to Persevering ("Continued Steadfastly" )

 

Questions for Home Groups:

  • Do you know more Biblical truth today than you did last year? What caused that? How do you apply what you hear and learn? Look up Luke 8:18 and discuss what this verse means.


  • What can we learn from the way the early apostles preached to unbelievers and taught believers about the power of Scripture to change lives?


  • Have you ever read the whole Bible through once? If not, what caused you to stop? Do you think it’s important to know these old stories and writings or are they irrelevant? Why or why not?

Transcript

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[THEME MUSIC]

Father, we have gathered to hear from you. We want you to speak through the preaching of your Word to our hearts, to our lives. Lord, you know exactly where we're at, what we've been going through, what questions we have. And some of those questions might even be about the particular text we're going to study.

But Father, I pray we would learn, we would grow, and we would be transformed. We would experience the expression of your love. In Jesus' name, amen.

In my house, we had a family Bible. And I remember distinctly finding it for the first time and bringing it out. Now this thing was huge, and it was heavy. And at that time in my life, I was a little kid. It's like you needed a wagon to carry it around in, it was so big.

And I remember it was stiff, you know, because it wasn't opened that much. And it was dusty for the same reason, nobody really read it that much. And then I remember somebody saying that if everybody decided to read their Bibles at the same time, it would be the biggest dust storm in history. Sort of sad, isn't it?

On the serious side, I read something by Dr. Michael Vlach, who wrote this in theologicalstudies.org, "there is a crisis of Biblical knowledge in the American church," says Dr. Vlach. And he says the most widely-known Bible verse among adults and teenagers is, guess what, not John 3:16, "God helps those who help themselves," which is not a Bible verse at all. Ben Franklin wrote that one. In fact, it's directly contradictory to the Bible, but that's what people think the Bible says.

Jay Leno one night was asking people in his audience about the Bible to find out how much they knew. So he said, "Can any of you name one of the Ten Commandments?" And one guy shot up and said, "Yeah, God helps those who help themselves."

Well, first of all, that's not a commandment. It's just a statement, but anyway he got it wrong. And then he said, "Can any of you name one of the apostles?" Not a single member of the audience could name an apostle. But when asked the question by Leno, the names of the Beatles, like an anthem, "John, Paul, George, Ringo," but nobody could remember an apostle.

The big question that looms every week on this poster behind me, "Church, who needs it?" we've discovered already that God decided the whole world needed it. Because as we already read in Matthew 16, Jesus announced that part of his business, his enterprise is that He would build His church. He announced that to His disciples.

And then we saw in John, Chapter 17, that our Lord anticipated and prayed for those who would become His church. But here in Acts, Chapter 2, we get to the very birth of the New Testament church itself. It's the day of Pentecost, which is the birthday of the church.

It's when it was first in existence. It's as if the church steps up to the starting line, and the Holy Spirit is saying, "On your mark, get set, grow." That's the name of our message today. Because they grew inwardly, spiritually, and numerically from this point on. This is the birth of it, the beginning of it.

What was it like to be in the church in Jerusalem? What was important to them? What was on their list of the most important things?

And all we have to do is read the text itself. It's found in verse 42, but let's read from verse 41 to the end of the chapter to get the flow of the story. "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 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 any one 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." I hope that after today's message, you're going to understand a little bit better why I do what I do, and why we place so much emphasis on the teaching and the proclamation of the Scriptures here at this church.

What was the early church like? Well, first of all, it was a learning church. They devoted themselves to the apostles' doctrine. We're going to look at that this morning.

Second, they were a caring church. They devoted themselves to fellowship. We'll look at that next time. Third, they were a worshipping church. They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and prayers.

And finally, they were a generous church. They pooled their resources together and took care of each other. And these four priorities are like a mission statement of what they valued as a congregation. Now before we jump into our message this morning in terms of breaking it down, let me just make a note that when we talk about church-- and we use that term a lot, we use it in this study a lot-- that I am not in particular referring to a denomination or an institution or an organization, but rather all believers, who are genuine, authentic, born-again, given their lives to Christ believers-- no matter where they meet, whether it's a cathedral or a home or a storefront or a field, that is in the New Testament the church, called-out people who love and follow their Lord.

