On Sunday, March 1, 2009 we celebrated the 70th Anniversary of Alameda Bible Church. I preached from Psalm 48. The theme of this Psalm is Jehovah, the one true God of Israel and His holy city, Jerusalem.
Whereas, Jerusalem and the Temple were the glory of God’s people, Israel; Christ Himself is our glory as His Church. Let us, His Church, glory: not primarily in a church, a building, or a location; but in Christ Himself.
ISRAEL GLORIED IN JERUSALEM
Israel gloried in Jerusalem and in their temple location, Mount Zion. They gloried in Jehovah who dwelt with His people in Jerusalem, the city of Jehovah.
In Isaiah 6:1-3 we learn that Jehovah’s glory filled the temple. In fact, His glory fills the earth. The major theme of Psalm 48 is that Jehovah God is the glory of Israel.
At the same time, Israel was God’s glory, as we learn in Isaiah 46:13
The world boasts that Rome is the “eternal city”. The Bible teaches that Jerusalem is the eternal city. Founded about 1400 BC, it has been in existence for over 3400 years. For one thousand years after religious and political Rome is destroyed, as prophesied in Revelation 17-18; Christ will be reigning over the whole earth from Jerusalem. So with 1,000 years to go, it will have been in existence for at least 4400 years.
ISRAEL REJECTED THEIR GOD
Though Israel gloried in the Temple and in their city, Jerusalem; they rejected their God throughout Old Testament history. As early as 700 BC they were trodden down by gentile nations in this order: Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. As Jesus prophesied in Luke 21:24, since Israel has been back in her homeland, she has continued to be trodden down by her neighboring nations. Most horrible was the brutal attempt to annihilate them by the Nazi’s during World War II.
In spite of that miserable treatment, Psalm 48 prophesies that the day is coming when Jerusalem will be the mountain of God‘s holiness, the joy of the whole earth and the city of the great King, referring to Jesus. Zechariah prophesies in chapter 12-14 of his prophesy that in the Millennium, Jesus will reign over the whole earth from Jerusalem.
THE CHURCH’S GLORY
Zion as Jerusalem, referred to in this Psalm, is a type of Christ’s Church. As Israel gloried in their city Jerusalem as the joy of the whole earth; so in this Church Age, we His Church, glory in Christ alone. We share Paul’s testimony in Galatians 6:14. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.”
We are thankful for our Church and for those who years ago sacrificed that we might have this prime location and this church plant debt free. We’re thankful for those who built this church on God’s Word and passed on to us a church that stands faithfully on the Fundamentals of the Faith, in particular,
Our primary glory is in the eternal, unchanging God of Israel, who by God’s grace. is our God today.
WHO IS THIS GOD WHO WILL BE OUR GOD FOREVER AND EVER?
He’s certainly not the God of our imagination or opinion; but the holy, eternal God revealed in Scripture. This God we have made our God by personally receiving His Son as our Saviour from sin. With Thomas, who met Jesus after the Resurrection, we gladly acknowledge Him as “our Lord and our God.”
When we trust Christ as our Saviour and as we begin reading and studying His Word and attending a Church where it is faithfully taught, we grow in our knowledge of God.
1. We recognize the God of the Bible as our God, our Lord, our Shepherd and the foundation for our lives. Without Him we have nothing and are nothing and can do nothing.
2. We begin to understand that He is great and sovereign in the affairs of men and nations and in control at all times.
3. We understand that Christ is Holy and that His spiritual Kingdom is His Church, according to Colossians 1:13. At the same time, we understand that His literal, holy Millennial Kingdom will one day be a reality.
4. As God, He demanded holiness from His people Israel. Leviticus 20:7 So in this Church Age, He demands holiness from His people today, as He taught in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:48. Since none of us has any ability to live that holy life of ourselves, He graciously provides it.
First He imputes His holiness to our account when we trust Him as Savior.
Then He imparts it to us by His Word and by His Holy Spirit.
5. We understand that He desires and is worthy of our praise continually, even when we don’t feel like praising Him. Learn the secret in Hebrews 13:15.
6. We understand that God is immutable. That is, He is unchanging in this constantly changing world. The changes in our world are usually for the worse. Rejoice that He never changes. Malachi 3:8 and Hebrews 13:8. His moral standards do not change. His plan of salvation does not change. It’s always been by God’s grace through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose again to pay the penalty for our sins. In Old Testament times, Israel was also saved by faith in the promised Saviour. In accordance with God’s laws, they sacrificed innocent animals for their sins, which sacrifices pointed to the coming sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God,
the perfect and final sacrifice who takes away the sins of the world.
7. We understand that God is eternal. Deuteronomy 33:27 assures us that “The eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Because He is eternal, we are eternal. Each of us will spend eternity in Heaven or in Hell.
8. Thank God for His eternal, inspired, infallible Word, the Bible to which we all have access. Proverbs 29:18 speaks of its importance. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The vision is not speaking of dreams, but of God’s Word. Those who know His Word and feed on it are growing. Those who ignore and rebel against His Word are perishing.
The Bible and Christianity were the foundation upon which our nation was founded. In recent years the Bible has systematically been removed from school classrooms and from our national life. As a result, America is in rapid decline. America is crumbling before our eyes: morally, economically and politically.
Into such a nation, state and city, Alameda Bible Church was planted seventy years ago in 1939. I was a first grader in the pubic schools of Toronto, Canada. Little did I dream then that I would one day be a pastor in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Such has been my privilege for these last almost twenty years. We were planted here to be a light in the midst of spiritual darkness.
THE GOD OF OUR PAST
Years ago a Christian family donated land on El Pueblo Rd. in the North Valley of Albuquerque to be the home for a Gospel preaching church which was named Alameda Community Chapel. Years later the name was changed to Alameda Bible Church.
This church was born at a time when Bible believing churches were departing from the Faith to compromise with Liberalism. I don’t know what battles this church fought then, but I know that in the mid fifties and sixties, I was fighting battles with Liberalism. As a result two churches left a liberal denomination to become thriving, growing churches, faithful to the Word of God.
Almost thirty years ago God led this church to found a Christian School as a ministry of the church. Over the years we have operated a K-12 Christian
School and have graduated over 100 students.
The God of our Fathers, is our same God today. Thank God that although we are far from perfect saints and won’t be until we stand glorified in His presence; yet we are growing in love and unity. By God’s grace, our church stands just as true to the Bible as it was when it was founded seventy years ago.
