Session 9: “One Heart & Soul”
What did the early Christian Church look like?
1. “One heart and soul: (mind or spirit).” Ref: Psalm 133.
This is the secret. The Church that can maintain unity among its members will be an unstoppable force in the world. The power of unity is rarely seen, because the nature of man means that it is rarely accomplished. Division within a Church, or competition between the believers almost guarantees that the Church will not grow, and will not be filled with the awesome power of God.
James 3:16 “Envy and self-seeking” open a spiritual door for “confusion and every evil thing”. When people are envious and selfish it is very difficult to maintain a clear focus on the vision that God has given us, and that leads to “confusion.”
2. Unselfish sharing: to alleviate suffering and need. This was very unusual (and still is!) and it was very attractive to the people around them: “thousands were added”.
3. “Great power” Powerless Christianity is just another form of dead religion. 2 Timothy 3:5
1Corinthians 2:1-5 Apostle Paul was uniquely qualified and prepared by the Lord to carry the Gospel to so many nations, but he understood that the ministry of the word of God is not just in “excellence of speech or of wisdom… persuasive words of human wisdom” but is to be accompanied by “demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” When we minister in the love and grace of God, sharing with those around us and maintaining true unity, the Lord will pour out His power upon us!
Ezekiel 37:9-10 Power of the spoken Word of God. “And stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”
4. “Great grace”. No matter who they are, or what they have done,
they must come face to face with the unconditional love of God through us.
John 1:14-17, Romans 5:20
People are heartily sick of powerless, condemning religion. They need a revelation of Jesus, in how He ministered with unconditional love and grace to the most disadvantaged and marginalized people.
Many people in Churches have been brought out of brokenness and hopelessness, and loved into wholeness. It is a delicate process, that requires patience, grace, and unconditional love.
Ch 5:14 And the result of the Church functioning like this? “Believers were increasingly added...multitudes.”
We don’t want just full buildings; we want full people!
Full of the love of God. Full of the grace of Jesus Christ. Full of the power of the Holy Spirit. Full of the vision of God for the future of our Churches, our communities and this nation. Satan has no answer to a Church like that!
Victorious Christian Living 4: Faith.
Faith: It’s the starting point for everything. All of the promises of God for us are accessed by faith. Faith is the currency of Heaven.
John 3:16 The point is “whoever believes in Him”. The life and teaching of Jesus was all so that you and I would “believe.” It all begins here.
Jesus came and taught and modelled faith. His mission was to live without sin; to die to take away all of our sin, to rise from the dead and ascend into Heaven, leaving behind a group of people who “believe.”
John 5:24 Jesus said that whoever “believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life” and that they “shall not come into judgment.” NLT: “They will never be condemned for their sins.” Why? Because for all who “believe”, Christ has shed His blood and died. He was “condemned” and took away all of our sin.
Jesus went on to say that those who believe in Him have already “passed from death to life.” Naturally, we think that we will live and then die. But without Christ, even though we may be breathing and functioning, we are already dead! (Ephesians 2:5) So our faith in Christ reverses this process: instead of going from life to death we go “from death to life”! Forever!
When we “believe” our faith opens the door to all of the power and the blessings of God:
Matthew 9:27-29 Faith brings healing.
Matthew 21:22 Faith brings answered prayer.
Ephesians 2:8-9 We are saved by faith.
Acts 4:4, 32 Faith was how the early Church grew.
Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
For His chosen 12; just ordinary, grass roots people, the stronger their relationship with Him became, the more their faith grew. We can see the gradual transformation right up to the Last Supper. They all gathered at the Passover meal as Jesus put all other covenants aside and gave us the one covenant that guarantees our salvation and our victory over the world, the flesh and the devil.
As He broke the bread and drank the cup with them all, at the end of a life completely without sin, Jesus was undoing all of the sin and the failure of mankind since Adam & Eve. Now it all comes down to this: faith in Christ.
But now the faith of His disciples was going to face its biggest test: the Garden of Gethsemane. Man’s relationship with God and our representation of Him in the earth and with all creation was lost in a garden: the Garden of Eden, through rebellion and disobedience. Now all of that and much more would be won for us in another garden; Gethsemane, through the submission and obedience of “the Son of Man.”
