How To Discern Fact From Fake
My dear readers, I have decided to break from the continuing study about Israel's kings to observe some similarities between Israel and the Church. There was always a saved remnant within the ranks of Israel. Sinful people thought themselves to be part of Israel, just as some consider themselves Christian within the umbrella of "Christianity."
God should have ruled Israel, making it a theocracy, but instead, many men ruled as king in God's place, which changed God's kingdom Israel into a monarchy. In fact, some kings in Israel were more evil than the kings of the surrounding nation. Israel never behaved properly before the world; instead, it continued to be like the world it was meant to reprove. God brought Israel through the Red Sea, but the heart of the people remained enslaved to the evils of the land from which they came.
The Church began on an equally humbling note. "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13) However, much like Israel, it changed into a worldly institution of academic attainments. Remember Solomon! Undeniably, he was the wisest of all men. However, for all his wisdom, how much did he squander it on worldly endeavors? Read Ecclesiastes.
What Is The Church?
One day this week, I spent an hour discipling a brother about the nature of the Church. To many people, my question has been, "When does the Church help you the most?" The answer often is, "When we discuss the Bible and share from our hearts about our experiences." The Christian without the experience of Christ is not a Christian at all. The fullness of Christian experience history records as revival.
What does revival mean to you? Does it take place because of the music and excitement generated by people? Can it be scheduled like a board meeting? Have you ever felt the need to pray for revival? In reality, revival is the life of God poured into a human heart. Widespread revival is God's life poured into many hearts at the same time.
At Pentecost, a revival took place that lasted for decades. Of this revival, we read, "Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe, and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day, continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." (Acts 2:44-47)
My dear readers, the Church in revival is the Church at its best. The first revival began with a sense of awe. When a human hero enters the room, most people are in awe. When God is present, men fall before Him. He crushes their spirit, changes their hearts, makes them into what they should be.
Preceding this sense of awe, the people wondered what they should do, feeling condemned for having crucified Jesus Christ. Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;" (Acts 2:38). The revival experience is by what Peter said next, "and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." People want more than merely an intellectual understanding, and they must have more for the Church to be the Church. It must experience the Holy Spirit.
Again at the end of chapter four, we read of the Church in revival, "And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power, the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need" (Acts 4:32-35).
The sense of awe produced in the people a community that, by comparison, should make any Church not living in wonder feel very small. How did the early Church look? How did it behave? It looked like something very different than the world. It looked like a group of people who took Peter's first admonition seriously, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"
How Does The Church Behave In Revival?
The people took their possessions and used them dramatically for the good of others. That does not mean they made themselves poor because no one was in need. Furthermore, they trusted the Apostles, and just as important, the Apostles could be trusted.
What transformed eleven disciples who argued over who would be greatest into Apostles so humble they could be used powerfully for God. God used their witness to have a transforming effect upon the whole Church. The answer in scripture comes to us by way of lost religious men. "...as they (false religious leaders) observed the confidence of Peter and John...they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus."
What brings revival to the Church? Peter denied Jesus and then went out and wept bitterly (violently), knowing how he must have hurt Jesus. Shortly after the eleven denied Christ, it became clear that He suffered and died for their sins. What brought revival to the early Church? In short, broken people who understood their wickedness caused the sufferings of Christ. In brokenness, we are made whole, being filled with the Holy Spirit.
How much of the Church today is a fact of Christ's transforming work. Has the Church today come out from the world, or does the similarity give the world cause to distrust its claims? Today the world believes that intellectualism is the remedy for all its problems. Are highly educated men behind the pulpit properly representing the God who gains the greatest glory through men of small means?
The Apostle Paul had an education; however, one out of eleven proves the rule; it is not the rule. Good Christian leaders need to know their Bibles well and even Church history. Nonetheless, apart from the Holy Spirit's filling, knowledge becomes a reproach as it is a carbon copy of our present age - education without goodness.
Today, there is so little proper accountability that it is almost impossible to distinguish between the superficial Christian from the transformed sinner. Revival is needed today, as in the days of the Great Awakening. Please pray with me for revival.