to build a new community
Acts 2 : Devoted to Jesus and to one another
When U.S. Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf was a colonel stationed
in Vietnam, he commanded the First Battalion of the Sixth Infantry, a unit previously
known as the "worst of the sixth" but which he turned around with strong leadership.
After he improved the battalion, it was reassigned to a place Schwarzkopf described
as "a horrible, malignant place" called the Batangan Peninsula in Vietnam
It was an area that had been fought over for thirty years, was covered with mines and booby traps, and was the site of numerous weekly casualties from those devices. Schwarzkopf made the best of a bad situation. He introduced procedures to greatly reduce casualties, and whenever a soldier was injured by a mine, Schwarzkopf flew out to check on the man himself, evacuated him using his personal chopper, and talked to the other men to boost their morale. On May 28, 1970, a man was injured by a mine, and Schwarzkopf flew to where he lay. While his helicopter was evacuating the soldier, another man stepped on a mine, severely injuring his leg. The man thrashed around on the ground, screaming and wailing. That's when everyone realized the first mine hadn't been a lone booby trap. They were in fact standing in the middle of a minefield. Schwarzkopf believed the injured man could survive, and even keep his leg but only if he stopped flailing around. There was only one thing Schwarzkopf could do. He had to go after the man and immobilize him.
In his autobiography, "It Doesn't Take a Hero"1
, Schwarzkopf wrote: I started through the minefield,
one slow step at a time, staring at the ground, looking for telltale bumps or
little prongs sticking up from the dirt. My knees were shaking so hard that
each time I took a step, I had to grab my leg and steady it with both hands
before I could take another... It seemed like a thousand years before I reached
the kid.' The 240-pound Schwarzkopf, who had been a wrestler at West Point,
then pinned the wounded man and calmed him down. It saved the man's life. And
eventually with the help of an engineer team, Schwarzkopf was able to get him
and the others out of the minefield.
Later that night when Schwarzkopf was at the hospital, three black soldiers stopped him in a hallway and said, "Colonel, we saw what you did for the brother out there. We'll never forget that, and we'll make sure that all the other brothers in the battalion know what you did:' Until that moment, it hadn't occurred to him that the soldier he had saved was black.2 If you have seen the film Men of Honour which tells the story of Carl Brashear, you will appreciate that Schwarzkopf's leadership style was not typical of the military in those days. He was doing something different. His servant leadership transcended both rank and race. And what was the effect on his troops? Electrifying. Among the black soldiers especially.
He inspired loyalty and devotion. He turned his battalion from a reputation as the 'worst of the six' to one of the best in the Brigade. He was building a new community. How do we build a new community in the church? One of the most liberating books I have read this year is "Developing the leader within you"3. John Maxwell describes five levels of leadership common in the military, in the business world and in the Church. They help me get a handle on why the early church was so devoted to Jesus and one another, and why at times I struggle to be so. Maxwell says the lowest level of leadership is positional.
1. Leadership by Position based on Rights
Here leadership is based on your rights as a leader. People follow because they have to. Maxwell says, your influence as a leader will not extend beyond the lines of your job description. The longer a person stays here, the higher the turn over and the lower the morale. That was what Schwarzkopf overturned. Even the army has realised that you do not generate morale by simply giving orders and shooting deserters. The wider church has operated at this low level of leadership for too much of its existence when ever it has lost sight of its biblical purpose. In doing so it has, or still is, losing most of its members. People are not inspired to follow out of guilt and fear. The days when the church could exploit an illiterate population through an infallible priesthood, an obscure language and countless rules and regulations are thankfully long gone. Above this level, Maxwell says the second level of leadership is based not on rules but on relationships.
2. Leadership by Permission based on Relationships
People follow not because you give them orders but because they want to. People will follow beyond your authority. This level allows work to be fun but it runs the risk of losing direction and becoming introverted. Staying here can also cause highly motivated people to become restless. It can happen when a church grows into a members only club.
3. Leadership by Production based on Results
The third level of leadership is based on results. People follow not because of orders or even because they want to but because of what you have done for the organisation. This is where success is sensed by most people. They like you and what you are doing. Problems are fixed with very little effort because of the momentum. Sometimes people join a church for this reason. They want to belong to a church that is successful or has a reputation. The danger is of becoming preoccupied with performance and results rates and turning the church solely into a business.
