Empowered for Purpose, Part 7
Happy Thanksgiving Passion Church family and friends!
May you and your family have a blessed and enriching holiday as you celebrate the goodness of God this week. Aren’t you grateful for His love and grace that saved us, and His power that sustains us? Truly, nothing can separate us from His love! In Christ, we have an eternal inheritance reserved in heaven for us, that will not diminish or disappear! Our confidence is in Jesus—always!
Today I want to continue our study of Peter and the early church and how they were empowered for purpose. Additionally, I want to examine the significance of Thanksgiving 2020, as we mark the 400th year since the Pilgrims landed in New England aboard the Mayflower in 1620.
The Early Church understood the value and necessity of staying united and in community with each other.
They lifted their voices, in one accord, united against the powers of darkness manifesting through political and religious leaders intent on stopping the Church and the advancement of the kingdom of God.
In several accounts in the book of Acts, we read of the unity and singular focus of the early Church:
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…”
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”
“…all who believed were together…”
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart …”
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul…” Acts 1:14; 2:1; 2:44, 46; 4:32 NKJV
Peter and the early church were a kingdom-minded community united in Christ, with a common vision and purpose.
The phrase, “with one accord” in the above Acts verses translates from the Greek word homothymadón and means: to be of one mind without dissent, to be of one heart and one soul, to be “in tune” or “in sync” with one another as they go in the same direction. In several languages ‘with one mind’ would need to be rendered as ‘prayed for the same things’ or ‘said the same in their prayers.’ 
The early church understood the necessity of uniting around the person of Christ and banding together in one mind and purpose to pray effectively against the powers of darkness and adversity.
Singular focus in prayer was the foundation of this early Christian community—and it should be ours today. Church history reveals that groups of believers who can unite in one mind, heart, purpose, and direction can see heaven break in, revival occur, and transformation of both the Church and even society.
The Church was birthed, formed, and grew in tumultuous times. A casual reading of the book of Acts reveals this. Church history further proves this. Yet, Peter and the early church had God’s favor, courage, and power to speak the name of Christ, heal the sick, and make disciples everywhere they went.
Peter would write to the Church nearly 30 years later:
…you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Pet. 2:5, 9 NKJV
Chosen, from the Greek eklektos, a root of ecclesia, means to pick one out from among the larger group for special service or privileges. These words denote believers as recipients of God’s favor and assignment.
Part of that assignment is to pray in agreement with heaven to release heaven’s purposes here on earth. With that, His royal priesthood, His spiritual house, would be a house of prayer for all nations proclaiming the good news of the king and decreeing His purposes here on earth through prayer and intercession.
Notice how Paul describes our fitting together as living stones,
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Eph. 4:16 NLT
Who makes us fit together? God does! When we accept Jesus as Savior and are born-again, the Holy Spirit places us in the body of Christ, His eternal Church. We need each other to function in the fullness of the spiritual body He intends.
However, effort is also required on our part. Paul also exhorts us “bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:2-3 NKJV)
Over 50 times in the NT the phrase “one another” or “each other” is used. We are commanded to love each other, pray for each other, encourage each other, admonish each other, greet each other, serve each other, teach each other, accept each other, submit to each other, honor each other, and forgive each other.
You will never grow to full maturity just by occasionally attending church services as a passive spectator. For real spiritual growth, you need to be involved. Real Christian maturity manifests in relationships.
I find it interesting that recent surveys indicate 83% of Americans say they are Christian; however, only a small percent of this percentage of people are connected to a local church or attend regularly. As a result, many who profess Christianity are void of a biblical worldview and struggle in their walk with God.
To build real, interdependent relationships, you must spend time with people often. Worshipping, praying, studying, serving, and fellowshipping together—even when you do not feel like it at times.
Look what the writer of Hebrew states,
Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Heb. 3:13 NIV
We are to encourage one another often, this only happens when in accountable relationships with others, to prevent our hearts from hardening through the deceitfulness of sin.
Again, many who profess to be Christian in America believe it is normal to live lifestyles that conflict with biblical teaching. American society has become predominantly Christian in name only, devoid of the love and the power of the gospel to free humanity from the bondage of sin.
An antidote is for the Christian community to reach out to others in the Church and outside of the Church to build and draw them to Christ. Understand that “mind your own business” is not a Christian phrase! Revival is a family issue, as much as an individual issue.
If you know someone is wandering spiritually, it is your responsibility to reach out to them, and help restore them in their walk with Christ and in fellowship.
If you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back.” James 5:19 MSG
God gives shepherd leaders the responsibility to guard, protect, defend, and care for the spiritual welfare of His flock. Part of our responsibility is to help build believers into maturity in Christ, to not only live as overcomers but to be engaged in the affairs of God’s Kingdom in our generation.
Those lacking a biblical worldview oppose authority both in and outside of the Church—2020 has demonstrated this sad reality in American society. The Church must prevail in faith and prayer for our nation.
Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.” Heb. 13:17 NLT
As I said at the beginning of this article, Thanksgiving 2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims.
The Pilgrims arrived on these shores in 1620 in hopes of making a better life for themselves and their children while being able to worship freely and in peace. Undoubtedly the most famous colonists in world history, their faith and fortitude are legendary. Their perseverance laid the cornerstone of a new Nation. The Pilgrims’ courage, gratitude to God, and love for one another still inspire people today.” “In the autumn of 1620, while anchored in Cape Cod Bay, the Pilgrims’ small ship became the birthplace of our Nation’s constitutional tradition. Historian Henry Culver called Mayflower “the wave-rocked cradle of our liberties.” 
Before they set foot on land, they drafted an agreement known as the Mayflower Compact that set a foundation for a civil and just society in this new land. The Puritans, who were Christian Congregationalists, wrote this short agreement between themselves and others on-board the Mayflower, with God and biblical principles in mind.
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant, and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names; Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord King James, of England, France and Ireland eighteenth and of Scotland fifty-fourth, Anno Domini 1620. 
Notice how this “New England” colony was dedicated to God and for the advancement of the Christian faith? This document and colony, and subsequent American colonies, were dedicated to almighty God and the Christian faith. Our declaration of Independence and the US Constitution had their beginnings in the Bible and the Mayflower Compact.
The first winter of this Pilgrim colony was challenging; 45 of 102 colonists died that first winter. They battled hunger, cold, disease, and conflict. Yet, despite the hardships, they stayed united to each other, persevered, survived, and eventually thrived.
God blessed their faith, courage, hard work, and dedication to live by His biblical principles. For 400 years, this land, our nation, has been blessed by God and prospered in many ways.
Significance of the Number 400
I believe biblically the number 400 represents prophetic fulfillment. Some have called the number 400, which is arrived at by multiplying 8 by 50, “a divinely perfect period.” 
Consider that a 400-year period exists from God promising Abram (Abraham) a son (Isaac) to when his descendants would leave Egyptian bondage. Genesis records God’s covenant with Abram,
Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” Genesis 15:12-14 NKJV
The first Christian martyr, Stephen, in his testimony before religious leaders just before his martyrdom, mentions this same 400-year period and prophetic fulfillment in Acts 7:6.
Consider that at the end of the 400 years, God judged Egypt. If we consider judgment as something more than the “wrath of God,” and instead alternatively consider judgment as God bringing justice and making “that which is crooked straight,” then the judgment upon Egypt could be viewed as God aligning His people and nations for His eternal purposes.
What about America today, 400 years after this land and future nation was dedicated to God and the advancement of Christian faith?
I believe and concur with others who have prophesied about the season we are in, that a divine shift and reset is occurring over our nation. Again, if we consider judgment as God aligning both His people and nations for His eternal purposes, then it is very plausible we are being aligned and reset in our nation at this time.
When the children of Israel were released from Egyptian bondage, they still faced the wilderness, but God sent them out prospering and in good health, i.e., “there was none feeble among them!”
And like the Pilgrims and Native Americans in New England 400 years ago, we must work to build unity, permit God and His Word to guide us, reset our thinking, and persevere amid hardship and adversity.
To see the prophesied Third Great Awakening in this nation, we must align and reset our lives with God’s biblical standards and ways.
Jesus said, “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” Matt. 16:18 (NLT)
No different than the early Church or others in church history, our fight is against unseen spiritual forces. Though defeated by Jesus, these forces, operating through people, continue to oppress, resist, and attempt to stop His Church—in particular conservative Christians who stand for the sanctity of life at conception, traditional family, and other biblical values.
We can learn from the early Church through their commitment to Christ and to each other. They stood together in worship, in prayer, in the word, in fellowship, and mission to withstand and oppose the powers of darkness arrayed against them.
In this hour Church, we must do the same. The Kingdom of God manifested through the church is God’s agenda for the world. His promise to you and me is that the very forces of darkness will not prevail against us. That is comforting! The church, like His kingdom, is indestructible, expanding, and will last for eternity. The Church is triumphant in Christ!
As Christians, we need to be part of local church congregations. While we are part of the universal Church, it is important to be connected, accountable, and in healthy relationship with a local church and leadership.
The enemy loves to try and divide and conquer, whether a natural family or church family. If there is division or independence, the family unit will suffer and miss the fullness of its potential.
The times we are living in are challenging. It is not a time to have a half-hearted relationship with the Lord or a local church family.
Grow in your relationship with the Lord and with your Passion Church family, or local church you are affiliated with. Attend regularly, pray fervently, get involved in small groups, find a place to serve, give faithfully, reach out to others, and lastly carry His love to those outside of the church.
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Empowered for Purpose, Part 7”
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 367.
 https://www.plimoth.org/support-us/voyage-made-nation accessed 11/20/20
 https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mayflower-Compact accessed 11/23/20
 https://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/400.html accessed 11/20/20