It is encouraging to see believers who have deep desire to walk away from routine and religious lifestyles towards the horizons of God’s freedom. These friends of God are no better than anyone else but they have simply responded to the call of God in their hearts to follow the Lamb. I love this statement spoken by Gamaliel;
“For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” [Acts 5:38, 39 NIV]
The ‘Acts’ of the early Church
I’ve been reading Acts again lately with a view to picking up the heart and lifestyle of the early Church to find out what motivated these early Jesus-lovers. How come they made such a huge difference to so many people? They shared a devotion to fellowship, testified with great power, much grace was upon them all, there were no needy people among them! These early disciples were passionately obedient, supernaturally aware worshippers of God.
They had spent time with Jesus prior to his resurrection and now with much expectation had waited for the Holy Spirit to be poured out as Jesus had promised. They were immersed in the life of God and that made the difference!
I realize that these were just ordinary people like you and me. They did not have the X-factor, but as a mix of people from different backgrounds they faced untold challenges such as being stoned in some cases, ridiculed, beaten, and hated, flogged, thrown in prison and yet lived their lives in devotion to Christ with fearless confidence!
We all know that Acts is Luke’s continuing story of the early Church with this book covering a period of about 30 years. It has been written to encourage us! I do not see the early Church as a ‘model’ we should duplicate but rather as a story that may trigger deep desire within our own hearts to live fully in the grace of God.
I simply want to highlight aspects of Church life found in this story to encourage, strengthen and spur us on to something much better in quality! An expression of Hislife experienced in our hearts and lived out in our society.
Here is what I discovered…
The Kingdom of God
One of the first statements that stand out for me is found in the early part of the Acts drama. “He appeared to themover a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” I would love to have been there during those times. If the kingdom is an unseen realm where Christ rules and is not of this world then it follows that his disciples would live in this truth as an ‘ever-present reality’ – the early Church certainly did!
Paul speaks to the leaders in Miletus; “I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus.” [The Message]
It is the impact of a radical life change as Jesus comes to deliver us from darkness and transfer us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. This call of the King is an offer to share intimate fellowship with Himself and as a result to shape within us a radical trust in His ways. The word radical in our society conjures the thought of extremism but within the kingdom of God it is simply laying the axe to the root of our old life and living by another life!
I do not think that it is a coincidence that Luke opens the continuing story by telling us about all that Jesus began “to doand teach.” He always demonstrated The Way and taught about it afterwards.
Is this one of those keys which helped the early believers to live the way they did?
An awareness that the kingdom of God had been opened up to them like a wide door and seeing for the first time what God does with a life as he sets it right, puts it together and completes it with the promise of righteousness, peace and joy!
The kingdom and the King were not separated in the minds of those who went out to ‘gossip’ the good news of the Kingdom. He told them in no uncertain terms that they would receive power and be his witnesses.
These ‘convinced’ people had been deeply changed with the Promise of more to come. Life would never be the same as they thought back to the ministry and powerful words of John the Baptizer;
“I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama- compared to Him I’m a mere stagehand – will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.” [The Message]
Father, we ask that you would ignite a fresh fire in our hearts and begin to fill our lives with a new passion today!