FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 16, number 43, October 26, 2017
“And the Lord was adding to their number day by day, those who were being saved.” -Acts 2:47
Just Like in the Book of Acts
I returned recently from a developing nation where the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work, where what I was seeing was just like what we read about in the book of Acts. How so? I have read that as many as thirty thousand people daily are calling on the name of the Lord to be saved, that thousands of baptisms are happening every Sunday. Luke tells us, at the end of Acts 2 where he has reported on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, that the Lord (it was clearly a work of the Lord, not a work of human contrivance) was saving people daily out of darkness, bringing them into the kingdom of light.
I saw nothing of human invention. The worship services are orderly. There is no “over the top” emotion, no whipping people up to an emotional frenzy. The church leaders are not quick to lay hands on people for baptism. After one calls on the name of the Lord to be saved the new convert is instructed for several months on what it means to be a follower of Christ, what baptism means, and what it may cost the person to reject his former life and religion and follow Jesus Christ.
Just like in Acts, baptism is a big deal in this culture. It signifies a break with the past and those baptized are often rejected by their families, cut off from any meaningful relationship from that time forward. When baptized, the new believers are asked a series of questions-are you submitting yourself to the Triune God, are you rejecting the false gods of your former religion, are you willing to speak to people of Jesus Christ and urge them to follow Him, are you willing to attend church every Sunday, are you willing to tithe your income to the Lord’s work, are you willing to live a holy life before God and those in your community?
And just like in Acts, persecution of believers in this country is on the rise. There are parts of the country when there is hardly any persecution at all, and other places where it is rampant, including the burning of churches, public attacks on believers as they seek to evangelize in their town, and in some cases the killing of believers. Why the persecution? Like in Acts 19 where the gospel has come to Ephesus, a city known for its worship of the goddess Diana, the salvation of so many has turned the culture upside down. So many are becoming Christians that this is actually changing the very dynamic of the nation’s culture. The poor, who for centuries have been put down by the religious establishment, are coming to Christ and realizing that they are not inferior to anyone, that in Christ Jesus there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, nor barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all (Colossians 3:11).
And just like in Acts, it appears that God is healing a good number of people (usually those who are very poor) which is convincing them that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, that Christianity is true and their religion is false. I heard testimony of people being healed from blindness, an inability to walk, cancer, intestinal sickness, and many more things. Could they be lying? Could they be exaggerating? Yes of course that is possible but I have repeatedly in many different venues heard pastors and lay people tell me the same thing.
As in the book of Acts, there is a deep hunger for the good news of Jesus Christ. Many people are willing to hear about the gospel, to enter into gospel conversations for hours, on repeated occasions. As in some cultures there is a polite willingness to listen to the gospel story out of respect for older people. However, in this country there is still so much opposition to the gospel, coupled with the eagerness by many to hear, that this shows me those interested are not being manipulated or giving attention to the word of God out of mere respect.
As in the book of Acts, the power brokers are now working overtime to turn the people back to the former religion. There are concerted efforts, sponsored by the government, urging the people to return home to their religion. Apologists for the false religion are telling new Christian converts that if Mark 16:18 is true (. . . they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them) then they should go ahead and pick up a poisonous snake and drink some poison and see if they live or die.
And as in the book of Acts, a raw gospel work is going on there. This is not a refined, cold, formal Christianity. This is an alive, fervent, relentless, daily work of evangelizing and disciple making in the local communities. As in Acts there is the multiplication of churches. No time is taken by the leaders to “exegete” the culture. There is no talk of social justice (though you can be sure that most of those coming to Christ have been sorely oppressed for years). There is no indication that Christians take a long period of time to get to know people in the community in order to earn the right to be heard. The evangelistic work there is bold and intentional-in the streets, door to door, open air preaching kind of evangelism.
This is all happening in a matter of fact way. It is clear to me that the people are not at all amazed by what is happening. They know nothing differently, but those of us from the western world see an immediate contrast between our culture and theirs.
Pray for God to grant us wisdom as we get on this train which has already left the station and do what we can to assist the church there to cooperate with what God is doing.
1. Church leaders instruct the people to say that we should never tempt God. Jesus faced a similar situation when the devil said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down for He has given His angels charge over You . . .” So they should never test God by drinking poison or picking up a cobra, but if they are bitten, or if someone poisons them, then God very well might deliver them and thus manifest His power. They should say, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did to Nebuchadnezzar as they faced the blazing fire, “Our God is able to deliver us from the furnace. . .but even if He does not, let it be known to you, O King, that we are not going to serve your gods,” (Daniel 3:17,18).