Those who are revolutionary in their faith – those in our world whose faith is transforming the way they live and express their faith – will often be judged and dismissed by those who are not on the same journey to discovery. Often their beliefs and life-style will be judged and rejected as not in full compliance with Scripture.
However, every person who embraces the name Christian and seeks to live in ways that honour Jesus Christ must be careful with their judgments and criticisms. We must evaluate everything in light of what the Bible teaches and not what we think it says and reveals, what we are comfortable and feel secure in. Often, in our judgments we end up with more opinion than Scripture.
God said to Peter, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean” (Acts 11:9). So, we must be careful not to judge and reject the journey that others are on – especially the revolutionaries – just because it does not fit our understanding or the place we are at on our own personal journey with Jesus.
We must be very careful how we critique another person’s journey. If someone’s path conforms to correct biblical guidelines – even though it may stray from church traditions, cultural expectations, or our personal comfort zone – then we must accept the possibility that God may be working through him or her in a manner that is different from how He is working through us, or perhaps different from the ways we have previously seen or experienced His leading. We are called to be wise and discerning, but not judgmental.
In other words, we are not called to judge the spiritual path of other believers who are dedicated to pleasing God and blessing people when the root of our concern is their style or approach, even though they are true to biblical principles and commands. We are to be discerning in our observation of how fellow believers connect with God and respond to His exhortations, and sensitive to the latitude He has allowed us within the boundaries of Scripture.
Since the Bible is the source of motivation and wisdom in our efforts to be more Christlike, let’s examine the key biblical passages regarding the nature of the Church – that is, the aggregation of followers of Jesus Christ whom He has saved. The most pertinent passages are in the book of Acts, which describes the life of the early Church, immediately after Jesus returned to Heaven and allowed the leaders He had trained to develop the Church.
Acts 2:42-47 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Acts 4:24, 31-35 “And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them…And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
Acts 5:17-18, 27-29, 40-42 “But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison … And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men … and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”
These passages tell us what the revolutionaries today are working to reclaim and become directly involved in. This is what revolution is all about: making it possible to live in such a way, in connection with other like-minded people, that the description we just read is not merely an artifact of Christian history, but a depiction of our Christian experience today.
What made the early Church, which I believe God designed to be our model, compelling and life changing? Let’s identify some of the attributes that made the first Church so attractive and effective. If you study the passages above and categorize their content, you will find the Church was characterized by seven are passions,
1> Intimate worship
2> Faith-based conversations
3> Intentional spiritual growth
5> Resource investment
6> Spiritual friendships
7> Family faith
We will look at these starting next time,