Sermon Highlights: Lessons from the Early Church. Tihomir Kukolja preaches at the International Christian Fellowship Church, Belgrade, Serbia, June 2018.
How much does the Christianity today reflect the Christianity of its early days? How much are we like or unalike this movement that was born two thousand years ago? How come Jesus Christ did not create a religious order, something like in the Old Testament days, with 10 or 600 new laws and regulations, orderly structured to govern the movement of his followers?
Instead Jesus just said: “Follow me!” He said: “Look at me! Look at what I was doing when I was with you. Listen to what I was saying when I was with you, and follow me!” At the end of the second and fourth chapters of the Book of Acts we find descriptions of what this movement looked like at the beginning.
Firstly, there was a clear awareness among the early believers of the importance of community. The conversion of people was not only an individual matter. Tragically today the Christian church is either too institutionalized, individualized, secularized or ridden by nationalism. I do not believe Jesus had ever intended that His church should look like that. Church is meant to be much more than just a holy place to visit at given times. It is a family of support. It is very hard to be a follower of Jesus in isolation.
At the very beginning the Church of Christ was not a fancy building to go to. It was there with the believers in their fields, in their homes and houses. I can see them every night, after their daily work was done, going to different homes to share meal, to read the Word of God, to pray, to talk about Jesus, to encourage each other. Those meals they shared had much more profound meaning than the way we eat our meals today.
Then, their lives were centered in the person of Jesus, and not on some shallow spirituality that was based only on emotions without content. Today, unfortunately there exists a Christian culture that teaches many to believe that they are saved by default, with no need for repentance and clear understanding of sin; where people do not believe that Jesus had to die for our sins. Historical Christianity is in the process of becoming lost.
I’ve heard pastors and preachers whose sermons sound like a beautiful flower arrangement. Roses, everything is there, even a shakespearean way of crafting the words, but 10 minutes after the sermon was over one couldn’t remember what was said in the sermon any more. This is because everything was there, except Jesus and the challenge of the Gospel.
Finally, the early Church teaches us that suffering for Jesus was not an option. It always comes one way or another. The Bible says that “whoever wants to live a godly life will be persecuted.” 2. Timothy 3:12. Those early believers did not consider suffering as an unfortunate thing. Today we are reaching the point when all areas of apparent safety from persecution for Christ are gradually diminishing. The days are coming soon when your and my faith will be tested; when we will either be or not to be.
Already the number of people who are hated for the sake of Christ has gone beyond the total number of all persecutions of the previous centuries. The older I am getting the more I understand that I need to stand for my Jesus.