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.
Jesus calls us to have a gritty faith. Do we press forward in faithfulness when challenges come or do we instead cower out of fear? Do we trust in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel or do we add our own “Gospel additions”?
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.
A modern day Christian might say that “Faith is personal”. I read alone. Study alone. Pray alone. And now I can even attend church alone. In the book of Acts we see that the Church is deeply communal! While each person owned their faith, they owned it in community. Like an old-time potluck, they brought their gifts and food to share with each other. The result was gladness, generosity, and growth of the community.
It is a common theme: We need help. Our world is hurting and needs help. And we often seek it through TED talks and self-help books. When Peter preached his first sermon, he emphasized that Jesus came to do what we cannot accomplish on our own. No self-help can can replace Jesus’ victory over sin. That’s not just an Old Time Religion thing, that’s a promise all generations to come!
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.
Generosity starts where sacrifice begins. As challenging as it may be to accept, how we use our money is our reflection of our heart. Jesus asked his disciples to consider the Widow, in Mark 12:41-44, as an example of what crazy generosity looked like. There are opportunities for us also to join God in living out a blessed generous life!
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.