What was the insurance of the early Church to have a life of security and freedom?
I love the way the early church shared and lived life with each other. Their sacrificial love among brethren is the pattern we are to follow. Many have tried to make a principal out of the way they lived but have failed to live practically following that pattern. It is, therefore, significant to examine this very important aspect of their body life: Where did they get their security and freedom? When they were made disciples of Jesus, what drove them to sell their houses and lands and joine the community called “The Way” and begin to live an alternative lifestyle? Surely, common sense tells that the one who has many houses, cars, land and businesses is more secured than the one who is trying to get rid of it. What kind of message did they expose themselves to that came from the apostles? What kind of lifestyle did they see that made them do likewise? What kind of security did they see in the ekklesia that the world they lived in could not offer?
What despicable scenery, when we look at the way the Christians today behave and live life with each other! Doesn’t security mean to have more, not less? More money, properties, businesses, cars, insurances, and lands and more not less! Although they believe that Jesus will come back soon they still want more church buildings, more parking lots, more programs, and more leaders. I remember reading a line contrasting the early church and the modern church, it reads like this: Peter preached one sermon and three thousand got saved, the pastor today preaches three thousand sermons and one gets saved!
If you need money to live then you’re not secured. Money seems to be your shield, not faith. If you need your career to live then you’re not really free. Career determines who you are, not God. You see, true security comes from forsaking all you have, giving it all up, not acquiring more and making yourself dependent on God alone. And true freedom comes not from serving others to benefit yourself (like any who work in this world do) but from serving others, laying down your life for others even when you benefit nothing out of it. This is exactly how the early church behaved and shared life sacrificially with one another. Forsaking and serving is the kingdom way of life. How did they do it? Simple. They showed obedience to their King first and then to his kingdom mandate.
Jesus said to us – his disciples, to seek first his kingdom and its constitution and then secondly, all these things shall be added. Let’s do this one by one. If Jesus says ‘seek,’ it means it is hidden and needs to be ‘found’ right? “Seek and it shall be found.’ My friend and brother Peter here asked as we discussed these things among ourselves, “Where? Where is the Kingdom of God?” It’s a very good question by the way. You see, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand’” (Lk 8:10). The priceless pearls of the Kingdom shall not be trampled by those that don’t even know how to ask the right question but carelessly shout Kingdom, Kingdom! It is a hidden secret. Why do you want to blast it carelessly?
Jesus is the King. A king without his domain is no king. Jesus says in Lk 17:21, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” If Jesus is your King, you are his domain. As more people acknowledge him to be their King and pay allegiance to his Kingship, his Kingdom expands and of the increase of his governance and peace, there is no end.
Paying allegiance to the King commands being obedient to his decrees and keeping his commands. A king without decrees, is not a king worthy of respect or obedience. “If you love me,” Jesus said to us as his disciples, “you will obey what I command” (Jn 14:15). When you acknowledge Jesus as your King, he descends his domain all over you. You enter into the King’s domain through baptism, and you remain in it through obedience because you love him. Obedience makes Jesus domain happen in you. Thus, the Kingdom of God is within you.
Let’s go back to Mt 6:33 again, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…The Kingdom of God are those people of God, who have aligned themselves to the rule of King Jesus. Those who have made the allegiance to obey his commands out of love to him. Those people who let the Kingdom of God happen daily in their lifestyle and live in obedience to Jesus’ commands and his decrees. The Kingdom of God talks of a plurality then, a community, a body joined and knit-together in a region. Jesus says, “Seek first such people!” Seek first my people who live according to my Kingdom rules obeying my commands because they love me! And what does ‘seek’ mean? Change your priorities. Get out of all the human allegiance you have made to your church, your organization, to your worldly affairs, to your country, deny your Self, egos, rights, opinions, and enter the Kingdom of God. Lock-in to the Head, King Jesus, and join the community of Kingdom citizens and be part of that Body! (Start such a community if there is none in your region. Seek out such people and extend the Kingdom of God.)
Do you see the hidden secret? The Kingdom of God can be found! It’s right here! Wow!
As you find those people who live the Kingdom life together as a family, an ekklesia in the region (one church, one region) you join together with them. (Even if it may cost you to leave eberything and move to another region, do it! It is worth the Kingdom!) Because that’s why it says, “and all these things shall be added unto you.” Now, we are talking! That is being secure of everything that you need. But how does this work? O course, there is a price to pay. The cost of discipleship is to forsake all and to deny oneself. Jesus said in, Lk 14:33 “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Seek his kingdom first, does not mean, seek a good job, a good salary or good weather and your job transfer. We say, “No!” to these things and deny them to define our daily lifestyle. If these things come first to determine our life, then we practice that seeking His kingdom is not our top priority.