At the Last Supper He took the cup: “This is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28) and they “all” drank it. In the Garden of Gethsemane He drank another cup, but this one He drank alone, “in agony” to open the way for us all to have our sins and our past wiped away; to receive salvation. It was the cup of the sin and failure of all people.
The disciples all grew in their faith as they spent time with Jesus. Nobody had ever done the things that He did. No religious leader, or any kind of leader, consistently demonstrated such mercy and grace to every kind of person. They were captivated by it and loved being with Him: until Gethsemane.
They went from the warmth and the fellowship of the Last Supper to the horror of Gethsemane. There, everything changed. Suddenly it was all about soldiers and torches and weapons. They came for Jesus. Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest, but Jesus healed Him.
John 18:4-9 Jesus showed them all that He had absolute mastery of the situation and His concern, as always, was for His disciples. They had just cut a “new covenant” together. He said to the mob, “If you seek Me, let these go their way.” He released His disciples. He knew what would happen; that He would be tortured and crucified, but on the third day He would rise again. He would gather them again and show them just how He had won the victory for them, as well as for us all. Then He told them to stay together, to wait and to pray until He poured out the Holy Spirit. Then they would spread out all over the world, bringing the Good News of this covenant and of this Saviour to all people. Forgiveness of sin, salvation and a life of faith. Victorious Christian living. It wasn’t without trials and tests, but as they continued faithfully, praying and trusting, “believing”, their faith changed the world forever. As Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” (Mark 5:36)
Victorious Christian Living 3: “Rest”.
“Rest”. In order for you and me to be victorious and fruitful in our Christian lives we must learn how to “rest” in the Lord. It seems like the world is going crazy around us, and there is so much pressure coming at us, producing anxiety, depression, mental illness and even suicide. And remember: we have an enemy, Satan, who never rests. He is determined to “steal” your peace and your joy, “kill” your faith in God and “destroy” your relationship with God and with others. (John 10:10) But Jesus has come to give us “life… more abundantly.” The victory is in Him.
Psalm 55:5-8 Many of us feel like David here. “Fearfulness and trembling” assault us and we long for “wings like a dove” so we can “fly away and be at rest.” When trouble comes and we feel like running away, run into the arms of Jesus! If you have moved away from Him because of your troubles, pain or weariness, run back to Him.
Isaiah 30:15 “In returning you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to Me all you who labour and are heavy laden… you will find rest for your souls.” Our “souls” are our mind, will and emotions: the parts of us that come under the most pressure when strife comes.
When Jesus walked the earth the people of Israel were suffering under their Roman conquerors, sin and brokenness were everywhere, yet no matter what Jesus encountered, nothing could steal His attitude of rest and His unshakable relationship and absolute trust in His Father.
Luke 10:38-42 These two sisters represent so many of us today. Martha was “distracted with much serving” and complained that Mary was not helping her. Jesus told her, “You are worried and troubled about many things”, so it wasn’t just that Mary was resting at the feet of Jesus; there was a lot more going on in Martha’s life and her anxiety was reflected in her attitude to her sister.
Sometimes when we are “worried and troubled” we can try to mask it by frantic activity rather than by stopping for a moment, refocusing ourselves on Jesus and allowing His peace to flow into us. Jesus told Martha, “One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part.” What was the “one thing”? Resting in Him. True resting is not so much a position of the body but an attitude of the heart.
Many Christians and Missionaries through the centuries have been persecuted, tortured and jailed. They may not have been able to change their physical position, but they could maintain their “rest in the Lord.”
It was late at night in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Jesus had been praying, so fervently that “being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Verse 44)
The “great multitude, with swords and clubs” of soldiers, priests and others came into the Garden. Judas betrayed Jesus “with a kiss” and, trying to help Jesus, Peter drew his sword and “struck the servant of the High Priest and cut off his ear.” It was violent and bloody and it would have been a shock to everybody there, but Jesus took control of the situation and “touched his ear and healed him.”
Peter was “the action man”, but he was wrong.
• He had been sleeping when he should have been praying. If Peter had been praying with Jesus he would have caught the Spirit and the plan of the Lord.
• He was talking when he should have been listening. If he had been listening he would have heard Jesus say: “For this purpose I have come into the world.”
• And, Peter was fighting when he should have been surrendering; to the will of God, as Jesus had told him so many times.