We never want to forget what God has done for us, nor forget the sacrifices and the steadfastness of our forefathers. At the same times, we don’t want to get stuck in a rut of living in the past. As we remember and are grateful for our past, at the same time, we are open to what God wants to do through us now and in the future.
We don’t want to ever get in the depressing mental and stagnant state of thinking, “It can’t be done! or “We never did it this way before!”
THE GOD OF OUR PRESENT
We must learn the balance of staying true to unchanging Biblical truth; and at the same time, learning to relate to and reach this generation with the uncompromising Truth of God’s Word.
As Jerusalem at over 2500 feet in elevation and surrounded by mountains, was pictured in Psalm 48 as “beautiful for situation”; so our church has been strategically placed in the beautiful North Valley at 5000 feet and bordered on the east by 10,000 feet mountains. We are accessible to two major arteries of Albuquerque. It’s less than a twenty minute drive from just about any part of the city. We must reach out to people as Ambassadors for Christ.
THE GOD OF OUR FUTURE
Let us never forget that it is Christ who is building His Church and we are privileged to be a part of His work as well surrender to Him. No matter what happens politically, we have Christ’s promise that He is building His Church and the gates of Hell cannot stop our onward progress.
An Amazing Mystery
God’s Word holds high and holy standards for Christ’s Church, pictured as the Bride of Christ in Ephesians 5.21-33. Christ is in the process of sanctifying or perfecting us through His Word and through the ministry of His indwelling Holy Spirit. Because God is holy, He commands us in I Peter 1:15-16 and Hebrews 12:14 to be holy, even as He is holy. These are standards for the entire church; but for the church to adopt them, they must be modeled by the church leadership.
A Holy Aspiration
Church leaders, such as pastors, elders and deacons, as well as others in teaching or administrative responsibilities, are called to set examples of spiritual maturity by modeling Christ to the rest of the church. As goes the church leadership, so goes the congregation.
As choosing justices for the Supreme Court is one of the most crucial responsibilities of a president and for the senate which confirms those nominations; so choosing pastors, elders and deacons, are the most important decisions a church makes.
We live in a loose, immoral age, just as the Apostle Paul did two thousand years ago. In such an age church leaders are called to hold high God’s moral standards. The most complete listing of these standards are found in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Those who flagrantly ignore those standards disqualify themselves as leaders.
Note the moral standards for leadership in these passages. The first is a blameless, irreproachable reputation, since salvation. We must not judge ones life before his salvation. If that were the case, the Apostle Paul would not have qualified for even the most menial job in the church. A church leader must be spiritually mature, blameless of lust, pride, laziness, a love for money and material things. He must not have an attitude problem, such as an argumentative, pugnacious spirit.
Pastor and Elders must remember that leadership is not a matter of lording it over the congregation. If there is anything the church does not need it is church bosses. Rather our leadership is exercised over the people by our example as the following passages teach us. I Peter 5:1-4, Hebrews 13:7 and I Timothy 4:12.
Another qualification for a church leader is that he must be morally pure, a one-woman man; whether single or married.
If he is still single, but courting a woman with plans to marry her; if I were on a pulpit committee, I think I would wait for him to be married before I would consider him as a pastoral candidate. He has enough to consider at the present time, without adding the burdens and responsibilities of a pastor.
If he has been divorced, I would be willing to examine the circumstances carefully and prayerfully; however, I would probably reject him as a candidate for pastor. There are other areas of ministry where he might be qualified to serve.
Having no children does not disqualify him, but if he has children, they must be under control and a Christian example to others.
He must have a good reputation in the community regarding his financial matters. If a man cannot keep his own personal and family finances under control, he is unfit to deal with these matters in the church. In short, he must live a disciplined life. There is no place in Christian leadership for one whose life is in constant chaos.
Church leaders, including pastors, elders and deacons, are basically servants of the church. The Greek word for deacon means servant. They are to have servant hearts and exemplify this beautiful trait to the entire congregation. When it comes to hospitality, these servants are to show hospitality, not only to their family and friends, but also to strangers and those who are not able to reciprocate, nor strengthen the churches finances.
In addition to servanthood, pastors and elders must possess the gift and ability to teach and preach the Word clearly and practically to people. In fact, that’s the only functional qualification required of pastors and elders beyond that of servant. We best exercise this gift of teaching when we understand we are not teaching the Bible to people. That is, we are not pouring our pitchers of Bible knowledge into the heads of our class or congregation. Rather, we are teaching people Biblical truth for their lives. SELAH! But regardless of his Biblical knowledge and ability to preach; his moral qualifications must be considered first. If a man is unfit morally, he is not qualified to pastor a church.
To teach people God’s Word, we need to know the people we are teaching. We need to connect with them, whether they are children or teens or adults. Understand also that the Holy Spirit is the true teacher. We work with Him as we help people understand God’s Word. Each of us as teachers must spend much time in prayer as we seek what needs to be emphasized in our teaching.
The Congregation’s Responsibility
The congregation’s responsibility, shown in Hebrews 13:7 and 17, is to submit themselves to the church leadership as the leadership evidences submission to God’s Word and to the control of the Holy Spirit.
The Church’s Ever-Present Enemy
The church’s ever-present enemy, Satan, is always at work seeking to destroy the work; but Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that Satan cannot keep Christ’s Church from moving forward. Satan’s method is to undermine the integrity and reputation of church leaders. If he accomplishes that, he hinders the progress of the church. When you pray for the integrity and reputation of your church leaders, you are praying for protection and spiritual prosperity of your church.
II Chronicles 16:22 warns us to never be a part of “touching the Lord’s anointed”. That is, don’t gossip about and slander your church leadership. Such sin has drastic consequences. God shows his fury towards those who are guilty of such sin in a story found in Numbers 16 of three ring leaders in an uprising against Moses. Read the dreadful story of Korah, Dathan and Abiram who challenged Moses’ leadership and of how the earth opened up and swallowed these three men with their families, including everything they owned. God’s judgment still falls on those who attempt to oppose God’s faithful servants.
How Can We Protect Ourselves From Such Sin?
We all have our ideas and opinions as to how the church could be improved. Let us be quick to listen to one another and slow to throw cold water on new ideas, even from visitors and from the newest of church members.
Let us test sermons, ideas and proposals by the plumb line of God’s Word.
Let us ask God to give us a humble attitude towards one another, “in honor preferring one another”. Romans 12:10 We are warned in Proverbs 13:10 that “only by pride comes contention.” If you tend to have an unbending, argumentative, contentious spirit and you find problems in the church; no doubt, the problem is with you.
