Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Church on the wheels (Part 2)

Sphere: Related Content • A church committed to love and the welfare of the individual members: Being very conscious of the instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ to love one another, the early church practiced love. The Lord gave it as a commandment that the individual members of the church should love themselves the way God loves us. (See Jn.13:34,35; 15:17) 1 Jn.3:16 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”. We must love to the extent of laying down our lives for the brethren.

It is with this kind of love alone that we can be united and build community. That is the only thing that can cause us to have burden when a brother/sister is in problem so that we pray for him/her. Just as the church prayed for Peter (Acts 12:5), and Jesus prayed for the church (Jn.17). Only this kind of love can make people to have genuine interest in the affairs of one another and pray for each other. Family altars will be filled with prayers for others who are in one need or the other; even without the individual knowing it. Instead of making the weakness of a person a subject for gossip, it is made a topic for prayers.

The early church practiced love and when people saw it in Antioch, they called them Christians – Christ-like (Acts 11:26). Jesus said that “by this shall all men know that Ye are my disciples” (Jn.13:35 KJV). Love is the criteria for the people of God to be seen by the world as Christ’s. We remember that the apostles knew how important mutual care is and appointed 7 deacons to handle the affairs of welfare. The love was genuine and they increased tremendously. (See Rom.12:9,11; 1 Jn.3:17-23). Love is the greatest. One of the challenges of the contemporary church is making sure that the church is not dominated by bureaucracy and organizational hierarchical politics that they forget to take good care of their members. It is a lie that if you take good care of your pastors and they live well, you have taken care of the church. Taking good care of the church institution with teeming members struggling with the basic provisions is an indictment to the so-called wealthy church. The life of the members, without any contradiction, is the life of the church.

• A church committed to holiness and right living: The apostles taught the members to abhor sin and live righteously as children of light. Because of the challenges and accusations from the Jews, especially, trying to find a loophole or an opportunity to discredit the gospel, the early church committed themselves to letting their light shine. The people saw their good works and glorified God.
The first day Peter preached, he asked them to “repent…for the remission of sins” and “save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:38a, 40b). Later at the Solomon’s Porch, Peter urged his listeners “repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Acts 3:19) RSV. The church knew the real devastating nature of sin and were exhorted to avoid it. They lived for God. The teachings of the apostles emphasized the issues they majored on. Peter instructed the church, “as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct”. (1 Pet.1:15 RSV). The writer of the book of Hebrews also declared “strife for peace with all men and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb.12:14). Both leadership and the led all gave themselves to living up to what they claimed they believed. The life of the church was different from the life of the world and the border line was very clear. Peter even agreed that this kind of living can change a man without speaking to him. (1 Pet.3:1). Though persecuted, their righteous living was an indisputable challenge to their accusers. They prospered.

• A church obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit: Finally, we see that the church was filled with men and women who were willing to do the bidding of the Holy Spirit. They recognized that the Holy Spirit is the One in charge of His church and they listened to Him. He has to lead and teach His church. He was allowed to work unhindered. Peter broke his Jewish barrier and entered Caesarea in order to preach to Cornelius in obedience to the Holy Spirit. (Acts 10:17-20). They buried their sentiments and obeyed the Holy Ghost in their first Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15: 28-29) where they decided the fate of the Gentile Christians as concerns the Jewish dogmas. When the Holy Spirit asked them to separate Saul (Paul) and Barnabas in Acts 13, they obeyed. Paul on one occasion was forbidden to speak the word in Asia and in another occasion, he was stopped from going into Bithynia to preach the gospel (See Acts 16:6-10). He was asked to enter Macedonia. In all these circumstances Paul did not argue with God. He obeyed. Because they were obedient to the Lord of the harvest, they had abundant prosperity in the work. He showered His gifts on them and they were continually edified. They increased.

In conclusion, we have seen the 7 things the early church was committed to which made them successful. If we are to succeed in our generation and prosper as a church participating in God’s agenda, we must consider seriously these points. If we desire to get the kind of results the early church got, we ought to do what they did. It is left for us whether to be a church on the wheels or a sleeping church.
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