The Church today in America is a far cry from the Church we see in the Book of Acts. The Church back then exploded following Pentecost, eventually taking the gospel to the known world with great fervency within decades. The disciples served the Lord in the fear of God.
Today in America most Christians are instead preoccupied with fulfilling their birthright known as the American Dream. As Christians their primary concern is trusting God to bless them and their loved ones on earth with peace and material possessions so that they may live fulfilled lives. They focus more on what God can do for them on earth than on what they can do for the Lord.
What is the reason for this stark contrast? This article seeks to set forward two reasons.
Firstly, the believers in Acts lived at a time shortly after Jesus’ life and ministry on earth. Some of them may have personally heard Jesus teach, or were taught by disciples who had sat under his teaching. Jesus’ teaching was very different from the kind of teaching so prevalent today. His teaching and words were more often than not hard and challenging. His purpose was to prepare his disciples and servants for the next age.
Matthew 25:30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Luke 14:33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Luke 13:3 …But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
We can reasonably assume that the disciples trained by Jesus preached and taught the believers in Acts in a similarly challenging way. But today from the pulpit we hear mostly feel-good and ear-tickling messages about God’s love for us and how much He wants to bless us here on earth in every way possible, and then welcome us to heaven after we die.
But Jesus taught us to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Luke 13:24)
Today we are taught to repeat a “sinner’s prayer” after which we are guaranteed a one-way ticket to heaven. We are not told to “make every effort” as Jesus taught since we are saved by grace and not by works.
This watered-down teaching designed to market the Church and draw as many people as possible into our sanctuaries (along with their offerings, of course) has resulted in the kind of Christians we see today. According to the teachings of Jesus, many of these church-going Christians might not be saved.
The Holy Spirit
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, transforming them from fearful men into bold and powerful witnesses for Christ.
Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Acts 4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all
Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
For the most part, we do not see this in the Church today in America. Why not? Could it be that many Christians are not yet filled with the Holy Spirit?
Jesus taught that “by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). When a Christian is lacking in the fruit and power of the Holy Spirit, it is very possible that they are not yet filled with the Holy Spirit despite whatever doctrine they may hold about the Holy Spirit.
We submit to you that two major reasons for the contrast between the disciples in Acts and Christians in America today are the man-pleasing teaching to which contemporary believers are exposed, and the lack of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.