Why Should I Attend and Be Involved in a Local Church (Part 2)

Please take time to also read Part 1. Here are three more reasons to attend and be involved in a local church:

  1. Many of the books in the New Testament were letters written to individual local churches. Some have indicated the references to church in the New Testament are references to the universal church, not to local assemblies. While Scripture does indicate there is the universal body of Christ, which encompasses all believers everywhere, there is an abundance of evidence indicating the universal church is made up of believers who are a part of local congregations. These local congregations listed in the New Testament were located in the cities of Corinth, Galatia, Philippi, Thessalonica and more. Not one person who studies Scripture with an honest heart can deny the existence of local churches. Here are a few references for further study: I Corinthians 1:2, II Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:2, Philippians 1:1, I Thessalonians 1:1, II Thessalonians 1:1.

 

  1. Spiritual gifts were to be used for the common good of believers. Isolated believers cannot use their gifts toGifts-1024x768 serve others, nor can they benefit from others. Scripture indicates Christ followers have been given spiritual gifts. God does not administer these gifts for selfish purposes. Paul and Peter, both writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, make it clear these gifts are to be used for the benefit of other believers. However, if a believer is not in fellowship with other believers, they will not have the opportunity to benefit the congregation. According to these verses, an isolationist mindset is incompatible with God’s design for believers and their spiritual gifts. Notice the words of Paul and Peter:
    1. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:7, ESV)
    2. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: (I Peter 4:10, ESV)

 

  1. Paul gave Timothy clear instructions about things to be included in the meeting of the local assembly. Timothy was a young preacher of the Gospel and was Paul’s protégé. Paul writes two letters to instruct him about a variety of topics to help him in the ministry. As he concludes his first letter, Paul explains what he expects to be included in the public worship services. Note his admonition, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (I Timothy 4:13, ESV)
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What Ray Rice and I Have in Common

By now multiplied millions have seen the infamous Ray Rice video. On the video, he knocks his fiancé out cold and then drags her body out of a casino elevator into the hallway. Many adjectives have been used to describe this despicable act. Horrifying, sickening, brutal . . . just to name a few.

Social media and news programs erupted into angry tirades against this athlete. ESPN anchors talked for hours about the ramifications of the video and how it would affect Rice as well as the entire NFL. Speculation will likely continue for days on end regarding who knew what and why more wasn’t done to verify the facts.

While the newscasters continue to talk about this problem and speculate regarding what will happen next, many people are using this opportunity to cast stones at this “awful person.” There is no doubt that Rice’s punch was blatant, cruel, and gruesome. However, we must remember Ray Rice is not the standard of righteousness that God will judge us. Jesus Christ, God robed in flesh, is the standard and that is a standard of which we ALL fall short of (see Romans 3:23). James makes it clear that if we are guilty of breaking any part of the law, we are guilty of breaking the law . . . period. Listen to the words of James inspired by the Holy Spirit: For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law (James 2:10-11 ESV, emphasis mine).

The Law rises or falls as a unit. Picture in your mind the Ten Commandments represented by a chain of ten links. Each link represents one of the commandments. The chain is connected to a crane on one end and a 5,000 pound weight hanging over your head on the other end. With this scenario in mind ask yourself a question, “Does it matter which of the ten links are broken?” Absolutely not! If the link labeled “taking God’s name in vain” is broken, the weight comes crashing down. If the link labeled “murder” is broken, the weight comes crashing down just the same! You see God’s standard is perfection. It doesn’t matter how close to perfect you were, if you aren’t perfect, you aren’t perfect!

Let me share one more illustration. Suppose you had to swim a thousand miles in under an hour to win a million dollar prize. Of course this is humanly impossible, but if you can do it you are the winner. Let’s suppose you swam 5 miles in an hour and your competitor swims 7 miles in an hour . . . who wins? Neither of you won! It doesn’t matter who swam the longest distance and who looked good doing it! You both failed. You both lost.

Though you may have never punched a woman and drug her body into a hallway, you have still SINNED and fallen short of the glory of God. You need the same Savior and the same forgiveness that Ray Rice needs. Your sin may look better to society than Ray’s sin, but sin is still sin in God’s eyes. It is a transgression of the Law. It must be punished. The wonderful news is that Jesus Christ came and paid the penalty for your sin, my sin and Ray Rice’s sin. The penalty that we all deserve, which is separation from God, was experienced by Jesus Christ when God’s wrath was poured upon Him while He willingly laid down His life on Calvary.
My lies, my lust, my dishonesty are just as responsible for Jesus being nailed to a tree as Rice’s knockout punch is. We are both guilty and we both deserve to be judged and suffer in Hell as a result. However, God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but He wants us all to repent of our sin and trust Christ for His cleansing and forgiveness.

You have a choice to make if you haven’t already done so. You can compare yourself to Rice and feel pretty good about yourself, or you can compare yourself to Jesus and realize just how far you are from perfection. You can depend upon yourself to make it to Heaven and fail, or you can cast yourself at Jesus’ feet and plead for His mercy and forgiveness. You can continue to point the finger at everyone else’s mistakes and ignore your own and act dignified, or you can admit your own wickedness and rebellious heart and be justified by the blood of Jesus.

