The New Testament Church lived out the purpose God had planned, which was to be the human outworking of Christ in us. In a word, the church was radical. A look at Acts reveals this simple truth to us all.
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s supper) and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and posessions and shared the money with those in need.”
“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and God’s great blessing was upon them all.”
What made the New Testament church stand out was they were radical in several areas which opened up the heavens and God blessed them greatly. He showed favor towards them all because God is all about Jesus and when making Jesus famous is a priority in our lives, God honors that.
[The church needs to be radical in their submission.]
Both Scriptures utilized above begin with the truth that the believers were devoted and united to each other. It was first and foremost submission to the Lord Jesus and through the empowering grace that enables us to live for him, the believers submitted to one another. The church submitted to the teachings of apostles. Preaching was vital to the life of the church because through preaching, they heard the Word of God and faith comes by hearing. As such, preaching allowed faith to flow over the place.
The church also submitted to the fellowship of the church. Church was not a Sunday event, it was a lifestyle. While meeting in the Temple on a daily basis had Jewish customs behind it, it was the customs that drove these people (that’s religion) it was a love for one another. As such, small groups became just as important to the church as they build a community together.
[The church needs to be radical in their devotion.]
Notice the phrase used in Acts 2:42, “The believers devoted themselves…” Christianity is about commitment-to God and to each other. Everything that the believers did was out of a personal response to the gospel of Jesus. The believers were devoted to each other, to the preaching of the Word, to the fellowship and to prayer because they were committed to what Jesus had done for them!
Luke tells us they were committed to prayer as well. While I will discuss this a bit deeper in later chapters, it is of great importance to know that the early church devoted themselves to prayer. They prayed together and they believed God was with them and God answered their prayers again and again.
[The church needs to be radical in their surrender.]
One of the characteristics of the New Testament church that blows me away is their generosity towards one another. In the texts given by acts, we discover the believers shared everything they had with each other. They gave away what they had to those in need.
Further on in Acts 4, believers were willing to lay down their financial assets at the feet of the apostles. There was such a unity of Spirit that the believers knew the apostles would use whatever was given to them to further the Kingdom of God by loving others.
There was no other agenda on the hearts and minds of the believers than loving others like Christ had loved them. The church was committed to God and to each other and that is how the church grew.
The question of course is how committed are you and I to serving in the local church? A million excuses can be made about why not to serve. Maybe the church already has enough volunteers, or perhaps you are serving by yourself and no one is stepping up to the plate to help out. Maybe you don’t like the people and maybe you don’t like the pastor. The list can go on and on and on, even leading us to reasons why you don’t believe in or attend a local church.
The question remains, are you committed? You were adopted by God and brought into his family. A family should love each other, in spite of imperfections. One of the churches I’ve been to had a rather large billboard with their name, logo and the phrase, “No Perfect People Allowed.”
Throughout my life I have slowly learned that there are no perfect people. The church is just another place that is full of them. So, what happens when people let us down? What is our response when others fail to serve? What is our response when others cause us misery and shame? If our response is retaliation, then we do not understand the grace of Christ which has reconciled us to the Father, whom we have sinned against.
Jesus came to serve and we are called to live like Christ. Connect the dots so Christ is exalted and others see your works and bring glory to the Father in heaven. Live for Christ and bring glory to the Father. Live like Christ by being radical in your devotion to his call. Serve like Christ by being radical in your submission. Love like Christ by being radical in your surrender, meeting the needs of those around you. Do this all for the glory and honor of the Father in heaven.
** This blog was an excerpt from my upcoming book, Repeat After Me **
All Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible New Living Translation. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996, 2004)
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