Radical Gospel Living
Preached by Pastor Jason Abbott
There’s been a puzzling question asked again and again in the news recently: Why are so many westerners—mostly young people—joining the Islamic State? No one seems to have the answer.
My guess, and it’s really just a guess, is that they’re searching for meaning. These young men and women from countries like England, Australia, France, and the United States desire the real significance—the radical worship (if you will)—they were created for.
In one sense, the seeds of secularism are beginning to blossom in the West. A world with no gods—or at most very tame, impotent gods—is bearing its fruit. My guess, and again it’s really just a guess, is that those turning to radical religion are simply disillusioned with the individualistic and the relativistic philosophies that say your truth is as true as my truth. They long for the ultimate and radical! They long for a god bigger than they are!
The secular voices, at least the ones I’ve heard, want to blame the problem on radical religion without owning up to the part their own meaningless ideologies have played in setting the table for groups like ISIS. For, if no god exists to judge or to determine what’s ultimately right or wrong in the end, then as de Sade said: “What is is right.”—i.e. my terrorism is as right as your humanitarianism.1
However, I’m certainly not here to pin these startling trends on secularism. They’ve played their part, no doubt, but so has the evangelical protestant church, and our role, in my view (and I worry God’s view as well) is much more to blame. For, we have forsaken our God given, radical-gospel calling.
Nearly 50 years ago, Francis Schaeffer warned against giving up this calling:
The Christian is the real radical of our generation, for he stands against the monolithic, modern concept of truth as relative. But too often, instead of being the radical, standing against the shifting sand of relativism, he subsides into merely maintaining the status quo.2
For a few minutes, I want to consider what radical gospel living looks like. To do this, I want to look at a picture of the early church from Acts chapter two. As we do, I pray, we’ll heed once again our calling as Christians to live radically for the good news.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
If there’s one main misconception the outside world has about Christianity, what would you say it was?
Many answers come to mind, but one is—we’re tyrannical and ungracious. One must most certainly be that Christian mercy is for those who’ve earned it. Without a doubt, most outside the church do not see Christians as a loving people or as a giving people (unless it’s giving to something from which we benefit!).
Sadly, we’ve often done little to refute such conceptions!
Friends, the Bible’s teaching, generally, and this picture of the early church, specifically, tells us this is not our calling. We’re not to be a status quo people. Rather, we’re called to offer a better way—a gospel way—and when we do this, when we live out radical good news, God will use it powerfully.
From this passage let me direct your attention to three things:
1. Routine Christian fellowship shouldn’t seem routine (vv. 42-43).
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
Do Sunday mornings seem routine to you? Do Bible studies seem mundane? If so then something is wrong because the teaching and praying and fellowshipping of the church should be awe inspiring. Moreover, it should empower us to serve. Friends, God calls us to more than the mundane.
2. Normal Christian behavior shouldn’t seem normal (vv. 44-45).
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Does anyone have a financial need among us? We should be willing to give. Does anyone have a physical need among us? We should be happy to meet it. Friends, organ donation wasn’t a possibility in the day this account was written, but I truly believe that, if it were, these radical believers would have joyfully given. I think of Paul’s words to the Galatians:
For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me(4:15).
Brothers and sisters, simply consider the testimony to this unbelieving world if the church behaved so generously and sacrificially!
3. Day by day Christian living should bring life (vv. 46-47).
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Notice that “all the people” were impressed with such radical gospel living. That doesn’t mean they all became Christians or even that they became friends with Christians. But, they noticed. Isn’t this what Jesus spoke about?
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Friends, radical gospel living will draw the world’s attention to the church, and God will use it to “day by day” bring some to eternal life. May it be so here!