Who would have ever thought that being the church (the people of God) would be dangerous? But it has become exactly that in some places. This week Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American and Christian, learned his fate after being arrested by the North Korean government. North Korea called Bae a “covert missionary” and was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. For North Koreans, spreading Christianity amounts to treason.
In worn-torn Syria, two of the highest ranking Christian clerics were kidnapped and are now being held for ransom. Bishop Boulos Yaziji leads the Greek Orthodox Church and Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim leads the Syriac Orthodox Church. The bishops were traveling near Aleppo in April doing humanitarian work and were kidnapped at gunpoint.
An Iranian Assembly of God pastor and his family were sentenced to jail for one year because of their conversion to Christianity and for “propagation against the Islamic regime through evangelism.”
In many parts of the world it is dangerous to be the Church.
In our text this morning we find a church, however, that is highly contagious and in fact very dangerous. A church which is so contagious that it affects the community around it and in fact turns its community upside down for Jesus. We find a group of people who are so passionate about their love for Jesus that they are contagious. A group of people so on fire for God that their lives threaten others. A group of people so in touch with God and each other that the Holy Spirit works through them in miraculous ways.
This week I want to look with you at the events of Pentecost. Pentecost for the Jews was the feast when they celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses at Mt. Sinai. It was on Pentecost – a festival – then that the disciples were all together in the upper room. You’ll recall that they had been told by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem for the gift that the Father would send them. So there they are waiting. And suddenly the room is filled with the sound of a wind. Imagine what that would be like. They couldn’t tell where it was coming from they could only hear it. As they’re sitting there wondering what’s going on, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks and they started speaking in a number of different languages. They couldn’t understand each other but as this commotion continued we’re told that those who were staying in Jerusalem for the feast heard them speaking in their own native tongues and came running. They were amazed! Here, these foreigners who had made long journeys to Jerusalem were standing listening to men speaking about the works of God in their own languages. The people accept his message and that day three thousand persons were saved. 3,000 people in one day! Can you imagine? It’s amazing what God can do when we are ready to be used.
These apostles, who previously had not had the courage to even stand up with Jesus when he was being persecuted were suddenly changing the world. Peter who had denied that he had even known Jesus was now preaching to the multitudes. What happened? What caused such a significant change? And how can we experience that same kind of life-giving, life-inspiring change in our own lives?
I believe there are elements which are essential in the life of a person who is dangerously Christian. These essential elements do not come easily. They are elements that are birthed through a process of growth. That’s why I’ve saved this message for the final piece of our series called Flourish. To flourish means to grow and develop in a healthy vigorous way: to thrive and prosper. To flourish in a deep relationship with God takes commitment and work: a life of hearing and doing the Word and praying. To flourish is to be empowered by God for the work of God. Your ability to flourish is dependent upon your willingness to submit to God.
A person who is dangerously Christian is Ready to be Used. Where were the disciples when the Holy Spirit came upon them? They were exactly where Jesus told them to be, waiting. They were anticipating something great. They were prepared. They were watching and believing that something was going to happen. They were ready to be used.
John Wesley – field preaching (illustration)
God wants to move in this community through this church in unbelievable ways but it won’t happen until we’re ready for it to happen. It will look different that many are accustomed to; God will not move in the ways he used to move. Are you ready to move to where God is and partner with God? Even if it is different or potentially uncomfortable? Even if you will need to give something up?
A person who is dangerously Christian is able to Communicate in other languages. I’m not talking literally about other languages here, but what I mean is that you and I need to learn to speak the language of others..
We live in a culture which does not speak Church language. We have our own language, and until we learn to speak the language of those around us we will not be able to reach them. Very seldom will they learn our language. We need to be learning theirs. We can change the medium without changing the message, and that’s what we need to be doing. That’s why we’ve built Children’s Church instead of Sunday School. That’s why we will offer a FREE carnival for the community – to meet the people here on their terms. That’s why this year I will begin to have a conversation about what it means to offer an alternative form of worship with different music, different styles, different atmosphere that will communicate to this community in a language about God that will be understood.
A person who is dangerously Christian is one who Boldly Shares Their Faith.
You and I need cannot be afraid of sharing Jesus with those around us. Jesus is life. Jesus is the answer to every question; the answer to every broken relationship; the answer to every addiction; the answer to everything that seeks to cripple and destroy. Through you, Jesus will step into lives and families that are crippled and broken.
That’s what you see in today’s story. Peter boldly shares his faith and as a result thousands of people make a decision to follow Christ.
As a result of individuals who were dangerously Christian Acts 2 gives us a picture of what a dangerously Christian Church might look like. God shows us that he only uses those who are ready to be used.