Peter was using the wrong weapon!
All of us must decide: How will we live our lives?
• Like Judas, pretending and lying? Is our Christianity a show? Has the Lord really changed my heart, or am I just pretending: a “skin Christian”?
• Like Peter, fighting and struggling in the flesh? Are we following the Lord, but still let ourselves down by reacting in the flesh; saying and doing things that we regret later?
• Or, like Jesus, yielding to God’s perfect plan and purpose for our lives? Which is the only way to receive true joy and peace; “Rest”.
“Faith + Endurance = Victory”
Living in this sin-damaged world, serving Jesus Christ with all of our hearts, and overcoming the kingdom of darkness, we all go through tough times.
Hebrews 6:10-12 There are some great words here: “diligence”, “assurance”, not sluggish”, “faith”, “patience (endurance)”. Faith & endurance.
We need both, if we are going to receive God’s promises for our lives. Some people will tell you that you only need faith to claim God’s promises, but faith is only the starting point. You must add endurance.
Hebrews 10:35-36 “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”
When you have faith, and you “have done the will of God”, but you still haven’t received the promise that you have been waiting for, what do you need to add? ENDURANCE! We need faith plus endurance.
Hebrews 12:1 “Run with endurance the race that is set before us.” So you may ask: “How do I do it?”
Let’s look at the life of a young man in the Bible. His name was John Mark, known simply as Mark.
Acts 12:12 We first meet this young man when Peter was released from prison by the angel, and he came to the house of Mark’s mother, Mary, who was also a believer. Scholars believe that Peter had led Mark to salvation in Christ, and referred to him as “my son”.
Verse 25: Mark grew and matured as a disciple and leader and began to travel and minister with Paul & Barnabas, who was his cousin.
Acts 13:5 Now Mark is ministering as assistant to Paul & Barnabas, but trouble was just over the horizon. Things got tough. They were heading into hostile and dangerous places, where they would encounter persecution, beatings and imprisonment.
Verse 13: Mark turned back. He left Paul & Barnabas. Paul was disgusted. Barnabas was disappointed. Paul vowed never to use him again. Barnabas wondered how he could restore him to ministry. Mark went home. Paul & Barnabas pressed on with their Mission, preaching, healing the sick, and leading many to Christ.
Acts 15:36-41 Paul was a visionary. He didn’t want to take a chance on a man who had let him down before. Barnabas was the encourager; the man who was always looking for ways to build up and restore others.
Mark is standing there, and Paul is saying firmly: “I don’t want him to come with us.” Barnabas is saying: “Come on, Paul. Give him another chance.” And on it went, until Paul wouldn’t budge, and he took Silas and headed off to Syria, and Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus.
What will happen in Mark’s heart now? Will he resent Paul, complain about him, and avoid him? Many of us would. Or will he add endurance to his faith, and go on to claim & receive greater and greater promises from God? Would he get bitter, or would he get better? Praise God, and maybe with a lot of encouragement from Barnabas, Mark hung on, and continued to serve faithfully in the Gospel, until the break-through came.
As time went by, Mark became very important to Paul’s life and ministry, and Paul came to love him and need him. As Mark showed endurance, with a good heart, he was invited by Paul to travel with him once again.
Colossians 4:10-11 And, 12 years after the original disagreement with Barnabas, Mark was put in prison together with Paul, united in their faith and endurance now! Then, several years later, when Paul was in prison again, alone with only Luke, and knowing that he was going to be killed in a short time, Paul sent a message to his faithful disciple and spiritual son, Timothy.
2 Timothy 1:4-7 Great men were just ordinary men who refused to give up! Timothy 19yo, Pastor at Ephesus: centre of idol worship.
2 Timothy 4:9-11 He cries out to Timothy: “Come to me quickly...get Mark and bring him with you.” When a man knows that he is about to die, he doesn’t waste time with people he doesn’t respect or care about. In his last days, the people who Paul wanted to be with him were Timothy and Mark.
Faith + Endurance = Victory.
For you and me, we all want the promises of God to be fulfilled in our lives.
Maybe it’s for healing, or for help in some other way.
Maybe it’s for financial provision.
Maybe it’s for a good marriage and beautiful children.
Maybe you are believing for a fruitful ministry in God’s Kingdom.
