believing together

Believing Together

What’s going to happen next?

One night this past week my daughter Ella Grace was sitting next to me & we were reading a book together. I think reading books with Ella Grace is her love language. She loves reading & she loves it when we read together. It was another book about princesses or fairies or something.

She would read a couple of pages & then I would read a couple of pages. We took turns until we got to the end of the chapter. And when we got to the end Ella Grace begged me to keep reading because the chapter ended with a cliff hanger & she really wanted to know…

What’s going to happen next?

Some of you know this feeling. Not because you read books, but because you watch Netflix.

Netflix has created this culture of binge watching tv shows. And tv show producers know this. They know that if they can hook you at the end of one episode, you’ll go ahead & watch the next episode.

Even if it means staying up another hour. Even if it means you’ll be tired at work the next day. They know that if they can hook you in the last 60 seconds, you’ll keep watching.

Why? Because we all want the answer to the question…

What’s going to happen next?

Jesus, the first church & the one big question.

I have to think this is how the first church felt as it began to gather together & meet in the wake of the resurrection of Jesus.

They were fully aware of what just happened. They had witnessed it. They had witnessed Jesus’ life.

Some had known him since he was a boy. Their kids had played with him in the streets of Nazareth. They had seen him grow up.

They were at the wedding right before his ministry began when his mom, Mary, came to him & informed him that they were out of wine & Jesus should fix it. And he did! Miraculously. He had the servants fill jars with water & when the master of ceremonies came by & tasted it, he had never tasted better wine!

They were there when Jesus started gathering followers & calling disciples. They had questions about the kinds of men he was calling to follow him. These men had been rejected by other rabbis. But not by Jesus. Maybe some thought they were not good enough, but they were good enough for Jesus. If you’ve ever been rejected or left feeling like you weren’t good enough, then maybe this is good news for you too. They saw Jesus gather these men with questionable reputations to be his followers.

They heard his teaching. They saw his healing. They experienced his generosity & his grace & his love & his non-anxious presence. They knew there was something different about him. They knew the other religious people hated him. So much so that eventually, through lying & bribing they had Jesus killed. Murdered on a cross.

They were there that day too. They heard Jesus say those famous words…. Father forgive them. They’ll never forget the day they saw Jesus hanging on the cross forgiving the very people who put him there. From that day forward, they were changed. Never held a grudge again. Always quick to forgive.

They had gone into hiding along with the rest of Jesus’ followers because they too were scared for their lives. And then, 3 days later, they heard the news from the women who went to the tomb & discovered Jesus wasn’t there. He had, in fact, risen. And over the next 40 days they had seen Jesus numerous times.

They had seen his hands & his feet & his wounds. They had seen him eat. Heard him teach. Experienced his presence. They still couldn’t explain it. And they still couldn’t understand it. But he was back. Over those 40 days more than 500 people had seen Jesus & been with Jesus. It was the most joy-filled confusion you’ve ever seen. He’s back. He’s alive. We don’t understand it. But here he is, in the flesh!

And then… as He was telling them again to be witnesses to his life, death & resurrection, as he was telling them again to go into all the world, as he was telling them again he had come so that everyone could experience forgiveness & freedom from sin… he started rising.

They had seen him rise on a cross, they had seen him rise from the dead, now he is rising back to Heaven. They watched until they could see him no longer, kind of like when you watch a balloon float high into the air until it disappears into the sun… he was gone.

That chapter was over.

That episode was done.

It was time to turn the page.

What’s going to happen next?

Now what?

It’s after Jesus returns to Heaven that we read this about his first followers…

Acts 1.12-15

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile.  When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying.
Here are the names of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the zealot), and Judas (son of James).  They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.
During this time… about 120 believers were together in one place…

So about 120 believers gathered together, men & women, disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, waiting for something they couldn’t even fathom.

They met together.
They prayed together.
They believed together.

This is what the church looked like in the first days living in the wake of the resurrection.

They were about to receive the Holy Spirit. They were about to become bold witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus to the world. They were about to see the church grow exponentially from 120 to over 3000. They were about to see God answer prayer in miraculous ways. They were about to change the world.

But before any of that… they waited, they met, they prayed & they believed.

In the wake of the resurrection & ascension of Jesus the church is found believing together.

What would happen if we believed together?

This first group of 120 believers in the wake of the life, death, resurrection & ascension of Jesus dedicated themselves to meeting together, praying together & believing together.

And while they were there in Jerusalem meeting together, praying together & believing together the Holy Spirit came upon that group of 120 believers in a powerful way & the church exploded. The message of Jesus spread like wildfire. Those who heard the story & believed the story were changed.

They had never heard anything like this before. The story of a God who didn’t demand anything from them, who wasn’t a God you had to please to get things from him, the story of a God who came from Heaven to earth to give his life for us, who lived briefly, died violently & then was raised victoriously.

The story of God who loved people so much that He gave His one & only Son so that everyone who BELIEVED in Him could have eternal life WITH Him!

As this story sweep through Judea, it went from there into Samaria & then into the entire world. In fact, we’re here today in part because of the belief of those first 120 believers who committed themselves to meeting together, praying together & believing in Jesus together!

I love what Fred Craddock & Eugene Boring say about the church as they reflected on this first church we read about in Acts: “The church is not merely a group of good people trying hard to make the world a better place. The church functions by the presence & power of God.”

The church that believes together is fueled by the power & presence of Jesus!

Here’s the question, what if we, as a church, weren’t here just to make things better, what if we were fueled by the power & presence of Jesus to share what we believe with those around us & see the world changed again with this message of Jesus?

120 believers did & they changed the world.

What would happen if we believed together?

To hear the full message click to watch or to listen.

I serve as the Preaching Minister at Riverside Church of Christ in Coppell, TX. I enjoy sports, running, fishing & life with the family. I’ve been in ministry since 1999. My wife Alisha & I have three amazing children, Will, Ella Grace & Emma Love. Thanks for stopping by my blog.