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One of the Main Functions of the Church

One of the Main Functions of the Church

One of the Main Functions of the Church

Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 16:13, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They said in the next verse, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Jesus then asked them in verse fifteen, “But who do you say that I am?” At this time Simon boldly answered in verse sixteen, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In the next verse we see that Jesus was greatly pleased with Simon’s answer and said, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Jesus then renamed Simon Peter saying, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church.”

When Jesus renamed Simon He called him Peter which is Petros in Greek. Petros is a small stone or a rock. A brick can fall under the category of a petros. It is certainly not a foundational stone that someone would build a house on. Rather it would be the small stones, like bricks, that would rest upon the foundational stone.

After Jesus named Simon Petros, He said “upon this rock I will build my church.” The word that Jesus used for rock was a different word than the one He used for Simon Peter. Jesus used the Greek word petra as the rock that the church would be built upon. Petra is a large rock, a foundational stone that is much different than the small stone, petros, Simon was called. Clearly Peter is not the foundational stone that the church is built upon; Jesus is. Jesus is the one who gave His life so He could redeem the church. To say any other is the foundation of the church is not only biblically inaccurate, it is outright blasphemous.

Peter clearly understood what Jesus was talking about. Peter wrote in I Peter 2:4-5, “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house.” Who is the living stone? Jesus is. He is the one that was rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God. We are the ones who come to Him also as living stones that are being built up as a spiritual house. This is the perfect portrait of the church.

The church is not a physical building, an address, or location. The church is a spiritual house. Jesus is the living stone that is the foundation. We are living stones being built up on that foundation. Just as bricks are laid atop of the foundation of the building we are laid atop of Jesus who is the foundation of the church. We are also laid atop of all of the other believers who came before us such as Peter. Peter was named Petros because he was the first to confess Jesus as the Christ. Upon our confession of Christ we are saved and therefore laid atop of the foundation of Christ as the church.

After Peter gave us this wonderful picture of the structure of God’s spiritual house he then gave us an understanding of its function. He said in I Peter 2:9, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Jesus didn’t save us to give us a get out of hell free card. He saved us out of darkness and into light so we would have a relationship with Him and so we would proclaim to the rest of the world, which remains in darkness, of His excellencies and His marvelous light so they too would be drawn to the light and have a relationship with Him and not stand in darkness separated from God doomed to eternal condemnation. Clearly, this is one of the main functions of the church; the whole church.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2018 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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A Clear Biblical Mandate

A Clear Biblical Mandate

Clearly the church is failing in regards to evangelizing this lost world. Thom Rainer, the CEO of Lifeway, recently wrote in a blog titled, Where Have All the Baptisms Gone? “I recently reported the latest statistics for our denomination. It’s not a pretty picture. Our membership declined again, this time by 105,708. And our baptisms were down to 314,956, the lowest level since 1948. But in 1948, we only had 6 million members. Today we have 16 million members. We are reaching less people for Christ, even though we have 10 million more members than we did in 1948.”

Lifeway isn’t just a great book store, they are also an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention and collect data from all of the churches within the SBC. Therefore, the denomination he speaks of here is the Southern Baptist Convention. More recently he stated that 93-94% of what many SBC churches call church growth is from transfers and not conversions. That isn’t true church growth. That is simply taking fish out of one pond and putting them in another. He also states that only about 90% of SBC churches are intentionally evangelistic. How sad. The other sad reality is, the SBC’s statistics are better than most other denominations.

Even the most spiritually blind person among us today can see that this world is becoming morally bankrupt while it slips further from the Lord. Immorality of every sort is socially acceptable in almost every facet of society, even in many churches. Bible believing Christians are left asking the question, why. Why is this world slipping further and further away from God’s righteous standard?

We are quick to make excuses that it is a sign of the times we are living in. We say the Lord is coming back soon and we are therefore seeing the apostasy. There may be truth in these statements, but this truth should cause us to work even harder for the kingdom and not less. We are even quick to pass the blame on everyone else. We say that the government, the judicial system, the news media, and the entertainment industry for the most part are anti Christian liberals who stand against us. We say things like, “If we can get Washington right we will reclaim this nation for the Lord.” However, there is a major problem with statements such as this. It is not the government’s job nor responsibility to lead this nation to the Lord-it is the churches. It is the churches, and only the churches, responsibility to evangelize this lost world.

The clear picture that statistics such as this, and many more like it, show is that the church is not doing its job in evangelizing the lost. God has given a clear biblical mandate to all Christians to share the gospel. Just prior to His ascension Jesus gave the final instructions to His disciples to go into all of the world and proclaim the gospel. (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:47-49, John 20:21). Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” He said, you shall be, or you will be, My witnesses. Jesus intention for His church to share the gospel is abundantly clear. Since the gospel, and only the gospel, is the power unto salvation, only the gospel of Jesus Christ can transform society. Don’t you think it’s time we start sharing it?

