Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

The Kingdom in Our Midst

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

How about you to turn with me to thebook of X will be looking at chapter four of x and versus thirty two throughthirty five again X, chapter four starting at verse.Thirty, two rough thirty five here now is God's word now the full number of those whobelieved were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the thingsthat belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common and with great power. The apostles weregiving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus andGreat Grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among themfor as many as were owners of lands or houses, sold them and brought theproceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles feet and it wasdistributed to each as any had need. That's in the Rena gods wordy may beseating as we continue in what is commonly called the Churchcalendar and as we find ourselves still in the season of Easter. We seen thesebeginning chapters of the book of acts. What happened in the life of the Churchfollowing Christ, resurrection and all those tumultuous events that led to hisdeath and and his resurrection and the appearances that happened after hisresurrection? We say, for example, and chapter two ofpenticost how the Holy Spirit came down and as three thousand people were addedto the number of the Church that day, but we also see a distinct transitionin the the the mentality and the activities of the apostles. Remember onEaster, how when Jesus appeared to the apostles- and I he appeared to themlater on, he often would find the behind locked doors for fear of theJews they were afraid being in that city ofJerusalem. That's that the same thing that they had justwitnessed happened to Jesus would also happen to them, who had so long, beenat Jesus side and had been proclaiming and giving testimony to Jesus Kingdom. Indeed, they in those moments weretotally like sheep. Without a shepherd they had been scattered and whateverpolitical power they thought they had. Whatever popularity they may have hadwas gone like dust in the wind. But yet we see something very differenthere in these beginning chapters of acts where the apostles are no longer locked behind doors out of fear, butare boldly proclaiming and boldly illustrating till the world around them,the Kingdom of God. Not only are they preaching it, butthey're living it out without fear and in the face of the very leaders who hadput Jesus to death just months before. Indeed, this must have been quite asurprise to these religious leaders who thought finally that they had turnedthe page. They finally closed the chapter on this Jesus Movement. Theyhad succeeded in getting the crowds turned against. Jesus they'd succeededin nailing him to a cross and they had seen how his disciples hadscattered and they thought. Finally, this is it and just to make absolutely certainthat this word would not continue to spread. They had asked pilot for andarmed a guard to seal the tomb to make sure that nobody stole the body ofJesus and and started preaching that he had risen from the dead. But in fact, despite their every effort, everything that they feared was andeven more was coming about in their very midst. Now it was not merely Jesusas the primary preacher and performer of miracles, but now these apostlesthemselves are going out preaching boldly and performing miracles, and thewhole church is growing up. Thousands...

...are being added to their number. Onceagain, you see the tables a turn. Once again, it is the religious leaders whohave their backs against the walls not able to refute either the miracles orthe message that the apostles are bringing need once again, they want to persecutethe church, but because of the crowds and because of the reality of these miracles, you knowyou got some guy who's been lame from birth, who is now standing as a fortyyear old, completely healed by the power of God, and how can they refutethat miracle? How can they refute the fact that God is working among them, and so, as this church is growing, asthe Kingdom of God is, is growing like a flower in their very mist, we see here a remarkable verse in inverse. Thirty two, it says the full number of those whobelieved were of one heart and soul now earlier in this chapter, says thatthere was about five thousand men who are part of the church, so the churchhas been growing and we read here that that the fullnumber were of one heart to one soul, which is an amazing thing for a groupthat large, especially those who did notunnecessarily know each other for a very long time. The full number believed were of oneheart and one soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged tohim was his own, but they had everything in common. What we see here in the midst of this city, in the very midst of thepolitical powers that were opposed to Jesus ironically, was the veryfulfillments of the things that the Old Testament promant prophets, had longedfor and looked forward to. They had looked forward to a kingdom that would grow within their midst,where people's hearts would be changed were not only there would be glory. Notonly would the messiah be enthroned on high, but also the people's hearts would bechanged and that they would love one another. This is the salient criticismthat God gave of his people in the Old Testament was that their hearts were hardened. Hesaid to them again and again. I desire mercy not sacrifice. In other words, all these animals yore slaughtering.For me, they're, not making me forget the factthat you are not being merciful to each other. You are not loving each other.Your hearts are not open to one another. I desire. I demand mercy, not sacrifice.That is what he wanted. He wanted them to to do justly to love mercy in to walkhumbly with her God. It was the heart matter that was important to God andwhat we see in verse, Thirty, two years that heart matter is being fulfilled inthe very midst of those who pretended to look for the Kingdom of God, butwere really opposed to the Kingdom of God. They who thought they were theleaders they who thought they were on the front lines. who were the first?who were going to taste power when God's kingdom came in its glory? Theyare now on the side lines because of their lack of faith, as in fact, God'spower is revealed in their midst. The hearts of these people are openedand the tangible way that they express that to one another it says, is that noone said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but theyhad everything in common now, you would expect among familymembers people who have grown up and who have especially a biologicalrelationship to one another that they would work for, one another, that theywould sacrifice for one another, that they would provide for one another and the New Testament. This is one ofthe arguments that the apostles used to to tell Christians. You know you reallyneed to care for your families, because eventhe gentiles, even the Pagans, do that. This is something that even naturalpeople, because of their family ties know how to do you see parents working so that theirchildren can get an education. You see...

