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Change that Counts


Acts 2:42


Jim Davis


The world has certainly changed over the past 100 years, but we seem to remain the same. The world has surely changed, but things aren’t much different than when Christ walked the earth. This is true because human nature hasn’t changed. We are discovering it is easier to change the dynamics of our world than it is to actually bring about real change.


Seeking to Change the dynamics is not always recommended. Have you ever tried to change the dynamics of a person? Have you tried turning a negative person into a positive person or changing a person who is habitually late to one whom is always on time? Have you ever tried to change the dynamic of a person who comes in late and leaves early? If you have, you know, your energies can be better directed. The same is true with churches.


One preacher thought changing the dynamics of a congregation was what he needed to do to build the church. They changed the format of worship, bought new song books that had new praise type songs, changed the length of the service from an hour to two hours plus. Sermons are much longer. Although things have changed, there really hasn't been a big burst of growth. Why? They have lost as many as they have gained through forcing the change.


There is no substitute for any church, or any person, for beginning where you are. Many want to roll time back to twenty years ago, others would like to be twenty years in the future, but we are right here and nothing will happen until till we quit dreaming an begin right where we are. Too begin where you are requires a willingness to grow as a person. Personal growth is the only valid way to change a church's dynamic. This begins by first recognizing our need to grow as an individual member. If you want to grow all you have to do is say one simple thing: "God I need help!" Help is the hardest word on earth to utter. Help! What a powerful word.


It begins on an individual basis. It doesn't have to happen congregationally. Think about where you would like or need to be. Don't ever buy into group thinking. If you plan on doing it when the group moves in the direction you want to go, it will probably never happen.


What a sound piece of advice! There is no substitute to devoting your life to know and do God's will. It begins where you are. This is where real growth begins. That is where real church growth begins. Don't ever let a group's weakness blind you to your own need. Don't ever let another's weakness blind you to your possibilities.


No Substitute for Devotion


It is our level of devotion, which makes what we do exciting. A few years ago I took up golfing. I golfed for a couple of years. I never really devoted myself to the game. First, I was given a set of clubs and a ragged bag. I wanted to see if I liked the game before I made an investment in equipment. A little later I bought a set of used clubs for $75.00. I never really got into the game. Do you know when the excitement left the game for me? When I lost interest. Looking back, I realize I never really had much interest in the game in the first place. I rarely bought any new balls. I resented losing a $1.50 or even more every time I came to a water hole. So I played with used balls. I always played with my worst balls at the water holes. Looking back, maybe that's why it took 3 balls to get over some of those water holes. I still have the clubs. I let my relatives use them when they come to visit, but I never go golfing with them. Maybe I lost interest because I really never devoted myself to the game. A used bag and used balls is a pretty good sign of a lack of devotion. I never really put much into the game.


This may be why many fail to find what they are looking for at church. Lack of devotion and lack of interest. The people who want the most out of the church are often the least devoted. They have lost interest. The church is what you make it. It will never become what you want others to make it for you. If the 3,000 on Pentecost waited for the entire group to embrace Jesus Christ before they made a move, there would be no church today. You may think you don't owe anything to this church, but you do owe something to yourself, but mostly you owe it to God.


Devoted to the Word (Acts 2:42)


The first century church devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. Our level of devotion also excites others about the Word of God. They devoted themselves to the Word of God given through the apostles. However, nothing excites our friends more about the Word of God than our devotion to it.


First century Christians were devoted to the apostles teaching. The power received through God's Word made possible the growth of the church. After all my years of preaching, I am just now, only beginning to deliver the message as effectively as I have always wanted to. However, my ability to deliver the Word in the scheme of church growth is nothing compared to the members' devotion to it. If you are excited about the Word, you will excite others about the Word.


First century Christians were excited about the Word of God. "They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching." There is no way you can devote your life to the Word without getting excited. Devotion and excitement go hand in hand. A few years ago, when we first moved to the Gulf Coast, Mary and I went walking along the beach. There were a few mornings when thousands upon thousands of birds were having a feeding frenzy. A certain kind of fish had come into the beaches and the birds were going crazy as they dove to catch the fish. The pictures of the feeding frenzy were published in the St. Petersburg Times. It was a rare event. The birds were hungry and excited. I could only stand in awe as I watched God feed literally thousands of birds.


That was the kind of thing happening on Pentecost as Jews from all over the world flocked to Jerusalem to be fed by God. They had come from every nation under heaven to feast upon the Word of God. The distances they traveled tell us all we need to know about their level of devotion. Especially, when you understand their mode of travel was donkeys rather Airbuses.


