HOW DIFFERENT WERE EARLY CHRISTIANS?
P. Samuel Manoharam
I often ask myself, “Why is Christian life gradually ebbing out in spite of the living faith we profess, especially in these end times, when we ought to prepare our souls to meet the Lord Jesus?” This made me to inquire how the early Christians lived.
We are living in very challenging times. If we are not serious about the faith we profess and propagate, and if there is no reality in the way we live, would this not dent the image of Christianity, which the early Christians laboured so hard to maintain throughout? They consistently led God-fearing and God-pleasing lives so victoriously, despite insurmountable obstacles, even in the face of severe persecution. They splendidly demonstrated the truth of their faith by the way they lived.
I gleaned lot of material from several sources, to know the life-history of these great “saints of old.” I received invaluable help from the Light of Life magazine during my fifteen years of association with it. Knowing about the early Christians has greatly nurtured and impacted my own personal life. It is difficult to fathom how much these Christians mean to me and how God used their lives to shape my own Christian Life! They are our role-models. They can still serve as beacons to guide us. Adopting their simple, humble and godly life-style will certainly help us to enrich our spiritual lives.
There was a galaxy of fine Christian men and women saints, who lived as jewels of God, with great faith and as great witnesses for the Lord. They walked with Christ in their daily lives. They could do this because they were filled with the Holy Spirit, which they craved for with their longing hearts and souls. There was a real invasion of God’s power into their souls, empowering them to live their lives with godliness and Christ-likeness. They knew that this was the only way by which there could be any influx of souls into heaven. They left behind their heart-prints and foot-prints for others to follow their ways. They made an indelible imprint of the image of Christ on the world, making the church vibrant, radiant and powerful. Just imagine what stuff they were made of! It is good to know at least some of those great and lovable names, by which we will be honouring them, for the exemplary life they lived.
These great men and women of God lived and died for the Lord. They valiantly displayed the living truth which they professed. They sacrificed their precious lives as martyrs, carrying the Gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth, in lonely, strange and horrible environments. They were instrumental in laying the foundations of the church. They willingly faced and endured manifold problems and calamities. They really lived the saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” They took up the cross of suffering upon themselves. They gave up their comforts, their wealth and their very lives for serving the Lord Jesus.
They so well epitomised the very best in Christianity and synthesised their erudition of Christian principles with pragmatism of Christian Life, in their individual lives. They learned precious and invaluable spiritual lessons in the school of suffering. They also learned to know God intimately in the school of practical experience. They were desirous to seek the mind of God. They kept the light of spiritual reality burning, to lighten the spiritual darkness in the world. They had a growing hunger after God and for eternal riches and supernal blessings. They were always athirst for the things of God, in whom they could find satisfaction, pleasure and delight. They had deep fellowship with God, exploring the essence of God’s nature, and inspiring others by their lives to a deeper awareness of God.
Early Christians focussed more on the heart-theology, which is the core of the Gospel, because they knew that God is more interested in our hearts than anything else. The Bible says, “God looks at the heart, but man looks at the face.” They gave much importance to man’s heart condition for the reason: It is only through a pure heart one can see God. The Bible says, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” It is only through a humble heart one can hear God. It is only through a heart of love one can serve God. It is only through a heart of faith one can abide in God.
It is said that God has two dwelling places; one is heaven and the other is the human heart. God dwells in the human heart, orchestrating everything that happens in man’s life. Our lives are not propelled by destiny or fate, as some people believe. Man’s heart is vital for God. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” So, they rightly gave due importance to the condition of their hearts. Heart-theology involves keeping man’s heart pure and holy for the Holy Spirit to dwell in it. The Bible records that even King David, who was regarded as a man after God’s own heart, prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
While deeply meditating on this, I was led to examine my own life. This motivated me to pray daily to God saying, “O Lord, kindly light a candle in my heart, so that I may see what is there, and enable me to sweep the ‘rubbish,’ if any, from it, for You to use it as Your dwelling place.” I believe that a prayer like this, when made truthfully and penitentially, gives us inner peace and joy, for having deeper fellowship with God.
