Fasting As A Form of Worship

The leaders at Southside Bible Fellowship are calling for a church-wide fast from (Monday) March 26th through our Concert of Prayer (4-6pm) on Sunday April 1st.  Directly after our Concert of Prayer we will collectively break our fast with a meal of soup and bread.  Please keep reading to consider your options…

“I humbled my soul with fasting”  (Psalm 35:13b)

In Psalm 35 King David is crying out in agonized intercession to be rescued from his enemies. Part of David’s prayer is that he has bowed-down his soul with fasting.  It is widely accepted that our soul consists of our intellect, will, and emotions.  According to Matthew 6, Isaiah 58, and Psalm 35 the overall objective of fasting is to humble our soul (or to cause our intellect, will, and emotions to bow down) so that the desires and the purposes of God can become more prominent!  When we deny our appetites and soulish longings and turn to the Lord through worship, Christian meditation, supplication, and intercession there is a supernatural grace released upon us to see God’s heart and will.  The idea is to set aside regular times during a fast in order to seek the Lord and cry out for His kingdom to increase and for His will to be done – IN us and THROUGH us.

Matthew 6 describes and instructs us in three primary spiritual disciplines.  The chapter opens by encouraging us not to practice our “acts of righteousness” publicly; and if we do, we shall have no reward from our Father in heaven.  The three spiritual disciplines are giving, prayer (we are to pray secretly, sincerely, and specifically), and fasting.

Isaiah 58 is probably the best and most concise instruction on the spiritual discipline of fasting in the Bible.  Verse six lists the four reasons for fasting:  “To loosen the bonds of wickedness,”  “To undo the bands of the yoke,”  “To let the oppressed go free,” and to “break every yoke.”  Verses 8-14 contain some amazing promises concerning the fruits, or benefits, of fasting.

A simple definition for fasting would be voluntary abstinence of our appetites and our soulish longings for spiritual reasons.  The Bible speaks of it not as an option but as an expected and regularly practiced spiritual discipline.  The following are some of the purposes for fasting; these also convey some of the benefits of fasting:

1.   Fasting will sharpen our focus in prayer.  (After we get beyond the initial discomfort caused by our various addictions such as coffee, sugar, etc.)

2.   Fasting will cause us to be more sensitive to God’s guidance in our lives.

3.   Fasting is a sign of humble repentance and expressing to God our desire to be responsively obedient to His will and direction for our lives – both individually and as a church.

4.   It was common in biblical times to fast when the need for protection and/or deliverance was great.  An excellent example is when Queen Esther called for her people to fast with her when she appealed to the king to spare the Jews (see Esther 4:16).

5.   As David articulated in Psalm 35, fasting can be an expression of simple humility before God.

6.   Fasting, or the servant-leaders calling for a fast, can be the result of God’s people seeing a need and expressing their concern.  When Nehemiah heard about the great distress, reproach, and the broken down walls in Jerusalem the Bible tells us that he sat down and wept and mourned for days, and then fasted and prayed until the Lord revealed His plans (see Nehemiah 1:3-4).

7.   When Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness after His baptism He was strengthened spiritually against the strong temptations of Satan.  In fact, in Luke 4:14 it says that, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit(emphasis added).

8.   Fasting can be simply an act of worship and adoration with no other purpose than to ascribe glory and honor to God.

There are many different ways to fast.  We can fast food and just drink water or juice, we can eat vegetables and/or fruit only (this has been called a “Daniel Fast,” see Daniel 1:8-17), we can choose not to eat any sugar or carbohydrates, we can fast one or two meals a day, we can fast from sun-up to sun-down.  Paul encourages married couples to occasionally fast sexual intercourse, “that you may devote yourselves to prayer…” (1 Corinthians 7:5).  We can fast television or the internet and pray instead!  Before we fast it is important to seek the Lord regarding what would be appropriate.

We are in a season of transition at Southside Bible Fellowship. There are several excellent reasons for us to embark on a corporate fast:  Over the last 2-3 years there has been relational tearing and woundedness. We want to fast and ask God to show us how to specifically engage in the ministry of reconciliation with those who have been hurt. We want to identify and “own” our past dysfunctions as a church — and repent and forsake them. We want to fast and ask God to once again visit us with salvations.  We want to fast for a fresh understanding of what it means to delight in God – as well as what it means for God to delight in us.  In addition, prayerfully consider any supplemental personal and family needs so that you will fast with a strong sense of God’s heart – asking for His “kingdom to come and His will to be done” IN you and THROUGH you.  May the Lord strengthen you and encourage you through a mighty demonstration of His power and might!!