Beware of having a stubborn, closed mind that refuses to consider anything new. That sometimes comes with old age, but it ought not to be.
Remember, church is not just about going to Sunday School, singing, preaching and listening to sermons, praying and enjoying fellowship suppers. Church is also about listening with an open mind and considering the ideas of others. If Christ rules in a church, and we are committed to the supremacy of Scripture, people with differing opinions and ways of doing things can work well together in love and harmony.
If I were seeking a church, there are only three factors I would consider.
1. Is that church faithfully proclaiming God’s Word?
2. Can I trust and respect the church leadership?
3. Are there needs in that church and are there opportunities for me to be actively involved, fulfilling my God-given gifts to help meet those needs?
If your heart is right with God, your attitude will be right and God will open doors of opportunity for you to use your gifts for His glory and make you a blessing to others.
From the magnificent Crystal Cathedral in southern California to the humblest little Baptist Church in the mountains of Kentucky; from the giant, modern day contemporary churches to the small independent Bible churches hidden on back streets of America; from the ostentatious TV sets of the modern Charismatic movement to the little Pentecostal churches in rural USA; from the beautiful Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, to the gigantic and powerful Roman Catholic Church; from the Jehovah Witness Kingdom Halls to the Seventh Day Adventist churches meeting each Sabbath day; from the liturgical Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian and Methodist churches to the free-spirited independent, non-denominational churches across America; from the Jewish synagogues to the Buddhist to the Muslims and whatever else is out there in religion land; I can positively affirm that membership in any of these temples or churches, including the church I pastor, do not save sinners from going to hell.
There is no salvation in being a baptized, devout, Mass-attending Catholic; nor is there salvation in being an AMEN shouting, baptized by immersion Baptist, nor anything in between.
Churches do not save. Baptism by sprinkling, immersion or pouring does not save. Good works do not gain you merit to get into Heaven. Sacraments do not save, nor do they make you holy. Being religious in order to go to Heaven is a lie of Satan.
My fifty plus years of preaching and pastoring churches does not add even an ounce of merit to make me deserving of Heaven.
All the money given down through the years to religious and charitable causes and all the hours of sacrificial labor has not enabled one soul to become a saint or earn Heaven.
Walking down an aisle in response to an invitation to be saved in an evangelistic crusade or in a local church does not guarantee Heaven for anyone.
Heaven is not for sale! The price is too high. You and I could never pay it. You can’t bribe God to let you into Heaven. God does not weigh your good works against your evil deeds to determine whether you go to Heaven.
Heaven is only for sinlessly perfect people. We cannot have one spot of sin on our record; not one lie, not one lustful thought, not one act of disobedience or unfaithfulness to God. That would be enough to send us to Hell for eternity. Are you ready to throw up your hands in despair and cry out to God, “I give up? I’m hopeless and helpless to save myself! God, in your mercy and grace, save me or I am lost forever!”
If so, God is ready to save you. He is ready to impute to you His very righteousness. In fact, the price of your salvation has already been paid in full by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died and rose again 2000 years ago to pay the penalty for all your sins. If you have given up trying to make yourself fit by your religious efforts, and are willing to trust Christ’s shed blood as full payment for your sins, God will save you right now. Ask Him to save you today. He will do it this very moment and you will know it. His Spirit will come to live in your heart and bear witness with your spirit that you now belong to God. You will be born again into God’s family.
Your assurance of salvation is found in His Word. Read John 1:12 3:16-18 5:24 6:37 and Romans 10:9-13 I John 5:11-13 Revelation 3:20. Believe His Word and be convinced. Read Paul’s testimony of how he turned his confidence from religion to Christ in Philippians 3. Then contact me and let me know you have been born again into God’s family. I want to rejoice with you and help you get started walking a new life of joy and blessing and purpose like you have never known before.
If salvation from an eternity in Hell is as simple as receiving Christ as Saviour, why do you continue to reject Him? Why are you so hateful towards Jesus Christ, so hateful as to even use His name to vent your anger? Why do you despise and hate the Christian who presents the Gospel to you?
If someone rescued you or your loved ones from a burning house or a burning car, you would be grateful for life. If someone gave you a gift of $1,000,000 with no strings attached, you could not contain your appreciation for him.
Well then, why does it upset and even infuriate you when someone shows you God’s plan of salvation from an eternity in Hell fire? Why do you hate our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ who died and paid the full penalty for your sins? Why do you so despise the Bible that tells you the story of God’s wonderful grace?
Ready for the answer?
Your pride and self-righteousness! Yes, it is offensive before our Holy God. The Prophet Isaiah, describes “all of our righteousness as stinking bloody rags.” Isaiah 64:6 It’s because you think of yourself as a good person that you see no need of a Saviour. You are offended when anyone should dare to tell you what God thinks of you.
Not only have you chosen to reject Christ, but your will is in bondage to Satan himself and you are a slave of the devil. He has you in bondage to sin and he has deceived you to think that a religion of your choice is the answer. Satan doesn’t mind you being religious. He is a master of religion. He fascinates you with religion; anything but Jesus Himself.
The Apostle Paul had this same problem, as do all of us, until God confronted him on the road to Damascus as he was on his way to persecute Christians. God knocked him to the ground and in a moment his life was changed forever. The story is found in Acts 9 and he records in Philippians 3 his testimony of the change that took place.
If you will this moment admit the truth that you are a proud, self-righteous sinner and if you will listen to the voice of God’s Holy Spirit as He knocks on the door of your heart to show you your need of Jesus who died and rose again to pay the full penalty for your sins, and if you will receive Him by faith as you sit there at your computer; God will work a miracle in your life by delivering you from the bondage of Satan and cause you to be born again and make you His child. His Spirit will take up residence in you and make you a brand new person.
Yes, your body will be the same. Yes, you will still stumble and sin and fail the Lord. You won’t live a perfect life by a long shot. But you will have a love for Christ and even for me for sharing this good news with you.
Amazingly, the sin you once loved, you will begin to hate and the Bible you once hated will become your most precious possession. This web site which once bored you, will become a fascinating source of spiritual food and you will not be able to get enough of it. In humiliation and appreciation you will share this good news with others.
The True Church is the spiritual Body of Christ, composed of people of all races, nationalities and denominations, who have received Christ as Saviour and have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into His Body. We accept the Bible, both Old and New Testament, to be the only inspired, infallible Word of God. We believe that Jesus is Jehovah God, our Creator and Sustainer of life, who, born of the Virgin Mary, came to earth as the sinless, holy Son of God in a human body to die and shed His blood as the full and perfect atonement for our sins. He rose again from the dead, proving His deity; so that we who trust Him have His righteousness imputed to us and are made fit to dwell with Him in Heaven. Read John 1 Colossians 1 Hebrews 1 Revelation 1 for clear statements concerning the deity of Jesus.
