August 23, 2014

No finger pointing

Because God says His church is like a building and a family, It makes sense that that His people met together in their homes. Of course the early church did not have buildings like we do today. Meeting in homes was a necessity, but it also was a good way to invite new people and make them feel comfortable.

I’ve been studying the mission of the church. In some ways, the practices of the early church have continued and in other ways they have been dropped. In my mind, the way we do church is not nearly as important as having a Christ-like attitude in it. That is, we could meet in our homes and/or in church buildings; it isn’t a point to argue about. Our unity as believers and the way we treat others is a far greater witness to the power of God in our lives.

Again, I read the theme verses for this devotional series and note that we are not strangers and aliens to the kingdom of God. He made us “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” by building each person and each church “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” Unless a person or a church strays away from Christ and the Gospel, the church is one “whole structure, joined together and growing into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19–21)

Why then are there so many divisions? In those early days, the enemy was clearly those who did not consider themselves part of this household of God. Those first Christians refused to do what outsiders told them and said, “We must obey God rather than men.”
Back then, even some nonbelievers realized that Christians should be handled with caution. When the religious leaders wanted to kill them, a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders. He said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

Then they took his advice and the Christians, “every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5:29–42)

Christians today are commanded to do the same. In fact, it should flow from our hearts in gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, but also because He lives in us and ought to be the driving force of our lives. Do we fail in obedience to Christ because we listen to our opponents and are fearful of what they might do? We have good news of forgiveness and eternal life. We have seen the grace of God, grace that must be shared, yet many Christians are not sharing and not living in obedience.

Another thing done in the early church is the willingness of those Christians to follow the example of Jesus toward sinners. He welcomed “tax collectors and sinners.” (Matthew 9:10–13, Luke 19:7) He also ate with lepers (Mark 14:3) and enjoyed the hospitality of women, something the current religious leaders would never do. (Luke 10:38, John 12:1–2). He had no “holier than thou” attitude toward anyone.

We should be like Him and also welcome and enjoy the presence of those that others consider outcasts and outsiders. God isn’t interested in a self-righteous attitude. As Jesus said, He came not for those who think they are already right with God, but for sinners. Knowing how the Bible defines the human race, I understand that Jesus coming for sinners only means that He came for everyone.

I read this thinking about my own preferences. Who do I invite to dinner? Who do I want to spend my time with and my money on? What is my attitude toward those caught in sin’s trap? Do I let the threat of rejection or the power of those who are against Christianity keep me from sharing Christ?

Those questions bring me to realize that I cannot point fingers at anyone else.

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