March 29, 2017

God changes hearts . . .

I often wonder how others use their time and money compared to many Christians. Sundays are obviously different, as should be schedules and to-do lists during the week. Being a Christian is about having our lives changed. Today’s Scriptures describe the changes in people who were first saved in the new church formed after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:41–47)

God changes hearts and attitudes, and that change actions. That passage describes some of them:

Baptism. This is a public confession that I have been buried with Christ and raised to new life in Him. I now do not live for me, or the world, or the devil, but for Him. (see Romans 6:3–4)

Discipleship. No one person learns and knows all that God have for us. We learn from one another as we share God’s Word through preaching, teaching, and studying together.

Fellowship. Discipleship includes sharing our lives. Fellowship can mean chatting over coffee, but it is mostly about much deeper interaction as our lives intertwine.

Communion is also a symbolic activity like baptism, and an ordinance to remember the death of Christ for our sin. Neither this or baptism are for those without faith, but for Christians only. God calls for self-examination rather than participating in an unworthy manner. (see 1 Corinthians 11:23-30)

Prayer is an individual and a community thing. We pray for ourselves, the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the needs of the world. We do this because our relationship with God has become personal and intimate. He invites us to come to Him about everything, and we know He hears and answers our prayers.

Incredible bonding in community. God also puts His people in His family. No matter where I go, when I meet a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, there is that instant family bond. We can be different in race, culture, background, but the sense of family is always present.

Generosity. Christians are characterized by knowing God is our source. We learn that no matter what we give away, if we need it, God will fill our need. We help other Christians and God extends our generosity to widows, orphans, strangers, those in bondage, and suffering people of all descriptions.

Praise. We know we are blessed by God so praise is very natural. Oh, I get caught in a funk now and then, griping about some inconvenience, complaining over something or other, but being thankful and full of praise for God is a wonderful gift from Him to His people.

Attractiveness to others. History tells how faith in Christ changed people from living for self to being a blessing to others. They gave their lives to make a difference in their world. This still happens. The sad thing is that our efforts sometimes go unseen, or we take the glory instead of giving it to God, or we are misunderstood, or the people around us are so resistant to God and the things of God that they hate what we stand for and reward our good deeds with persecution.

Nevertheless, I like this list. It reminds me of the things I have in common with the body of Christ. It also deepens my sense of ‘family’ and our unity. Jesus changes us, brings us together, uses us for His redemptive purposes. Our lives matter, not only to God but to one another and to a world that needs to know about God and to see Jesus in action. We are that link. The better we respond to the attitudes God gives us, the more we can be as He intends in a needy world and to people without hope.

Jesus, You changed the world when You changed that handful of people and made them the church. You are still changing the world, despite the many times Your church falls short. Thank You. Please keep us standing firm on the foundations that You gave us, not divided over minor issues but strong in faith and agreeing in the most important reasons why You came, why You died and rose again, and what You want us to do while we live here in this world.

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