What The Church Did Next
So, just to recap…We have learnt that church is people who follow Jesus rather than the buildings in which they meet; we learnt the Jesus first used the word church after Peter had had his revelation of who Jesus is from the Holy Spirit; we learnt that the church belongs to Jesus and He will build it; we learnt that the building of this non-building only really started after the impartation of the Holy Spirit…
We also learnt that before the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples, they were altogether and of one accord – that is to say that they had harmony that leads to action. This is very important because it wasn’t the Holy Spirit who gave them the harmony…they had it already. This tells us that we cannot expect an outpouring of the Holy Spirit UNTIL we are all of one accord! We can’t expect the Holy Spirit to suddenly come and harmonise us. He doesn’t work like that. We have to do the work first…then He will come in power.
Something that I didn’t mention in Part 1 that I think is highly relevant and essential when we think on these matters is the concept of the ‘early and latter rains’. I am sure that many are already aware of the cycle of planting and harvesting. In Israel it works something like this: The seed is planted, the early rain comes and helps get things started with germination etc and then just before the harvest the latter rains come that boost the fruit or whatever is being grown in order to maximise the yield. If we view the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the ‘early or former rains’ and a future outpouring as the ‘latter rains’ before the harvest of the world, then the two scriptures that follow become highly significant to anyone alive today…
“Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you – the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.” [Joel 2:23-24 NKJV]
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” [James 5:7-9 NKJV]
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning of the latter rain to you fully. Before the harvest of the world, the latter rains will fall, before the latter rains will fall we must be of one accord. I fear we have much work to do. Many in the evangelical/charismatic movements are almost demanding revival from God. And yet, something inside of me would say the revival starts in my heart and flows out. Before revival, reform. And that will mean all of us Christians, all of us church, all those that believe in the Son of the Living God will have to find some common ground on which to stand. A recent survey that I found on the brin.ac.uk website (British Religion in Numbers) states that in 2010 in the UK ALONE there were 340 different Christian denominations, which was up from 275 in 2006. This is staggering. No wonder people are staying away from services. When we can’t agree amongst ourselves then how can we possibly expect others to join us? Before revival, reform. And what is it that divides us? It is not the Holy Spirit that’s for sure. Each denomination has a Statement of Faith or Mission Statement. It is these that divide us. Written by men and not by God. Yeh sure they all quote carefully chosen scriptures in order to legitimise their position but ultimately these man-made rules are what divides us. How about we get back to the basics? How about we just agree that Jesus (who was in very nature God) chose to dwell amongst us and then die in our place in order to reconcile us to God and that He then rose from the grave and conquered Death and the law of sin in doing so? Impossible? I don’t think so. Look at the book of Acts. The warnings throughout the New Testament against straying from the true Gospel are clear. It is time to break down these divisions; to see them for what they are worth, which is nothing, and destroy the strongholds they have created. Before revival, reform. Hezekiah teaches us that.
With the early rain of Pentecost the building of Christ’s church began. We see in chapter 4 of Acts the effects of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples – they were empowered with God’s word, despite being uneducated and untrained. If God has placed a calling on your life please do not let anyone convince you that you need bible college before you can fulfil it…you need the Holy Spirit. God may call you to bible college but it will be via His Holy Spirit not someone who has decided that it should be that way. Just read through Acts and you will see that all you need is a willing heart. What made these people so special that thousands turned to Christ in those first few days? It wasn’t them or their training…It was the Spirit of God in them that made them special.
Read Acts 4 carefully. You will see that Peter and John are arrested for using the name of Jesus. The elders and priests threatened them but were powerless against the Holy Spirit. Once released all the disciples started praying and praising God and asked for the boldness to bring the Word of God to the people. They were of one accord again. The room shook and the Holy Spirit came upon them in real power. Dunamis. Look it up to see what it means. Something important happened here. Their confidence was boosted by the healing of the lame man in the temple and the Holy Spirit opened their minds to the possibilities of what their faith could achieve. As their faith grew like a seed growing into a plant the church grew with them.
You want your church to grow like that? Then start living like they did then. Be of one accord. Be of one heart. Be of one mind. Stop finding reasons NOT to agree with other churches. There is only one true church and it belongs to Jesus and it is Jesus who is building it. If anyone tells or preaches you anything different then be aware. Many come in His name. Seek the Holy Spirit…always. He will lead you.
Acts chapters 5 and 6 start to teach us some of the practical issues, like the appointment of people in positions of responsibility. Read Chapter 6:1-7. Notice that the people choose the seven and that the leadership simply laid hands on them and prayed for them. Too many churches today take a different approach. The leadership choose the people to serve. That leaves it wide open for corruption and nepotism. It is a sad fact that even in churches people are corrupted by power but the early apostles teach us how to avoid that. Power is being sucked into inner circles of modern churches. It becomes very difficult to get inside that circle of trust unless you are in some way related to an existing member or agree with everything they say. That isn’t how God intended it. He knows human nature and knows just how easy it is to corrupt us. We need the Spirit of God leading our churches not some guy who is only there because he married the old pastor’s daughter. That isn’t God’s way. Read the book of Acts. That is God’s way.
Next week we will start to look at two different facets of the church in ‘The Body and the Bride’.