The study our ladies group is doing in the book of Acts has really become a convicting book for me. We have been digging into God’s Word and as a result many treasures are being unearthed. We are discovering the rejection of Israel, the power of the Gospel, and learning about the individual lives of men and women who are on fire for Jesus. The first time I ever studied the book of Acts I was a new believer,only about two or three years old in the faith. The church I was attending at the time was a godly church, led by Holy Spirit filled believers who desired to see me filled as well. It was a time of awakening for me. It was a time of understanding the purpose of my Salvation, and the role the church played in it.
The purpose of the church has never changed. From the moment Jesus spoke in Acts 1:8 the church has known (or should know) what its purpose is. A few days ago I wrote a blog post called, “Signs of a Healthy Church”. In it I discussed what the Lord was showing me about the call and purpose of the church, and what its mission was to be. The reason the church was created was for the purpose of the gospel. It was created to be the platform for which Jesus Christ is preached to the world. The church, through many signs and wonders would testify of the grace of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He has given for the world. As I think about these things, I have to ask, “Where is that power today?”
If you go through the book of Acts you will see Spirit filled believers healing people, and preaching the gospel in such a way that thousands are being saved. We see them loving one another, giving to one another, speaking boldly in power, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit speaking through them is causing many to turn from their evil ways and turn to God.
I believe that is why the Lord is calling us to be an individual church. I believe He is calling all His people to come to Him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to do the work of the ministry. We rely so heavily on the church to save, when the church was never designed for that purpose. We try to get people to come to church, and hear the word of God, but we ourselves rarely spend any time in it. We try to boost our numbers and forget that it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the individual lives of believers that causes many to be added to the body.
I believe the power that we see in the book of Acts is the power we are to be seeing today as well. But why aren’t we seeing it? In my opinion, it’s because man has gotten in the way. We have become so focused on the church we attend, the way our pastor preaches, the way our church does things that we have taken our eyes off of Jesus. When I look at the church today, I am reminded of the words of Jesus to the church in Ephesus. “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place- unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:2-5)
Jesus, saw that all the works they were doing were good. They were a busy church. They did great things among the people and the community. But they were doing them for their own purposes. They had left their first love. They had left the love of Jesus for the love of man’s approval. Stephen speaks of this as well in his sermon to the council in Acts 7. The people of Israel, while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, became restless and decided to make their own god. “And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.” (Acts 7:41)
They were so proud of what they had accomplished and took great joy in what they had done, that they left God. They rejected Him at that moment. I believe that the loss of power in our churches today is a result of the same condition. We have made our churches, the pastors, the leaders, and even the denomination our god. We have bowed down to the church, instead of bowing down to God. The power that we see in the book of Acts is the same power that works today. It was through the Holy Spirit who filled the believers in those days, and it is the same Holy Spirit that desires to fill us today.
So many people are being turned away from fellowship with God because the church has become more focused on the work of their own hands than on the work of God through the power of His Holy Spirit. So what do we do? We, as individuals become the church. We give them Jesus. We have to be the example to the world. We need to recognize the need for the Holy Spirit in our lives, as well as the lives of His people. If we focus more on whom we are, what we do and why we do it, then the One who created us in the first place, then we, like the church in Ephesus, will have our lampstand removed. We are to be the light of the world, and what we see in the book of Acts is still relevant for today. The power of the Holy Spirit working in and through the individual lives of God’s children- without that we are a powerless and pointless church.
Father God, You have impressed upon me, personally, the need to be a Spirit filled believer. One who seeks after you and not after the church. You have called us all to be individual churches, teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Father, it is my prayer, my plea that we as the body of Christ would recognize that we have left our first love for the work of our own hands, and that we would come back to the place of repentance and full surrender to Your Word, Your Work, and Your Name through Your Holy Spirit. Father, speak to us as only You can. In Jesus name, to Him be glory, honor and praise, Amen and Amen.