Recently I’ve been writing about the book of Acts and Christianity’s tendency to treat it like a history book and not a roadmap. A brother stopped by and asked a great question: How has the book of Acts informed how you live your life? It’s a really important question because we can spend so much time talking about the book but not really living out what it’s instructing us. So in no particular order, here are some ways the book of Acts has informed my life and practice.
Miracles Didn’t End with Jesus or the Apostles- This is an easy one to understand. Miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are found on nearly every page of this book. In fact, the more I read it, the more stunned I am that the supernatural ministry of Jesus was really continued in the Early Church instead of ending with Jesus. Now most people are okay with believing that the apostles did miracles, but we see all throughout Acts that other people did them as well. Stephen, Phillip, Ananias, and Agabus are all non-apostolic figures who where powerfully moved upon by the Holy Spirit. Some of the people who the Holy Spirit moved through were so ordinary, we don’t even know their names. Peter’s promise at the beginning of the book of Acts is as true today as it was then: “This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”
For me, seeing the continued activity of the Holy Spirit working in the life of the church and for the expansion of the Gospel constantly pushes me to believe God wants to do more miraculous things through me. God will still heal, deliver, and speak into situations in order to encourage the church and point the lost towards Christ. I’ve seen these things happen with my eyes, but Acts always forces me to believe for them to be a reality in my own life.
Apostolic Passion- I don’t know about you, but when I read through the book of Acts, I feel my heart rekindled in the area of apostolic passion. What is apostolic passion, you ask? It’s being gripped by God for the things He called you to, specifically in the areas of reaching the lost, making disciples, and planting churches. Obviously the greatest example of this in the book of Acts is the apostle Paul. I always marvel at this man because he would go into a city, preach the Gospel, lead many people to Christ, and then, after doing so would get stoned by the other half of the city. Most people wouldn’t survive this, but Paul not only survived: He went back in to the town that stoned him. While he left the next day, he would return and his missionary activity would speed up, not slow down. There was a passion in Paul to be faithful to what Christ had called him to even in the face of difficulty. We, especially as Americans, have a lot to learn from that.
In my life, I remember early on being taught about Paul from the book of Acts. The teaching wasn’t from his apostolic travels, but from his defense before Felix and Festus where Paul would tell the story of his conversion. When he was completely done, Paul would say “I obeyed that vision from heaven,” (Acts 26:19). I remember older believers encouraging me to model my life after Paul and give myself completely to being able to say at the end of my life “I obeyed the vision Christ gave me for my life.” More specifically, as I began to understand Christ’s call to reach the lost, make disciples, and plant churches, Paul’s persistence has taught me much about enduring for the sake of the Gospel. Reading Acts again and again has in a sense been like having a brother from another age cheering me on to be faithful in the same way he was.
That’s enough for today. Tomorrow I’ll write a bit more. Until then, what has the book of Acts taught you about following Christ?
There is a story buried in the book of Acts that teaches us a profound reality about serving others in the body of Christ. It starts with Peter and John being asked to give money to a lame beggar. Peter’s response to the beggar is instructive:
I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!
Peter didn’t have money. That wasn’t a resource that the Lord had given him. What he had was the power of the Lord operating in his life. He had experienced healing in the ministry of Jesus. He had participated in healing the sick and casting out demons before. The power of the Holy Spirit was real in Peter’s life, so it was easy for Him to give it away.
There is a spiritual principle here that many people fail to recognize: We can only give to others what we have received from the Lord. Yet I often see people try to give away the things of the Lord that they have no experience in. Some do this in their teaching, trying to teach Kingdom realities that they have participated in themselves. Others counsel or advise outside of the realm the Lord has called them to. This can inevitably get us into trouble.
This issue is one of dependency. We can only give to others out of the overflow of what Jesus gives us. This means that we are completely dependent on receiving all of our love, authority, and giftedness from Jesus before we can give it away to anyone else. The New Testament is filled with phrases that echo this dependency: “…so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord,” (Acts 20:24); “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” (1 Corinthians 11:23). Paul was living a life of passing on the things that he had received from God.
Friends, the Lord has called us to access the resources of Heaven for others. So by writing this, I’m not telling us never to step out into new things. I’m simply saying we have to operate in a radical dependence on Jesus and be constantly receiving from Him. It’s out of this overflow that the ministry of Jesus happens. Jesus is generous and wants to give us so much more than we have if we but ask. So receive and out of this receiving, pass onto others that which Jesus has given you!
…is they are spiritual.
There. I said it.
Why is this important, you ask? Because most of the time when people start looking at the gifts of the Spirit, they start looking at their natural talents. Someone who is wise will quickly argue that they have a gift of wisdom. Someone who likes to make people feel good will say they have the gift of encouragement. This isn’t how things work.
The gifts of the Spirit are radically different than our own human abilities. They are gifts that can only be achieved by the Spirit. So if an unbeliever with no presence of the Holy Spirit can do what you do, it’s probably not a gift from the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is also known as the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11). Think about how incredibly unable you are to raise someone from the dead on your own. You know unless the Holy Spirit works through you, there is no way you can raise the next dead person you come across. The same is true with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Every time you manifest one, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is operating through you. Every gift is miraculous.
I’m not trying to discourage you. I want to encourage you to turn to Jesus and ask Him to truly allow the Holy Spirit to flow through you, beyond what you are capable of on your own. Don’t look to your abilities to do what only God can do. Instead, allow the Holy Spirit to do the heavy lifting and transform the world around you. One of these gifts operating in your life could change you, your church, or the world around you.
“To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.“
-1 Corinthians 12:8-10
One of the most misunderstood aspects of the church as God designed it is the place of the five-fold ministry. God has designed the body of Christ so that it builds itself up in love. An important part of that process is mature five-fold gifts functioning in and amongst the body of Christ in a mature way. But many have misunderstood the purpose and functions of different aspects of these gifts.
Because of the importance of these ministries, I’ve assembled some of the best posts on the five-fold ministry that I’ve found on various blogs. These are written by men and women with experience with people who have functioned in these gifts. These are my top five posts. Feel free to leave a link to your favorite post on this topic in the comment section.
Felicity gives us a great post to introduce us to the idea of the five-fold ministry and right off the bat she combats the major misconceptions about these gifts God gives the church. This is a short post but many people miss the profound implications that are found within it.
Len’s thoughts on a quote from An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land don’t directly mention the five-fold ministry. But he does touch on an interesting idea: The Kingdom of God is extended by Jesus as He gives these gifts to the church for the world. Read on to see more.
I love this post by Bob Roberts. Bob really brings a very balanced perspective to the whole issue of the five-fold ministry. I love that his insights are born out of his work in the non-Western world and I’m greatly encouraged on his emphasis on the whole church becoming apostolic, and not just one man.
Mike does a great job in this post of describing what a missional community will look like if it is lead by each of the five-fold ministries. While not entirely the same as a house church, I’ve noticed similar group dynamics in house churches led by each of these different ministry gifts. You may learn a few things about why you lead your house church the way you do from this post.
Last but not least, this post is extremely helpful because it identifies characteristics of immature people with five-fold giftings. Many times we reject five-fold minstries because of our negative experiences with the immature versions of five-fold ministries. This frank discussion about the downside of immature five-fold ministries will help those who have had negative experiences. It’s also really helpful to those maturing in these gifts because it highlights weaknesses they will need to address.
Photo Credit: This image is a product of five pictures representing each of the five-fold ministries.