Today is Veterans Day.
As I think about the men who served our country, I also think about those who serve in the Lord’s Army.
As Christians, we need to know our enemy. Your enemy is not others in your congregation that you had a disagreement with. Your enemy is not the church down the road. Our enemy is not the people across the political aisle. The enemy is Satan – the devil. Starting today and for a few posts that follow I will be sharing things I think we need to know about Satan as our enemy. We begin with what those in Jesus’ day, His apostles and followers, and what Jesus himself said bout Satan:
- Mat 6:13 – Satan is the evil one.
Evil, it’s in the eyes!
- Mat 12:24 – Satan is the Prince of Demons.
- Mat 13:38-39 – He is the enemy that sows the weeds.
- Joh 8:44 – Satan is a murderer, liar, father of liars.
- Joh 12:31 – Is some ways the devil is the ruler of this world.
- 2Co 4:4 – As ruler Satan takes on the role of the god of this world.
- Eph 2:2 – Paul refers to him as the prince of power of the air.
- 1Th 3:5 – As the tempter, Satan puts our desires of the flesh right out of reach to draw us into his destruction.
- 1Pe 5:8 – More than a distant enemy, he is our adversary who is in our face.
- Rev 12:9 – Satan is the deceiver of the whole world, convincing the world that God is their enemy.
- Rev 12:10 – Jesus came to save the world from sin, Satan however is the accuser - the prosecuting counsel - desiring us to share in his suffering.
But remember, as a child of the King of kings “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).
Churches want to grow. Those that grow are contagious congregations that focus on people over programs. Growing churches reach their communities with the good news of salvation in Christ and keep people connected because they help people mature in their individual spirituality. These congregations bring people to Christ and assimilate them into the body of Christ – His Church. Are we that church? Are you helping the congregation you attend be that church?
Someone once suggested three categories of churches, one of which you are a part of. There are:
- Private Hospital Churches: These congregations seek to care for their own. Everything they do from programs, classes, fellowships, trips, groups, and even worship focuses solely on the needs of members. These churches have an inward focus; helping only those on the inside and those that come to their “hospital.”
- Army Churches: The congregations are constantly on the march. They move from one issue to the next. They seem to always have a fight on their hands. They fight doctrinal error in other churches, they fight political battles against society, and they sometimes even fight among themselves. There is always more ground to win and some to win back. They are always in battle, but might be missing the real war.
- M.A.S.H. Unit Churches: These congregations resemble an army on the march. However, they know that the enemy is Satan. These congregations carefully ensure that there are no victims of friendly fire. They understand that people are not the enemy, but sin is. They are on the march looking for and caring for the wounded. While advancing the Kingdom they recruit and train new people. These congregations equip members and send them to the front lines. Those who come for help, receive spiritual healing, training, and any needed rehabilitation so they can return to the front lines to fight against principalities, powers, and the forces of evil in this present age. M.A.S.H. Unit churches care for the souls of people.
May we strive to be a M.A.S.H. Unit Christian and together work to bring people to the healing blood of Christ.
Why do bad things happen to good people? This may be the most commonly asked question about God. One which some refer to as the “Achilles Heel” of Christianity. Why does a loving, all-powerful God allow suffering in His world?
First this is not the bell toll of death for Christianity that some make it out to be.
Here are my answers:
- We are mortal and live in a diseased and death environment. Mat 5:45b “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
- We are foolish and make poor decisions. Jam 4:1, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
- We are connected to and injured by others. Mat 2:16, “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”
- We are vulnerable and suffer from man’s inhumanity to man. Gens 4:8b, ” . . . Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.”
- We are righteous and darkness hates light. 2Ti 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
When God’s children suffer, we can trust that God will always do what is right (Gen 18:25). We can know that God will always work things out for the best, not always immediately, not on our time table, but in His infinite wisdom. Remember to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Pro 3:5).
