Imagine lips being loosed and boldly proclaiming Jesus the Christ crucified for sin-your sin, bearing it in your place. You hear that you must repent. You must turn from your evil ways. You must be saved and Jesus is the only one who can do it and you just killed him. An unjustified death at your hands. You are taken through history. You are shown without apology that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the promised One. He laid His life down on His own initiative for your sake to bring those far away and screaming “crucify Him!” near to God.
Imagine there are people from all over the world gathered in your city and much to your shock there are people speaking in the native tongue of all these tribes, tongues, and nations that surround you that shouldn’t be able to speak like that.
Imagine that you are cut to the quick and all you can do is repent and follow Jesus the one who was promised and you crucified. You’ve heard reports that he appeared to many. You doubted, but no more. You were standing there with your sin, your treason, and your Messiah-killing straight up in your face. You cannot escape what the Holy Spirit came to to do: convict, convince and empower you to follow Jesus.
This isn’t just an emotional and mental response. This is beyond you. You were dead, but now you are alive. You were blind, but now you can see. You were rescued and your whole mind, heart, affections, and allegiances changed in one fell swoop.
And so the Church was born.
You became a people, both Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, young and old. There was extreme devotion. You know, the radical, inconceivable, odd, and utterly faithful kind of devotion. You were compelled to devote yourself to the Apostles teaching. You and your people, this new community couldn’t help yourselves; you hung onto every word. You examined and talked and praised and longed and loved and held tightly to every word. And, together, you believed it, trusted it, and did what that teaching demanded. And you did it freely and gladly whatever it cost. You were entirely devoted to each other. Rich, poor, young , old, Jew, foreigner, slave, free man, male, female, it didn’t matter; you were of one heart and of one mind, fully, completely following Jesus because of what He had done and His promise to return. You were one new man. Nobody had anything he kept to himself. You shared everything. It was incredible. There were no needs among this new man, this new community of Jesus followers. You went from house to house eating together and sitting under teaching together. Those outside of that community were in awe. It was crazy. They saw your deep devotion to this Jesus, to his teachings, and to each other ,so they marveled at the kind of love and devotion they witnessed, and they began to repent and believe as well. You looked around and it seemed like this thing could not be contained. Together you prayed day and night. You all knew you were utterly dependent on the grace of God poured out on you through His crucified and risen Son and through the helper who was promised, God the Holy Spirit who seemed to be opening mouth after mouth in gospel proclamation and warning, and opening heart after heart to believe and be saved and added to this deeply devoted community.
The Church was wild and untamed because the Holy Spirit blew wherever He wished causing people to be born again to a living hope.
The Church was marked by deep and abiding devotion to the Apostles teaching, to one another (radical self-sacrificing love), and to prayer.
Jesus followers were following Jesus together in real and tangible ways. This was not a mere emotional or mental assent. This was the result of the dead made alive, of the old made new, of those far off brought near to God and near to one another.
It was not without cost though. You saw emboldened, gospel-proclaiming friends stoned. You saw family members dragged off and flogged. Several in your community were in prison. Yet, people’s souls were being added, and those flogged, imprisoned, and stoned were rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Lord Jesus who was crucified and raised. This was deep devotion not born of man but of God.
But wait,you don’t have to imagine. This is not dream. This is recorded for us. The Holy Spirit was promised. As Jesus ascended into heaven He told his disciples that He would be with them to the end of the age and that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria and throughout the whole earth.
God the Spirit is still loosening the lips of people to speak the good news and warn people to repent and follow the crucified and risen Jesus. And through that proclamation hearts are still being cut to the quick and producing deeply devoted Jesus followers.
This, my friends, is what gives me confidence to keep speaking the truth. I cannot stop proclaiming the truth to my children. I know what the Gospel promises to produce. I have no power to save them-the gospel does. This is why I will keep telling it when I sit on the porch, walk around the neighborhood, or sit at the table over coffee. It’s why I am unfazed by the gangster rap blaring and people twerking in the yard, beer in hand. I ain’t got the power, but the gospel has the power. It’s why I want to connect my neighbors to the church. It is why serving a meal, teaching some math, playing some educational games, and playing tag with the kids in CTKC’s Wednesday children’s ministry is good, but not enough. It is why we proclaim the gospel week in and week out. It is why I stick with my church when things aren’t going my way, because I am hearing the gospel proclaimed and taught week after week. I trust that God will make a name for Himself as He faithfully builds His Church. It won’t be stopped. It can’t be stopped. Not the true Church, anyway. The institutionalized Church, the people who play church as long as it is safe and comfortable, and easy and inclusive; that won’t last. But the Spirit-born, deeply-devoted people of God will. Because they belong to God and He will do it. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. And people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will continue to be added to it. Why? Because He said so.
So, there is no way I am going to keep my mouth shut, my door closed, and my table empty when there are stories like the above in the Bible. No way! He has created a whole new man and He isn’t done. There are men, women, and children in Kenosha who are His and He is going to use His deeply-devoted people to call them out. I don’t see it vaguely. These are not faceless, nameless sheep. They are the men next door, the lady across the street, the whole street a block or two away swarming with children that I play with, listen to them sing , tell their stories, and watch their dance routines. They are the people I cry with, and laugh with, and drink really sickening sweetened coffee with. These are the children who come to church with me every Wednesday evening: faces, names, real souls. Some of these faces may have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life. I know they will hear their shepherd’s voice when he calls, and he just might call them through me. And it won’t be a vague calling. It will be a deep, abiding, and radical, life-transforming, devoted call to Jesus, the crucified and risen Savior.
No need to imagine it. Live it. Because the same Holy Spirit alive and active then, is alive and active now. The one new man He was building then, He is building now. And He is still doing it through the preaching of repentance and faith in the crucified and risen Jesus.
He is still loosening lips and freeing hearts and making them deeply and radically devoted to Him.