Commit Yourself to the Church!

Commit to Your Church
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Why We Commit Ourselves to the Church

Priorities are a part of our daily lives. We generally prioritize our days according to our work schedules and if we are retired we prioritize our lives according to our grandchildren and our desires to travel. Priorities are necessary as we live our daily lives because if we don’t have a routine, then we tend not to have direction for ourselves. The same rests with our commitment to the church. If there is a priority that all of us need, it’s being an active member of a church!

Pastor Chris Russell of Veritas Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, gives four important reasons why we should commit ourselves to the church. First, he writes that “the local church is a central part of God’s strategic plan” for our spiritual growth. It is imperative that we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) according to the Scripture. Second, Russell says that “you are basically a composite of the five people with who you spend the most time.” If you are spending time with people who are not part of a church, then most likely you will become like those people—and this includes a non-active member or no member at all. Next, he says that “you need the voice of the church to counteract all the deception that is crammed into your mind all throughout the week.” How true! There are so many different messages that can easily draw us away from Christ. Finally, Russell writes that a “weekly ministry in a local church helps to build up your spiritual muscles.” All of us need help to be strong in the faith. There is no such thing as a Lone Ranger or lone wolf mentality in the church. [1]

As Dr. Chuck Lawless, Dean of Doctoral Studies and Vice President of Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina says, when we are active members of the church we come to realize how God brought us together and that everybody is important. It helps us to know that when we give it’s not just about financial giving, but giving ourselves fully to the church. it is about being a part of a family but it doesn’t mean that we know everything about each other or everything in the church. we grow to love our church, but we also realize that the church doesn’t belong to us but to our Lord Jesus Christ! And even though there are many volunteers in the church, the church helps us to discover that serving the church is not optional—all of us have spiritual gifts given us by the Lord to use to help each other as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. And finally, Lawless says that “we want you to come, but we’re going to challenge you to go!” we want you to be an active part of the church but at the same time we want you to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). [2]

The Editorial Director of 9Marks and an elder at Cheverly Baptist Church in Cheverly, Maryland answers the question “What is church membership?” this way: “It’s a declaration of citizenship in Christ’s kingdom. It’s a passport. It’s an announcement made in the pressroom of Christ’s kingdom. It’s the declaration that a professing individual is an official, licensed, card-carrying, bona fide Jesus representative.” [3]

Christ’s Mystery Is Revealed (Ephesians 3:1-7)

All of us like a mystery! We like to figure out what happened in a whodunnit or try to see what’s going to happen next when it comes to scary movie. And, quite frankly, if we have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then we’re also wondering about the mystery of Jesus Christ. Paul the apostle first tells us in Ephesians 3:1-7 that this mystery being revealed is for the sake of the Gentiles. And the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you, Paul says, was also given by revelation. This revelation is by God through the Holy Spirit and now he is explaining it to his readers so when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ. When sometimes mysteries are not identifiable or made known, the mystery of Christ can and is made known to us by Paul.

So what is this mystery? That we are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Paul, being a Jewish scholar, understands the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament. They were given the revelation through the prophets that the Lord is our God, the Lord is one! (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4) They were to be shining examples to the world that God is who He says that He is. He also knows that God has given Israel a new covenant that I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (cf. Jeremiah 31:31). This covenant is given to Israel but it is so they can then invite both Jews and Gentiles to be a part of this new covenant. This is how we as Gentiles become fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel! And because this mystery has been revealed, and because we are now partakers of the new covenant, we ought to commit ourselves to the church knowing that the mystery of Christ is now revealed.

God’s Manifold Wisdom Made Known (Ephesians 3:8-13)

Paul continues to speak of how the unfathomable riches of Christ is being preached to the Gentiles. In preaching this message of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Paul is now bringing to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God. It is God who created all things and now He is revealing the mystery of the unity of Jews and Gentiles alike. And this manifold wisdom of God is now made known through the church! This is another reason why we commit ourselves to the church so that we can let the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places know that God is who He says that He is and that we are His and we have His mystery revealed to and in us!

Another aspect of the mystery of Jesus Christ is that this was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus Christ has fulfilled everything that the Father desired for Him to do and we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him to come to the Father! Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8 that this faith we have is given to us by God’s grace. And what grace it is to be able to be a fellow heir and fellow member of the body, and fellow partaker of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel! This is why we commit ourselves to the church!

