Assimilate. Assimilate. That was the droning charge for the Borg. For those of us who have enjoyed Star Trek, The Next Generation, watching the Borg overtake a sector of the universe was amazing. Whether a person or society wanted to assimilate or not, the Borg kept on working to make everyone just like them. Everything about a person was swallowed up by the Borg Collective. Yet there was no good that came from the Borg assimilation. This is an extreme example of being included in a larger group.
A more civilized approach to assimilation is what occurred in late 19th and early 20th century America. Yes, there were race and justice issues during that time period. Yet as immigrants came to America from the rest of the world, the process of becoming an American citizen was one of assimilation. People made a choice to adopt the English language, use American money, and raise their children like Americans. Teddy Roosevelt said that there need not be hyphenated Americans. If there are hyphenated Americans, then they could go back to their home country!
To be part of the living church we are also assimilated. But we are not forced to be part of the church, like being part of the Borg collective. We are also not brought together in the living church because we want to be like everyone else. God is calling us to be part of the living church. We are given a promise from God. This promise is nothing less than the Holy Spirit!
A. How then do we receive this promise? (2:37-40)
1. The crowd asked, “What should we do?”
2. The response from Peter: “Repent and be baptized”
a. Mental change can lead to spiritual change
b. Baptism in the name of Jesus is an initiation into the church
c. When we repent we receive forgiveness for our sins
d. The promise of the Holy Spirit is also received upon our repentance
3. “Save yourself from this corrupt generation.”
4. To receive forgiveness for our sins, which drove Jesus to the cross, and to receive the promise which is the Holy Spirit, we repent. We change our mind. We stop our way of thinking. We take on God`s way of thinking as we are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. We need to be cautious at this point. Just because we have agreed to God`s ways, it doesn’t mean we act holy, like God acts, right away. For us to be the living church, filled with this promise of the Holy Spirit, we become assimilated to the ways of Jesus Christ. This is how we answer the next question.
B. How do we live with this promise? (2:41-42)
1. When people join the church, a process of assimilation happens
2. The promise becomes our drive for being the living church
a. Apostles` teaching – what did Jesus say about this or that matter?
b. Fellowship – The promise of God has brought us together!
c. Breaking of bread – remembering often that Jesus died so we may have this promise of the Holy Spirit
d. Prayers – what does God want us to do as we are filled with the Holy Spirit? (Seeking further instruction on being the living church)
3. As we are devoted to Christ, our lives show us being the living church. We become devoted to Christ and to His church. Repentance is just the beginning. We become holy as Christ is holy as we continue to learn what he taught, hang out with those who are also being assimilated to Christ, remember who has brought us together, and keep in contact with God. Then our neighbors will see us living with the promise Jesus has given us.
C. What are the results for the living church in receiving this promise? (2:43-47)
1. Awe happens
2. All together & all in common
3. Giving to the needy
4. Together in the Temple and at home!
5. They were heard praising God & people appreciated them
6. People around them were receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit as they too were repenting & being baptized
7. This promise helps us to be the living church. Our practice of being together helps us to be the living church. Yes, some have said that they can have faith in God and worship God in nature. That is true. A further truth is the need we have to be together because of the promise God has given us, his very own Spirit! We can gather together in this place. We can gather at our homes. We get beyond any secrets we may have as we keep everything in common. We get beyond wanting more and more things for ourselves as we are contributing to the needs of the poor. For when we worship God together, our neighbors are going to hear about how God has brought us together. And they just might want to be together with us!
This is what I read in Acts 2. We have a promise from God. This promise, the Holy Spirit, helps us to know Jesus in every part of our lives. We begin to look like Jesus when we are devoted to the church. That is when we repent, are baptized, and part of the church, we learn to be like Jesus.
I don’t want you to look like me. I want every one of us to be like Jesus. I want us to know how to be a living church which attracts people. Maybe we need some of us to be teachers, so that we can be devoted to the apostles’ teaching. Maybe we hosts for fellowship time so we can learn what God is doing in the lives of the people around us. Maybe we need more times of Holy Communion so we can relish and grow in the promise of the Holy Spirit. Maybe we need prayer leaders who encourage us to lift up the needs of the church and the community.
Will we ever be exactly like the early church? No, we won’t be exactly like the early church. But surely we are being stirred up by the Holy Spirit to be all together so that this community can know this promise that God has for us. If God is stirring us up, then tell the people around you what God is stirring up in your life.