12 July “There was no needy person among them”

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
12 July 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

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A warm “Welcome” to everyone

Testimony

(Thanks Ian)

Just a couple of thoughts to share in relation to the current situation we find ourselves in.

  1. We cannot take things for granted, whether it be holidays, toilet rolls/flour, meeting family, or going to church. These and many more things can no longer just happen or be taken for granted.
  2. If we cannot assume the normal, then we must be equally aware, or ready, for whatever is coming next. The rich fool in Luke 12:13-21 just assumed, and took all his wealth for granted, and God took it all away in an instant.
  3. It reminds us that we must not be found assuming or not ready, but take every opportunity to prepare for God bringing to fruition his plan for humankind.

Worship

(Thanks Rose)

Jubilate Hymns version of Breathe on me, breath of God Edwin Hatch (1835 – 1889) © Jubilate Hymns Ltd

Word

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all, that there was no needy person among them

Acts 4:33-34

There are numerous reference in the book of Acts of the apostles being filled with the Holy Spirit followed by them speaking the word of God boldly, e.g.

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Acts 4:31

This was a vital aspect of the Spirit’s infilling, enabling them to speak the word boldly and being witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus (e.g. Acts 1:8; 2:4; 6:10; 7:55-56; 9:17, 20, 22, 28). So it is very interesting that here, in our text (Acts 4:34), we have the same thing, the apostles testifying with the power of the Spirit and it being linked to an equally important matter: “that there was no needy person among them” indicating how important this also is in God’s sight.

From time to time we hear the statement (possibly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi): “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Meaning that it is more important to let your life and deeds do the preaching. However, in the light of our text, and the Book of Acts as a whole, the right balance is to let both do the preaching:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, through your life, deeds and words, Amen!”

God meets the needs of believers, either directly, or through other believers and then expects them to go and meet the needs of others e.g.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Cor 1:3-4

Our heavenly Father, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, comforts us in all our troubles, and then expects us to go and comfort others in their troubles, comforting them with the comfort we have received from God. Likewise, those whom we have comforted, are then expected to go and comfort others with the same comfort and so it goes on. Everyone gets comforted, everyone’s needs are met, whether it is the need for comfort or finance or a whole host of other needs that we all have at any one point in time.

As we read through the opening chapters of Acts, we start to get a feel of this new community, the church. It is a community of love, unity, purity, healing, and power. It is a church that is putting into practice those very practical commandments of Jesus. Those commands that we have being looking at over the last few weeks. Putting into practice Jesus’ mission statement.

People look at the state of the world, even the declining numbers in many Churches, and say that Christianity is not working. We have had it for 2,000 years and look at the state of things. People might well have said that about Jesus’ work – look your leader crucified, the assistant leader denying Him 3 times, Judas betraying Him, Thomas full of doubt, and along with the rest, they all deserted Him. What was Jesus doing with them for those three and a half years? What a waste of time! But this is to completely misunderstand the ways of the Lord. There is a need for refining, for pruning, of being patient, of waiting on the Lord and His time; of doing what He tells us, of crucifixion, of resurrection, of ascension; of silence from heaven, of believing prayer … and a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit awaits. As Ecclesiastes urges us:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to plant and a time to uproot … a time to tear down and a time to build … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to be silent and a time to speak.

Eccl 3:1-7

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried”

(G. K. Chesterton).  

And our text today is difficult isn’t it? For it says “There was no needy person among them” (Acts 4:34). This is speaking about financial need. Here the Great Commission and the Great Commandment are working side by side, hand-in-hand. For we clearly see the powerful witness of apostles enabled by the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:8 being fulfilled before their very eyes! But we also discern their love for one another – they cared deeply for each other; their love for their neighbours, their communities; even their love for their enemies. We see God’s sovereign purposes being fulfilled. As a result “there was no needy person among them”.

Wealthy Christians were even selling some of their land to help those in need. Contrast the way of Joseph (Barnabas):

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 4:36-37

Compare this to Ananias and Sapphira:

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 5:1-2

There wasn’t a rule stating that wealthy Christians had to sell their possessions and give it all to the poor, for Peter makes this clear:

Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God’.