...them trying to make the next generationbetter than the previous generation, and these things we expect of naturalfamily members, but here we see something that isremarkable in the way that this love that these people have is expressed, and that is these people who may nothave even known each other for very long who are certainly not family members inthe immediate sense, were nevertheless sharing things withone another and having everything in common as if they were a family. Theysaw somebody in need they provided what that person needed without questionwithout even thinking twice, they were willing to treat one anotheras a family, and this I say, is evidence of thereality of the Kingdom of God growing up in their very mist that we might ask. Certainly peoplelooking back into history, might ask what made the difference. What is itthat broke these people's hearts? What is it that made these strangers, whohad just come together? Have such love for one another, and I think we see the answer to thatin verse. Thirty three. We see that, in this whole passage thatI read versus three two rough thirty five, it talks mainly about you knowthe physical sharing that they did with their their their goods, but luke. Here the author Tucks awaythis verse right in the Middle, so that we don't lose sight of why thishappened. Verse Three Three says with great power.The apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of theLord Jesus Christ and Great Grace was upon them all. This is the reason theycame together. This is the reason that they felt to be a family's because ofthe message of Christ. The message of the one who came down from heaven whotook on human flesh, who walked in our place, who lid theperfect life, who didn't disobey a single law and who had all the power athis finger tips to do whatever he wanted and yet who chose out ofhumility, who chose an obedience to his heavenly father to die for sinners to take their sins uponhimself to have his record stained with all the sins of his people and to hang there on a cross nakedbloody, and to endure that shame that humiliation of someone who, just a weekbefore, had been on the precipice of seemingly political power and glory onPalm Sunday and who had been willing to take that all aside to die for hispeople and who triumphant rose on the thirdday. Having paid that dead. Having made thatsacrifice, having paid for sins and white or slates clean, he rose again. It is this message which the apostleswere now emboldened to preach, regardless of their own death, becausenow they knew the one who had conquered death, the one who had the power ofeternal life, and they had seen him in their midst.They had seen the wounds in his body. They knew that his resurrection was afact and now, with this testimony with this insight and with great power, they preached the word and for thisreason people came together. People came together and treated eachother as brothers and sisters in Christ because they knew that that was reasonenough to be a family, and we see here in the following versesin verses: Thirty, four and thirty: five more information about how that came totangible expression, as they gave to one another, not simplyfreely, but also magnanimously and with full open hearts. It says here in verse: Thirty Four:There was not a needy person among them for as many as were owners of lands orhouses, sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid itat the apostles feet. Now think about this,...

