“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16: 10 – 13 ESV
How faithful (devoted, staunch, committed, trustworthy, dependable, reliable, dedicated) are we to the commands of Christ? Among His commands was the requirement to DAILY take up our cross and FOLLOW Him. “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9: 23. However, there are many times we are less than faithful and actually choose to deny Him.
What is denial? It is the attitude that avoids looking realistically at issues. It is pretending or claiming to be something or someone that we are not. It is rejecting or “disowning” that which He has commanded of us. We could go on and on, but I believe the point is made—we are to DAILY choose to follow the Living Christ and strive to live in accordance with His teachings/commands.
In Every Day With Jesus, Ann Graham Lotz writes, “Most Christians (myself included) are to varying degrees held together by denial. Deep down we sense that if we were to face the realities of life openly and honestly, we might not be able to cope, and so we pretend things are not what they are.” There is a great deal of truth in that statement.
We all know (and are probably guilty of) professing Christians that pretend that what we have in our lives satisfies far more than it actually does. We pretend life’s circumstances have not hurt us deeply. We refuse to face and feel what is going on inside us, due to the strange belief that such confessions are expressions of a lack of faith.
Only Christ satisfies! Only faithful obedience to Him brings ultimate JOY into our lives. We can be content in every circumstance of life if we will DAILY choose to pick up His cross and FOLLOW Him. We cannot pretend to follow. We cannot act as if we are fulfilled. We must abide in Him, pick up that cross DAILY, and FOLLOW Him.
I challenge you to look deeply within yourself. Is what you display you say you have in Christ real or fake? We cannot ignore what is going on inside us, we have to face it and deal with it. This “pretending” to be something we are not is responsible for more casualties in the Christian life than we can imagine. A Christian psychologist says: "I am convinced that much of what we admire as spiritual maturity is a fragile adjustment to life based on the foundation of denial.” Think about that statement a bit.
This would mean that much of what we call Christian maturity might very well be based on a “foundation of denial.” We “pretend” to be something we are not. We cling to the world AND try to be Christian in our own strength. We pretend to be faithful, when we are giving God our leftovers and not our firstfruits. In my own observations, I have found many non-Christians to be more open and honest in facing what is going on inside them than some Christians.
Denial is NOT a wise plan for life. Again, Ann Graham Lotz writes, “The choice, then, is stark: either to deny and live comfortably or to face every painful issue - and go on to climb the heights with God.” No matter how much we try Jesus’ truth remains His truth – NO MAN (or woman, or child, or youth) can serve two masters! Our pretending will produce a façade that covers up our weakness and allows us to “meander in the wilderness.” Our choosing to admit who we are and where we are in Christ – to BE REAL – and then, strive to pick up that cross daily and FOLLOW HIM allows us to experience the fullness of a faithful life in Christ and “climb to new heights with God.”
It is my prayer that today I will be real with God! That I will choose to take up His cross and strive to FOLLOW Him. I pray that I will not be so afraid that I would pretend instead of trusting Him. Truth is, there is NOTHING we will face today that is greater than God. If I will admit that truth, accept His provision, TRUST Him completely, and strive to follow Him, I WILL experience the fullness of Christ. I will know the joy of His abiding presence in my life. I will have His Joy and the peace that surpasses all human understanding. What we are longing to experience is found in Jesus, but we must be real with Him. Strive to be faithful in the “small stuff” today, so you can experience His faithfulness.
Listen up! HEAR God.
"SEEING THE crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying…” Matthew 5: 1 – 2. (The Amplified Bible)
This is how the Sermon on the Mount passage begins. One might think there is nothing to be taught in verses that set up the scene. I think we can learn a great deal if we simply read through each passage prayerfully and carefully, both “listening” for God to speak to us and as we “hear” Him to act in obedience. I was taught that to “hear” God is to obey God.
The first phrase---SEEING the crowds---taught me something as I read through it this morning. Everywhere Jesus went, masses of people followed Him. They were seeking something from Him and pressed upon Him. The scripture records elsewhere that He saw the “multitudes,” that He saw them as “sheep without a shepherd,” and that we were go out into the harvest field. So, He SAW the multitudes---but here the word SEE takes preeminence.
