Some More Resolutions for 2010
Acts 2:44-47

By Paul Robison

Aren't we thankful that God keeps His resolutions for new things?  His resolutions for a new covenant and a new people, united in one flock under one Shepherd with new hearts and His Spirit within them to help them be obedient, became realities through the ministry of Jesus Christ! The apostle Paul said it this way in 2 Corinthians 1:20: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us!”  The first example of this new reality was the church in Jerusalem, the subject of our reading this morning.

Keeping resolutions can be really hard.  Perhaps the wisdom of Calvin and Hobbes, comic strip characters, can help us out.  They are talking about the new year when Calvin says, 'I’m getting disillusioned with these new years.  They don’t seem very new at all.  In fact, each new year is just like the old year.  Here another year has gone by, and everything is still the same: there’s still pollution and war, and stupidity and greed.  Things haven’t changed.  I thought things were supposed to improve; I thought the future was supposed to be better.'  Hobbes replies with his usual wisdom, 'The problem with the future is that it keeps turning into the present'" (Buchanan).  Breaking old habits can be pretty hard.  “A story is told that at the beginning of a new year, a high school principal decided to post his teachers’ new year’s resolutions on the bulletin board.  As the teachers gathered around the bulletin board, a great commotion started. One of the teachers was complaining loudly: 'Why weren’t my resolutions posted?'  She was throwing such a temper tantrum that the principal hurried to his office to see if he had overlooked her resolutions.  Sure enough, he had mislaid them on his desk.  As he read her resolutions, he was astounded.  This teacher’s first resolution was not to let little things upset her so during the next year” (Litchfield).

Let's return to our text.  The things that Luke writes about the congregation in Jerusalem are worthy of our imitation.  Last week, five resolutions were presented based on verses 42-43: read the Word, enjoy the saints, attend the services, pray specially, dangerously, and collectively, and respect the Lord.  Today, let's look at several more resolutions based on verses 44-47.

First of all, let's read verses 44-45: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”  “The Jews had a tremendous custom of hospitality during any major feast, like that of Pentecost; all visitors were received into private homes” and were given room and board without charge (Gizdik).  Now what is really amazing is that “these Jewish Christians took this tremendous feast-time hospitality and made it an everyday thing! ... The power of God is evident here because Jesus [and the church] became much more important to them than their possessions” (Ibid.).  Now, nowhere else in the New Testament do we see other churches following this particular example nor do we find the apostles teaching that it should be followed, but it is “still a noble instance of Christian generosity” (Barnes).  The apostles had given up all to follow Christ and had heard Christ's prophecies about how Jerusalem would soon be destroyed, and it seems their converts took all this to heart and gave up their possessions and goods to support those poorer brethren, who had come originally come to Jerusalem as guests. This provides another resolution for us in 2010: Let's support the church! An elder made this good comment: “Too many Christians have never recognized that their giving is a true index of their hearts.  And one effective criterion for determining the genuineness of those claiming to be Christians is to see their reaction to the teaching of the New Testament in regard to proper distribution of their worldly goods.  What they must learn is that liberality in physical means is an absolute necessity to their spiritual development in the image of God; that gifts to Christ and deepening spirituality are virtually and mutually dependent. Someone once said, 'What Christians earn on weekdays goes into their pockets, but what they spend on Sundays goes into their characters.' Hence, if you would see what you really are, take a serious and considerate look at how you spend your money and how you give to Christ” (Layton).  Here’s a little poem: “It is not what we earn that makes us rich, as riches are really known, but how honest we are as we lay our hand on what we like to call our own.  It is not what we keep that gives us peace in an age when peace is rare, but how truthful we are as we lay aside our own and the Master's share” (Layton).  The feedback from our congregational survey shows that we have a big problem in this area.  There's a tension here about how funds are being used, and that lack of trust with regards to finances is showing itself in a continual contribution that 90% of the time is falling short of the amount of our weekly budget goal.  And you know what, according to the church's own records, this has been going on for at least 4 years!  Beloved, this is disgraceful!  Somehow, we need to find a way during this year to get this problem solved.  We're letting economic grudges choke out our spiritual joy!  Good brethren, let's get our cards on the table and be open and honest with each other about this problem.  We won't solve anything if everyone just stays clammed up.  Let's get some dialog and conversations going so that everyone will eventually feel better about our finances, and all of us will be willing to joyful and generously support this church!  May the power of God become evident here because Jesus [and the church] became much more important to us than our own possessions!  Let’s support the church!

