Biblical Truth #11: The Church
Most people when they imagine church they imagine three piece suits and ties, foot length dresses, old wooden pews, and a pastor shouting condemnation from the pulpit. This is a sad image that has thankfully begun to disappear as time passes, for the Bible portrays a radically different vision of church. In the New Testament, early Christians are seen to open their homes for each other. They offer all their lives to each other. They build each other up. They are a family. In fact, while they continue to meet on the regular basis by going to their synagogues, because of the joy in their hearts, they start meeting in homes on other days, even sharing meals with each other. It becomes apparent to these Christians that the church Jesus was describing was never a Sunday morning experience nor a physical building, but rather it was the gathering of the people, specifically the transformed followers of Jesus.
The Church’s Mission
The church is a small model of the kingdom of heaven discussed previously. In this church, there are elders who represent Christ. They are the shepherds that are to lead gently and to offer advice and to inspire others to better living. In the early church these elders were called Apostles. Most of the New Testament is comprised of letters written to churches that were confused or misled and needed correction from these Apostles on how to live as a godly church.
Paul, one of the chief writers, communicates the purpose of the church by focusing on unity under the head of Christ. The church is to be a light in the darkness, salt in a flavorless world. They are to be so united with one another that others notice that about them and desire that family connection. The joy that comes upon a believer is united with the joy of another and another until the light shining is so glorious that it is impossible to ignore. It is to be highly contagious, and easily set ablaze into the hearts of others. All this culminates in the verse “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19a). Christians are to invite others into their churches by discipling them. Paul explains the definition of discipling in Thessalonians saying that not only did he and his missionaries share the message of Jesus, but also their own lives in fellowship. Church then is about living out lives in service to the kingdom of heaven.
Thus, churches can involve themselves in programs for helping the poor. They can establish health care systems or food distribution, dig wells for the thirsty, and provide clothing for those that have none. They can do all these things not for the purpose of expanding their religion, but because the love that burns in their hearts compels them to do so. So the church acts as a living example of Jesus and brings hope to the hopeless. It shows compassion even as Christ did.
Sadly, not all churches have this mindset. Not all engage in this kingdom work. The Bible is full of letters that address these types of churches. The letters are very plain. Get back to the core of the gospel. “Return to your first love,” as Revelation puts it. It is the goal of all true believers to inspire these churches back to the gospel. When the light grows dimmer, the whole world is darker, and thus the whole world suffers. The Bible says we must be careful of the wolves in sheep’s clothing. No wonder Jesus said, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mathew 10:16).
Will you go to Heaven when you die? Here’s a quick test:
Q. Have you ever told a lie?
Q. Have you ever stolen anything?
Q. Have you ever used God’s name in vain?
Q. Have you ever lusted over someone?
Q. Have you ever hated someone?
If you have done these things, God sees you as a liar, a thief, a blasphemer, an adulterer-at-heart, and a murderer-at-heart. And this is only 5 of God’s Ten Commandments (a/k/a “God’s Law”). And the Bible warns that on the Day of Judgment, God will punish you in a terrible place called Hell. But, there is “good news”! God is not willing that any should perish. Sinners broke God’s Law, but Jesus paid their fine by shedding His sinless blood on a cross ~2,000 years ago. This means that God can legally dismiss their case (and yours!): “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Then Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death. Today, repent (turn away from your sins), put your complete trust in Jesus, and confess Jesus as your Lord & Savior… and God will give you eternal life as a free gift.
Contrary to popular belief, being a “good person”, doing “good deeds”, or being “religious” will not get you a ticket to heaven! Many people are hoping God will dismiss their sins because their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. They further hope that because God is “good” he will let them go unpunished and enter heaven. However, because God is “good” he must by nature punish sinners (i.e., God would not be a good judge if he let criminals go free). The Bible states: “There is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) The Bible also states: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) And finally, think about this, if your goodness could save you, Jesus would have died in vain (i.e., for no good reason). The Bible states: “I (Jesus) am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father (God) except through me. (John
14:6) Friends, please don’t “roll-the-dice” and gamble your eternal life on the life-threatening lie that being a “good person” will get you to heaven.
Here is a prayer you can use to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord & Savior. It is a suggested prayer – the key is that you are speaking from your heart.
“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me turn away from sin going forward. I believe that your Son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus into my heart and I confess him as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for sending your Holy Spirit to help me obey you, and to do your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
Congratulations! And welcome to God’s family!
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