We can sit around and mope over our sad state, or we can get up and do something about it. I prefer the latter. For this reason, I am starting this series of blogs titled, Missions, Ministry, and Evangelism which I will post every Monday that will focus on practical ways we can personally share the gospel along with ways we can challenge our churches to get beyond the walls and into the community to be intentional in missions, ministry, and evangelism, for the sake of reaching this lost world with the gospel.

Stay tuned and go share the gospel. Feel free to share.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2018 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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Faith Alone

Faith Alone

The Word of God is extraordinarily clear that we are saved simply by placing our faith in the person and works of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” By faith we believe that the blood Jesus shed cleanses us from all unrighteousness, freeing us from the power of sin and death, and gives us everlasting life. By faith we enter into relationship with God denying ourselves in pursuit of His will and His way as Lord of our lives. We walk by faith and not by site faithfully following Jesus on this earth knowing we are here but a short while awaiting eternal joy and bliss with Him and through Him.
There have been some since the beginning of Christianity that have tried to add works to the grace of God. Paul told both Timothy and Titus to speak out boldly against such false teachers. Paul also told the church of Galatia in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Anyone who adds anything to grace as a requirement for salvation falls under the category of being accursed. God takes tampering with His gospel very seriously.
Even deeds of righteousness are not sufficient to save us. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” If anyone adds any requirement for salvation above and beyond faith in Christ they are a false prophet. Even if it’s righteous deeds such as baptism, using spiritual gifts, church membership, or anything of the like. Yes, these are righteous deeds of God. However, they are intended for those who are saved; not a means to Salvation. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
Salvation by faith alone through grace alone is a fundamental truth for biblical salvation. It is what makes Christianity, Christianity. Every other religion in the world is rooted in works where people have to make their own path to God through their good works. However, the bible says that no one is good, not even one. For this reason Jesus came down to this earth to pay the price for us and lead us to the Father. He and He alone is our salvation. He is our way. Only by faith in Him are we saved.
When sharing our faith we need to make this abundantly clear. If we are not carful we can lead people astray into a works based mindset by telling them that they need to go to church, read their bibles, and pray, but never share the fact that they need to believe in Jesus for salvation. Yes, we tell people of the importance of going to church, of reading their bibles, and of praying. We should even encourage it. However, we let them know that this is not a means to salvation and that only faith in Christ saves us.
I have seen and heard many well meaning Christians lead people astray. They come across people who are hurting and searching for a way out of the mess that their lives have become. The Christian will then says something like, “You need to start going to church,” without ever communicating the gospel. Sure, they need to come to church. However, going to church will not save them. Yes, they can get saved at church. They can also sit in church for years without accepting Christ as their Savior thinking their works of church attendance is sufficient. After all, that’s all they were told they needed to do. I believe this is the very reason many of our churches are full of unsaved people who are committed to church attendance but are not committed to Jesus.
I have also seen and heard well meaning Christians lead people astray that desire to be delivered from sin. The Christian will give the advice to the sinner that they need to read their bible more or pray harder. I have even heard Christians tell sinners that they need to think positive thoughts when they are being tempted. The bible is clear, only the blood of Jesus can deliver us from our sin. One needs to simply believe.
We are saved by faith alone. As Christians we do Christian acts, such as going to church, reading our bibles, and praying. We don’t do those things for salvation, but as a result of our salvation. Anything contrary will lead people into a false doctrine that is dangerous and deadly. We are saved by faith alone, through grace alone, period.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

The True Christian Loves the Brethren

The True Christian Loves the Brethren

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.” I John 5:2

John made it abundantly clear that true Christians will love their brethren. He said in I John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” He said again in I John 4:20, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” A third time in I John 5:1 he said, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”

Who is the brethren? It is the church. The church is the ecclesia, which is a Greek word meaning assembly. It is the body of assembled believers that make up the church. It isn’t a building, an address, or a piece of property. It is the brethren, fellow brothers, and sisters in Christ. To say that we love the brethren is to say that we love the church, the assembly of brothers and sisters in Christ. To say that we do not love the church is to say that we don’t love the brethren. Loving the brethren is loving people; people who are saved and are now one family as adopted children of God and joint heirs in Christ.

