Currently, our weekly ecumenical Bible study group is studying the book of Acts. As we progress through Luke's letter to Theophilus, the Holy Spirit is repeatedly evident in all the activities of Christians in the early church. They heal the sick and share all things with each other, all by His power:
Acts 4:32-35 – All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (NIV 2011)
Acts 5:1-10 tells about Ananias and his wife Sapphira, who sold property and while giving some of the proceeds to the Christian community, made out as if it were the full amount. As a result of their lying, they fell down and died. The chapter goes on:
Acts 5:11-14 – Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. (NIV 2011)
It seems to me that God set such a high standard for the early Christians that those not seriously committed were afraid to join after what happened to Ananias and Sapphira, while those who were genuine and wanted a real relationship with Christ were willing to take the leap.
Our churches today need to look at this early church, which, with God's grace, has withstood 2,000 years of negative pressure from Satan and the outside world, and still survives today. But it is failing now: numbers in the mainstream churches are down, churches are closing, the demographic trend is toward an older population, and the world is very negative towards the church. Unless the Holy Spirit becomes active in our churches once again, they will not survive in their current form. Like Christ, the Holy Spirit waits to be invited in, but beware, because the Spirit will require that we set a higher standard for ourselves and our church, otherwise He will not stay.
God will protect the church in some form until Christ's return, but if we want to be part of that Spirit-filled church, we need to do some serious housecleaning. With God's grace, we can restore our churches and our lives, and in so doing, give God the glory.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to remember that You are El-Shaddai, God Almighty, and that to play at spiritual things with You is disastrous. We invite the Holy Spirit to work in us to make us transparent and righteous in our lives and in our churches, so that they become attractive to the world and so that You may reign in them once more. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "O How I Love Jesus" (Lyrics)