Monthly Archives: July 2009

What is the church?

1) 1 Cor. 2:13 says God has used “spiritual terms” to communicate “spiritual truths.”
2) If we are going to know God and know what is right, there are some words we need to know.
3) One of the words on God’s vocabulary list is the word “church.”
4) This is the word we want to think about this morning. What is the church?
5) The church is a “spiritual body.”
a) The world often understands the word “church” as a physical structure.
b) People “go to church” to worship.
6) The church is not a place where go; the church is a body of people.
7) The church is a group of people that is closely connected to Jesus Christ.
a) One might think that if Jesus is the head of the church, there will not be any problems.
b) If the head (Christ) is perfect, will not the body (the church) be perfect? No.
c) In 1 Cor. 11:18 Paul said the Corinthians were gathering “in the church.”
8) Archaeology suggests that church buildings as we know them were built about 100 years after Acts 2.

9) As we look at Corinth, we see the word “church” being used in the sense of a local congregation.
10) There was the church at Thessalonica, the churches of Galatia, the church at Philippi, etc.
11) In addition to describing a local congregation, the word “church” is used in some other ways.
a) Sometimes this term describes all the saved.
b) Listen to what Paul said in Eph. 5:23 – READ
c) Jesus is the “savior of the church.”
12) This point is not well understood by the world.
a) The world often struggles with knowing who is in the church and who is not.
b) At funerals it is common to hear a preacher to speak of a non-religious person in a favorable way.
c) Eph. 5 tells us that Jesus is the savior of the church (those who are in Jesus’ spiritual body).
13) Someone might say, “How do I come to Christ and this thing called the church?
14) We first have to be taught.
a) This is what we see in Acts 2, a place that mentions the church.
b) Acts 2:22.
c) Peter said, “hear these words.” What words, Peter? “Jesus of Nazareth.”
15) A time came when Jesus died – verse 23 – READ
a) Acts 20:28 adds that Christ “purchased the church with His blood.”
b) In Acts 20 church and Christ go together, just as we find in Acts 2.
16) Verse 32 in this chapter – READ
17) Jesus has been “raised up.” What is the Lord doing now since He is no longer in the grave?
18) We heard one of His activities earlier from Eph. 5 – He is now the head of His church.
19) This information was shocking news for these people on the Day of Pentecost.
20) Verse 37 – READ
21) Earlier it was noted how we must come to Christ. Verse 38 – READ
22) These people wanted to do what was right – let’s see what these believers did – verse 41 – READ
23) Christ was preached; do we see the church in this chapter?
24) Verse 47 – READ
25) The “Lord” (Jesus) “added to them.”
26) What would Jesus be adding people to? What institution is Jesus in charge of?
27) We have already answered this question from Eph. 5—it is the church.

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Overcome evil by being good

The story is told of a motorcycle patrolman who was rushed to the hospital with an inflamed appendix. The doctors operated and advised him that all was well. However, the patrolman kept feeling something pulling at the hairs on his chest. Worried that it might be a second surgery the doctors hadn’t told him about, he finally got enough energy to pull his hospital gown down enough so he could look at what was making him so uncomfortable.

Taped firmly across his hairy chest were three wide strips of adhesive tape, the kind that doesn’t come off easily. Written in large black letters was the sentence. “Get well quick ….. from the nurse you gave a ticket to last week.”

There is a part of us that is anxious to repay someone else for hurt they may have caused us in the past. We almost view it as a virtue in our culture to “get even”, to refuse to be someone else’s doormat, to stand up for our rights. The result is that while any Christian qualities are viewed favorably in the world, the quality of a forgiving spirit is seen by many as a sign of weakness. But the words of Paul are clear: “Repay no one evil for evil….Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath….Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans
12:17,19,21).

It is a natural response to repay evil with evil, but that is not a quality of Jesus Christ and it must not be a quality of those of us who are his followers. So, how do you treat those who have done you wrong? Don’t respond by telling me how you treat your friends. Jesus says that anybody can do that (Matt. 5:46). That doesn’t make you any different from an atheist or a heathen. The question is, are we willing to strive to have a quality that will quickly set us apart as a follower of Jesus Christ?

That’s not an easy path to follow, but then again, Jesus never promised that it would be!

–Alan Smith

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Skankoween

Have you heard someone use the above word? If not, you have probably seen what it means. Kids who go out “trick or treating” are dressing in provocative clothing. Scary has been replaced with sexy in the costumes of people, especially the young. Modest has been swapped out for mini. Fun has been turned into flirty and foxy. This practice has gotten to the point where various media outlets are now paying attention to it.

If you are a parent–and especially a Christian parent–let Christ and the Bible be your directive for proper clothing choice 365 years a day. There is no “night off” for modesty and that includes tomorrow (such is especially true in the summer months). At work or play live as a Christian example and teach your children to do the same. We cannot control what the world does, but we can be responsible for ourselves and our families

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PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE?

