Jesus, Yes! Church, No?

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It’s probably true to say that most people who know anything about Jesus truly admire Him.

He showed such compassion for the downtrodden. He sacrificed Himself for others—including those who crucified Him.

No wonder so many find Him appealing!

And yet . . . .

These positive feelings often don’t transfer to the church. Why not?

“Church members don’t practice what they preach.”

“They think they’re better than others.”

“They’re intolerant of those who don’t believe as they do.”

“They can’t even get along with each other.”

“When I tried going to church I did not feel welcome.”

Etc.

Guilty as charged?

Sad to say, many of these charges are true. Christians are often poor advertisements for Christ.

But let’s see if we can put things into perspective.

If we are to see the church accurately, we must view it through the eyes of its Founder.

In the New Testament Christ reveals His will for His church.

We read of congregations that greatly pleased Christ (like the Philippians), but also those He was extremely upset with (such as the Galatians).

Even the best churches had their faults. The letters of Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude and the book of Hebrews show what was right with the church and what was wrong.

Where churches fall short, repentance is called for (Revelation 2-3).

The same is true today

Only Jesus is perfect.

The plan He left for His church is perfect (1 Timothy 3:15).

Those who profess to belong to Him are often far from perfect—including me.

Jesus warns that on Judgment Day He will say to many who call Him Lord, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Jesus does not accept all who claim Him: “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).

He is the only Head of only one body, His church (1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:16; 4:4).

What Christ establishes, Satan counterfeits.

But Jesus embraces His true disciples who humbly and penitently admit their failures and who make a sincere effort to grow into His likeness.

Jesus never gives up on His church.

Nor should we.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Church: Who Needs It?

Since before I can remember I’ve been closely associated with the church. I am now 70. I’m so thankful that my parents taught me to love and appreciate the church. The church was their life, and is mine as well.

While being actively involved in the church can sometimes be painfully difficult, I would hate to think what life would be without it. The positives far outweigh the negatives.

The longer I live, the more obvious it is to me that Christ knew what He was doing when He founded the church (Matthew 16:18).

Christ’s wisdom as seen in His church

Christ brings people together from a wide variety of backgrounds—economically, educationally, culturally, ethnically, etc. (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:11-22). It’s good when we can learn to love and appreciate people we would otherwise never know. This broadens our horizons and reduces our prejudices.

Christ unifies in His church our various talents and resources to accomplish wonderful things for the good of many, both inside and outside the body of Christ (Acts 11:27-30; Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 4:10).

Christ intends for us to be mentored by those with more understanding of Scripture and longer experience in dealing with hardships and temptations. We have so much we can learn from one another! (Acts 11:21-26)

Christ provides in the church the help and encouragement we can receive from and provide for one another. Life is hard, but the burden is eased by the mutual fellowship, prayers, hugs, and supportive words of our brothers and sisters in Christ (Galatians 5:13; 6:2; Ephesians 4:29).

So who needs the church?

I know I do.

Do those who think otherwise know what they’re missing?

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Can We Get Along without the Church?

I heard it again last week: “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.”

Either this is true or false. Which?

Since what we know about being a Christian comes from the New Testament, isn’t that the best resource for learning whether the church is essential?

Check it out!

Although reading the entire New Testament would certainly answer this question, let’s focus on just one book: Acts.

In Acts we read of the church’s beginning in Jerusalem, its spread to other lands, how it was organized, how believers worshiped together, and how the church’s enemies so strongly opposed it.

Ironically, their efforts to stamp out the church served instead to spread and strengthen it (Acts 8:1-4; 11:19-21).

So what do we learn?

If we read Acts with an open mind and a sincere desire to know what we should do regarding the church, what will we find?

“And all those who believed were together . . . . And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44, 47).

In Acts we find Paul establishing congregations in Western Asia and Eastern Europe. He made sure they were equipped with capable leaders (14:23; 20:17, 28).

Paul urged the Ephesian elders to “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).

Question: If God values the church that much, how valuable should it be to us?

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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What Jesus Saw and What He Did About It

Jesus came inspecting

The place that was supposed to be dedicated to God was being badly abused.

So Jesus took decisive action. “And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things  away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business’” (John 2:14-18).

Obviously, this was not well received by those most affected, and yet as God’s official Representative on earth He had every right to do what He did.

They were wrong; He was right. He always is.

Jesus still comes inspecting!

The physical temple in Jerusalem no longer stands. It served its purpose. But another temple, much more glorious, is His church (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16). Jesus is its cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22). He is its Founder (Matthew 16:18). He is its Head (Colossians 1:18). He purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28).

Does He then not have every right to say what His church should be?

If the Jerusalem temple did not pass inspection, what of the church today?

