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ACTS OF THE APOSTLES

September 23, 2013

“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8

 

In its own right, the Acts of the Apostles is indeed one of the most remarkable of all Biblical books – and I say this for several reasons. The most compelling of those reasons, though, is its pertinence to the lives of Christians today: it is a thorough, detailed record of the trials and tribulations of the early church, and of the men and women who stood, lived, and died for our Lord Jesus Christ. Why is that so relevant to a modern Christian’s walk with God? Because, while we all, from time to time, like to act like martyrs, these people actually were: they lived in perilous times when their faith was a death sentence, or worse – and the torturous cruelties many suffered actually made death a pleasant alternative. Now, while it is true that there are places like this in the world today – places where Christians are persecuted for their faith – I think that we would all have to admit that, for the most part, we live comfortable, privileged, and blessed lives that we take for granted. But, there is a very possible reality that, one day, we might be called upon to stand in their shoes – to face true persecution – as we live in a progressively darker and more sinful world.

 

And, that got me to thinking. I thought about the life stories that are recorded within the Book of Acts: of the faith, love, devotion, compassion, courage, and determination so prominently displayed by our earliest brethren. And then I thought: if you put today’s church in those same circumstances, how well would we fare? Would we conduct ourselves with that same grace – or, would we fall pitifully short? How would we react at losing our nice, comfy homes and having to rely on the charity of the kind-hearted to have a place to lay our head? How much fire, excitement, and conviction would we have if we had to travel penniless, worn, and beaten from town to town where you were then, for the most part, despised by the very people you were trying to help? How would we stomach being imprisoned for our faith? (And, take it from me – someone who has been incarcerated on account of pre-salvation stupidity and selfishness – it ain’t pleasant…and today’s jails would have probably been considered something akin to the Hilton during the turn of the 1st millennia.) How steadfast would we be if we were thrown into an arena for the sport of our fellow men and women, to be torn to pieces, mauled by wild animals? In short, if we woke up tomorrow in their world, in their places, how would the Acts of the Apostles read then? Would we, like Stephen, have rebuked the council for its faithlessness, even while knowing in our hearts that we were condemning ourselves to death? Would we have traveled the Mediterranean world thrice over in missionary journeys like Paul; only to endure being harassed, run out of town, beaten, imprisoned…and, yet still be relentless in our mission to bring increase to God’s glory and His kingdom?

 

It’s something to consider, I believe. And, also something to be grateful for: to recognize that, while our Church was ordained by God, it was built with the blood, sweat, and tears of His faithful – the first of our brothers and sisters. To understand the impact they had on that ancient world – a world that was cruel, distant and disconnected from itself, where life was cheap and change came slowly if it even came it all…this was the world they transformed with their faith – the world they changed with their fire, and with their love for our Savior! That should serve as an inspiration for us all: to teach us that, that no matter how big, or uncaring, or harsh this old world and its evils might seem…”Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world!” (I John 4:4)

 

Today, think about this: know that as we speak, act, and just live in general, that even the tiniest, most minute aspects of those lives are being documented. That every detail is being indelibly recorded either for, or against us – depending on our salvation or lack thereof. That, if your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life, then in a very real way, you have your own section in an ongoing chronicle of the Acts of the Apostles: the Extended Version. Think how you want your story to read. And remember, that the audience for that story is none other than our Father who gave us life, and the Son who shed His blood to offer us the chance at an even better one. Who could we possibly want to impress more? So, let’s toughen up: let’s fuel that fire in our spirits, get our minds and our hearts where they ought to be; by setting our “affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God,” (Col. 3:2-3). Let’s be ready to serve Him in foul weather or fair, privileged or penniless; to live, love, and give as a Christian should, and to stand against the darkness of this world and to boldly speak His word. Let’s reconcile our Christianity – our faith – with the faith of those early men and women who, through God’s grace and victory, overcame so much with what seemed so little…and yet was, in truth, everything that mattered. Because it’s not changing or saving the world that is our mission: it’s to help change and save those in it. So, let’s take a few pages from the Acts of the Apostles….and act like the apostles!

 

“’And now Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto they servants that with all boldness they may speak Thy Word. By stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy Holy Child Jesus’. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the Word of God with boldness.” – Acts 4:29-31

 

Be blessed,

Joshua

 

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