“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 2:42-47
Please stick with me here as I bare my heart.
Years ago, I was watching Fox News in the morning, and they had on a former Army Ranger to discuss the Special Forces in light of what took place in Pakistan regarding the death of Usama Bin Laden. He spoke of the extreme training and preparation they go through as well as their singular focus when on a mission. But one of the hosts asked a question, the answer which got me thinking. The question was one asked many times, but the answer was one I had not heard before. She asked him if he had ever gone on a mission where he felt he might not make it back? He answered with the following, no one in the special forces thinks about getting back, they think about making sure their teammates get back.
The apostle Paul wrote the following in his letter to the Philippians, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:3-8. We are to think of others more highly then ourselves. We are not to do anything that will push someone down in order to elevate ourselves. Love should be what guides attitudes and actions. Whatever we do or say, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that others are not affected in a negative way. We must be sure there are no victims in our wake. Christ is our example, one who created everything divested himself of His glory and became like us in order to die for us. We should also make sure that our brothers and sisters are taken care of, thus we all will be taken care of.
Do Christians today exemplify these attributes? I would say some do, but not many. How many of us truly believe that the things we own are not just ours, but are to be used for the benefit of all in the church? How many of us would sell something we own and give the money to someone with a legitimate need? Do we really look to the needs of others above our own? One thing I am sure of, it is not the norm, and sadly, I have to include myself in this. God has called us to be so different that when the world sees us, they see something they are not, but want to be. This is our calling. We need to show everyone that this world has no hold on us. Nothing or no one should be able to turn us against others. Jesus said it best when He said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
So, why don’t the majority of Christians think this way? I hope this is taken in the spirit that it is given. I am talking to myself more than to anyone else. However, before I give you my answer to this question, let me explain why I have asked the question in the first place.
My son and I would carpool to work four days a week. On Wednesday I worked from home, so he was on his own. We would listen to the radio, discuss theology, or current events, and we also listened to audio books. Two books we listened to have had a profound impact on my life and my Christian walk. Both were written by Francis Chan, former Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA. I see him as one of several current authors who are a must read for all Christians. The two books we listened to were Crazy Love and Forgotten God. Both are tools God used to help me be conformed to the image of His Son. In this period of time that God had me examining my walk, I concluded I had a long way to go. I questioned whether I should call myself a Christian. There is no confusion there. However, I was not satisfied anymore with the status quo. I want a more intimate relationship with God, not looking for what I can receive but what I can give. He is stirring me with the desire to see and become like the Christians in the first century Church. These did not see church as a social club, but a place to meet God and encourage each other. They did not meet to be entertained or hear cute stories and fluffy messages, but to meet with the God of the universe, to give Him their worship, praise, and lives, and to learn all they could of what it means to be a Christian. And then to put it into action. I am not looking for what I can receive or give, but just simply to give. To truly put God and others ahead of myself.
Getting back to the question at hand, why don’t the majority of Christians think this way? It is very simple. Many Christians have taken the ways of their past life, as well as the world, and integrated it into their Christianity. How else can we explain taking on excessive debt in order to buy the luxuries we want while many in the Church are struggling to eat. We hear of families who have lost their jobs, and all we do is say we will pray for them that God will meet their needs. There is nothing wrong with praying, but I am pretty sure God wants to use us for the purpose of meeting their needs, not just praying for them. Many do not teach their kids the ways of God, but they ensure they have all the dance and sports skills, as well as all the latest fashions and gadgets so they can be a part of the “cool” crowd. We segregate our lives into pieces, our work time, family time, exercise time, etc. Unfortunately, many have carried this idea forward where we now have spiritual time, not realizing that our Christian walk is to govern all aspects of our lives. We see things as either secular or sacred, when in actuality all things are to be sacred. We are NOT to say that all these things are related to my time with God, but these are not. We must give all of our life to Him, holding back nothing.
When we give to God, do we do it with the expectation of getting something out of it? Do we help someone because we know we will benefit in some way, whether it be financial, respect from others, or simply the good feeling we will get? God wants us to give of our time, money, and things freely, not expecting anything in return. Let us not do good simply for the expectation of receiving. We should help others because they need help, period.
Do we think of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted daily for simply being a Christian? How much have we done for those in countries like China, Egypt, Morocco, or any number of other countries where Christians are jailed or even killed for their faith. I read once that North Korea was expanding their gulags so that more dissidents can be removed from the public places and used as slave laborers for the rest of their lives. They live in extremely hard conditions, with little food and rest. They are driven to work constantly and when they die, they are simply replaced, as we get a new pen when the ink runs out. Do we pray for them? Do we support organizations that have the ability to assist in their release?
Do we think about those who are trapped in the slave trades where they could spend the rest of their lives being abused and dehumanized at the hands of their owners? Francis Chan said in his book Forgotten God that God told him the oppressed should invoke the same compassion as our own families, that those children caught in the sex slave market should cause us to weep and mobilize as if they are our own kids. Why? Because we are to love them as much as God does.
I could write about many more issue, but I hope everyone gets my point. My motivation here is not to condemn, but to encourage and exhort everyone based upon my examination of my walk. If we believe we have arrived, then our destination and God’s destination is vastly different. If we are satisfied with this place, then we are selling ourselves short. I have discovered things about myself I do not like. I have accepted an inferior lifestyle over what God has planned for me. I had unknowingly come to the wrong conclusion that things were different today, so some of these things did not apply to me. Besides, I prided myself as being an in-depth Bible teacher, studied and knowledgeable in the things of God. How far short I had actually come. As John Schlitt, lead singer of the Christian Rock group Petra said in one of their songs, “When you think you know it all, could it be that you are thinking way too small.”
I would encourage everyone who reads this to take the time to evaluate where you are in Christ. Are you doing all you can for Christ and His brethren? Can we sacrifice some of the luxuries and niceties we have to help those who do not even have the necessities of life? Can we take the time to remember those who are not free and are brutally abused with no hope of escape? If all we can do is get on our knees and pray fervently for those not as blessed as we are, then that is a great thing. You may be pleasantly surprised at some of what you discover, and shocked and embarrassed by others. We should never find ourselves satisfied where we are in Christ. We should always want to be completely conformed to the image of Jesus the Christ. We should never be able to say that this is as far as I want to go. But the only way we can determine where we are is to honestly, openly, and humbly, pray and look at our beliefs, actions, words, and motivations in the light of scripture. God will honor this and show you things you never saw before. Again, this may be a good or hard thing to see. But it is invaluable as we strive to be what He has called us to be and will aid us as tough times come, and we have nothing to stand on but God and His promises. I want also to encourage all of us to get our priorities straight and not think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but to look for others good and wellbeing before our own. I know we cannot help everyone, but we all can help some. And some of us can help more than others. Listen to God as He speaks to you and see who’s back we are to cover. Because if we all look out for our brothers and sisters’ backs, we will all be taken care of and will have everything we truly need. And ultimately, make it home in the end to the Glory of God.