In the last book of the New Testament Jesus has words for seven congregations in the Roman province of Asia. He was very pleased with a couple of them but highly displeased with others. He commands several of them to repent (Revelation 2-3).

This is what Restoration means—making the needed changes Christ requires. He tells several of these churches specific things they must do to get their spiritual house in order. He even threatens two of them with total removal.

Sobering!

After Jesus cleansed the temple, “His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house will consume Me’” (John 2:17; Psalm 69:9).

Does zeal for God’s house consume us?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Back to the Basics

Examining our traditions

Often we humans tend to make elaborate the simple and to embellish the unadorned. A study of the history of Christian worship bears this out.

Rather than ritual, pomp, and ceremony, early Christian worship was simplicity itself. Often gathering in homes, first-century disciples knew nothing of vested clergy and robed choir, processionals and recessionals, pipe organs and prescribed liturgies.

Various possible reasons could be offered for the development of the “high church” tradition, but how many worshipers have thought to question whether indeed it has a basis in Scripture?

Following the divine pattern

A fresh look into the New Testament reveals the simple nature of the worship of the early church. They partook of unleavened bread and shared the fruit of the vine as they remembered what Jesus did on their behalf (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).

They prayed together earnestly, and their a cappella singing was an expression of heart-felt praise (Acts 4:23-31; 12:12; 16:25; Ephesians 5:19).

They listened as the word was taught (Acts 14:21-22, 27; 20:7), and they gave liberally as they prospered (2 Corinthians 8:1-5; Philippians 4:15-19).

They were a family of brothers and sisters in Christ, gathering frequently to worship their common Lord, receive instruction and encourage one another (Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25).

Is there any reason why we cannot do the same today?

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The Beginning

The day the New Covenant message was first proclaimed

Acts chapter 2 is undoubtedly one of the great mountain peaks of Scripture. What occurs in Acts 2 would have never been possible if everything had depended on human ability alone.

Peter says, “Men of Israel, listen to these words . . .” (v. 22). The words he then speaks were not his own. They are Christ’s words, imparted by the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26; 16:12-13; 17:8, 18, 20).

As F. F. Bruce has written, “The apostolic teaching was authoritative because it was the teaching of the Lord communicated through the apostles. In due course this apostolic teaching took written shape in the New Testament scriptures” (Commentary on the Book of Acts, 79).

The day true grace was offered

Convicted by Peter’s words, the people cry out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Imagine if Peter had replied, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing you can do. God will never forgive you for killing His Son. There’s no hope for you. You are eternally doomed!”

Instead Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (vv. 37-38).

Now that’s good news! So it is possible to be reconciled to God.

The day the church was born

“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (v. 41).

The next verse tells us, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

The apostles’ teaching (which was really the Lord’s teaching through the apostles) served as their common standard. The first church all believed and practiced the same thing. There was but one church—denominations had not yet come into being.

Here then is basis for true unity today, a unity based on divinely revealed truth, rather than on human traditions.

Years later, Peter referred to this remarkable day as “the beginning” (Acts 11:15).

If we believe what they believed, and if we do what they did, then we will be what they were—disciples of Jesus Christ, members of His one body.

Nothing more, nothing less.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Basis of Unity

Beautifully united

Of the infant church it is written that they were “continuing with one mind in the temple” (Acts 2:46).

How is this degree of unity possible? Was it their mutual love for Christ and for one another? No doubt love was a major factor in their unity. But that’s not all.

Four verses earlier it says, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

They were of “one mind” because they all believed the same thing. They all adhered to the apostles’ teaching.

This teaching was not something the apostles had originated—they had received it from Christ, who in turn had received it from God (John 15:13; 17:8). It was an authoritative message, a standard for all ages to come.

Common ground

Paul encouraged the church at Rome “to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).

Note especially the phrase “according to Christ Jesus.” If Christian A and Christian B are both in accord with Christ, then Christian A and Christian B are in accord with each other. Christ links them together. He is their common denominator. He is the basis of their fellowship.

But how can we be in accord with Christ unless we adhere to His teachings (Matthew 7:24-27; 28:19; Luke 6:46; John 14:15)?

If Christian A or B were to drift away from Christ’s teaching, then the unity A and B had enjoyed with one another would be compromised.

The New Testament urges Christians to hold to the teaching they had received (Romans 16:17-18; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Timothy 1:13).

Which doctrine?

It has been asserted, “Doctrine divides, but Christ unites.” Yes, Christ does unite, but doctrine simply means teaching. Christ gave us His teaching (doctrine). That true teaching does not divide. It is false doctrine that causes division.

Christ’s true doctrine as revealed in the New Testament can and should serve as common ground for all of us.

If Christ’s doctrine so beautifully unified believers in the first century, why not today?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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