Turn The World Right Side Up
An unbeliever who witnessed the incredible power of Christians fulfilling the Great Commission in his city said this about the early church: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also!” (Acts 17:6)
As Christians, we know the early church did not turn the world “upside-down” but rather “right-side up.” Much has changed since the Book of Acts was written. The majority of Christians no longer turn the world right-side up. Instead, they retreat to the four walls of a building on Sunday morning for encouragement on how to cope with the woes of this world. Some people see this frightening reality and clamor for church reform, offering books and conferences on how to fulfill the Great Commission.
Since the Protestant Reformation, more than 41,000 different Christian organizations and denominations have offered their perspective on how to transform the church. Some models demonstrate more effectiveness than others, but we are still far from changing our world. My hope for this book is not to birth the 41,001st Christian movement but to connect you with God and the invitation he has for you to change the world around you.
God chose you to represent him in this world. The Apostle Peter emphasizes this point when he writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
God places something unique within you that this world needs to see. As Christians, God calls us to do more than attend a weekly service where we assemble as a ‘royal priesthood’ who represents God on earth. Our calling as a ‘royal priesthood’ in the pages of the New Testament has the same significance for us as it did when God called the children of Israel to the royal priesthood thousands of years before.
The Book of Exodus tells us that God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6) God chose the children of Israel to be a special people who can commune with him personally and represent his kingdom on the earth. Sadly, when God shared this mission with Moses, the Israelites as a whole nation chose not to receive God’s offer. “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:18-21)
The mystery of God frightened the children of Israel. Instead of meeting God face-to-face like Moses, the Israelites used fear of the unknown and unpredictable as reason to remain far from God. They asked Moses to speak to them on God’s behalf. Moses begged the people not to reject God’s offer, but their decision did not change. As a result, God withdrew his personal presence from the people and commanded Moses to build a tabernacle where his presence could reside. Sadly, only one priest could enter into the most holy place on one day of the year to personally meet God.
This story from Exodus is similar to the situation in our churches today. Many people in the church revere God and desire to follow his commandments. Unfortunately, like the Israelites, they would rather have a pastor or church leader come down from the holy mountain and deliver a message from God every Sunday than to commune with God personally. In 1 Peter, God extends the same invitation to us as he did to the Israelites. As believers, we must choose to know the mystery of Christ by actively following him. We cannot fulfill our calling to be a priest by attending a church service on Sunday mornings. We must follow God’s leading every day of the week.
God desires to dwell in a body, not a building. For this reason, the Apostle Paul reminds us that we are “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 6:19) God wants to be known and make himself known. Paul and other early Christians experienced God through his Holy Spirit, and God extends his invitation to us today. God desires to make himself known to you and through you by pouring out his Spirit upon you. On the day of Pentecost, God poured out his Holy Spirit on all flesh and ushered in a new day when people could commune with God personally. The Apostle Peter declares, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:17-21)
Remember the context of the fulfillment of this prophecy. Because Israel rejected God for thousands of years, God only spoke to and through certain chosen people. Yet, in one moment, God poured out his Spirit on all flesh, which is more astonishing than our contemporary minds can perceive. The gap between priest and people, men and women, slave and free, was insurmountable. Into this caste-like system, God said, “I will pour out my Spirit upon you, regardless of your position or status in life.” We can only imagine how liberating this message was to the ears of those who first heard it. Through the fulfillment of this prophecy, God shattered the glass ceiling that resided over all types of people and offered personal fellowship with the world again.
The fulfillment of this prophecy is what God offered to the children of Israel. Through this prophecy, God declares that he will no longer relate to people on the basis of their rank in the world but by his Spirit. Paul later describes this interaction to the Galatians, noting that for those in Christ, there is “neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, neither slave nor free.” (Gal. 3:28). By this statement, God declares that he is forming a new ethnos in humanity as well as a new way of living. Paul later explains this truth to the Corinthians, proclaiming that we are a new creation where old things have passed away, and everything is being made new (see 2 Cor. 5:17). In other words, when you come to Christ, your identity and capability are no longer defined by who you are in this world but who God says you are. No matter where you are in life, you are never disqualified from God using you. As a new creation in Christ, no one is too young, for the Scripture says, “young men will see visions,” and no one is too old, for “old men will dream dreams.”
As I write these words, my heart is filled with both incredible joy and wrenching sadness. I am overjoyed knowing the power that resides within the church to change the world, but I am equally sad that for so many believers, this power is hidden away. It is not hidden in some secret vault that must be cracked, but it lays hidden, buried beneath our misconceptions about God, the Holy Spirit, and ourselves. The enemy blinds the eyes of believers, causing them to fall short of God’s plans and purposes for their lives. As the Scripture tells us, Satan is the “accuser of the brethren.” (Rev. 12:10) Too many believers believe the lies of the enemy and forget that they are new creations in Christ. Instead of enjoying fullness of life from God through the Holy Spirit, many Christians climb a slippery slope towards spiritual maturity. As they try to climb higher, they eventually slip and land at the bottom of the mountain. Then they start their climb all over again. For some people, when this climb becomes too much for them, they give up altogether on Christianity. Other people spend their entire lives repeating this process.
Thankfully, the scriptures tell us that we need not climb a mountain to find God because Jesus completed everything in our place. Jesus carried his cross to the top of Mount Golgotha for his crucifixion. There Jesus accomplished everything that we could never accomplish on our own when he paid the price for our sin. He defeated the power of the enemy, making it possible for us to become new creations. The gospel provides more than the forgiveness of sin and a second chance at our old lives. Our redemption involves not only the forgiveness of sin, but also the forgiveness from sin. The Apostle Paul tells the believers at Corinth that he no longer “regards any one according to the flesh” but according to their true identity as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:16). This statement is life-altering if we believe it. As a Christian, you are in Christ and are a new creation. Regardless of your position in life, today is the day to realize that God’s Spirit dwells in you. God created you for more than attending church and listening to sermons. God created you to commune with him and transform the world around you. The only question that remains is this: “Will you discover the power that resides in you to change the world?” (Colossians 1:27)
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