This weekend we start a new series at Edgewood called, Summer with the Early Church, a study through the Acts of the Apostles.
The series corresponds with a book I recently started by David Mathis called Habits of Grace. As the Executive Editor at desiringGod.org, Mathis advocates three habits which correspond with what I would consider a KEY verse in the book of Acts. It comes near the beginning of the book, after Peter has preached his Pentecost sermon and the church has begun with 3,000 new lives in Christ…
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 (ESV)
Do you see the three habits? In his book Holiness, J.C. Ryle calls them the indispensable “means of grace”…
“The ‘means of grace’ are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshiping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper. I lay it down as a simple matter of fact that no one who is careless about such things must ever expect to make much progress in sanctification. I can find no record of any eminent saint who ever neglected them.”
How are you doing in the top three? The key word here is devoted. Are you…
…devoted to Bible reading? The early church was committed to hearing from God, and they did so through the Apostles’ teaching. Of course, these brothers and sisters didn’t yet have Bibles the way we do. But they did have the Apostles, and so they showed up daily (Acts 2:46) at the temple where they could hear God through their teaching and thus grow in godliness.
…devoted to Prayer? The early church was dependent. They knew what we so easily forget – that we need God. So Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We need him daily…for our daily needs. So we must seek Him daily in prayer.
I’m reminded of the story of a family who stopped to help a man stranded on the side of the road. He was frantic, apparently because he had an extremely important meeting to attend. But he was out of gas. So they drove him to a local station where he could get a few gallons. When they dropped him back at his car, he hurriedly put three gallons in the tank and barely said a word of thanks before he sped off. Imagine their surprise when they saw the same man stranded a short while later. Being in such a hurry, he had never stopped to fully fill his tank. Out of gas…again. This time the family sped by.
And so many Christians live just as foolishly, believing that there is so much to do that they do not stop to seek God in prayer. The broken and empty feeling they live with daily is being prayerlessly stranded on the side of the road of life.
…devoted to Fellowship? Today it’s a matter of simple observation that many professing Christians are seeking to do without regular church attendance (and I imagine that with few exceptions, the vast majority of those who skip regular worship are definitely not in the Word and Prayer). Not so the early church: these new saints were devoted to attending temple together and practicing regular communion. They practiced the “one-anothers” of Scripture the only way possible…by being with one another.
When the whole church lived out these three habits, among other things, “awe came upon every soul”, and “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:43, 47)
What would happen if we all did the same?