"Abnormal Christianity! All around me, everything I see, is abnormal Christianity."
I longed for the amazing experiences with the Lord people had through the 30 years covered in the book of Acts, but didn't see any of that in my 'aquarium' of the faith. To me it was clear Acts is more than history, it details 30 years of normal Christianity.
Yet all around me all I saw was the goofy or the dry as toast boring. No where did I see 'real' people, mature in character and life, balanced in their walk, knowing how to walk in the Spirit - Christians as depicted in Acts and mentioned in Paul's letters.
The mind tries to find ways to justify why Christianity today doesn't resemble that seen in Acts:
That was only for the first century to get the story of Jesus started - But I thought; Aren't we in need of as dramatic a gospel now as then, with so many more millions upon millions of people on the earth? And if God is Judge of all, isn't He willing to provide evidence of the truth of Jesus now as He did then?
Now people have the written Word, so we don't need signs and wonders. But the Lord had to see down through time to our day, yet He still said, 'Those who believe in my name will lay hands on the sick, cast out demons...." (Note, that is not, 'Those who believe, in my name will lay hands...' but rather 'Those who believe in my name will lay hands on...' This understanding is consistent with Acts 3:16 where Peter said it was through his faith in the name of Jesus the lame man was healed)
One by one
Arguments rose in my mind, and one by one the Word had an answer. And then I read Acts 1:1, which ended all arguments, all efforts at justifying the abnormality around me, case closed, period, paragraph, over and out: "In my earlier book Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach."
A flood of revelation raced through me. Luke had written the gospel of Luke to a Roman named Theophilus, as seen in Luke 1:1-4, "Dear Theophilus...I have therefore decided...to set the life of Jesus down for you myself in proper order..." (Note: Luke is the only author of a gospel to state he is writing in chronological order the life of Jesus, and Acts continues his chronological order of events.)
The gospel of Luke is the first part of a 2 part work walking the reader through the life of Jesus in chronological order, Acts is part 2 of that volume. Luke's gospel ends with Jesus ascending to heaven, not to be seen physically until His return (Though He has been seen by many through the centuries in the Spirit).
Yet he opens Acts saying this: "I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach." The gospel of Luke was just what Jesus began to do and teach, meaning Acts is the continuation of all He BEGAN.
Through the centuries the abnormal became normal, sadly
"Abnormal Christianity. All around me, everything I see, is abnormal Christianity. Acts is normal. Acts is the continuation of what Jesus began to do and teach. There is an unbroken string from the gospel ministry of Jesus, to the spiritual ministry of Jesus in Acts, to my life today - and the disciples continued all the signs and wonders Jesus began to do, and taught what He taught - Jesus is still continuing to do what He began to do and teach even to my day. I am part of an unbroken string through 2,000 years of all that Jesus began to do and teach."
That was what I said to myself when I realized Acts was the continuation of what was begun...and nothing around me resembled that continuation of what Jesus began to do and teach. Acts is normal Christianity. I longed for that! I wanted to be part of the continuation of what Jesus began to do and teach!
I couldn't do that in any aquarium because every aquarium of the faith had deviated from Acts. I had to swim in the open ocean of the Spirit just as the apostles did, to continue the ministry of the Lord as they did. I was finally willing to let my reasoning's, my emotions, my Bible education, all I thought was 'right' in my understanding of the Word, actually submit to the Word in context as it was intended.
If I was to be a part of what He began, I needed to rearrange my thinking, realizing the apostles were just walking out what Jesus began, so I needed to do what they did so I could know Him like they did, and see the signs and wonders like they did. And possibly turn my world upside down in Christ like they did.
How they did 'church'
So when the argument arose trying to explain away why they met in homes for the first 300 years after Pentecost as being due to persecution, it melted away. Meeting in homes is a continuation of all that Jesus began to do and teach.
Many if not most of His miracles and bringing people to Him were done in homes - From water into wine, to 2 blind men healed as he ate, to healing meetings at the door of Peter's mother in law's house, to dinner in the home of Simon the Leper, to calling height-challenged Zacchaeus down from the tree to have dinner in his home - the gospel story was shared in and around homes. But it is deeper than that, the first house church was Adam, Eve, and the Lord in the garden, for where 2 or more are gathered, He is in their midst, and throughout the Old Testament God makes it clear the home is the centerpiece of learning of Him.
Then I looked around the world and saw house churches popping up in every nation whether Christians were persecuted or not, so that argument fell by the way side quickly. God is moving in the relationships found in family and homes.
Written to whom?
Then I saw to whom the original letters were written, as detailed in Acts and the end of some of Paul's letters: Priscilla & Aquila in Rome and then Ephesus, Justus in Corinth, Jason in Thessalonica, Lydia in Philippi, Philemon in Colossae, and a woman name Nymphas in Laodecia - all mentioned as hosting church meetings in their homes. Our New Testament consists of letters initially sent to churches who met in these people's homes. (Acts 16:15, 40; 17:5; 18:7; 20:20; Rom 16: 3-5; I Cor 16:8, 19; Col 4:15; Philemon v1-2)
Out of context
Suddenly I had the kind of horrible revelation one only receives when they realize the key foundation their whole life was built upon was all wrong, all their assumptions wrong, and all they had believed about someone was skewed in the wrong direction. All my life I had applied the New Testament to the auditorium setting when in fact the whole of the New Testament was written by apostles doing house church, to people doing house church, and applied in their lives in home based meetings.
The place for the celebrated '5-fold' is in the home. The place for the gifts of the Spirit is in the home. The place for the Lord's Supper is in the home - all I held near and dear to my heart I had been lifting out of context and applied to an auditorium setting - completely different than intended! All efforts of mental gymnastics to justify why I did church in the auditorium, to prove why I could do church differently than the continuation of the ministry of Jesus as seen in Acts, ended. Instead of trying to justify myself, I repented.
I was totally dejected, horrified and loathing myself, completely repenting, apologizing to the Lord over and over for twisting what He had begun to do and teach into a form of my own design. Suddenly I saw it - all those aquariums of the faith were truly man-made, while the family and home was God-made; He built the garden of Eden and the first family, He did not make the auditoriums we've had the last 1,700 years.
Meeting in homes was God's design,
He made the home and ministered in homes, that's why it is a continuation of all Jesus began to do and teach! The horror of 25 years of my life teaching my Lord's words out of context hit me hard - and I also did disservice to Paul and Peter and John, James and Jude as I even asked the Lord to apologize to them - I was so horrified at myself!
I have had my own words lifted out of context and used by others in a way not intended by me, often to attack me. One of the enemy's greatest tools is lifting quotes or reading into another's words to stir up strife - even testimony against the Lord at His trial was witnesses who lifted out of context and twisted His words to be used against Him. I had done a very similar thing by teaching the Word in the auditorium context! He is SO merciful to have received me, anointed His Word as I taught, even though the application of said Word was intended to be in the close relationships seen in home-based churches.
I realize God is big enough to fill any structure man gives Him so I find no fault in others worshipping in the auditorium, but I can only speak through the grace given to me, and for me, 25 years of carefully constructed faith had to be rearranged. I would only be satisfied being part of the continuation of Jesus' ministry as He started and the apostles continued it - I had to be part of that open ocean of the faith.
Next week; picking up and reassembling the pieces. Blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email at firstname.lastname@example.org