(Disclaimer: If you think your relationship to God needs no improvement and your church is wowing the angels in heaven, then click out of this blog in a hurry. All others read on.)
Bad theology, pitiful preaching, culture envy, and outright rebellion have all taken their toll on the American Christian and church for decades. Are faithful followers of Christ destined to leave all denominations and churches behind in favor of reestablishing the house church as seen in the book of Acts? Is there any way and hope of reigniting a relationship with God and seeing your church accomplish things you never imagined were possible?
Yes, but it’s going to be hard.
We’re going to have to start knocking on and entering doors that it looks like no one has entered in eons. If you think there is more to God and Christianity than what you have experienced…congratulations. You’ve taken the first step. It’s a step most are unable or unwilling to take. Everyone wants to believe they are as close to God as they can be and He wants. When it comes to religion, the goal of Satan for all practitioners is complacency. Containment is another way to look at it. Don’t look for more. You’ll only be inviting trouble.
This is the second in a series of blogs focusing on change. Obviously, since God doesn’t change (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8; and James 1:17) the variation must take place in us. But it can’t unless we yearn for it. As long as we’re satisfied with the way things are, they will continue to stay the same. The same hurts. The same fears. The same letdowns. The same flavor.
I described the first door as the doorway of perception. Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes, and see…” Much of the training the apostles received from Him centered on noticing the things God wanted them to see. See the Samaritan woman at the well as part of the harvest, not the problem. See the lame and afflicted as opportunities to glorify God, not evidence of His displeasure. See death as a powerless casualty in the face of Christ, not the ultimate destination of life.
Once you’ve learned to be aware and start seeing the things God wants you to see, open and walk through the next door; embrace the power!
Look at these two statements by the Apostle Paul:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…(Romans 1:16).
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).
What is the reaction by most churchgoers when either of those verses is read from the pulpit (assuming they ever are)? “Meh.” And that is why most churchgoers never see God’s power. That’s why they call something as universal as childbirth a “miracle.” Or a beautiful sunrise or sunset. When you call something universally experienced by all people a “miracle” it shows you have given up on witnessing God’s power first hand.
There are many things that contributed to the explosive growth of the church in the book of Acts. Pentecost. Martyrdom. The house church. Witnessing. Leadership. Faith. And love. But I am here to tell you that after walking through the door of awareness, the apostles immediately walked through the door of embracing God’s power.
Look at Peter and John in Acts 3. They go to worship in the temple. A lame beggar shook his empty beggar’s cup at them as they walked through the Beautiful Gate. First, Peter noticed him: “And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John…” (Acts 3:4). The text says the man was there “daily.” That means they had seen him before. Many times. But they were fresh off Pentecost and something had changed. Now, they noticed. Then Peter told him he didn’t have any money. But he did have something. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). The beggar did just that. Had Peter and John become demigods? The crowd certainly thought so. But Peter roared at them, “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?” (Acts 3:12). No, “the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:16).
Peter and John walked through the door of embracing God’s power without batting an eye. The man God healed through Peter and John wasn’t injured. He was born with a birth defect (Acts 3:2). He had never walked. But the apostles embraced the power that Paul would later write about. The power inherent in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul called it “the power of God.” The explosive growth of the church under dire circumstances happened because the early Christians hadn’t dumbed down the power of God to a sunset. They counted on it. They walked in it. They prompted it.
And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all (Acts 4:33).
and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power (1 Corinthians 4:20)
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).
We’ve lost our faith in the power of God that is invested in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We don’t believe in the “greater works” of John 14:12. We seem to believe that things and people are on a pathway that cannot be altered. I guess we think our task is to get people to accept themselves and the world as they are. Don’t make waves. Don’t expect too much.
C.S. Lewis said it best:
"It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.
The gospel of Jesus Christ and the word of the cross aren’t just phrases in the Bible. They contain the very power of God. Walk through the door that embraces His power. Your life will never be the same. And neither will the lives of those around you ever be same.