Though members of the true Church differ widely in many areas of Biblical interpretation, we are united on the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible and on the doctrine of Christ and His blood atonement.
Because we are but mere men and not God, none of us has a corner on the truth. We all have a veiled understanding of Scripture and that veil will not be removed until we stand glorified in His presence. How arrogant of us to claim we have a complete, accurate understanding of Scripture and claim we alone have the correct view of doctrine and church polity, and that those who disagree with us are wrong. The Corinthian church evidenced this attitude and Paul in his first epistle to them shamed them for their spiritual immaturity, pride and divisiveness.
Beware of any church that claims that it alone is the true church having the correct understanding of Scripture and that all other churches are false. Not only is that an arrogant claim, but it is a primary distinguishing mark of a false cult.
The unity of believers, regardless of denominational differences, is an organic unity; just as a human body, composed of many members, is one organic body.
The Church of Anti-Christ is that Satanic counterfeit of the true church whose unity is merely one of organization. Members of this false church are found in all religions and denominations and cults who are trusting in their works or in what they believe their churches can do for them. Such are lost and hell bound.
They lack that spiritual, organic unity that comes by being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ, the baptism that Paul writes about in I Corinthians 12:13. In place of that spiritual unity, they try to achieve an ecumenical unity of organization between denominations. This united church of Anti-christ is described in Revelation 17. In that chapter we learn of the fall and destruction of this church. In Revelation 18:1-4 we are warned to separate ourselves from that church to avoid the plagues God will send on her.
How do you find the right church? It is essential that we seek God’s will concerning our church home and that we study and become grounded in the Bible so that we, as the Berean Christians in Acts 17:11, are able to recognize and differentiate truth from error. Though we will never find a perfect church in this world, we can seek a church that helps us know God’s Word and grow in our knowledge of Christ.
As spiritual darkness descends upon our world, and the masses lose an appetite for God’s Word and churches give people the fluff and the fast food, and the positive sound-bites they want to hear; solid Bible preaching churches are becoming rare.
Amos prophesied of it in Amos 8:11-13 “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the Words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the Word of the Lord and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.”
God bless you, God bless America and God bless our world with His Word and with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and with faithful men who will courageously preach it.
Christ’s Church is pictured in a variety of ways to help us grasp the fullness and richness of what it means to be a member of His Church. All of the following word pictures show that we can’t make it alone as Christians. We need each other. We’re all linked together through our relationship with Christ, in spite of our differences, The Doctrine of Christ is the foundation upon which His Church is built. There can be no compromise here. The Doctrine of Christ includes, The deity of Christ, His virgin birth, His blood atonement for our sins. His bodily resurrection from the dead and His coming again to reign on this earth. However, when it comes to opinions and preferences, there is lots of room for compromise. Let’s look at some of those word pictures of Christ’s Church.
BECOMING A CHRISTIAN MEANS ENTERING CHRIST’S KINGDOM
Salvation involves being translated from the kingdom of Satan into the Kingdom of Christ. Colossians 1:13 It involves not only trusting Christ for salvation, but also submission to Him as Lord. Note, I did not say that one must make Jesus Lord to be saved. What I am saying is that it is obvious one is not in Christ’s Kingdom who is still living in rebellion to Christ. Being in Christ’s Kingdom involves living in love in a spiritual relationship with other Christians who are also in Christ’s Kingdom. Romans 14 is devoted to that theme. Being in Christ’s Kingdom also involves reigning with Christ in His future, literal, earthly Kingdom, known as the Millennium. For more on this topic, go to my link on PROPHECY on this web site. In James 2:5 those who love Christ are referred to as heirs of His Kingdom. Revelation 5:8-10 promises that those who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood from every “kindred, tongue, people group and nation will reign with Christ on this earth. In II Peter 1:1-11 we learn that those Christians who have grown in Christian maturity will enjoy an “abundant entrance” into Christ’s Kingdom.
THE CHURCH IS A NATION
Redeemed from every nation, we have become a heavenly nation. We have a Heavenly citizenship, Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20 As citizens of Heaven, we are very much a part of an earthly nation. We learn in Philippians 2:15 that we shine as lights in the midst of crooked and perverse nations Though we are proud, loyal, obedient citizens of our earthly nation, our loyalty to Christ and His Church supercedes our national loyalties. It was that loyalty to Christ that brought about the Roman persecution of Christians in the first century. In case you are wondering how our heavenly loyalties affect our earthly loyalties, see the next article in this CHURCH series, “Minding Our Own Business”.
THE CHURCH IS AN ASSEMBLY
James speaks of local churches as assemblies in James 2:2 and again the writer of Hebrews in 12:22-23 speaks of the church as an assembly. The very name “assembly” rules out individuals or families who meet together by themselves because they want no relationship with any other Christians, from being churches. We need one another in order to edify the church. I Corinthians 12 teaches us that we are as a Body with many members, each member different, but needing one another.
THE CHURCH IS DESCRIBED AS A FLOCK OF SHEEP
In John 10 Jesus refers to Himself as The Good Shepherd. Again Hebrews 13:20 refers to Christ as the Great Shepherd of the Sheep. As sheep need to be led to pasture and as they need the protection of their shepherd, so Christ has called His under-shepherds, better known as pastors, to feed and protect the sheep. As under-shepherds, we take our orders from Christ, the Great Shepherd of the Sheep. See more about this in Acts 20:28 and I Peter 5:1-4.
THE CHURCH IS CHRIST’S DWELLING PLACE
Here is an amazing dual truth for us to try to comprehend. Psalm 91 teaches us that Christ is our dwelling place. Romans 8:9, II Corinthians 6:16 and Ephesians 3:17 teach us that our bodies as Christians are the dwelling place of God. Jesus announced both truths in His final conversation with His disciples in John 17:23
THE CHURCH IS HIS TEMPLE
Certainly our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit as is clearly taught in I Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19 and Ephesians 2:18-22. This temple is built on the foundation of The Apostle’s Doctrine and Christ Himself is the Cornerstone. Ephesians 2:20
THE CHURCH IS A HOLY PRIESTHOOD
Israel needed the Levitical priesthood who stood between them and God. We as Christians need no priesthood to mediate between God and us. Revelation 1:5-8 teaches us we Christians are actually a Kingdom of priests. As priests, I Timothy 2:5 affirms that we have direct access to God through our only Mediator, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
THE CHURCH IS PICTURED AS BRANCHES IN A GRAPE VINE
In John 15 Jesus pictures Himself as the vine and we His Church as the branches. As branches need to be united with the vine to bear fruit, so we need to be united with Christ to bear spiritual fruit spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23.