Well, this morning, we're going to look at verse 42, and guess what? We're not going to even cover the whole verse. We are simply going to focus on one statement and break it down. Verse 42, "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine." You see, what I want to do is move slowly here and probe deeply here and dissect exactly here so we understand what are our priorities to be, and we'll do that over the next few weeks.

So what I'd like to do, based upon this text, is give you three applicational statements, and they're in your outline in your bulletin. The first is that learning leads to growing. The second, preaching leads to practicing. And third, continuing leads to persevering.

Now, first of all, focus with me on a single word in verse 42, and that is the word "doctrine." "Doctrine," it means teaching or instruction. And this group of people in Jerusalem were listening to teaching, to doctrine, to instruction. They were receiving it. They were a learning church, and they grew because of it.

They grew individually, personally spiritually. They also grew numerically, verse 47, "the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." This is how I read the paragraph as a whole. The early church kept priorities. Because they kept these priorities, God honored that and added people to that as they kept what was most important.

John Stott writes this in his great book on the church, "One might say that the Holy Spirit opened a school in Jerusalem that day. The schoolteachers were the apostles whom Jesus had appointed and trained. And there were 3,000 pupils in kindergarten." This was a learning church.

Now, please note that first on their list of what's most important was the apostles' doctrine. That surprises some of us. We might think that the list should read, and they devoted themselves to love, or they devoted themselves to singing, or they devoted themselves to missions, or they devoted themselves to service. But no, first on the list of the things they devoted themselves to was doctrine.

I remember the first time I came to church, the church I grew up with, with a Bible. I was a brand new believer. I was so excited. I'd been reading the Bible, and I brought it to church, and I was stopped in the foyer. And one of the leaders said, what are you doing with that thing?

I said, well, wait a minute. This is a Bible, and this is a church. And he just, he'd never seen one before in church. It's very interesting. It was a shock to me.

How many are devoted to doctrine, I mean, as Christians are devoted to doctrine? Fun little test, ask somebody this week who wasn't a part of this message, ask another Christian friend, say, hey, are you devoted to doctrine? They might look at you like you're from outer space. But this church was.

If you went to a Christian bookstore, and you found out what books they sell the most of, I venture to say it wouldn't be doctrinal books. I venture to say it would be about the family or about marriage or about finances these days. That's understandable.

But the early church curiously had this as the number one priority, doctrine. Now the word sounds pretty stuffy, doesn't it, sort of rigid and cold? But it simply, again, means teaching, instruction, a better translation healthy, solid instruction.

I do feel sorry for the word "doctrine," by the way. If there's ever a word in the Bible I just felt really sorry for and sympathetic toward it's this word. Because it gets the back hand by a lot of people, even believers, who say, well, you know, we're not really into doctrine, or doctrine isn't all that important but these other things are.

Sort of like when you buy a gadget. I love gadgets. I like, I love technology when a new computer comes out or a phone comes out. But there's one thing I don't like about gadgets, they come with manuals.

And they're usually hard-to-read thick manuals without pictures. I like pictures in my manuals. But they have all this instruction, and I never read it, ever. I just think, I can figure this out, it's intuitive, well, no problem, until I break the gadget or until the gadget freezes or I don't know how to perform a function, I can't figure it out.

Then where's that manual app? And I find myself going through it. And you see, that's sort of my concern, is a lot of people want to live their lives by the seat of the pants, come as it comes, without consulting the manual.

The manual, the early church thought the manual has to be at the top of the list. The apostles' doctrine has to be at the top of the list. But some actually preach it in churches. Some actually preach that it's not important what you know, what's really important is how you feel, how you feel. And it comes out in all sorts of statements like, well, it's more than head knowledge, it's heart knowledge, and that sounds really good and spiritual. It just happens to be lousy thinking and theology.

But people say, well, it's not about knowing things, it's about being passionate and feeling things. And yet the prophet Hosea said, my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. I discovered something I want to share with you.

The term "heart" that we usually typify as our emotions, our heart, the word "heart" appears 858 times in the Old Testament alone. And almost always, you know what it refers to? The mind, not the emotions. We in the West use the term "heart" as a metaphor to mean the center of our emotional being, my heart says versus my mind, but not the Hebrews.