Start A Community Group!!

Community Groups:

One of the goals of this transition season at Southside is to see multiple groups of individuals and families sharing life together and living life on mission – serving the city and each other. We are seeking to be theological, relational, and missional. This can occur in multiple ways.

Community Groups will be a venue in which believers and unbelievers alike can gather together to dialogue about what is being taught in our Sunday gatherings. There are at least four integral components of a community group: 1) Worship – to meet with God and to know Him is our highest priority. 2) Conversational Prayer and Mutual Ministry – having a conversation together with God is an essential way to build unity; first by praising God and then by praying in response to the needs expressed. 3) Application of the Bible – we will seek not just to talk about the Bible, or about each other. Rather, we want our groups to seek to be transformed by the truth of the Gospel. So we will do our best to apply the truths learned to our everyday lives. 4) Sharing a Life – there’s nothing like an honest testimony to illustrate what is being taught.  When a person shares with the group, s/he feels more a part of the group. The objective of the leader is not to be the authority or even the teacher, but the guide.

Also, Community Groups are missional communities that will act as missionary teams, seeking the good of their unchurched family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. They will be concerned with praying for and serving their sphere of relationships in such a way as to let them know that we are Christ’s disciples because we love one another.

Finally, and most simply stated, our community groups are networks of Christ-centered relationships. They are friends seeking to learn how to “speak the truth in love” to one another. They spend time together, meet one another’s needs, watch one another’s kids, bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, challenge one another, hold one another accountable, rejoice with one another, weep with one another, correct one other, be corrected by one another.

This is gospel community. It is not natural. It is not easy. It is messy. It can be frustrating. But it is good, and it will change you.

Gathering for Worship:

This is perhaps what most people think of as “Going to Church.” Church, however, is not an event, or a ceremony – it is people. Those who have been saved by God’s grace have been saved into God’s family, into a community. So it is only natural for local pockets of this family to come together and celebrate what God has done in Jesus. We come together to celebrate the truth of the gospel and to rehearse the gospel by singing it, praying it, hearing it preached, and seeing it in communion and (God-willing) baptism. We come together to encourage and be equipped for lives on mission. Expect mostly expositional preaching (verse by verse through books of the bible), seeking to exalt Christ and unpack the gospel in every text. Expect communion often, if not every week, (we like remembering the gospel as many times in as many ways as possible.) Expect to be told the truth – no pulled punches. We won’t “Go to church.” The Church will gather.

Discipleship (Life-Long Learning)

We believe that gospel-centered (or Christ-centered) living will make us desperate for theology and that our worship gathering will whet your appetite for theology. However we see a huge need for an ever-increasing understanding of our faith. We live in an age of skepticism and relativity. In many places Christ and the church have been pushed to the margins of society instead of existing at the center. We believe that Christianity is a relational worldview that is complex, beautiful, and meaningful. We believe that if we are going to be effective missionaries we must understand our Bibles, love what it teaches, and proclaim its contents. We all have a lot to learn, and we envision venues within Southside that will take time to work through learning the central truths of our faith.

“Seeking the welfare” of the city of Manchester…

Below is an excellent quote from Howard Snyder that helps us to distinguish between church and kingdom.  We have started to learn the difference at Southside…

Basically kingdom ministry is the goal and and church becomes the fruit, or receptacle, of kingdom ministry.  What is kingdom ministry?  One of the most basic of definitions is: speaking the words and doing the works of Jesus.  Jesus spoke truth at all times, and His words emanated from a heart filled with of deep compassion, empathy, and unconditional love.  The works of Jesus include loving, serving, feeding, prayer for healing, washing feet, speaking the truth in love, a sensitivity to the heart of the Father, etc.  Someone has humorously stated that, “Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Here’s what Paul told the Corinthians:

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?”  1 Corinthians 5:12

Our goal and motivation with outsiders is to speak and act in such a way as to point them to a loving Creator God who is alive and available for an intimate relationship.  (Who wouldn’t want that!?!?)  Notice there is judgement for those of us inside the church.  The Greek word is krinō and it basically means “to call into question” (see also Acts 23:6, 24:21).  There is accountability for our actions as members of God’s Church.

