“In affliction, then, we do not know what it is right to pray for. Because affliction is difficult, troublesome, and against the grain for us, weak as we are, we do what every human would do. We pray that it may be taken away from us. However, if he does not take it away, we must not imagine that he has forgotten us. In this way, power shines forth more perfectly in weakness.”
“With great power the apostles gave 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 owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
– Acts 4:33-35
Jesus Followers of the First Century had it right. They didn’t idolize or unduly elevate any of their leaders, nor did they look to anyone but the Holy Spirit to teach them the ways of God. Jesus left them a very clear model – teaching them to learn from His Spirit, and minister to those around them who were in need.
And all the needs of the Early Church were satisfied, because no one claimed to be the Leader – the Ruler – over the others.
Where we’ve seemed to go off track for well over a thousand years is in the area of elevating men and heaping praise upon them until they become haughty and arrogant. As a result, men fall. This is a story retold tens of thousands of times – a story that mimics Adam instead of Jesus, and one that brings shame upon the Church of Jesus Christ.
When will we learn? What will it take for us to return to the humility of our spiritual forefathers? They loved God with all their hearts, and loved each other to the point where they sold all they had and shared with one another so that there was no lack amongst the brethren.
Can we say that today? In these incredibly tough times, can we say that there’s no lack in the Church?
What an amazing witness it would be if church leaders unselfishly adhered to the model Jesus left us, and sacrificed for the people under their care instead of ruling over them. Rather than pulling down salaries in the $100,000 range while many of the people who are paying those salaries have lost their jobs and maybe even their homes, how about sharing with those in need?
Are church leaders worried that they’ll be setting a dangerous precedent that people would take advantage of? What would that be – emulating the actions of the Apostles? Jesus Christ Himself appointed these men to carry His message to the world, and they did so with stunning success. How did they do it?
“With great power … and great grace was upon them all.”
Is it any wonder why there’s very little power in the Church today?
I’ve been a Christian all my life, and a committed one since 1974. Raised by Godly, Roman Catholic parents and educated in parochial schools, I’ve always had a sense of God’s love and always accepted that Jesus died for me, paying the price for my sins. I thank the IHM nuns and Jesuit priests for instilling that in me, even if by “forceful” means occasionally!
Since joining the ranks of evangelical, pentecostal, conservative Christianity, however, I’ve been immersed in a hypnotic state of “Christian culture” that I now see as a Grand Diversion from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christian leaders in the western world have by and large, through the centuries, embraced the ways of the world and used its methods to gain power, prestige, respect and financial security. Many prominent Christians – and you would know them if I named them – have looked to church and national politics as a pretense to influence the world for Jesus, while building constituencies, churches, denominations, legalistic doctrines and fortunes.
We need to be very careful here, because the Word of God says that “The love of money is the root of all evil.” That’s an incredible statement, isn’t it?
ALL Evil. All evil comes from the love of money. That’s heavy.
I take that to mean that if a person loves money – if gathering financial resources to himself is his chief concern – then evil has a foothold in his heart. But what if seeking money is one’s second aim in life, or third, fourth or even fifth?
Can you place your love for money in fifth place and say that it has no hold on you? I think not. No matter where that lust is placed, it is still lust. Lust after money, mammon, wealth and riches is still a stronghold that Satan uses to entice us away from God’s plan for our lives. And it’s one that divides Christians, often causing leaders to control people so that resources can continue to flow their way.
We’ve all seen it. Remember Jim and Tammy Bakker? Jim Bakker would be the first one to tell you that he used people and their money to build a kingdom here on earth. Then it collapsed and he went to prison for it. What a disgrace to the name of Jesus.
What kind of witness is that?
As Christians, our witness must be unassailable and without guile. When we build relationships with others, especially the unsaved, we must not have any ulterior motives other than to “love them as ourselves.”
If a minister, “prophet” or any Christian leader aims to add people to his business team so he can achieve “seven streams of revenue” to defeat the “spirit of poverty,” watch out!
Is that how Jesus acted? Is that how He wants us to act? I’m not saying we shouldn’t make a decent living and provide for our families – far from it. But was Jesus a capitalist?
And why do western Christians think we should “take a city for God” or a nation? Why are we always on a war footing, when the two commandments Jesus gave us are to love God with all of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls; and to love our neighbors as ourselves?
I’ve seen more passion for politics in the Body of Christ than I’ve seen for unreached people – by far. Whether the issue is abortion, Muslim domination of the world, single-payer health care or selections for the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s amazing how much energy, preaching, money and sheer spiritual force is directed at this stuff by Christians.
And none of it is ever going to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God anyway, so what the hell are we doing with what God has given us?
I can’t begin to tell you the number of emails I get on a regular basis, warning me of the imminent danger of Islam, or the evils of homosexuality or the depravity of abortion. “We must rise together to fight this menace!”
No – we must not. That is just so much smoke from arrogant people trying to build their base of power by uniting us against a common enemy, a favorite tactic of tyrants through the centuries. How about we stop passing these emails around and see if the world falls apart! That will prove that they do no good anyway – all they accomplish is to engender fear in the Body of Christ, and to create a sense in us that other human beings – like Muslims and homosexuals – are evil and worthy of our hatred, not our love.
If we think that our weapons are carnal, worldly and of this earthly realm, we are sadly mistaken. There is no way we will ever stop abortion until people’s hearts are changed and they just don’t want to get an abortion because it’s evil. There’s no way we will ever ensure justice by fighting for “conservative” judges on the Supreme Court. There is no way that we will stop the spread of Islam until we show people a better way. And we will never see homosexuals gracing the doors of our churches until we begin to love them.
That means we must stop alienating them and acting like we’re better than they are. Have we forgotten that Jesus died for us too? Yeah, while we were dead in our sins.
So what makes us any different than Chuck and Stephen who live together a few doors down the street – as lovers? In fact, now that we’ve been forgiven, we have a mandate to love them, not judge them.
How do we win the Muslim world – or even one Muslim – for Jesus Christ?
Not by bombing nuclear facilities in Iran!! Yet that’s what many American Christians propose today, in order to protect Israel. That’s the justification.
Since when did a temporal, worldly goal supersede a Godly, eternal one?
Do we think that by killing people we will win them for Christ? Are we crazy? We have got to think about these things and reorient ourselves to what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. Is it about being a Republican or Democrat? Are Republicans good and Democrats evil? Why?
C’mon, you know this is how most of us feel or have been told to believe. How many times from the pulpit have we heard: “I can’t legally tell you who to vote for, but remember to vote for the platform that’s closer to what we believe.” Wink-wink. What? What kind of Godly instruction is that?
Why should we align ourselves with any worldly system?
Take a good look at yourself and ask yourself this: Am I a follower of Jesus or of conservative principles?
Look, all I’m trying to do here is get us all to think differently than what we’ve been trained to do as good, submissive Christian followers for our entire born-again lives. Yes, we should follow humble men and women of God into spiritual battle, and for eternal purposes.
But the day is coming when Christians around the world will unite in a spirit of sacrificial love to reach those who have never heard the Gospel. There are still two billion people on this planet that need to hear the Good News for the very first time. How do we justify spending most of our time “fellowshipping” when people are dying and going to Hell? Are we sipping spiritual cocktails while millions are drowning all around us?
How do we justify NOT going to the hard places in the world, to places no evangelist has gone before? What exempts us from that Call?
Nothing but our spiritual laziness and fear. And it’s sin. It’s so much sin.
“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”
ASLEEP IN THE LIGHT by Keith Green