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Sermons

Sun, Jun 21, 2020

Devoted to Christ

Welcome video:

Songs:

Series:Devoted to
Duration:19 mins 25 secs

Welcome

  • Good morning… I am so happy to share God’s Word with you today so thank you for joining us.

Reading

  • "They devoted themselves to the Apostles doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread and to prayer" Acts 2:42

Introduction

  • Over the next few weeks, we are going to undertake a series which we have called the “Devoted to” series. We will use Acts 2:42 as our platform and be discussing subjects such as:

    • Devoted to the Apostles doctrine

    • Devoted to Christ

    • Devoted to our calling, fellowship, breaking of bread, and others.

  • I suppose that most of us think that this Cov19 lockdown experienced is the worst ever experienced…

  • It sure is not the norm, or pleasant in many ways…

    • It is creating hardship, and hunger, for many

    • Unemployment and sequestrations

    • Suffering and death… Despair and fear

      • And it seems never ending

  • But greater suffering and inconvenience has been experienced before.

    • But for those of us born post 1945… we have had it too easy

    • But at the same time we must not comply and cannot play down the threat that corona virus is

  • My problem is that in this day and age people are saying we do not have the time for religion anymore.

  • They are even saying that words written over 2000 years ago are irrelevant today

    • And our interpretation thereof must be revised

  • It is for this reason that, as we start our journey through Acts, I want to begin with a fairly lengthy introduction to the times and conditions that existed in Judea from the birth of Jesus to the writing of Acts by Luke … Up to A.D. 70

  • Because it is important to understand the context in which the growth of the church took place.

Consumer driven society

  • Post WW2 society has changed radically

    • There has been a massive shift in morals post war and post 1960

    • There has been a massive shift in the standard of living at the same time

      • I can only remember 3 family holidays as a boy

        • My grandchildren all know overseas holidays

      • Our wedding reception was an afternoon tea

        • These days R100 000 is considered fair

      • Our honeymoon was in a caravan

        • Many honeymoons now involve overseas destinations

      • My father was considered fortunate because we had new cars every 4 years

        • Today 2 cars per family is a norm

          • The second one is often an expensive SUV

  • But under our consumer driven economy things have improved

    • These are now the new norms… essentials

      • Until 2020 … Cov19

  • Melanie Verwoerd … ex ambassador to Ireland

    • Lockdown has taught us a new meaning to “Essential”

      • She believes we will outlive cov19

        • But things will not be the same again

          • The consumer driven economy is not sustainable

  • The consumer driven economy

    • Has driven a wedge in our relationships

    • It has caused employers to demand far more from employees

      • Taking up more time… causing more stress…

        • Leaving less time for our most important responsibilities

          • Church and family

  • Then came the lockdown

    • Time to think

    • Time to spend with wives and family

    • Time to go for a walk together in beautiful Cape Town autumn

      • It was wonderful

Life in Judea in antiquity

  • The days of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles were not easy days

    • Rome ruled…

      • It was a pyramid structure

      • Caesar at the top and widows and slaves at the bottom

        • There was no health system

        • Poverty was rife

          • No support systems

        • Corruption was a norm

  • Rome… proved to be a very hard task master who demanded crippling taxes and loyalty from all peoples.

    • Caesar Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) was an evil pervert without any moral goodness in him

    • The next Claudius (A.D. 41-54) followed by the infamous Nero (A.D. 54-68) who organized the persecution of Christians… to deflect blame for the fire that destroyed 75% of Rome

    • There followed a 2 year period of civil conflict… 3 Caesars

    • Next up was Vespasian (A.D. 69-79) who was followed by Titus (A.D. 79-81)

      • Of all the Caesars Caligula and Nero were the very worst.

    • By A.D. 60 zealots were banding together in the hope of driving Rome out.

      • In A.D 66 the resistance developed into full scale war

        • Under Vespasian, Galilee was defeated and he returns to Rome and is made Caesar in 68 after Nero’s death

        • His son Titus is put in charge of the Roman forces and he turns his attention to a 2 year lockdown siege of Jerusalem

        • Jerusalem is overrun in 70 A.D. and the place is decimated… burned to the ground. Herod’s temple is destroyed.

          • Josephus claim 1.1 million lives lost…

          • He says Titus took 97000 prisoners to Rome where they were….

            • Fed to the lions

            • Forced to become Gladiators and fight to the death

            • All as entertainment for the blood thirsty Roman citizens

  • The Jewish hierarchy… was a legalist burden also demanding its cut and giving nothing in return

    • Being totally opposed to Jesus and His claim to be Messiah

      • They start an attempted purge of anything resembling Christianity

        • Stephen is the first martyr… Acts 7

        • Saul’s persecution of the church… Acts 8 the authorities

      • As we go through Acts we find Paul experiencing massive opposition

        • In 2 Cor 11:23-26 he sums up his sufferings:

          • Jews … 5 x 39 lashes

          • Rods 3x

          • Stoning 1x

          • Perils wherever he went

          • Eventually beheaded in Rome… by Nero… 64 A.D.

      • Tradition tells us that

        • John was the only apostle to die of natural causes

          • The others were stabbed, stoned, martyred, clubbed, burned to death

          • Most of these happened between A.D. 44 and A.D. 72

The Book of Acts

  • Extra biblical evidence and clues from the book of Acts itself lead us to believe that the book was written by Luke between A.D. 63-70

    • Christians living in those days saw persecution from Rome, the Jewish authorities and the general population as seen in Acts

  • Corona 19 that we are experiencing at present cannot be compared with what went on from A.D. 37-66 under Caligula and Nero and later Vespasian.