4. Leadership by People Development based on Reproduction
People follow not just because of what you have done for the organisation but because of what you have done for them personally. This is where long-range growth occurs. Your commitment to developing leaders will ensure on-going growth of the organisation and of people. Maxwell says, "Do what ever you can to achieve and stay on this level."
5. Leadership by Personhood based on Respect
People follow not because of orders, not because they simply choose to, not because of your results for the organisation, not simply because of what you have done for them, but because of who you are and what you represent. Maxwell says that this step is reserved for leaders who have spent years growing people and organisations. Few make it. Those who do are bigger than life. John Maxwell is probably one of the world's experts on leadership because he is also a committed Christian and confesses that "every leadership lesson I've ever taught has been based on scriptural principles."4
What was it that inspired the level of devotion to one another we see at the end of the chapter in verses 2:42-47? Last week David took us through Acts 1 where we observed how the early church learnt to wait for God's timing. Today we come to Acts 2. Here we want to examine their devotion to Jesus and to one another.
Luke loves to use the word 'devoted' when speaking of the new community of
the church. Devotion clearly gives the sense of a binding promise or pledge,
as we use in a marriage vow.
Two questions to help us give meaning to this powerful word:
1. Why were they so devoted to Jesus and to one another?
2. How were they devoted to Jesus and to one another? Then one question for us by way of application.
3. What is our own level devotion like to Jesus and to one another?
1. Why were they devoted to Jesus and to one another?
They were not devoted to Jesus out of guilt or fear. They were not devoted because of a scriptural command. They were not devoted because it was the social thing to do. They were not devoted because of what Jesus may have done for their Jewish religion. What does the text say? They were fully devoted to following Jesus because of what? Because,
1.1 They were filled with the Spirit of God (2:4, 17)
They were devoted to Jesus because Jesus was devoted to them. Jesus demonstrated the highest level of leadership. Remember how Jesus describes the disciples in the Upper Room? "Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this than he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his Master's business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father, I have made known to you." (John 15:12-15). So devoted that Jesus came to indwell them by his Spirit, to be with them, to guide them and equip them to serve Him for ever. He filled them to overflowing. They could not keep quiet. They had to praise Him and tell what God had done for them. Why had the Spirit of God come to them?
1.2 They were filled with the Spirit of God because Jesus had died to forgive their sins and set them free (2:38-39)
Forgiveness for your sins. Reconciliation with God was now possible. Jesus
had died in their place. Died in our place. For all people, every where. This
was radical news of great joy. God was no longer a distant power to be appeased
or feared. They no longer needed a human mediator to intercede on their behalf.
They no longer had to offer a costly sacrifice for sin. They no longer needed
to travel to one place on earth where God could be encountered. They were filled
with the Spirit of God because Jesus had died to forgive sin and reconcile them
1.3 They were filled with the Spirit of God because God had raised Jesus to life and they were eye witnesses (2:32-33)
The risen Jesus had met with them, assured them, promised them eternal life and ascended to heaven far above all rule and authority. 40 days later he had sent his Spirit to fill them and sustain them with this hope. How tragic when the church is reduced to an institution, worship an obligation and evangelism a technique.
Ken Blanchard, famous for his book "The One Minute Manager" is also a committed Christian. One of his other books is called "Raving Fans." When first published in 1993, it caused a revolution in customer service. Blanchard simply states the obvious - what we already know. Most customer service is appalling. I spent a week, phoning half a dozen times each day trying to get through to a computer companies technical support. Will I buy another computer from that company? Its a brilliant computer but I measure them more by how they care for their customers.
Too many managers think increasing their market share is all about advertising, about price, product positioning and marketing. Blanchard says, when all is said and done, good's aren't sold, products and services are bought.5 They are increasingly bought from people whose passion is meeting the needs of their clients. The best advert is a satisfied customer. I think I sold more Dyson vacuum cleaners in the first year of their production than anything else in my whole life. And I don't even work for the company. I was so amazed at the ability of our Dyson to pick up dirt, when ever anyone came to the house I had to give them a demonstration. I became a raving fan. The disciples in Acts 2 had become raving fans of Jesus. Raving fans. Nothing could shut them up - threats, imprisonment, persecution, martyrdom. In AD 155 for example, Polycarp the bishop of Smyrna was arrested and threatened with execution unless he deny Christ. Polycarp answered, "Eighty and six years I have served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, who has saved me?" Refusing to deny his Lord, Polycarp was burnt at the stake. This is why they were so devoted to Jesus and to one another.