Kingdom is a gospel word — along with grace and cross.  It’s when we hold these three gospel words in appropriate tension that we engage the appropriate biblical expression of the Gospel (e.g. kingdom and grace without the cross will lead us into pluralistic liberalism, kingdom and cross without grace will lead us into moralistic legalism).

With all this in mind consider Snyder’s words:

“The church gets in trouble whenever it thinks it is in the church business rather than the kingdom business. In the church business, people are concerned with church activities, religious behavior in spiritual things. In the kingdom business, people are concerned with kingdom activities, all human behavior and everything God has made, visible and invisible. Kingdom people see human affairs as saturated with scriptural meaning and kingdom significance. Kingdom people seek first the kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world… If the church has one great need, it is this: to be set free for the kingdom of God, to be liberated from itself as it has become in order to be itself as God intends.”[1]

Southside: Lets “go ye…” to Manchester.

If you haven’t already, grab one of those Missional Prayer Guides in the foyer and fill it out (it’s pretty self-explanatory), place it in your Bible, and pull it out a few times a week to pray acquaintances, friends, and family across the page (right to left).  And don’t forget to use a pencil…


[1] Howard A. Snyder. Liberating the Church, The Ecology of Church and Kingdom, Inter-Varsity Press 1983:11.

Gospel Shaped Prayer and Passion (Acts 1:12-14)

Series: Gospel Chronicles: How God Shapes and Builds the Church.  A Study in the Book of Acts Part 1

I.      INTRO

A.   Last week we spoke of some implicit core values that were seeded throughout the first two chapters that helped to shape the Jerusalem church as it launched (which we’ll look at next week).

  1. They valued the kingdom of God.
  2. They valued humility and prayer — and as a result they grabbed a hold of unity.
  3. They valued the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  4. They valued contextualized[1] Gospel presentations.
  5. They valued honest, and straight-forward Gospel presentations
  6. They valued an outward missional focus.
  7. They valued discipleship in the context of authentic community.

B.    Today, in our study of the book of Acts, I’d like for us to consider how we can become people of passionate prayer.  Passion driven…fighting unholy passions or getting in touch with God’s holy passions.

C.    I am going to take a different approach than you have probably heard regarding this subject of prayer.

D.   CS Lewis[2] has this fascinating quote that speaks to the issue of passion:
“Indeed if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires [i.e., passions] not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (Weight of Glory pgs 25-26).

E.    Most teaching on prayer focuses on petitionary prayer. Today I would like to focus more on preparing our hearts for petitionary prayer.

F.    We will be looking at 4 passages today:  Acts 1:12-14; Lk 11:2-4; Rom 14:17; & Jer 29:7.

G.   Acts 1:12-14 –  

12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

13When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.

14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

H.   I’d like to look closely at the phrase, from v. 14, continually devoting themselves to prayer.  (The NIV Bible says, They all joined together constantly in prayer.)  What  does this mean??  Our English Bibles do not do this phrase justice.

I.      There is one Greek word for the phrase, continually devoting themselves.  And that word is HOMOTHUMADON, which comes from two Greek words:

1.     HOMO – meaning same. homo – same; hetero – different

2.     THUMADON – Comes from the Gk word thumos and is often translated as rage or wrath.  There is, however, a noble thumos that burns for the good of others, for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, and thus it motivates people to act.  Wrath or rage anger is usually personal; born of envy, self-absorption, or vengence. Thumos is often translated as “spirited” or “passion.” It implies a focused indignation or fight.  (It is also the word we get our English trademarked word Thermos[3] from.)

HOMOTHMUDON is used 10 of its 12 NT occurrences in the Book of Acts.[4]

3.     So, our English translations certainly do not do justice to this volatile Greek word.  We can define HOMTHUMADON as: To be together, to become unified with a passionate fierceness and indignation – it’s a crying out for God’s purpose and order to be established.  (Remember, our battle is NOT against flesh and blood [Eph 6:12] – so the fieriness and indignation is not directed toward people – it speaks more of an attitude of desire.)

4.     Today we are going to ask the question – How does this happen?  How does this come about?

II.    BODY

A.   There are 2 holy passions I’d like for us to consider as we pursue passionate prayer for the upcoming season of fruitful ministry here at Southside…

A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.

A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

1.     A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.

a.     Luke’s shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer

2And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come’” [Very important words concerning prayer!]

