THE ACTS CHURCH
There are a number of books being written that say "church is broken". Some even think that church has become a business. In order to determine if church is broken we need to have a standard to contrast it against. The standard which every church is contrasted with is THE ACTS CHURCH. What is "THE ACTS CHURCH”?
“And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily as should be saved.”
This is the famous passage about the ultimate New Testament Church…THE ACTS CHURCH. This church is a rarity today. The most asked question I get from sub-30 year olds is: "Why don't we see signs and wonders in churches today?" Basically they are asking why can’t we experience THE ACTS CHURCH today?
Acts 2:43-47 lists the EFFECTS that some people wish we had in church today…
LOVE is the giving of a value and not expecting anything in return.
The EFFECTS that are listed are LOVE towards each other. In fact, it looks like the desired EFFECTS are Jesus' SECOND commandment! We have seen that LOVE is the ultimate EFFECT of specific CAUSES. What were the CAUSES of THE ACTS CHURCH?
The Bible is written from CAUSE to EFFECT. Notice, the preceding verse (Acts 2:42) gives the CAUSES:
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
There are four CAUSES to getting the EFFECTS of THE ACTS CHURCH:
-Breaking of bread
Do these CAUSES look familiar?
How many of these CAUSES do you see in today's churches?
JESUS' FIRST COMMANDMENT
Notice, in Mark 12:30, Jesus says the following when explaining the FIRST commandment:
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
Jesus lists four parts. Actually, every person is made up of these four parts:
Heart – emotion
Soul – spirit
Mind – mental
Strength – physical
Paul refers to the New Testament church as the BODY. Now look at the four causes of THE ACTS CHURCH! Acts 2:42 address all four areas for the New Testament Church (BODY):
Mental - Apostles’ doctrine
Emotion - Fellowship
Physical - Breaking of bread
Spirit – Prayers
In a previous post, we saw that Jesus' FIRST commandment is a CAUSE and the EFFECT is the SECOND commandment. Jesus' FIRST and SECOND commandment are ONE because they are both halves of causality (CAUSE and EFFECT) . Is it surprising that the same principle would be true for the New Testament Church (BODY) as it is for the New Testament INDIVIDUAL BODY?
Whether it is the individual doing the FIRST commandment or the New Testament Church: When the body is operating in all four areas, then the EFFECTS of a believing body are seen.
Acts 2:42 is how the church collectively does Jesus' FIRST commandment!
The EFFECTS God wants to see in church are Acts 2:43-47; the church collectively doing Jesus' SECOND commandment!
We have seen that some pastors and teachers preach EFFECTS because they don't know the CAUSES. Anyone who tells you to behave a specific way (Acts 2:43-47) without explaining the cause (Acts 2:42) is PREACHING EFFECTS.
This post is the beginning of a "mini-book" on how the Bible says to create THE ACTS CHURCH. In last week's post, we saw how today's churches DON'T have The Apostles' Doctrine. We will go through each CAUSE and see what it takes to have that CAUSE. However, there are some key foundational points (along with man-made complaints) that need to be addressed this week.
THE PERSONALITY OF GOD
We saw in a previous post that each of us is ACTUALLY a set of principles...we called it the "ARE".
Each of us constantly desires a set of principles...Right and Just. Each of us wants to be Right and Just, but we aren't.
The EFFECTS of these principles are what APPEARS to us...it is what we call "the person" (the personality).
Your principles come out and appear to others in four areas: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
This is your personality...and the CAUSE is your ARE.
The book I'm reading by Moody Press on doctrine begins by distinguishing between God's Nature and His Characteristics (Personality)...and then makes excuses later in the book why it can't distinguish between God's Nature and His Personality.
God's Nature is RIGHT and JUST...the principles. (GRACE is our choice to allow God to flow through us which results in righteousness towards salvation.)
God's Characteristics are the EFFECTS of His Nature coming out in different circumstances...His Personality.
