When I was a kid my parents called me a “walking encyclopedia of useless information.” I loved to read, especially history. I would read ahead of the class in the history text to absorb different historical facts (yes I was a nerd). I would collect these facts and I would… destroy people in Trivial Pursuit, which seemed to be the only place I could apply what I learned. It got to the point nobody wanted to play me anymore.
Consider for a moment the following facts.
- An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.
- A pregnant goldfish is called a twit.
- In Great Britain the Speaker of House is not allowed to speak.
- Mel Blanc, the original voice of Bugs Bunny, was allergic to carrots.
- The average person falls asleep in seven minutes.
- The longest recorded flight of a chicken is 13 seconds.
- The only domestic animal not mentioned in the Bible is the cat.
- More people are killed annually by donkeys than die in plane crashes.
Although these pieces of “useless” trivia are true (to the best of my knowledge), none of them require any action or response on our part. And knowing them won’t improve the quality of your life, or anybody else’s for that matter.
In the last post on this subject I introduced the first church to you. The Church in Jerusalem given birth on Pentecost. We see some characteristics in this church that I think can be universally applied.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved, (Acts 2:42-47, ESV).
They were devoted to three different things, and this word “devoted” in the Greek literally means to “continue steadfastly.” This gives us a picture of constant attention. These three things were of vital importance for the life of the church. I am going to focus on one in this post.
The first thing we see that they gave their attention to, that they devoted themselves to is the “apostles’ teaching” – the apostles taught what Christ had taught them. They would also teach about His life, His death, and His resurrection (as see in Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost). They would teach Old Testament scriptures as it relates to Christ – through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This was of vital importance because at Pentecost, shortly before this account, the Church grows from 120 persons to 3000. What to do? Jesus right before His ascension gave His disciples a commission (which is for them and us today).
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV, emphasis mine).
These new followers needed to be taught. For the growth of the church it was vital that they listened and obeyed the apostles’ teaching. The New Testament had not yet been written, so they depended upon the scripture they had, the Law and the Prophets, and then the apostles recount of what Jesus had taught and his life and ministry. They were ordinary men and they had no formal education so we see in Acts 2:43 that like Jesus they performed miracles to demonstrate authority in their teaching.
I need to digress a little bit at this point. It is necessary to point out that they also had some naturally accountability when sharing about the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is that almost everybody in that first church were eyewitnesses of Christ on earth. They just couldn’t make up stuff and still have a following. There were t0o many eyewitnesses to His life, but also of His resurrection. Jesus appeared to…
- to Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18)
- to the other women (Matthew 28:8-10)
- to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32)
- to eleven disciples and others (Luke 24:33-49)
- to ten apostles and others, with Thomas absent (John 20:19-23)
- to Thomas and the other apostles (John 20:26-30)
- to seven apostles (John 21:1-14)
- to the disciples (Matthew 28:16-20)
- to His apostles at the Mount of Olives before His ascension (Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:4-9).
- to 500 at one time where the majority were still alive and it could be verified when the apostle Paul wrote it (1 Corinthians 15:6).
We also need to see that the apostles were not to just impart knowledge – they were to teach these new believers to observe, to obey all of the things that Jesus had commanded. Things like…
- “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful,” (Luke 6:36).
- “Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes,” (John 12:35).
- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets,” (Matthew 22:37-40).
- “You are the light of the world, A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven,” (Matthew 5:14-16).
And on and on… not meant to be an exhaustive list. Thinking back to our list of useless trivia. Those don’t require a response. God’s word however does. We have an advantage that the early church didn’t have – a completed Bible.
This Bible is not some list of worthless information – it is truth that can set us free to be what God has created us to be. The writer of Hebrews described God’s word as living and active and sharper than a double-edged sword, (Hebrews 4:12). It has the power of transform us if we would let it. God speaks to us and changes us by His word in the power of His Holy Spirit.
So His word should not just be read and listened to, but applied. Jesus himself said those who hears His words (or in our
case reads) and does not obey them is like a fool who built his house on sand, (Matthew 7:26). We need a solid foundation for our life, a guide for life, a “how to” manual for the Christian life and the Bible provides that.
James also warns followers of Christ to apply the Word:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
John Maxwell points out that the North American Church has “been educated far beyond its level of obedience.” I believe that is true. I submit to you that when a church puts the Word into practice it is powerful. A novel concept I know. I don’t mean just that the word is taught from the pulpit on Sundays and studied in small groups throughout the week. Churches need to apply the word in their ministry and response to needs around them. Individual followers of Christ within the local church needs to put what they’ve learned in church and in their individual study to practice in their personal lives, families, workplaces, neighborhoods, communities and beyond.
When a local church and its members do that… they are on their way to becoming a contagious community. It is powerful.