...you got you know. Five thousand pluspeople in this church and surely there are going to be someamong them who are poor or perhaps even destitute for various reasons. Maybe they were lame. Maybe they wereblind, maybe something like that. It had kept them from making money. And yet now there were people, therewere people in the church who, on the other end of the spectrum, were veryrich who had houses and lands who were willing to sell those things and give magnanimously to those who are needy and just think about the the the amount of giving that is involved here. Youknow we all give a certain amount, and you know some people believe in the tenpercent tithe. Some people believe you know whatever is on your heart but giving somebody a house is kind ofa big deal. I mean I don't care what the housing market looks like it's abig deal to sell your house and say I aint to bring the proceeds from thishouse and because I know there are destitutepeople in this church. I, in a give everything from this house or from thistract of land that I just sold so that their needs can be met, and yet that is what people did they gave from the heart magnanimously, and it was successful. We read herethere was not a needy person among them because of what these people do now. We also read here that the whatthey did they did in an orderly fashion. Certainly their hearts were opened wide.Certainly they loved one another, but they did not do this as a church ina way that was foolish or in a way that was without safeguards. Let me put it thatway, for we read here that the peoplebrought their gifts and laid it at the apostles feet and it was distributed toeach as any had need. This is something that we see later onin the church as they develop deacons as the Office of Deacon is establishedand as apostles such as Paul lay down rules for who can receive money from the church. That was veryimportant for them to safeguard of what was being done so that you would nothave people trying to just come into the church for the sake of gettingmoney. We see here again the principle thatthe Holy Spirit, though he is a powerful Holy Spirit, is also anorderly holy spirit and the spirit who moved in people's lives and and thelove that was shared was not done without this order and without thisaccountability so that all good order could be preserved and so that therewould not be abuses of a people who were from the heart, giving large sumsof money for those who generally had need. It was under the oversight of theapostles, and the end result again is that there was not a needy person amongthem within this church. No, I would say at this point speaking these successes and speakingof this, this love that was poured out in speaking about the fact that we seehere the Kingdom of God growing up in the Midstt of Palestine here that we as Christians, are not actuallythat far removed from the early church. Certainly, there are many years thathave passed between this early church and us, but what was going on here was thefulfillment of the Kingdom of God, and that is something that is still beingfulfilled in our very mich. The same Christ that was proclaimed back then,is the same Christ, who is proclaimed now the same holy spirit that waspoured out back then it's the same Holy Spirit who is poured out now we are to day the Church, the communityof believers, just as they were the church in thecommunity of believers back then, and we have a risen Christ to his conquereddeath so that we can be confident that nothing can stand in the way of hiskingdom even to day, as we see it spreading around the world. I would also say that in these thesethese verses, we see an answer to all...

...the systems that the world has tried todevelop to solve the human problem for a deed throughout human history.People have tried to create utopias in the world to try to overcome the sinand the brokenness which this fallen world so obviously manifest. We have seen communism, we have seensubcultural groups like the hippies and their various communes, try on a humanlevel to replicate something that comes closeto salvation, to something that that comes close to love in their mind,something that will heal this broken world. And yet we see that its. It fails everysingle time, because it is absence of the true power and the true love thatonly comes from God through Christ. In his Holy Spirit, my grandfather, who did not profess, at least in my hearing,to be a believer used to mock this text and he used toto joke and say you know the early church. They were a bunch of Communists,see they shared everything in common. There were a bunch of communists backthen, and I'm sure that there are otherpeople who have looking at this verse thought the same thing: that the churchwas basically a commune and that what was going on was kind of like Marxismto day. But I would submit you that this isnothing of the case that was going on in this early church. In fact, I wouldsubmit you that this is one of the most anti communist passages and all ofscripture. We do not see anything here of classenvy or class hatred of the rich greedily holding back whatever they canand the poor having to resort to violent revolution to get a hold oftheir share of the Pie, but we see something very, verydifferent, something that cannot be replicated by any political party or byany human movement. We see something coming from heaven itself, as the rich have their own hearts broken and openedas they are giving in common to the poor. The Apostles did not take anything awayfrom them, they did not compel, and we see that in the following verses inChapter Five, where Peter tells them that it, nobody is compelling you togive anything. This is your property, it remains your own, but because of the love they had, they freely gave what they, what was needed for thewelfare of the poor and the destitute in the church, and this is something again that cannotbe replicated by any human movement, but only comes from God and as a signthat God was truly working in this church and is truly moving and as again as we read in verse, threefour, this was successful. There was not a needy person among them becauseof the giving that was going on well at this point, somebody might beasking me: Well, you painted a pretty rosy picture of life back then, and you've also said that we to day inthe church had the same spirit and the same Gospel and the same message. So weshould be exactly like that right. Why isn't everything Hunky Dory in theChurch today as it appears to be back in the Church back then? What is different about us today and I would submit to you that, first of all, yes, we need to admitthat everything is not hunky Dory today, but I think the spite ble we read inthis passage. We also need to admit that everything was not Hunky Dory inthe early church either. What we see in this passage is true, the true pouring out of God's spiritand the true expression of love, but what we also see in the NewTestament, and especially in the the letters of the apostles to the variouschurches, is that they still struggled with sin just as we do to day. Let me give you an illustration thathelps me to understand this a little bit better and, as Arizonans might might resound with you. If you take a typical Arizona desertlike the when we live in and you cultivate the soil and you plant seeds,I and you pour water on it. You can get...

