They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
Without a doubt, the church has never been on fire as much as it was right after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. We see a massive revival over and over again. In one day, there were three thousand converts. Can you imagine the logistics of this without any kind of computers, social media, or smart phones? How did they keep up with everyone? How did they do follow up? I am just being a little bit facetious, but what a fire was started in the upper room when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples!
A church on fire though does live by revival. Revivals are mountaintop experiences and they are wonderful, but there Lord does let us descend from the mountains into the valleys to see how we love one another and how we love Him when things are not so pleasant. Then what? Then what keeps the fire burning? What kept the early church on fire? What kept them passionate about the Lord when their fellow believers were being fed to the lions for sport? What keeps a fire in the heart of the church when its members are being crucified, boiled in oil, and burned alive? And what lessons should we learn from these early martyrs and fearless followers of Christ?
They were devoted. They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. These four things the Holy Spirit lays out for us that these early believers did. They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching. The Scripture is alive, not dead but living. When a person dies, they have no spirit, but the Scripture is alive and filled with spirit. The Scripture then must be understood through the Spirit. The Spirit is not in the written word, but in the spirit that teaches the living word. And it is not a book of facts, but an instrument of transformational power. Without teaching, we miss out. They devoted themselves to be under the teaching of the apostles. If we want to remain passionate for the Lord, on fire, we must devote our self to be under the teaching of those anointed by the Holy Spirit.
They were devoted to fellowship. To fight alone against an army is to concede defeat. Fellowship is bonding together with those who join you in the battle. They fight with you and for you. When the surprise attacks come, they run to your rescue and you to theirs. As members of the church were singled out to be tortured, imprisoned, beaten, raped, and killed, the believers were run to one another. They would cry together, pray together, re-focus together, forming a strength to resist the temptation of the Enemy to lose faith, to stop fighting. They found wisdom in one another understanding how even the suffering would produce the fruit of righteousness. The Holy Spirit would hold them in the arms of their brothers and sisters. They found peace, mercy, strength, boldness, and power. The attacks of the Enemy are too great to survive without the fellowship. We must be devoted to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. In this, our fire for the Lord will not be snuffed out.
They were devoted to the breaking of bread. This was not simply a meal. The early church celebrated what they called the Agape or Love Feast. This was a meal where everyone brought food for others to share. But it was more than this. During the meal, they would take time to go through the Eucharist or the Lord’s supper. The Lord’s supper is intended by the Lord to get us to stop everything and remember Him. Soccer, shopping, paying bills, fighting with our spouse, changing diapers, running the kids around, all of this must stop regularly and often to remember the depth of God’s love for us found in His Son giving His life that we might be set free from sin, death, and Hell. It is not that we forget that Christ died for us. It is that we don’t meditate on this love. When we live in a world that is constantly judging everything we do and say, in a society that would rather stomp on us than build us up, in relationships where all of us can easily fall into a state of selfishness at any time, don’t we need to meditate on the One who has loved us and no matter how poorly we perform, continues to love us with an everlasting love. The world comes with expectations and pressure, not love. But in the arms of Christ, we are reminded that while we were yet sinners, He loved us and gave up His life for us. Wouldn’t a few days of strong meditation in this deep love spark fire in your soul? We will lose our fire if we do not meditate on His love. You may not always have the bread and wine with you, but His love and sacrifice remain in us.
They devoted themselves to prayer. Prayer is the communication that forms and bonds our relationship with the Lord. How can we have a relationship with someone with whom we never speak? Scripture teaches us to grow weary in prayer. Some would ask why the Lord wants us to pray if He already knows everything we need and want. This question misses the essence of prayer. Prayer is not making a list of wants. Prayer is a communication between a child and his Father. It is a communication between a bride and her husband. How often does our prayer time consist wholly of wants and needs? Jesus taught us to pray by saying, “Our Father.” In these powerful words, the Lord speaks to us saying, “You are not alone. You have brothers and sisters to help you.” He says, “I love you like a Father, not an earthly father, but a Father who loves perfectly with a desire to take care of you to a greater depth than how you want to take care of your children.” Prayer is listening. It is spending time with the Lord, sharing our heart, and listening to the whisper of the Holy Spirit. The calls us to pray not because He doesn’t know what we need, but because He desires time with you. Life a Father wrestling with his boy, or having a make-believe tea with his daughter, so our Heavenly Father desires to interact and give affection to His children. A church on fire prays.
They stayed on fire because they were devoted to these things. They did not do these things. They were devoted to these things. I would venture to say that almost everyone reading this does these things, but are we devoted to them. To be devoted means to be unremitting, refusing to let anything or anyone keep us from teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. It was a determination reflected by priorities. These were the most important things in their life because He was the most important thing in their life. And the fire of the church burned.
Could it be that the fire of the Holy Spirit is being quenched from our churches, our nation, and our own souls because we are not devoted to these things. We participate in teaching, prayer, breaking bread, and prayer not in a forceful way not letting anything stop us from these spiritual exercises, but with our leftover time, our leftover energy, when we don’t have other things to do? The Good News today is that the fire of God still burns. The Apostle Paul encourages us to fan the flame. This is the challenge I present to myself today and I hope you will do the same, fan the flame. May we devote ourselves violently, not letting anything keep us from opportunities to be taught by those anointed, not letting anything keep us from fellowship, forcing ourselves to stop time each day to meditate on his body broken and blood spilt, and talking with the One who gave us life out of nothing. And may the fire burn.