The Early Church: A Compassionate Community

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[This is a repost by Jason Whitehurst here: http://jasonwhitehurst.org/2013/11/12/early-church-compassionate-community/%5D

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The early church got it right.

Sociologists marvel at how a despised movement that started in a corner of Palestine, could become the dominant faith of the mighty Roman Empire.

The Apology of Tertullian in 197 AD sums it up.  The most amazing pagan observation of the early church was, “See how they love one another.”

This wasn’t a coincidence.  Jesus gave His followers a new commandin John 13:34.

The early church did not set out to build great buildings or “mega-churches”.  They just set out to do what Jesus taught them to do.

They kept things simple.  They did four main things, according to Acts 2:42-47.

1.  They taught what Jesus taught.  
2.  They fellowshipped.  
3.  They ate.  
4.  They prayed.

Through these four things, they were led to sell what they had and give to each other as each one had a need.

They gained favor with the people in an urban part of the Roman Empire, known as being a harsh and brutal society.

Through this love they had for another based on the command that Jesus gave them, they lived together in community, gained favor with people, and the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.

To those who were homeless and impoverishedthe early church offered food and shelter.

To the widows and orphans, the early church offered a family.

To the outcasts of societythey offered a place of acceptance.

To those who were sickthe early Christians offered nursing and medical services.

Through their radical acts of love and kindness, the early church gained a foothold in a brutal and barbaric culture.

Rodney Stark, a modern sociologist who wrote “The Rise of Christianity”, said about the early church,

For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture capable of making life in Greco-Roman cities more tolerable.” 

They did not just start a movement, which they did do, but more than that they changed the culture.

Justin Martyr wrote that it was the consistency of their lives that caused non-Christians, to become Christians.

Over the course of history, once Christianity moved from being a movement to the dominant faith of the Roman Empire, it began to become a “baptized-form” of Judaism.

Buildings started being built.  Rules and regulations started being added.  Structure was put into place.

None of these things in and of themselves are bad.  But these things began to change what had given Christianity a foothold and traction in society.

Fast-forward 2,000 years and look at the churches in our culture today.  They do not enjoy the same leverage and favor that the early church did.

Which begs the question, where did the church go wrong?

At what point did the church move from being a compassionate community to becoming what it is today?

The church has lost it’s voice.  The church has lost it’s authority in society.

The church, at some point, took for granted the God-given favor it enjoyed with culture and society.

The church for a long time was able to speak from a place of majority and authority.

Today, the church has lost the majority and cannot speak from a position of authority.

The early church got it right.

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JESUS OUR EXAMPLE!

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READ PHILIPPIANS 2:5-10

The Body of Christ is so busy playing church & “doing” church that we’ve ceased BEING……the church!  We’ve ceased being HIS living BODY here and now to a world that desperately needs Jesus.

This lost world is just as sick of religion as God is!  Floyd McClung who started a ministry called All Nations & has authored numerous books said this in a letter to my friend Jeff:

“The movement Jesus started was radically different from the religious legalism and control of his day. Religion has a nasty way of messing up relationship. Neither top down hierarchy nor rules that govern people’s behavior do not liberate people from the burden of sin nor does it introduce them to the goodness and loving kindness of God.” – Floyd McClung

So, how do we show a lost, dead world the goodness & loving kindness of our holy God?…….The same way Jesus did!

So, we see that when Jesus walked this earth, in all of His activities, in all of His words, in all of His reactions, in every step that He took and in every decision He made He did so as A MAN…even though he was very much God.

Jesus lived in perfect humanity just as we live in redeemed humanity, and that is in absolute dependency & availability to the Father!  Like Jesus who lived as a man, we too are to simply be available to Him like He was available to His Father.

The problem with most of us is that unlike Jesus, we want the exaltation with the obedience and death!!!

It was His Father who did the work through Him:

Jn 5:36 “…for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish–the very works that I do–testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.”

=> His works were God’s works

John 14:10 “…but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”

John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me…”

John 6:57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father…”

Acts 2:22 = “… Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst…”

=> God performed the miracles through Jesus’ perfect humanity.

Luke 10:22 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father,”

John 10:32 “Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father;…”

So, we see that ALL of Jesus activity here on earth as a man was His Father’s activity through the Spirit who gave His body to His Father.

Therefore, as fellow humans, we are to let Jesus do HIS work through us:

Phil 2:13 (Amp) = “[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.”

Eph 1:11 having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,…”

JOHN 14:17 “…but you know Him because He [Spirit] abides with you and will be in you.” => God through the Holy Spirit dwells in US now just as the Father abided in Jesus then!!!

Let us hear it from Jesus Himself in John 6:57 (Amp):

Just as the living Father sent Me and I live by (through, because of) the Father, even so whoever continues to feed on Me [whoever takes Me for his food and is nourished by Me] shall [in his turn] live through and because of Me

He lived His life with perfect humanity!  We live our lives with redeemed humanity.  Therefore:

We are to live our lives as Jesus did: in absolute availability and in loving, obedient dependency!

THE MARK OF JESUS FOLLOWERS

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Galatians 3:5-14

In this week’s passage, we see illustrated in “Father” Abraham the mark if you will, of a true believer.

The Judaizers were trying to get the formerly heathen, gentile, illiterate Galatians to become “good Jews” by adopting the Mosaic Law primarily through circumcision.  As you read the passage, you’ll see the humor in Paul’s usage of Abraham, because he notes that even Abraham’s “righteousness” had nothing to do with the Law.

No, Paul points out that he was declared righteous because of his FAITH…period!  We too are of the same “stock” because we did exercise FAITH in Jesus for salvation.  Therefore, we ARE “sons” of Abraham not because of what we do or did but because of WHO we are in Jesus…true “faithers”!

