Saturday, February 9, 2013
Half the Bible, Twice the Impact!?
Luke 12:48 "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required."
I Corinthians 4:2 "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful."
God is a giver. He is a giver because He is a lover. He loved us so much, He gave us His Son. After His Son gave His life for us, he rose from the dead, ascended back to heaven and gave the Spirit the responsibility of helping us receive all that He has given us. He gave us His Word to reveal to us His intention to freely give us all good things. He gave us His Spirit, not only to make us aware of heaven's possibilities, but to help us walk in their reality in our lives here on earth.
We love Him because He first loved us. We aren't initiators, we are responders. God gave us faith, not so we could use it at our discretion to get what we want, but so we could believe His Word and walk into the reality of His intention. Faith gives us access into His grace, which is all He is and all He has for us.
Faith is quite possibly the most pivotal gift we have been given by God. Faith gives us the ability to hear His voice, believe His Word and receive newness of life that only comes from heaven. Exercising our faith in God through vocal proclamation and active obedience enables us to participate in God's supernatural life in the midst of our everyday lives.
Faith causes us to recognize the spiritual world around us and to participate in its reality by embracing and releasing the creative power of His Word. The universe was framed by the Word of God and "our world" can likewise be formed and reformed by the words of our mouth as we agree with heaven and welcome the kingdom of God into our lives.
The beauty of the Word of God is that it inspires our souls to live above the challenges of life and at the same time energizes our spirits to break through barriers that limit God's influence in and through us. This is possible because the Word both imparts faith (Romans 10:17) and activates the faith we already have. (Romans 10:8-10)
With half the Bible we currently possess, the early church made twice the impact on their world than we have on ours thus far. Allow me to submit to you that this is true because they were faithful to respond aggressively to what they were given: the Spirit of Christ, who picked up where Jesus left off. In order for our generation to experience the kingdom of God the way God intends, we need a radical paradigm shift in our westernized thinking. We desperately need to be delivered from a culture that places us at the center of attention. Church life is not about what we can get out of it, it is supposed to be all about Him.
Last time I checked Jesus promised to build His Church on the foundation of His Word through the ministry of the Spirit, who is the executive director of the kingdom of God in the earth. The Spirit develops heavenly culture in our lives as we allow Him to carve away earthly culture that stands in opposition to His ways. This is what it means to "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," (Matthew 3:2, Matthew 4:17, Matthew 10:7, Acts 2:37-40) which by the way, was the predominant message of John the Baptist (the last OT prophet), Jesus (the initiator of the NT) and the early church.
Repentance, which is a continual change of mind and lifestyle, is an absolute requirement to experience greater depths of God's kingdom in our lives. The atmosphere of heaven permeates the hearts of those who submit to repentance as the Spirit leads them into all truth. Repentance is not just something we do in order to be born again or something we do in response to an awareness of our sins. Repentance is the life-long process of submitting our thoughts to God's thoughts. And the Word of God is a tremendous tool God has given us to help with this endeavor.
One clear distinction between the church we read about in the book of Acts and today's church is the approach to God's Word. To believe something in that era implied immediate obedience and life application. After all, "faith without works is dead." But we tend to separate our beliefs from our actions. This is primarily due to our tendency to "lean on our own understanding instead of trusting in the Lord with all our hearts." (Proverbs 3:5,6)
This generation is full of professional church-going, sermon-listening, conference-attending, book-reading Christians who equate the accumulation of their biblical knowledge to spiritual maturity. But spiritual maturity is not measured by the Word of God we are familiar with. It is evident by the God of the Word that we intimately know and are influenced by.
Another noticeable difference between the church of today and that of yesterday lies in the dependence on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Due to persecution and civil unrest, first century believers depended on the wisdom and protection of the Lord for their very survival. And due to their limited access to the Scriptures, they had to rely on the Spirit within to verify truth when they heard it. Due to our abundant access to Scripture, I think we depend too much on our ability to process information instead of the Spirit's ministry to reveal truth to us.
In our lush Christian culture we tend to fit our church life into our weekly routine, but in the early church it was a way of life. Their focus wasn't set on fulfilling expected Christian duties. It was set on engaging their relationship with God and others on a daily basis because they were compelled to do so by the love of Christ. And because they relied so heavily on the Spirit's ministry from day to day, the Spirit was able to form Christ in them and reveal Christ through them in rapid acceleration, so much that they turned their world upside-down in a relatively short time span.
If we can learn and apply just these two lessons from the early church, we too will turn our world upside-down. We shouldn't read our Bibles with the religious spectacles of our idolatrous culture because we will end up deifying the apostles of old. They were ordinary men and women just like you and I, who seriously embraced their responsibility to be faithful to the Word and to the Spirit, who authored the Book in the first place.
Each generation has the luxury of learning from previous generations who have experienced God firsthand. In its simplest form the Word of God is a collection of stories detailing how generations of old came into relationship with God because they responded to the voice of God in the midst of their frail humanity. Welcome the fullness of the Spirit's ministry within as you continue your quest to know Him more through His magnificent Word!