When you think of a person...you think of the EFFECTS of their set of principles. Their personality is what APPEARS to you: mercy, compassionate, loving, etc. People point to examples in the Bible where God shows "personality traits":
-ear, eyes, mouth (physical)
-remembers, knows (mental)
THIS is what people are saying when they state that God is a "person". However, most people can't explain this. God is DEFINITELY a person...and this is WHY. I have had a lot of people get upset that I wrote in "Modeling God" that God's Nature is a set of principles. People have accused me of "depersonalizing" God. Clearly, these are examples of people who are uncomfortable and rather than remain contrastive in order to grow, they are PROVING they are pursuing comfort by remaining comparative.
The same thing happens whenever someone who has read "Modeling God" tells others they know who God is...people who are insecure and uncomfortable PROVE their lack of LOVE by attacking the reader. See for yourself. Ask your pastor or teacher what it means that God is a person and ask them their explanation for God's Nature...see if it is contradictory.
Besides, it would be unjust of God for us NOT to be able to objectively know who God is...how could we tell if we are committing idolatry? Worshipping something different than God is idolatry. Why would knowing who God is be extremely complex? This would mean God ONLY meant the super intelligent to know Him. Besides, which God is truly superior? The one that is unable to make himself known to everyone or the One who is able to explain Himself to all? God not being able to be known is COMPLETELY contradictory to what the Bible says. People who argue for a God that is beyond our ability to objectively identify Him need to make sure they aren't leading others to commit idolatry.
Also, remember that it is CULTISH for someone to require YOU to believe something THEY can't define or explain. For example, people who tell you that YOU have to believe in and follow God, YET THEY CAN'T define God are exhibiting the traits of a cult leader.
Knowing a person's principles (ARE) allows you to know ALL of them...to know the CAUSE. (Just like Jesus fulfilled the Law by doing the CAUSES.) However, knowing their personality (EFFECTS), that is, their response to EVERY specific instance takes an eternity.
I know who God is...I'm still learning His Personality.
SUSTAINABLE AND BUILDING
We are mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical beings.
We are made to be integrated beings...ALL of these areas work together!
It is NOT RIGHT for us to expect one of these areas to fulfill us over the Long Term.
You cannot drive your fulfillment by focusing solely on your job (mental example).
You cannot drive your fulfillment by focusing solely on your hobbies (emotional example).
You cannot drive your fulfillment by focusing solely on knowing your Bible (spiritual example).
You cannot drive your fulfillment by focusing solely on having sex, doing drugs, exercising, or drinking (physical example).
Whatever rush of energy you get from this activity is NOT SUSTAINABLE BECAUSE it doesn't involve the entire being. Eventually, that area of your life will return to the original level...THEN because this is NOT RIGHT, you will experience guilt. The guilt will take you to a lower level. The focus becomes how to get rid of the guilt and attain the original level. It is GOOD to know how to attain the original level. It is GOOD to know how to repair and be able to do it.
However, if you were able to drive all areas to another level, THIS is sustainable. You can stay at this level until you do something unbalanced (unsustainable) and then go back to the original level because of guilt. This is GROWING.
OR once you have GROWN to a higher sustainable level, you could also do something MORE that takes your entire being to an even higher level. This is what BUILDING looks like...pushing your entire being in successive GROWTH events.
(Here is some "extra credit": Almost two years ago, I wrote an article on Why God is Judging the U.S. The article shows the Bible listed four CAUSES for why God judged Sodom. The article shows Nineveh averted God's judgment because they addressed the four causes. Now I see that the four causes of God's Judgment are the opposite of Acts 2:42! Fulness of bread vs. breaking bread, pride vs. the apostles' doctrine, idleness of time vs. prayer, and not strengthening the arm of the poor vs. fellowship. Doing the four causes of judgment ACTUALLY is the OPPOSITE of the FIRST commandment...so God is Just in bringing His judgment on ANY individual, organization, or country that does the OPPOSITE of Acts 2:42. Notice, there are three options: you can do Acts 2:42/FIRST Commandment, you can NOT do Acts 2:42/FIRST Commandment, or you can do the OPPOSITE of Acts 2:42/FIRST Commandment. IF you read the article, think about which of the three options your church is doing...your church may actually be experiencing God's Judgment! Doing the OPPOSITE brings judgment and the EFFECT is destruction...the OPPOSITE of BUILDING.)
