Recently someone asked me for a “boots-on-the-ground” practical explanation of what it looks like to have an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is a great question, not only for new believers, but also for those of us who have been inside the church longer or who have gotten off track for any length of time.
If someone asked you, how would YOU describe it? What would you tell someone who has wandered?
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I’ll admit it. I am the sheep that wandered off or the stubborn donkey who digs in and refuses to obey. At other times I get so caught up in the minutiae – just plugged into the details of “doing” church.
I wonder why my relationship with Jesus seems ordinary and apathetic instead of MIRACULOUS and PASSIONATE. I have to get back that spark I had at the beginning and get back to my first love – Jesus. But HOW?
As I shared this over lunch one day, my trusted girlfriend, S, reminded me, “We have to go back to rudiments” that are the foundation of our faith. She was right.
But what are they?
As I mulled over the patterns in Scripture, I found my answers in my Bible reading plan. Everything became super clear.
May I present what I believe are the basics of Acts 2:42-47…
THE BACK STORY: (First we need setting and context.)
When Jesus left for heaven, there were only about 120 believers. (Acts 1:15)
That’s it, Friends.
I thought it was way more, too.
The promised day of Pentecost came and lit that group on fire for Jesus. Literally. Power beyond what we can imagine enveloped that Upper Room as a Holy Spirit hurricane came down from heaven and flames rested upon each believer.
At this time, people from all over the world were in Jerusalem heading toward the Temple to worship when they heard the Gospel for the first time in their native tongues. Then, in the power of the Spirit, Peter preached boldly and people were cut to the heart. They asked what they must do in response to the message and Peter tells them, “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:37-38) Three thousand did just that in the mikvas (ceremonial baths) that day as they walked up the southern steps of the Temple to worship God in the name of Jesus for the very first time.
The people in Jerusalem that day may have been practicing religion all their lives but THIS was different. They finally understood Jesus was the fulfillment of it all.
Right after this, the very first NT believers began meeting together regularly. They were fresh out of the baptistry and still wet behind the ears.
THE HISTORY: (Now we need biblical context.)
When I read Acts 2:42-47, I see in Scripture four basic practices that early believers did on a regular basis. Because of the Holy Spirit inspiring them, this first group of believers formed the structure of the Church we know today.
Here’s what they did. With awe and glad and sincere hearts, with thanksgiving and praise, they devoted themselves to
- the apostles’ teaching (the New Testament comes from this)
- communion (breaking of bread together)
I thought I’d even go MORE foundational than this and so sometimes it helps me to get a child’s perspective. So I asked my ten-year-old daughter, B, and my teenaged “boi”, J, what the basics of being a Christian look like.
B was pretty adamant and talkative about a lot today. She even got a little sassy at one point, so get ready to be schooled by my Ethiopian! J came in for the serious stuff. Here’s what they shared.
Regarding Bible reading:
B: “If you are a Christian, you read your Bible so that you can learn more about Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit, and to learn all about the other people in the Bible (their trials) to find encouragement how God worked things out in their lives. You look at (the characteristics) of different people to see what THEY did so you can put that into practice in your life. The Bible is REAL, black and white here, People! You do what the Bible tells you to do.”
B: “Go to CHURCH! Surround yourself with other Christians in school, work, wherever. It’s nice to have Christian friends because it’s important to have encouragement (and accountability). Introduce people who don’t know Jesus to Him. Be the Evangelist!” (Go get’em, Girl!)
Regarding Communion: (big brother’s turn, here…)
J: Communion symbolizes what Jesus did for us. His body was put on the cross and His blood was spilled. The juice is Jesus’ blood; the bread is His body that was broken for us. And with His death and resurrection, He gave us His body and His blood so we all can be free. One of the places (in communion) I feel closest to God is identifying the sacrifice He made for my sin…all the things I have done to put Him on the cross, the recognition of my sin and repentance, then restoration and thankfulness. This is what communion means to me.”
Regarding Prayer: (the mic goes back to Little Miss Thang)
B: “We pray. Through good and bad times, to help us get through the bad and give thanks to God for the good.”
J’s analysis of the rudiments of an intimate personal relationship with Jesus is the best. Check out teen guru’s answer.
“Jesus is the Bridge for us to go to heaven.”
“Communion and Prayer, Fellowship and God’s Word are the bridges for us to be able to commune with God.”
Um, maybe these two need to be my guest authors next time. What do YOU think?
Special thanks to all the pastoral staff, volunteers, and Sunday school teachers that have poured into my kids over the years. With your tireless work and love for seeing kids know Jesus, there is hope for our next generation.