2. How were they devoted to Jesus and to one another?
2.1 How were they devoted to Jesus Acts 2:14-15
How would you respond if someone denegrated your father? If someone spread lies about your family? Would you sit by and ignore it? You would want to speak out and defend your family honour.
That is why there has been some rivalry in the press this week between a father and uncle over a young man's drinking habits. Both Charles Windsor, Prince of Wales and Charles Spencer, brother of Lady Diana, share a family concern for the welfare of the princes' William and Harry. And so would you if it were your family. That is precisely what we see Peter doing here. They expressed their devotion to Jesus by speaking on his behalf. Correcting error. Telling the truth. Devoted to Jesus.
2.2 How were they devoted to one another? 2:42-47
What does this passage remind you of? For me it describes a family at its best. What does a family do at its best? A family meets together regularly. A family looks forward to being together. A family has meals together. A family pools its resources and cares for its young, its sick or elderly. That's precisely what the early church did, with no distinction between gender, class or race. That is what made their relationships unique and attractive. Two questions - why they were devoted and how they were devoted.
3. What is our own devotion like to Jesus and to one another?
Ask yourself why you are here today? Why do you come? In our recent options for growth survey we asked you to indicate why you attended Christ Church. Significantly the highest scores were for friendship, for bible teaching, worship and fellowship. Thankfully the answer, "because its my local church" or worse "nearest church" did not feature highly... For many there is a sense of expectancy here. God is at work. We are under construction.
Do you want to grow in your devotion to Jesus?
Do you want to grow in your devotion to others?
Do you want your friends and family to come to know Jesus?
3.1 Thank Jesus for what he has done for you
Dying in your place, forgiving your sin, assuring you of eternal life, giving you his Spirit, promising to be with you forever. The free unmerited grace of God. There is nothing that will increase your devotion to Jesus more than through meditating on what he has done for you. Then respond in thanks and praise and your worship will be pure and holy. Then you will be a raving fan.
3.2 Express your devotion through Jesus family
In Christ we are a family of brothers and sisters. That is why our distinctive values as a church states, "We believe that loving relationships should permeate every aspect of church life... We believe that full devotion to Christ and serving his cause is normal for every believer." Look for ways of expressing your devotion in acts of selfless service. The more we express our devotion to one another, in serving, in caring, the more visible our devotion to Jesus will be.
Not only that, the more visible our devotion, the more attractive we will be. The more attractive we are the more convincing we will be in our witness to Jesus. The more convincing we are the more infectious we will become. What was the strongest evidence of their devotion? Was it in the number brought to faith? Verse 41 mentions 3,000. That's pretty impressive. I think it is in that simple phrase uttered by unbelievers, "See how they loved one another."
Then you will be a contagious Christian. Then you will be contributing to our mission statement, assisting irreligious people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Thank Jesus for what he has done for you. Express your devotion through Jesus family.
3.3 Be Filled with the Holy Spirit
If we are to be raving fans of Jesus and devoted to one another then we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit moment by moment. Ephesians 5:18 says "Do not get drunk with wine which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit." The context shows us that this was not a once for all experience but a continuous, moment by moment relationship with Jesus. Allow him to be Lord of your life now, this moment. How do I know if I am filled? Is there any unconfessed sin? If so, confess it, experience his forgiveness and filling and allow him to transform you day by day, allow him to lead you, inspire you, guide you, and speak through you in word and deed. Then you will continue to be transformed into his likeness, you will be fully devoted living each day in Jesus name. Lets pray.
1 Norman Schwarzkopf, "It Doesn't Take a Hero" (Bantam Books, 1993)
2 John C. Maxwell, "The Right to Lead" (Thomas Nelson, 2001), pp13-14.
3 John Maxwell, "Developing the leader within you." (Nelson, 1993), p. 12.
4 John Maxwell, "The 21 most powerful minutes in a leaders day" (Thomas Nelson, 2000 ) p. xi.
5 Ken Blanchard, "Raving Fans" (William Morrow, 1993), p. ix-x.