  • But it is in these difficult times that the church was born and grew exponentially.

    • Small wonder Jesus said “Take up your cross and follow Me”

      • He knew what they would have to face.

Devotion to...

  • It is quite obvious that becoming a follower of Jesus carried with it a huge price

    • Christianity was not something that one tried out to see if it worked

      • It was all or nothing

    • The persecution was not just against the Apostles and leaders

      • The objective was to wipe out Christianity altogether

    • Death and fear were their weapons

  • Luke tell us … Acts 8:1-3

    • The Jews started a great persecution against the church

    • Saul made havoc of the church… (began to destroy he church)

      • He forced his way into homes

        • And dragged mothers and fathers off to prison

    • This was all going on at the same time that Caligula and Nero in particular were carrying out their vendettas

  • Why am I taking the time to tell you all this history?

    • Because…

      • Our materialistic society claims that in this day and age you don’t have time for the things of Jesus… too busy

      • We who have had it so easy in our post WW2 lives haven’t got time to dedicate ourselves to the spreading of the Gospel

        • Our consumer driven society won’t allow it

        • Materialism drives us on. We demand more and more essentials

        • Things we accumulate dictate our position in society

          • The bigger the car the better you are

    • Even the Gospel preached is watered down …

      • We don’t hear hell fire and brimstone anymore

        • It’s offensive

      • We are reluctant to say Jesus is the only way to God

        • Popular opinion says that it is a very narrow world view

      • We preach love and forgiveness only… not sin and judgement

        • But scripture gives equal prominence to both topics

  • That was not the Gospel that they preached in those days…

    • Peter preached the unsanitized truth… to the Jewish rules who arrested him

      • You murdered Jesus… but God has made Him Lord and Christ… Acts 2:33

    • It did not go down well with them… Acts 4:17

      • But some asked what must we do to be saved

  • Why is Peter now so different… He was crucified

    • Why is Paul so fearless

    • Why did so many of the Apostles die for the cause

  • Just 4 words…

    • They devoted themselves to… Acts 2:42 NIV

      • Apostles doctrine, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer

The Hope of the Gospel

  • In the face of such opposition why were so many turning to a Message that could cost you your life

    • One word… HOPE

  • As I painted the historical picture I paint a picture of hopelessness

    • Bullied by…

      • Rome

      • Jewish authorities

      • By a society bowing to Rome

    • No support structures

      • Surrounded by disease and poverty

    • As a slave or a widow… what sort of future did you have

  • Now the Apostles come with a message of HOPE…

  • Hope for an eternal future through forgiveness of sin

    • Reserved in heaven… guaranteed

  • But much more than that

    • Here was a new way of life

      • Where there was equality

      • Wherein there were support structure

        • Where they shared all things with the widows, poor, sick

    • Here were men and women who were devoted to the Lord Jesus despite persecution

      • Who lived for and loved the people

        • Theirs was not just a religion but a way of life

        • They had lived with Jesus…

          • Seen first-hand His miracles

          • They in turn were full of His Spirit

            • Performing miracles

          • And all noted that they had been with Jesus… Acts 4:13

    • This was real

      • And so, even if it meant they had to suffer persecution

        • They turned to Jesus for salvation

          • In their thousands

Challenge

  • So where does all of this leave me… as a believer

    • Jesus said

      • Let him deny himself and take up your cross daily and follow me… Luke 9:23

      • Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple… Luke 14:27

    • What is he saying

      • He is demanding devotion to himself from all those who would follow him

        • The cross they bore then is the same cross we must bear now

    • So the question we must answer is…

      • Does my life show that I am devoted?

        • It was plain for all to see in the Apostles

          • That is one reason why the church grew

      • Do people want to follow Jesus Christ because of what they SEE in me

  • For the unbeliever

    • Being a Christian means massive day to day and eternal blessings

    • It comes as a free gift directly from the hand of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ

      • But there is a choice to be made… price to be paid

        • Count the cost… Luke 9:28

        • Deny yourself and follow Him… Luke 9:23

          • Deny myself… recognize Jesus as my Lord

    • Jesus had three encounters with men who loved this materialistic world

      • To each He said count the cost

        • The money or the cross

      • The rich young man … Mark 10:25

        • Chose the money not the cross

          • And went away sad

      • Judas Iscariot … John 12:5-6

        • Was with Jesus for three years

          • He helped himself from the communal box

        • Sold his soul for 30 pieces = R10,000

          • The money that was supposed to bring happiness brought regret = suicide

      • Zacchaeus … Luke 19:2

        • Lord… Yahweh…

          • I give the money away

            • I choose the cross not the money

      • It is a choice

        • The money or the cross

          • There must be devotion to Him… denial to self

  • What will you do with Jesus ...

    • He calls us to take up his cross

    • But He also says my burden is light

      • How can this be

        • David has the answer for us in Psalm 23

          • Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and staff they comfort me

Prayer

  • Lord Jesus we acknowledge our waywardness and ask that you make us your devoted disciples. We apologise for our sin and ask you to forgive us and help us to be devoted to you. Help us to be kingdom builders by your power and through your holy spirit. In Jesus name we pray this. Amen.