One of the clear tests of whether or not one is a true Christian is whether or not he loves the brethren. When one is saved, they are transformed from death to life, from flesh to spirit, from wrath to godliness. The one who is saved receives the Holy Spirit, which then transforms them giving them the divine nature of God. God’s nature is one of love. I John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Does this mean we always have to like what our brothers and sisters do? Of course not. It does mean that we have to love them regardless of what they do. The love of God is able to love the most unlovable. All too often Christians and churches do things that aren’t Christ like. God still loves us; and we too need to love our brethren. They are our family in Christ. There are times my children do things that I am displeased with. I still love them. I displeased my parents on many occasions. They still loved me. Families love despite the failures and the church is our spiritual family. There are times churched people act mean and cruel. This does not represent the nature of Christ. This is an act of the flesh directly contradicting Christ. Do we then stop loving them? Of course not. True love isn’t given to those who give love in return. That is fleshly and selfish. Jesus loved us even while on the cross. What worse can anyone do to us than what our sins did to Jesus?

Loving the brethren connects directly with keeping God’s commandments. John said in I John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Remember, Jesus told us what His commands are in Matthew 22:36-38, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If we are truly saved, we will love the Lord and love other people without this love being a burdensome tedious task. If it is burdensome, it is not true love and the true nature of God is not at work in our lives. The test of love is not about love in and of itself. It is about whether or not the divine nature of God is at work in one’s life being manifest through the act and life of love. If we are walking in the light as God is in the light the love of God will be manifest within our lives as an evidence of our salvation. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

The True Christian Walks in the Spirit

The True Christian Walks in the Spirit

“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” I John 4:13 NASB

In this, “by this we know, statement John is teaching, if we are in Christ His Spirit is in us. In John 14:16 Jesus began teaching His disciples about the Holy Spirit. He said in John 14:16-17, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” Jesus closed this verse with a very interesting statement. He said that the Spirit abides with you now but one day will be in you. Prior to Pentecost the disciples, as well as the folks in the Old Testament, knew the Holy Spirit. However, Jesus said a day is coming when the Holy Spirit will be in you.

When Jesus began to conclude His teachings on the Holy Spirit He said in John 16:7, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” Jesus was saying, if I do not ascend, the Holy Spirit would not descend. After Jesus death, burial, and resurrection He spent forty days with His disciples opening their eyes to the scriptures. When the time came for Him to ascend to be with the Father He took them up onto the Mt. of Olives and instructed them what they should now do. Recorded in all four of the gospels and the beginning of the books of Acts Jesus instructed His disciples to go into the entire world and proclaim the gospel to all creation. However, Jesus knew that although they had spent three years with Him in ministry, and another forty days having their eyes opened to the scripture they were still incapable of fulfilling this task. They needed the Holy Spirit to empower them. Head knowledge of the things of God are useless on their own. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to enact this knowledge and live it out. For this reason, Jesus instructed His disciples to go back into Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father, the power from on high, which is the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:49).

The disciples obediently went back to Jerusalem waiting and praying for ten days for the promise of the Father. Then in a miraculous display of power and glory, the Holy Spirit fell and rested upon each one on the day of Pentecost. Now that the Holy Spirit had come, they were able to put the teachings of Jesus into action. Prior to the Holy Spirit’s coming, they were incapable.

Today, when one receives salvation by placing their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ they immediately receive His Spirit. Romans 8:9 says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” In other words, if you have the Son you have the Spirit and the Spirit has given you life. If you do not have the Son, you do not have the Spirit and therefore you do not have life. The very first act of the Spirit in a believer is to give them life-eternal life.

The Holy Spirit has many functions. He testifies of Jesus, He convicts, He teaches, He leads, He comforts, He empowers, He equips, and He gives gifts to the believer to enhance the work of the kingdom. According to I Corinthians chapter two, the Holy Spirit searches even the deep things of God and reveals those truths to those who are in Christ. Even the things that the, “eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9).

Those who do not truly abide in Christ do not have the Holy Spirit. Since they do not have the Holy Spirit, they do not have life and are incapable of truly living for Jesus. They can try to live for Him but will utterly fail for they do not have the power. Not only will they be incapable of living for Jesus, the things of God as a whole will not make any sense to them. II Corinthians 2:14, says of the one who is unsaved and therefore void of the Holy Spirit, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Only those who are truly saved can understand, and therefore apply the truths of God to their lives through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

The True Christian Discerns Truth and Error

The True Christian Discerns Truth and Error

“We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” I John 4:6 NASB

            John started the fourth chapter of I John with a warning. He said in I John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” How are we to test the spirits? John stated “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us.” As established earlier, John was an apostle who taught with authority. We see in Acts 2:42 that the New Testament church among other things was devoted to the apostles teaching. What did they teach? They taught the Word of God.

Jesus spent forty days after His resurrection opening the apostle’s eyes to the Scriptures. The Scriptures He opened their eyes to was the Old Testament, thus they taught the Old Testament. We also know that one of qualifications for a book to be included into the New Test was that it had to be written by an apostle or someone directly associated with an apostle. When John stated, “We are from God.” Who is the “we” he is referring to? The apostles. Clearly, the teachings of the apostles that the New Testament church was devoted to was the whole of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.