THE CHURCH IS CHRIST’S BRIDE
This amazing holy truth is taught in Ephesians 5:22-33. Our marriage on earth is to be a picture of that heavenly relationship with Christ. See my series on MARRIAGE for more on this.
THE CHURCH IS THE FAMILY OF GOD
This pictures the love, intimacy, and care that we as members of His Family have for one another. Jesus spoke of this relationship in John 13:34-35 Paul wrote about this Heavenly Family in Ephesians 3:15. “Aren’t you glad you’re a part of the Family of God, washed in the Fountain, cleansed by His blood”, as Bill Gaither so beautiful described it in that wonderful song we sing?
FINALLY, THE CHURCH IS THE VERY BODY OF CHRIST ON EARTH.
Paul writes about it in I Corinthians 12:12-27. Though Jesus lives in His glorified, resurrected Body in Heaven now; we, His Church, are His Body on this earth today. We have a common life, His life flowing through us. We are interdependent members. We all need one another for the health and growth of His Body. May God help us to have an increasing understanding of the wonderful privilege of being a part of Christ’s Church. My prayer for you is Paul’s prayer for the Church in Ephesians 3:14-21
We, Christ’s Church, ought to be model citizens and the greatest asset to our nation. We ought to live a quiet and peaceable life doing our own work, minding our own business, being a good neighbor, helping the weak, being involved in our communities as we are able and paying our taxes. I Thess. 4:11-12 II Thess. 3:11-12 Romans 13:1-8
Don’t be a disturber of the peace!
Because of our clean, holy living, we ought never to be an unnecessary tax liability or burden to our society. We are never to be agitators and disturbers of the peace. We ought not be a danger to our streets and highways by drunken or reckless driving. We ought not be a burden to our neighborhood with loud, drunken parties, or by allowing our trash to litter the streets. We ought not blight the appearance of our neighborhood by allowing our house and yard to become sloppy and run-down.
Don’t get in their faces!
By our lives and through our prayers we ought to be quietly influencing our nation for good in our homes, in our neighborhoods and in our work place. Jesus described our influence as light and as salt. Matthew 5:13-16 The purpose of light is not to glare, but to give light to those who walk in darkness. The purpose of salt is not to call attention to its presence, but to make food more palatable. So a Christian is not to live his life in the faces of those he desires to reach with the Gospel, but as a quiet, helpful friend always looking for opportunties and always ready to give an answer for the hope that lies in us. Colossians 4:4-6 I Peter 3:15
Pray for our leaders!
We, Christ’s Church, ought to be blessing our neighborhoods and our nation by praying for those around us that they might come to the saving knowledge of Christ. I Timothy 2:1-4 Pray for our President. Pray for the members of Congress, including those you detest. Pray for our state and local officials; that those without Christ may come to know Him as Saviour and Lord.
Pray for our peace-keepers,
both our military and our local and state police as they daily risk their lives for our safety and protection. Romans 13 teaches us that they are servants of God for our good. Give them your support and appreciation. Next time you get a traffic ticket, thank the cop for doing his job.
Pray for the garbage collector,
the meter reader, the mail man or woman, the school teachers who influence your children. Thank God especially for every Christian teacher who has a godly influence on his or her students.
Are you able to volunteer?
Thank God for Christian doctors and nurses in hospitals and for nursing home workers, and hospice workers who as they do their work, patiently and tenderly bringing God’s love to fearful, despondent, suffering patients. Are you available for God to use as a volunteer?
Smile when you answer your door!
Thank God for the person who disturbs your privacy by knocking on your front door to sell you something or try to convince you of his beliefs. Treat him kindly and offer him a Gospel tract or introduce him to this web site.
Our fulltime business is to be an Ambassador for Christ
Paul tells us that in II Corinthians 5:20-21. Every moment we are in the presence of others: whether shopping, working, walking, standing in an elevator with others, in public transportation, on vacation, visiting in a hospital, at school, or wherever we are, we ought to be aware of the fact that if we are Christians, we are Ambassadors for Christ.
That is why the way we live our lives is so vital. We must reflect Christ to others. We must be looking for ways to introduce Christ to others. It is our responsibility, it is our business to take the message of reconciliation to those who do not know Christ. Read it and master the message in II Corinthians 5:20-21.
Use your computer to evanglize the lost and to encourage and strengthen Christians in the Word. One simple way to do this is to forward this web site to others.
Ezekiel 3:18-21 was God’s sober challenge to the Prophet Ezekiel. It is also a sober challenge to each of us Christians of our responsibility to the lost around us.
Remember, our primary responsibility as Christians is to live for Christ’s glory twenty-four hours a day. If others respect and admire our kindness and thoughtfulness and genuineness, they are going to be more open to know the Christ we reflect.
The purpose of para-church organizations is to come along side of churches to help them minister to the various physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people. Many were founded because their founders recognized or perceived a weakness or deficiency in local churches and so came into existence with the stated purpose of meeting a particular area of need. Though I find no Biblical teaching or example of para-church organizations, I do not deny the effectiveness and blessing of many of them.
Specific Para-Church Organizations
Some of the organizations of which most Christians are aware include:
Child Evangelism Fellowship, a ministry of evangelizing children
AWANA, a program to help churches reach children for Christ
Youth For Christ, a ministry to teens
Intervarsity and Campus Crusade, ministries to the spiritual needs of college students
Navigators, focused on winning and discipling college and military young adults for Christ
Gideons, distributors of Bibles to hotels, motels, hospitals, our military and everywhere
Focus on the Family, a ministry of strengthening our nation through strengthening families
Categories of Para-Church Organizations
In addition to specific organizations are the broad categories of organizations such as:
Rescue Missions and shelters to the transients and homeless
Children’s homes for orphans
Shelters for battered and abused women.
Church related assisted care and nursing homes for the aged
Hospice care for the dying
Christian schools and colleges
Home and foreign mission organizations
Organization for feeding the hungry and caring for medical needs locally and .worldwide
Organizations providing legal aid for Christians and churches
Christian radio and television stations
Christian publishing companies and book stores
Producers of Christian audio-visuals.
Christian camps and Bible conferences.
Thank God for Para-Church Organizations!