I hope Rice, if he hasn’t already done so, will come to Jesus and confess his sins and be forgiven through Christ. We have more in common with him than we would like to admit. We are all sinners in need of a Savior! If Jesus can forgive the murderous Saul of Tarsus, and change him into Paul the Apostle, he can surely forgive you and I. Call on the name of the Lord and be saved today (see Romans 10:9-10, 13).
In conclusion please understand that I am in no way, shape, form or fashion trying to make light of what Ray Rice did to his fiancé. It was truly a despicable act that needs to be repented of and forgiven. My prayer is that we would all recognize our own sinfulness and the consequences that we deserve and plead for the same mercy and grace to be extended to us for our own sins.

Perception

Too many times we are consumed with perception. Don’t get me wrong. The way people perceive us is important. After all, as Christ followers we are the ambassadors of Christ and His representatives to a lost and sin sick world. Therefore, it is important to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven (see Matthew 5:14-16).

However, there is a difference between letting our light shine through our good works and putting on a show. If we are really surrendered to Christ and are walking in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) there will be a natural overflow of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). When we walk by faith and in humility, surrendered to God’s Word, then what God is doing in us will be reflected through us!

We need to keep in mind that even in the Christian the flesh is still driven to perform. The flesh produces jealously (Galatians 5:17-20) and pride. As a matter of fact Paul asks the Galatians in chapter three “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3). Sometimes we are erroneously convinced that God’s power saves us by grace through faith, but somehow we then are to live the victorious Christian life through our flesh and “trying harder.” Our flesh may be jealous of the Spirit’s power and capability and the great deceiver plays upon that weakness, encouraging us to live the Christian life in our own power. After all we’ve got to keep up the perception that we are good Christians.

This is exactly what we see happening in Acts 5. Ananias and Sapphira were very interested in being perceived as dedicated, sacrificial Christ followers. They obviously had close ties to the church because they were aware that others were selling their possessions and giving to the church and others in need (see Acts 4:34-37). They decided to come up with a scheme to be perceived as a part of this generous group. They decided they would sell a portion of their property, bring a portion of it to the church and secretly keep a portion for themselves. They did not have to sell their land (Acts 5:4a). The problem was not they kept a portion for themselves (Acts 5:4b). The problem was they wanted to be perceived as a Christ follower who had given it all even though they had not!

Christians still have a battle with the flesh. We no longer have to be controlled by the flesh and we can reckon our flesh to be dead through the power of Christ, but if we are not extremely careful it will raise its ugly head time and time again to trip us up. It will even lead us to do the right thing for the wrong reason or seek to get us to try to do the right thing in our own power and energy. The enemy knows this leads to failure and frustration and may eventually lead us down a road of such despondent failure that we just walk out on the possibility of living in victory at all.

Yes, we should want to be perceived as people who bring God the glory. However, we all need to understand how God is brought the glory! He is not brought the glory by anything we can accomplish in the power and the energy of the flesh. Our righteousness adds up to nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). We bring God the glory when we let His supernatural power work in and through us to do things that point others to how awesome He is!

Jesus went on to remind His followers in John 15:5 that the key to producing fruit was not in “trying harder” or “doing better” but rather was simply found in abiding in Him. If we want to give the perception that we are Christ followers, then through His grace and power of the Holy Spirit we must simply follow Him. If we want to produce fruit, then we must simply through His grace rest in and abide in Him and His power. If we want to be perceived as Spirit-filled people then we must through His grace walk in His Spirit step by step.

Your flesh will always be there to try to trip you up. It will always seek to get you to live the Christian life in your own strength. It will lead you to depend upon the arm of the flesh, but the arm of the flesh will always fail!

I’m not sure what the Holy Spirit would have led Ananias and Sapphira to do had they been following His leadership. But whatever it was, it would have been something that glorified God, not Ananias and Sapphira! It would have been something that said, “Look at what GOD is doing in and through their life,” rather than, “Look at what they are doing for God.”

Yes, perception is important. But the right perception can only be produced through following and being surrendered to the leading of the Holy Spirit through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit working within.

Don’t Give Up

In the latter part of Luke 18 we read about a blind beggar sitting near the roadside asking for help. In those days many people who were crippled or blind were at the mercy of others. Government assistance was non-existent, and if their families did not or could not care for them they often resorted to a life of begging.

We can only imagine the desperation that must have been in this man’s heart as he heard that Jesus was passing by. It is obvious that somewhere along the way he had heard of this man who touched blinded eyes, made the lame walk again, and was offering hope to the hopeless.

Scripture tells us that he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” However, the crowd wasn’t very merciful to him. The crowd told him to be quiet. The crowd told him to stop. To the crowd he was simply a nuisance and a bother.

But he wasn’t going to let the crowd keep him from calling out to Jesus. The Bible says that he cried out even more. His concern was not the crowd, his concern was Christ! He was not going to be quiet until he heard from Jesus. Even though he couldn’t seen Jesus, he believed that Jesus was his only hope, and the solution for his blindness.

