Let’s look at each of these more closely.
Renewing ourselves as disciples:
There are few things more toxic spiritually than a failure to learn and grow. This happens because people either think they already know it all or they are apathetic about learning. Either way, the results are the same.
I’ve known some people over the years who were proud to tell you they hadn’t changed their thinking on anything in decades! They didn’t need to read this book, keep up with current events, or know anything about the culture because they knew everything they needed to. There are only three kinds of people who don’t learn—the dead, those who already know everything, and those in deep denial. If you’re not regularly experiencing “aha” moments in your life, guess which category you are in?
Much of the world perceives Christianity as anti-intellectual. That’s interesting because no one thinks of Jesus that way, so they must think this because they know Christians who are that way. And as a result, they see the Christian faith as something two dimensional—height and width, but no depth. And where there is no depth, there will eventually be no life (Matthew 13:5-6). Our choice is depth or death.
Depth doesn’t mean we know everything. In fact, depth is recognizing there’s a lot that we can’t know because of our limitations as human beings. We don’t how old the universe is, exactly how God brought it into being, or if it has any other inhabitants. We don’t know why God picked Mary to be the mother of Jesus, or what happened to Joseph, or anything about Jesus as a teenager. We don’t know why some people suffer horrendously while others don’t suffer at all. We don’t know why we were born in the United States rather than Rwanda or Bosnia. In such cases, depth consists of confessing we don’t know and humbly embracing the mystery. Other things we know because God has revealed them to us—there is one God and Father of all, one Lord, one faith, on baptism. These are truths we need to hold on to. Most of all, we need to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him what is mystery and what is truth. As we do, we change, we grow, and best of all, God transforms us into the image of His Son (2 Corinthians 3:18). That’s depth that preserves life.
Renewing ourselves as community:
The ensemble tv shows, the “buddy” movies, the reality shows focusing on relationships—all of these reflect our longing for relationship in our transient culture of disconnect. The break down of the family means that we look for build-up from others. The situation in Acts 2 is surprising relevant here.
The Jerusalem community was forged under unique circumstances. Thousands had gathered in Jerusalem of the Feast of Pentecost (2:1). Many of those who became followers of Jesus apparently chose to remain in Jerusalem where they could receive nurturing in their new found faith. This created some special needs in terms of housing, feeding, finding work, etc. But the Christians rose to the occasion and thrived because they existed as community (2:44-47, 4:32-37, 6:1-7). Community keeps us alive and thriving.
Renewing ourselves as celebrants:
I think this is a reference to believers taking communion because the definite article “the” is there in the original so it could be translated as “the breaking of the bread,” which sounds like communion as opposed to a common meal (which seems to be referred to in v. 46). “The breaking of the bread,”—we refer to it many ways; Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. But it is also a celebration. Although this dimension gets little attention, it is there if we’re looking for it. The background of the supper is the Passover /Feast of Unleavened Bread—eight days of feasting and celebration. The early Christians took bread and wine in the middle of a meal, alluded to in the NT as the love feast (Jude 12; 2 Peter 2:13—marginal note). So there’s plenty to support the celebratory element of the Supper.
This runs parallel to the thought of Jesus when He was asked why His disciples weren’t fasting—how could they fast in the presence of the bridegroom? In the same way, how can we not celebrate all that God has done for us? There’s sadness in the cross, but that’s not the ultimate element. Sadness would be the last word only if there were no resurrection. But there was a resurrection! So sadness might be the first word of the Supper but it’s not the final word—that is joy!
We have joy because of what Jesus did. We have joy because nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ. We have joy because all of the suffering, all of the pain, all of the injustices will one day be understood and rectified. How do I know? Because the bloodied cross and the broken tomb are His signature guaranteeing these things. And whenever God signs His name, He’s good for it. This hope brings us joy and joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Renewing ourselves as worshippers.
Just as there are many dimensions to the Lord’s Supper, there are also many dimensions to prayer. Praying is praising God for who He is, thanking Him for what He has done, supplication for what He can do, confession of who we are, and the list goes on. Put all of these together and prayer is worship. To devote yourself to prayer is to devote yourself to being a worshipper of God.
I would suggest that there is no one who is more alive, more connected to what life is meant to be about than the one who is a worshipper of God. I’m not speaking of the person who worships at a building a time or two a week, but the person who offers their body up daily as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). That’s worship and that’s life! Praise God for the life He gives us through His Son Jesus. May we choose our wineskins carefully!