On Pentecost there were over a million (some say 3, 000,000) Jews present for the annual feast. At least 3,000 were there to feed upon the Word of God. At least 3,000 out of the over 1,000,000 came there to feed upon the Word as they celebrated the feast. God had been cultivating the Jewish nation for the coming of the Messiah since the days of Abraham. It didn't happen overnight. No doubt some were dull and bored, but there were at least 3 people in every 1,000 who were excited about the Word proclaimed by the apostles.


For personal growth and church growth there is no substitute for being excited about the Word of God. The world knows about the level of our excitement better than we do. It is our level of excitement, which influences them. It is not hard to teach someone who is excited about the Word. The longer I study the Word, the more excited I become about what it says. The Word never grows dull.


Acts 17:11-12
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. (NIV)


In church growth there is no substitute for Christians being excited about personal growth. Only those desiring personal growth will find excitement in the Word. The only way to get excited over the Word is to begin doing what the Word says. It is when I am growing as an individual that the church has the greatest potential for growth.


The Bible stories are exciting because we see God coming to life in the lives of real people. Devotion is about the word of the living God coming to life in us. It is about God changing the world through each of us.


Personal growth goes beyond Bible study and quite times to trusting in God to change what only he can change. We work so hard on personal transformation through change of habits, change of space, changing churches, but real change—the change that makes a difference comes from God. One mistake we make is that we convince ourselves that we like change as long as we are left in control. However, real change comes when we surrender the reins to God.


I have a Hibiscus plant I planted in my yard. It had knarly looking leaves and twigs. I fertilized it trying to make it grow. Nothing seemed to work, so I pruned it down to within two or three inches of the ground. I thought I will either kill it or else. It has really grown, and the leaves and twigs look much healthier. I am pleasantly surprised.


The pain and difficulty of seeking real change is designed to prune our lives of the nonessentials to bring us to God. We must surrender all we have to God to experience any real change. Never forget real change comes through the power of God.


Devoted to Fellowship


Try to envision Jews traveling from all over the world to be at Pentecost. Lives devoted to God's Word in fellowship with one another. What a devotion to fellowship. Remember no Airbuses, only sandals, donkeys and ancient ships. No wonder there was such a response. No wonder a fire broke out in Acts 2.


It was a devoted fellowship.

Acts 2:44-47
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)

They made every effort to assimilate the members into the body of Christ. New members are assimilated into the body as the church meets their needs.

Acts 4:32-35
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (NIV)


Acts 6:1-5

Most people are not going to ask for help. It would be much more encouraging to them if you offered your services when you realize a need. How many times have you gone through personal troubles all alone? You have asked no one for help. You didn't really want their help. But after the battle is over, you begin to wonder why no one offered to assist you, not that you would have taken it, but it would have been a great source of comfort knowing they cared.

Devotion causes a person to give up land and houses for the benefit of the fellowship.

2 Corinthians 8:1-4
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. (NIV)

Our depth of devotion to the fellowship isn't necessarily measured by church attendance. There are some that are not able to attend worship every Sunday, I would not be afraid to ask them for anything within reason. Regular attendance is not always a measure of devotion.


Devoted to Worship


First century Christians were not only devoted to the Word and fellowship, they were devoted to worship. The first century Church began as a result of worship. That was why they were at Pentecost in the first place. They found God in a worship service. It is amazing how many times first century Christians found God's direction for their lives in the middle of a worship service.


Acts 4:31-32
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. (NIV)


Acts 13:1-3
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (NIV)


Acts 16:23-33
After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-- you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. (NIV)


When we truly praise God, we find direction for our personal lives. It can happen right here this morning in the middle of this worship service for you. It can happen in less than idea circumstances. You can find God's direction for your life.




Real Church growth begins with:


A life of devotion


A life devoted to the Word


A life devoted to assimilating others into the body.


A life devoted to worship of God for the purpose of finding direction for your life.


This is where all growth really begins.


Bible Study Questions


  1. What is the implication of a changing world without a change in human nature?

  2. How difficult is it to change behavioral dynamics?

  3. Where does real change begin? What will happen if you wait on others to grow before you commit yourself to personal growth?

  4. How easy is it to allow the weaknesses of others to blind you to your own need?

  5. How important was the devotion of the apostles to Christ’s instruction? What did the 3,000 on Pentecost devote themselves to? (Acts 2:42.)

  6. Why were the Bereans searching the word of God? What were they devoted to?

  7. What makes the Bible stories come alive to us?

  8. How difficult is it to trust God to change what is seemingly unchangeable?

  9. What is the purpose of the pain and difficult in seeking change designed to do for us?


John 15:1-8

15:1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.


5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. NIV


  1. What part does worship play in our becoming devoted?

  2. What part does Christian fellowship play in our devotion?









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