What did a person or a household see when they got saved in those early ekklesia? He definitely did not see a church and immediately became a member of it, really. So, what did he see? He saw the Kingdom of God. Jesus is so right in saying that when a person is born again he can see the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3). The disciples’ security is found in Jesus. Jesus shall meet all our needs according to His riches and glory and as the church forsakes all in order to receive a hundred fold. This is just one of the principles of the Kingdom life here. Mt 19:29 states, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much.” This is what Jesus has promised. I know, it stands so opposing to the way worldly people think and behave. In the world, the rich is rich, the poor is poor but in the Kingdom, the rich is poor and the poor is rich. The first is last, and the last is first. One who forsakes all has a hundred-fold! Madness? No, it is the normality. In the Kingdom, not doing what Jesus says is the madness! Those who arrogantly, adamantly argue that “what Jesus said, he didn’t actually mean it” will never get what he so simply says. To those he says, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:15). Repent means, change the way you think. Renew your mind, my friend because the way your mind processes thoughts, needs a complete turn around and a new alignment to King Jesus in order to grasp kingdom stuff. He commands us to ‘repent’ before believing the news of his Kingdom! It requires you to turnaround from your arrogant madness and submit in obedience that comes out of love to your King.
As one truly forsakes all, that’s when he is secure. That is what the early church did, that was their attitude. They did not argue and debate and share opinions. They simply obeyed and forsook, denying their self, their own, their possessions, houses, lands, fields! They modeled a submitted attitude of the heart for us to follow. Today we have made a theological principle out of what they actually practiced. Many fail to follow such lifestyle that begins in the attitude of a submitted heart. In Acts 2, it says that they met from house to house. This means that they did not meet just on Sunday mornings for a couple of hours. That is not what they modeled for us to practice. The obeyed Jesus’commands of one-anothering and modeled what it takes to be a Body. They met from house to house. When one house got saved they just moved to the next house. Consider, what makes of a body if its parts are separate from each other? What kind of foot is that which asks the hand, “See you next Sunday Morning?” Unlike the lifestyle in modern churches that is filled with artificial love and ambition, the lifestyle in the book of Acts is full of sacrificial love and devotion. They lived ready anytime to martyrdom, to die for their King and his Kingdom – for one another.
That kind of selflessness gave them all the security. Think, what do you lose anyway if you are selfless? Now, how about their freedom in Christ. How did they actually get it? Jesus freed us from sin and slavery. “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1). But how did they practice this new freedom. Jesus who has set us free modeled it for us. He took on the very nature of a servant (Phil 2:7), and came to us in a serving attitude to set us free. You followthat pattern and serve others to live in that freedom. Are you living such a freedom as a disciple of Jesus? Jesus is the one who set us free, he set an example of how to serve one another to really live in the new freedom he bought and brought for us. By serving one another, we live in freedom. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. We should do the same. I serve you; you serve me and we serve one another. How’s that!
In a world that is full of I-me-mine mentality, the Church also adopts such a mind-set. The I-me-mine mind-set does not enhance servant attitude but a leader attitude. Everyone wants to join some ‘Leader’s Conference’ so it’s obvious that nobody wants to serve their brethren. To say that a ‘leader serves’ annoys me to the core. Come on, honestly, a leader does not serve, he leads period. A servant does serve. Even if the job of a leader is guaranteed to serve, then it is more appropriate to call him a servant and not a leader. Jesus didn’t get the job done by leading. He got it done by serving. He came to serve. And we must go and do likewise as we are told to ‘serve one another.’
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought” in Rom.12:3, talks actually about our act of spiritual worship. How do we worship? By offering our bodies as a living sacrifice. How do we practice this? Read the whole chapter and you will see it is all about serving one another! Someone explained to me that the ‘second’ commandment (loving your neighbor) is the same as the ‘first’ commandment (loving God). If loving God is worship, then loving your neighbor is worship to God. “Leave your gift at the altar” Jesus says when offering sacrifices, “and be reconciled to your brother” (Matt.5:24). Relationship is more important than offering a sacrifice. “How can you say you love God whom you do not see,” asks John, “when you cannot love your brother whom you see?” (1Jn. 4:20) See?
And here is Paul’s words of interaction to the ekklesia in Philippi, “Let each of you look out not only to his own interest, but also for the interest of others” (Phil.2:4). Practically it means, I will look out for your needs, you look out for mine. Deal? Imagine this, you take care of your brother’s needs and your brother take cares of your need, and everyone in the ekklesia is doing it the same way! Don’t you think that’s security and freedom in action? Yes, indeed!
Lastly, think about this, there are basically 75 commands of King Jesus, as His disciples we should know them or else we do not know what to obey, and 58 of these are about one-anothering. What do you say? Did Jesus command us leadership or servanthood? One-another, means I cannot live without you; you cannot live without me! I’m not greater than you, you’re not greater than me! In our house, we are 18 of us living in two buildings next to each other. And whatever we do, we always do it two by two, or four by four. When we cook, we all cook together. Once a missionary brother came visiting us and he ate with us. He liked the food and so he asked, “Who cooked this one?” There was some seconds of silence because at first. No one answered “Me!” Then someone broke the silence and answered, “Albert.” Albert then answered, “Ah, Jomie!” And Jomie pointed at Arlen and said, “It’s Arlen.” Then the missionary realized how our family is knit-together as one body! No one takes the credit because we all serve all.
True security comes from forsaking all for the kingdom of God. And true freedom comes from serving one another.