Summary: With a great sense of urgency, and a deep and abiding faith, the first century church grew and developed quickly. The same resources must be utilized by the contemporary church.
A friend of mine, Brett Kays, some time back noticed some things that are true of scenes in almost every movie or TV show. If you determined reality according to the way Hollywood defined it, you could be very confused. According to Hollywood:
• All grocery shopping bags contain at least one stick of French bread.
• The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window in Paris.
• A man will show no pain while taking the most ferocious beating, but will wince when a woman tries to clean his wounds.
• Cars that crash will almost always burst into flames.
• It is always possible to park directly outside the building you are visiting.
• Any lock can be picked by a credit card or a paper clip in seconds—unless it’s the door to a burning building with a child trapped inside it.
• All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red digital readouts so that you know exactly when they will go off.
• Medieval peasants all had perfect teeth.
• It does not matter if you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts; your enemies will patiently wait to attack you one by one by dancing around in a threatening manner until you have knocked out their predecessors.
It’s kind of funny when you think about it. Life really isn’t much like Hollywood portrays it. But too often we are content to accept charicatures for reality. Sometimes we will accept the simple over the complex because it’s easier to understand. Other times we will believe an easy-to-live-lie rather than accept a hard-to-live-truth. I don’t know why. Sometimes it’s laziness. Other times it’s ignorance. Still other times it is selfishness. But if we aren’t careful, we can be fooled into believing that something that’s not real is real just because we want it to be.
Listen to what Paul wrote to the Colossian church (1:3-6, NLT)
We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard that you trust in Christ Jesus and that you love all of God’s people. You do this because you are looking forward to the joys of heaven—as you have been ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is changing lives everywhere, just as it changed yours that very first day you heard and understood the truth about God’s great kindness to sinners.
Did you notice what Paul was thanking God for in those verses? The church in the city of Colossee and the church all over the world was growing because people were hearing and understanding “the truth about God’s great kindness to sinners.” What changed the Colossians, and what transforms people’s lives today is coming to understand the real deal. It is the true story about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. It is the call of Christ to take up our cross and follow Him. The good news about Jesus is a story of blood and sacrifice, commitment and tears. It is not some watered down “feel good” message, something that looks appealing at first glance but had no life transforming substance. The bottom line is that if we don’t let the truth about Jesus saturate our lives, it just won’t spill out into the lives of others. If the good news about Jesus doesn’t fill every nook and cranny of our church life, then Nashville Christian Church is nothing more than a country club or a social action organization. And we will not be satisfied with that. We want to be everything God desires for us. But in order to become God’s church in this place, we have have the good news about Jesus as our very lifeblood.
When you read through the book of Acts, you can’t miss the sense of urgency and the depth of faith that the first century church had as they followed Jesus. Their love for God and their passion for people who didn’t know Him drove them to share the good news with the world that surrounded them. Their desire to serve God led them to sacrifice themselves for the sake of loving and serving one another. From the very beginning of the church, those traits made the church different from a country club or a social action organization.
In the second chapter of Acts we have Luke’s record of the birthday of the church. The apostles were gathered in the Temple, and there was a huge crowd there because it was the feast of Pentecost. At that moment, God’s Spirit chose to move them to stand up and publicly proclaim the message of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. It was a miraculous event, the apostles spoke in languages that they had never studied, people from all over the world heard the message in their native tongue. But the miracles were not only contained in tongues of fire and the different languages that they spoke. Peter and the other apostles told the crowds that they were guilty of crucifying Jesus, but that He was not a criminal but the Son of God. And the crowd miraculously responded to the message. Let me begin reading at the conclusion of Peter’s message.