I've been thinking a lot lately about the state of the Christian faith and how we will measure up to the coming troubles that the world seems to be hurtling towards. Which got me to pondering how the world will view us, and exactly what will be expected of us in the midst of our uncertain future. What's more, what do we expect from each other? Do we know what we are supposed to do, and will we recognize our responsibilities as Christians?
These days, being called a Christian is not necessarily applauded in our culture. The name "Christian" has become so entangled with social, cultural and political causes that the secular population judges us by whether they agree with which side of these issues we come down on. Maybe the better question is, how will we know each other, and how do we want to be recognized?
Some will say we should be appreciated and recognized for our declaration and obedience to our faith. And the Bible says, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. But how does that identify us to a lost world? Where is the evidence of faith? The proof? How did the 1st Century Christians identify as ... well, Christians? What was it that made the world take note of them and see that they were different from the rest of mankind?
The Bible's Book of Acts gives us the best historical view of what that era looked like from the perspective of those who had to decide who they were and what they were supposed to do. The First Century was arguably one of the most dangerous times in the history of Christianity. The success of Jesus's assignment on earth rested on the actions, deeds, and words of a few men and women who dared to represent the new faith in the face of an Empire and a religious system that were determined to eradicate them and stamp out the embers of a growing movement that threatened to spread like wildfire.
In the First Century, if you walked in your Christian faith, you could expect to be persecuted by both the Roman Empire and the Jewish authorities, both of whom felt threatened because this new Christianity didn't follow the rules of their established class systems. Christians treated everyone as equal, and were willing to share all they had with those less fortunate. Christians were willing to lose everything they had -- their prestige and influence, even their lives -- to follow a radical idea of putting others before yourself. Furthermore, they had the boldness and courage to argue that God was the exclusive authority in their lives; above the Emperor and the Rabbi!
That's a rather simplified version of what Christianity in the Book of Acts was all about. The influence of Christians was much more radical, bold, and costly than what I've written. This was the time when Christians were fed to the lions as stadiums full of people roared their approval. It was a time when Christians were used as human torches by the Emperor Nero. Their villages and synagogues were burned and they had to flee to the hills in order to survive. Ultimately, the faithful Disciples had to decide if they were going to fade back into Jewish society and hide out from the Romans who saw them as dissidents, or whether they truly believed what Jesus had taught them and commanded them ... to take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Once the Holy Spirit came on them in power [just as Jesus said He would], there was no denying the truth and the power of this new "Way" that they were to live.
And it is important to understand why Jesus chose those particular places. He wanted His disciples to be a witness about Him in Jerusalem (where He was crucified); in Judea (where His ministry was rejected by His fellow Jews); in all of Samaria (where the Disciples looked down on the inhabitants of the land who were Israelites that had intermarried with the foreigners and adopted their idolatrous religion); and to the ends of the earth (where they were strangers and would be witnessing to people who knew nothing of their faith). In other words, this new faith of Christianity was open to everyone -- to those who were your declared enemies; to people who were open sinners; and to people whom you have nothing in common with. Jesus was leaving us a record of what it looked like to call yourself a Christian, and it was a thoroughly and comprehensively revolutionary idea!
So, do we fit that description? Are we willing to surrender our pride and worldly comforts to offer everyone a picture of Christ? Are we bold enough to stand out in the world and willing to pay the price to call ourselves a Christian? Are we strong enough to go it alone with an assignment that Christ gives us -- or do we need the comfort and safety of the Christian crowd? In the First Century, if you were willing to be called a Christian, it was a certainty that your life would be radically altered as you embarked on a lifestyle that bore fruit for the glory of Jesus and God. Has your lifestyle changed? Is there evidence that you are separate from the culture? Are you willing to walk in uncomfortable and unfamiliar circumstances to share who Jesus is in your life, and who you are in His Kingdom?
Yes, it was dangerous and difficult to be a Christian in the First Century. But do not be deceived into believing that the world accepts us more today than it did 2000 years ago. And I'm not talking about "nominal" Christians; those who are Christians in name only, and because they call themselves by that title. Those Christians will be able to assimilate into the world that's coming. I'm talking about Christians like those in the Book of Acts; those who understood they were in the cross-hairs of both the political and religious governmental bodies... and they didn't back down. It is these Christians who will know the persecution, discrimination, tyranny and oppression of a world that wants nothing to do with Christ.
BUT, we have the knowledge and the confidence that the Christians who walk in the authentic faith and ways of our Lord Jesus, will be part of God's holy remnant. They will carry the hope of victory, restoration, and a return to God's righteous ways. They will receive power, authority, and favor to carry out their assignments and glorify God, the Father; Jesus, the Son; and the Holy Spirit. Now is the time to make a decision if you will be that Christian! I have no doubt that there are those of us who have made that decision and will walk in genuine and sincere Christianity... and I look forward to recognizing you!
#realchristianity #authenticfaith #christianidentity #christianremnant
1 John 2:19 They went out from us [seeming at first to be Christians], but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be clearly shown that none of them are of us.