Each person is: Purpose and Progress
Whenever I counsel people, I determine if their issue is Purpose or Progress...I start with Purpose. People who know their Purpose and are making significant Progress don't come to me for counseling.
Purpose is the "ARE"...who God created the individual to be.
Progress depends on the EFFECTS (personality) and whether it is profitable or not: doing the CAUSES, not doing the CAUSES, or doing the OPPOSITE of the CAUSES.
Each church has a collective ARE.
Each church has a collective personality.
Jesus said each individual OUGHT to do the FIRST commandment and the EFFECT is the SECOND commandment. Churches that continuously do the FIRST commandment end up BUILDING on the GROWTH they had already attained.
People who want the EFFECTS of THE ACTS CHURCH (BUILDING) need to continuously do the CAUSES of THE ACTS CHURCH...
The first CAUSE listed is The Apostles' Doctrine.
Loving God “with all your mind” means thinking about God. The purpose of thinking about God revolves around getting to know/understand Him more. We can know His Nature. We will never know/understand His Personality completely while we are on earth. This doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t try to know/understand Him more.
People who discourage you from knowing/understanding God more are encouraging you to violate the First Commandment…they are telling you NOT to love God with all your mind. This usually occurs when someone CAN'T explain what THEY mean so they try to convince you WORDS don't have a definite meaning! This can also occur when someone tells you we can’t or aren’t supposed to know/understand God. Understanding is the same as modeling…it involves CAUSE and EFFECT…it involves asking WHY. God WANTS us to know/understand Him more!
God wants us to be modelers!
In the Bible, God lists EFFECTS He desires from and for us. The Bible also lists the CAUSES…these are called “doctrine”. Doctrine are the CAUSES. When these doctrine are incorrect, we are unable to achieve the desired EFFECTS. It would be the same as planting corn and expecting tomatoes.
Acts 2:42 says they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and they got the desired EFFECTS. We are NOT getting the desired EFFECTS…we don’t have the apostles’ doctrine. We have tradition! To think we do and not explain WHY is PRIDE...be careful!
Jesus warned us about this:
“Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition…” (Mark 7:13)
“Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6)
“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9)
“For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Hebrews 4:2)
The Word brings us doctrine that when mixed with faith is profitable…it has a positive EFFECT.
The Word taught with tradition is not profitable…it has no EFFECT.
We currently do NOT have the apostles’ doctrine when it comes to faith, grace, love, truth, life, marriage, divorce, etc.
(If any pastors or teachers would like to discuss these issues privately, please contact me via the e-mail link on this blog. I believe "Modeling God" gets us back to The Apostles' (sound) Doctrine which is non-contradictory.)
All of this takes serious thought…it takes loving God with all our mind; not justifying our traditions with all our mind OR encouraging people NOT to use their mind!
The way to prove the truth of a doctrine is through contrastive thinking and non-contradiction. If the doctrine is contradictory, it is not of God. As for contrastive thinking: We OUGHT to actively try and disprove our doctrine. Whatever can be disproved needs to be improved (changed). Whatever can’t be disproved/improved is right.
The BIGGEST reason we are not able to get the EFFECTS of THE ACTS CHURCH is that we have tradition in place of Godly doctrine…and we are too comfortable to change. I believe doctrine is listed first BECAUSE you need to have THAT right in order to understand the rest of the list.
The “with all your mind” part of the First Commandment results in encouraging people to challenge their OWN beliefs, think, and learn how to objectively determine truth. This OUGHT to nourish everyone mentally. However, too many people look for and follow "endorsements"...they rely on OTHER people to think FOR them.
Does your church teach you HOW to think?
Does your church teach you WHAT to think?
The first CAUSE was The Apostles' Doctrine.
Next week we will study the next CAUSE: FELLOWSHIP