Monday, January 23, 2012


When I concluded my thirty-eight year career of pastoring in 1996, [1958-1996] I did so by teaching through the book of Acts verse by verse for over a year on Wednesday nights to some Adults and young people who were ready to learn. I must say, it was an exciting biblical journey and no one learned as much as did I.

Since that journey through the book of Acts, I've said many times that one of the things that amazed me was how simple those early christians were in their grasp of the christian experience. There were no seminars, workshops, revivals, retreats, or bookstores to feed them information on how to study their bibles, pray, witness, grow a marriage, raise children, or effectively live the christian life. Yet they were characterized by the POWER of God in all they did even in the midst of struggles, failures, persecution, and the reaction of their culture around them because their message seemed so offensive to so many in that culture.

It could very well be that the problem with modern day christianity, when compared to that of the book of Acts, is not the LOSS of their POWER but the LOSS of their SIMPLICITY. They seemed to have such a simple confidence in who Jesus really is and in what He really did in His life and in His death for them that they viewed HIM as being genuinely sufficient for the living of life to its very fullest. In other words, they seemed to live believing Jesus was ENOUGH.

Did they know something we don't? Have we lost something they had?

It's almost as if they somehow saw Jesus as the SOURCE of what real life was all about. It would be good for us to remember that I'm using the word "source" as the word that refers to "A spring or fountainhead from which something comes or flows that is essential." The "source" differs from "resource" because the latter means "An asset that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function more effectively." I'm thinking the average person who calls themselves a christian in our present day really views Jesus Christ as a "resource" for making things better. He can help make a marriage, a family, a church, even a life, function more effectively. 

But for those in Acts it was something more. It was true for them that He was the "source" OF life, He didn't make their lives BETTER. He WAS the fountain head of their life. He didn't make their marriage, family or even their church better. He made their marriage, family, church, even their life itself.. POSSIBLE. So for someone to threaten to take their life if they didn't recant their faith in Him was ridiculous. He was, in fact, their very LIFE. Who He was/is in His life and what he did at the cross in His death is the very thing needed for life to be life as God intended it. That was why it was called "gospel" or "good news."

So today we find ourselves with a bunch of religious resources for making things [life] function a bit better. Bible reading, church attendance, prayer, revivals, conferences, denominations, conventions, all of which can make us better people religiously if we would just do them faithfully. In fact, they have come to DEFINE our christianity. 

Add to those the resources that should/could be ours if people would think and vote correctly, [sarcasm alert] prayer in school, freedom to read the bible in class, freedom to thank Jesus Christ for letting us win, [whatever we're competing in] and we would have what it takes for living life the very best way possible, especially in America. So we spend our time talking about the "resources" instead of the "source" and we find ourselves living life accordingly.

As I said..."Did they know something we don't? Have we lost something they had?"

Me thinks the answer might be.."Well, yes!"

Paul B.  


Wade Burleson said...

Excellent thoughts! I know you write and work at your desk. If you get a chance, listen to the study from Hebrews 10:5-7 from yesterday's service at Emmanuel (January 22, 2012). I am working on the statement from Hebrews 10:8 "He (Jesus) takes away the first in order to establish the second" for next week, and your thoughts about "source" seem to me to
be the essence of New Covenant living. "A heart in which the Spirit of God has taken up residence is a beautiful thing to follow - and is never to be feared."

Paul Burleson said...

Will do. It will be in the morning, but I will respond with some thoughts.

Randy said...

Thanks, Bro. Paul. I couldn't agree more!

Aussie John said...


Of all that you've written on your blog, since I've been tuned in, this one is as close to my own thoughts as I've read anywhere.

My heart was saying "Amen" all the way through.

Your questions,"."Did they know something we don't? Have we lost something they had?", elicit a resounding "YES!", from me.

IMHO the answer to the first one is that they KNEW that Jesus, NOT the practice of religion, was central to "LIFE". Even after His death and resurrection,and not knowing Him in His human form, they had a simple personal, trusting relationship with Him, by His Spirit, that allowed them to dispense with the bondage of religious-traditional mumbo jumbo.

Secondly, you hit the nail on the head, as Jesus Himself acknowledged before He completed His time on earth, He is THE SOURCE of what WILL flow from that personal relationship,John 7:37-39.

James had it right when he asked,"Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water."

I've seen far too much of the "salt pond", as your words reveal is your own experience.

Thank you for an excellent article!

Bob Cleveland said...

When the "church" was formed in Acts, they'd had a huge dose of the person of Jesus, and a little bit of knowledge. I wonder if, today, we've replaced that with a brushing experience with the Savior and a ton of knowledge about Him.

Methinks that it's .. in a way .. self-aggrandizing to accumulate a huge body of knowledge which we can interpret, manipulate, master (to an extent) and be proud of having done. On the other hand, close experiences with Him can be uncomfortable, intimidating, and humbling. And ultimately uplifting.

I'll take the latter any day. Every day, if He's willing.

Steve Miller said...

It seems to me Paul that the early church we read about in Acts knew the simple difference between fundamentals of the mentor (resource) and fellowship with the Master (source). I would have enjoyed the one year study with you in Acts. Thanks again.


Rex Ray said...

Your point of Christians should abide in Jesus as a SOURCE and not a RESOURCE is very good.

“…You know, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews have also believed…” (Acts 21:20 NLT)

Scholars say the word “thousands” would be better translated ‘tens of thousands’, so it’d be safe to say the majority of Christians at that time were Jews.

And the verse continues: “and they all follow the laws of Moses very seriously.”

WHAT? How did they make Jesus their SOURCE if the Ten Commands were what they lived by? In fact, in two more verses Paul is warned his live is in danger from these Christians because he is accused of being against the Ten Commandments.

I believe a study of Acts will make the differences in Christians today seem like a molehill instead of a mountain.

Paul Burleson said...


You said..."Scholars say the word “thousands” would be better translated ‘tens of thousands’, so it’d be safe to say the majority of Christians at that time were Jews." I would agree...the majority of Christians, at that time and in that region, were Jewish.

But after his blow up with Peter at Antioch, Paul left and went to Western Turkey or Asia Minor and Greece, which would be the new center of his missionary activity for the next ten years of his life.

The dates are hard to know with exactness, but if we think of the Jerusalem conference as about the year 48, we know that Paul then went to Northern Greece, Macedonia. [The cities of Phillipi and Thessalonica for example.]

By the year 50 he arrives in Corinth. For the next ten years, from 50 to roughly 60, he concentrates his efforts in this region of the Aegean basin.

Those areas and cities, while having some Jewish population, were more cosmopolitan and Gentile in nature and culture. Thus, as indicated, so little was said about the Law of Moses in 1 & 2 corinthians. [That one reference in 2 Corinthians only.]

Anonymous said...

From an old Gaelic blessing, this:
“May God give you to drink from the Well of the Trinity”.

Seated by the well where He met the Samaritan woman, ‘wearied by His journey’ Jesus told about the inner well at the source of our being:
“The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up with eternal life” Jn 4.

Searching for that inner spring is one way of going deeply into prayer. St Ignatius of Antioch was aware of ‘the well of the Trinity ‘ and ‘the call within’ when he spoke of
“a murmur
of living water
that whispers within me
‘Come, Come to the Father’”.