ACTS – The Acts of God
This phenomenon of the growing numbers of believers described in the book of Acts is called “church planting” in today’s church terminology. But there is a danger in only looking at the process and not God. It is good to go back to the beginning (Genesis) and retrace our steps so we can go deeper into our understanding of how and why the people (church) grew. In the beginning was…God. His Son, Jesus Christ was also there along with His Holy Spirit. Three-in-One. The Trinity.
From the beginning God loved His created. His desire, like all parents, was for His created to love Him back…freely, not because He forced them, not for what He gave them or did for them. The best love, pure and honest love, is love that is given and received with no strings attached.
Ah, but alas, Love was marred by the evil one who wanted to be God and was kicked out of heaven for daring to take God’s place. The evil one, who did not know Love, has been in battle with God and His created since the beginning, too. But God knew that. From the beginning God had a plan to reconcile willful humans that would fall for evil’s traps of sin.
So, what is sin? Sin is anything that keeps us from communion and relationship with our God. God is perfect and holy. Sin is imperfection and unholiness. Sin is a blemish that must be removed. God turns his face from sin. Sin cannot be in the same place where God is. So if we have sin we are not where God is and cannot be in relationship with Him.
From the beginning God created a solution to our sin problem. God’s desire is to be in perfect relationship with His creation. Perfection, however, means without sin. Sin muddies the pure waters of our view of God. Sin has to be eradicated, gotten rid of, atoned for…paid for so we can be back in relationship with God.
At first the plan was to use animals to pay for mankind’s sin.
Lambs were specifically bred for the purpose of this sacrifice. The lamb must be perfect, without blemishes of any kind. The ritual included ceremoniously placing all sin on the animal and then killing it. The lamb died with man’s sin. Relationship restored.
Man abused this plan over time. God knew that. God, the One who loves us first and best sent a part of Himself, Jesus, His Son, down to earth to teach and remind His created Who He is and how He loves. Jesus also held many “workshops” on the intent of the original Law and commandments that were formed from a foundation of Love.
Then Jesus became the Perfect Lamb of God who would willingly lay down his life for us and die for all our sin. All of mankind’s sin was placed on Him that day. He went to hell and back, battling Satan for our souls and won! This would be the final and complete sacrifice for all…forever. Jesus, Son of God, became the Lamb who took away our sin forever.
STOP...let that sink in. Take all the time you need.
The disciples of Jesus were eye witnesses to the fulfillment of this plan. Next sent, was God’s Holy Spirit to fill them with the power and authority to boldly tell God’s Story of reconciliation.
Now, back to this phenomenon called church. The word “church” is synonymous for the word “God’s people”. If we lift out the word church in the book of Acts and replace it with God’s people we get a more personal view of what is happening here. For us church is a place we go. Back then church was a group of new believers in a growing relationship with God with a deep sense of awe and reverence for Him. Let this key verse sink in by reading it over and over. Let God’s Holy Spirit speak and teach…
“All over the country—Judea, Samaria, Galilee—the church grew. They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully.” (Acts 9:31)
Now replace church with God’s people…
“All over the country—Judea, Samaria, Galilee—God’s people grew. They (God’s people) were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them (God’s people), strengthening them. They (God’s people) prospered wonderfully.
See what a difference this perspective brings to our thinking? It was GOD’S PEOPLE, individuals like you and I, who GREW in their deep sense of reverence for God! God’s Holy Spirit was with them, in them, working through them, giving them strength and power beyond themselves, BECAUSE of their “deep sense of reverence FOR GOD! Of course they prospered wonderfully…God’s people were growing in their relationship with our Creator! They recognized HIS power. They were in a holy, intimate, honest relationship with God at last. God’s people had a holy reverence for God and gave HIM honor and praise for His Acts! It was ALL about God!
Another example as we read on…Keep substituting the word church for God’s people…
Peter went off on a mission to visit all the churches. In the course of his travels he arrived in Lydda and met with the believers there. He came across a man—his name was Aeneas—who had been in bed eight years paralyzed. Peter said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed!” And he did it—jumped right out of bed. Everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him walking around and woke up to the fact that God was alive and active among them.
God’s people woke up to the fact that God was alive and active among them! Still, all about God!
“Many put their trust in the Master”…not Peter or the other disciples…but the Master, Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord. God’s people, these new believers in Jesus, grew from the inside out because the grew in their reverent relationship WITH God.
In the beginning God…still is God!
I have taken two days to mull this over and write it down in a way I can wrap my head around the depth of this story of how God’s people (church) grew. We get messed up in our thinking when we look only at the numbers of people who responded at one time. We immediately fall prey to turning the Acts of God into a formula for church planting. We cannot and should not reduce this miracle of the Holy Spirit to a mere formula or program that can be replicated. Certainly we can learn about how God works but the plan is all His.
What we can do is repent. We can humble ourselves before God. We can honor Him in deep reverence as we think deeply about Who our Creator is and how much He loves us. We can learn about who God is and how He works in each of us. There is more to learn each day if our hearts are willing and open for daily cleansing and renewal. We can allow the Holy Spirit to lead and strengthen us with power to tell God’s story of salvation. We can point the way to God and help others find and follow Him with unrelenting love and devotion to Him.
Church. God’s People. Growing in intimate relationship with God. The more intimate our relationship grows, the more we realize the depth of His love for us. This growing realization of His love causes us to love others more deeply. Ah, the fulfillment of the Great Commandment as Jesus taught…Love God. Love Others. The revolutionary love of God’s People…Church.
In Jesus Name, Amen