Last week, I started to examine what a 1st century Christian looked like and compared that with what we call 'Christian' today.
Go back in your mind to a time where there were no buildings called 'church'. To a time when believers in Jesus were rightly told God no longer lived in the temple in Jerusalem, but He now lives in each believer, and that is where you will find His presence.
They were taught they didn't have to scream and yell to get God's attention; He lived inside them and they had peace with God and He with them. They were taught they didn't have to go up to Him or bring Him down to them; He lived in them and was as close as their breath. (Romans 5: 1-5, 10: 6-10, Ephesians 2:4-7, Hebrews 12:22-24)
They were taught the various aspects of God's personality are seen in each living temple, and the various things that make each person unique are actually the Spirit of God in manifestation, and they prove God's presence in their lives as they walk through and work through life with Him. ( I Corinthians 3:16, 6:19, 12:5-7, Galatians 5:22)
These living temples of God met in homes with other living temples, hungry for, looking for, and finding His presence in their midst. As seen in scripture, a Christian was a disciple, an active learner, an active student of Jesus Christ who endeavored to immediately apply whatever they learned of Him.
There was no such thing as a 'cultural Christian'; you either believed and lived it, or you didn't.
These living temples cared for one another like no other segment of Greek, Roman, or Jewish culture did. They met each other's needs, worked through difficulties with one another, worked hard and were honest. No Christian was ever a beggar. If you saw a beggar on the street, you knew they weren't a Christian because Christians cared for each other. They were known for their love.
Their leaders didn't live in mansions, they lived like everyone else, met in homes like everyone else, and most worked regular jobs, though full time leaders relied on monetary and other gifts for their living. And in this the people knew they had a network of support for their physical, social, and spiritual needs.
When they met, God was in their midst. And not only then: They knew they took God's presence within them to work, to play, to home, and to meetings with the rest of the living temples.
I shared how David's heart in Psalm 51 cried out; "Don't cast me from your presence! Don't take your Holy Spirit from me! The 1st century believers were keenly aware they carried the Presence of God within them.
Today what we call Christian is often not consistent with what scripture calls Christian. The first thing Paul asked the 12 men in Ephesus when he met them was: "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" The Holy Spirit IS the presence of God within. The Presence was all important to them. (Acts 19)
Today we have cultural Christians: "Well, my mom went to this church, and my grandma, so I'm a Christian by default," one might say. Or, "I was raised a Christian, I mean mom and dad were and I went to a Christian school and all, and I still believe I guess, but I don't really go to church." Or, "Every church I've been to has hurt me, so I just have church on the computer and TV and I'm fine."
Maybe they even attended a Bible school or advanced Sunday school - maybe they live like the world, gathering Christian teachings as needed to massage their guilt, or it may be the Holy Spirit drawing them though they keep Him at arm's length, or maybe they were 'red hot' for the Lord at one time, but are now about the same temperature as the fruit sitting on the kitchen counter.
As seen in the pages of the New Testament, none of the above would fit what Paul called Christian. They are what I'm calling, Virtual Christians. Pastors of traditional churches might include them in the group they call 'floaters'; that population of believers that attends no where and yet every where. But a Virtual Christian could also be one who never sets foot in a church as they don't care what flavor of the month is visiting no matter who or what it may be.
A Virtual Christian is a believer in Jesus who is opposite what scripture portrays as Christian. First century disciples were connected in a family and community network of believers both on a local and international level, seeking God's presence in each other, and purposing to grow and change in Christ day by day.
Today's Virtual Christian has no connection except by impersonal means, often thinks knowledge is the same as maturity, and has no outward indication they desire to grow as a person or as a person in Christ. They may even be happy being all alone in their faith - but that's not faith as defined in the New Testament - and that's my point.
What I'm suggesting is that Virtual Christians seek out the presence of God in various ways - a church's special speaker, special music, seasonal theme, their computer, pet doctrines, even wanting His presence while wallowing in their fears and hurts - they search everywhere for His Presence but where New Testament Christians sought out God's presence - with each other in small groups meeting in homes.
There is help for the heart and soul of a Virtual Christian and the people who love them...next week, blessings,