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2019 Fast – United in Worship

Luke 24:52-53 (KJV) 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

Acts 2:46-47 (KJV) 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Saying good bye is never easy with people you love. At the end of Luke, Jesus ascends into heaven right before their eyes. Strangely enough, the Bible says nothing about a single tear being shed but only that “they worshiped him … with great joy.” Prior to going back to the Father, Jesus told the disciples it was “expedient that I go away; if go not away the Comforter will not come unto you…” (John 16:7). From Jesus’ ascention, they were ten days away from Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so where did all this joy come from? At one of Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection, he told the believers gathered to “breath” and receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).

So to say that they early church received the Holy Spirit at the day of Pentecost would be incorrect, but it is when “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost …” (Acts 2:4). There is a difference. Jesus earlier had told them that drinking water from his well that never ran dry would “be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14).” He also told of another experience, one that would be an outflow, not just a well within. On the last day of the feast, Jesus announced to the masses, “If any man thirsts, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me as the scriptures hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-38).”

I believe at the John 20 appearance, Jesus confirmed the disciples’ salvation, for they confessed him as Lord, and believed without a doubt that God raised him from the dead. One thing for sure, the well was working, springing up inside them with the joy of salvation. Probably their heads were spinning at the departure of the risen Jesus, but their hearts were overflowed with the arrival of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The words of Jesus in John 16 were already proving to be true with this joy that he gave, the world could not take away from them (John 16:20-22). But note how Luke ends his Gospel, “And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.”

Luke really didn’t end with 24:53 because he continues his account in Acts. (In case you didn’t know, Luke also wrote Acts.) After the day of Pentecost had “fully come,” as the Church was born, Luke almost repeats himself: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple … Praising God and having favor with all the people … (Acts 2:46-47)” Why was it so important for Luke to make that point? First, as we have been saying in week one of our fast, worship is one of the five purposes of the Church. In other words it should remain one of our main focuses or top priorities.

Secondly, the point is so important to show that the Church did not miss a beat when Jesus left. Actually, as we referred to early, Jesus told them that it would be “expedient” or to their advantage that he goes back to the Father, so that he could send the Comforter to them. The very fact that they were not saddened by Jesus’ departure, again, was a sign of the fruit of the Spirit of joy working in their lives. It also shows how Jesus was already confirming another promise to be with the always:

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen (Mat. 28:20).”

Jesus always being with us is reassuring, but I believe this next promise is the key that unlocks the door for us having a life changing worship experiences each time we meet:

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20).”

As a shepherd, I have struggled much with keeping up with the sheep. Many times on Sunday morning, I would be preoccupied with wondering where they were and why they didn’t make it to the appointed meeting. One day, after tracing these very verses at the end of Luke and beginning of Acts, the Lord said to me, “Stop worrying about who is not here and focus on me being here every time you meet.” I knew then that although having all the saints together for worship was important, it should never be a higher priority than making sure that Jesus is present in each worship service.

The other point that Luke is making here is that the early church was united in worship. In Acts 2:26, this is the third time after just a few verses, he has used his unique phrase again, “with one accord.” This time it is in conjunction with their daily worship in the temple. The early church didn’t just show up, sit on the back row, and run out as soon as church was over; no, they worshiped daily in the temple with one accord. If I am understanding this passage correctly, I would say when church was out, they went from house to house breaking bread. That would be like saying, “Yesterday we all went to brother Ian’s house for lunch, today let’s all go to brother Bill’s house.” I am not sure exactly how it went down, but that word “fellowship” comes to mind again.

Let us pray today, Lord unite us in worship and help us to make having you presence the priority this year.

Remembering to Give God Thanks

And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up [their] voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw [them], he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on [his] face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where [are] the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. Luke 17:11-19 (KJV)

On this Thanksgiving, there are numerous scriptures to that teach us the importance of gratitude, but to me, this one tops the list. The reason being, is that this passage, like no other, shows us what God expects after he blesses us.

Here, as Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he passed through Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a certain village, there were ten lepers who stood afar off and cried, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Now, that’s a real good place to start, for the word of God assures us that “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rms 10:13). I am also reminded how Jesus promised, “him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Jesus simply said for the lepers to go their way and show themselves to the priest. As they did (what Jesus said), they were “cleansed.” Showing themselves to the priest was necessary step for a person to be deemed “clean” and to reenter society. As you recall, at the beginning of the passage, their position was described as “afar off.” Since they could now resume life as normal, we can certainly conclude that their condition of leprosy had been corrected, otherwise, Jesus wouldn’t have instructed them in this way.

One of the lepers, seeing that he was “healed,” “turned back” and glorified God with a loud voice. The Greek word used here for “healed,” iaomai, simply means cured or made well. All ten of the men were restored to this condition. Next the man, fell on his face at the feet of Jesus “giving him thanks.” This man was a Samaritan, and Jesus asked him, “Where there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” I can just imagine the Samaritan with his face to the ground thinking, “I don’t know; all I know is that I had to return and say ‘thanks.’”

I don’t think Jesus expected the man to answer the question, but it still needed to be asked. His next striking observation shows us what God is really expecting when he blesses us: “There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” In other words, this man is not a covenant person, one of whom I have been sent to bless and who should know and fear God, yet he had enough respect and gratitude to come bow down before me and give me thanks for what I did for him! Without a doubt, Jesus response showed that he expected as much from each one of the men. Since Jesus only did and said only what his Father told him to, we know that God expects us to take time to say ‘thanks’ as well.

Because of the man’s gratitude, the his condition is about to make yet another change. Jesus told the man to go his way, for his faith has made him “whole.” Here a different Greek word, sozo, is used to describe his new condition. Both words carry the idea of being made well, cured, or whole, but from the Bible dictionary we find that only the last word adds the aspect of being delivered “from the penalties of the Messianic judgment” or being saved from the evils that obstruct from receiving “Messianic deliverance.” In other words, not only was he made well from the condition of leprosy, he was now right with God, for he truly called on the name of the Lord Jesus and was “saved.”

What can we learn from this man that Jesus called a “stranger?” Regardless of his covenant position, Jesus healed him simply because he and the other nine asked him. All that Jesus require was that, in keeping with the Law, they go and show themselves to the priest. At this point in the account of the lepers, one might conclude that once you get your blessing, you can run off, resume a normal life, and forget about giving God thanks. I do want to caution here at this point you cannot say whether or not the other nine were able to keep their healing as they ran off to resume their normal lives -with an ungrateful heart. But we can say that the man’s condition who came back glorifying God and giving Jesus worship and thanks, was changed healed to being saved, for this man met Messiah that day and fell at his feet. It is clear from the difference in the two Greek words used to describe the men’s condition, that this man’s sins were forgiven and now he was truly healed, inside and out! What made the difference in this man’s life? He returned to worship God and say “thanks!”