In a recent post at Christianity Today by Claude Alexander, Senior Pastor of the Park Church in Charlotte, NC, he made a statement that caught my attention. “What we call post-Christian culture strikingly resembles the pre-Christendom era—before Constantine, when the church was a fringe, marginal body. Before it became mainstream, accessible, and synonymous with apple pie and Chevrolet. And a pre-Christendom era demands a pre-Christendom church.” Here are some of his thoughts:
First, a life in Christ is a life under obligation. Paul said, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks” (Rom. 1:14). He didn’t see himself as a volunteer. He was under orders.
In church, when we use the term volunteers, we imply that Christian service is a matter of choice. But if you understand the apostolic nature of the church, you understand members are not volunteering; they’re “sent out ones” due to the moral imperative of God’s providence. We are under obligation to serve and live an evangelistic life in obedience to Jesus. We owe people the gospel because we recognize the danger they’re in, the love God has for them, and the provision God has made for them.
Second, if you looked at the followers of Jesus prior to Pentecost and someone asked you to bet that the church would last nearly 2,000 years, would you take that bet? I wouldn’t. But in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit endowed this pivotal group of people with a supernatural ability to surpass the limits of their spirit, their exposure, and their education to fulfill their assignment. Is that not what the Holy Spirit does for us?
Third, in Acts 3, we see Peter and John walking in unity together. You couldn’t find two more different people than Peter and John. Both could have claimed primacy in the sight of Jesus. Peter was the one who declared, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus responded, “On this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:16, 18). But John was the one who laid on Jesus’ breast, who was at the cross, and to whom Jesus entrusted his earthly mother.
Both were alpha males who could have claimed, “I am the chief.” But here they are, walking together. Jesus paired them together because he knew the church would need both. The church would need somebody deep and reflective like John, and the church would need somebody impulsive and active like Peter. The church could not do without either of them. They needed each other. We need each other, too.
Finally, we are called to suffer on behalf of the world and to certify the truth of our message. Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses.” That word for “witness” is also used for “martyr.” It means “one who is willing to confirm the truth by death.” Jesus’ earliest followers rejoiced at the fact that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. When suffering came their way, they were willing to embrace it.
Is life something we would be willing to lose for the sake of Jesus Christ? That may be what we’re called to in this age. Yet our faith tells us, if that happens, there is resurrection reward, and life everlasting.