3‘Give us each day our daily bread.
4‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’

b.     The Lord’s Prayer is a template.  There is both form and spontaneity (like jazz).

c.     Notice how v. 2 is God-focused – or, upward focused and vs. 3-4 begin to teach us about petitionary prayer.  For our purpose today, I’d like to zero-in on vs. 2.

d.     V. 2a — Father, hallowed be Your name

  • We address God as Father (Mat – “Our Father” in a family context)
  • When we pray, we are to begin with God.  Passionate prayer begins with a concern for and a preoccupation with God.
  • When we pray, Hallowed Be Your Name we are both asking for and declaring that God’s reputation, God’s renown, and God’s fame would be set apart esteemed, and honored as holy, — That God’s Name would be worshiped, treasured, and loved.
  • We are speaking (declaring) this both to ourselves.
  • And to our city.  (This is what was going on in the upper room!)
  • May our thoughts and emotions that arise at the mention of Your Name be worthy of God.  We don’t want to treat God lightly, or flippantly.  We don’t want God’s name to be treated as common — or of little consequence.
  • But that God would be primary – and at the center of our hearts and minds.  We seek this for ourselves AND for the people in our city (and around the world).
  • **We don’t need to make bigger commitments regarding prayer, the real need is to believe truer and more lofty thoughts about God…

e.     2b — Your kingdom come…

  • Last week we defined the KOG as the “rule and reign of God.”
    • The Christ Event established the KOG on the earth and it will be consummated when Jesus returns.  (Jesus pulls eternity into the present at stakes it with the Cross.)
    • Meanwhile we have partial but growing access to eternity.  The presence and power of God has been unleashed across the earth. (2 Cor 5:2 [NIV] “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling…”)
  • We position ourselves for passionate prayer by aligning ourselves with the God’s rule and reign in our lives.  This is also what was happening for those 10 days in the upper room (Acts 1:12-14)
  • When we pray: “Your Kingdom Come,” it’s a prayer that seeks to banish all the other modern day idols from our lives (primarily money, sex, and power).
  • Rom 14:17 – 17For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [temporal things], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
    • Gospel fruit – Where God reigns He brings these things into our lives.
    • Righteousness – (It’s like being pregnant – you either are or you aren’t.)  Roms 5 clearly tells us that righteousness is a gift – SO if we are lacking a sense of right standing (before God) there is either poor theology of what God offers us in Jesus OR there is resistance on our part.
    • Peace — Prince of Peace does not rule and reign in your heart?
    • Joy – Perhaps other masters have taken dominion?
    • Christ alone by grace alone, through faith alone (Mat 7:22-23).
  • The primary objective of God’s kingdom is not to get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us… (There are still people to be saved from the wrath of hell.)

f.      So what am I saying about positioning ourselves for passionate prayer?

  • Passionate prayer begins with being God-focused, God-centered.  We don’t begin with our petitions, we begin with God.
  • We ELEVATE, WORSHIP, and GLORIFY the NAME of GOD. (Mission exists because worship doesn’t. –John Piper)
  • SURRENDER (ABANDON) your life to the KING.  God will take your sin (infection) and exchange (Luther) for right standing, peace, and joy.
  • Worship is not about the music – it’s, first and foremost, about the heart.
  • Baptism is important (Anabaptists – 16th century)

2.     A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

a.     Jeremiah 29:7 — Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

b.     This verse helps us to refocus toward a KOG orientation.  Church is great, but is not the goal.  Church is the fruit of kingdom activity/ministry.  Kingdom ministry begins with seeking the welfare of the city.

c.     What is our city? In the Bible it was the regional hub.  Paul was urban centric – because he knew if he reached the cities he would reach the culture – and the countryside.  Historians estimate that by 300 AD somewhere between 1/3 to 1/2 the population of the Roman Empire was Christian.

d.     If you want to affect your world for Christ, seek the welfare of Manchester; if you want to affect the nations for Christ, seek the welfare of Manchester (the world is coming to Manchester, is it not?).

e.     The is Missional reorientation taking place in churches around the world.  We will be talking/praying about the more in the coming days – here it is in a nutshell…

  • How churches measure success is being redefined.  From “How do we get people to come?” to “How do we equip and mobilize our people to go?”

f.      You might be saying, “I’m already to busy just trying to keep my head above water!”  The missional question is, “How will we – or how do we – best represent Jesus Christ where God already has us?  Family, friends, neighborhoods, work, clubs, sports.”  Are you good news, bad news, or no news?