Now let's read verse 46: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple ...”  You can recall that 3000 were added to the 120 believers after Peter preached the first gospel sermon.  Of course, some of those believers lived in Jerusalem itself, but many of these believers had come from elsewhere.  Certainly, some of those believers had jobs in Jerusalem, but many others did not.  So where did they go and what did they do?  Well, there was one place in Jerusalem that could hold all those visitors, and it was an area behind the temple itself known as Solomon's Porch.  So it looks like those believers from abroad would meet daily with the apostles to learn more about Jesus and more about how their new lives under the new covenant that now differed from their Jewish lives under the old covenant.  Someone has imagined these meetings with these words: “No two meetings were alike, and all of them were glorious! Sometimes one apostle spoke; sometimes several, and sometimes all of them shared the riches of Christ. … They probably broke up into 12 groups, and one apostle met with each group [because of the languages]. All day long, the scene at Solomon's Porch was that of saints coming and going.  Those who had jobs would join the meeting briefly and return to work; others stayed for the whole day!  Possibly there were breaks for meals, rest periods, and times of prayer. ... It goes without saying that those meetings in the Porch looked like nothing you attend during the 21st century” (Edwards).  This leads us to a second resolution: Let's keep the contact!  You see, the text tells us that these Christians, whatever they might have done, had daily contact with each other!  Let's strive to do the same!  With our phones, and computers, and cars, why can't we work harder to maintain daily contact with each other?  Some of you are doing a great job at this, but others of us may need a little help.  Here’s an impractical suggestion.  “Did you know that there's a website that charges an annual fee of about $20, and their service is that they will send e-mail messages to pre-selected recipients after your death.  The creator of website said: ‘I don't think there's any honor in being silent after death. ... You can send anything from computer passwords or a love note to the last word in an argument’” (Eagleman in Larson-Elshof). Here's a more practical suggestion to try while you're still alive.  While you eat your supper in the evening, think back through your day to see if you made any contact with any other member here.  If you didn't, then why not pick some member randomly and then give them a call, or write an e-mail or a short note, or maybe even make a brief visit?  Jesus made the statement that He had sat daily with the people to teach them (Mt. 26:55).  Let's follow His example and that of the members in Jerusalem and work to keep the contact with one another.  As we have seen, daily contact is the scriptural ideal!  Let's keep the contact!

Now let's read the ending of verse 46: “and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”  The breaking of bread here is not the Lord's Supper but seems to be a modified practice of a special meal that the Jews had.  They would often gather together in groups to have a devotional, and a meal with leavened bread was the central event (Went, Hurt).  Before and after the meal, there were prayers of thanksgiving said by the host, and then this devotional meeting closed with the singing of a psalm (Wikipedia on “chaburah).  “With gladness” means “with rejoicing.  This is one of the [wonderful] effects of [discipleship that Jesus taught]. [This lifestyle] is far from gloom, [but] it diffuses [not only] joy over the mind [but also] additional joy in the participation of even our ordinary pleasures” (Barnes).  “Simplicity of heart” means that “they were satisfied and thankful.  They were not perplexed or anxious nor were they [pursuing] luxurious living or aspiring after [wealth]” (Barnes).  And this brings us to a third resolution—Share the meals.  This is something your Italian brethren do especially well.  We were blessed to share meals in many Italian members’ homes.  It's not only the food, but the way and atmosphere in which it was served.  They served food in courses, and this made the meal last longer, usually 45 minutes to 90 minutes.  They were not in a hurry because they believed that fellowship around a meal was not to be a fast-food experience.  And all during the times they were exchanging plates and setting out new food, there were conversations, maybe even some debates, some humorous stories, and questions about everything from A to Z.  You could tell that they just enjoyed being with you, and wanted you to enjoy being with them.  I'm not asking you to become Italians, but I am suggesting that we try to make more of an effort to share some meals together, beyond just our potlucks. It’s good to see that many sisters are doing this on their cooking day!  Someone made this good observation: “In a society in which even family members eat alone and on the run, we are often not aware of the significance of share meals.  But, in most cultures, eating together expresses mutuality, recognition, acceptance, and equal regard. ... 'Sitting down at the same table means becoming friends with [others], creating a family. It [is] a way of life absolutely opposed to the values of a competitive, hierarchical society in which the weak are pushed aside'” (Pohl and Vanier).  Now I know that everyone can't do this, but if you haven't shared meals with others lately and if it could be a possibility, why not let 2010 be the year in which you start making this become more of a regular practice?  They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart—why can't this be applied to our congregation as well?

