By David Faust
Everyone has a burden to bear—and sometimes many burdens. Collectively, the people you see at church or at a ball game carry more burdens than you could possibly count. They worry about dysfunctional family members, emotional problems, money troubles, physical ailments, doubts about God, complications at work, disappointing relationships, and an assortment of other concerns.
It’s not just that the world as a whole is broken. Our own personal worlds are broken too. It’s a wonder that anything positive and unselfish ever gets done. Preoccupied with their own problems, why would people ever reach out to help others? What could turn a bunch of broken, self-centered individuals into a caring community filled with faith, hope, and love?
A Dynamic Family of Faith
It happened in the first century. In the weeks immediately after Jesus ascended back to Heaven, God transformed a ragtag group of ordinary people into a dynamic family of faith. The four Gospels tell what “Jesus began to do and to teach” while in his physical body on earth (Acts 1:1). The book of Acts tells what the Lord continued to do and to teach through his spiritual body, the church.
The first-century church was filled with ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things. They preached boldly and thousands responded in repentance and baptism (2:38-41). They devoted themselves “to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (2:42). They were extraordinarily generous, selling their personal possessions in order to help those in need (2:45). They were hospitable, opening their homes and eating together “with glad and sincere hearts” (2:46). They saw steady growth as “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (2:47).
Their testimony was so convincing and unflinching that others noticed their courage and realized they “had been with Jesus” (4:13). They prayed so earnestly that their meeting place shook (4:31). Remarkable unity characterized their fellowship. “All the believers were one in heart and mind” (4:32). Love overflowed in practical ways, for “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them” (4:33, 34).
Two Transformational Realities
Two key factors made the difference in these first-century believers: (1) They knew that Jesus had risen from the dead. (2) They were empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The four Gospels and the book of Acts demonstrate the resurrection differential. Jesus’ resurrection changed Mary Magdalene from tearful to cheerful. It transformed Peter from a fearful denier to a bold testifier. It turned Thomas from a doubter into a believer. It turned demoralized disciples huddled behind closed doors into a band of brothers who shouted the gospel from the housetops. “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (4:33).
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we would be hopeless and miserable. But because of the resurrection, our work is meaningful and our future is secure. We have a life-changing message to share, a God-given mission to pursue, and a supernatural strength to empower us. Because of the resurrection differential, our faith is well-grounded, our hope is well-founded, and our love is well-rounded.
Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the resurrected Christ helps us handle our physical ailments, emotional burdens, relational problems, vocational pressures, financial limitations, and spiritual challenges. That’s why this broken world is ready and waiting for a church like the kind we read about in the book of Acts.
1. How has Christ’s resurrection made a difference in your daily life?
2. Does your church resemble the one described in the book of Acts?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for January 5, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Genesis 1, 2
Genesis 3, 4