“The early church didn’t have a Graham, a Finney, or a Moody. It didn’t have Promise Keepers, a Great Awakening, or user-friendly churches. Furthermore, it had no concise spiritual laws to share, no explosive method for talking to the unconverted. What it had seems quite paltry: it had unspectacular people with a hodgepodge of methods, so hodgepodge that they can hardly be called methods, and rarely a gathering of more than a handful of people. The paltry seems to have been enough, however, to make an emperor or two stop and take notice…nameless Christians [who brought] the name of Jesus Christ to the attention of pagans—not a phenomenon that filled stadiums; just enough to begin converting the whole known world.” —Mark Galli
Paltry indeed, but like the mosquito in the room, impossible to ignore. And like this paltry who simply lived Christ so long before us, we live, too. They stood, and we now stand; they led; now we lead. To the world, they had no names, but we remember them,—and we can’t think of them without thinking of Him. And that’s the whole idea. We’re the next mosquito in the room.
The world will definitely notice.
A pagan observed an early 2nd century AD church. Here is what he saw.
“They abstain from all impurity in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world. As for their servants or handmaids or children, they persuade them to become Christians by the love they have for them; and when they become so, they call them without distinction, brothers. They do not worship strange gods; and they walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another. When they see the stranger they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as over a true brother…
“And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy and if they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with the necessary food.
“They observe scrupulously the commandment of their Messiah; they live honestly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and all hours on account of the goodness of God toward them, they render praise and laud Him over their food and their drink; they render Him thanks.
“And if any righteous person of their number passes away from this world, they rejoice and give thanks to God and they follow his body as though he were moving from one place to another. And when a child is born to them, they praise God, and if again it chances to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins.
“Such is the law of the Christians and such is their conduct.”
—Athenian Philosopher Aristides, c. 101-200
How things have changed. The church might want to take a step back—way back, and ponder what it is and what it use to be—and how we got from there to here.
“How can you cope with the end of the world and the beginning of another one? How can you put an earthquake into a test-tube or the sea into a bottle? How can you live with the terrifying thought that the hurricane has become human, that fire has become flesh; that Life itself came to life and walked in our midst? How can you cope with the concept that mankind tried to kill God, but He lived and now is our judge? How can a person come to Easter services and not be profoundly transformed by the fact that once in the history of humanity a truly innocent man died in our place and rose to life never to die again and he offers us eternal life? Christianity either means all of that, or it means nothing. It is either the most profound and devastating disclosure of the deepest reality in the world, or it’s a sham, a nonsense, and just deceitful acting. Most of us, unable to cope with saying either of those things, condemn ourselves to live in the shallow world in between. We may not be content there, but we don’t know how to escape until we are personally transformed by the resurrected Jesus Christ, from mere observers to worshippers of the living God!” —Author Unknown
The Resurrection changed everything. How has it changed you?
He is risen. Indeed.
“Here from this stable, here, from this Nazareth, this stony beach, this Jerusalem, this market place, this garden, this Praetorium, this Cross, this mountain, I announce it to you. I announce to you what is guessed at in all the phenomena of your world. You see the corn of wheat shrivel and break open and die, but you expect a crop. I tell you of the Springtime of which all springtimes speak. I tell you of the world for which this world groans and toward which it strains. I tell you that beyond the awful borders imposed by time and space and contingency, there lies what you seek. I announce to you life instead of mere existence, freedom instead of frustration, justice instead of compensation. For I announce to you redemption. Behold I make all things new. Behold I do what cannot be done. I restore the years that the locusts and worms have eaten. I restore the years [that] you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheelchair. I restore the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder and the identity lost to you because of calumny [slander] and the failure of justice; and I restore the good which your own foolish mistakes have cheated you of. And I bring you to the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow.”—Thomas Howard, Christ the Tiger
On this Good Friday and on the brink of Easter, pause—go quiet and listen. You may just hear Jesus speak. I wonder what He will say to you.
“When I have a terrible need of—shall I say the word—religion—then I go out and paint the stars.” —Vincent Van Gogh
In a turbulent world, a turbulent man had it right. Before he painted, Vincent was a failed preacher who remembered that the heavens still declared the glory of God. In Alex Haley’s novel Roots, Kunte Kinte’s ancestor held his newborn son heavenward, declaring, “Behold, the only thing greater than you!” Carole King wrote in her song Up On a Roof, “At night, the stars, they put on a show for free…”
Turbulence drowns in a sea of peace when we take time to go outside and just look up. The Heavens still declare God’s Glory—He made them, you know, and He is bigger than all of it. Best of all, He loves you.
“I don’t need a successor, only willing hands to accept the torch for a new generation. I am just one of many thousands called to be an evangelist.” —Billy Graham
Man of God, man of integrity, counselor to presidents, preacher to peasants, evangelist, prophet, servant of Jesus. He will be missed.
Now it’s your turn.
“There’s nothing you can do wrong to make God love you less; there’s nothing you can do good to make God love you more.” —Horacio Spafford
Some days I really need to know this. In fact, every day. Okay—every minute of every day. You get the idea.
What a relief.