Unity of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-7)

Being fellow heir and fellow member of the body, and fellow partaker of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel compels us now to be unified together as the church. However, we are not just unified with each other, but Paul teaches us that we are now unified in the Holy Spirit! And since we are unified in the Holy Spirit, we need to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. Then Paul teaches us how to walk in this manner by listing how we should then live:

  • Walk in humility and gentleness
  • Walk in patience
  • Walk by showing tolerance for one another in love
  • Walk by being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

The reason we walk in the unity of the Holy Spirit together as the church is because:

  • There is one body
  • There is one Spirit
  • There is one hope of our calling
  • There is one Lord
  • There is one faith
  • There is one baptism
  • There is one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all

To have the unity of the Holy Spirit means that we are not just one with Him but we are one with each other living according to the grace that was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift of eternal life that we have received. It is something that He has done because He is our peace (cf. Ephesians 2:14). And there is no greater time for us to commit ourselves to the church in order to live in this oneness that He has given us through and by His Holy Spirit.

Now what?

Let’s commit ourselves today to the church of which we are a part. Let’s be faithful to Him first and foremost and then to each other. Let’s be faithful to Him knowing that He has been faithful to us. Let’s commit ourselves to the church because He is who He says that He is and we are now fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel!

[1] https://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/chris-russell/commitment-ain-t-what-it-used-to-be.html accessed 02/26/2020.

[2] http://chucklawless.com/2018/08/10-axioms-of-church-membership/ accessed 02/26/2020.

[3] https://www.9marks.org/article/what-is-church-membership/ accessed 02/26.2020.

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Having Gospel Conversations*

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SPEAK UP!

It’s a challenge for any of us to actually speak up — especially in the middle of a crowd! But Jesus Christ calls us to speak up and to tell others the truth of the Good News. Peter the apostle did this in Acts 2:14 when he raised his voice and declares the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time.

Here, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. Those present heard “a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (2:1). This is the moment that the Holy Spirit came and “there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance” (2:3, 4). God used this miraculous act to bring this Good News of Jesus Christ to the people, through the apostles.

However, the people surrounding them—Jews living in Jerusalem and devout men from every nation under heaven—came together when they heard this sound and were confused. These men who were uneducated, were speaking in the different languages represented by all the people who were in Jerusalem at this time (2:6-12). Others (were) mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine” (2:13).

No matter the many wonderful things we are through the Lord Jesus Christ, some will be amazed and some will doubt and make fun of us.

When this happens, speak up just like Peter does! He tells the people to give heed to my words (2:14) and begins to preach this first apostolic sermon. I’m not saying that all of us will be preachers, but we are all called to be proclaimers! We are each called to stand up and speak the Good News to people. We are called to speak up, through the power of the Spirit.

SPEAK THE WORD OF GOD

While we do have the Holy Spirit with us, it doesn’t give us an excuse to not be prepared. When we have an opportunity to speak up, we need to be prepared to share God’s Word!

Peter had a unique situation because He was watching prophecy become real before his eyes. He tells the people, both those listening and not, that God’s word is being fulfilled at that very moment. Quoting Joel 2:28-32, he basically says that This is the message! This is God’s word being fulfilled! The disciples have had the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them, and they are proclaiming; people believe; and slaves and free people are receiving dreams and prophesying. Peter simply shows the people that God’s Word is being fulfilled.

When we speak up, we don’t need to have the best seminary degrees or know what’s going to happen next. We simply need to speak the Word of God as clearly as we are able.

It’s the idea of salting and peppering our daily language with Scripture that we know. It’s showing people that God’s Word is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword… able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart(cf. Hebrews 4:12). People must see the truth living inside of us!

People seeing that you are changed and bold will make them curious, compelling them to ask “Why?” and then, “Why not me?” as the Lord leads.

SPEAK GOD’S PLAN FOR SALVATION

Speaking God’s word means that we are speaking His plan for salvation.

Peter tells the people that Jesus attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs, which God performed through Him in your midst (Acts 2:22). These miracles and wonders and signs are proof of who Jesus the Nazarene is: He is God.. And those who were in Jerusalem knew of Jesus the Nazarene. But Peter reveals something that these people may not have known: this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death (2:23). First, this is what God has planned from eternity. Second, God intended to redeem mankind this way. And third, mankind is responsible for Jesus’ death!

This was not a popular message in Peter’s day – it’s not popular today! – but he spoke truth. The reality is: mankind is why Jesus Christ died. If the story stopped there, then there’s no hope for anyone!

Peter says that God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it is impossible for Him to be held in its power (2:24)!  God raised Jesus from the dead. Death is defeated. Death can’t do one thing to Jesus Christ. And because He lives, we can live in Him (cf. Galatians 2:20).