Now let's read the first part of verse 47: “Praising God ...”  The word for “praise” means “to extol” or “to honor”.  One commentator noted that “praise of God in Luke's writings is associated [very closely] with God's grace” (Ash).  These believers undoubtedly greatly admired the apostles, but they were even more grateful for God's forgiveness, for Christ's lordship, and for the Holy Spirit's indwelling!  Someone else puts it this way: “As the fountain [from] where they had derived all their spiritual and temporal blessings; [they were] seeing [God] in all things, and [they were] magnifying the work of His mercy” (Clarke)!  The church was God’s doing, not their own!  And that suggests a fourth resolution for us—Praise or extol the Lord!  Someone closed an editorial with these words: “There is a time to ponder the sobering reality of evil, to write the occasional dirge.  But [a British apologist] knew well the greater truth – which is why the Bible harped on it so.  A person is fully human, he says, 'when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial.  Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. … Earnest purpose [as Christians], to be sure.  But let it pulsate with praise” (Christianity Today Dec. 2009 editorial)! Just as those Jews in Jerusalem, not only can we enjoy all the spiritual blessings which Christ Jesus offers but also we can continue to praise and to extol and to laud God for being the generous Giver of all such good things!  The last five Psalms all begin and end with a simple affirmation: “Praise the Lord!” Let's be joyful and extol the Lord!

Now let's read the next part of verse 47: “and having favor with all the people.”  This sure sounds like their Master doesn't it?  “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).  Someone has rightly noted that this passage “does not mean that all the [Jewish] people had become reconciled to Christianity; but [the members'] humble, serious, and devoted lives won the favor of the great mass of the community, and silenced [the] opposition [temporarily]” (Barnes).  “Every
honest, upright Jew would naturally esteem these [Christians] for the simplicity, purity, [generosity], and charity of their lives” (Clarke).  Yes, our world is watching us too, aren't they?  And this suggests another resolution: Serve the community!  Two researchers questioned hundreds of churches of various denominations, and then they proposed that churches are usually seen in communities in five ways. Some churches are called pillar churches; they have been in their communities for centuries, have good resources, and offer many programs, but they can develop a fortress mentality where sinners don't feel too welcome.  Some churches are called survivor churches; these churches have suffered many setbacks just to keep the doors open, and the members are usually very close knit, but they can sometimes become so absorbed in their problems that they fail to help others.  Some churches are called prophetic churches; they are churches often started by focusing on one particular cause that they felt needed to be addressed, like helping abused children, they go from one cause to another depending on their situation, and they are very vocal, but sometimes people are afraid of their combative spirit.  Some churches are called pilgrim churches because they often have several multi-ethnic groups, with various programs to reach different ethnic groups and with many innovations, but are seen sometimes by townspeople as being cliquish.  Some churches are called servant churches because they do many community projects, focus on caring, and thrive on benevolence, but sometimes outsiders see these people at workaholics who operate out of duty rather than joy.  So there are five descriptions that were developed: the pillar church, the survivor church, the prophetic church, the pilgrim church, and the servant church (Dudley and Johnson).  How would the townspeople of Prescott describe us?  What kind of a church are we?  Would they even give us another label?  Some of the feedback on the congregational survey seemed to indicate that we might have a rather negative image in our community.  Let's pray and work so that this year's new S.O.S. program might go far in changing such an image!  There are other members here who are really trying to reach out to our community and interact with them to improve our rapport with the townspeople through participation in community activities and through a literacy program.  Thanks to all of you for keeping your eyes open to opportunities and taking advantage of them in order to bring glory to God and favor to the church.  In 2010, let's work harder to serve the community!

Now let's read the last part of verse 47: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved!”  The actions and words of the brethren in Jerusalem had a positive effect on their fellow Jews, and many others became Christians, even on a daily basis!  Someone had noted that “their presence and witness were infectious” (Withingington III).  If we will resolve to read the Word, enjoy the saints, attend the services, detail our prayers, respect the Lord, support the church, keep the contact, share the meals, praise the Lord, and serve the community, then others in our fair city will also be saved and added to our congregation!  In other words, if we take care of following the example here in Acts 2:42-47, then God will take care of growing the church Himself” (Guzdik)!
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers.  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

As we close listen to this poem entitled “The New Year”: “I am the new year.  I am an unspoiled page in your book of time.  I am your next chance at the art of living.  I am your [possibility] to practice what you have learned about life during the last twelve months. ... All that you dreamed but didn’t [pray] to do, all that you hoped but did not [try for fear], all the faith that you claimed but did not demonstrate by stepping out, [these are] waiting to be awakened by the touch of a strong purpose [and by a deep faith in our Master's power and grace].  I am your opportunity to renew your allegiance to Him who said, "Behold, I make all things new” (Litchfield)!  May Christ and His Holy Spirit help us to make these resolutions realities in 2010 to God's great glory!  Become part of God's new people by following the new covenant and being immersed into the name of Jesus in order to become a new creation.  Christ wants to strengthen you! Let Jesus have His way with you!