Impressions :: Alan Stewart
This past Sunday was a landmark day in the history of our church. Every critic and cynic in this town were silenced with the completion of our building program. Few pastors walk into a pastorate that is in the process of selling their church, and hoping to relocate and build with little hope in sight that it is even a possibility. For 18 months we sat in a Middle School cafeteria being shaped, formed, and molded. There were lessons we learned and wisdom God imparted to us that we will all carry with us to our graves. It was truly a special time. However, this past Sunday, the largest crowd to ever attend a service in the history of this church came to see what we were about. I am reminded of the words written about Peter and John, "..and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." I wonder, did Soddy-Daisy perceive that about us?
Impressions can be a funny thing. Many brash talking people would have you believe they are strong and tough inside, while the truth is they are weak and insecure. Sometimes, an odd look on the face of a friend would lead you believe they disliked you, when in fact they really cared deeply for you. If you were asked what you wanted to be remembered for, how would you answer? A success in business? An exemplary parent? A tremendous athlete? Regardless of your answer, would the impression others have be a true assessment of who you are? It is important for us to evaluate the impression we are making. I can think of no greater epitaph to be written than "he walked with Jesus." What are the distinct qualities that should be present in our life that would set us apart as having "been with Jesus?"
There is an unquestionable dependence. This same Peter and John had encountered a lame man and had nothing to offer but Jesus. Today, our churches offer a smorgasbord of programs, attractive state-of-the-art entertainment, and multi million dollar facilities. We are proud that we no longer have to say, "silver and gold have I none," but we neglect the fact we may have also lost the ability to say, "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." "Things" never satisfy the hunger for the Bread of Life. As God continues to bless us, may we never forget, Jesus is still MORE than enough.
There is an unfailing discernment. "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said..." I have a strange feeling he wasn't speaking an opinion or saying something he had to apologize for later. How rare the moments are that we speak "filled with the Holy Ghost." It is interesting that when Peter and John spoke, "many of them which heard the word believed." Have you noticed how society seems to laugh in the face of Christianity today? If we do not speak with the discernment of the Spirit we have no right to be believed. The people who have "been with Jesus" just seem to have words in season.
There is an unmovable determination. "..and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John.." The cause of Christ never comes without opposition and resistance. It is this issue alone that truly exposes where our loyalties lie, and the depth of our commitment to follow Him. Recently I met for dinner with a street preacher named Travis Drew. His ministry goes into places most of us wouldn't be caught dead in even in broad daylight. He left me thinking; are we as determined to get the gospel to those who are financially impoverished as we are those who could help us build our modern day towers of Babel? If not, chances are, we will never be within smelling distance of the presence of Jesus.
It is not accomplishments that will tell Soddy-Daisy we have "been with Jesus." Accomplishments are ours alone. Those who have "been with Jesus" complete tasks and fulfill purposes. It will be the motives of our hearts, the manner of our habits, and the methods of our hands. If we are not perceived as having "been with Jesus," we will simply be another "church," and may just find that in completing our building, our greatest days are now behind us.
©2004 Alan Stewart