Whatever it is, here is the secret to receiving it:
James 1:4 “Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Philippians 3:12 Apostle Paul was a wonderful example of Faith + Endurance = Victory. He recognizes that he is not there yet, but he determines to “press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me.” He was determined to complete the tasks that the Lord had given him, understanding that Jesus had “laid hold” of him.
Verse 13: “One thing I do”, letting go of the past and reaching forward to the future with Jesus.
Verse 14: And his final reward, at the end of it all? “The upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The same reward waits for us all, as we persevere in our walk with Jesus, releasing the past and pressing on to complete the vision He has for our lives.
Acts 20:22-24, 21:10-15 Apostle Paul suffered many things as he blazed the trail for the Gospel throughout Asia Minor. The Lord said it would happen (Acts 9:15-16) and prophets confirmed it. But Paul was “ready” to suffer for the sake of the Gospel, and even to die if necessary.
We all remember watching football games when it looked like one of the teams was beaten, and that they would never be able to claw their way back and win. But as we watched amazed, little by little, the losing team dug deep, and “toughed it out”, drawing on inner reserves of commitment and determination, and won in the end. That’s mental toughness. All the teams spend a great amount of time on their physical fitness, hardening their bodies for the game, but that alone will not win the game for them. What matters when their bodies are battered, sore and tired, is mental toughness.
All of the great leaders and characters in the Bible had it. (Name some) Elijah, Elisha (at Dothan), Ruth (following Naomi), Esther…
We send a signal into the spirit realm: “I will never give up!”
Daniel 3:15-19, 24-25 Faced with persecution and death, the three young Hebrew men refused to worship the idol. They stated that God would deliver them from the fiery furnace, but even if He didn’t save them, they would still not bow down to the golden statue.
Job 19:25-27 Job had the same kind of absolute faith in God.
Ch 13:15 “Thou He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
As we work together to make God’s dreams become a reality, we may encounter opposition or stress, and we may stumble or fall as we go along. People may gossip about us, misunderstand us or offend us. People become offended and leave us.
Will we have the mental toughness to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep going?
Only those who can overcome adversity will finish well, because we all have times of trouble and we may even stumble and fall. It is not the end. Never give up! Don’t make excuses, and don’t wait for everything to be perfect before you begin. Circumstances will never be perfect! Don’t put it off until tomorrow, because if you do, then tomorrow you will put it off until the next day...and the next...and the next...
Character gives staying power:
During the tough times that we all face, character has the ability to carry you through, which is something that charisma can never do. When you are weary and inclined to quit, the self-discipline of character keeps you going. When you become discouraged, or are misunderstood or opposed, your strength of character will enable you to respond appropriately, and to weather the storm without giving in to pressures to compromise on your integrity.
Character flows down to the next generation:
Philippians 2:19-22 Through effective discipleship and by their close father-son relationship, Timothy had grown into a faithful worker in whom Paul put great trust.
1 Corinthians 4:16-17 Paul was confident in sending Timothy to represent him, knowing that he will “remind you of my ways in Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul showed them what Jesus is like. So Timothy revealed Paul’s “ways” just as Paul said “I also imitate Christ.” From Christ to Paul to Timothy… to us?
Faulty character will rob you of your God-given destiny:
Proverbs 25: 4-5 “Remove impurities from the silver and the silversmith can craft a fine chalice. Remove the wicked from leadership and authority will be credible and God-honouring.”
Samson started very well. He was a special child and the Angel told his parents that he had a divine destiny and purpose.
“The child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” Judges 13:5
Why didn’t Samson fulfill that great destiny that God had planned for him? His lack of integrity and his faulty character made him untrustworthy and that was what destroyed his leadership.
Remember: Trust is the foundation of leadership.
Samson was led by his emotions: he was angry, lustful, moody and unpredictable. He broke his vows to God and he repeatedly took unnecessary chances with disaster, until it finally cost him his life, and his leadership of the nation.
God gives all of us a good start: it is up to us to finish well. We must determine that our integrity and our character builds over time and as a result. others will trust us, and then God can use our leadership to extend His Kingdom.
The Future belongs to the Teachable:
2 Kings 5:2-4, 9-14 Naaman had earned the love and respect of his king. Yet for all his strength and might, Naaman suffered from the dreaded disease of leprosy. When his king learned of a Hebrew prophet named Elisha who might be able to help, he sent Naaman off with great expectations.
