Acts 2:42 | Public Faith

church

The prevailing ethic of the day in regards to faith goes something like this… “My faith is my own and it is something I keep private.” In the public square, at work, at home, at school, in government, and out shopping there has been a push to scrub Christianity and promote secularism. When I bring of the topic of God, Church, or spiritual things in public or with friends and family there is an awkward moment before the conversation moves forward. The question then is a private and personal faith hidden from the public square or hidden from ones own family biblical? It is right to podcast a preacher and call that church? Is that acceptable to God?

I have learned something over the last 10 years that eluded me when I was younger on this topic. God is relational and in order to be in fellowship with him in a way that is meaningful in this life one must establish like minded relationship with others in the community. Jesus demonstrated this with discipleship. The early church lived this as they started a community of Christians. If you are a Christian then you must follow in those footsteps and live out the example that was set thousands of years ago.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 ESV

While one could podcast sound Christian teaching all day long one cannot podcast “fellowship” or “breaking of bread”. One might be able to pray privately, as we all should, but without a church community one will not be able to devote themselves to “the prayers” that come with a corporate and community need. Living a life of private faith unannounced and without fellowship will be shallow and stale. God desires that we serve each other. That we disciple each other. That we are accountable to each other. That we eat in each other’s homes. That we share our lives with each other. This is what God has called us to. Do not let secularism quiet what should be a public acknowledgement of what Christ is doing in your life. If you never talk to your children about what God is doing and where he is at work what would they conclude? Is your faith real or imaginary?

13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 ESV

It is amazing to me that two people on opposite ends of the earth may instantly share a common bond through the Holy Spirit in this life. One might be free the other a slave. They might have cultures that clash as much as Jews and Greeks yet in Christ they work as one sharing the same spirit.

Do not miss the dynamics, of discipleship, fellowship, prayers, and relationship, that God desires in every Christian’s life because you might be different than the people in the church. If you are drinking from the same spirit God will bind together one body for his glory. Don’t be afraid to integrate into a church family because everyone who is saved is a child of God and therefore brother and sister before the Father.

Eating at the Table of Demons

Who do people eat with the most outside of family? Eating with friends is fun. Coworkers can be fun or at the least expected since so much time is spent with them when working outside the home. But do people ever stop to realize they fellowship at a spiritual level and not just the physical means of eating food? Living in a physical world without easily visible means to experience a spiritual plane leaves people naturally to focus on the physical while forgetting about the spiritual. Most people in western society are almost completely cut off from recognizing the spiritual aspects of interactions with other people and the world. People rarely stop to ask questions like “Is there a God”, “Where will I go when I die”, or “Is the physical reality the only reality”? When I ask those questions to people I meet there is most certainly an awkwardness that comes over the conversation. The answer to those questions is yes there is more to life than the physical. So why do people avoid it? Not only is there a spiritual world but people need to realize that this world is at war spiritually speaking. Paul reminds his congregants of this fact.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

In the same way that I prayed for President Obama I will pray for president Trump. My issues whatever they may be politically are not against the person. I have a charge to love all people and to pray for the leaders of the country. My issues are against the true ruler behind the person. I pray that the leaders and those in authority would be servants to God (even if it is clear they are not). This is part of my duty in this war of the heavens. Jesus died on the cross to break the god of this world’s grip on humanity.

31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:31-32 ESV

Even if one lives unaware and distracted from the fact that the physical is not all there is the truth remains that God created everything both spiritual and physical. He is the author and the spiritual world is there with humankind because God created people to live forever in both spirit and body. He has recorded events by way of the Bible to highlight the creation from His perspective. God has chosen to open the eyes of his children to the spiritual world. Do not shy away from this reality. Look past the physical frustrations and temptation to be angry at a fellow human being and know that evil is directed from the spiritual plane.

15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17 ESV

God is in control of both the physical and the spiritual. The duty of followers of Christ is to pray for His will and actions in the events of History.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:19-20 ESV

In the spiritual war with the evil ruler of this world, the evil ruler who is controlling what he can, a question rises up “What are those who have eyes opened to do?” “Do we continue on as before?”