The Hebrews placed the core of a person's emotions in the stomach, in the abdomen, in fact, more specifically in the bowels. So if you've ever read the old King James Bible, and you've been befuddled when you come across the verse, "bowels of tender mercies," and you're thinking, I'm supposed to have a merciful bowel? What is that all about? It's because the Hebrews saw that the pit of one's stomach is where you feel the deepest. But they placed the heart and the mind, "as a person thinks in his heart, so is he," the Bible tells us.

So all of that to say that the early church was far from being anti-intellectual. They were far from just being a mystical group that avoided theology and avoided doctrine. They were very engaged with their minds. They were a learning church.

When I gave my life to Jesus Christ back in 19-- [MUMBLES], I, um, just a few years back, I immediately went to a Bible teaching church. And I started reading the Bible because my pastor Chuck Smith every week would say this, "now let's turn in our Bibles to," and we'd turn to whatever passage it was. And I loved it because I started learning.

And as I started learning, I started growing. I started finding out where things are in the Bible and how they apply to my life. And I started being set free, because you all know, "The truth," said Jesus, "and the truth will set you free."

And I remember at that church that I was a part of, meeting two seminary grads. And they said, you know, Skip, we have learned more here at this church in the last year than we have in our four years of seminary. We're so excited because as we're learning, we're growing, we're growing.

II Peter 3:18, Peter writes, "Grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." And in I Peter, chapter 2, verse 2, "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word that you may grow thereby." You see, if you're not taking in spiritual food, if you're not learning spiritual things, then you're not going to survive spiritually. You're not going to ever grow.

It's sort of like real food. If you don't eat, guess what happens, you die. If you don't eat spiritually, you die spiritually. You shrivel up.

I heard about a farmer who was protesting the rising cost of oats, and he didn't want to pay for oats to feed his mule with. So he thought what he would do is sort of beat the system is feed his mule the same but not as much oats. And he put sawdust mixed with the oats.

And as the price of oats went up, he put in more sawdust and less oats and more sawdust and less oats. And eventually, his mule died of malnutrition. So if it's true that we are what we eat, then if we are eating truth, we'll become true. If we're eating falsehood and fluff, we'll become false and fluffy, I suppose. So learning leads to growing, doctrine.

The second thing I want to draw your attention to is the adjective in front of the noun. What kind of doctrine? It was the apostles' doctrine. It was the apostles' doctrine. The second point is that preaching leads to practicing.

The apostles' doctrine was what the apostles themselves preached to the crowds. That's what they listened to. That's what they devoted themselves to. It wasn't any kind of doctrine. It wasn't any kind of instruction.

Nobody could just go up there at whim and say, well, I want to share something. They responded to the apostles' doctrine. Now let me explain that. Initially, the apostles' doctrine or the apostles' teaching or the apostles' instruction were comments made by the apostles, instruction and application of the Old Testament text, applying it to the lives of the New Testament believers, showing them how that text and its principles bears upon their present situation.

So Peter and John and the others would take the law and the prophets in history and psalms, and show how all of that spoke of Jesus and how Jesus fulfilled that. That was the apostles' doctrine initially. I want, I wanted you to see that.

Verse 14 of chapter 2, "But Peter standing up with the 11 raised his voice, and said to them, men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you." Notice "known," he's appealing to their mind. "And heed my words, for these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it's only 9 o'clock in the morning. But this is what was spoken of by the prophet Joel."

So now he quotes Joel, chapter 2. "It shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh," et cetera. He is showing how what Joel predicted in the Old Testament was happening before their eyes, and he does it from the text itself. That's expository preaching.

Then in verse 23, he continues, "Him, Jesus, being delivered by the elders," or "Him being delivered by the determinant 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. For David said, concerning him"-- now he's quoting psalm 16-- "I foresaw the Lord always before my face. He is at my right hand," et cetera. And he follows down, showing that the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ was predicted by David in Psalm 16, and he does it from the text.

So understand this, the apostles were the first preachers in the New Testament, proclaimers. And apostolate preaching was expository preaching. The preaching of the apostles was firmly rooted in the power of the text, rather than the personality of the preacher. The apostles believed the text itself has the power to change a life, and that's what they preached.

