What does the church of Jesus Christ really look like? Of course, I am not talking about the architectural style of the building in which it meets, but what a local body of believers looks like. We know the church should be sound in doctrine and zealous in proclaiming the gospel. But how does a sound church really function?
In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul gives us four specific prayer requests he had for the people of God. And all of them center around the person and work of Jesus Christ: that Christ’s Spirit give you strength, as Christ lives in you by faith, giving you an ever-deepening, familiar knowledge of Christ-love, that you may enjoy the very best, the fullness, of what God has to offer: Jesus!
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me“ (Psalm 23:4). We too often talk about God, without talking to God. We can give mental assent to certain Bible teaching – Jesus is Lord, Jesus is a Shepherd, Jesus is awesome – but not say to Jesus, “Rule my life as my Lord, be my Shepherd, help me to walk in awe of you!”
Worshiping God is both our duty and our privilege, no matter who we are. Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation with the biblical command, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). If Jesus would quote this command even to Satan, surely there is no one exempt from the force of its demands. This is because, as Psalm 95:6 reminds us, the call to worship our Lord God arises from the reality that he is “our maker.” Every creature owes the one Creator their worship.
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking we must choose between knowledge and passion; but in fact the two feed each other, especially in relation to Jesus (2 Peter 3:11-18). The more we learn about Jesus, the more we will love and trust him; on the other hand, it is impossible to genuinely love or truly trust someone you don’t even know (Matthew 11:28-29; Romans 10:14). This is why knowledge is so important. And this is why every Christian should be a dedicated, life-time learner. A heart cannot be renewed by knowledge that the head never took in.
“As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!“ (Psalm 40:17). I am poor and needy. Is that your self-description today? It is the reality, whether we recognize it or not. No matter how strong, healthy, or financially secure we may feel at the moment, we are poor and needy because we have nothing in ourselves. But at times we feel it much more keenly than at other seasons, don’t we? There are times when we might read this and wonder
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? … And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Such were some of you. On one hand, what sweet words these are to believers! The church is not for perfect people but for sin-scarred, once-blind, still struggling people.
“Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you“ (2 Thessalonians 3:1). In this single verse Paul reminds of the importance of two of the chief things God has given us to do in the world: prayer and proclaiming God’s Word, both for the glory of God. Pray! Pray for us as ministers of the gospel; but even your prayers for us are ultimately prayers for the advancement of the Word of God.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh” (Jonah 1:1-2). God spoke plainly to Jonah and instructed him to visit the capital city of Israel’s enemies with a message of repentance and, ultimately, grace. Yet Jonah refused. Why did Jonah — and why do we still today, as recipients of the Great Commission — disobey God?
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1). With these words, the Apostle Paul challenges his young protégé, Timothy, not to grow weary or weak as he endures for the sake of the gospel and the church in Ephesus. The church at this time was experiencing heavy persecution from the Ephesian culture around it, which had little interest in the gospel. But the church was also facing pressure from inside in the form of false teachers. The church, and Timothy, was pressed on all sides.
Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity (1 Corinthians 16:12). Even our very best plans often meet with significant snags. Many variables can conspire to derail our plans, but one in particular often proves a great help or hindrance in our efforts: people. Planning would be so easy if it weren’t for other people with other opinions! Pastoring, marriage, child-rearing, and evangelism would all be a cinch if you just didn’t have to
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The resurrection of Jesus is a pivotal point in human history. And it is, as Paul reminds us here, a pivotal point of the Christian message. Indeed, no one was more aware of, or insistent upon, its significance than Jesus himself.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30). The phrase Jesus uses here on the cross expressed a business transaction completed: “paid in full.” At the heart of trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation is the confidence that nothing else needs to be added to the price he paid, in his death, for our salvation. Do you live in the reality of a fully-paid salvation each day?
I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30). At first glance, the psalmist’s declaration may seem strange. How does one “magnify” the omniscient, omnipresent, almighty God who holds the universe in his hand? In other words, how can anyone make an everywhere-present God bigger?
In Deuteronomy 6:5-7 we are reminded that we cannot teach what we don’t know. We are told first, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (5), and then we are instructed to teach God’s Word diligently to our children (7). You cannot teach your children (or friends, or co-workers, or others you have opportunity to disciple) to love what you do not love yourself.