If you were on a business trip to the city of Jerusalem, capital city of the nation of Israel somewhere around the year 33AD, you would have encountered some very unusual happenings! Your camel-taxi driver would probably have been the first to tell you about a rather small group – 120 ordinary unsophisticated citizens almost all from a rural background – who were having a huge impact this city of 20-30,000 people. Everybody was talking about them. When you arrived at the market, you would have found that everyone had an opinion about what they were doing. Your money changer would confidently tell you, ‘I’m sure it’s a cult! Mark my words – they’re just too friendly!’ but your guide/interpreter would tell you afterwards, ‘I used to think so too until my brother who was an alcoholic joined them a month ago and now for the first time in 10 years, he’s clean!’ As you were making your orders, the friendly couple who owned the shop might have mentioned that they were part of the said group and invited you to come and check out of your services. When you checked into your room that evening, the cleaning lady would also have shyly mentioned that she was one of them and given you your second invite. By this time, you would have been very curious and dying for a chance to know more!
READ Acts 2:42-47
And so when you finally had a free day, you would have followed the directions to the temple where you had been told they were meeting. The first thing that would have struck you was the sense of joy that they all seemed to have. Their worship service was amazing; full of passion, energy and commitment to God. And it wasn’t just a Sunday thing – you could sense that their careers, families, friendships … everything about them had become transformed by what was going on. The second thing you’d have noticed would have been the relevant sermons. They were so real they spoke straight to your issues and huge transformation stories & miracles were happening right before your eyes. But even more amazing was the third very unusual thing which was their other centeredness. Not only did they seem to genuinely love each other, but people even sold their possessions including land and houses, in order to share with those among them who didn’t have. The poor were getting their needs met, the lonely were finding friends, the sick were being healed, former criminals were finding acceptance, prostitutes were being rehabilitated, marriages were being healed… In short, Jerusalem’s problems were being solved! Despite your initial scepticism, you’d by now have now understood why everyone in Jerusalem was talking about these people. And perhaps you would have joined the many visitors asking, ‘where can I sign up? I want to be part of what is going on!’
Okay back to the 21st Century… I want you to realize that this is a highly unlikely story! Very few people when they receive power or resources can resist the temptation to think about themselves first. We are naturally selfish. Think about it; if you had all the power, would you really use it to help others? Really? Let’s be real honest, when we have money, or power, or opportunity, who’s the first person in the world we think about? Me!
Whatever our reasons, whether fear of poverty or paralysis from the size of the problems, few Christians today ever come close to living that abandoned life of joy, generosity and radical other-centeredness that made the first church so attractive to the city of Jerusalem…
One of my favourite super-heroes struggled with this temptation. In the first ever episode of the comic, printed in 1962, Peter Parker was a skinny, shy, and insecure teenager; an orphan who was brought up by his aunt and uncle. But all that changed when he was accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider. All of a sudden, he was super-strong and agile and could crawl up any building and stick to any surface. He was no longer ordinary Peter Parker but The Amazing Spiderman!
At that point, he began to do what most of us would do if we had all the power. He became proud, designed a special suit for himself and set out to seek celebrity status as a TV star and make money. In the process, he ignored a fleeing thief, figuring out it was none of his business anyway. But it was a huge mistake he’d regret the rest of his life; the same thief in the course of his getaway ended up killing Peter’s uncle – his only father figure. It was only then that he realized he couldn’t live for himself. The caption at the end of the comic strip summarized his lesson; ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.
This phrase is a great summary of the lesson we can learn from today’s passage. Last week, we said ‘we’ve got the power!’ God’s power is available to all His children without discrimination. If you have accepted Christ as your Saviour, you have access to that power. But there’s a reason why God wants us to have that power. It’s not so that we can be rich or comfortable or famous. It’s not so that we can impress others with how spiritual we are. Just like in the case of the disciples, God wants to change the world through us, beginning with our city.
With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.
For some time, I didn’t realize that’s what following Christ was about. I thought it was a way to avoid hell. I thought the deal was you get saved, and you live a good life, read the bible, pray and tell as many people about God while you’re alive as you wait to get to heaven one day. And so when I accepted Christ, I became a ‘consumer Christian’. I was looking for a good, church that could ‘feed me’ with deep, solid truths every week and bless me. This is a form of Christianity that is popular today. It is mostly propagated by Christian TV. Its features have to do with understanding deeper revelation, learning deeper truths, acquiring deeper power. It basically is about God blessing you and teaching you and caring for you and protecting you. It’s based on making your life here on earth as comfortable as possible. And it has created a whole bunch of consumer Christians who hop from church to church looking for what works best for them and for the preacher who will minister best to them. Some have even hopped in and out of Mavuno looking to be stimulated and be fed. When they don’t feel like going to church, they stay home and catch a good sermon. But it’s clear to me that this is a very self-centred, non-biblical view of faith and of God. Yes its true God wants to bless you. But the truth is that there is a purpose why God wants to give you His power and that purpose is far bigger than you!
Some of you come from families where only a tiny minority know God. You need to understand that you were not saved just for yourself but to change the trajectory and destiny of your family. Some of you live in estates or next to slums full of unemployed youth. You need to realize that you were not saved to be comfortable but to provide solutions for those around you. Some of you work in companies that are engaged in corruption. You need to understand that you were not saved for a good salary but to bring revolution and change by radically doing business differently! Some of you are students in colleges and universities; you need to realize you were not saved just so people can know you’re bright, but to be His representative to your fellow students.
With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.
There are many who come to Mavuno hoping to find a good comfortable church to settle into. A place where you can listen to inspiring messages and be blessed… Let me put this as gently as I can; you might be in the wrong church! Our purpose is not to create consumer Christians but to change our world. And it all begins with transforming the city of Nairobi. You see God loves cities! Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He told his disciples to wait for God’s power in Jerusalem. He told them that the first place they would represent him was Jerusalem. And the bible tells us that when he returns, it will be to establish a New Jerusalem.
Cities are critical to God’s plan to save the world! Whenever there is a great work God is doing in a certain place, He starts in the city. Cities are the political, economical, and cultural hubs of a nation. Whatever happens in the city tends to get adopted in the countryside and other towns. If you want to influence a nation, all you need to do is change the cities in that nation. And Nairobi, our city, is not just a national capital – it’s the capital of the East Africa region. In fact, it’s the hub for much of Sub Saharan Africa. If you influence the thinking of Nairobi, you will influence the thinking of a large part of what many today are realizing is the fastest growing region of the world!
Your being in Kenya is not a coincidence. Your living in Nairobi is not an accident. Your being part of Mavuno church is not by chance. God will hold us responsible for this nation, this city, the companies and homes that He has made us part of. Mavuno, this city is ready for heroes like you! Romans 8:19 says ‘For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed’. This city is desperate for superheroes to emerge who will change the way things are done in our families, our neighbourhoods and our offices. Are you that hero?
Remember … With great power comes great responsibility
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