Reading that this morning, I sensed not simply viewing the mass of people before Him, but I also visualized my Lord looking into my very being and truly seeing me for who I am; where I hurt; how I live my life; what I truly need to find fulfillment in life. These people that had come to Jesus had come with their own needs/agendas/desires, and Jesus SAW them (their hearts), He began to teach them. He spoke, and to find what they (we) really needed, they needed to HEAR Him and act in obedience.
In the mass of people that would “follow” Jesus, there were Scribes and Pharisees seeking to catch Him in something that would reduce His impact on their “turf.” There were those in need of healing, and the sick would often cry out loudly for healing. There were some who wanted to see Him destroy the Romans – they had a political agenda that did not align with the purpose of Jesus’ coming to this earth. Some people were just plain curious. When we read the scripture, we see often that people would jostle (push, shove) one another to get a closer look to Jesus. We see this also in the account of the healing of the woman who pressed in to simply touch the hem of His garment.
As the news spread about Jesus, it seemed as if the crowds would drop all they were doing and rush to be in His presence. They came for whatever reason, but they needed to HEAR Jesus and follow Him! In this account, Jesus SAW the crowd of people and He began to teach what we reefer to as the Beatitudes – what we need to understand to experience the blessings of God.
I don’t know how I really see the setting of the Sermon on the Mount. I see a crowd pushing and shoving, seeking their own agenda. This would mean there would be a noisy buzz in the crowd. Yet, I see a serene setting of Jesus sitting on the mountain, lovingly (and quietly) speaking these words to the mass of people. However, I noticed something as I read these verses that taught me something “new.”
Note: Jesus SAW the crowd, but His disciples came to Him and He began to teach “them.” Isn’t this saying that as the crowds closed in around the disciples, all became quiet. At that point, Jesus delivers what we have named the "Sermon on the Mount." But it appears Jesus was actually teaching his twelve disciples these truths. Those in the crowd closest to them were also treated to the most profound teaching ever heard.
This same Jesus is our Teacher. He has wisdom to share with us that will amaze us, just as it did to those who heard Him with their own ears that day. We do not have to be sitting in a quiet sanctuary or a Sunday School class for Jesus to teach us. As we read His Word daily and LISTEN to Him, we can learn from Him. He can teach us something no matter where you are, even in a noisy crowd. His sheep KNOW His voice and FOLLOW Him! We need to pay close attention when Jesus speaks to us (through His Word, the teaching/preaching/proclamation of others, etc.) so we don't miss the word He has for us!
Like the crowds of that day, we come with a lot of hurts, personal needs, private agendas, and a lot of baggage. We may even come thinking we “know” the answer. The answer my friends, is NOT found “blowing in the wind.” The ANSWER is found in Christ Jesus so we need to LISTEN UP for and to His voice, HEAR what He is saying to us, and act in OBEDIENCE. It is my prayer we will HEAR Him today, and experience the abundant blessings He offers to all who follow Him.
Responding To Difficult Times
2 Samuel 12 contains the account of Nathan confronting David with his sin (adultery and murder). The illustration Nathan used in the confrontation incensed David with anger toward the man who was guilty. When told by Nathan the man was him, scripture records David’s response in 2 Samuel 12: 13 – 15: “Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.”
We could take this account and go in numerous directions. However, as I read it today I want to focus on 4 aspects:
First, despite David’s position as King Nathan confronted him with his sin. There is a lesson in that. We do not stand as judge and jury to condemn others. All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. However, we do bear the responsibility to declare God’s truth in love, desiring that people make things right with God. And we need to let people know that God forgives them completely when they (we) repent of our sin.
Second, we must understand that despite God’s forgiveness for our sins, there are consequences to our sin. We see those consequences described briefly in a “summary statement” in 2 Samuel 12, but detailed vividly throughout the scriptural accounts of David and his family. Our sin impacts our lives and the lives of others, not necessarily s punishment but as consequences of our disobedience. I wondered as I read these scriptures this morning as David lived through/realized the consequences of his sin what he remembered.
