We began our core class at our church, Severns Valley, for spring 2016 this past week. It is going to be so helpful as we look at scripture and understand who the church is and why it is so important to Jesus. I always take notes. I thought I’d share some things, for those of you who didn’t get to make it to the first week. I also am elaborating a bit on a few of my own thoughts. Bill doesn’t let me preach, so I write.
There are many things that drive churches today. Here are a few; tradition, personality, finances, programs, seekers, buildings. The effective churches are driven, not by any of those things, but, instead, by scripture. We need a first century church in the 21st century! In the Old Testament God had a temple for his people, but in the New Testament God has people for his temple. It’s time to stand up, speak the truth in love, and support the church that Jesus died for. It is the delicate balance of truth and grace. We must stand firm on the truth of scripture but we must also extend grace and love prayerfully.
Matthew 16:13-18 (ESV) “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
It is overwhelming to hear that 86% of evangelical churches are plateaued or in sharp decline in America. That bothers me. It is so common to hear people say this, “We hate the hypocrisy we see in the church.” Sadly, they also blindly fail to see the hypocrisy in their own lives. We are all hypocrites, if we claim that we’ve got this all worked out. If you have put someone on a pedestal above Jesus then I’m afraid you are in for a hard crash. It’s only Jesus that allows us the power to behave like Him. Everyone will disappoint us at one time or another, if given enough time. Jesus is the only one who never disappoints. It’s this part of our salvation that we continue to work out in this body of flesh. Someday we will be complete and whole — we will be glorified — but for this moment we are at war to defeat the anguish brought about by our sin in this world. This process is called sanctification, becoming like Christ, allowing Him to make us like Himself. We are in a spiritual battle and the enemy comes against us hard, especially when we are serious about growing in Christ. We are in a war and Satan wants to kill, steal and destroy you. We have the victory only in Jesus. (John 10:10)
I was just talking to my daughter Rachel and she told me that Sam, our 10 month old is getting his big sister’s milk cup — and drinking it whenever he has opportunity. He’s on a mission to find the milk. He is a big, solid, strong, determined boy. He is still on formula until his first birthday in March, but he thinks he’s ready for cow’s milk. He may think he is, but it’s Rachel who gets to make that call, not Sam. I think sometimes we try to get ahead of God too. We think we are more spiritually ready than we really are. We take on too much too soon when what we really need to be doing is sitting at the feet of Jesus. We continually get acts of service mixed up with spiritual maturity. We venture out there without having had the foundation of Biblical teaching. You gotta finish drinking that formula first, my friend. We must be grounded and strong in order to handle the attacks the enemy will bring our way. You need deep roots to have ripe fruit like Psalm 1 speaks of. It is a walk of faith everyday of our lives … impossible without depending on Him for every breath we take.
I Peter 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
You are chosen, royal, holy … we are His own! We’ve been called out of darkness into his marvelous light! Once we weren’t a people but now we are. Once we had no mercy but now we have received mercy!! This is great news for us. Rejoice today in these truths. God always uses seemingly unlikely people when he wants something done. It is always a human instrument, dependent on him, he chooses to accomplish his purpose. Are you willing to let him use you? It may surprise you at what he can do if you just let him.
We are the church and Christ died for us. I think many people really are confused about exactly what the church is. That is why I’m really glad, my husband, Pastor Bill, is teaching on it this spring. We’d love to have you join us Wednesday nights at 6:00pm.