No one church has the resources, manpower or calling to meet all these needs, nor do most churches have the financial resources to support every organization that asks for help. The list above includes some of the para-church organizations that have been greatly used of God to meet human needs and win people to Christ. Thank God for all those in the past as well as the present who have faithfully and sacrificially served in such organizations. Only eternity will reveal their full spiritual impact.
The Right Relationship Between Churches and Para-Church Organizations.
We must not forget that Jesus gave the Great Commission to His Church. That Great Commission is to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, starting at home. Any para-church organization that understands this and works in harmony with like-minded churches to accomplish this goal will enjoy God’s blessing and provision and have the most long-lasting impact on those to whom they minister.
Any para-church organization whose doctrinal statement is not in harmony with God’s Word is, of course, not worthy of the support of God’s people. Any par-church organization whose mission statement, agenda or spirit is not in harmony with local, Bible-believing churches is a liability to the church instead of an asset and blessing. Such an organization should not expect the support of God’s people.
Be Careful of the Tail Wagging the Dog.
The temptation of one involved in a para-church organization is to be so caught up in the ministry of that organization that their organization becomes the substitute for their church. They lose contact with their local church and fail to channel converts into local, Bible -believing churches. When Christians are spending all their time, energy and resources to further a para-church’s goals to the exclusion of their responsibilities to their local church, then they have lost their perspective and are weakening their church. Remember, the para-church organization exists to strengthen the church to carry out Christ’s Great Commission. The church does not exist to strengthen the para-church organization. When those involved in para-church organizations are working in cooperation and close fellowship with like-minded pastors and churches, then they can be a mutual blessing and support to each other and accomplish much more together than they could separately.
In Luke 12:1-3 we have the account of Jesus approaching Jerusalem and eventually, Calvary. He warns His disciples of dangers of evil, which He likens to leaven or yeast. As you know, yeast has a permeating affect on dough. It gradually affects it completely. As yeast permeates and affects dough, so evil in all ages seeks to permeate and affect God’s people.
Leaven Always Associated with Evil
It’s evident that the mention of leaven in the Bible consistently refers to the permeating and defiling affect of evil. Would you examine this assumption with me? In Exodus 12:17-20 Israel is instructed to eat unleavened bread. There was to be no leaven in the house. Why were the Israelites to avoid leaven? Because the unleavened bread pictured Christ, our Passover. Christ, the sinless one, had no trace of the leaven of sin in Him. See I Corinthians 5:7.
In fact, read the entire 5th chapter of I Corinthians. It’s all about the leaven of sin in the church. There we are clearly commanded to confront unrepentant, rebellious Christians and remove them from the church rolls and from Christian fellowship with the hope that they will repent and turn back to Christ and then be lovingly restored to church fellowship. Leaven here is clearly a picture of sin.
In Luke 12:1 Jesus warns people to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is clearly identified as their hypocrisy. Israel was warned to not be taken in by their superficial, false piety.
In Matthew 16:6,12 Jesus warns Israel to beware of the leaven of the Sadduccees. That evil leaven was their unbelief. They were the liberals of Jesus’ day. Again, would you note that the leaven of both the Pharisees and the Sadduccees is a type of their sin.
In Mark 8:15 once again Jesus warns of the leaven of Herod. Again the leaven pictures the evil of Herod’s life. His evil led to the beheading of John the Baptist. Are you getting the picture? Leaven consistently speaks of the influence of evil.
Leaven and the Kingdom of Christ
Now in Matthew 13, the chapter in which are recorded Jesus’ parables of His Kingdom, we see in verse 33 that leaven is related to Christ’s Kingdom. Let’s read the verse together. “Another parable spake He unto them. The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” Are we to believe that suddenly leaven is a picture of something good; The Kingdom of Heaven? Reformed Theology says yes. It’s quite obvious, is it not? On the surface, yes. Leaven seems to refer to the Kingdom of Heaven. But let’s think about this. Why does God take something that consistently pictures evil and suddenly makes it a picture of something good? Furthermore, is this the way the Kingdom comes? Does it gradually infiltrate and permeate the world? I don’t believe so.
Does Christ’s Kingdom Come by Permeation?
The Parable of the Sower in the earlier part of Matthew 13 teaches that the Kingdom comes as the Seed of the Gospel is sown. Some falls on good ground and bears fruit. Other seed falls in places where it cannot germinate and sprout. Birds get some of the seed and much of the rest is unfruitful. The point is that the Kingdom does not come by permeation. The Church is not gradually permeating and changing society. Rather this sinful world system is gradually permeating and affecting the church.
The question is in the words of Jesus in Luke 18:8 “When the Son of Man comes shall He find faith on the earth?” I doubt it. If so, very little.
What is the basic theme of the other parables of Matthew 13? It’s just the opposite of the Gospel permeating and changing the whole world.
See the Parable of the Wheat and Tares in Matthew 13:24-33 Note that with the wheat there are tares, that which looks like wheat, but has no grain within. They are to grow together until the return of Christ who will divide the wheat from the tares. Note that the wheat is not gradually covering the field. The tares are there also right to the end of time.
See the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Matthew 13:31-32. The mustard seed, though small, grows into a tree wherein the birds lodge in the branches. This speaks of the Tree of Christendom, wherein the birds of false teachers and false prophets cast their evil influence. See Revelation 18:1-2
If all the Parables of the Kingdom speak of the presence and the evil influence of false teachers in Christendom right to the end of time, why should we suddenly take one verse in Matthew 13:33 and make it teach that the Kingdom of Christ is gradually and successfully infiltrating the whole world and that when that is accomplished, Christ will return? That is the teaching of Reformed Theology. Go to that link or to my Prophecy Series for more on this subject.
A respectful disagreement
Many of those associated with Reformed Theology are genuine, mature Christians who love the Lord and are zealously serving Him. But, when it comes to their view of Prophecy, I have to respectfully and lovingly disagree with them. The facts are that the true Church, is not gradually influencing and permeating this sinful world system to make it Christ-like. In the fifty years that I have observed the church, just the opposite has taken place. Satan is gradually influencing the church to become more tolerant of false doctrine and a sinful life style.
The church’s business is not to gradually bring about the Christianization of the world. Rather the church’s business is to evangelize the world and help the converts become disciples of Christ . The church’s business is to “preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the Truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” II Timothy 4:2-4
So today God’s Word warns us of the danger of these three subtle, Satanic influences that can take root in our hearts and contaminate our testimonies. If we attempt to hide and cover our sins, Proverbs 28:13 assures us that we will not prosper. Luke 12:2-3 warns us that the day will come when we will be publicly exposed.
