Christianity transforms not only our thinking and beliefs, but our lifestyle and actions. Once enough people in ancient Ephesus had become born again, the very fabric of the city began to change. Popular pagan industries began to falter, resulting in a backlash of tribulation against the Church. But God used even the tribulation for His glory. His reformation through the gospel of His Son is a glorious work that can never fail, and it is a work that He is still doing today.
The first of Luther’s 95 theses read, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Through repentance, the heart is broken and prepared to receive the life-giving word of God. The word of God then further enables us to grow in faith and repentance. This divinely appointed cycle results in reformation that transforms our lives, and entire cities, for His glory.
Ephesus is estimated to have been the fifth largest city in the Roman Empire. It was a major center of materialism, the occult, and the pagan worship of Artemis, whose temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Yet within three years, the city was transformed. The worship of Artemis had declined precipitously and Ephesus had become a church-planting hub for the entire region. God brought about a major reformation that began with thoughtful preparation and the proclamation of Jesus Christ. God continues to work in the same way today as we proclaim the same Savior who set us free.
The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost revolutionized the lives and ministry of God’s people. Rather than remaining geographically and ethnically centered in Jerusalem, they were empowered by God to serve as Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. This revolution is still going on through every believer who proclaims the risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ ascension into heaven may be the most neglected cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith. While His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection all feature prominently in our thinking (as they should!), His ascension is often completely forgotten. But Acts 1 teaches us that far from being a secondary event, Jesus’ ascension was an unparalleled exaltation that fueled the life, worship, and witness of the Church for centuries to come, and that continues to fuel the lives of everyone who looks to Him for grace.
Sometimes we wonder if our prayers are heard or if they really matter, especially with respect to the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. But Acts 12 shows us that the God of life hears our prayers for life and saves life through the mercy of His Son who gave His life in our place.
The Lord often calls unlikely people, in unlikely places, through unlikely means to be a part of His spiritual family. Through the blood of Christ, we are all adopted by our Heavenly Father and given the privilege of welcoming and supporting one another just as we ourselves have been welcomed and supported by Him.
One of the Apostle Paul’s key goals in ministry was to present everyone complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28). He understood that the true Christian life is one in which believers increasingly think and act biblically. Through Bible study, prayer, meaningful discussion and other opportunities small groups help individual believers, and thus the body as a whole, grow in Christ-likeness.
As a disciple of Jesus, Ananias responded to the Lord’s call to minister to Paul who was in need, and Ananias responded in faith and action to help someone he was not naturally inclined to serve. Ananias demonstrates the kind of commitment to ministry to others that we strive to develop in Covenant’s small groups.