III.  CONCLUSION

A.    How do we become people of passionate prayer?  Ask God – individually and corporately – to grow IN us and then THROUGH us:

  1. A PASSION FOR GOD’S NAME TO BE GLORIFIED.
  2. A PASSION TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF OUR CITY.

B.    Next week: Gospel Shaped Mission (Acts 2)


[1] The message never changes, but the methods do.

[2] One of the most prolific and profound Christian authors of the 20th century.

[3] Genericized Trademarks – like Jacuzzi, Cellophane, Google – Thermos is a trademark name for a vacuum flask.

Gospel Shaped Core Values (Overview of Acts 1-2 developing some key core implicit values)

I.     INTRO – Sermon notes from May 8, 2011

A.  Diagnostic weekend – June 9th-12th.

B.  A team of about 7 people will be here to interview as many people from Southside as they can

C.  There will be an all-church meeting on Sun, June 12th where an initial oral report will be presented.

D.  We’ll be asking a lot of you that weekend to come in for an interview and then attend the all-church meeting to participate in the report.

E.  Why study Acts?

  1. Intro Acts Series: The Gospel Chronicles: How God Shapes and Builds the Church.  A Study in the Book of Acts Part 1 – Part 1 (Acts 1-9).
  2. We will be in Acts 1&2 for the next 3 weeks.
  3. In addition to the themes covered in the first few chapters of Acts (that Dana spoke about last week), I can think of at least 3 similarities between Acts 1 and SBF…
  • The Christ followers were a people in transition…as we’ll see, things didn’t turn out the way they expected.
  • In the midst of some anxiety and disappointment, they began to connect the dots and run with a vision they never expected.
  • A relatively few people (120) blossomed into a church that reached its full redemptive purpose.

F.    7 Refocusing questions that we will address here at Southside during this transition season:

  1. Who has God shaped us to be? (Core Values)
  2. Why do we exist as a church? (Biblical Mission)
  3. Where is God leading us in the future? (Fresh Vision)
  4. Whom has God called us to reach? (Ministry Focus)
  5. Which ministry model best facilitates our vision? (Building authentic community)
  6. What ministry goals can we believe God for?
  7. What is our plan for ministry for the next 2-3 years? (Strategic map)

G.    What’s a Core Value?  An enduring belief, a preferred choice.  Core values are the essence of a church’s identity.

  1. Those few, select distinctives that are non-negotiable.
  2. Where is Southside’s God-given potential for greatness?
  3. There is a difference between stated values and practiced values.  Stated values are often religious values that people/churches think they should
    have.  Practiced values are the unique distinctives that a church is actually doing.  Practiced values ask the question, “What are we currently doing that has the potential for greatness?”
  4. There is a difference between implicit values and explicit values.  Implicit values are implied values – while they may be clearly formed or articulated, they are not stated.  Explicit values are definitive and clearly stated.  Churches, with explicit, practiced values know who they are and who they aren’t.  All opportunities for ministry are evaluated in the light of God given values, mission, and vision.

H.   Today we will look at some of the practiced, implicit values that launched the church in Acts.  These implicit values are salted through the first 2 chapters.

I.   We can think of it like a football game – we don’t know what play they called in the huddle, but when they run the play we find out what play was called.

II.   BODY

A.    Implicit Values of Acts (Alternatively known as The Church I Would Join)

1.     They were Kingdom Focused — Acts 1:3 (NAS) “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”  

a.     The Kingdom of God – Quite simply is: The rule and reign of God.

  • The KOG is our destination.
  • Jesus established the Kingdom at his first coming and will consummate the Kingdom at his second coming. Jesus reaches into eternity and pulls it into the present – and stakes it into the ground with the Cross.  “We live in the presence of the future.”  “The already and the not yet.” 
  • As we live in the presence of the future there is paradox (seeming contradiction).  We are saved, but working out our salvation; we are sanctified, yet being sanctified; we are healed yet being healed. It’s both present and future
  • One of the most dynamic aspects of the present reality of the KOG, is that within it is the power that raised Jesus from the dead is made available to us.  The Greek word is dunamis – the same word we get “dynamite” from – and which we find in Acts 1:8. 
  • The Church is the fruit of kingdom activity.
  • The demands of the Kingdom are that we repent; we are to place God first, and follow him at any cost.

b.  Kingdom is a gospel word – along with the Cross and Grace that form a theological construct to help us see the under-girding of the gospel throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation:

