I love the book of Acts.
I love that Luke took the time to record the doings of the early church. I love that it tells us what the disciples did after Jesus ascended. I love that they were ordinary people who, when given the Spirit of God, were able to carry on Jesus' ministry of preaching, miracles, and healings. I love reading about the sacrifices they made. I love how committed they were- how they never wavered in their faith. I love how they lived what they preached.
I love that as soon as the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in the second chapter of Acts, they started preaching. It's the first thing that Peter did. Even at nine o'clock in the morning, he didn't wait. He couldn't wait.
Isn't it interesting how the book is called Acts? It really is the perfect title- it's the Acts of the Apostles. It's not called the Thoughts of the Apostles. It's not called the Beliefs of the Apostles. It's not called the Theology, the Understandings, or the Conversations of the Apostles. It records the life of the early church, and the life of the early church was not a statement of faith- it was a demonstration.
These people took everything they had seen, heard, and learned, and they took it into the world. They did not lose sight of their Master in heaven, which is why they were able to face every opposition head on, without fear. Nothing was more important than the spread of Jesus' message. They knew that. They had faith beyond a shadow of a doubt, and they did something with it. They proved their faith by their acts! They lived their faith by their deeds!
And because they lived in this way, constantly moving, constantly active, constantly working to further God's kingdom, people were believing left and right! In fact, on the very day that the disciples received the Holy Spirit, their passion was so real, so undeniable, look at how it paid off:
Acts 2:41 - Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day- about 3,000 in all.
It goes on to explain how the believers sold everything they had, and gave the money to those in need. It talks about how they worshiped at the Temple each day, shared meals, performed miraculous signs and wonders, were always generous... and because of this:
Acts 2:47 - ...all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
These guys were literally the image of Jesus! Since He was gone, they simply continued what He had been doing! They refused to let His impact die down. They expanded it, shining the light of Christ everywhere they went!
Acts 5:15-16 - Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord- crowds of both men and women. As a result of the apostles' work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter's shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.
Wow. Sounds a lot like what's not happening in Canada, eh? People may know we have faith in God, but often, they only know that because we say we have faith, and that's all we do. We talk about it. Sing about it. Think about it. Read about it. We share things on Facebook, post Bible verses, wear crosses around our necks, and go to church. We look like believers, so we must be believers, right?
I wonder, if someone were to write a sequel to the book of Acts about the church today... would it still be called Acts? Would there be anything to write about, concerning the Acts of the Church? I know for sure there would be a lot to write about on the Songs of the Church, the Debates of the Church, the Weekly Gatherings of the Church, the Meetings of the Church, the Events of the Church, the Potlucks of the Church, the Chit-Chat of the Church... but I'm not so sure that we would be able to write much about the Acts.
See, we are all about the statements of faith. We are all about our image, and our imaginary 'churchy' responsibilities. Dressing nicely, showing up Sunday morning, volunteering in the nursery, bringing food for potlucks... it's all about looking like a Christian.
But the thing is, we don't even look like Christians anymore. We look like our own adaptation of a Christian. If we went back and looked at the first Christians, the first group of believers, it would become apparent that we do not look like them, and it's scary!
Acts 4:32-35 - All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God's great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.
I think that, as a family of believers, we need to start prioritizing a life of service. We need to be evaluating what we are actually doing about our faith in God. Let's take a look at our lives from an outside point of view. Let's look at how we are perceived when what we say does not match how we live.
"I was a Christian recently enough to remember what it felt like to really believe the Creator of the universe talked to me, to really believe I would go to heaven and unbelievers would go to hell, to really believe that prayer made a difference. It sure felt like I really believed that stuff. And other Christians tell me they really believe that stuff, too. But something’s not quite right with that. Supposedly, my parents really believe that I am going to hell now that I’m an atheist. They believe their son, whom they love dearly, is going to be tortured forever. Literally. And yet, they don’t seem very upset by this. Sure, they’re upset that their son has rejected most of the values and “truths” they tried to instill in me. They’re upset that I reject their way of life as both deluded and immoral. That’s a major blow for any caring parent to take. But they don’t seem upset that their beloved son will be tortured forever in hell. And that seems odd. If they really believed that, wouldn’t I see some serious mourning? Some pleading? Some great distress?
If you really believed some of the people you love dearly were going to spend an eternity in hell, wouldn’t that motivate you to try harder to save them? Would you just go on about your life? Would you just mention this to your friends and family in passing, and send them the occasional tract with information on the threat of the Nazis? Would you merely pray for them to see the threat and save themselves? Or, would you do everything you could to save your friends and family? Maybe you would drive out there and try to convince them of the threat until you were blue in the face. Maybe you would refuse to leave until they came away with you. Maybe you would… I dunno what, but it would be pretty drastic. I know if I were in that situation, then I would do some pretty drastic things to save my friends and family. But this is not what Christians do for their friends and family who they really believe are on the verge of falling into eternal torture, even though they say they really believe this, and even though they feel they really believe this. So something weird is going on. Millions of Christians really believe this stuff, but they don’t act like it.
--Luke Muelhauser, Do Christians REALLY Believe?
He has a point. Look around you at the people in your life who are lost. Who are the people you know that are not saved? And more importantly, what are YOU going to do about it? If Peter, Paul, Silas, and the other believers in the early church were to come here, to your town, TODAY, where would they start? What would they do? Would they hang out at the youth groups, or at the public school? Would they invite church families to dinner, or unbelievers? Take a look at the book of Acts; the book of their acts. Take a look at how their lives were genuine examples of what they believed.
One thing I know for certain: If Luke Muelhauser lived in the time of the apostles, he never would have had those questions. There would have been no need. Because of how they lived, because of what they did, there was no question what they believed, or who they followed.
James 2:18-20 - Now someone may argue, "Some people have faith; others have good deeds." But I say, "How can you show me your faith if you don't have good deeds? I will show you my faith BY my good deeds." You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can't you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
Take some time and read about the lives of the early believers. Look at the adventures the apostles embarked on. Their lives were not just statements of their faith. They were demonstrations. They were willing to die for it. They didn't need a cross necklace or a catchy bumper sticker to let people know what they were about. That's what a Christian is. And that's what we claim to be.
It's time for us, as Christians, to figure out the difference between acting, and acting. Because trust me, the world can tell the difference now just as well as it could in the time of the early church.
Let's aim to be the sequel to the Acts of the Apostles.
And let's work to keep that title.