In this last day of a devotional series on the church, the devotional author wants the church of today to take another look at the early church and see how we need to be restored to that former condition. He is not talking about ‘doing church’ but about how we ought to be spiritually. That early church was filled with zeal, reaching out to everyone and not distracted by this temporary life. It was unified, growing, and making a difference in the world.
It distresses me too that today’s church is fragmented, looked down on, and having little impact, or at least so it seems. Some are not like that. I’m surprised at my defense for I am normally a glass half empty person, but the devotional writer’s low view has pushed me into a more positive stance.
Besides, I continue to remember that the sovereign Lord is building it. Jesus promised that He would build His church and that “. . . the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) To be overly critical is to say that Christ does not know what He is doing. We tend to think that way with all sorts of seeming disasters, yet He promises to use “all things for good” (Romans 8:28). I don’t want to have my vision short and my faith is too small. While the church may not look good in many places, it is still His church.
What about being like that early church? God does tell His people to follow Him with our whole hearts. As for the old ways, there is value in them. He says, “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16) He also says, “Fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14–15)
My gods were not the wood and stone idols referred to in Joshua. However, I can easily fall back into worshiping my own ideas, friends, material things, and whatever else that takes me away from giving Jesus Christ my total allegiance. I know that God says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30) This means any sort of idolatry puts me against God, doing things that are a liability in His plans.
Currently, various forms of idolatry are probably the biggest sin issues in this part of the world. People want what they want. Whole churches want what they want. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and ________________.” (Luke 16:13) The original version fills in the blank with ‘money’ but it could be anything, such as: success or popularity.
My part in all of this is to stay true to the Lord with a focus on the gospel. I need to listen to the Word of the Lord and do what He says. I need to be sacrificial, caring for others more than I care for myself. This is not about whether we meet in building or home, do baptism with a cup or a tub, have altar calls or commitment cards. Doing church is about responding to the gospel in humble gratitude, letting Jesus be all that we need, and obeying Him with our whole hearts – because we know that He is keeping every promise He ever made, including the promise to build His church.