42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
The fourth core value is prayer. Prayer is important. Why? Because a church is not a company. At a company, you can have a strong, charismatic leader, a CEO, who has studied the market and articulates the right mission statement to take the company to the next level of growth. And as long as he assembles the right leadership team who can execute on the mission statement, success is within reach.
The church is not a company. What would happen if we lost sight of the gospel and we stopped praying as a church? We could work really hard and see great results. Or we could work really hard and nothing happens. Depending on the results of our efforts, we would either become proud if things went well or we would despair if nothing happened. Both are examples where we again are putting ourselves at the center. Remembering the gospel grounds us in the truth that we can do nothing with Jesus. Prayer reminds us that church is a spiritual enterprise and reflects our utter dependence on Jesus Christ as the head.
What are we to pray? We can pray many things, but I want to talk about one thing that I want to encourage us all to pray through. Pray through the gospel.
You may ask why? I understand the gospel. I can articulate the gospel. I can teach others about the gospel. Why do I need to pray through it?
We need to pray through the gospel because you and I don’t know, I mean deeply know, the gospel as well as we think. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is a power that brings a dead person to life. But it is more than that. The gospel is a power so strong that it changes the way we think, it changes our speech, it changes our desires and appetites, it releases us from addictions and destructive patterns, it changes the way we respond when others mistreat us, the gospel changes everything about us.
Listen to what Paul says about the gospel.
1 Cor 2:2 – For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
The gospel is knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified. Nothing else. Paul’s singlemindedness, focusing on this one thing, was the secret of his power.
Phil 3:7-11 – 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Knowing Christ, knowing that righteousness comes not through our efforts but what Christ did on our behalf, knowing the power of his resurrection by fellowshipping with Christ through suffering, knowing this one thing and what does Paul call everything else? Rubbish, trash, it was a loss compared to knowing Christ.
There are many more verses. It’s not enough that churches mouth the correct gospel content. Jesus died for my sins, he resurrected and now I walk in that same power. Look at the Galatians church or the Corinthian church. I am sure they mouthed the gospel. I don’t we can assume their doctrine became heretical in terms of how the gospel was preached. If you were to ask the Galatian leaders or the Corinthian leaders, why have you departed from the gospel, they’d probably look at you funny. What do you mean we departed from the gospel? I preached it last week.
Gospel content, the right words can come out from our mouths, but that doesn’t mean we are centered on the gospel in all we do as Paul was. There’s the issue of practice. The fruit. How we live. Other things that we emphasize more than the gospel or even putting them on equal footing with the gospel. Study these books and you will see that these churches departed from the gospel primarily in practice.
Without the gospel, you have 2 extremes: the way of the permissive person or the legalist. The permissive person says, God forgives sin. Well, I love to commit sin. This is a great arrangement. The legalist says, God forgives sin, but I am not sure I believe it so I have to work really hard to clean up my act.
When you pray through the gospel, it creates a unique individual. A person with gospel self-esteem.
The gospel says, you are more sinful and weak and evil than you ever dare believe, but you are also more loved and accepted than you ever dare hope. At the same time.
When you have gospel self-esteem and you fall into sin, it makes you more prone and more able to repent because it’s not the end of the world. Your conscience is framed with grace so that you can take a clear look at yourself and admit, I am a sinner, but I am also loved.
The gospel creates a unique kind of person. This is the context and basis of everything we say and do in the Christian life. The gospel makes you on the one hand a humble person but it means you are by no means in despair or discouraged. Because in spite of your sin, God loves you.
We all want to be Spirit-filled, don’t we? Have you ever thought about what that means? Being Spirit-filled – it’s when the work of Christ becomes very REAL for you.
How can you receive criticism without being crushed? I’ll tell you how. You pray through the gospel.
Jesus is my priest, he is my brother, he loves me, this is not the end of the world. You receive criticism but you are not crushed. You have a buffer.
How can I give criticism without crushing?
You pray through the gospel.
I am a sinner, I should be cast off, Jesus, gentle, gentle Savior, he has been patient with me, he has coaxed me along. How can I be harsher with this person than Jesus has been with me?
You might be thinking, sure, sure, you are telling me that I can think this way when someone my spouse or my boss is yelling at me? Intellectually, at that moment, you can say to yourself, I need to preach the gospel. But you and I know, you can’t just turn it right away like a light switch.
You know how we may love certain authors or speakers. Like for me, it’s Tim Keller. He is one preacher whose books and whose sermons I have listened to over and over again. What you’ll find is that over time, when you have an author like that whom you admire, you don’t just master his works, you get a feel for how his mind works. You’ve never read his opinion on a particular subject, but you know what he would say. You’ve gone beyond the words of the book or the sermon, but you have penetrated to the way his mind works. Because he’s in there. Sunk down so deep. His ideas are so deep that they come out instinctively.
What if by the power of the Holy Spirit, the words of Jesus penetrated so deeply that you have the mind of Christ. Isn’t that promised to us in 1 Cor 2:16?
1 Corinthians 2:16
“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
We have the mind of Christ, meaning, the way Jesus THINKS about you becomes instinctive, reflexive. Not consciously thinking the gospel but you are thinking about it through repetition–praying through the gospel in your prayers over many years. It gives you a stability, a poise, a peace, I don’t have to be afraid of anything anymore emotionally. Thinking through his mind, seeing life through his eyes. This is having the mind of Christ and you gain the mind of Christ by meditating on the gospel over and over again. It starts with intentionally praying through the gospel instead of assuming we know it.