This article was first published on our church website
“… and they continued steadfastly (devoted themselves) …” (NKJV)
If you were to evaluate my taste in films (something that my friends have done with much amusement!), you would find a strong emphasis on the underdog overcoming all the odds. Despite it’s goriness, I love the film Braveheart. There is something quite compelling about a man like William Wallace who devoted himself whole heartily for the cause of a free Scotland. William Wallace was a living, breathing dictionary definition of “devotion”. Another film which I love is the Great Escape. The part of the film which always captivates me is the team’s relentless pursuit of their goal: escape. They were steadfast in their commitment to this goal, despite setbacks and despite the painstakingly slow progress. Those POWs were living, breathing dictionary definitions of “devotion”.
Here in Acts 2 we see this same idea being applied to a new community – the church! As God’s word was preached, under the power of the Holy Spirit their hearts were cut in two and God wonderfully and sovereignly saved them! However their new found belief wasn’t some, one off emotional or Nirvana type of experience. No, this was a radical reordering of their whole lives. The saying “what you believe affects what you do” well describes what happened here to these new believers. Their lives were transformed by their encounter with God. Their priorities were suddenly changed. Think about it. They had come to Jerusalem for the great feast. They had taken this time out of their lives for this important religious observance, but they were not just a bunch of people with nothing to do. They were ordinary people with families to support, work to pursue, personal matters to attend to. Like many people in church services today, many were no doubt thinking about all the other things they needed to get on with after the great feast was over. But all that changed for them! Before, they may have been focused on their jobs, their relationships, or a host of other things. Following the work of God in saving them on the day of Pentecost their focus was on Jesus Christ and His church. Their behaviour changed to reflect their new found priorities. They made time for the things which were important to them.
Nothing has changed in the last 2000 years. Generally speaking, the maxim is true which says “show me your diary and I’ll show you what is important to you”. When your priorities change, your behaviour (and diary) changes to reflect those new priorities.
This was certainly true of these early Christians. Acts 2:42 says that they “devoted themselves” (NIV); “continually devoted themselves” (NASB); or “continued steadfastly” (NKJV). In the original Greek, the word translated “devoted themselves” means “to attend constantly, continue steadfastly, wait on, or to strongly carry on”. Hopefully, you have caught the intensity of the original meaning! We are talking about William Wilberforce type of devotion who relentlessly and for decades pursued the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. We are talking about the Alexandre Gustave Eiffel type of devotion who was single-minded in his commitment to seeing the dream which he saw in his imagination of an iconic structure come to reality in the face of relentless opposition from the Parisians of his day.
The devotion of the early Christians was not merely an emotional attachment. It was a devotion that was authenticated by their strength of commitment and their steadfastness and it made the rest of the world sit up in amazement.
Father, this world is filled with things that entangle me! Many of them are even good things. However, like these early Christians, I want to live a life that is devoted to you and your mission through your people (the local church). Would you reorder my world! Take my diary and edit it until your priorities are mine! Amen