  • The Cross – Speaks of the Atoning Work of Jesus Christ
    • This is shorthand for the “5-Fold Christ Event”: 1) Virgin Birth, 2) Miraculous Ministry, 3) Degrading Death, 4) Victorious Resurrection, 5) Missional Ascension of Jesus Christ. 
    • Apart from the atoning work of Christ, we would be forever guilty, ashamed, and condemned before God.
    • The way of God is suffering/humility – and then glory.  This is what baptism is supposed to be about – I will die to my previous life and come alive to God – and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Grace – The unmerited favor of God.  Acceptance is given to us freely at God’s expense.  Martin Luther calls it, “the great exchange.”
    • It’s important that we understand there is common grace and saving grace happens when we take up residence within the KOG.  
    • Definition: All that God is, lavishly poured into you. 
    • Jonathan Edwards speaks of grace as, “the very Holy Ghost dwelling in the soul and acting there as a vital principle.”[1]

2.     They were Humble, Prayerful, & Unified“And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying…14These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”   Acts 1:13, 14 (NAS)

a.     Humble prayers of confession and repentance before/with God and one another.

b.     Corporate prayer leading to intercession – reminding the Lord of His word/promises.

c.     Unity is a fruit, not a goal

3.     They were Holy Spirit Empowered

1:4Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5forJohn baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

2:1,4And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place…4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…

a.     John 4:24 — God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

b.     Eph 5:17-21 –  17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, [we apparently need to be continually, or regularly, filled with the HS – Why?  Because we leak!]

19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

    c.  Two points

  • (Jn) We are to seek to live in the healthy tension of spirit and truth.
  • (Eph) HS infilling occurs when our hearts are worshipful, when we are grateful, and we walk in mutual submission.

d.  John Piper: “Mission exists because worship doesn’t.” (Supremacy of God In Missions)

4.  They delivered Contextualized Gospel Presentations16No! What you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel”   Acts 2:15,16 (TLB)

5.  They engaged in Honest/Straightforward Gospel Presentations – Acts 2:23, 36…

23this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

36“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.”

6.  They were Outward Focused (Missional)“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”   Acts 2:41 (NIV)

a.     There is a missional refocusing going on in the Church today.
b.     We are all called to be missionaries.  The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit send us.
c.     Changing metrics…

7.     They were Intentional About Discipleship and Authentic Community (They lived Community in the context of Discipleship) – Acts 2:42-47

And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.  44And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;  45and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.  46And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

8.     As a result of living out these values – they were Fruitful

a.     “A sense of awe,” or a healthy fear of the Lord (v.43)

b.     Wonders & signs (v.43)

c.     Community (vs.44-47)

  • Identification
  • Equality
  • Unity
  • Enthusiastic joy
  • Praise
  • Favor with all the people
  • Salvation’s (v.47)

III. CONCLUSION

A.   What does it mean to be Gospel centered? (Or, Christ centered?)

B.    My experience is that the North American Church has lost, or squandered, much of the power – and the breadth of the Gospel.

  1. I have been reminded recently that the Gospel is not advice – it is news.  It is, in fact, the ultimate Good News. Sunday mornings are not the place to give advice.
  2. Gospel-centered ministry is rooted in remembrance.  On Sunday mornings we are to remind one another primarily of what Jesus Christ has done, not what we must do.

C.    Many of us have tended to view the Gospel a message that we responded to many years ago – and then moved on from.  Yet the Gospel is more like an ocean.  It is deep, and wide, and vast.

  1. We are called to view, and engage, and respond to the gospel with every passage of Scripture we read, or study.
  2. I would suggest that the essence of Christian maturity is when the Gospel itself gets worked in – and through our lives.
  3. Here is my goal for you – and for Southside: My aim is that you would experience Jesus (my goal for you is experiential) as the sovereign, risen, living, Lord of the universe – and as the source and the content of your real hope and joy. Two things are necessary:
  • God’s liberating truth
  • God’s liberating grace.

4.  What is the evidence of salvation?

  • Fruitfulness
  • What is your deepest desire?
  • True Christians have conflicted desires to be sure.  True Christians struggle, and sin, and mess up – to be sure. Yet, the deepest desire of the true Christian is for Jesus and the unfolding of the gospel.
  • Non-Christians – and you could say false Christians also have conflicted desires, yet their deepest desire is for themselves, or for ease, or comfort – something other than the person of Jesus Christ.  (The simplest definition of idolatry is making a good thing an ultimate thing.)

