|A Christian Guide to Acts||by R. David Pogge|
The Book of Acts tells the story of a powerful church whose members worked miracles and gained thousands of converts a day, changing the world. Sadly, the Christian church in America is not having the same success. Why?
Some might say that the message preached by the apostolic church is no longer relevant in today’s culture, which is why it fails to have the same effect that it did 2,000 years ago. I disagree.
The problem isn’t that the culture has changed. The problem is that the message has changed. The “gospel” preached by the modern Christian church isn’t the Gospel preached by Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the rest of the apostles. As Paul said,
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! [Galatians 1:6-8] 1
If Christian churches would preach the same Gospel as Paul preached, it would have the same result today. The Church would be the driving force in America, bringing people to God. But the majority of Christian churches in America aren’t preaching the Gospel, so the Holy Spirit has no interest in giving them the power to spread their message. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no power.
We live in a culture which is afraid to step on toes. There is a reluctance to tell the truth if there is a chance it will offend someone, or make them uncomfortable. The Gospel is not politically correct; so many churches are afraid to preach the Gospel the way the apostles did.
As we go through the biblical Book of Acts, I am certain that you will discover things about the apostolic church that you never knew before. You will be amazed to find out that what is preached in most pulpits today is a much different message than the message the apostles took to the world.
You may have felt that there is something missing in your Christian experience—and there is. The false gospel preached in many Christian churches today lacks power. You have been fed cotton candy Christianity. It is sweet; but it isn’t really nourishing, and it leaves you wanting something more substantial.
Once you see the truth for yourself from the clear words written in the Bible, you will gain the inner peace and assurance which comes from living in harmony with God. You can have confidence in salvation and look forward to eternal life. You will know that God is on your side, no matter what.
But be warned! You will read things in the Book of Acts which contradict what you have been told in church. You may feel confused or betrayed. Do not let that prevent you from reading the entire book and gaining the blessing. The truth that you read in the Bible will probably not be consistent with what you have been taught in church. Do not let that discourage you.
The Book of Acts tells what the apostles taught about Jesus and The Way. It was not what Jews had traditionally believed.
[In Thessalonica] As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city.
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. [Acts 17:2-5, 11-12]
What the apostles taught might be very different from what you have been taught in your church. I pray that you will follow the example of the Bereans rather than the Thessalonians. Don’t just take my word for it. Read the Bible with several of your Christian friends. Examine the texts carefully, in context, and sincerely try to understand what they are plainly saying. Don’t try to twist them to match the doctrines your church teaches.
When you have to choose between believing what the Bible says and what your church teaches, you must have the courage to stand with the biblical truth against human traditions.
Your friends may turn against you—but you will gain a new friend, Jesus. Your new friend will be a better friend than all your old friends put together.
You may think you already know Jesus; but there is a good chance the Jesus worshipped in your congregation might bear only a superficial resemblance to the real Jesus of Nazareth. Many denominations (with the best intentions) emphasize certain verses, and totally ignore other verses, creating a fictional Jesus who has popular appeal. Consequently, there are many Christians who sincerely love a fictional Jesus who is much different from the real Son of God described in the Bible. If so, you don't know you are worshipping one of the false Messiahs who were predicted to come in the last days. That is very dangerous!
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ [Matthew 7:21-23]
There are many sincere Christians who go to church every Sunday, sing praise songs, and tolerate sin to demonstrate how non-judgmental and loving they are, who will be surprised to discover they have been practicing counterfeit Christianity, worshipping a fictional Jesus, and are lost.
Paul warned Timothy,
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. [2 Timothy 4:3-4]
That time has come. Many Christians today have gathered around a great number of teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear, and turned to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all—and love a Jesus who never existed. The time has come for us to take the advice Paul gave to Timothy.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. … But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. [2 Timothy 4:1-2, 5]
Saul ignorantly persecuted Christians because he didn’t know Jesus. He mistakenly thought Jesus had come to turn people away from the God of Abraham, and abolish the law of Moses. Then he was blinded by a striking, irresistible vision of divinity, and became Paul the apostle to the Gentiles. 2
If you have been worshipping an imaginary Jesus, I pray you will be as amazed as Saul was by what you see when you discover what the Bible says about what Jesus really did and taught. After the blinding revelation passes, may you see the truth just as clearly as he did, and become a new person yourself.
Let us not wait another minute to read the inspired—and inspiring—words written in the Book of Acts. These words are for us, today. They have not lost their power. Let us fearlessly embark on this thrilling adventure!
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Footnotes:1 All Bible quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise specified.