“And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe…”1
As I stood in church Friday evening, I listened as a visiting minister urged the audience to enter into a frame of mind that indicated an attitude of worship. The more she stressed this outward response the more uncomfortable I became. As I tried to worship the Lord, I found my thoughts distracted by her insistent words. I asked myself,
Is God moved by the volume of my voice?
Is God exalted by how high my hands are lifted?
I took my seat, bowed my head, and began to pray. I told God that,
Although I didn’t feel like doing as I was instructed, I did honestly want to worship Him.
When I got home later that evening, I wondered,
Why does it seem that at times, there is a barrier to reaching God?
I wondered if anyone else ever had these thoughts and how they addressed them. I realize that for me, I’ve just began attending church and truthfully, I don’t really know anyone. For that matter, no one really knows me. But we all assemble at set times in a corporate effort to worship the Lord. There are worship leaders who help to frame our thoughts; the goal is that we reach an outward expression of an inward desire. At least, I believe that’s what I’m attempting to do, so I assume others have a similar mindset. But I’m really not certain because I’m the new guy.
I read this passage in Acts about new converts who were “continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” What really impressed me was that the bible says, “everyone kept feeling a sense of awe…” It goes on to say in the next verse,
“And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common…”2
I realize that in the first century, the culture and structure of the Christian church was much different than it is in our modern society, but there still has to be a sense of community, a commonality (of thought, intent and purpose), a fellowship in the things we do and share. The Greek word koinonia (koy-nohn-ee’-ah) means, partnership, i.e. (literally speaking) participation, or (social) intercourse, or (pecuniary) benefaction :--(to) communicate (-ation), communion, (contri-) distribution, fellowship.
As the Christian believers participated in the teachings, social interaction, communion and prayer, they became known by one another. Their lives were shared lives because they became invested in one another.
Correction:Yesterday, the reference I used for the word awe was incorrect. I've modified the text below after verifying several sources.
The Greek word used for awe is phobos (fob'os) which means, fear, dread, terror, that which strikes terror; reverence for one's husband; cause of fear, intimidation, respect, respectful, reverence, sense of awe.
I can understand how believers were afraid and intimidated when witnessing the signs and wonders performed by the apostles. I believe that these Christian disciples moved from the place of fear and intimidation to a position of respect, reverence and a sense of awe because they witnessed the move of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit. Thinking of the emotions I felt the first time I saw one of my children gave me an indescribable moment of joy, elation and wonder; I was in awe.
I understood that here in my hands was a life that I was instrumental in producing.
I believe that no matter how old our children are, there are those moments when we are in awe of them. It doesn’t have to be anything they say or do; we just don’t have words to describe the emotions they evoke in us.
I wondered what this has to do with a community of believers being in awe and I began to realize that through Christ, God has produced in me new life; this new life is the life of Christ. I realize that this is no great revelation but to understand that God has placed His life in me, a life as real as the life of my children, gives me a sense of awe that I cannot describe.
But this is at a personal level and I’ve yet to continually experience this in group worship.
I’m wondering if this is because I don’t share in having all things common yet.
I believe that if I’m to penetrate this worship barrier, I will need to integrate myself within the church and allow myself to be known by others that are a part of this community of believers. I will continue to devote myself to the teachings, fellowship, communion and prayer.
This is the path of trusting God, being transparent to those within the community of believers I am a part of. Part of being in awe is fulfilling my responsibility as a believer: to learn from instruction, to become known and to know others like me, to participate in communion and to come together and pray.
These aren’t unique to the first century church, they are transcendent over time. I want to experience this awe every time (whether) I’m in or out of church. At home, I find it much easier because there are no distractions (I cannot control) but in church I’m discovering I can become distracted. I suppose what I’m saying is that I don’t want to come to church and parrot what I see everyone else doing. I really want my thoughts and attention on spiritual worship. My concern is that mimicking this would bleed into other aspects of my life and instead of being truly honest with God and others, I’m just going through the motions of being a Christian. I’m not necessarily talking about living a sinful lifestyle but there is a dichotomy between transparency and secrecy. I want my life to be an outward expression of who I really am.
This is where trusting the Holy Spirit becomes so vital because even in my most sincere moments, my thoughts can be distracted; but He will purify them for me to God.
“And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Your word says, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" and I want to have an attitude that pleases You. I want both my words and actions to be representative of Christ. I want to be genuine in my life so that others may recognize the honesty and integrity of Christ. I want to have fellowship with the community of believers where I worship You. I want to be in awe of the life You've given me; the life of Christ Jesus my Savior. I trust the Holy Spirit to communicate my worship, prayer, praise and life that you are glorified and honored. Thank You for this life. Amen.
- Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
- The Layman's Parallel New Testament, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan
- The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6