Sunday, June 25, 2017
They Devoted Themselves Acts 2:42-47

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

May 29, 2011


“They Devoted Themselves”

(Acts 2:39-42)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

This morning we’re going to play a game.

     TITLE: Who Knows? Are you ready to play? “Is this quote in the Bible?”

     First up: “A fool and his money is soon parted.”

     Not!

     It comes from 1587, J. Bridges Defen[c]e of Government in Church of England

     Next: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”

     Not!

     That actually comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, 1603

     How about: “With God all things are possible.”

     Yes!!

     Jesus in Matt 19:26

     What about: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”

     Not!

     This comes from the writings of Francis Bacon. In his 'Advancement of Learning' (1605)

     Next: “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”

     Yes!!

     That is the 4th commandment Exodus 20:8

     "God helps them that help themselves,"

     Not!

     That is attributed to Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard's Almanac of 1757.

      “Money is the root of all evil.”

     Not!

     Sorry!!! Trick Question.  

     Sorry, that was a trick question, it’s a misquote. The actual quote is: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”  1 Timothy 6:10

     Last One: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

     Yes!!

     THOUGHT YOU MIGHT KNOW THAT ONE!! It comes from Romans 8:28

     CONGRATS. Wanna tip? You might need to study your Bible more!  Thank You For Playing

     Don’t despair if you didn’t get all the answers correct on our little quiz. Misquoting the Bible has been going on ever since God called the first writer to write the first word. You may have heard these before but are some real answers on student tests in religion and Bible classes:

     1. An Epistle is the wife of an Apostle.

     2. The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book of the Bible, Guinessis, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. One of their children, Cain, asked, "Am I my brother's son?"

     3. Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread which is bread made without any ingredients. Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the Ten Commandments. He died before he ever reached Canada.

     4. The fifth commandment is: Humor thy father and mother.

     5. Lot's wife was a pillar of salt by day, but a ball of fire by night.

     We live in a time when Biblical illiteracy seems to be at an all time high. I guess you could say Biblical illiteracy has reached Biblical proportions.

     So what do we do about it? As you’ve probably guessed, today we are going to be talking about the importance of Bible Study. Let’s look at the passage from Acts 2:39-42 (NRSV). This is the tail end of Peter’s Pentecost sermon. It ends with a description of how the early Christians conducted themselves. 
[39] For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him."
[40] And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."

 [41] So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

 [42] They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

     This passage is a living snapshot of the life of the early church. It reveals their devotion and faith. It reveals what was central to their lives and the character of their discipleship. The passage says they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.”

     I've always interpreted that to mean they spent time in study and worship which are very important aspects of our faith. We learn about and are drawn closer to God and become better disciples through Bible study and worship. They remind us what and in Whom we believe.

I. BELIEVE:

     A. According to a recent Barna Research Group survey they found that only 61% of Christians know that Jonah is a book in the Bible. And 30% didn't know where Jesus was born. 24% of the Christians surveyed thought that the book of Isaiah was in the New Testament or didn't even guess where it could be found.

     Preaching Magazins says that shouldn't surprise us. 93% of Americans own at least one Bible but 70% of non-Christians and 23% of Christians said they never read the Bible at all. (2) How can we know anything about a book we never read. Contrast that to the early Church. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching ."

     People are starving for answers to problems. Some are dying from spiritual starvation and yet they never open up God's guidebook to life. Or they never attend a worship service to simply just soak in the presence of God. The early church "devoted themselves" to this effort.

     The three word outline for the sermon this morning comes from the three words found on John Wesley’s Signet ring. It had his initials and the words Believe, Love, Obey around it. He used it to seal his letters and as a physical constant reminder of how we are called to live.

     We’re called first to Believe. Through Worship and Bible Study we come to know that Jesus Christ is the foundation of our beliefs. He is also the foundation of both our faith and our discipleship. Scripture helps us build upon that foundation of faith in Christ. And the only way we can begin and continue to develop and understand that faith is through Study. If we don’t study Scripture we might get skewed views of what faith is all about and who God truly is. Watch this and you’ll see what I mean. WATCH

     See what I mean. If we don’t study God’s Word, we might not get the whole picture. We won’t have a solid foundation for our faith and we won’t know what or whom to Believe.

II. LOVE:

     A. I know what some of you are you’re probably thinking, you graduated from high school and college and maybe grad school and thought to yourself, “I hope I never have to study for anything ever again.”

     Well, I’m not talking about that kind of study. When I talk about study I can promise you that you won’t have to write any term papers and there is no home work except what you choose to do.

     However, I can tell you this, there will be testing along the way. Not testing over what you’ve studied. But the testing of your faith which all Christians face. And the amount of study which you have done and what you have absorbed will help you and strengthen you during that time of testing.

     Listen to what David wrote in Psalm 119:10-18 (NRSV)

[10] With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments.

[11] I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.

[12] Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes.

[13] With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth.

[14] I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches.

[15] I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways.

[16] I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

[17] Deal bountifully with your servant, so that I may live and observe your word.

[18] Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

     David found strength, comfort, guidance and encouragement in God’s Word.

     As Scripture washes across us while we are reading, the Holy Spirit is present to lead and guide and help us understand. With the wisdom imparted through our study and through the Holy Spirit, God can, does and will encourage us. Through our study we build a pool, a reserve of Biblical wisdom and knowledge which bubbles up just when we need it most to remind us of God’s Love for us and our Love for God.