Abraham illustrates for us that the vitality & excitement of the Christian life is experienced ONLY by faith!

Abraham was considered “righteous” because his will was TOTALLY & UTTERLY conformed to Jehovah’s will in his desires, his thoughts and his actions!  I wonder how many of us who are true Children of God, have wills that are THAT conformed to Jesus’ will???  If not, we MUST be broken!!!

How do we then walk as a “Normal Christian”? First, Colossians 2:6 makes it clear in the Amplified version, “As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him.” Walk by faith…that’s it!

Read it again! We must lose ourselves in Jesus.   Are you regulating your lives and conducting yourselves in union with Jesus?  Are we really living lives that are consumed with Jesus?

Secondly, we are given a charge in Philippians 2:12b-13, “work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).13  [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. By faith, we simply work out what has been worked in.

Oh, and by the way it is GOD who is working in us to have the will and to do the work.  PLEASE TRUST HIM TODAY TO LIVE HIS LIFE THROUGH YOU!!!  The mark of a true believer is a life of FAITH!!!

CHECK OUT TOMORROWS ENTRY FOR A LIFE CHANGING ILLUSTRATION OF WHAT THE “NORMAL CHRISTIAN” LIFE LOOKS LIKE………..

This IS the Christian Life!

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I have recently had the joy and privilege of listening to sermons from precious saints of “old” and wow has it been rich.  I have been soooo blessed listening to Major Ian Thomas, Watchman Nee and A.W. Tozer, and I’ve been reminded of wonderful truths that have transformed my life.

The consistent message you will hear from each of these saints is this: Jesus IS the Christian life.  What really encouraged me is how they will often say something and emphasize that “this IS the normal Christian life.”  So, for the last week my heart has been so richly blessed and encouraged as I was reminded of this liberating message of grace.

This is truly my life’s message; to let the world know I serve a risen (and therefore) LIVING Savior!  We don’t worship a dead religious leader on the cross. NO!!! He has risen indeed in order to give us HIS life!

We often talk about being saved to go to heaven, etc.  But as Major Ian Thomas has often said, “This is NOT salvation!  Salvation is perfect Divinity being clothed in a redeemed sinner’s humanity.”  Chew on that for a while.  We are not saved in order to get out of hell and in to heaven…no!  We are saved so that Jesus might “get out of” heaven and IN TO US!

As Jesus lived on this earth so do we live here on earth.  In Philippians chapter 2 we are reminded that Jesus chose to set aside His privileges as God to take on the form of a man…He became a man.  Our Divine Father clothed Himself in Jesus’ perfect humanity.  Think about that.  “God was IN CHRIST reconciling the world…”  The gospels often refer to God’s work IN and THROUGH Jesus.

So, do you see it?  This is EXACTLY what Jesus desires to do with us..wow!  Our Father wants to be clothed with our imperfect humanity.  If you read the gospels, you will be reminded that Jesus never did or said anything except what His Father told him to say or do.  He also said that “if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father.”  My dear friend if you’ve been born again, this is EXACTLY how we are to live; in absolute dependence on Jesus “who is our life”.  When we do, the world will see Jesus when they see us!

This is truly the cry of my heart; to just let God be God (I heard He’s up for the job J) in my life and let JESUS live the Christian life through me, because He is the only one who did live it and can live it through me!  Believe me, I’ve “tried” and all I do is make a mess of things when I live by my efforts.  The bible reminds us that apart from Him “I can do NOTHING!”

My dear friend, is that your desire?  Is that the cry of your heart?  If so, then let us stop trying….trying…trying, and let us die to ourselves and OUR effort and simply start trusting Him to do what only HE CAN do; to live out HIS life!

What an exciting life this Christian life is….this truly is THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE!!! Blessings!

Check out my entry tomorrow for a wonderful illustration of “righteous” living…real cool stuff!

 

 

 

What’s Your Power Source?

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I found the following at a fantastic site a friend turned me on to.  It’s called YouVersion.com.  They have 18 versions available; you can join the community and more…check it out.  This was written by Sarah B. from Kansas City, MO.

 

 “I heard a message that revolutionized my life. If you want to plug something small in, you can plug it into what is called a 110 outlet; a lamp, a clock; anything ordinary really. Plug it into a 110 outlet and it will work. 

       If you want to plug something big in, like a washer or dryer or an air conditioning unit, you cannot plug it into a 110. It is too big and will blow the breaker. You have to plug big things into a 220 outlet.

Galatians 1:10: “For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.”  That’s the little outlet and too many times I try to plug something too big (my life. my strength. my joy. my hope.) into something that is far too small. I cannot plug my life into a 110 and live to please other people. It may work for a little while but sooner or later a fuse is gonna blow. As a college volleyball player, I found myself doing this so much. I would play for my name in the paper or my coach’s approval or for the fans to be chanting my name. Then I discovered I was playing for the wrong reasons. I was plugging into a 110. 

Galatians 2:19b-20: “For I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Now, this is what I need to be plugged into. That I no longer live.  I no longer live for the approval of man. That I no longer live to please those around me.  That I no longer live, but that Christ lives IN me. That the life I do live is through faith in all I say and do.

When I applied this to playing volleyball the court became my sanctuary. The place where I could use the talents God has given me to worship Him. And I can say that playing at a 220 is so much more satisfying that playing at a 110. When I’m playing for Christ and not other’s approval, something special happens that cannot really be described in words. So, daily, I must ask myself am I plugged into a 110 or a 220?  Am I striving for the favor of man or God?  Am I plugging something too big into something far too small? Am I living 220?”

THANK YOU SARAH B.