Love, Passion's Answer!
In studying the book of Acts it is seems that there is a wide gap between the church’s beginnings and its current state. The vibrancy of those early believer’s lives and their passion, their urgency to spread the gospel, as well the astonishing in-breakings of God’s presence, even unto the physical shaking of buildings (Acts 4:31) leaves us breathless. The more we read the stories of supernatural intervention and transformation the more we see the deficiency in our own lives. Something in us longs for this kind of radical religion, this kind of all-consuming commitment and sold-out sacrificial devotion. It goes beyond desiring the miracles that were so prevalent as the believers witnessed to the death and resurrection of Christ. Yes this was a hallmark of the early church but there is something about the way they lived their lives, even the way they died…. Those early believers faced persecution even to the threat of their lives yet the church grew and multiplied in unprecedented ways? What was the secret of the early church’s success?
Many berate the church of today for its lack of effectiveness and complacency. We struggle within ourselves longing for more. We wrestle corporately within the context of our church culture to be “relevant” to reach our communities for Christ. Could it be that the church’s greatest challenge is not a lack of passion but a lack of love?
The church was birthed in the flames of Pentecost, and yet a Pentecostal experience isn’t enough to do what they did. It was not only the fire of the Holy Spirit that coursed through their veins, it was the fiery passion for Jesus that fueled their devotion! These believing ones were just days removed from seeing their beloved Savior crushed for our sins and then astonishingly raised from the dead! This impacted their hearts and lives in a great way. But this event did not fade from focus as many of ours do. How many times have we gone to a great conference or revival meetings and are moved to great levels of enthusiasm, yet as we move further from the event our fervor wanes. Christianity was never meant to be this kind of rollercoaster religion. These early believers carried a fiery passion for Jesus that kept increasing.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47 NKJV).
They did life together. Not just comradery but life focused around the Word and communion of the Holy Spirit. Their God-centeredness drew them into greater fellowship one with another. More than the miracles, more than the powerful exhortations, it was the witness of their love. The way they loved God made them live for each other; it made them have little regard for this life if it meant someone else could hear the gospel. Love compelled them to lay aside differences and live in a unity that produced power and releases of the Spirit that are unprecedented to this day.
The Bible tells us that “the glory of the latter house will be greater than the former” (Haggai 2:9). I believe that God will keep this promise to us. But if we are going to see it in our day we must cooperate with greater manifestations and demonstrations of the love of God. Could it be that the church of Acts grew like it did because Jews and pagans alike had never seen anyone else love like that?
John, who coined himself the disciple whom Jesus loved, is a testimony to the power of a life transformed by love. He had started out following Jesus but at the same time wanting to call down fire from heaven on a village that didn’t receive Jesus as he thought they should. Jesus sharply rebuked James and John saying: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55b-56a NKJV).
Love saves! In fact, years later, John was so transformed that his writings contain more on the love of God than any of the other gospel writers. Love had so changed John that his writings dripped with it. He had watched love lived out in sacrificial devotion. Love’s power is transformational. It transformed a band of timid and fearful followers into a force that is still impacting the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ today! If love could hold our Savior to the cross, let it hold us to our devotion and fuel greater displays of passion to our hurting world.