I've been reading about a religious group called The Way. Their founder claimed to be the Messiah. They wrote their scriptures that they claimed came from God. They believed that anybody that preached a different message than them was cursed by God. They expected members to actively evangelize and even proselyte other religious groups.
They preached that if you didn't have the appropriate works with your faith then you couldn't be saved. They required members to try to be holy in all their conduct. They listed various sins that would keep a member from inheriting heaven. They stated that anyone that willfully continued in sin rejected God's grace and was a child of the devil. Members were warned to be diligent that they didn't fall away.
They also didn't allow members to go to court against one another. The church would judge. Members had to accept the ruling even if they felt that they were wronged.
Women were expected to submit to their husbands and dress modestly. Instructions were even given regarding hair length. Particular hair styles and adornments were not allowed.
Restrictions were placed on sexual activity. It was only permissible within the bounds of marriage between a man and a woman. They demanded that the followers only marry other members of The Way.
Those that rebelled were kicked out of the church. Members weren't allowed close fellowship with them until they repented.
In short, followers were expected to make great sacrifices. This included material goods as well as their very lives.
It is no wonder that the early Christian church was persecuted. Everyone thought that they were a crazy cult. The difference is that cults are led by men without the Spirit while the church is led by the Spirit through God called men.
Let's be clear, the church has always been counter culture. The word "church" actually refers to those that are called out. The word "sanctified" refers to being separated. Jesus made it very clear when he said that you must lose your life to gain life. If you aren't willing to sacrifice, you will never take up your cross and follow him.
Some only want a litany of written laws while others want to continue in sin and call it grace. What we need is the Spirit to lead us, convict us, and empower us. The Holy Spirit will write God's holy laws in our hearts. We need Spirit infused preaching instead of pep talks, orators, and entertainment. We need heart felt worship. We should live lives that glorify God.
Maybe if Christianity was a little more radical, like the early church, we might have the same impact that the early church had. They turned the world upside down.
The world may not understand when a Christian refuses to conform, but the Lord has promised that He will reward us for it.
Scripture backing for post:
1. The Way: "who belonged to the Way" Acts 9:2
2. Jesus is the Messiah: "Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said" Matthew 26:63-64
3. Writing scripture as given by God: "our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." 2 Peter 3:15-16
4. Any other message cursed: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:8
5. Evangelism: "Go therefore and make disciples of all" Matthew 28:19
6. Faith requires works: "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:17
7. Holy conduct: "as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" 1 Peter 1:15
8. Excluded from inheriting the kingdom: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." 1 Cor. 6:9-10
9. Continuing in sin rejects God's grace: "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" Hebrews 10:26-29
10. Their father is the devil: "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child" 1 John 3:10
11. Falling away: "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off" Romans 11:22
12. Church judges disputes: "Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!" 1 Cor. 6:5-6
13. Submission and modesty in dress: "And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. Women should learn quietly and submissively." 1 Timothy 2:9-11
14. Hair length: "Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering." 1 Cor. 11:14-15
15. Sex after marriage: "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" Hebrews 13:4
16. Marry in the faith: "she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord." 1 Cor. 7:39
17. Cast out and don't fellowship believers living in sin: "now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” 1 Cor. 5:11-13
18. Believers must sacifice: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship" Romans 12:1
19. Christian leaders must be different than other religious leaders: "Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" 1 Peter 5:2-3.
20. Called out: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9
21. Lose life to gain life: "Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it" Luke 9:23-24
22. Abuse grace as a license to sin: "For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality" Jude 1:4
23. The work of the Spirit: "He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment...when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth" John 16: 8, 13
24. The Spirit empowers us: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me" Acts 1:8
25. Law wrtten in hearts: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” Hebrews 10:16
26. Preaching with Spirit power: "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." 1 Cor. 2:4-5
27. Spiritual worship: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Col. 3:16
28. Glorify God with your life: "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s." 1 Cor. 6:20
29. Radical faith is open and attention grabbling: "I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner." Acts 26:26
30. Turned world upside down: "“These who have turned the world upside down have come here too." Acts 17:6
31. World won't understand: " For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." 1 Peter 4:3-5
32. Jesus wll reward us: "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done." Matthew 16:27