March 1, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Acts 2:43-47
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
A few weeks after the death and resurrection of Jesus, during the Jewish holiday of Pentecost, God filled the followers of Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Because of their witness, over 3,000 people joined the fellowship of Jesus-followers. They didn’t just believe new things and go to church on Sunday. Rather, they became deeply engaged with their sisters and brothers in Christ. Their example of deep and extensive community teaches and challenges us. How might we be more connected to our sisters and brothers in Christ?
Today’s devotion is part of the Life for Leaders series: Can’t Do It Alone.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I noted that Jesus fulfills his promise to be with us forever through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are never alone when we are in Christ because the Spirit of Christ is with us and dwells within us.
But that’s not all. The Holy Spirit also brings us together, uniting us with other sisters and brothers in Christ. Because of the Spirit, we are not alone because Christ is with us and we are with Christ’s people through the Spirit.
We see a striking picture of this theological truth in Acts 2. The first half of that chapter describes what happened on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the first followers of Jesus. They were filled with the Spirit and began praising God in several different languages, startling the crowds that had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost. Then, Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples, raised his voice to explain to everyone what was happening. In fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel in the Hebrew scriptures, God was pouring out the Holy Spirit on people in a new way. Now all people – young and old, male and female, slave and free – would receive the Spirit of God by putting their faith in Jesus the Messiah. In response to Peter’s sermon, about 3,000 people were added to the earliest Christian community (Acts 2:41).
These first converts didn’t just show up for church once a week and maybe for a midweek Bible study. Rather, they became deeply engaged with their sisters and brothers in Christ. Acts reports that they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship” (2:42). They also shared their possessions or sold them to provide for the needs of others in their community (Acts 2:44-45). On a daily basis, they spent time together in the temple courts and in their homes, where they ate meals together. (I wonder if these common meals were the first church potlucks.) As they did these things, they felt glad and frequently praised the Lord. The attractiveness of their embodied unity drew many others into the community of disciples of Jesus (2:47).
As I reflect on this passage from Acts 2, I’m struck by the fact that the Holy Spirit didn’t just inspire individuals to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. The Spirit also drew those individuals together into a community of Christ followers. I’m also struck by just how much the first Christians shared life together, even to the extent of sharing their personal possessions or selling them to support others financially. They seemed to understand intuitively that the Christian life was essentially a “can’t do it alone” matter.
Compared to the earliest Christians, most of us fall short when it comes to sharing life together through the Holy Spirit. It would be easy to bemoan the extent to which our church experience is shaped, not by the New Testament, but by the expectations of our individualistic culture. But, rather than complain and criticize, I’d like to acknowledge that sometimes modern Christians do get it right. In previous Life for Leaders devotions, I’ve talked about how, when I was young and my dad was unemployed for a couple of years, people from our church helped our family financially. I’ve shared before how, years later, when my dad was dying of cancer, people from the church brought meals to our house . . . every day for more than four months. These folks visited us, prayed for us, wept with us, and encouraged us. Shortly after my dad died, several of them teamed up to pay for a several-day trip for my wife and me to a marvelous bed and breakfast inn, a place for us to relax, rest, grieve, and heal.
As I consider the example of the first Christians, I wonder how their “not doing it alone” might instruct and inspire me. Is there something I could choose to do that would help me be more connected to my Christian community? Is there some practice I might adopt that would deepen my regular engagement with my sisters and brothers in Christ? These aren’t just rhetorical questions for me or questions I’m writing only for you. I’m actually asking them of myself and the Lord as I write this paragraph. I have a couple of ideas but need to think and pray about them more. I expect I’ll share with you later what I come up with.
Meanwhile, perhaps you’ll join me in this time of reflection, using the following questions.
When in your Christian life, if ever, have you experienced what you would consider to be deeply engaged community with other believers? What was this like for you?
In what ways do you connect with your sisters and brothers in Christ these days?
Is there something you could choose to do that would help you be more connected to your Christian community?
Is there some practice you might adopt that would deepen your regular engagement with your sisters and brothers in Christ?
Do something in the next week in response to the example of the early Christians in Acts 2.
Gracious God, thank you for those we read about in Acts 2, for their faithful response to the gospel. Thank you for the early Christian community and the fellowship they had with each other.
I wonder, Lord, what I need to learn from them. How should I become more deeply connected to my sisters and brothers in Christ? How might I share more of life, faith, and worship with them—and food, also!?
Show me, I pray, one thing I might do this next week in response to what I’m learning from Acts 2 today.
Thank you for your Spirit, O God, who helps us not to do it alone. Amen.
Banner image by Alex Haney on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: A Christian Identity as God’s Kingdom Witnesses in Daily Life (Acts 2:1-41).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.