Thursday, September 12, 2013
Scratching the Surface of Acts
Scratching the Surface of Acts
Luke wrote two books of the Bible: the gospel named after him and Acts.
The gospel according to Luke is a very detailed account of what Jesus said and did as Lord and Savior; more biographically informative than the other synoptics (viz., Matthew and Mark) while not being as profoundly theological as John and, in my scratching estimate, more ethically expansive - especially when it comes to our responsibility to care for the world's have nots to prove we are Christian - than the other three: "In my first book, I recounted the events of Jesus' life - His actions, His teachings - from the beginning of His life until He was taken up into heaven."
Acts records the earliest responses of the earliest followers of Jesus to what He said and did as Lord and Savior as the Son joined the Father in heaven yet remained as promised as Holy Spirit to encourage and enable followers to expand the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you...You will be My witnesses...to the farthest places on earth."
It reminds me of how Dr. Macleod, our worship and homiletics professor in seminary, often said, "God acts. We respond. God acts for our salvation in Jesus and we respond accordingly as thankful recipients of His grace." Then he'd often quote Richard Davidson: "Common worship is what we say and what we do when we stand together before God, realizing in high degree who He is and who we are."
Sooooooo it seems to me that the best way for today's church to figure out its identity and mission is to go back to the earliest followers of Jesus and reincarnate their life and ministry in response to what Jesus said and did as Lord and Savior.
Parenthetically, truly Biblical people - not people who read books about the Bible but people who read the Bible mostly and primarily or, even better in my estimate, solely as the best way to know God and His will for life and ministry - often say, after reading the book instead of books about the book, any connection between too many of today's churches and Jesus is purely coincidental; or as Tozer wrote, "Christ, not society...[is]...the pattern of the Christian life." Jesus was categorically stern about it in cautioning us against the sin of the Pharisees and Sadducees who elevated "the traditions of men to the commandments of God" (which, by the way, is as close to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as one can tread).
Sooooooo, again, I'm convinced the best way to learn how to follow Jesus is to read what He said about following Him in all four of the gospeling accounts and follow Him as those closest to Him in time followed Him.
Again, it's Christianity by the book instead of a "kinda" watered/toned down version of Christianity as rationalized by books about the best book on Christianity.
Truly, I have never understood why anyone who wants to follow Jesus would go to secondary sources when we've got the primary one.
Sooooooo I've been scratching the surface of Acts to learn how to follow Jesus by the book and discovered at least five distinguishing character traits of people who follow Him, again, by the book.
While I'm not claiming this list as exhaustive and admit there's lots of room for improvement, Acts shows how those most intimate with the real not imagined/reimagined Jesus of the book are consistently, compellingly, and categorically clear in their confession of Jesus, countenance because of Jesus, conduct to confirm commitment to Jesus, communion with other followers of Jesus as proof of following Jesus, and courage to look up, stand up, speak up, and act up for Jesus.
Followers of Jesus are consistently, compellingly, and categorically clear in their confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior: "Everyone who calls on the name of Jesus shall be saved...There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved...Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Followers of Jesus have a consistent, compelling, and categorically clear countenance because of Jesus: "When they...[not followers of Jesus]...saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus...[As Stephen talked about Jesus]...all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel...[As antagonists to Jesus and followers of Jesus were stoning Stephen]...he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit...Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'"
Followers of Jesus conduct themselves in ways that confirm commitment to Jesus: "We must obey God rather than men."
Followers of Jesus love Jesus by loving like Jesus through holy communion with each other: "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."
Followers of Jesus have courage to look up, stand up, speak up, and act up for Jesus: "If we have to choose between obedience to God and obedience to any human authority, then we must obey God."
Indeed, following the example of Jesus to the cross, the earliest followers of Jesus were beaten, battered, and butchered for looking up, standing up, speaking up, and acting up for Him. They believed Jesus: "If you die in time for Me, you will live forever with Me!"
Getting back to Luke, the first book that bears his name records what Jesus said and did and the second book called Acts recounts how the earliest followers of Jesus acted as a faithful response to His example by exemplifying Him in their lives.
Today's Christians who really want to follow Jesus by the book can turn to those earliest Christians and see how following Jesus includes a consistently, compellingly, and categorically clear confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior, a countenance or appearance of intimacy with Jesus, conduct confirming commitment to Jesus, holy communion with other followers of Jesus, and courage to be for Jesus in all things at all times in all places with all people.
Let me put this Actsual Christianity another way.
Open your Bible to Acts 29.
Acts 29 is not in your Bible.
That's because you are joining other followers of Jesus who are writing it right now.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!