SPEAK OF JESUS CHRIST’S RESURRECTION.

Why is the resurrection so important to speak?

If our Lord Jesus Christ had never been raised from the dead, then He would not have been exalted to the right hand of God. The promise of the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have been poured forth on Pentecost (Acts 2:33). Jesus promised His disciples He would live; if He wasn’t resurrected, He would have been lying to His disciples; but He is the Second Person of the Trinity, and it is impossible for God to lie (cf. Hebrews 6:18).  Therefore, David prophesies that Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God and the Father says to the Son, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet” (Acts 2:33-35).

We know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36). We can speak confidently that our Lord and Savior is the resurrected Son, and those who believe upon Him shall be saved.

We must speak up and tell the Word of God, the message of Salvation, namely, that Jesus is alive!

Who’s your one? Who will you share this message with? Let’s pray that each of us will commit ourselves to share this hope in Christ with those we come across this week!

* With Nicole Gentry

 

The Weight of Glory*

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C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity:

“Enemy-occupied territory — that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” As we live among the world, we are called to engage with this world, to sabotage the evil and raise the name of our righteous King Jesus!

LIVING IN THIS WORLD

Living in a fallen world isn’t easy to do, and we cannot be weak in our walks with the Lord. Paul the apostle encourages us in 2 Corinthians 4:16, that we be renewed daily in the Lord Jesus Christ. Many days, it may feel like the world around you is against you, or that you are tired from the ministry He has asked you to do. But Paul says that this “daily renewing” is what causes us continue in the work God has given us to do.

Sometimes, we will face pain and suffering, but in light of the weight of glory that awaits us, nothing compares (4:17). We don’t need to be discouraged if we see our lives and the world through eternity (4:18). We do live in an earthly “tent” for now – the tent will be tossed by the wind, hurt in the storms, but rebuilt through joy and encouragement. Even through this process, we can look forward to that eternal building from God, a house not made with hands (5:1). We groan here, longing for home and for the life we were created for — but we can put on the eternal now so we won’t be ashamed during these days or when we meet our Savior.

WALKING IN THE SPIRIT
This home is only temporary, but our eternal home is permanent (5:2-4)! Now, since God has given us a preview of the eternal and we can see a glimmer of eternity, He has prepared us! All of our responsibilities and work is from God; He has prepared us for His very purpose, and has given us His Spirit as a promise (5:5). All that He has done, is doing, and will do in us is guaranteed — His Holy Spirit will help us live this way. We prefer to be with Jesus Christ in glory. For to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord (5:6-8). But we can live with courage and not lose heart when we walk by faith and not by sight!

LIVING FOR JESUS 
Our goal must be to please our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (5:6-9). In our thoughts, with our words, and in our deeds — our entire life is called to reflect Jesus and show the lost world that He changes people. When we face the judgment seat of Christ (5:10), we will be paid for what we’ve done in this life, those good works that we have done which He has prepared beforehand for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We also will be paid for what we’ve done against His will. I don’t know what this will look like, but this verse very clearly states that we will answer for everything.

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men (5:11). 

Knowing both who Jesus Christ is as Judge and who we are as sinful man, we work. The people we are interacting with everyday, see us for who we are — or they should see us as whose we are! If people think we are crazy for believing what we believe, let them. But if they see and believe — THAT is the reason to share the Gospel (5:12, 13)! We also speak about Jesus because the love of Christ controls us (5:14) and because He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf (5:14, 15). Jesus did this work so that men and women and boys and girls can live forever. Let that motivate you and me to live intentionally and speak His name.

REACHING ONE
When ONE comes to Jesus Christ, he or she is transformed by God (5:17)! Paul had been lost, persecuting Christ’s followers, but was transformed into one who spoke words of life. His attitudes and actions all changed because of Jesus. Christ removed the rebellion in Paul’s heart and reconciled, or made him right, by His own sacrifice (5:18, 19). We no longer represent ourselves; we represent the One to whom all glory, honor, blessing, and praise belongs!

We represent Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world — a world full of guilt, sin, and shame. As we go, we must wear Jesus’ name intentionally so that people can see how He has changed us.

And what has He done for you? He has taken your sin upon Himself and clothed you and me, given or imputed to us, His own righteousness. This is why we plead with others: “Come; know Him unto salvation, so that you can live forever with Him!”

Commit yourself today and tomorrow to be an ambassador, a messenger, for Jesus Christ!

*With Nicole Gentry.

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