The way these holy men and women of God lived cannot fail to make us see the warmth of their intense desire after God. They ignited the minds with their glorious and wonderful thoughts, words and deeds, enabling others to tap their own latent potential to become saints of God, so as to rise to unimagined heights. The lives of these Christians pose a tremendous challenge to all modern day Christians. How much should we desire now, in these horrible times of spiritual darkness, to have the very things they had, to bring about the much needed revival in Christian world? They are indeed our glowing examples to satisfy our deepest heart needs, through their God-controlled and God-led lives. These early Christians are God’s channels of heavenly blessings upon us. How much should we be indebted to them?
What Ails Us?
God’s children are spiritually starving. There are many in whom there is complete absence of fire in their souls, which needs to be kindled. There are some who desire to delight in God’s presence, to taste and to know the inner sweetness of God Himself, in the core and centre of their hearts. It is generally seen that there are three classes of Christians: the nominal, the uncommitted and the committed. The nominal are those, who do not really believe in Christ and trust Him sufficiently, not willing to surrender to Him at all. The uncommitted are those who, having accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour, are not willing to turn to Him. The committed are those who lead their lives only according to God’s ways and for whom God is the guiding star and the anchor.
We need fiery preachers and leaders to look after the sheep. A man of God said, “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.” This need is most vital now, to keep the light of spiritual reality burning, when apostasy and satanic darkness seem to threaten the very fabric of Christian society. The shallowness of our inner experience and hollowness of our worship of God, are causing low level of Christianity in the world today.
Present Day Church
The Church has lost its power, purpose and direction. It is tragic that it has lost its sanctity and purity. It is time that every believer realises this, by not sitting on the sidelines as a mere spectator. We should seek God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead a righteous and holy life. This alone can restrain the powers of darkness in the world and also in our churches. Churches are now making compromises with the materialistic world, undermining the very fundamental concepts of Christian faith. The materialistic world is invading the Church, instead of the Church impacting the world. Christians are mostly seeking material gain and benefits, rather than spirituality. There are very few Spirit-filled people among us, even to present the Gospel to the world. There is moral and spiritual degeneration and decay even among Christians. Because of this, there are various religious cults. These are devil-inspired movements, which are unfortunately misleading even good Christians. The world is in desperate need of spiritual awakening, the only hope for the survival of the human race. God will hold us accountable for the souls; we should live responsibly as true Christians with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lessons To Learn
The lives of the early Christians offer spiritual lessons in excellence, for us to emulate them. Like them, we should also cultivate practising the presence of God, delighting in spiritual fellowship with God, thirsting for the things of God and seeking God with all our hearts. This alone can help us to lead Christ-like victorious living. This will ensure quietness of our souls, inner joy and divine peace in the turbulent world. In other words, it is nothing but practising godliness in our lives.
Human souls are very important to God. It is said, “The souls of the saints are the garden of Jesus Christ, a garden for delight for Him to rejoice in them.” What we need is true spirituality in our living. Without this, church attendance and taking part in church activities will not be of much help. These are just religious framework only. They cannot help us to prepare our souls, for heaven.
Augustine, addressing God, said, “You made us for Yourself. Our hearts find no peace, until they rest in You.” Only when we find God can we halt the restlessness in our hearts and in our lives. If there is no God in us, life is not worth living. Human life will have no dignity. Man’s real hope is in the spiritual realm. Godly servant Corrie Ten Boom said, “If you look at the world, you will be distressed. If you look within, you will be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you will be at rest.”
How much time are we actually spending daily with God—by Scripture reading, praying, meditating, self-examining and repenting, seeking God and longing to know Him more intimately? Instead of building earthly empires of self, power, prestige and pelf, let us build heavenly empires with spirituality, while living on earth, completing our spiritual journey before heading towards our eternal goal, which is glorious heaven. We need to understand what is really missing in our lives and what we ought to do to rectify ourselves before it is too late.
We are in the last days. Let us realise this and start living like true Christians, leading pure and holy lives, not conforming to the customs and systems of this materialistic world, emitting the fragrance of Jesus Christ, who is our Lord, God and Saviour, preparing ourselves to meet the Lord when He calls us. It is certain that Christ is coming again soon. His second coming is imminent. There are clear signals, which can be discerned by believers. So, our minds must focus now more on this event.
May the lives of the early Christians and the excellent nuggets of their spirituality serve to ignite our minds, in order to measure up to the expectations of our Lord Jesus Christ, through self-examination and by proper reformation in our ways of living, to be true believers.