Culture comes up with ways we think we can make God “better” by judging Him by our standards. The Bible calls us instead to see God as He really is and recognize how He is far better than any “god” we could dream up.
When the Gospel advances, it always advances past me and my preferences and past my “Old Time Religion.” The Holy Spirit isn’t done with His mission when He’s reached me; instead, He invites me to join in His mission.
In the early church there was an overwhelming culture of sacrifice. There was an assumption that the needy should be cared for, and it was our job to do so. It wasn’t the role of politicians or city policies. And they believed that what the Church could do together was more powerful than any one individual, could do. Ananias and Sapphire are an example of loving self above loving God and loving their neighbor. It’s easy to make a commitment to sacrifice, until you start to feel the sacrifice. Then we want to crawl off the altar, but still get the praise.
In our hurry to be accepted by culture, have we lost the power of what is supposed to set us apart from the culture? The power of the church isn’t in degrees or pastors or business strategies, it is in the Holy Spirit. If we’re going to be a 21st century church that leads people to find and follow Jesus, we may need to bring back “That Old Time Religion,” meaning that we look at the exciting growth and example of the 1st century church as we see it in Acts.
Are we satisfied with the way things are? Maintaining the status quo keeps us in the crowd - Jesus calls us out of the crowd into discipleship of crazy faith. When we do this we commit to counting the cost and giving it all over to him.
Our culture, tired of injustices, is saying, “Enough prayers. More actions.” While action is always important, the Persistent Widow, in Luke 18:1-8, reminds us that change must always starts with praying like a crazy person. Prayer aligns our heart with Jesus’. Before we jump into action, we need to make sure our hearts are aligned with his.
The wisdom of the world says: “Get ahead at all costs.” In Mark 10:35-45, James and John tried that when they asked Jesus for a promotion: “When you take your throne, can we have thrones on each side of you?”. Jesus confronted their worldly attitudes by teaching them a crazy strategy for success: Instead of “Get ahead at all costs” Jesus told them to “Serve no matter the cost.”
Active opposition to Jesus is noticeable, but is it possible that even followers of Jesus could be passively opposing Jesus? Are we telling Jesus, “No, not yet”? Paul’s story begins by him actively opposing Jesus. However, Jesus shows up to give him a new vision, a new mission and a new calling. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul is able to move into a ministry of suffering and a life of “Yes, Jesus.”
It can be easy to be interested in Jesus privately, to hide behind the “we” of corporate worship and church experiences. But as Nicodemus’ one on one encounter with Jesus reveals, you can’t just be near Jesus, you have to believe in Jesus to be saved!
Everyone wants to be an influencer. While influence isn’t bad, it shouldn’t be the primary goal of a Christian. True influence comes as result of a much more important, and often overlooked goal: patient endurance.