Next week: Persistent and Passionate Prayer (Acts 1: 13-14).


[1] Jonathan Edwards, TREATISE ON GRACE.

Prayer of Examen

The Prayer of Examen is a daily spiritual exercise credited to Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), who encouraged fellow believers to engage in the practice for developing a deeper level of spiritual sensitivity and for recognizing and receiving the active presence of the Holy Spirit. At the heart of the practice is the desire to become increasingly aware of God’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s movement throughout our day.

The Daily Examen becomes a prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his commitment to us and direction for us.  The Examen is a practice for the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.

Ignatius thought that the Examen was a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible. One of the few conventions of prayer that Ignatius made for the Jesuit order was a requirement that Jesuits practice the Examen twice daily—at noon and at the end of the day. It’s a habit that Jesuits, and many other Christians, practice to this day.

This is a simple version of the five-stage Daily Examen that Ignatius practiced:

  1. Become aware of God’s presence. (This is referred to in contemplative literature as “stilling,” and means to take the opportunity to dial down and become attentive to God’s presence.)
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  5. Look toward tomorrow.

“Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given me. I restore it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.”  — Ignatius of Loyola

Check out examen.me.

Principles of Church Revitalization

Excellent…

From Embers To A Flame: Principles of Church Revitalization
by Harry L. Reeder III

1. God’s glory is revealed in our weaknesses.
2. Guard your reputation in the eyes of the community.
3. Uphold the centrality of God’s grace.
4. Leave the 99 to seek the 1 (church revitalization is seeking to save the church that is faltering).
5. Revisit to strengthen, encourage, correct and restore what is left.
6. Remember[1] from where you have fallen when Christ was leading this church.
7. Believe that the God who won the victory in the past will win the victory in the present.
8. Connect the future with past victories in Christ.
9. Repent[2] of failures in the past that controls the present.
10.  Leaders must be an example by repenting first of past failures, and then lead members to repent.
11.  Provide restitution for past sins. Ask forgiveness and make right where possible especially with those who left hurt and confused.
12.  Focus on Body health and let God handle the increase.
13.  Be faithful with little and God will give big. Do the right things at the right time in the right way for the right reasons.
14.  All biblical teaching is exploring the depth of the gospel. You never get beyond the gospel for it is the alpha and omega of God’s revealed truth in Scripture. You can only go deeper.
15.  All ministries must focus on the gospel of grace to be life changing.
16.  Prayer precedes revitalization and creates unity with God’s will. Prayer affords the privilege of participating in God’s reconciliation of His elect. Then, by faith act on your prayers.
17.  Make a list of all weaknesses and threats from Satan’s attacks and pray over this list regularly.
18.  Make a list of all Scriptures related to church revitalization and pray using the words of Scripture that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
19.  Pray thanking God for the opportunities presented by the bad that has beset your church.
20.  Make a list of all opportunities to do His will, then pray and see His power change the circumstances.
21.  Recover [3] the “First things,” get back to the basics that God blessed. Rebuild on these strengths.
22.  Godly leadership precedes God given church growth.
23.  Affirm what has been done well and identify weaknesses.
24.  Godly people follow godly leaders who follow Jesus and seek God’s glory.
25.  Resources follow Godly vision for ministry. Visualize a future blessed by God.
26.  Worship is the context in which the Great Commission operates. Do not replace worship for Christians with evangelism to “seekers.” Gather for worship, scatter for evangelism.
27.  Diversify evangelism efforts; multiply opportunities for gospel communication.
28.  Small group network is best way to assimilate new people and build community. Protect health of small group.
29.  Qualified leaders who present sound doctrine and are able to refute those who contradict it must lead small groups. Must avoid dialogue in small groups that leads to a compromise of truth or pluralism of ideas that accepts every opinion as valid. Scripture rightly interpreted must be central, then fellowship and prayer for “one another.”
30.  The Christian life is 100% dependence on God’s grace and 100% disciplined by grace.
31.  For a congregation to remain healthy church discipline must be exercised according to Matt. 18 on a regular basis. “Sin in the camp” must be confronted.
32.  A healthy Body of believers will grow as God adds those He wants discipled to maturity. Church growth is a natural by-product of spiritual health.


[1] Rev. 2:5 – Remember, Repent, and Recover is Jesus’ formula for revitalization.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.