October 29, 2016

No Church Has to Die



Once there was a worshiping community who was radically devoted to God. They were committed to spreading the Gospel.  They were connected in such a way that they called each other brothers and sisters.  They even sold their property and possessions so no one in the community would have to live without basic needs.  And walls came down!  Gender, racial, social and economic differences dissolved away.  They were washed in the blood of the Lamb.  They experienced the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in their community.*

This vision of what the church can be is from Acts 2.  Some few of us may have been part of such a church.  Most of us haven't!  Our churches, for the most part, have not been that faith inspiring.  Our churches haven't moved us to do that much.  Most of us have not experienced an Acts 2 church.

Why?  Why don't we have churches like that today?  Has God lost His power?  Is the Holy Spirit no longer fired up?  Does the Gospel no longer change lives?  The problem isn't God, the Holy Spirit nor the Gospel.  The problem is us!  The problem is people won't risk everything to build an Acts 2 church.  That's the problem!

Leadership matters in all churches of God because people matter to God.  The only reason God spilled His blood on the cross of Calvary is His love for people.  We in the church all have a sacred obligation to grow as leaders, develop our ministry skills, and learn how to do the Lord's work better.  Everyone wins in church when a leader gets better.  A church grows when its leaders get better. 

It's our decision as leaders to get better as whatever we do in the church.  When we feel in our own spirit that we are developing, our hearts are growing, our heads are growing, our gifts are growing, then people around us sense our growth and begin to live their lives that way.  Leaders who are growing lift people up, build up the church, and are a blessing to others. 

A church loses this lifting up - building up - blessing others, when its leaders stop growing.  Churches without growing leaders are dying churches.  And over time dying churches finally have to close their doors.  What is more sad than a light of God's kingdom that goes out?  We live in a dark world.  There aren't that many lights.  So, when a church's light flickers, and then goes out, it's a tragedy.  It's a tragedy when a church dies.

It's all gets back to what the church is really about.  The church is all about evangelism, discipleship and compassion.  When evangelism is happening supernaturally, when people are getting saved from their sins, when people are becoming faithful followers of Jesus, when people are reaching out to those who are hurting with compassion and care, praise God!  That's it!  That's the beauty, power and potential of every local church.  When church works right, there is nothing else like it on earth.

No church has to die.  Every church, with God's help, can stay fired up and faith filled.  Keep telling people that God loves them, that the Holy Spirit is still working in people's hearts, that the Gospel is still transforming people's lives, that the church is still the only hope of the world.  Keep beating that drum.  Good things will happen. 

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*I'm indebted to Bill Hybels (Good News magazine September/October 2016) for his testimony to Gods' grace in his life and ministry, part of the outline of which I used for this post. 

October 9, 2016

The Enormity of Our Salvation Through Faith in Jesus Christ





I wonder sometimes if we ever really understand what we've been saved from.  So much of what we go through in life - disappointments, diseases, heartaches, hurts and pains - are like a childhood disease in comparison to a life without Jesus.  Life without God is far worse than anything we can conjure up.  Whether we realize it or not, if we're living right now without Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we're very sick.  We're sin sick!

Our disease - our sin - isolates us from the only One who can cure us and give us life.  We're all, to some extent, living with the disease of sin, which also isolates us from one another.  We have a common disease.  We're all sinners saved by God's grace, if we're come to faith in Jesus.  But whether we have or have not believed in Jesus, we're constantly in need of God's cure for our lives. 

We don't naturally have a relationship with God.  All we have is a disease, called sin, which separates us from God.  The only way we can approach God is with a cry for mercy:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, a Sinner. We can't stand before God in our own righteousness or counting on our good works to give us enough credit with God to save us.  We are totally at God's mercy and grace for everything.  We come to God as humble sinners, or we come not to God at all.

Many choose the not at all option.  Many of us take our sin disease for granted.  We think:  Everyone has it, so it must not be that bad!  Others seem to be doing all right with it, so I can, too!  Every kind of moral ethics is being challenged these days, so if I fail, what does it matter?  Everyone else is failing, too!  Why do I even have to hear about it?  I can always find a church that accepts my sin disease and makes me feel good about myself.

What we're doing by taking our sin disease for granted is masking our ourselves so well that only our masks become important to us.  Out masks become all that's real to us.  We become so convoluted in our perverted minds, that we accept a lie as our reality - a reality in which a lie becomes the truth for us.  This is the essence of what it means to be sin sick.

The the Gospels of the New Testament we read that Jesus of Nazareth lived His whole life to fulfill God's will as the Messiah - the Christ of God.  After three years of teaching, healing and doing the works of God, His Father, Jesus headed to Jerusalem to do final battle with the sin disease.  There He takes on our disease, every last bit of it, and becomes our sin,  Our sin makes Him into Someone who is despised, because Jesus has no mask.  He is despised, rejected, stricken, afflicted with our sin - your and mine.  

And from the cross, upon which He died, He cries out in agony as He bears all our sins, "Father, why have You forsaken Me?"  Then He says, "It's finished!"  And He bows His bleeding head and dies, taking with Him all our sin - your sin and mine.  

Jesus arose from the dead three days later.  And nothing - nothing - nothing has been the same since.  The isolation from God and one another is gone.  God is our God.  And He's alive!  Jesus is our Lord, our Master.  And He's our cure from the burden of our sin disease.  Jesus cures, Jesus gives freedom from disease, Jesus saves everyone who comes to Him and asks, "Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner."

This is the enormity of the disease from which we are saved.  As we come to saving faith in Jesus, we gratefully follow His command to proclaim to the world that Jesus Saves!  The salvation we have in Christ is as big as the love God has for us.