· Did David remember he had been forgiven by God for his sin?
· Did David understand and accept the consequences of his sin?
· Did he remember these events and so vividly that they strengthened him to the point that he did not yield to future temptations?
As humans, we know we yield to temptation often. Hopefully, our relationship with the Lord has grown to a better understanding and helped us both reject the temptation to bring God sorrow more and more, but also to understand consequences to our past failures/sins.
I am reminded of a conversation with a man several years ago, that had been charged and convicted of a terrible crime. This crime requires him to account for his whereabouts and restricts his movement legally to this day. He volunteered to assist me in my ministry and a thorough background check revealed his past (he did not give me the information voluntarily). I shared with him that he could not volunteer to assist me as he had volunteered because of the restrictions placed upon him as a result of his previous conviction, etc. I quickly added that there were other ways he could assist in the ministry, but not in ways he was volunteering to minister.
His attitude became one of anger. He justified/defended his actions against his victim. He blamed the victim and declared that others around him would give testimony to support he was not 100% “at fault” and that he should be allowed to work where he wanted to work. I remember him making the statement that most people were guilty in their hearts - if not in their actions – of similar crimes as he, but we were not restricted in our actions. He may be correct, but the law is clear – his conviction and the conditions of his release did not allow him to serve in this capacity and I could not ignore the law. I will also state that – if indeed his life had been transformed by the power of God, it is my belief he would understand and gladly accept any position of service where he could serve.
Third, I want to emphasize David’s immediate response to Nathan’s confrontation of his sin. It is recorded in 2 Samuel 12: 13, “Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” David did not try to justify his actions or defend himself in any way. He acknowledged his sin by declaring to Nathan he had sinned against the Lord. He further acknowledge his sin in Psalm 51 (read if you have not read lately). He understood there would be consequences to his sin.
Did it hurt when his child died? Did he hurt when turmoil permeated his household? Did his heart ache when he reflected and realized that he – a man described as being “after God’s own heart” would not be allowed to build God’s temple as a result of his sin? I believe he did, but he understood – he had sinned against God and there are consequences to pay.
Each of us have actions (sins) that impact what we can do. We have to understand that there will be people hurt as a result of our negative witness. Though God forgives, the consequences – even those that we might think are invisible – interfere with our ability to be used mightily.
Let me give a personal example – my career as a spokesman for Weight Watchers. Wait – you say you haven’t seen my commercials. Could it be that the consequences of my spending more time at BoJangles and enjoying their cheddar bo biscuits (along with other less than healthy eating habits) interferes with my ability to be a good spokesperson for Weight Watchers? When we sin against God, we need to understand that EVEN THOUGH God forgives and can use us, there will be lots of times when the enemy will use that stuff against us to hinder the work of the Lord. Our heart’s desire is to advance the work of the Lord and, though it grieves our heart that we cannot always be in the role we wish we could be because of our previous actions, we do not want to hinder the work of the Lord.
Finally, I want us to see David’s actions after the confrontation with Nathan and the death of his son. 2 Samuel 12: 20 reads, “Then David got up from the ground. He washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes, went to the Lord's house, and worshipped. Then he went home and requested something to eat. So they served him food, and he ate.”
David knew life would go on after the death of his son and after his horrible sin. The hard part was how he would live: in remorse, mourning, and defeat? Or in confident faith? Though we may not be guilty of such sin as David, we are guilty of sin. Though we may not have paid such dearly consequences as a result of our sin, we have paid consequences of some kind. And though we may have never experienced the death of a child or other great loss, we have experienced loss. The difficulty is not that we have endured such, rather it is HOW we have endured. Like David, there is a choice on how to live. Will it be remorse, mourning, or defeat? Or will it be a life of confident faith?
