"[The new believers of Pentecost, along with the original group of believers] continued steadily learning the teaching of the apostles, and joined in their fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer. Everyone felt a deep sense of awe, while many miracles and signs took place through the apostles. All the believers shared everything in common; they sold their possessions and goods and divided the proceeds among the fellowship according to individual need. Day after day they met by common consent in the Temple; they broke bread together in their homes, sharing meals with simple joy. They praised God continually and all the people respected them. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were finding salvation." Acts 2:42-47
These six verses, arguably the best-known in all the New Testament for describing the lifestyle of the Early Church, strike me as a beautiful picture of the three-part blend that our own lives should always be: an ecstatic reaction to the new life we've been given; a direct continuation of the life of Jesus through ours; a holy practicality that lives out the present temporal circumstances in light of the eternal. Consider these verses again through the lens of that heavenly blend:
They continued steadily learning the teaching of the apostles – thrilled, no doubt, by the depths and heights of all that Jesus offered; receiving, through the apostles, the direct words of Jesus; needing to know, to understand, more of what they’d just said 'yes' to – and joined in their fellowship – because, my goodness! what power, what joy, what love was offered up there; the actual power and joy and love of Jesus as directed now through His Body; a power and joy and love they needed to come under in order to be filled by – in the breaking of bread – because there’s nothing better than a meal with your newfound brothers and sisters; meals were a significant place where Jesus shared His life with His brothers and sisters; and because, well, they needed to eat somewhere! – and in prayer – because this Savior was ALIVE, He could be talked to anytime, anywhere; He loved to show Himself and delighted to talk to His friends and followers; because the apostles and new believers had very little idea what to do next.
Everyone felt a deep sense of awe – because they were surrounded by the glory of Jesus; because Jesus was consistently manifesting His life through lives; because we cannot help being awestruck by things heavenly and awesome – while many miracles and signs took place through the apostles – after all, they were “filled with the Holy Spirit”; Jesus just wanted to keep doing His thing; miracles and signs were simply a practical outflowing of heaven that bore present fruit in lives. All the believers shared everything in common – Who needs this stuff when you’ve got a whole Kingdom?; Jesus lived out His humility through living commonly with commoners; the new believers were from all over the Roman Empire and hadn’t brought enough clothes and food and money to last for, well, who knows how long! – they sold their possessions and goods and divided the proceeds among the fellowship according to individual need – Jesus and His Kingdom are all that matters, not this stuff I used to be so busy accumulating; the spirit of Jesus was rich with selflessness and humble, kindhearted burden-sharing; if we’re all part of the same Kingdom-family, why not internally take care of each other, since we’re now brothers and sisters!
Day after day they met by common consent in the Temple – they couldn’t get enough of Jesus, His Word, His life-in-them, and each other; Jesus had walked His day-to-day with the disciples and still desired the same; why let the fire of the Holy Spirit smolder when He is always ready to self-stoke? – they broke bread together in their homes, sharing meals with simple joy – the joy of new life was always bursting forth, even as they ate; Jesus, again, loved to pass His meals with all sorts of people; again, we all need to eat: Why not with each other, since we’re all now One? They praised God continually – How could they not! so rich was their newly found inheritance; Jesus always praised His Father; practically speaking, we cannot help continually doing what consumes our hearts – and all the people respected them – these were people alight with joy, kindness and love; Jesus was living His perfect life through them; the world, for all its arguments, cannot argue with the unvarnished Way of Jesus. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were finding salvation – because the new believers lived up to their heavenly privileges; Jesus never stops seeking the lost; and “the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out” (John 1:5).
May that "blend" be as richly evidenced in my life, in your life, today!
When we look at the opening of Peter's message to the Pentecost crowds, the prophecy from Joel 2, what's so particularly wondrous (apart from the fact that it's positively filled with wonders) is the relatively passive role that His people are meant to take in the unbridled active presence of the Holy Spirit. Just look at the way the verbs play out for God's sons and daughters:
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit - meaning, Here He comes! Open up and simply receive what's being poured forth so liberally - on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy - meaning, open their mouths to the direct words of God, not their own; they will be spoken through - your young men shall see visions - their natural field of vision will be overlaid with the supernatural; they will see God's sights - your old men shall dream dreams - they will lie down to rest and, through no effort of their own, be given God's dreams for the Church.
And on my menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out my Spirit - again, open up! be filled with this free offering - in those days and they shall prophesy - again, being spoken through. I will show wonders - sit back and watch! - in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapour of smoke - whoa! The sun shall be turned into darkness - He'll do that - and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord - This is the prophecy's first available action of our own wills. This is the first time in Peter's words from Joel 2 that we are offered an independent action that requires our activity. Everything else is done to us, for us and through us - the Holy Spirit manifesting all the glorious power of Heaven - and all we're given to do is, by Belief, call upon the Name. Which nets us what? - [They] shall be saved.’ Be saved. Not save ourselves...
So in this present generation, these "last days" as Peter and Joel refer to our times, we are meant to be Holy-Spirit-poured-into, prophetic visionaries who dream His dreams, flooded by His Spirit and His words, and who are able to fearlessly observe the "signs of the times," call upon His name, and live out our salvations. Our active submission to His Way, to the Holy Spirit who now lives in us, creates a lifestyle that allows us to passively receive all the power and glory and purposes of the Kingdom for this world. What others might see as passive belief is actually our greatest action. From there, everything can springs from His plans, His power.
As he walked along the shore of the Lake of Galilee, he saw two fishermen, Simon and his brother Andrew, casting their nets into the water. "Come and follow me, and I will teach you to catch men!" he cried.
At once they dropped their nets, and followed him.
Then he went a little further along the shore and saw James the son of Zebedee, aboard a boat with his brother John, overhauling their nets. At once he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and went off after him. (Mark 1)
In those five verses, in the calling of Peter, Andrew, James and John, what really strikes me is the image of the nets, their main tackle for their life-work as fishermen. It's what they're using, when Jesus first stops to watch them, to actually make a catch of fish; to provide for themselves and their families. It's what they're caring for, carefully mending, "overhauling," when Jesus walks up to James and John; their maintenance ensures their future livelihood. Really, these nets are their life. A fisherman without his net, in that day and age, was nothing. When these two pairs of brothers, on this one stretch of coast, drop their nets in the presence of Jesus, it is their highest expression of total self-abandonment. They will now source their lives in this Man rather than in those nets.
What is normalcy to us, today? What is "life" in our present context? Education; physical prowess; looks; charm; career; possessions; family; friends; reputation; honor; future legacy; family name? Let me help you. It's what we throw around to get what we need; to make sure this world knows "WHO I AM"; it's what we most attend to in order to ensure our future livelihood, position, personal comfort...
And THAT - our normalcy, our quickest self-definition, our Life - is what we must most quickly have down there at the feet of Jesus. A fisherman without his net was nothing. A disciple still holding his net is nothing too.