All of that to bring it to sort of an obvious conclusion. The New Testament believers did not just rely on the Holy Spirit speaking personally to their hearts when they would read the scriptures. And they say, well, this sort of means this to me and this means that. They did that but they also recognized and acknowledged the apostles as the ones Jesus had picked to be their teachers and their preachers.

And they gave themselves not to any kind of doctrine, but it was the apostles' preaching or the apostles' doctrine. Why? And here's the important underscoring truth. Because typically that's how God changes life is by the preaching of the Word.

I know it sounds foolish to some. I know a lot of people today who don't like preaching. It just so happens that God has ordained that, by and large, most typically, he will change a person's life by preaching of a message.

I first heard the gospel very appropriately preached to my own life, and I responded to it, when I heard Billy Graham. I was watching television. I've told you this story time and time again. But I remember what he preached. I remember him saying things like this.

"And many of you are lonely," and I thought, well, I'm lonely. "And some of you need forgiveness," and I thought, well, I need forgiveness. And as he was preaching what the Word said, it started doing something inside of me. I started being changed because of it. Well, guess what, that's what God planned.

1 Corinthians 1:21, "It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believed." So preaching leads to practicing, but not always, right. Because some of you are even thinking, well, I know a lot of preachers that don't even practice what they preach. And I know a lot of people that listen to pastors preach, and they don't practice what they hear.

And it's true, hearing preaching isn't enough, right. It's not enough, case in point, Ananias and Sapphira, Acts, chapter 5, husband and wife couple. They lied to the Holy Spirit. They were hypocrites but, boy, did they hear good preaching.

They heard Peter, and they heard John. They heard the apostles preach. They didn't practice it. They didn't receive it. It didn't touch them deeply.

There were legalists that arose in Acts, the 15th chapter, who said you have to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses in order to be saved. Even though they heard good apostolate preaching on grace, it didn't affect them. And perhaps the best example would be Judas Iscariot. I think it's safe to say he heard the best preacher ever, right, Jesus Christ, Himself, but it didn't change him.

So listening to the apostles' doctrine is certainly not enough. But the general rule was that as people are exposed to the truth, the doctrinal preaching through the apostles, the people would listen and respond and become practicing Christians, and they would grow. That's the pattern.

Look at the fourth chapter for just a moment. Verse 1, "as they spoke"-- they being the apostles-- "spoke, preached to the people, the priest, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus, the Resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in custody"-- that doesn't mean they prayed for them; they grabbed them-- "for it was already evening. However"-- verse 4-- "many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to be about 5,000." So the preaching led to practicing here.

Go to the end of chapter 5, verse 42, I wish we had time to chase more of this down. It's just a pattern throughout this book. "And daily in the temple"-- verse 42-- "and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."

Go down to chapter 6, verse 7, "And the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith." So as the apostles preached and taught unbelievers and believers, the truth made an impact. That's God's pattern, preaching leads to practicing.

Romans 10, verse 14, Paul writes, "How then 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?" You follow his thinking?

Salvation requires faith. Faith requires hearing. Hearing requires somebody speaking, preaching.

Now that means to us, that means to us that preaching, proclaiming, teaching truth, the Word of God must be at the forefront of any New Testament church. And that's the reason why, from the very beginning when we first started a Bible study, it was about the Bible study.

That's why whenever we gather together and have any kind of meeting, there's always a message. And the core of it is the teaching of the Word. And by the way, that's the reason we have this big honkin' pulpit up here all the time.

I get asked this. People walk in the church during the week. That big pulpit's there like all the time. That's right. That's a statement that the Word of God is at the very center of everything that is done because learning leads to growing, and preaching leads to practicing.

I've been reading a couple of books lately. Every year, I like to read a book on preaching by somebody new and just to keep my edge sharpened. One chapter that I was reading by Albert Mohler, who's the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, wrote this. It made an impact on me, and I wanted to share it with you.

"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. They might speak of a specialized program for senior adults or young people.

They might speak of the church's music. Sometimes they might speak of things far more superficial. But rarely do you hear a church described first and foremost by the character, power, and content of its preaching. This is because few preachers today are true servants of the word."

Well, that's where the apostles were different. The apostles were true servants of the Word. The apostles were never over the Word. They were under the Word, serving it, making sure that people heard those principles and how they apply. That was apostles' doctrine.