Acts 5:3-4

Their sin was not that they kept some of the proceeds for themselves. Rather, their sin was that they wanted everyone to think that they had given all the proceeds of the sale when they hadn’t, deception, hypocrisy. They could have simply said, “Look we have just sold a property but we are not giving you all the money from it but here’s 20% of the proceeds, we’re keeping 80% for ourselves”. In fact they didn’t need to say anything. What they shouldn’t do is make out they are so generous that they are giving all the proceeds, when secretly they are keeping whatever percentage back for themselves. Jesus was moving powerfully through the Holy Spirit and was not going to tolerate such things in His Church. Barnabas was led by the Holy Spirit and Ananias and Sapphira weren’t.

This brings out, how, when the Holy Spirit is mightily working, we need to walk very circumspectly, as we should do anyway, but especially when the Holy Spirit is powerfully moving, as in for example, times of Revival. In this respect we can think of the situation in the synagogue in Capernaum, the place which Jesus had proclaimed that “it would be more bearable for Sodom than for them on the day of Judgment” (see Matthew 11:23-24). This man has been attending there for years and no-one thought anything about it. But now Jesus walks in, anointed and filled with the Holy Spirit, and it stirs something up in this man that has lay dormant for some time:

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at His teaching, because He taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out,  ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’  ‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’ News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Mark 1:21-28

“It is a strange commentary on the spiritual situation in Capernaum that a demoniac could worship in their synagogue with no sense of incongruity, until confronted by Jesus …”

(R. A. Cole).

Thunderstorms are created when a denser cold front wedges under a less dense warm front. Spiritual thunderstorms happen when the Holy Spirit powerfully confronts the darkness in people. There is something so beautiful when the Holy Spirit moves powerfully and the whole spiritual atmosphere of a church, a community, a county, even a country begins to change overnight. And such has to be protected and guarded; things that have been allowed previously, now have to go, have to be sorted out. A great refining, purifying takes place and God’s people are living their lives in accordance with the Scriptures “and there was no needy person among them”.

“The material fellowship was merely the outward and visible sign of a spiritual fellowship, necessarily existing between regenerate men and women”

(G. Campbell Morgan).

The great success of the work of CAP (Christians Against Poverty) is rooted in the fact that they first of all deal with the financial debt of each person they help. This provides a platform to deal with the much greater need of dealing with their spiritual debt, many become believers in the One who gave His life as a ransom for their sin. We all have a need for security.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines security as: “The state of being free from danger or threat; The quality or state of being secure, such as – freedom from danger; – freedom from fear or anxiety; – freedom from the prospect of being laid off- job security.”

Such is of the utmost importance, especially in the days we are living. The relief experienced by people who are finally freed of debt can be immense. Ironically, when I qualified as an accountant, my salary increased so much that (in hindsight) I went crazy, even buying a brand new car (on finance). It got to the point that I couldn’t sleep at night as I tried, again and again, to work out how I was going to manage all this debt. I can still remember the huge relief I felt, when I was offered a way out through an unexpected source. It was a good lesson but a very scary lesson! We have focussed on financial needs today, but we can apply these things to all the needs we have as humans. Only when Jesus Christ returns will we have a world, no longer in need. So, until then, let us as Jesus’ church, seek to meet the needs of one another, and of all those needy people the Lord sends to us, in His Name, Amen.

Verse of the Week

“Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation”.

Luke 3:5-6

cf. Isaiah 40:3-5

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You that our times are in Your hands.

Help us to make the most of every opportunity to walk close with You and to help and bless others. Lord that we might know the needs of others and, with Your help and enabling, meet those needs.

Father, we thank You, that we can now go back to Bethel, although in a much more limited way at present. Help us to get ready to go back into Bethel to worship You. Help us to make it as safe as we possibly can from this Corona Virus. Guide each one of us individually as to when the right time is for us to go back.

We pray, Lord, that as we begin interviewing people for the role of Children and Families’ Worker that You will clearly guide us and give us wisdom as to who the right person is. If it isn’t one of the 3 people who have already applied, bring along that person, for Your glory and the building of Your Church, in Jesus Christ Name,

Amen.