The story is told of a Russian named Ivanovich who visited the Moscow zoo for the first time. To his amazement, he found a little lamb sharing the cage with a big fierce lion.

Ivanovich expressed surprise to his guide. The guide smiled and said, “That is peaceful coexistence.”

When Ivanovich shook his head in a doubtful way, the guide explained, “Of course, we have to put in a fresh lamb every morning.”

As much as we should strive for peace, there are some things which simply cannot coexist peacefully — truth and error, righteousness and ungodliness, morality and immorality. If we try to combine two such things in our lives, they will only coexist “peacefully” only if one gobbles up the other. That’s why James was so forceful in his warning:

“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4, NASB)

This verse frightens me more than just about any verse in the entire Bible, because I see the influence that “the world” has on me and on Christians around me. We have just as much interest in accumulating “things” as the world does. We often don’t do a better job of taking care of those in need than the world does. We worry just as much as the world does. We value the same things as the world does. We imitate the world to such an extent that if you were to go into an average workplace and ask the boss, “Which of these men and women working for you are Christians?”, he wouldn’t be able to identify us.

Let us beware lest we make the mistake of thinking that our association with and imitation of “the world” doesn’t affect our relationship with God. Some things can’t live in peaceful coexistence, and “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”!

Alan Smith

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SHARING WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU

What is the most important thing to you in your life? Normally, after spending just a few minutes with someone you will know the answer to that question. You will hear about their children or grand children. Perhaps they will tell you about their club or social network group. It could be that you will learn very quickly about their love for or involvement with some sport. The point is that we are anxious to share what is of real interest to us or of real importance. It’s not a problem for us to learn the rules to the games, to learn the player’s names, the type of crocheted patterns you like or the hunting or fishing technique you especially like. We share what is important to us!

Think about this: Some years ago a commuter on the Long Island Railroad was know to every regular rider of the 5 p.m. local run. He was a well dressed, soft spoken young man who lived at Jamaica. Every evening after the train left the subway; he would stand up and go to the front of the car. He would speak to every passenger, saying, “Excuse me; but if any of your family or friends are blind, tell them to consult Dr. Garl. He restored my sight.”

You see, he was sharing what was really important to him with courage and confidence. He didn’t argue or try to persuade anyone he was right. He told each person about the one who had opened his eyes. He had good news and he shared it with everyone he could.

Each of us who profess to be Christians have good news even more important to share! Why don’t we do more of it? After Jesus healed the man possessed with many demons in Mark 5 notice what took place: “When Jesus got back into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go, too. But Jesus said, ‘No, go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been’.” (V. 18-19)

How often do we remember what wonderful things the Lord has done for us or how merciful he has been to us? Far too often we take it for granted, it seems it is normal for us as humans to forget, even when great things are done for us. Could it be time to recommitting yourself today, to begin sharing the Good News with others around you whenever you have the opportunity?

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JUSTICE OR MERCY?

I heard about an 80-year-old woman who was arrested for shoplifting. When she went before the judge in Cincinnati he asked her, “What did you steal?”

She replied “A can of peaches.”

The judge asked her why she had stolen the can of peaches and she replied that she was hungry. The judge then asked her how many peaches were in the can.

She replied, “Six.”

The judge said, “Then I will give you six days in jail.” Before the judge could actually pronounce the punishment, the woman’s husband spoke up and asked the judge if he could say something.

The judge said, “What is it?”

The husband said, “She also stole a can of peas.”

It’s so true that whenever others are found guilty, we want to make sure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I sometimes ask people the question, “Do you want a judge (or a police officer) who shows mercy or one who administers justice?” The answer I get is almost always the same — if we are standing before the judge or pulled over by the police officer, we want mercy; if others are standing there, we want justice.

The interesting thing about God is that He is perfect in His justice while at the same time full of mercy. How can He be both? When we are guilty of sin, He finds us guilty to the full extent of the law. The penalty for our sin is death — spiritual death, separation from God (Romans 6:23). But, in His mercy, God has found a way to pay the price Himself.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Praise God for being the just and holy God that He is, but praise Him as well for being full of grace and mercy.

— Alan Smith

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A study of the apostle Peter

HE WASN’T EXACTLY a great prospect…

His resume had some rather obvious “gaps” in it. He was an uneducated (Acts 4:13) fisherman (Matthew 4:18). He was quick-tempered (John 18:10; Matthew 26:50-51), impetuous and impulsive. He was prone to break his word (Mark 14:29; Matthew 26:74). He made promises that he didn’t keep; in fact, he lied. He started things that he didn’t finish (Matthew 14:28-30). He was prone to fear and doubt (Matthew 14:30-31). He couldn’t always be counted on in a pinch (Mark 14:53-54). He could be cowardly (Luke 22:54-60a) and undependable (Matthew 26:40-41; Mark 14:37). He couldn’t always control his tongue (Mark 14:71). He couldn’t always see the “big picture” (Matthew 16:23; John 18:11), but was often preoccupied with the urgent and immediate. He was a narrow-minded racist (Acts 2:39; 10:13-14; Galatians 2:11-14) and a male chauvinist (John 4:27).