Every day there are things that test our faith and affect our walk with the Lord. Some of those tests are difficult! Some of those tests we have failed miserably! However, that is not the end – we have the whole counsel of God before us and that has assured us we have God with us at ALL times , Despite our circumstance and our failures, we are being confronted with God’s truth and we must respond with a life of confident faith in Him!
There should be remorse for our sin, but joy (therefore victory) as a result of our forgiveness! There should be mourning, but we – as Christ-followers, do not mourn as those without the hope of Christ! There should NOT be an attitude of defeat, for we have been given victory through Christ Jesus! Respond to God with a confident faith in Him to use you and be the faithful witness God has called you to be in Him! “Forgetting the past…press on” in obedience to the call of God to be His faithful witness in the days ahead!
I read this prayer in a devotional: “Forgiving God, forgive my sin and my willingness to wallow in defeat. Give me confident faith to continue in spite of my shortcomings. Amen”.
Listening To/For God
The LORD came, stood there, and called as before, "Samuel, Samuel!" Samuel responded, "Speak, for Your servant is listening." 1 Samuel 3:10, HCSB
Sometimes as a husband I am accused of "seeming to pay attention" as my wife speaks to me but, not really listening to anything being said. Though I do not concur with that assessment (LOL), there is a lesson learned from that illustration we need to learn.
In order to really listen, the husband who is guilty of such action, must focus his attention on what his wife is saying. Sometimes, this simple act requires a great deal of effort to accomplish.
In the scripture above, Samuel could not remotely imagine that one night God was calling him. Samuel thought it was Eli the priest who called his name since the voice was so personal. Eli helped young Samuel understand God was speaking. We need to understand that God IS speaking to us these days as well! Just as intimately as the personal call on young Samuel. I pray we will hear Him!
Samuel took Eli’s advice and promptly answered God correctly. There is a LOT in that statement. Samuel LISTENED to the sagely advice being afforded him. We need to be open to the counsel of God's people (and even those that might not be walking as they should currently) as they remind us that God IS talking and we should listen to Him/for Him.
Some of us may have never heard the voice of God in such a personal manner. Although we may never hear Him audibly, we must develop an attitude of careful listening if we are to hear God calling our name speaking to us. We must learn to focus all of our attention on God. Then, in the stillness of our souls, we will recognize His voice. At times, we must be willing to seek guidance from our spiritual leaders in order for this personal encounter to take place.
My prayer this day (as I prepare to head out for worship with my church family) is this -- Father, focus my attention so I can listen to You. Perhaps I will add---Father, touch my heart so I WILL listen to You!
“Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light--which are heavy.] And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. These two commandments sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22: 36-40 (Amplified Bible)
Do you ever wonder what is MOST important about the Christian life? What ONE THING MUST we “do” in order to live a life that pleases God?
A few weeks back, we had a young man speak at our church. In his sermon he referred to “we have got to get this right” as he referred to “loving vertical” (meaning our relationship with God), and “loving horizontally” (meaning our relationship with one another). Repeatedly throughout his sermon, he made reference to this and always illustrated it in the “picture” of the cross.
Ever since that day, that illustration and his words have permeated my thoughts OFTEN! He is correct – we MUST get this right! Jesus said in these verses, that upon this one particular truth EVERYTHING else “hinges.” In The Amplified translation, He says “sum up and upon them depend ALL the law.” EVERYTHING else then, must be of lesser importance in our visible witness to the world around us.
My purpose in living is to honor Christ Jesus my Savior and Lord. There are many things I can do to please Him. There are many things I must do to demonstrate His preeminence I my life. However, this ONE thing is of most importance – and is the most visible—LOVING GOD AND, from that love for Him, loving others!
My first priority must be Christ. I must love Him supremely. My love for Him dominates everything about my life. Failure to place Him first and foremost, makes Him less in every aspect of my life. Therefore, I must love Him supremely if I am to make impact in the other aspects of my life.
And – if I have that right, then my love for God is VIVIDLY demonstrated in my love for others! The world KNOWS if I am abiding in Christ as I should based on the outward evidence of my love and concern for my fellow man. I have got to get that right. EVERYTHING else hinges on these two levels of loving God and loving others.
