Re-claiming the Purpose of Following Jesus

Hope for those who are done with church!

All of that stuff that has caused so many of us to be disillusioned with church, none of it is a new struggle. I think it is encouraging that so many of us are done with American church culture. The focus has been on the wrong thing for a while. That drift towards focusing on power over people has always been the battle we all face when we follow Jesus. In today’s post, I dive into how this was even a struggle for the early believers who were eyewitnesses to all the Jesus did.

(Yes, I’m reading Acts now! )

 “So, when they had come together, they asked Him repeatedly, “Lord, are You at this time reestablishing the kingdom and restoring it to Israel?”
— Acts 1:6

The First Believers Focus on an Earthly Kingdom

Th verse above made me laugh when I read it this morning.

I feel like there had to be a moment where Jesus sat down, face-palmed, and then said something along the lines of “Guys are you freaking kidding me right now? Have you listened to anything I’ve said? The kingdom of God is for everyone. You are supposed to be blessing the whole world. Why are you still asking me about overthrowing Rome?”

These guys (including the women) had been with Jesus from the beginning. They had seen the miracles. They had heard the teachings. They had been told over and over what the kingdom of God was. They had repeatedly asked when Jesus was going to restore Israel and make them a world power. Jesus had repeatedly told them that the kingdom of heaven was more than an earthly political kingdom. But their minds could not grasp the true meaning of the spiritual kingdom. So, they kept asking about Jesus setting up an earthly kingdom, even after witnessing the resurrection.

Their hopes had been dashed at the crucifixion. Then when Jesus was resurrected, they said, “Oh now we get it. Jesus has power over death. That will totally help us set up a new world government. We are going to RULE.”

American Church Culture ran after political power

But that’s just how hard it is to understand the significance of the spiritual kingdom Jesus came to establish. We are all tempted to exchange it for an earthly, physical kingdom that we can rule over.

If you don’t believe me, look at how quickly evangelicals exchanged their spiritual influence for political influence. I’m all for Christians being involved in politics. Obviously, we should have opinions and stand for them. What I don’t believe in is selling out our spiritual influence to gain political power.

I get it though. It feels like the culture is attacking traditional Christian values. It’s scary (I suppose?). Are we going to get to a place where we aren’t free to be Christians? Are we going to lose the right to follow our conscience in our businesses? Are we going to be forced to have our children indoctrinated with things we don’t believe in? (Well, the church was already doing that…)

The Desire to Run after political power isn’t new

None of these are new issues though. The early followers of Jesus were living under Roman rule. They had a lot more to fear than we can even wrap our pampered modern brains around.

Still, the followers in Acts 1 had been eyewitnesses to all of the things Jesus did and they struggled to understand the spiritual significance of what he did.

We have power and a better purpose!

It actually took God sending his Spirit to us for people to begin to understand. And it was still a battle. It is an ongoing battle that we have to keep going back to. It is easy to drift into focusing only on the desire for earthly power and influence.

But when I look at the stories of how the early Jesus followers rocked the Roman world, I want to find the focus they found. I want to go out and spread the spiritual kingdom of God where people who have been beaten down by this world find their true value. And where people who define themselves by achievements find greater worth in using their power to lift others up. I want to be part of the kingdom that gives new life to what evil has destroyed in this world.

I hope you want this too! I know you are on the internet right now, so take a little breather from the world of drama at your fingertips. Pray for God to help us expand his kingdom into all of the brokenness and hurt around us.

It’s a beautiful purpose!

I pray that we can all re-claim this purpose!