Buildings, attendance, history, social programs, benevolence programs, outreach efforts, mission events, youth or children’s ministries, and membership involvement opportunities. These are many of the suggestions I read about from church growth experts on a regular basis. Admittedly, each one of these has merit. Yet, even if a church is doing all these things, they could be like the church in Sardis having “the reputation of being alive, but (being) dead.” (Rev 3:1).
Further, as I look at these ideas, I realize a group does not have to be a church to have or do them. They can be a group called, “The Society of People Making Life Better for Others” the SPMLBO. There must be something about being Christ’s Church that should make us unique. There must be something that makes us greater.
What makes for a great church?
- A great church has Purpose; a Great Purpose. That purpose is to make known the good news of salvation through the blood of Jesus the Christ. It is this Gospel message that makes us unique (cf. Act 1:8, 2:21-36, 1Co 15:1-4).
- A great church has Power; the Great Power of God. The same power that spoke the universe into existence. The same power that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The power that parted the Red Sea, the Jordan, and raised Jesus from the grave is the power of God that He uses for our blessing and benefit so that we can fulfill our purpose. (cf. Eph 2:20-21, Phil 4:13).
- A great church as Passion; great passion to work God’s great purpose. God will accomplish His purpose and willingly provides the power we need, if we have the passion to work His will. (cf. Est 4:13-14, Eph 2:8-10). We need passion to seek and save the lost. We need passion to help those in need. Passion is necessary to keep each other strong. A sacrificial lifestyle takes a strong convicting passion. This is who Jesus was and what He calls us too.
- Will you be part of making the Church great?
This coming Sunday at Central, we will complete a series from 1 Peter entitled, “Christ-Centered Christians.” Of these fives chapters the lesson that stands out to me is from 1 Peter 2 when the apostle describes Christians with these terms:
- a holy priesthood
A certain former child I know, being . . . different.
- a chosen race
- A royal priesthood
- a holy nation
- a people of God’s own possession
- God’s people.
As God’s people, as the Church, God has called us out of the world and into the Kingdom of His Son. God separates us as His children as a special people for a special purpose. As separate we are DIFFERENT!
- Different by Birth. We are “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;” (1Pe 1:23). So as “newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation,” (1Pe 2:2). Our birth is different. We are not children of God by the right of nationality (Americans or Israelis). We are not children of God through our physical families. But we are His family by obedience to His Word.
- Different by Belief. We believe in the Stone the builders rejected. We believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed of God, God’s Son by birth, and therefore the only hope and Savior of sinful man. (1Pe 2:7). Jesus is more that man or prophet, He is the only way to God (John 14:6).
- Different by Behavior. Look at Peter’s own words, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1Pe 2:11-12). We are different in the way we act. We are to avoid what endangers our soul. We are to conduct ourselves with honesty, fairness, caution, righteousness, love, and in a general Christ-like manner. People will see our difference. We will be a shining light in a world darkened by sin (Mat 5:14-16).
So I dare you. I double dare you. No I double dog dare you to be different. I challenge you to live daily for Christ.
From a purely doctrinal and linguistic point of view, the church is those called out by God. The word translated church is a word describing a group of purposefully assembled people. But that is not the answer I wanted to share to today’s question.
What is the Church?
According to the writers of the New Covenant as guided by the Holy Spirit the Church is:
- The Bride of Christ – Eph 5:32
- The Household of God – 1 Tim 3:15
- The Body of Christ – Col 1:22-23
- The present Kingdom – Mat 16:18; Col 1:13
Yet, there is more to the concept of the church. The church is:
- People who belong to (are in) Christ.
- People who stand saved by Grace through Faith.
- Imperfect people trying to glorify a perfect God.
- Worshippers of the God of Salvation.
- Sinners Anonymous – well not so anonymous come to think of it.
- People who encourage each other and receive encouragement – Heb 3:13.
- People of Prayer
- People committed to Christ and His mission – Luk 19:10.
Are you in His Church?