John 15 encourages us to “abide in Him.” If we abide in Him, that will be evident. My prayer today is simple, LORD – may I love you more than anything or anyone. May I place you first in my life. And Lord, may all those around me see that I love you in the ways I demonstrate my love for you in my actions toward my fellow man. Help me to love others better than I love myself. And Father, as a result of my witness in your love, may others see Jesus and come to know you as Lord.
Then a voice came from the cloud, saying "This is My Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!” Luke 9:35, HCSB
Peter had been taught well! His Jewish upbringing comes to the forefront and his heart is divided as a result. He wants to keep Moses, representing the Law; Elijah, representing the Prophets; and Jesus, representing the new revelation, all on the same level. His response was, "Let us make three tabernacles"
It is of great significance that IMMEDIATELY following Peter’s statement, a cloud descended and "they became afraid as they entered the cloud." This was far more serious than we might realize not being a part of this culture. The entire future was bound up with the question of whether Jesus was final and whether supreme allegiance should be given to Him. Who is the “final authority” and “who deserves our complete allegiance?” We all have to answer these in the affirmative for Christ Jesus in order to become completely sold out to His LORDSHIP in every aspect of our lives!
Where there is division, there will always be clouds. We have to admit, there are clouds over our churches. We fear as we enter those clouds. Why are we afraid? The answer is simple - division. Ephesians 4 encourages each of us, as members of the church to do all we can to preserve the unity of the body. John 15 vividly details the importance and the imperativeness of our ABIDING in Christ!
In the midst of this cloud – and I contend countless others - comes a Voice. God speaks! The Voice is one of evaluation and invitation. God said, "This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!" (Luke 9:35). The clouds will never lift and the fears will never depart until we LISTEN to Christ. John 17 details what He is saying, "May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You" (John 17:21). Christ must be first, and the unity of His Body must take priority over any other allegiances we might have.
It is my prayer that it will not be long before we who share Christ's Name truly become one. For the church to more effectively achieve its purpose, we must abide in Him and become one as Christ prayed for us to become,
It’s All Good!
Philippians 4: 4 reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.” Not a bad verse to reflect upon at the beginning of each day! There is reason for believers to REJOICE regardless of the circumstances that prevail in our lives. We have REASON to rejoice in and through Christ Jesus, and – under His light, it is INDEED, “all good!”
When I recall these words, I am always reminded of the verses before it where Paul urges people in the church to help some women that are not living in harmony. He admonishes the church members to “help these women” see the error of their ways and live/work/serve in harmony. THEN he says, REJOICE in the LORD always. There is an imperative in his words!
There’s a familiar hymn we sing, "Count Your Blessings.” In part, it reads:
When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
There's wisdom for all of us in that old hymn! Sometimes life becomes so hectic. Trials and troubles push their way into our lives and we become overwhelmed with the “stuff of life.” Our focus becomes the circumstance and not the God who has promised to walk with us and sustain us in and through EVERY circumstance. When we focus on our problems, we lose sight of the good things in our lives. We “miss” God’s hand at work in the midst of our circumstance.
It is as though we are under a gigantic cloud that blocks out the sun. We get irritable, depressed, and worst of all, we lose all perspective. At times like this, we need to MAKE time to “count our blessings,” review all the reasons God has given us for rejoicing.
For me, I have discovered I start playing my “poor, pitiful me” collection at times when I should NOT be discouraged at all – right after a “spiritual high.” That’s why my life needs the spiritual constant of time alone with God DAILY!
If you are under the cloud today and about ready to pull out your “poor, pitiful me” collection, instead make the deliberate choice to COUNT your blessings! It WILL surprise (astonish, amaze, astound, blow you away) what the LORD has done! Try not to grumble and complain. Count your blessings instead. Below is a list to get you started – just reflect upon these truths and allow them to spark other reasons to praise Him this day:
God has indeed blessed us! It IS ALL good, because Jesus IS LORD!
“Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for [a]it will lead to further ungodliness…” 2 Timothy 2:14-16 (NASB)
As I pen these words, my heart is burdened about the biblical illiteracy that exists among those that profess to know Christ Jesus as personal Savior/Lord of All. Several years ago my pastor gave a quiz related to the Christmas Story (the biblical version – need to make that clarification since many of us might confuse it with the movie we’re addicted to at Christmas movie where the main character wanted a Red Rider BB Gun and his mom is afraid he will shoot his eye out). In the series of MULTIPLE CHOICE questions, most people – including Sunday School teachers FAILED. A “story” we have heard all our lives, and we cannot pass a test on the most basic of details.
This week is referred to as “Holy Week,” the “Passion Week” beginning with “Palm Sunday” and concluding with Easter Sunday. Over the past 2 weeks, I have been in conversation with several people concerned about the lack of knowledge about the heart of Christianly – the passion, sacrifice, atonement of sin vividly displayed in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I devised an “Easter Quiz” of 10 simple questions. Questions that should have been “absorbed” if you have attended Sunday School a couple of Easter services, been present during a baptismal or communion service, etc. I thought I would be wrong and that the “test” would be simplistic and people would answer and it would serve as a “discussion starter.” Was I ever wrong!
1. Why does the traditional Christian church gather for worship on Sunday morning? The answer given was that was when the women discovered the empty tomb. It had been discussed the previous week the teacher discovered they did not know the meaning of Palm Sunday.
2. Who betrayed Jesus to the religious authorities that carried Him to the Roman authorities that had Him crucified? David, Simon, and Peter were the answers given.
3. What had Jesus just finished doing when the authorities came to arrest Him and what was the signal that would be used to let the authorities know which man was Jesus? After prodding, they guessed praying but no one knew the kiss of Judas.
4. Which of the disciples denied that he knew Jesus when he was confronted about being a disciple and who confronted him? It was known it was Peter, but not who confronted him that night.
5. Why did Jesus have to die and what was the significance of His death being at Passover time for the Hebrew people? No real answer given.
6. What is the symbolism of the bread and the cup that we use in our communion service? With guided discussion, the answers were given.
7. Why did the Pharisees convince the Roman government to seal the tomb of Jesus and place guards at the tomb? When I asked the question aloud, I said steal instead of seal. After no answer came, the teacher said, “he let the answer slip when he asked the question.” So, someone used the word “steal” and we discussed what Jesus had said would happen and their fear that his followers would steal the body.
8. Who were the women that came to the tomb that morning and who rolled the stone away so that they could go into the tomb? The teacher gave the answer in the discussion.
9. Is there any other way to enter heaven besides through the shed blood of Jesus Christ? The answer was “NO” but no discussion by the group.
10. What was the last thing recorded that Jesus told His followers to do before He ascended into heaven and why is this so important? They all answered the Great Commission.
So, with all said and done the grade for the group would be a generous 50%.
Why am I writing this? The church needs to understand the plight of the church! These questions were not asked of random people off the street, No, they were asked of the most faithful members of a youth group.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.” Acts 2:42, HCSB
Reading the accounts of the early church from the book of Acts provides for us the BASICS that need to be a part of the life and work of the church. Fast-forward 2000+ years and we see all sorts of churches. Each church has a different personality and expresses itself in a variety of ways. It makes no difference what the building looks like, whether the pastor wears a black robe or blue jeans, or whether the church is traditional or contemporary. The important thing is that the church is biblical.
Some have said biblical churches must have at least four things in common – learning, fellowship, worship, and prayer. I was taught the five functions of the church are evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and worship. In recent years, I have emphasize these things and concentrated on the necessity of bathing the efforts of the church in prayer.
Let me share a little about those things that are essential in the biblical, New Testament that we strive to become:
Evangelism: Yes, we cannot ignore the responsibility of the church to reach the lost of all nations. We claim we want to become an Acts 1: 8 church. If that is true, we - the individual members of the local church – need to be personally engaged in reaching our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost.