Jesus is attracted to our weakness. He doesn’t walk by and ignore the cry of faith and desperation. He is the Great Physician, not only for our bodies, but most importantly for our souls. He is waiting to show Himself strong on our behalf.

Jesus stops and heals the man. However, the man’s life is never the same. His faith in Christ not only allowed his sight to return, but it also brought reconciliation in his soul. Jesus said that his “faith had made him well.”

When he left that day he didn’t forget what Christ had done. He didn’t use Jesus as a “spare tire” to get what he wanted out of Him and then forget about Him. He left that day glorifying God! This miracle, and his response to it, caused others to give praise to God as well.

Regardless of what voices are telling you that “waiting on the Lord” is just a waste of time…don’t give up.

Regardless of who is telling you that you are beyond help and beyond hope…don’t give up…turn to Jesus.

Regardless of where the circumstances of life may bring you…don’t give up…through a personal relationship with Christ you know that He is right there with you!

In the words of Winston Churchill, “never give up!”

Is Anything Too Hard for God?

The atmosphere was electric. Herod was being praised, the unbelieving Jews were thirsty for more blood and Peter happened to be a convenient scapegoat. This is the summary of Acts 12:1-4. Peter has been arrested, and he is surrounded by 16 well trained soldiers in a locked prison behind a locked gate. Surely his destiny is sealed and all hope is gone. It would take a miracle…it would take divine intervention for Peter to walk out of this prison a free man. However, that’s exactly what happened. Notice verse 5 of Acts 12 and notice the word “but”-

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

The word “but” in the preceding verse is a word of contrast. It links the impossible situation to the improbable solution. That solution is prayer to God! Notice several things with me today:

What Did They Do–They Prayed!

There are many things they could have done. They could have went to Herod’s palace and tried to come up with a solution. They could have tried some type of attack on the prison to set Peter free. They could have given up hope and just walked away. However they chose to PRAY!

Secondly notice:

How Did They Pray–They Prayed Earnestly!

The word “earnest” is an adjective that means “stretched out.” The KJV translates this word “without ceasing.” However, it means more than just a prayer that is stretched out in length. It is a prayer that is stretched out in intensity and earnestness.

Picture a family surrounding the bed of an accident victim and they have just been told their loved one will not make it through the night unless a miracle takes place. Imagine the “intense and earnest prayer” that may go on as a result. This is the picture we have here. They did not recite a meaningless prayer, but they cried out to God with a broken heart.

Thirdly:

Who Did They Pray For–They Prayed for Peter!

They were interceding on Peter’s behalf. They realized he was in prison and realized that in a matter of hours he would probably be dead. However, we understand that because of Peter’s faith in Christ, his execution would only land him in Heaven.

We all know of people who are in far worse prisons than what Peter found himself in. They are in a spiritual prison. They may be in a prison of drugs, alcohol, greed or some other thing that Satan is using to blind them to the Truth of the Gospel.

If the early church was willing to have a passionate prayer meeting for a Christian, how much more should we pray for those who do not know the hope they can have in Christ.

We also see:

Who They Prayed To-They Prayed to God

They did not pray to Herod.

They did not pray to saints.

They prayed directly to God.

They did not go to God as a last resort, but rather a first resort!

Finally:

Who Prayed–The Church Prayed

The church is not brick, mortar, pews or windows. The church are those who have placed their faith in Christ and have been adopted into the family of God.

Because of sin we cannot expect God to hear our prayers (Isaiah 59:1-2). However, when we trust Christ to forgive us and cleanse us of our sin we have access to God through prayer! The reason we have this access is because of our mediator–Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).

If you read the rest of the story you find out that God did intervene on Peter’s behalf. God opened the door to Peter’s freedom and allowed him to continue to live.

I do not know what type of prison you or your loved ones may be facing today. However, I know that Jesus Christ holds the keys and can set you free to enjoy the life He has planned for you!

 

 

Not a Fan-Chapter 3: Knowledge About Him or Intimacy With Him

Chapter 3 of Kyle Idleman’s book is another great one. He uses the key texts of Matthew 15:8 and Luke 7 as a great launching pad for this chapter.

Matthew 15:8 says: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me…

Idleman says that this verse shows the difference between “knowledge and intimacy.”

In Luke 7 we have the story of the time Jesus went to eat at Simon’s home. Even though Simon had Jesus in the home, he was extremely rude and neglectful to his guest. He offered Jesus no kiss of greeting, no water to wash his feet and no olive oil to anoint his head. As a Pharisee Simon had spent his life studying the OT Scriptures, but he did not recognize the Promised One that was standing right before him. He knew all about Jesus (the Messiah), but he did not know Jesus!

That is the question we must answer as well. Do we know about Him or do we really know Him? We find later in this chapter a sinful prostitute had more respect for Christ than this highly religious man did.

The author of the book asks a very thought provoking question when he says: “Who are we most like?” Do we just know Him, or have we poured out ourselves at His feet desiring to know Him?