Yesterday I pointed out that the first sign our God is at work in a fellowship or a church is when they begin to care for each other, whether it is financially or physically or emotionally. When we begin to ignore our own problems, and care for the needs of our brothers and sisters, it is a clear sign we have the Spirit of God in our midst.
The point I am trying to make is that those of us in the family of God need to learn to “hang loose” with our possessions. In fact, there were many Old Testament laws to legislate this kind of attitude. For instance:
- You weren’t to charge interest on a loan to a fellow Israelite, only to a foreigner. (That meant someone that did not know the Lord.) Deuteronomy 23:19-20.
- If you requested payment on a loan, you were to stand outside a fellow Israelites house. That way you wouldn’t seem too pushy. Deuteronomy 24:10-11.
- When you harvested your crops, you weren’t to pick clean. Instead, you were to leave some fruit on the tree, or leave your fallen wheat on the ground. This would allow for the care of the needy and the stranger Leviticus 19:9-10.
- You were to pay salaries immediately, and pay any debts as soon as you had the money. You weren’t to hold it when you had it. Deuteronomy 24:15.
- You could always eat freely from any neighbor’s property what you could carry in your hands. You just couldn’t bring your baskets Deuteronomy 23:24.
The list goes on. The point I am trying to make is that there was certainly a strong sense of ownership — and even pride in ownership and respect of ownership. At the same time, the edges were to slop over and nobody was to be upset or uptight about it. They were to learn to be generous and loose with each other, because God is that way with all of us. Also realize the reason those laws had to be spelled out for God’s people is that if they weren’t, no one would obey them. This kind of attitude doesn’t come naturally — in fact, it is quite hard on our flesh. However these principles have now been written on our hearts! We have been given a higher calling to live!
We are to consider ourselves stewards over all that we have, not hoarders.
We have a lot to learn about this area of stewardship in very practical, nitty-gritty ways. It is impossible to get close to everybody in our church or try to meet everybody’s needs. The point is that we should be close enough to some, that when payday is three days away and they have run short of cash, we know it and take care of it.
Let‟s look at Acts 2:46-47 one more time and see if we can wrap up on the early Christian lifestyles.
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” –Acts 2:46-47
Notice the two places their lives were centered. In the temple courts (we might say church) and in their homes. Everybody can fit in the church, and small groups could fit in their homes. Their lives included both.
It also says that they met daily. (And we think we are spiritual if we meet twice a week!) Now don‟t forget that they were just like us! They were busy people before the Holy Spirit came into their lives, buut now that eternity had come into view, it was a matter of eliminating things that no longer mattered any more.
Let me give you an example how this works out. When Patrice and I were leading a fellowship at Western Michigan University, there was a particular young man I continually tried to include in events and gatherings. But he always had the same excuse: not enough time. He had his studies and work (which, coincidentally, was the same for every member of the group, but they didn’t have any problems meeting together). Oddly though, when he met an attractive Coed, great interest was created within him. Suddenly he had plenty of time! What happened? Well, he fell in love. Maybe we need to fall in love with each other.
Verse 46 says that this lifestyle made for gladness, because it was self-less. They were in essence saying “I will disciple you; I will love you; I will teach you; I will laugh with you, and cry with you; I will eat with you; I will worship with you; and whenever you have a need, I will take care of you.” That is the attitude all of us are called to!
This kind of lifestyle also made for singleness — or sincerity — of heart. There was both unity and open reality, because it also said, “I expect you to disciple me; to love me; teach me; laugh and cry with me; eat with me; worship with me; and care for me. We are in this together.”
No wonder it says that the “Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” It was contagious!
Alas, that was all a long time ago. The former rains diminished and quit. The world became spiritually dry. The DARK AGES ensued.
Then a monk named Martin Luther rediscovered the meaning of faith. “The just shall live by faith!” he read, and faith was reborn. Raindrops began to patter all around the world.
Then, a century or more ago, believers rediscovered the meaning of hope. The Lord’s return was the big news and the big study. Out of that missions sprang to life; study editions of the Bible; Bible schools; Bible conferences; camp meetings; para-church movements; and so on. More showers here and there!
This generation of believers is rediscovering the meaning of love. We are reaching for and finding each other. There are new longings of unity; organizational unity by some, maybe, but deeper than that by many. Denominational walls are breaking and falling. Ecumenical communities are growing. Multi-denominational movements are on the rise.
Faith has been rediscovered. Hope had been rediscovered. Now Love is being rediscovered. And the greatest of these is Love!
Right now we are too rigid and organized when we try to copy the early church: “Be regular Sunday morning and evening . . .” “Get into small groups . . .” Still, that is better than doing nothing!
We still need to study the early church. We need to try to recapture the spirit of their together lifestyle, and we need to pray to make it happen! Then make it daily and make it accountable to.
You cannot have any of this “Well, I went to the cabin this Sunday, but I was with you in the Spirit.” These people‟s bodies were continually with each other! I heard one sister who worked a second shift on Saturday night — then drove 63 miles every Sunday say, “I believe if you get your bod’ to the place of blessing, all the rest will follow!”
I visited a church in North Dallas and had the opportunity to meet one family that made a two-hour journey twice a week, just to attend that church. Their reason?: “The Church that’s alive, is worth the drive!” Well, you are one deciding factor whether your church will be alive. We used to say, “I don’t go to church, I’m the church going!”
Everybody keeps talking about the last days. Are these the last days? Is Jesus going to return soon? Are the latter rains of revival beginning to fall around the world? You would have to be deaf, dumb or blind not to think so. Find out for yourself what is happening in Africa, Israel, South America, Korea, Indonesia, all over the United States, the former Iron Curtain countries, China, Cuba, Ecuador, and in countries with a predominantly Muslim following. As people of Narnia testified, “Aslan is on the move . . .”
Whether you are in the right geographical place or not doesn’t matter. Revival can come to you — personally. It can also come to your church, or family. I met one sister at that church in Dallas and after talking to her for just a few minutes, it was obvious that she was on fire with a Holy Zeal that was certainly contagious. I discovered that she accepted Christ as a teenager in her native Norway, when revival was sweeping the land. She described how people talked about Jesus continually on the streets, in the markets, in homes. She explained how they were continually fellowshiping with each other and hard to break up the church meetings because nobody wanted to quit. (Sounds like the place I would like to be).
I asked if everybody in Norway became a Christian in those days. I mean, was it sort of a blanket thing? (It sounded like a logical question at the time). She said, “Oh no! Some people hardly knew it was happening.” She explained how most of the big state Cathedrals went right on with their dry, empty services with a dozen old ladies and hundreds of empty pews.
Even during the three great awakenings in the United States, many never knew it was happening. Some even stepped out openly criticized and condemned what was going on around them! You will find that happen any time the Lord begins to move. That’s why the Lord had to tell Jeremiah, “Hey, whether they listen to you or not, it is not your concern.”
Then the Lord showed me how a gusher of rain can make water pour down the side of a mountain. If it strikes a big rock, it just divides and goes around it. The rock cannot stop the water from rushing down the hill, but it will just sit there, as unmoved as though nothing was happening. (Interestingly, through the continual pounding of the water, the big stone is eventually washed away through erosion).
Each of us can be just like that big rock. We can have a great revival going on right in our midst, see the joy of God‟s love and walk away the same as before, totally unmoved and unchanged. Maybe that is why the Bible says “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).
There is indeed new life all around the world. There is excitement about Jesus. There is a hunger to get back to the original Christian lifestyle. It is a new day! Don’t be one of those rocks. Don’t let Yahweh’s revival pass by you!
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.