Acts: How Things Change

Christians talk a lot about change and transformation. Browse the “Christianity” shelves at a bookstore—if you can find a bookstore—and you’ll see titles about changing your life, changing your family, and changing the world. But how does change happen? The assumption held by much of American Christianity is that change comes comfortably—by engaging in a church we like, or programs that accommodate our busy schedules, or through connecting with other Christians who live, think, vote, spend, and look just like us.

The book of Acts obliterates this assumption. From beginning to end, the book is dominated by change. It shows how communities from Jerusalem to Rome were transformed by the declaration of the gospel. Acts reveals how cultures were turned upside down by the creation of churches that violate every form of social segregation—male and female, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor are all one in Christ. The book even shows the remarkable transformation in one man’s life as Saul, the great persecutor of Christianity, became Paul, Christianity’s greatest missionary.

These changes, however, did not occur comfortably. In Acts, we read repeatedly about the riots, persecutions, and imprisonments suffered by the apostles, and how some, like Stephen, were killed. When Paul first encountered the risen Jesus, the Lord said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” And suffer he did. Later he listed the hardships of his calling:

“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)

Acts demonstrates a fact first, and most powerfully, displayed by Jesus’ cross: change happens through suffering. That is an uncomfortable truth that our culture—and the modern church—would rather not accept. Having read the entire book of Acts, we should ask ourselves—How have I been seeking transformation through comfort alone, and what cross is Jesus  calling me to carry for his name?

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Acts: How Things Change