We planned to have our meeting in one of the hotel conference rooms, but due to all the graduation ceremony activities going on, all the rooms were booked. Therefore, we ended up at a nearby church in Winnetka. After sharing in a meal, we studied Acts 4:23-5:16. We broke up into groups of 3s and examined the passage together. I reminded the people to look for some common threads that we have observed so far all throughout the book of Acts (i.e. prayer, “together,” biblical community, God’s power being demonstrated through signs and wonder, people being filled with awe and wonder, people being added to their number, etc).
There were 3 things we focused on:
1) The prayer that was unimaginable. When Peter and John were released from prison, the first thing the believers did was to “raise their voices to God in prayer” (I am wondering if it was a loud unified prayer). One thing you will note about their prayer is that they did not pray for protection, safety or for the judgment upon the people who were against them. They prayed that God would give them the courage to speak God’s Word more boldly. They also prayed that more signs and wonders would be performed. Wow! What a contrast to the type of prayers we are familiar with and the ones that we hear from a “self-centered” Christianity that pervades America. When we pray, it is almost always about comfort, prosperity, and promoting our agenda. What would happen if Christians began to lift up prayers that were more focused on the Kingdom rather than personal preferences? All we know is that “the place where they were meeting was shaken” and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:31). This is the kind of prayer that we want to hear in this new church plant.
2) The purpose that was unquestionable. In v. 32 we see that “all the believers were one in heart and mind.” We get another glimpse of what we saw in Ac 2:42-47. It was the biblical community that God used powerfully to demonstrate His grace and love. In Php 2:1-4, the Apostle Paul said, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is exactly what the early church did whenever they gathered together. In fact, in this passage we notice that there were “no needy persons among them” and that “much grace was upon them all.” But in the midst of all the blessings, we see the infamous story of Ananias and Sapphira. As Php 2 reminds us about doing nothing out of selfish ambition, we see how hypocrisy that is driven by self-interest and self-preservation derails unity (all forms of hypocrisy are focused on the self). When we overcome our self-centeredness and keep the common purpose of testifying to the resurrection of Christ as our focus, we will be able to come together in unity. Isn’t it amazing that only the purpose of building God’s Kingdom can bring a rag-tag team of people together for new church plant in Chicago? May we never lose the purpose of why we are planting this new church… it is this purpose that will carry us.
3) The power that was unstoppable. Even though the early Church was facing opposition, they kept on seeing the manifested power of God. Maybe it was because the community was being purified of hypocrisy. But whatever the reason, we see God working in their midst. I like the word, “nevertheless” in Acts 5:14. The ghetto translation – “it don’t matter!” Since, God was working so powerfully it really didn’t matter what was going on. Luke said, “More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number” (5:14). As the apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders, people were coming to know the Lord. This is something that we are longing to see in our generation. When was the last time that we saw miraculous healings and deliverances? When was the last time that we saw God’s power demonstrated in our church gatherings? The Church is supposed to be an unstoppable force because of God’s Spirit that is living inside of us. Too often, the Church has been powerless and ineffective. If we can see the unleashing of God’s power once again in the Church, I believe many people will be brought into the Kingdom of God.
After our study, we spent some time in prayer. It was one of the better times of prayer. We worshipped in some songs and we spontaneously began to pray. Spirit led prayers are usually the ones that flow effortlessly off our lips. God was truly moving in our midst. Please continue to pray for us.
NOTE: I am going to put a special link on this blog to update people about the Northwestern University church plant. There have been many people inquiring about more information regarding the church plant. Therefore, I am going to consolidate things and put up a special link for pertinent information.