And you say, well, that's so long ago. They're dead, these apostles. 2,000 years, they've been dead. And you, preacher, blond guy, you're not an apostle.

You're right. I'm not an apostle, but I still have the apostles' doctrine in the New Testament, their letters, their writings, their stories. And as men of God expound the Word of God to the situations of the people of God, it is food for growth. Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

So that's what we should be concerned with. That should be high on our priority list, truth and the proclamation of the truth, the apostles' doctrine. I read something a couple of weeks ago I had never known before.

It was striking to me. I want to share with you. Did you know that in the early days of American Christianity in many congregations across this country, there weren't just people who preached the Word. There were people called exhorters in the body, whose task it was, after the sermon, to make personal applications of the message to the congregation.

One of those whose story I read was Isaac Backus. during the American Revolution, he was only 15 years old when he started in this exhortation capacity. And what these guys would do is a preacher would give a sermon. Afterwards, the exhorter would come up, who knew the people personally, and would say to the congregation things like this. Mrs. Smith, what we just read today means that you have to raise your children differently than you've been raising them.

Mr. Jones, the second point that we read must certainly mean that you will do business differently than you've been doing in this community. Can you imagine if we did that today? If I had Dave up here, and Kevin up here, and some of the assistant pastors, and Neal, who knew the different people and counseled with them and said, OK, based on that, you-- started calling you out. That would not be tolerated.

That would not be tolerated. That was a staple in early American churches. I'm not suggesting that we're going to bring that back so you don't have to worry about it.

[LAUGHTER]

The third statement I want to make from our text is that continuing leads to persevering. Now, I'd like you to focus on the first few words of that text. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine."

Look at verse 46, "so continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house." In other words, this whole thing of the priority of truth and doctrine and the apostles' doctrine, isn't something they just did at the beginning. It sounded like they started with it, but then as times change and as cultures change and as values changed, they also changed and got rid of the apostles' doctrine and brought in something else.

No, they didn't just listen to the apostles' doctrine. They just didn't expose themselves to it. "They continued steadfastly," one word in Greek, "proskartereo." They persevered in this consistently over time, so that when persecution came, when hardship came, they stayed with it.

Now it must have been a temptation for the church in Jerusalem and other New Testament assemblies to leave this as a priority. Because we read so often that the leaders had to encourage them, stay with it, stay with the faith, stay with the truth. Barnabas traveled to Antioch up in Syria, and we read in Acts 11:23, "When he came, he had seen the grace of God and he was glad, and so he encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord." In Acts 14, the apostle Paul returned to the town of Derby after he was stoned, I mean, with rocks.

[LAUGHTER]

And, um, we're told "strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, we must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God." So allow me to encourage you to keep at it, to continue, to continue in the truth, to continue in the priority of the truth, continue in believing and relying on and living in the promises of the Word of God. Let's just keep at this, shall we. Let's just keep at this priority.

No matter what happens, let's do this. We call it a Christian walk. And if you think of a walk, it's just a slow, deliberate mode of transportation. It's not like a jet where you get there quickly. When you walk, it's slower, but it's just put one foot in front of the other and walk, one foot in front of the other and walk.

So get up in the morning, and the Word is a priority. And when life is good, Word is a priority. And when life is bad, the Word is a priority.

If you lose your job this year, God forbid, the Word of God is still your priority. If somebody that you love dies this year, God forbid, the Word of God is still your priority. If the world falls apart-- by the way, the Bible predicts that it will-- the Word is still your priority.

See I meet people all the time. Yeah, I used to believe the Bible. I used to come to church and read that Bible. But then my life got really gnarly and bad, and bad things happened so I gave it all up. Big mistake, big mistake.

Jesus in Mark, chapter 4, said, "The one sown on stony ground who, when they hear the Word, immediately they received it with gladness, but they had no root in themselves. And so they endure only for a time. And afterward when tribulation or persecution arises for the Word's sake, immediately they stumble."

It's easy to follow Jesus when life is good. It's easy to follow Jesus in good times. But the Bible calls us to follow Jesus at all times, at all times, good and bad. No matter what happens, Word is my priority. I'm going to continue steadfastly in that.