No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 ESV

“Do we continue on eating at the table of demons?” No we must no longer be who we were. When we verbally assault fellow human beings. When we relish in the tears of those who have lost. When we champion unity over truth. When we seek selfish lusts over self-denial and self-control. When we want all religions to be a source of truth… THEN we are eating at the table of Demons. Saying no to the table of demons will cost friendships because it is where most people fellowship and fellowship is both physical and spiritual. Saying no to the table of demons may cut some out of the market square because that is where business occurs. Saying no to the table of demons may cost an opportunity for power or leadership because the ruler of this world will not give up his control to anything from God. Saying no to the table of demons leaves only one table from which to eat and that is of the Lamb of God. This table requires only that we serve Christ by sharing the good news of the gospel to this world. That may be a simple question of “Tell me who is God to you?” worked into the next conversation. Eating at the table of God means we give way to the needs of others. Eating at this table means we pray for enemies and we love those who hate. It means trusting Christ and not falling back to the selfish lust of this physical world. The light of Christ must shine into the darkness of demons.

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV

 

I Long to See You

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12 ESV

Paul writing to the people of Rome tells them one of the reasons why he wants to visit with them. He wants to strengthen them with a spiritual gift. What kind of gift can Paul impart? Is he the Holy Spirit that he can provide gifts of the Holy Spirit? Not exactly, but the answer is interesting. Paul is calling the encouragement that comes from believers hanging out with each other a spiritual gift that strengthens all involved. This is a law or an order that God has ordained. Believers interacting with other believers (relationships) talking about, demonstrating, and praying about the things of faith build encouragement and in turn strengthen mutually the believers involved. Exactly what does this look like and how do we in the church today grasp ahold of such a spiritual gift?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

The author of Hebrews tells us that we need to meet together, even though some people neglect to do so. If you want encouragement from other believers then you will need to make time to fit them into your life. How can anyone encourage you and your family if you fill your life with things that separate you from the body of believers? I would challenge everyone to evaluate how their week is organized? How many evenings are spent watching some television show in isolation when there is a group meeting to study Gods word in the Church or home right down the street? How many of us with children fill our time with sports, dance, or academic clubs yet never see the value of a community group of believers meeting in homes to strengthen our knowledge of God? How many of us because of our sins sit in isolation afraid to become part of a body of believers out of fear of judgment?

I love how the author of Hebrews uses the word “stir” to describe the interaction with the community of believers. The KJV uses the word “provoke”. Let us consider how to provoke one another… to love and good works. This word “stir” means to irritate or incite. That is a provocative word for the author of Hebrews to use. Let us consider how to “irritate” one another… to love and good works. Maybe we have experienced that irritation with other believers and that is why we are now in the habit of neglecting to meet together? There is good irritation and it makes one restless to no longer accept the status of the current path. Just as an alarm clock irritates one to get out of bed so does the fellowship of believers irritate or stir one to join God in His work.

There is a second part to this irritation that needs to be addressed. That is the irritation that other believers cause in relation to sin. We all are sinners. Some sins have been forced upon us due to circumstances (it is not your fault what others have done to you). Some sins we choose because those desires are strong and to be honest we enjoy them even though they are destructive to us and those around us. Both of these can be overcome by the fellowship of believers where Christ is at work. First you are not so unique that your sins are one of a kind. In a small group that is encouraging one another about the things of faith one will find that others share similar struggles. Behind the exterior of appearing to have it all together the truth is exposed in the community group, and the Bible study of other struggling right along with ourselves. Be encouraged and remember that Jesus came to fellowship with the hurting and the sinner.

I have been hosting a community group in my home through the local church for several years and I have enjoyed getting to know those that venture out to of their isolation into the body of believers. We have had lively conversations on all kinds of topics, and I have seen believers grow and strengthen their faith through these small groups. If the fellowship of believers for you is Church for an hour on Sunday morning anonymously hiding on the back row then you have missed the purpose of Church and a spiritual gift of strength that comes from God by way of relationship with His children. Step out receive this spiritual gift of strength and be stirred to join with God in His work.