I was studying the scriptures the other day and the Lord took me to Acts and the beginning of the church. I always marvel that we think the Church started at Pentecost. We look past Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection; past the visitations of the Lord to the disciples for a 40 day period; and past the 10 days waiting together in the upper room – which must have been an interesting time. As far as I can see, the church age started at Jesus’ resurrection and these things are a part of the beginning.
In my travels over the years, I have encountered many who have had Jesus present Himself to them and start them on the journey of Christianity. We hear stories from a variety of religious leaders around the world who have had an encounter with Jesus that brings them to a place where they want more, and are ready to follow. Like Paul, they have an encounter that changes them instantly and they ask, “What do you want me to do Lord Jesus?”
These encounters sound like the beginnings of the church found in the Word. The resurrected Christ encountering people and causing them to know He lives! Almost all these encounters seem to drive the people to search for Jesus, or drives them to a place where they wait on the Lord for His presence and power to change others.
So, what has changed? Why in the West is it different? What do these people have that we don’t seem to have? What is it about those we read about in Acts that differs from today’s Western Christian experience? What did they have that we do not have? Is their focus different than ours? Maybe…
We had a small group meeting the other night and in the midst of it I said something that had been in me for a while. We were discussing what it would take for Christians to stand up for Jesus today, to quit compromising and actually become light and salt in the world. We have been a part of many such discussions in a variety of settings. It always seems to come to the place that we agree that until persecution comes people will not stand. Even though I have agreed with this statement it has always bothered me. Something is wrong with it. A question came to my mind, “When did persecution begin in the book of Acts?” In an instant, I realized the error of our thinking. Persecution began AFTER they began to obey, and Jesus began to show His presence and power through them, not before!!! Once more I was confronted with what Jesus and His angels have been telling me for years, “We are waiting for you.”
The “persecution” we keep waiting for will not be persecution at all, but judgment for our disobedience – not the actions of the unsaved, but OURS, the Christians. WE are in sin in this. We want to wait for God’s judgment to begin before we stand up and begin to be who we should be now. Do we actually think that those who are sitting and calling themselves Christians now will be doing differently when judgment comes, or will they blame someone else and continue to justify the things that they are or aren’t doing? They will say it is the devil attacking them or heresy that is confronting them; few will see God’s hand. Human nature has not changed, if anything we have waxed worse over time. There is hope though, if we will humble ourselves and begin now to be salt and light in our living.
We must return to living the Gospel, not merely assenting that it is true. Father is going to demand of us, in this age, a walk worthy of the price He has paid for us. There will be no compromise in His commands nor “grace” for arrogant or prideful disobedience.
He will not, nor has He ever, accepted the rationalizations we bring to our disobediences like:
If I stand up for Christ I will be fired;
I will lose my friends if I confront their unrighteous behavior with Christ’s presence;
It is not legal for me to bring up Christ at work;
I don’t want to offend anyone with my religion;
God is love and I just need to be nice to those who don’t understand;
I need to become friends with them first, and then I can share Christ;
I can’t pray for people in public or be controversial as that does not show grace and compassion;
The power gifts are done away with, and the baptism of the Spirit is not for now;
I could go on for an entire page with the excuses I have offered, or heard from others in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to present a Gospel of Spirit and Power, or to speak or act as Christ would have us.
Do you suppose that if we walked in the love, power, courage and boldness of the early church that we would be accepted anywhere by those in authority? Doubtful. Jesus says that if they persecute me they will persecute you… Ok, so Jesus told us what to expect. Why, in the West, do we feel that if we are persecuted as Christians we have done something wrong, we have missed it? We have need of judging ourselves against the Word, and the conviction of Holy Spirit.
If I am reading the Word correctly we will be the scourge of the world till the end. We will always be those who will not go along with the world nor its leaders who want to do what is against God. We will either die for Jesus now as we live, or not belong to Jesus and die. He has drawn a really bold line that will set us apart from the rest of the world. If we walk with Him, we will see a great harvest to His glory and for His kingdom, but if we compromise and justify friendship with the world we will not be God’s chosen people.
If we seek His glory and not His purpose we miss it. He may give us our desire but like the Israelites we will die in our sins, walking in His glory, provision, healing and power. But if we seek His purpose and live for His will to be done, we can inherit His kingdom. WE need to be about, “seeking and saving the lost and destroying the works of the devil”. His way and not ours. Love God and love your neighbor –enough to stand for Jesus that they may see His love and the “word of His power” in us.
What will the end time church look like? They will be the ones with “no compromise” written on their foreheads, walking in holiness, love and power. May we be found faithful and see His promises true. We cannot wait to be judged, it may be too late then. We must stand now and obey, expecting and accepting the persecution, which comes when we stand in righteousness for His name’s sake.
We can know if we stand in righteousness or are simply being foolish, selfish and religious. You shall know them by their fruits.
May the mercy of God be on us and may His presence, power and love be ours. May we be led by the Spirit of God in truth and triumph, whether in life or death, but let it be He that gets the Glory for all.
HUNGRY FOR MORE OF HIM AND LESS OF ME,