Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kingdom Deeds

I am so moved today. After posting about a believing woman who raised a woman prisoner’s young son until she could be released, a commenter reminded me about ancient Rome. This post was birthed because of that comment.
The family in ancient Rome was patriarchal and the oldest living male ruled the entire family. He had authority to deny or grant permission for family members to marry. And after marriage he also had the power to embrace or reject any offspring born to these marriages. It was customary for the midwife to place the newborn baby in certain designated areas in the city and if the baby was accepted by the patriarch the baby would be rescued, but if the patriarch rejected this newborn then most times it would die in hours.
This practice was evident before and after the coming of Jesus Christ. However, during the first century after Christ came, Roman sinners were converted to Christ and began to live as followers of Jesus. Now they did not have all the Christian books on theology, or all the teaching Cds, or all the new member’s literature that are given by churches today, or even the complete canon of Scripture. They believed that Jesus was the Son of the Living God and that He had paid for their sins in order for them to receive eternal life. Profound but simple.
But through their understanding of the character and nature of Messiah, and through the power and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit within them, their behavior changed in accordance with the change that had been wrought in their hearts. They had been pagans, but they were now believing followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. They had worshiped Caesar but now they worshiped King Jesus. They once showed allegiance to Rome, but now they had complete and exclusive allegiance to the Lord Christ. Many would lose their lives, not because they were bellicose irritants in Roman society, but because they refused to bow to Rome even though they were humble servants that in many humanitarian ways benefited those around them. You see, Jesus was the reason for their persecution, not any moral causes.
Now as this practice of abandoning babies continued these new believers began to be moved by God’s Spirit concerning their plight. They could have made posters and protested, or began petitions to Rome to ban the practice, but that is not what the Spirit desired. It may come as a shock to some believers, but the Spirit of God is wiser than men, and even His foolishness is wiser than man’s wisdom. And the Spirit began to direct the believing mothers to watch these abandoned babies, and when it became evident that the patriarch was not going to rescue it, the believing mothers would rescue it and raise that child as if it had come from their very own body.
That, my friends, is Jesus Christ’s life manifesting itself through a mortal body. How wonderful! How glorious! What a divine calling! And what a picture of how Christ rescued us and brought us into His family! When I remember things like that it breaks my hearts for two reasons. First, I feel ashamed that I have not served the Lord Jesus with such profound commitments of sacrificial love. And secondly, I grieve over the condition of the church today as it thinks so highly of itself when in fact it is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked“. Those early believers were not consumed with political movements or economic issues. They did not clutter their lives with the national interests of Rome or even being a part of the mighty Roman military. These believers attempted to make a difference in the lives of people through humble demonstrations of God’s love along with sharing the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have many missionary friends. The husband and father of this one particular family was a missionary aviator. It was his calling to fly missionaries and supplies in the western hemisphere, and specifically South America. He and his wonderful family served Christ during the years that Chavez came to power in Venezuela. One of the customs that was observed by some Venezuelans was that if a baby at birth slipped to the ground it was cursed and had to be abandoned. One such baby was thrown into the weeds and was discovered by one of the missionaries.
This child came to the attention of these friends of mine, and after much prayer they took the little girl into their home. Now the missionary wife had been very ill because of the conditions in Venezuela, but they still took the child into their family. Many months later President Chavez ordered all missionaries out of the country, but this child had not been adopted yet and may not be allowed to leave the country with her new family. We all prayed fervently and much money was raised in order for the missionaries to legally adopt the little girl, and miraculously, and before they had to leave, the legal process was complete and the family left intact.
As we as believers watch the western church with all their activities and political involvements, and all their many structured discipleship programs, and all their self centered conferences designed to enhance different facets of their own lives, it would do us well to realize the power of humble servant hood that glorifies Christ without fanfare and earthly reward. While preachers hold conferences and receive outrageous honorariums and book sales and dine sumptuously in first class hotels, we must remind ourselves how unlike Christ that construct really is.
When all is said and done, and when God closes this present time, the throne room of God will witness the accounting of everything, including those things that were supposedly done in Jesus’ name and for His kingdom. I strongly believe that most of the rewards for such things will be bestowed upon people whose acts were never even recognized here on earth. And the fire that will burn up all the worthless deeds will be fueled by many, many deeds that seemed so spiritual here on earth but were worthless and hollow to heaven. Perhaps Wesley and Spurgeon will have to take a back seat to some humble peasant women who lived in Rome and raised abandoned babies to the glory of God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I praise and thank the Lord for using me to inspire this article.
And thank you for shining light on the practice of abandoning babies in ancient Rome. I did not know that they were still being abandoned like that sometimes in other places. Bless the family for taking that baby into their lives in South America and praise the Lord for making it possible!