So we've managed this morning to cover 1/2 of one verse. Congratulations. We'll finish the next Word next week. But we have enough, on just what we have read, to get on our mark, to get set, and to grow.

But how can we cultivate a love for scripture? How can we cultivate this as a priority? And it must be cultivated because loving the scriptures does not come naturally.

In fact, the natural mind is at odds with truth. It must be cultivated. Let me give you a few practical suggestions.

Number one-- this is going to sound really obvious-- number one, get a Bible, get a Bible, actually buy a Bible. Or if you know someone, if you can't afford it, and you know someone who has three or four, get one of theirs if they let you. But get your own Bible and carry it around with you.

It doesn't mean you have to get the big honkin' Bible like I had. Come on, help me put this in the truck. Just get a nice little thinline Bible or a New Testament, and carry it with you through the day. Even if it's in your briefcase or it's with you to refer to it, if you've got some extra time.

Number two, bring your Bibles to church. Come in with your Bibles, and here's why. When I first had my Bible, and I would go to the church I was telling you about, and Pastor Chuck, who'd say, "Now would you turn in your Bibles to," I would turn to it and now I knew where that book was, and now I knew where that scripture was, and I'd mark it.

And pretty soon, I started knowing my way around. And tell you what, in three months, in six months, when I was going through a situation that required that truth, I could look it up. And it was very, very helpful.

Number three, bring a notebook. I know a lot of you guys are going, you just lost me. I'm checking out right now. I'm not going to bring a notebook to church.

OK, we provide notepaper. How about a pen? Could you just bring a pen?

If that's too much, how about a pencil, something you can erase? But learn to write down cross-references or important points so it's not just a hearing exercise, you're engaged in it. I always like to take notes when I hear something that I can use later on. It engages you.

Number four, tell somebody else something you learned. If it's just one point that spoke to your heart, tell somebody else in an email or a phone call or if you see them during the week, and here's why. If you want to learn something, teach it. It'll reinforce what you learn. You'll become a better learner if you can teach one thing to somebody else.

And finally, number five, memorize scripture, memorize scripture. As you go through any sermon, anytime of devotions, take one part of that text that is the most important salient point, commit it to memory. Eventually, you will have a stockpile of truth. And you know what David said, "Thy Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against Thee." It will pay off. So truth, the apostles' doctrine, the Bible, read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy.

Back to the God who helps those who help themselves, you know, my dad actually quoted that to me one time. I'll never forget it. He stood over me, he said, "You know the Bible says, God helps those who help themselves." I think he wanted me to get a job or something at the time.

[LAUGHTER]

But he told me, "God helps those who help themselves," and he said the Bible says that. And so I started reading the Bible to find it. I never found it. It ain't in there.

You know what's in there, God helps the helpless. God helps the broken. God helps people with baggage who need forgiveness. In other words, He helps people like us.

That's good news. God's all about grace and mercy and forgiveness and doing what you can't do on your own. And some of you, today, I have a hunch need a touch from Him. You need to begin at the beginning by receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. I'm going to give you that opportunity in just a minute. So you get ready to come and make that commitment.

Let's pray. Our Heavenly Father, as we close this service, and we close this day of meeting on this the Lord's day, and we have considered what Your church, the early church, the first church did and what they thought was of utmost value. And we compared that with our church or ourselves, we pray, Lord, that we would see clearly, and we would respond honestly and correctly.

And right now, I pray for broken people, hurting people, people who can't help themselves, people who have tried but they're wanting to find forgiveness, peace, meaning in life. They want a fresh start. Some perhaps have never personally received You, even though they've been good people, even though they have gone to church, raised a family. Others have followed You at one time, but they've gone the other direction. Bring them back, we pray. In Jesus' name, amen.

Would you all stand to your feet? As we sing this last song, I'm going to ask you if you fit that category of needing to make a commitment to Christ for the first time or if you've done it before and you're recommitting. But if you're just tired of the way things are in your life, you're just tired of being tired and you want a fresh start, and you want forgiveness and you want hope and you want peace, then you come to Christ.

