Devoted to God. Acts 2
How is your devotional life? I know that’s a hard start. But let’s just get right into it. How are you doing with getting into God’s word regularly to be strengthened by him? Sure you could always do more, you could always read more. You could always read another devotional book. You have the option to now watch hundreds of online worship services every single week. But what I am asking is, are you doing anything? Do you feel full when you are spiritually feeding yourself every day, or is your devotional life something that you continue to put off for another time. For many of you right now, it's just you and me. There isn’t any reason to lie here. You don’t have other people around you at church that are going to judge what your answer is. It’s you and me or your family and me. Everyone in the room on the on a scale of 1-10 on the count of 3 says out loud how good you think your devotional life is… Ready… 1…2….3. Our Devotional life, being in God’s word, hearing about his promises, hearing about the plans that he carried out in other people's lives, and the plans he has for your life. Is the way that the Holy Spirit blesses us with faith.
And it’s always been that way
Today we are taking a closer look at the book of Acts. In the weeks after Easter, our words from God’s Prophet which are normally from the Old Testament, are the historical accounts of what happened to the church just after Jesus ascended into heaven. And the lesson that we are looking at today is the end of the sermon that Peter was preaching on Pentecost. 10 days after Jesus had ascended into heaven. On a religious festival that had Jewish people in Jerusalem from all over the world, Peter stood up and started preaching to them the word of God. He quoted to them the book of Joel, he quoted to them from the Psalms, both Old Testament sources. He speaks very clearly to them with the law letting them know that they missed Jesus. That they had the Messiah right in front of them, but rather than being devoted to him they didn’t believe him and instead of worshipping the one true God, they put him to death. He speaks all this to them very clearly using just the word of God and the people had a great realization. God worked in their hearts faith to understand. We have to do something. We are in trouble. We believed something that was not true. We believed that Jesus wasn’t God. And we did terrible things because we didn’t trust God and the word become flesh. And when many of them made this realization they looked to Peter and the other disciples and they said what should we do? How do we make this right?
Peter did speak to them anything new. He just plainly confessed what God’s word plainly said. And many people’s minds were changed and they believed in God. It’s the same tactic that Jesus used with those two disciples on the road to Emmaus that we read in our Gospel lesson. He didn’t come right out to them and say, “Here I am! I am Jesus! Greetings it is I. I rose from the dead. Believe me, because you can see me. Or put your hand here.” No, he talked to them about God’s word and strengthen their faith through the study of scripture.
Devotion and the study of God’s word are what helped them grow. That’s the tool that Jesus used after he rose from the dead. That’s the tool that the disciples used when they were preaching at Pentecost. That is what we use as we publicly proclaim the gospel here. That is what you use when you spend time in your devotional life.
Those people when that faith created by God’s word took root in their hearts look at what it did. When they heard, they believed. When they believed that faith made them want to be baptized. And now is this group of sinful people who have been saved because of what Jesus has done for them. Their faith led them to be devoted. They were steadfast. They were investing themselves with time and energy to do a whole list of things that we read in this text.
The first thing that they were devoted to is the apostles teaching. That is the beginning of it all. And what are the apostles teaching about? That’s pretty obvious, they aren’t talking about the best fishing nets to use in shallow lakes, they were teaching about Jesus and what he means for them in their daily life. They had a devotional life diving deep into the word of God so that they could learn and grow. And then having that strong connection over the devotion to God’s word created by faith led them to have fellowship.
This is something that many of us are craving right now. I know I feel it. I have talked to many people that feel it too. We crave fellowship. I miss having dinner with friends. I miss walking around the fellowship hall before and after the services with a cup of coffee and just talking to people and catching up with them about their lives. Seeing their face, when it's a little down trying to pick them up a bit. When they are smiling asking them about what good news they have. The community aspect of being around people I miss. Many of you probably do too. I don’t miss as much sitting in a restaurant. I miss being around people who I am going to spend eternity with because of what Jesus has done for us. I miss teaching my Bible class in front of people. And answering questions that people have, rather than just seeing a little blue thumb on Facebook. And there is a good reason for all of this.
Getting into God’s word and studying it, makes us want to have fellowship with people who believe what we believe. It makes us want to have a church with public worship where we can all be together rather than settling for watching all of this on a screen in our house somewhere. Fellowship comes out of this devotion to God’s word. The devotion to the teachings that are in the Bible that the disciples were teaching is what leads to us having this unity here at church. A few times in my life I have gone to classes at a gym. I never really felt the same kind of attachment I have for those people that I have when I sit next to Luzy Schumaker and sing a hymn to my God. Because even though we might be a couple of years apart in age, and have been born in different parts of the world, she was born in Poland and lived through the second world war, and I was born in Minnesota in the 80s, we are friends. And what has started that friendship and what will make it last forever, is the fact that we believe the words of the one true God.
And any of you that have met or sat next to Luzy I'm sure you feel the same way. And that is a friendship that is shared with so many people not just in this church but also all over the world. And it’s not a coincidence. It is what devotion to God’s word leads us to do. The believers that we will be within heaven that is in our account from Acts today had this love for their fellow believer led them to do great acts of charity for each other they shared everything that they had, they sold the property to give to those who were in need. You do that too. As Pastor Pieper and Barb and myself called the members of our church over the last few weeks I don’t know how many people said, if anyone needs anything to let us know we would be happy to help. Over and over again you are a people who are willing to share what you have for those who you love here at this church.
And that’s not just because everyone here was just born a super nice person who always has looked out for everyone. I going to submit that the reason that this was such a common theme in those calls is that we as a church are devoted to the study of God’s word. And that word of God that we have built upon has created a community for us here that loves and cares for each other, even if we can’t see people.
We can’t be together right now. I don’t know when we will be able to be together. When we do come back together there will be new rules and new precautions that we are going to have to take. We can’t do what those early Christians were doing and were meeting together daily and breaking bread together.
But what we can all do, is continue to strengthen the common bond that we all have together by working on the devotion that we have to God’s word. You might not be able to daily worship here at church, but you can daily have your God strengthen your faith by opening your bible, or listening to Pastor Pieper's devotions or opening your bible app, and listening to God speak to you through his prophets and apostles. Be devoted to him.
Does it take time? Yup. Are there going to be days when you say to yourself, eh I’d rather just do something else? You bet. Are there going to be things that you don’t understand and you are going to need to text your pastor? Sure. But it is going to change you for the better. It is going to strengthen your faith. It is going to give you peace with your God. It is going to create a ripple effect that will change so many other aspects of your life being grounded on his word.
We might miss many of the positive effects that the study of God’s word creates, like fellowship, or being able to help people. But just because you can’t act upon all of the positive consequences that your devotion to God creates, don’t be lulled to sleep during this time and forget to move your devotional life a couple of more numbers higher on that scale from 1-10.
I miss you all. And I pray that we will be together soon. But until then let’s keep close together in God’s word. Getting closer to each other by all getting closer to God like we are squeezing into a big family photo. Even though it might just be me on the screen and you and your family at home. We will be together forever in heaven. Because God has created faith in our hearts through his word. Which has led us to repent and be baptized, and we have been assured that all of our sins are forgiven.