But rather than an impressive meeting with the prophet, Naaman received instructions by a messenger to wash seven times in the Jordan River. This enraged Naaman and he angrily refused to follow the prescription.
He struggled with pride, faulty expectations, and inflexibility-much like many leaders today.
Yet as a strong leader, Naaman had surrounded himself with individuals who could speak up and disagree with him, and his inner circle provided good counsel. Naaman changed his mind, followed the prophet's directives, and was healed.
Disciples & Leaders who remain teachable receive ongoing blessings.
Session 6. “A Holy Dissatisfaction”.
There is something that happens in the heart of a leader and a disciple of Christ, usually before God puts a vision there. Christians who powerfully impact their generation have a “Holy Dissatisfaction” with the status quo: they see injustice, poverty, suffering, and there is a fire in their hearts to do something about it. Jesus had it; Apostle Paul had it.
Nehemiah 1:4-6a, 2:1-8, 4:6 Nehemiah had it. He was just a Hebrew “cup bearer” for the King of Babylon, but when he heard that the walls and gates of Jerusalem were burnt and broken down, passion filled his heart, and he wept, and, at great personal risk, moved to correct the situation. He didn’t waste any time: he put a team together and traveled to Jerusalem, cutting down trees in the King of Babylon’s forests on the way, and rebuilt the walls in record time! There was all kinds of opposition, but he got the job done.
Esther 4:15-16, 5:1-3 Esther had it. At the risk of her own life, after fasting and praying for three days, went in to see King Ahasuerus, and found favour in his sight, and all of the Israelites in the kingdom were saved.
Esther 4:14 “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” We must discern the times in which we live, and the place and people where God has placed us, and hear His voice: maybe YOU have come to where God has brought you “for such a time as this?”
1 Samuel 17:45-47 David had it. When he went to see his brothers in the battle against the Philistines, he heard Goliath defying his God, and a holy anger rose up in him: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” His brothers and the Hebrew soldiers mocked him, but he “ran” down into the valley and took Goliath out. He went on to become the greatest King Israel has ever had.
All of them fueled the fire in their hearts, and all received a vision from God to act, and they did, and they changed whole nations. God sees this fire in our hearts and He calls us to act. One of the greatest sicknesses in the Body of Christ today is laziness, and an uncaring attitude towards the poor and the broken people.
Look at what was in the heart of Moses, long before God called him:
Exodus 2:11-12 Moses saw the injustice, and took action. It was probably the wrong action, and it cost him everything, but he revealed his heart to release his people from bondage.
Exodus 2:15-17 After being sentenced to death by Pharaoh, and fleeing for his life across the desert, Moses slumps exhausted “by a well.” When Jethro’s daughters came to draw water, some shepherds “drove them away”.
Now Moses, sore and tired from his long trek through the wilderness, does not know the daughters, and he does not know the shepherds: he has just arrived! But that fire in his heart against injustice and suffering is still burning brightly, and he “stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.” Wouldn’t it be good if we had some more detail of how he “helped them” against the gang of shepherds!
That “holy dissatisfaction” in his heart continued to open doors for him, as he moved into the purposes of God; even without realizing it. Ultimately, it became a vision from God to release the nation of His people.
After forty years of obscurity in the deserts of Midian, God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. The fire was still in his heart, and together with the Lord, he brought whole nations into the purposes of God.
Freedom from Bondage
As we approach the season when we will begin to bear fruit for God’s Kingdom in increasing ways, many people need to make the commitment to “break the cycle” which has held them and their families in bondage, shame and fruitlessness for generations.
There are many negative cycles and cultural bondages that we must overcome in order for us to achieve our maximum potential. There are “Learned Responses” which have been a destructive part of our cultures for generations, and we must watch for them, and refuse to yield to them:
These include addictions of all types, domestic violence, “outbursts of wrath”, racism in any form, habitual immorality and pornography, and patterns of deception, which vary from place to place. These are just some of the inherited and environmental bondages that need to be broken as we move forward with the Lord.
As we yield to Him and submit to His leading and to His word, He will set us free.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
But His grace is available to us! And we can be totally free to serve the Lord: 2 Corinthians 5:17