This week’s devotional guide prepares the reader for the April 23 sermon, Koinonia. Koinonia is a biblical word which means sharing or fellowship. In the New Testament it gets applied to the financial contributions that churches made, to the Lord’s Supper, and to fellowship in general. At the heart of Koinonia is co-participation. Since December we have been looking at the teachings of Jesus, and this sermon turns its focus to the early church and the nature of their life together.
Daily Bible Readings:
Monday, April 24. Read Luke 24:44-49. 1) What did Jesus say to Cleopas that would have been both clarifying and comforting? 2) What role did Jesus have for them to play in the plan he was fulfilling? 3) What are the implications of this for the modern day church?
Tuesday, April 25. Read Acts 1:12-14. 1) What do you know about the relationships of the 12 after Jesus’ resurrection? 2) What practices did the disciples practice which kept them together?
Wednesday, April 26. Read Acts 4:23-31. 1) Where did Peter and John go directly after being released from prison? 2) What was happening at the place where they went? 3) How do you think they were affected by their group activities?
Thursday, April 27. Read Hebrews 10:19-25. 1) What does the Hebrews writer say our obligation to one another should be? 2) Do you think the writer would say that the Christian life can be lived as a solo act or that it should be experienced in a community? 3) Why do you think that’s true?
Friday, April 28. Read 1 Corinthians 11;17-22. 1) What do you think the problem at Corinth was? 2) How did they show contempt for the church? 3) What can we learn from that today?
Saturday, April 29. Read Acts 2:41-42. This is Sunday’s sermon text.
Hymn of the Week:
I Love Thy Church O Lord
by Timothy Dwight, 1800
I love thy church O Lord,
the house of thine abode,
the church our blest Redeemer saved
with his own precious blood.
I love thy church, O God.
Her walls before thee stand,
dear as the apple of thine eye,
and graven on thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall;
for her my prayers ascend;
to her my cares and toils be given,
till toils and cares shall end.
Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways:
her sweet communion, solemn vows,
her hymns of love and praise.
Sure as thy truth shall last,
to Zion shall be given
the brightest glories earth can yield,
and brighter bliss of heaven.
Prayer of the Week:
Enable this church to do your will
Make it vulnerable that it may speak with calm humility;
Make it outward looking that it may care deeply
Make it a community of peacemakers and bridge builders
In the midst of turbulence let the church make space
for the hearing of your voice. Amen.
Devotional Article for the Week:
When a Church Stops Being a Church
by Tim Archer
In the New Testament, we read about a church that was very hard-working and careful to defend all the correct teachings. They were quick to expose those that tried to teach mistruths. They had maintained their faith during difficult times. They had done all of these things … yet Jesus told them that if they didn’t change, they could no longer be counted as one of his churches!
Jesus said this to the church in Ephesus: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). Just as married couples can lose the romance from their relationship, churches can lose their love. They begin to focus on ritual perfection and doctrinal hairsplitting, and they forget their reason for existence. They lose their first love. Instead of being an organism, Christ’s body, they become an organization. Rules, regulations, and rituals replace relationships. What gets lost along the way is the loving spirit Christians should have.
Jesus rejects empty rules and hollow rituals. That’s not how he envisioned the church, nor what he will allow his churches to be. The church must be a community of love, characterized by a fervent love of God and of fellow man. It is to be an accepting place, not accepting intentional error, but accepting imperfect people.
If you haven’t found the church to be this way, don’t give up! There are churches out there who remember their first love and continue to live it. There are Christians who work every day at becoming more like Jesus.
If you are a Christian but have forgotten what you are supposed to be about, it’s not too late. Jesus said to these Christians in Revelation 2: “Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5). We can go back to our first love, living out that love in our daily lives. We can replace empty ritual with a fulfilling life of love. We can return to being the body of Christ.
The church is an organism, not an organization. It is fueled by love, following the God that is love. We must never forget.