Is the world getting better or worse?
The question Jesus asks in Luke 18:8 is worth pondering. “When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? Just before the Flood in Noah’s day some five thousand years ago, God looked down on the earth and found only one righteous man, Noah and his family. Jesus warns in Matthew 24:37-39 “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.” Read the rest of that passage for more details of life on earth just before the return of Christ. Are you ready for His return?
The Church and the World walked far apart on the changing shore of time.
The World was singing a giddy song and the Christian a hymn sublime.
“Come, give me your hand,” said the merry World, “And then walk with me this way.
But the good Church hid her snowy hand and solemnly answered, “Nay,
I will not give you my hand at all, and I will not walk with you.
Your way is the way of eternal death and your words are all untrue.”
“Nay, walk with me a little space,” said the World with a kindly air.
The road I walk is a pleasant road and the sun shines always there.
Your way is narrow and thorny and rough, while mine is flowery and smooth. Your lot is sad with reproach and toil, but in rounds of joy I move.
My way, you can see is broad and fair and my gate is high and wide.
There is room enough for you and me and we’ll travel side by side.”
Half shyly, the Church approached the World and gave him her hand of snow and the false world grasped it and walked along and whispered in accents low.
“Your dress is too simple to please my taste. I have gold and pearls to wear; rich velvets and silks for your graceful form and diamonds to deck your hair.”
The Church looked down at her plain white robes and then at the dazzling World, and blushed as she saw his handsome lip with a smile contemptuously curled.
“I will change my dress for a costlier one,” said the Church with a smile of grace. Then her pure white garments drifted away, and the World gave in their place
Beautiful satins, fashionable silks, roses, gems and pearls; and over her forehead her bright hair fell and waved in a thousand curls.
“Your house is too plain,” said the proud old World, “let us build you one like mine with kitchen for feasting and parlor for play- come sit with me and dine.”
So he built her a costly and beautiful house; splendid it was to behold.
Her sons and daughters met frequently there, shining in purple and gold.
And fair and festivals, frolics untold were held in the House of Prayer;
And maidens bewitching as sirens of old with world winning graces rare.
Bedecked with fair jewels and hair all curled; untrammeled by Gospel or Laws; to beguile and amuse and win the World some help for the righteous cause.
The Angels of Mercy rebuked the Church and whispered, “I know thy sins;”
Then the Church looked sad and anxiously longed to gather the children in.
But some were at the midnight ball, and others at the play, and some were drinking in gay saloons, and the angels went away.
And then the World spoke in soothing tones, “Your loved ones mean no harm merely indulging in innocent sports.” So she leaned on his proffered arm
And smiled and chatted and gathered flowers and walked along with the World; while countless precious souls were lost and into hell were hurled.
“Your preachers are all too old and plain,” said the gay world with a sneer.
They frighten my children with dreadful tales which I do not like to hear.
They talk of judgment and fire and pain and doom of darkest night.
They warn of a place that should not be spoken in public to ears polite.
I will send you some men of better stamp, more brilliant, gay and fast, who will show men how they may live as they wish and go to Heaven at last.
The Father is merciful, great and good, loving, tender and kind.
Do you think He’d take one child to Heaven and leave another behind?”
So she called for pleasing and gay divines, deemed gifted, great and learned, and the plain old men who had preached the Cross were out of the pulpits turned.
Then Mammon came in and supported the Church and rented a prominent pew and the preaching and singing and social events soon proclaimed a gospel new.
“You give too much for the Gospel,” said the World, “Far more than you ought to do. Though the lost need to hear of Calvary‘s Love, why thus need it trouble you?
Go take your money and buy rich robes and horses and carriages fine; and pearls and jewels and dainty food; the rarest and costliest wine.
My children, they dote on all such things, and if you their love would win, you must do as they do, and walk down the Broad Way they are in.”
Then the Church, her purse strings tightly held, gracefully lowered her head and simpered, “I’ve given too much away; I will do so, sir, as you said.”
So the poor were turned from the door in scorn; she heard not the orphans cry; and she drew her beautiful robes aside as the widows went weeping by.
And they of the Church and they of the World journeyed closely heart to heart.
And none but the Master who knoweth all could discern the two apart.
Then the Church sat down at her ease and said, ” I am rich and with goods increased.
I have need of nothing and naught to do, but to laugh and dance and feast.”
The sly world heard her and laughed within, and mockingly said aside,
“The Church has fallen, the beautiful Church, her shame is her boast and pride.”
Thus her witnessing power alas was gone and perilous time came in;
The times of the end, so often foretold: of pleasures and form and sin.
Then the angels drew near the Mercy Seat and whispered in sighs her name and the Saints, their anthems of rapture hushed, covered their heads with shame.
A voice came down from the hush of Heaven and from Him who sat on the Throne.
“I know thy works and what thou hast said, but alas thou hast not known
“That thou art poor and naked and blind. Thou hast ceased to watch for that Blessed Hope, hast fallen from zeal and grace, So now, alas, I must cast thee out and blot thy name from its place.”
But out of the side of the harlot church, while she sleeps in indolent shame,
Are taken the remnant who keep God’s Word and honor His holy name.
By the Word of their testimony and Blood of the Lamb, they overcame the World.They prayed for the day when their enemy strong, would in the abyss be hurled.
And those who keep their garments clean, shall walk with Him in white.
In the day when He comes to claim His own, to make up His jewels, pure and bright.
This poem, written by H Jahnke, was given to me over forty years ago by one of my aged Deacons, Bert Wanner, when I pastored Pequea Baptist Church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I understand and appreciate it more today then I did back then.
May it’s sobering message be a constant warning to us of how Satan and his evil world system constantly works as leaven to infiltrate and permeate the Church and conform it to its standards.
Note that the use of the word gay throughout the poem is used to describe the state of being happy, bright and carefree. Only in the last few decades has the term been perverted to apply to homosexuals.
I encourage you to read Luke 12 as a background for what I write in this article.
Crowds or Disciples?
Though the crowds following Jesus are huge as they are impressed with His miracles, Jesus chooses to focus His attention on His disciples, rather than the crowds. He is constantly teaching His disciples and some of the crowd overhears His teachings. You’ll find throughout the Gospels that the crowds usually fell away whenever Jesus taught. They did not like what He had to say. Jesus never sought for crowds. Rather the crowds sought after Him for the miracles of healing and being fed.
Why did Jesus focus all His attention on His disciples?
