2015-05-24 christ an.. - Amelia Plantation Chapel

2 Corinthians 8:1-7
Ted Schroder, Pentecost, May 24, 2015
Fifty days after Passover, on the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came in
power upon the apostles and the Christian church exploded. About three
thousand people were baptized on that day. What did these three thousand do
that changed their lives? St. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 8:5 that they first
gave themselves to the Lord and then they gave themselves to the apostolic
community: “They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”
What does this mean to us today? Let us look at these two acts of giving to see what they
can teach us about God’s will for our lives.
First they gave themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. They gave their heart and soul by
faith to follow Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. This was a serious step to take. They were
identifying themselves with one who was regarded as a trouble-maker, who had been executed by
the Romans, and yet could not be silenced but was proclaimed as the conqueror of death and the
Savior of the world. To give yourself to the Lord was a costly decision. It may have resulted in your
being cast out of your family or regarded as suspect in your community. It would be like becoming
a Christian in a Muslim culture today. You would be exposing yourself to danger. It took courage
and determination to give yourself to the Lord. It would be willing to pay a price for becoming a
This is a far cry from the easy believism of being a Christian in our culture. It does not
require much for us to profess faith in Christ in our neighborhoods. Nobody cares what we do with
our Sunday mornings as long as it does not infringe upon their freedom to do what they want to do.
Christian faith is met with indifference rather than hostility. We are more likely to be mocked or
patronized than persecuted. Nevertheless a recent Pew Research Poll shows that Americans whose
Christianity is nominal – in name only – are now saying that they have no religion. Members of
mainline Protestant denominations are declining precipitously. The cultural cost of calling yourself
“Christian” is starting to outweigh the cultural benefit, so many are dropping it. Those with low
levels of religious commitment are now more likely to identify as religiously unaffiliated.
These early Christian gave themselves willingly to the Lord. They understood what was
involved when they submitted themselves to being baptized. They believed what Peter proclaimed
about Jesus – that he was both Lord and Christ. They wanted to receive the forgiveness of their sins
and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were prepared to die to sin and to begin a new life in Christ.
They wanted to leave the old self-centered life behind and to become a new creation in Christ. They
knew that it was all or nothing. They were all in for Christ. They wanted to become a temple of the
Holy Spirit. They didn’t give part of themselves to the Lord and kept part for the world, the flesh
and the devil. They gave all that they knew of themselves to all that they knew of Christ. “They
gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”
There are too many people who are members of churches who have not first given
themselves to the Lord. Instead they have given themselves to a denomination, or to a tradition, or
to the maintenance of their family church buildings. They identify themselves with a place rather
than a person. They believe in Churchianity rather than Christianity. They belong to churches for
what they can do for them: to provide comfort, to give them a place to feel important, to influence
others, to give them respectability. The church to them is a club for their friends, and they resent
new people seeking membership. They prefer the few chosen frozen to the multitudes who they do
not know or care to know. Their allegiance is to the past rather than to the future. It is to that which
gives them status rather than to the needs of those who need Christ.
St. Paul reminds us that the church is built on Jesus Christ, and its mission is to reach others
for the kingdom of Christ, not to build a mausoleum to ourselves. The church began when 3,000
people, on that Pentecost, gave themselves first to the Lord. Have you done that? Is that your first
allegiance – to the Lord?
Second, they gave themselves to the apostolic community – the Church of Jesus Christ.
When a person comes to Christ in faith, she should seek out a fellowship of believers and give
herself to that Body of Christ. She should give herself, all of herself. Not just her presence, or her
offering, or her sympathy, or her admiration, but the whole force and weight of her influence,
personality and ability. In other words, to identify yourself with your local church, to be added to
their number, to become a member of that congregation, of that Christian family.
After baptism you are admitted to the family feast – the Lord’s Table – where you enjoy the
privilege of communion with Christ and with your brothers and sisters in Christ. You pray for one
another, you encourage and support one another. You do not hold yourself aloof from others but aid
and comfort one another. You are to “do good to all men, especially unto such as are of the
household of faith.” You do your share of church work by volunteering when needed and giving
generously to support the ministries. St. Paul writes that this is in keeping with God’s will for his
But there are some who will say, “Well I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend
to give myself to the church because ________.” Now, why not? “Because I can be a Christian
without it.” But what if it is God’s will for you to be added to the church? Suppose everybody
thought as you do, and did as you do? Suppose all who claim to be Christians said, “I shall not join
the Church.” There would then be no visible Church. There would be no Baptism or Holy
Communion. What is right for one is right for all – why should not all of us do it? Do you really
believe that Christians need not join the Church? If by your act you contributed to destroy the
visible church of God, would you be as good a Christian as if you did your best to build up the
Church? I do not think that you have such a belief. It is only an excuse for something else. If you a
rolling-stone Christian, and you go from church to church you are living contrary to the life which
Christ would have you live, and you injure the Church.
What is your reason for not joining and participating in the life of the Church? Is it because
you feel that it will be too much of a commitment? But are you not meant to be committed to the
body of Christ? Is it because you think that the Church is so imperfect and you have been
disappointed in other churches you have been part of? Are you then claiming to be perfect yourself?
Then you will have to wait until you go to Heaven before you join the Church, for you are not fit to
join in on earth. Is it because you see so much that is wrong with Christians? Does that mean that
there is nothing wrong in yourself? The Church is a hospital and school for sinners. We are here
because we know that we need to be forgiven and to grow in grace. Is it because you think that the
church is full of hypocrites? What about you? Is it hard for you to join in the prayer of confession
which we say every Sunday? Would hypocrites confess their sins publicly? Yes, the church has its
share of hypocrites.
There are church leaders and pastors who have feet of clay and who make mistakes and say
the wrong thing and hurt others. James warns that teachers will be judged more strictly. “We all
stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man” (James 3:2).
We are all sinners in need of a Savior. That is why we give ourselves first to the Lord and then to
the apostolic community of the Church. We believe in the forgiveness of sins, and the need to
belong to the Church. That is in keeping with God’s will. Join the army of Christ. Enlist in his
cause. “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, you soldiers of the Cross.” Fly His flag.
(With acknowledgements to C.H. Spurgeon, October 24, 1869, Sermon #341.
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