And I'm going to ask you to get up from where you're standing, or if you're out in the overflow in the warm sunshine of the amphitheater, or in the hub next door where there are several hundred people, there's going to be a pastor in those areas walking you over here. If you're in the balcony or the family room or front row, I want you to get up and come and give your life to Christ and pray a prayer of forgiveness as you ask Him into your heart. Get up and come right now, just come and I'll lead you in that prayer. As we sing this song, you get up and come. We'll wait for you but come now please.

[MUSIC - JUDSON W. VAN DEVENTER, "ALL TO JESUS I SURRENDER"]

(SINGING) All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give. Worldly pleasures--

[CLAPPING]

All forsaking, Lord, I give myself to them. I surrender all.

God bless you. God bless you.

I surrender all. And all to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

Bless you, ladies. Anybody else? We'll wait just another moment. If you're in the back, start coming now. If you're in the balcony, make your way down here right now.

[CLAPPING]

No matter where you're at. Make this choice. You'll be glad you did.

[MUSIC - JUDSON W. VAN

DEVENTER, "ALL TO JESUS I SRRENDER"]

Lord, I give myself to You. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all. I surrender all. And all to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

[CLAPPING]

I surrender all. And I surrender all. And all to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

We have just another moment. Anybody else willing to surrender? I've spoken to lifeguards who say, you know, the hardest thing about rescuing a drowning person is when they try to help you. If they'd only just surrender and let me take them in, I think some of you have just spent a little too long trying to do it on your own. Are you willing to admit that you need God, that you need a savior, that you need His help?

[CLAPPING]

All right. Well, those of you who have come forward, I'd like to lead you in a prayer. And I'd like you to pray this prayer out loud after me to the Lord. Pray this from your heart.

This is you turning your life over to Jesus. This is you saying to the Lord, You're in control. I surrender.

Have you ever seen that bumper sticker, "God is my copilot"? Forget about it. God's the pilot. He's in charge here.

You're giving your life to Him, and you're going to follow Him. And He's going to be driving the ship, OK. So you pray this from your heart. Let's pray together.

Lord, I give you my life. I admit I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I trust Jesus, that He died on the cross and rose from the dead.

I turn from my sin. I turn to you as my Savior and as my Lord. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, help me to live for You. In Jesus' name, amen.

[CHEERING]

Additional Messages in this Series

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3/22/2009
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The Church? Who Needs It
Acts 1:12-15;2:1-13
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I'm a churchman. I freely confess that. Yet I'm also painfully aware that the culture around me incessantly asks the above question when it comes to the church: Who needs it? Why should I belong to something so archaic and so narrow? In the next several weeks, I'd like to take a fresh look at us--the church of Christ--and answer this question. Today, as we begin our series, let's jump right in and deal with this question head on: Who needs the church and why?
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3/29/2009
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Hey, Look Who's Starting a Church!
Matthew 16:13-18
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Church was God's idea. It's His plan. Jesus Christ is the founder, architect, builder, owner, and director of the church. Today we look at the first mention of the church in the Bible and consider our spiritual origins. As we listen into a conversation between Jesus and His followers, let's also rediscover our spiritual roots as the people of God. You'll discover that in New Testament terms, both Christian and church are synonymous--one implies the other.
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4/26/2009
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The Church Jesus Would Attend - Part 1
John 17
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The church is not a place; but it is a people. The church is not where you worship; but it is you who worship. Jesus laid claim on the church; it belongs to Him ("I will build My church"). So what does He want His church to be like? What things should characterize us overall as a church? In short--what kind of church would Jesus attend? In His longest recorded prayer, the Lord longs for four characteristics that are to mark God’s people. Today we look at the first two.
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5/3/2009
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The Church Jesus Would Attend - Part 2
John 17
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Church-shopping and church-hopping have long been one of American Christians' notable patterns. Most want a church that suits them, helps them, and pleases them. But since Jesus paid for it, it's His church (Acts 20:28). So what does He want from us as a group? What should the collective people of God be like? What ingredients and activities ought to be part of our makeup as a congregation? In short--what kind of church would Jesus attend?
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5/10/2009
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The Art of Going to Church
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
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If you're reading this, chances are you've come to church! But why are you here? What is your intention? Don't get me wrong, we're glad you're here today in this place of worship. But for a moment, think about your motivation and your experience--why you've come and what you'll do while you're here and even afterwards. There really is a right way and a wrong way to come to church. Let's consider the words of Solomon--the ancient Preacher.