The reason Jesus focused His attention on His disciples, rather than the crowds is because Jesus is in the process of building His church and He knows the best way to do it. He understands that duplication is better than simply additions. That’s the lesson of this story in Luke 12.
Addition or Duplication?
Let me illustrate this lesson with some figures. Supposing a church had 100 new visitors every Sunday. That would be quite exciting! If that continued for a year, that would be 5,200 new visitors. Supposing that continued for ten years. That would total 52,000 visitors in ten years. Sounds like success, does it not? If in ten years, no one was saved or discipled, that would be a net gain of ZERO.
On the other hand, if you or I concentrate all our efforts on teaching others to teach others as Paul taught Timothy in II Timothy 2:2, Christ’s church will grow by leaps and bounds. Suppose we concentrated on discipling only five people. At the end of the first year there would be 6 disciples who are on fire and ready to win and disciple others for Christ.
With each one discipling only 5 people, at the end of the second year there would be 30 of us.
After three years there would be 150 of us.
After four years there would be 750 of us.
After five years there would be 3,750 of us.
After six years there would be 18,750 of us.
After seven years there would be 93,750 of us.
After eight years there would be 468,750 of us.
After nine years there would be 2,343,750 of us.
At the end of ten years we would be over 11 million strong.
One major problem with these figures.
Wherever God is at work, Satan is there also using others to contaminate us and neutralize our efforts to win and disciple others. In fact each of us are either on Christ’s team or Satan’s team. We are either seeking to work with Christ to build His Church or we are being used by Satan to hinder, discourage and destroy Christ’s Church.
That’s the reason Jesus spent so much time with His disciples, teaching them, warning them and inoculating them against the leaven of hypocrisy, unbelief and worldiness. See the earlier article on Leaven and the poem in this series on The Church and the World. That’s the reason I spend time feeding Christians God’s Word and warning them of Satan’s deceptions.
There are other concerns Jesus shares with His disciples, but we will deal with them another time as we continue to explore Luke 12.
“I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH!”
said Jesus in Matthew 16:18
What a wonderful, encouraging announcement Jesus made! Through the centuries, in spite of the difficulties and set backs, in spite of the denominational differences, in spite of the Satanic opposition, in spite of the carnality and confusion in churches today; Christ IS building His Church, His beloved Bride, His spiritual Body on earth and Satan cannot stop Him.
This is a comforting, encouraging truth for any faithful pastor and his congregation to remember when confronting opposition and persecution or when chided that we need to be more “seeker sensitive”. It helps us keep a Scriptural perspective.
It’s true that we need to be kind and sensitive to the feelings and needs of strangers and to those to whom we minister; but far more important, we need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and faithfully proclaim the whole counsel of God.
It is not enough to simply preach the Gospel. That’s part of our commission, but there is much more. We are to teach all of God’s Word so that the saints are built up in The Faith. We are to warn of false teachers and doctrines of demons. I Timothy 4:1
Paul warns and charges Timothy in II Timothy 4:2-5 “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the Truth and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
“We are to understand that the church is “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of The Truth” according to I Timothy 3:15
A typical day in the life and ministry of Jesus included teaching and healing as He journeyed to His ultimate appointment with the cross where He would give His life as a sacrifice for our sins and then be raised from the dead three days later for our justification. Romans 4:25 What was Jesus teaching throughout His ministry? Repeatedly you will see that Jesus was teaching truths concerning the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. Compare Luke 13:18-22 with Matthew 13: 31-33 and you will see there is no difference. The Kingdom of Heaven is the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps you are wondering why Jesus almost never mentions the Church. Was not the Church precious to Him? Yes, He loved the Church from before the foundation of the world, but the church was a mystery that had not yet been revealed. To Paul was given the great privilege of revealing the mystery of the Church which was born at Pentecost after Jesus had ascended back to Heaven. Read the Book of Acts to learn of the founding and early history of the Church.
To go back to God’s eternal plan for the Church, read Ephesians 3:1-11. To learn of the love relationship that Christ has for His Church read Ephesians 5:21-33 and see how Christ compares the love relationship of a husband and wife with the love relationship He has with His Church as His Bride.
Jesus had referred to the coming Church at least once in Matthew 18:17; but the most important truth He taught concerning the Church was the announcement He made to Peter that He would build His Church on Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, (the Messiah), the Son of the living God. That story is found in Matthew 16:13-30
That the Church is linked to the Kingdom of Christ is made clear in Colossians 1:13-19. In a kingdom there is a king and there are subjects. Christ is our King. We are His subjects. But the story gets better. Though He rules us, He does not rule as a tyrant, but as a loving husband. Read again the Ephesians 5 passage concerning the love relationship of a husband and wife. Desiring to obey God’s Word as His Bride is a far cry from “legalism”, a label of scorn that is often pinned on Christians who love the Lord enough to turn from their sins and seek to obey Him.
So if the Church is likened to the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God, then everything we read in the four Gospels is truth for the edification of the Church. In fact it is foundational truth for the Church as Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:20. Those preachers who withhold the truths of the Kingdom from their congregations are robbing them of their very foundation. We miss out on so much that God has for us when we relegate the four Gospels for Israel only, as hyper-Dispensationalists would teach.
Have you ever stopped to think how blessed you and I are as Christians in this Church Age? We have the completed inspired, infallible Word of God. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach us and apply to us the truths of Scripture. I believe we have it even better than the Old Testament prophets! We have it better than the Apostles and the other people who had the privilege of seeing and hearing Jesus! We have it better than the angels! Why do I say that? We are the most privileged because we have the full Word of God and we have the constant presence of Christ through His Holy Spirit living within us. I believe Peter agrees with me as he teaches basically the same thing in his first Epistle. Read I Peter 1 with special attention to verses 9-12.
Let me encourage you with Peter in that same first chapter, verse 13-16 to gird up the loins of your mind. That is, prepare yourself to think when you come to church. Get the rest you need the night before. Be mentally sharp when you come to church. Pay attention. What’s church all about? It’s certainly not to seek for an exciting emotional experience. It’s not to get a good feeling about yourself. We come to church to listen carefully to the Word of God taught by a preacher who has devoted much prayer and study to the preparation of his sermon. We come to church to hear what God would say to us about our lives. We come to turn from our former lusts and ignorance to learn how to live a holy life that brings glory to God. Anything less than that is just “playing church.” As far as I’m concerned, to go to church to play church is one of the most stupid games a Christian can play. I can think of a lot more interesting ways to spend a Sunday.
For more on the Kingdom go to the PROPHECY series.