The events within the testimony of the early church in Acts are extremely impactful, especially considering the corners of the known civilization were reached in that same generation. Pastor Don presents us in tangible material on the subject through four very particular reasons:
#1 - Power Possessed
The power wielded by the early church was not only immensely charged with effect, but also did not come with the baggage associated with the typical uses of power. There was no bravado of self and no lording powers over others who do not have it. The church rather operated under the paradigm that it was helpless without this power. The power itself was not forced upon the church, but was rather sought for in the upper room, or by faith at conversion for those who came along afterwards. This power was not earned by any merit of those that possessed it, but rather was freely given to bolster the living application of one's new life in Christ, which is also a free gift. One place of divergence from much mainstream thought, is that all this still stands today. We believe everything written in scripture along these lines still stands today in its entirety, as there is nothing noting any change whatsoever. Are you ready to turn your world upside down?
#2 - Praying Practiced
Part of the lack of bravado mentioned earlier, assumes that we take on Paul's mentality from the scripture above. It is not our capabilities or qualifications that accomplish anything in the Kingdom of God. God rather works through willing vessels that are turned towards Him in mindset, focus, interest, and desire. One of the most practical ways to measure this is the simple practice of praying. There is power to be found in prayer. Prayer doesn't so much change God as it brings us into alignment with what He would want with His perfection. It consistently reinforces the true source of power. Prayer also moves the heart of God in that He has asked us to pray, and as we obediently foster the relationship (prayer is a conversation) that we were created for, we move into our destiny God has intended for us. In faith, things will happen that we must give God credit for. This takes the time to focus, the passion to truly desire more of God, the interest to put Him first in all things, such as is found in Matthew 6:33, seeking first the Kingdom of God and all righteousness. This is not easy with our hectic lifestyles, but a worthy sacrifice nonetheless.
#3 - Person Preached
Here is the moment of zero compromise. The single different, and uniquely unifying indicator of the movement as compared to anything else. The person and powerful name of Jesus Christ. The historical person Jesus of Nazareth is corroborated by those of faith and skeptics alike, through honestly historical review and textual criticism of the Bible with plenty of other texts outside the Bible. Christ is a title meaning "Anointed One." It points to the notion that Jesus fulfilling the role described in the Old Testament as the one sent by God to restore the created order from its fallen state, the blessed hope of all mankind. While certifiably a human who lived and died, by His own words He is more than just a man called the Messiah, but God Himself, involved in the creation of all that is, and fully one with the His Heavenly Father whom He was begotten by, as well as the Spirit Jesus would send later after Christ's death, burial, resurrection, appearance to many, and ascension. The great power associated with Him, and the empty tomb continue to ring loud as testimonies to whom He is: The only way to truth and life, in the powerful name and living person of Jesus Christ.
#4 - Price Paid
Finally, the ultimate price was paid by much of the early church. Persecuted by the very original heritage of the Judeo-Christian movement, Christians were persecuted by the Jews early on just like Jesus, and some even to the point of death. This eventually would give rise to both Jews and Christians alike, being heavily persecuted by Rome in the years to follow. This would include the destruction of the Second Jewish temple, and the death of all the original apostles of the church. The incredible price paid, or being pressured from all possible sources actually bolstered the church and further turned their world upside down, because paradoxically the more Christians died and the church was subjugated, the more resolute the church became. Conversions in fact exponentially grew in an underground fashion and would reach great widths geographically in an incredibly short amount of time. The incredible coverage and undeniable longevity of a movement by which the original witnesses would give their life for is one of the hallmark testimonies to its validity. When circumstances become extreme, what someone values most becomes evident. Even today, there are those that meet this same fate in certain areas of the world. Would you be willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice in your own life if you were left with no other option besides denying the faith? That type of fervency has great affect on the world.
Push into His presence in a deeper way this week! You will be surprised the difference in your experience with God when you connect with a Spirit-filled community to encourage you and spur you on when things get difficult. The Holy Spirit is moving around the world, and we are preparing for a great local move of His Holy Spirit here in Durham before Jesus's soon return.
God's Word is both timeless and powerful today!
We hope that you will consider this week's message in greater depth in the days ahead and meditate on God's Word in the attached pdf outline.
You can find the sermon and all resource attachments by clicking here.