Sunday, June 18, 2006

Comfort Zone Christianity

In some of my recent posts, I have fiercely attacked Christian attitudes towards socialising, I've been incredibly fed up with the treatment I've received from some Christian quarters lately. However, I recently came a cross a couple of interesting passages:

"On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."" Acts 1:4-11

This is very similar to the great commission and as you know, as soon as the Holy Spirit was poured out... the apostles set off on their jolly way preaching the word in foreign lands... right?


For a while at least, the apostles focused their activities in Judea alone... that is until something happened. A man named Stephen went before the Sanhedrin and told it exactly like it was. From a worldly perspective he was incredibly foolish... like walking into a dragon's den and ringing a bell very loudly. In the world's eyes, it ended badly for Stephen, he lost his life under a hail of stones for being honest about his relationship with God. However, God's wisdom often appears foolish to our simple eyes. You see what happens to Stephen becomes the catalyst for a change in the Church's activities:

"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city."

When Stephen dies, the first wave of real persecution begins. There had been troubles before... the apostles had earlier been locked up... but now there was an obvious physical oppression against the whole community of believers... and many of them ran to the four winds taking God's message with them.

Why I think this is interesting is that these men and women of faith clearly had the Holy Spirit... and yet it took more than the power and conviction given and available to them to persuade them to spread their wings and leave the nest.

They needed a push from God.

So I take encouragement... it's not just us, the early Christians also needed to be stirred into action at the start. I am reminded of a vision I received several years ago where I saw a great eagle stripping it's nest so that it's young could fly. I am also reminded of the passage people at church were given a couple of years after that - where John the Baptist describes Jesus:

"His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Luke 3:17

My purpose in writing this evening is twofold. Firstly I wish to encourage the people in Britain that revival will come, the Holy Spirit will be poured out again and we will see the sovereignty of God do amazing things. However, this comes with a stark warning. When God empowers His people to go forward with His message... He will also take us out of our comfort zone. So, make the most of the Christian "social circles" while you still can... because if we do not heed God's gentle call for us to go out and meet the people where they are (not just coldly evangelise but speak with real compassion and interest of who they are and where they are at), then we should not be surprised if he removes the structures that make us too secure.

This is the way of things. Young eagles don't desire to leave the nest for the first time... but when they are ready and the wind blows... they must do what they are designed to do... not just sit chatting to the other eaglets in the nest with them. It's the same with us... when the wind blows we go.

This is both what we were called to and designed for.



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