     Remember the Three Simple Rules, Do No Harm, Do Good, Stay In Love With God? Bible Study helps us Stay In Love With God. But if we don’t take time to study Scripture, if we haven’t steeped our hearts, minds and spirits in God’s Word, there’s no reserve to pull from. We don’t have the whole picture. WATCH

     I love those. They are so funny and so wrong. That’s why we need to Study the Bible. And That’s also the cue for our first door prize. You were each given a ticket and we are going to have a drawing this morning. I believe so strongly in Bible Study I have prizes to help you study.

     B. Study will help us in our spiritual growth. In our relationship with God. In our relationship with each other. Bible study will help us in every aspect of life because our study usually always translates into action.

     A woman told how her doctor had recommended surgery and referred her to a specialist. She arrived early, found the door unlocked and the young surgeon, deeply engrossed in reading behind the receptionist's desk.  When he didn't hear her come in, she cleared her throat. Startled, the surgeon closed the book, which she recognized as a Bible. So she asked, "Does reading the Bible help you before or after an operation?"

     He dispelled her fears by his soft-voiced, one-word answer:  "During." (3)

     The study of Scripture translates into hope and faith and action. It moves us from being simply followers or believers into becoming disciples and servants who are in Love with God. And that’s God’s goal for each of us. Somebody once said: “A Bible that's falling apart probably belongs to someone who isn't.” But we won’t know that or discover that if we don’t have the whole picture. WATCH

     I’m pretty sure, that’s not what happened. While “Looking both ways before you cross the street” is a great lesson, it’s not what happened or what God wants us to learn. The story of David and Goliath has a little different ending and is about faith; faith in the face of gigantic odds.

     That’s also the cue for our second door prize.

     I hope you enjoy using those to study and get the whole picture.

III. OBEY:

     A. Please don’t be upset about not winning this morning because as Don Pardo used to say: “We have parting gifts for all our contestants.” You’ll see them in a moment. First, let me ask you this. Please be honest.      How many of you have ever made a resolution to read through the Bible, cover to cover? Now here’s the honesty part: How many of you have actually succeeded?

     Did you start in Genesis and get stuck in all the bloody sacrifices in Leviticus or all the begatting going on in the genealogy of Numbers. That’s exactly why I think the Bible is printed backward for Christians, especially new Christians. It should begin with the Gospels. The New Testament should come first. We need to learn what Jesus taught before we look at our history and get bogged down by all the confusing bits in the Old Testament. The Christian life is confusing enough.

     I’m not saying get rid of it or that it has any less authority than the New Testament. But we want to learn about Jesus and how that affects our faith. We want to learn what Jesus expects. When we know that, then we can begin to understand how we got to this point. 

     B. Obviously, you’ve seen the Third Point: Obey. So, how do we do this? How do we Obey? How do we do this whole Bible Study thing? If you’re a very disciplined person, you can read through the Bible in a year by spending about 10-12 minutes a day reading. Or you can follow one of the one year or three year plans that abound. Basically you are asked to read 1 to 3 chapters a day until you get to the final Amen of Revelation.

     But that’s how most of us failed in reading through the Bible.

     I have found a couple of different reading plans which I think are extremely more effective in drawing us into the Scripture where we can soak up all that wisdom, all that hope and all that encouragement.

     1. The first thing you need is a Bible. And preferably one you can understand. I love Shakespeare. I especially love Hamlet. But if you don’t like to read Shakespeare and barely understand it in the best productions, then you need something other than the King James Version because it is written in the same style. So, find a translation you can understand.

     The most scholarly translation is the one I read from every Sunday, the NRSV. Another good translation which is easy to read is the NIV. There’s also the CEV. And one which I think really grabs the meat and the heart of the Scripture isn’t really a translation but more of a translated paraphrase, the Message.

     2. The second thing you need is a notebook of some kind to keep notes in. Questions you might have as you read or even insights you’ve had. You can also make note of verses or passages which really speak to you and your situation. And if you don’t have a notebook while you’re reading, it’s OK to write in your Bible.

     3. The third thing you need is the simplest of all, you need to read.

     C. Now we come to the Bible Reading Plans. I found all of these on the Zondervan.com website and I fell in love with them because they are not your usual Bible Study cover to cover reading plans. And your “parting gift” for today will be a copy these reading plans.

     Describe briefly. 30 Days With Jesus. 30 Days For New Christians, 2 Week Guided Tour.

     All of these can be done individually or you might want to covenant with a couple of friends to begin reading and studying together. Then get together once a week or every other week and discuss what you’ve read. Use your notebook to share those insights.

     Some of the groups I’ve encouraged also liked to play “Stump The Preacher” and would ask me to explain certain passage or questions. That’s not always fun, but I’ll be glad to share both my wisdom and my ignorance with you. And hopefully help us all discover answers to your questions. That’s all part of study.

CONCLUSION:

     The point is this, the Apostles and the early church devoted themselves to becoming like Christ. Jesus spent time in the Temple and the synagogues studying. Remember when he was twelve and got separated from his family, they found him in the Temple, studying. We study to be like Jesus. We study to move ourselves beyond being nominal Christians to becoming Disciples.

     Believe, Love, Obey. I challenge you, to collect your parting gift, choose a Plan and begin Your Study so in the future people will be able to say “They Devoted Themselves” about you.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

________________________________

Bibliography

1. The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651,  Nov, 1984

2. Preaching Magazine; March/April 1996, p. 54.

3. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, March 1987

Other References Consulted

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