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5/24/2009
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On Your Mark, Get Set…GROW! - Part 2
Acts 2:42
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"Fellowship"! How many times have you heard that word since you've been a Christian? But do we use it in the right sense and do we practice it in the right way? Let's take a topical tour of this word in the context in which it appears here in Acts. We discover that not only was the first church a learning church; it was a caring church. This is one of the strongest factors for your own personal spiritual growth, so let's see how it's to be done.

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5/31/2009
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On Your Mark, Get Set…GROW! - Part 3
Acts 2:42
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The third characteristic of Breaking Bread seems like it doesn’t fit in a list of the four most important priorities of a church. Of all the possibilities for essential core values, why is eating so central a practice? What does breaking bread really mean and is it still to be a primary focus for modern Christians? Today we will both study this and then practice it together.
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6/7/2009
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On Your Mark, Get Set…GROW! - Part 4
Acts 2:42
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The first church in Jerusalem had lots of things missing from it—charters, committees, strategies, financial resources and buildings—things that many today would deem as vital. But it had great power! Why? We can only surmise that it is because they tapped into the source of power through prayer. Prayer was part of the very fabric of the church. It was basic and foundational… and it was effective. What would happen to our church if we were all devoted to this discipline?
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6/14/2009
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When Christians Are Generous
Acts 2:44-45
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To find out what God intended His people to be like, we have to go back to the Spirit-led church in the book of Acts. As we take a fresh look at their style, structure, and service, we get the full picture. This group wasn't a bunch of independent isolationists who met once a week. They were generous toward one another and sought to meet the social and economic needs of people in their spiritual family. Because they were so open-hearted, they were also open-handed.
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6/21/2009
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Soul Winning
Acts 2:47
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Jesus said that He would build His church. But how does He build it? What means does He use to call people out of the world and into His church? The answer is simple: Evangelism. As the early church (and any church) shined it's light by proclamation and by practice, people left the darkness. In fact in the first stages of the church, unlike today, "joining the church" and "being saved" were equivalent statements. Let's see how the first church did evangelism.

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6/28/2009
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How to Build a Beautiful Body
1 Corinthians 12:3-22
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Advertisers know that a trim and beautiful physique helps sell products. Think of what that means in a spiritual sense. Can a spiritually fit and beautifully functioning local church attract people to Christ? Jesus said that He would build His church. So do we have any part in that? Since Paul compared the church to a physical body, is there anything that individual members can do to help beautify it? Let's look at four principles that will help us do exactly that.
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7/5/2009
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Avoiding Church Splits
Philippians 2:1-4
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The early church grew by addition and multiplication. It seems the modern church prefers to grow by division: one group splintering off on its own only to replicate that cycle again and again. The Christian community at Philippi was a vibrant, growing church but it was experiencing a period of disharmony. A split between two personalities was threatening the integrity of the church’s testimony. Here we learn how such a split can be avoided.

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7/12/2009
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Hands Up, Face Down
Acts 2:47;Revelation 4-5:14
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When you go to a doctor's office you are typically asked, "So, what brings you here?" The answers may range from having a sore throat to something far more serious. The same is true of coming to church. Not everyone comes for the right reason: to worship. The first earthly church was committed to it and the church in heaven will continue it. Let's get some Scriptural pointers.
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7/26/2009
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The Deacon-Possessed Church
Acts 6:1-15;Acts 20:1-36
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Yes, this message's title is a play on the words demon-possessed. Deacons were among the church's earliest leaders and so were elders. Leadership is needed in every sphere of life from governing a nation, managing a business, growing a marriage, and superintending a church. Jesus called the church His church, so no single person or denomination can lay claim to it. But how is the church to operate as an organization? And how is it that some deacons and elders stop being helpful and humble and become downright hurtful?
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8/2/2009
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You're On a Mission-From God!
Acts 1:8
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Please don't turn off to this message! It's going to be about missions. Lots of Christians immediately respond to world missions by saying, "That's not for me!" I think God would disagree. Getting the gospel of Jesus Christ out to the whole world is our "Family Business." In this final message on the church, lets consider why that is and how that works.
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There are 15 additional messages in this series.