Let’s be brutally honest—Simon Peter (Matthew 16:17; John 21:15-17) wasn’t “the right man” for leading the early church. Right? The Lord needed an entirely different breed of man. He required an uncommon stock—a man with minor blemishes, a near-perfect specimen, a spiritual giant. He needed a man with a long track record of spirituality and maturity—or did He (Luke 6:12-14a)?

At Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ, there was Peter—boldly preaching the first Gospel sermon with his fellow apostles (Acts 2:14, 38)! Yes, Peter! However, it didn’t stop there. The very same man who fled for his life when he was identified as a disciple of the Lord was the very same man who, despite the threat of imprisonment, fearlessly proclaimed the risen Lord (Acts 3:11-4:20, 29-31). When the counsel commanded him not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, this once reluctant disciple replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (cf. Acts 5:29).

Think for just a moment; how can we account for this incredible transformation? How did this milque-toast Galilean fisherman become a notable force in the kingdom of the first century? How did he get from catching fish to catching men? How did Simon get to be Cephas (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Galatians 2:9) the Aramaic for “stone” (John 1:42)? How did this common man with an unsubmissive personality become a rock-like leader—one of the greatest preachers among the apostles and in every sense the dominant figure in the first twelve chapters of Acts? Most significantly, what does Peter tell us about ourselves? Consider the following:

1. No matter what your previous background, the Lord can use you as a vessel in His service. Our faults can be molded and fashioned into virtue. Failure yesterday is not necessarily fatal tomorrow. Weakness can become strength. “Mustard-seed faith” (Matthew 17:20; Mark 4:31; Luke 13:19; 17:6) can be enhanced to move mountains. “[The Lord] specializes in transforming hearts, redirecting our self-centered energy, and reshaping our raw talent and abilities to achieve His purposes in the world” [Gene A. Getz, “Peter,” The Apostles, 21- 22]. This He did for Peter, and this He can do with/for you. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10; cf. Isaiah 64:8).

2. It takes time to become the person Jesus wants you to become. Evolving a Christ-like spirit is a l e n g t h y process (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18; cf. Hebrews. 5:12ff). No one is shaped into a leader overnight. Peter certainly wasn’t. In fact, approximately twenty years after his service during the Lord’s personal ministry, Peter as an apostle, a Gospel preacher and an elder (1 Peter 5:1) still needed some “internal refinement” (Galatians 2:11-12). Whenever the Jews came to visit, Peter only ate with the Jews. However, when the Jews went home, he practiced open fellowship with his Gentile [uncircumcised] brethren and ate with them. Paul immediately recognized Peter’s hypocrisy and rebuked his fellow-apostle to his face (Galatians 2:14). Isn’t that ironic? In Acts 2, on the birthday of the church, Peter had taught, “…For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off [i.e., Gentiles]…” (v. 39). Then some eight-to-ten years later it took a vision from heaven (Acts 10:9-16) to convince him that God, in fact, accepted all men—including Gentiles—into the faith (Acts 10:34-35; 11:18). Later yet [perhaps another eight-to-ten years] in Galatians 2, Peter still struggled with the concept of the Gentile equality. He was a slow learner. You might say he suffered from SADD—spiritual attention deficit disorder. Growth was an incremental element for Peter. The same is true for each of us today.

3. Jesus seeks a willing spirit. Peter’s problem wasn’t his lack of desire and zeal; it was how he employed these qualities that often got him into trouble. One of the reasons Jesus chose Peter was because he was a man of devotion, determination and passion.* Granted, his passion was misdirected at times, but once Peter came to terms with the concept of the risen Lord (1 Peter 1:3), that same fervency was channeled in a very constructive and powerful way.

The good news is—the Lord sees beyond what we are to what we can become. We see spiritual resumes that are tarnished by transgression, failure and neglect (Romans 3:23). We see rank sinners; Jesus sees holy saints. We see humiliation; Jesus sees exaltation. We see despair; Jesus sees a living hope. We see Simon the crumbling disciple; Jesus saw Peter the rock-solid leader who would help stabilize the first century church.

Dear friend, are you looking for a job? Do you feel incapable? Is your work-history marred by defeat? Yes? Great! You automatically qualify. The Lord is hiring new laborers at this very moment! You can start your new work now (Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 4:16). (Mike Benson)

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