Discipleship/Learning: The apostles were set aside as teachers in the early church because they had walked with Jesus and because he had commanded them to make disciples. God still calls out and equips people to teach others about Christ. When we “walk with Jesus,” we learn from Him and He commands us to “make disciples” as well.
Fellowship: I am not talking about the “fellowship meal” we are good at in the modern church. God did not design the Christian life to be a lone, solitary venture. He wants us to encourage one another, enjoy one another, and build wholesome relationships with other Christians. As we grow in Christ, we develop a stronger bond/love for one another and are willing to demonstrate that love in a deeper/sacrificial manner.
Ministry: Linked to that fellowship that grows for others from our love for God, we commit our lives to serving one another/others (ministry). The early church considered nothing their own and shared with one another as they had need. Out of our love for others, we also minister to the temporal needs of others. There is a desire to minister to the temporal needs of lost people in an effort to share the Gospel with those around us (near and far) that are without Christ.
Worship: “The breaking of bread” probably referred to the Lord's Supper. The early church met regularly for the purpose of worshiping and remembering Christ's death and resurrection. In other words, they gathered to remind themselves why they existed. The more we learn of God and His love, the more we want to express our gratitude—praise Him for His provision---declare our love towards Him. We desire to gather with others to declare our adoration and praise.
Prayer: I have listed the “Five Functions of the Church.” These functions MUST BE bathed in prayer. Prayer was the lifeline of the first church. It remains the lifeline for the church today! If your church is not a praying church, you will not know what Christ wants you to do. John Hagee once stated, “a prayerless church is a powerless church.” There is much truth in that characterization of a non-praying church. Truth is, there is too much at stake for us to think we can survive without prayer.
When you loo at the churches around you, don’t become distracted by the differences in structure, location, style of worship, etc. The scriptures declare continuously what is really important for us to be obedient to the call of God to BE His church! Among the scriptures you might want to read and meditate upon include: Acts 2; Acts 17: 10-12; Colossians 1: 3 – 8; Ephesians 4 – 6, etc.
What is the “model New Testament Church?” Look to the Bible as your guide and strive to BE the Christ-follower His is calling us to become.
A Good Reputation
"A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.” Proverbs 22:1, HCSB
Think for a few minutes of the culture we live in as Americans. In our “postmodern society” (which I often call a pagan culture), it is “cool” to be “bad.” People with little regard for biblical principles – in fact almost “blaspheme” - are held in high regard by many, including professing Christians. A type of “glorification” of a bad, promiscuous, profane lifestyle/reputation has become the norm in our society. All one has to do is look at our commercials, listen to our popular songs, and observe the t-shirts we are wearing to church. With this “bad is good” culture that has invaded our culture (including the fringe of the church), what is a Christ-follower to do?
The writer of Proverbs gives us some tried and true advice. His piercing “one-liners” have withstood the test of time. Our reputation is a reflection of character. As believers, it is a reflection of who we are in Christ.
LISTEN (hear in a biblical sense) to what Proverbs continues to teach us in the 21st Century. Riches, or lack thereof, still try our prejudice. Prudence is still the mark of a successful person. Humility still trumps pride. The fear of the Lord is still the starting place for the most wonderful journey any human can take. Thorns and snares are still on the daily route for all.
You and I are wise to pay attention to the advice of the ancient sage. If we are to confront—with the truths of Proverbs—the upside-down, downward-moving, immoral, mainstream culture we inhabit, we must possess courage. In so doing we mirror (reflect, copy, emulate, imitate) and exalt the life of Jesus.
Take some time today to reflect upon where you are in Christ. Pray that God will help us in our daily efforts to reflect the life of Christ in our culture. Pray that others will see Jesus in us and come to know Him as their personal savior and Lord of all.
Associational Missions Strategist at Tar River Baptist Association since November, 2000. Called of God to work with member churches to strengthen the local church in its efforts to impact lostness in THIS generation! I will ATTEMPT to add to this blog almost daily. People are free to use the ideas shared in any way they wish. The purpose of the posts are merely to help us in our search to BE the people God is calling us to BE in Him!