When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
I have always been leery of vaccinations. The idea that bits of a serious disease are put into my body is disconcerting. The doctor may use medical terms like pathogen or antigen. He may say that it is only being scratched on the surface of the skin. The fact still remains that I am purposely being exposed by direct contact to bacteria or a virus from a dangerous disease. The medical explanation is that I am being exposed to weak or dead elements of the disease so that my body will build antibodies to combat the sickness. The vaccination makes me immune to the real disease.
That is what has happened with many Christians and churches. They have been vaccinated with dead or weak forms of Christianity. Thus, they have built up antibodies that combat the powerful, radical contagion of authentic Christianity. They are going through the motions of being Christian, but their lives show none of the severe symptoms of true Christianity.
Make no mistake, the real disease of Christ is a virulent, extreme, revolutionary strain that kills the old way we live and gives birth to a new life that is a carrier of the infection. When Jesus said, “Follow Me,” He was not talking about trailing Him to a Sunday school class. When He said, “Follow Me,” He was saying, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who abuse you. Forgive the people who are driving the nails into your hands. If your eye leads you to sin, pluck it out. Love Me more than you love your children or parents. Rejoice even in suffering. Real strength lies in weakness, serving, fear, and forgiveness. Thieves and prostitutes are closer to the kingdom of God than the moralist. Don’t hide behind social propriety, confess your sin openly one to another. The morally pretentious must rely upon the grace of God just as much as a murderer.”
Following the gigantic Christ that made such statements is not easy. However, anything less is not following Him. If we abbreviate these drastic precepts, we no longer have authentic Christianity.
Many churches today are no more than inoculation clinics run by the world and Satan. People go there to receive weekly vaccinations, so they won’t come down with the real thing.
However, this extreme life called “Christian” not only flows from following Jesus, this life is empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit comes and lives in us.
May I ask you a logical question? If you are following Jesus and indwelled by the third person of the Trinity, how can your life not be radical? Paul said that the life anointed by the Holy Spirit would be marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Now immediately we recognize that many of those characteristics can be seen in the pagan. So how are love and joy different in the Christian than in the world? This love and joy are supernatural. This is love and joy taken to another level — a level that is alien to the world — a level that is impossible without the Holy Spirit. The same power that created the universe is empowering our hearts to love. The world has a right to ask us: “If the demands of Jesus are so extraordinary, and if you have God inside of you, how come you live such ordinary lives?”
Late in the nineteenth century, two men living in London went to a meeting of their geographical society to hear one of their members speak of his recent trip to China. During his report the man spoke of being in a village and inquiring if any Christians lived there. The leader told him there was one Christian living in a village about fifteen miles away. One of the two men leaned over to his friend and said, “Ah, there was only one Christian and he was fifteen miles away. But they knew exactly where he lived!” Does the world know where we live because of the radical nature of our lives?
When someone is sick with the real form of a powerful disease, we stay away from him. That person is very contagious, and we don’t want what he has. However, I have never stayed away from someone who has simply been vaccinated. That person is not contagious. Just so, the world will never be infected by those who have a vaccination of Christianity. They can live next to them for years without any fear of catching the virulent strain of the true Christ.
Perfection in sanctification is impossible this side of glory. However, continual growth in Christ is attainable. Failure will happen. That is certain. Peter and John failed too. However, failure is an opportunity for repentance, and authentic repentance is an essential part of sanctification for the sinner. Don’t give up. Remember this is the Gospel of grace. You are a work in progress.
Today, this week, once again read the Gospels. Listen to the voice of Jesus. Observe the way He lived. We cannot explain the lives of those first disciples apart from their association with Christ: “they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Today, this week, go to the Father in prayer and ask Him to fill you with His Spirit. Pray and pray again to be filled. Those are dangerous steps to take. You may contract a “disease” from which you will never recover.
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