By David Faust
The New Testament portrays the early church with stark realism, and the picture isn’t always pretty. The 12 apostles quarreled over which of them was the greatest. Ananias and Sapphira were greedy and dishonest. Immature, divisive members of the Corinthian church misunderstood key doctrines and engaged in appalling immorality. Barnabas and Paul disagreed sharply about Mark’s role as a missionary.
Many today see Christians in a negative light. Skeptics consider us hypocrites—weak-minded phonies who use God for a crutch. Politicians see us as a voting bloc. Movie-makers cast us as villains. Culture-watchers point out the church’s waning influence on society.
However, the world doesn’t define Christians; Jesus does. By faith we imperfect sinners cast ourselves at the feet of the perfect Christ. In the process we discover that Christian is a noun, but the Christian life is defined by its verbs: go, trust, follow, love, teach, work, rest, give, pray, forgive, persevere, bear fruit. Grace is free and salvation can’t be earned, but God designed us to do good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). The church’s story is called the book of Acts, not the book of Good Intentions.
In the first century Jesus’ disciples fished and farmed, collected taxes and made tents—but their daily routines were infused with purpose as they communicated the gospel, loved their neighbors, and lived for God. Today Jesus’ followers bring the kingdom with them to the marketplace, mall, school, office, and factory where we communicate the gospel, love our neighbors, and live purposefully for God.
The final book of the Bible is about God and what he does, but it also shows what Christians do:
Christians serve. God gave the book of Revelation “to show his servants what must soon take place,” and revealed the message “to his servant John” (Revelation 1:1). Christians are servants, here to do the Master’s bidding. Christ “has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father” (v. 6).
Christians suffer. God’s people aren’t immune to adversity; we expect it but triumph through it. John himself was exiled to the island of Patmos because he dared to testify about God’s Word. He wrote as a “brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus” (v. 9). Throughout Revelation a suffering church finds encouragement to persevere. Seven churches scattered around Asia Minor received seven exhortations from the risen Lord urging them to “overcome” (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).
Christians shine. Jesus “walks among the seven golden lampstands” (2:1), which represent the seven churches (1:20). What a compelling picture! The Lord walks among his churches, observing what takes place in each one. Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12). A candleholder produces no light; it merely lifts up the light. We reflect his light (Matthew 5:14) as the moon reflects the sun. If the sun stops shining, the moon will go dark; and if a church stops lifting up Christ, it will grow dark.
Christians and the churches where we gather are far from perfect, but we’re privileged to serve, suffer, and shine for the Master. Throughout our journey—in the mundane and the magnificent, the day-to-day and the once-in-a-lifetime—we praise the Creator who fills our lives with purpose. We join in Heaven’s song and say, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:11).
1. How would you define what it means to be a Christian?
2. How does the light of Christ shine in your life?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for December 7, 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.
Job 25, 26
Hosea 7, 8
Hosea 13, 14
Joel 2, 3
Amos 1, 2