Building the church on the rock-(From the model of the Early Church)


16-February-2013

Bishop WongThe disciplines of Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday (February 13, 2013), are not intended to be burdensome, but to open our lives more fully to the transforming power of the Gospel. Our mission as the Anglican Church of Seychelles is simple, yet powerful: it is ‘to equip God's people to transform society with the Gospel'.

As I was writing this Lenten letter, the western region of the Indian Ocean was going through the cyclonic season and we know that powerful gusts and heavy rains can bring down houses which are not built on a solid foundation. As it is true for our houses, the Church needs to be built on the Rock as the Early Church was. Yes the Early Church was solid and love and growth were constant in her life. Let us together read this following text and learn from it.

31 After the believers prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales

35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. [Acts 4:31-35 NIV]

1. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS A HOUSE OF PRAYER
Brothers and sisters, the time we spend with the Lord in prayer as a congregation can release the most dynamic, history-changing power this world and our Church have ever known. The Bible describes many different operations of prayer, but in this paragraph, we are going to look at prayer as Church prayer.

a) They prayed “After the believers prayed …” The Early Church was a praying church, they had learned from the teaching and living example of the Lord Jesus Christ.

b) Prayer brought results “the place where they were meeting was shaken.” Un-prayed prayers do not effect change or bring results. When we purpose in our hearts to pray, God will hear us and answer prayer. The Early Church learned in the midst of the good times as well in the bad times to pray and seek the face of God.

c) They prayed together “believers were one in heart and mind.” A keystone, or foundation of the Early Church was their unity. They learned the importance of sticking together, as the Jewish leaders sought to destroy this newly born church. They sought for ways to bring division. However, the Early Church was united as they sought God’s will and direction.

If there is tremendous power when two people pray, what about when the whole assembly of God’s people pray?
Today God is calling His people to prayer! The Church’s mission is to change individual lives, families, communities, cities and nations through prayer.

How can we as a congregation pray, one in heart and mind? What is the importance of prayer in my personal life? Do I find time for God in my busy schedule?


2. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
My dearly beloved in Christ, just as a space rocket shoots a man out of the law of gravity into a new law, so the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the power which “rockets” us out of the law of sin and death into a new dimension, a dimension where the Spirit of life is now the law (or power) which operates in our lives. This means that the governing factor in our lives is the Holy Spirit who is indwelling us. So we react to the circumstances we face, not according to what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell but according to the prompting of the Holy Spirit within. The Latter takes God’s Word – his promises to us – and reminds us of them. Thus, our minds, will and emotions are “fed” by God’s Holy Spirit, and our faith is then placed in His Word in that situation.

a) All were filled: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
b) All were filled when they had prayed, “And when they had prayed… they were all filled.” It is the will of God for all believers to be filled or to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to every believer. When a person believes in Jesus, and receives the salvation He offers, the Holy Spirit comes to live in the believer, imparting spiritual life.

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call.” [Acts 2:38-39 NIV]

We can be launched into a life of victory in the Spirit by faith in Christ. By our own choice, we can start to walk in the Spirit or, in other words, to lead a life of continual yielding to the Spirit who is dwelling within us. If we are already living our life in the Spirit, then we should continue.
God does not impose His will on us. We are free to choose either to walk or not in His Spirit. And Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a. NIV. In living a life in the Spirit, we can be transformed and bear fruits.
Am I walking in the Holy Spirit? If not, what prevents me from doing so?

3. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS A CHURCH OF THE WORD
Saints in Christ, The Word of God, the Holy Bible, is God’s special book. It is not like other books, but is a supernatural book. It is written by many different people at different times and all the authors have been inspired by God.

a) The Word emanated from the Holy Spirit infilling, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

b) The Word was preached with boldness “they spoke the word of God boldly.”
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV

The most vital relationship in the Christian life is one with God. Through reading the Bible we come to know more about God our Creator, Jesus our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit our Comforter. We become more aware of His plan to save the world and His promises of Eternal Life to all of us.

In Acts 2:40-42, Peter exhorts the thousands of people gathered then and also to us, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message responded to this exhortation by devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching…
What does the Word of God represent for me?

How much time do I spend in reading and studying the Bible daily?
What practical steps can I take to improve my quiet time daily?


4. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS A CHURCH OF GRACE
The common understanding of the word “grace” is “God’s unmerited favour”, in other words, even though we were sinners, deserving of judgement, God looked upon us in love and forgave us. This, however, is only half its meaning. It also means “GOD’S ENABLING POWER”

“16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,

17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV
Not only does His grace make us accepted into the family of God, but it also provides the power and strength we need to live the Christian life.
 
a) There was an abundance of grace “much grace was upon them all.” God’s grace is needed in this hour. We have the promise of God’s grace being available to us to share with our world. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. Rom 5:20 NIV. The church today still has a message of God’s amazing grace to share with a lost world. Look at where God brought you from. Look at what He is doing in your life. He can do it again. He can and will do it for others.

b) Grace and love prevailed, they “were one in heart and mind.”
In our relationship with God, as we walk with Him each day, we constantly meet situations that would try to distract us from the will of God and to overpower us. Our response to these situations is our trust in God and His Word and express it in faith, which is believing what God’ Word says despite what the circumstances might indicate. God’s response to our faith is His grace – His ENABLING POWER, which is more than sufficient to meet each and every situation.

Do I believe in God’s gracious provision in my life?
What experience can I recall?

In times of trouble how do I react, respond?

5. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS A CHURCH OF GENEROSITY
My dear fellow pilgrims, everything that God created was a display of His creativity and character -- including man. Just as there are physical laws which govern the universe, without which there will be chaos, God has also put into motion spiritual laws which govern life. One of these laws is the Law of generosity -- with the principle that “whoever sows generously will also reap generously”.

This basic attitude among the early Christians laid the foundation for every practical expression of giving and generosity, that was later to come. As the number of Christians multiplied, different methods of giving appeared, but all with the same underlying attitude of STEWARDSHIP – that everything ultimately belongs to God.
a. Sharing was a natural grace “There were no needy persons among them..”
b. Their giving was an outward expression.

What does Christian stewardship mean to me?
How can I show God that I am grateful for His abundant blessings to me?
Does God have the 1st place in my life?
Generosity will be the theme of my Synodal Charge in year 2014.

B) CONCLUSION
Faithful members of the Church, as we daily build onto our spiritual temple, as we seek to construct our Christian lives and religious beliefs, we must be certain that everything we believe, every doctrine by which we live is founded firmly upon the Rock who is Christ. Because if our Christian experience is not prayerfully anchored in God’s Word, then no matter how perfect it looks on the outside — no matter how many amenities are displayed for all to see, make no mistake, it will sooner or later be reduced to a pile of rubble. Psalm 127:1 says; “unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain..” You know, I love how the Lord uses storms in the bible to teach us important spiritual lessons. I know that generally we tend to think of storms in the negative sense but in the same way that literal storms bring life-giving water upon the land; so spiritual storms can also have very positive effects in our lives. As with the fugitive prophet named Jonah, the Lord sometimes uses storms to “get us back on course”. And as it was with Job, sometimes it takes the fury of a storm to help us finally understand our own weaknesses and to acknowledge God’s omnipotence and providence.

Our challenge as members of the Anglican Diocese of Seychelles is to be the continuation of that Early Church today.
Enjoy your walk with God this Lenten season, be blessed and continue to build your Church on the Rock.
Together for His glory,

The Rt. Rev. James R. Wong Yin Song
Your fellow Pilgrim and Bishop

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