...things to grow here, I mean they havegolf courses here and they have lots of green grass. You can see people's lawnsthat are actually green and it's a beautiful thing, but if you look around even if you'restanding in the middle of someone's yard or even if you're on one of thosegolf courses and you look around, you will find evidences of desert eventhere. You will see evidence that, even thoughnew life is growing, there are still remnants of the old dead desert thereas well. There is cultivation, there is new lifegrowing up, but it is growing up in the midst of aplace of death and there are remnants of death eventhere, and now it submits you beloved that inthat sense we are no different than the early church to day they wrestled withsins, even though they had love for oneanother. They were you know. If you go to the very next chapter in ax, we seethe story of Ananius and Sephira and how they lied to the Holy Spiritinto the church, about how much money they were giving and were struck dead as a result ofthat lie, but indeed they wrestle with sins justas we do to day, and yet they saw and experience also the new life and thefruits of the Holy Spirit that were possible only through the message ofJesus Christ. Yes Beloved, we await being finally perfected. We awaitChrist to come again so that he can consummate what he hasstarted, but the good news for us even now is that he has started it. Even nowwe can taste the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Even now we can expressrighteousness which we could not before because of what God has done in ourhearts and if you've been a Christian for any length of time. You know what adifferent creature you were before Ye came to Christ from what you are now.You know the truth that in Him we are a new creation, but you also know if you've been aChristian for any length of time, how difficult sometimes it is towrestle with those sins and how much we must struggle to put todeath the old man, even as we walk according to the spirit who isundoubtedly within us, and if we look at the Church today, hethe same struggle happens as well. The good news, as we do see to daystrangers, coming together around the name of Christ. We do see people evenin this church. I look around the demographics are very diverse. I mean we have people whoare young and old. We have people who are of different racial backgrounds. Wehave people who are maybe even from different countries, and why are we allhere this morning? It is because of the name of Christ. Why do we have any lovefor one another at all? It is because of the love of Christ. Why are we new creatures? It is becauseof a love of Christ. That is the good news, and so you might be saying well how do we work on the bad nues? How dowe? How do we continue to grow so that we can be more perfect so that we canbe more perfect and our love for one anotherand that we can overcome more and more the brokenness that we see in the worldaround us? And again, I would point you beloved back to Verse Thirty Three ofthis text once again, the thing that brings ustogether once again. The thing that will help us to continue to girl in oursanctification is the same thing that brought us to faith in the first place,and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. That which broke our hearts is thething that will continue to break our hearts. Is the message of the Cross isthe message of his king on the message of something which is not of this world,but is of heaven the message of a Lord who loved us somuch that he took on our flesh, walked in our shoes and died in our place andnow was ruling and reigning at the right hand, of God, the father, and if we keep our eyes fixed upon him,as Paul says in the heavenly places that will give us the properperspective that will keep our eyes and our focus where they need to be so thatwe can overlook. Whatever difference is...

...on a human level, we might have of oneanother and come together around the name of Christ and over the body ofJesus Christ, because that is what is truly ourreason for being together and united to day. Scripture teaches us in many places, about our heavenly inheritance and about the things that we arealready participating in now. You could evensay that we are spending our inheritance even now as Christians,because, even though we wait for the future, even though we wait for Christto come back and to see that glory, we even now have been given the HolySpirit as a down payment of eternal life. We even now can bear those fruitsof the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,faithfulness, gentleness and self control. We even now can bear those inour lives because of what God is doing for us, and so we ought to consider our livesnow more and more as being pilgrims in thisevil world, as those who do not belong, who are not citizens of earth and ofthis present world system. But who are citizens even now ofChrist's kingdom who even now have his spirit and whoeven now are written in the book of life, and we ought more and more toturn our eyes away from getting things for ourselves, whether it's chasingworldly ambitions or acquiring money for ourselves or whatever the case maybe, and also rather to think about how we can storeup treasure in heaven and with the Lord's help. We will moreand more do that. We know we must ultimately await Christ, who is theauthor and Perfecter of our faith to do the work but beloved he has already given us ameans of grace by which we can grow. He has already given us the Lord's supperhe has already given US baptism. He has already given us his word. Indeed, heis the word in cant and he has given us this word so that we can grow even now,even as we await for him to come back and finish what he has started. We caneven now be transformed by the renewing of our minds and more and more bear theimage of Christ in our lives, and if we do that, not only individually will webe transformed not only in our families but also in the Church and the body ofChrist. Will we see this again and again and again how love is poured out in strangeplaces where you never expected for the Gospel? Is Priest and miraculous andwonderful things happen? Indeed, the conversion of one center is a miracle who can who can do surgery on man'sheart, but God alone, but indeed I would. I would submit youthat if we keep our focus on the Gospel and as we see the preaching of theGospel, we will see amazing things in the world around us, even as theapostles saw in the early days of the church. Let us pray O.

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