Here John warned of the false prophets who have gone out into the world. We test those who claim that they are of God with the authority of God’s word. If they fail to line up with God’s word, they are false prophets. Let’s be clear though. We can have doctrinal differences with other Christians who are truly Christians. We simply disagree on certain subjects. One can believe in a pre-tribulation rapture while the other believes in a mid or post-tribulation rapture and another doesn’t believe there will be a rapture at all. I am a very solid pre-tribulationist. I personally believe that the pre-tribulation rapture is abundantly clear in scripture. Does this mean that I should view anyone who believes otherwise as a false prophet? Of course not. Christians can and will disagree on a variety of issues. However, a false prophet is one who denies the fundamentals of the faith such as the person and the work of Christ, along with the means and method of salvation. John said in I John 4:2-3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” Remember, John told us who the antichrist was in I John 2:22 when he wrote, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.”

In Revelation Jesus told John to write to the seven churches in Asia. The first of those churches was the church of Ephesus. (Revelation 2:1-7).  Jesus praised this church for putting to the test those who called themselves apostles and were not. By proving that they were not apostles and indeed false prophets, they protected the integrity and true teaching of the church. We also find Paul in II Timothy 6:20 instructing Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to you.” What was Timothy entrusted to? What did he need to guard? The church. Timothy was the pastor of the church of Ephesus. Guarding and protecting the church from false teachers was planted in Ephesus DNA from its very beginning. For this reason, Jesus praised the church.

The Bible warns that in the last days false prophets will be in abundance. II Timothy 4:3 warns, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” I have no doubt that we are now living in that day.

While the world is easily led astray, Jesus assured us that His sheep know His voice. (John 10:4). John has declared that the evidence of the one who knows God is that he listens to them, thus listens to the true teachings of the Word of God. The one who doesn’t know God may hear the Word of God and know the Word of God but refuse to listen to the Word of God. For this reason, he has not discerned what is good and evil. He thinks he knows best and is therefore in rebellion against God. However, the one who knows God will test the spirits through the power of the Holy Spirit, of which we will discuss in the next section, and the truth of the Word of God. Since he listens to God, he will obey God accept His truth and reject evil.

 
 

The True Christians Identity is in Christ

The True Christians Identity is in Christ

“The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” I John 3:24 NASB

John said in the verse just before this, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” John said the commandment is to believe in Jesus and love one another. Jesus said the commandment was to love God with our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Is John contradicting Jesus? Of course not. In fact, John is affirming Jesus. Truth be told, we cannot love God or our neighbor apart from faith in Christ. Once we keep the commandment of believing in Jesus, we enter into a relationship with God, abide in Christ, and are able to love God and one another.

In the fifteenth chapter of John Jesus described Himself as the vine and us as the branches. He said in the fourth verse, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Jesus said the word abide ten times in this section of scripture emphasizing the importance of this truth. By abiding in Christ, we can bear fruit, but when we don’t abide in Christ, we can do nothing. Abiding in Christ is the evidence that you are in Him and He in you. John said, “We know by this that He abides in us.” By what? By the fact that we have kept His commandment and believed in Him.

To abide in Christ means our identity is found in Christ. If our identity is found in Christ, the fruit we bear will represent Him and not ourselves. He is after all the vine and we are only the branches. The vine can survive apart from the branches but the branches will die apart from the vine. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Paul stated that he has died to himself and come alive to Jesus. He said the life He now lives is a life of faith in Jesus Christ thus his identity is no longer found in himself, it is found in the person of Jesus. He found the source of life, the vine, and allowed God, by faith, to graft him into the vine where the true source of life is found. In order to do this he had to lose his identity and receive a new identity in Christ. Now, the life he lives abides in Christ.

Jesus said to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John that unless one is born again he cannot see nor enter the kingdom of God. To be born again means that we must die to ourselves and come alive to Christ. Romans 6:3-4 says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” The consistency of scripture is that we die to self and come alive to Christ. In other words, we no longer live for self, we live for Jesus.

Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” First of all, Jesus said you must. In other words, this is non-optional. He said you must first deny yourself. We must stop living for us. Secondly, He told us to pick up our cross and follow Him. The cross is an instrument of death signifying we must die to self, deny self, and follow Him. This is true faith in Christ.

The one who abides in Christ has his identity in Christ. He doesn’t live for self, promote self, or glorify self. He has died to self. He lives for, promotes, and glorifies Jesus Christ. By this, he has kept the commandment of God to love God with all His heart, soul, and mind through his faith in the person of Jesus Christ. By this, we know, if we abide in Christ.