This week at Bible study we talked about the early church, and how they lived that was SO successful in bringing God's kingdom here on Earth. We read in Acts 2:42-47 that they weren't just a church that got together on Sundays, they devoted themselves to living together so differently from the rest of the world that they were a complete testimony in all that they did. I feel like I keep going back to this question of "what has happened to the original purpose/idea of the church?" We talked about how here in Jarabacoa, as Americans, we've got the "seperate community" thing down, but what are we really known for?! They know we are the "Christian Americans" but what do they see in action that shows them that?
"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."
We are told that we need to be an alternate city where our lives shine forth, bring the Kingdom by embodying it in society which is both abiding in Christ and engaging in the life of the world! The study gave us three ways the Bible tells us to live out this idea of an "Alternate City".
1-Be Gospel Speaking, talking about Jesus constantly!
1 Peter 3:15 "If with heart and soul you're doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you're still better off. Don't give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath. It's better to suffer for doing good, if that's what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That's what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others' sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God."
"The joyful effects of the gospel in our own lives must give us an enormous energy for witness. How can we keep quiet about such a great wonder? The love that we experience because of the gospel must remove from us the fear of thers' disapproval."
2-Be Neighbor Loving
Matthew 5:47 "You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that."
3-Be Community Transformed
"There is a credibility that comes if you are consistent in your behavior, there is a credibility that comes if people see the gospel transforming you."
"You and your fellow believers are meant to be known for your passions and for the Heaven you bring to earth."
This was a really cool reminder of the importance of people SEEING that I am a follower of Jesus, not just knowing because I have told them, or because they assume that because I am an American here that I am a missionary!