Through Many Tribulations We Must Enter The Kingdom of God

Some believers are very surprised when they are called to suffer. They thought they would do some great thing for God, but all God permits them to do is to suffer. Just suppose you could speak with those who have gone to be with the Lord; everyone has a different story, yet everyone has a tale of suffering. One was persecuted by family and friends…another was inflicted with pain and disease, neglected by the world…another was bereaved of children…another had all these afflictions. But you will notice that though the water was deep, they all have reached the other side. Not one of them blames God for the road He led them; ‘Salvation’ is their only cry. Are there any of you, dear children, murmuring at your lot? Do not sin against God. This is the way God leads all His redeemed ones.

 Robert McCheyne

Advertisements

Most Important In A Church

The first mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching.  It is not only the first mark; it is far and away the most important of them all, because if you get this one right, all of the others should follow… If you get the priority of the Word established, then you have in place the single most important aspect of the church’s life, and growing health is virtually assured, because God has decided to act by His Spirit through His Word… The congregation’s commitment to the centrality of the Word coming from the front, from the preacher, the one specially gifted by God and called to that ministry, is the most important thing you can look for in a church.

Mark Dever (Nine Marks of a Healthy Church)

Dr. David Powlison – Building Intimacy with a Spouse Who Has Different Interests than Yours

Grow in grace

The way to open our hearts to others is by receiving afresh the grace of God and appreciating what it means: seeing our own need of Christ; coming to receive His mercy; sensing how undeserved His love for us is; remembering how He has also opened His heart to those whose hearts are closed against us. Then we will see that the heart which is too narrow to receive a fellow Christian is too narrow to enthrone the Lord Jesus Christ. But the heart that is opened to receive the grace of Christ will learn to welcome all those whom Christ Himself has welcomed. 

 Sinclair B. Ferguson (Grow in Grace)

“Close the front door and open the back door”

 

I reviewed some of the church growth material coming from our denominational headquarters. One publication said that, in order to get our churches growing again, we should “open the front doors and close the back doors”… What we actually need to do is to close the front door and open the back door!  If we really want to see our churches grow, we need to make it harder to join and we need to be better about excluding people. We need to be able to show that there is a distinction between the church and the world –  that it means something to be a Christian. If someone who claims to be a Christian refuses to live as a Christian should live, we need to follow what Paul said and, for the glory of God and for that person’s own good, we need to exclude him or her form membership in the church.

 Mark Dever  Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Crossway, 2000, p. 156-157.

Wrong Direction

Sadly, the influence has been in the wrong direction, as we see evidence that our culture has begun to permeate our churches. The church is seduced by the social agenda of wealth and pleasure, and has condoned sinful compromises. There is moral decay within the church, with highly publicized scandals involving ministers, and divorce statistics which are not much better than those outside the church. Think of all that we and our churches would have to repent of if a spirit of holiness began to captivate us. How can America be influenced by an inconsistent and hypocritical church?

 Erwin Lutzer
America’s Spiritual Crisis, Revival Commentary, v. 1, n. 2, p. 11.

 

Your Obligation to Your Marriage

 

The Bible never discusses this psychological fact of human unhappiness in marriage when it discusses the inviolability of marriage and when it forbids divorce. Christians in our day need to face this fact, for fact it is. To put it as bluntly as the Bible does, the Lord is as much as saying, I know you are unhappy but your unhappiness does not change your obligation to your marriage. I know you think your life would be much better if you were out of this marriage or could have another woman for your wife, but that does not in any way diminish your obligation to remain faithful to your wife… Listen, “The Lord knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.” He is full of a perfect sympathy for the trials and tribulations of human life. There can be no thought of His not caring for the pain caused to his children who find themselves in a loveless marriage. He wants us to be happy. But, he wants us to be holy even more! And, the fact is, there are a great many things that are very hard to do in the Christian life but which Christians must do, come wind, come weather. No one can read the Bible and conclude that the Lord would never ask his children to suffer for his sake, to make sacrifices for His sake, even punishingly difficult sacrifices.

Robert Rayburn
Studies in Malachi, number 7, sermon, March 2, 2003.

It is Your Fault

If love has grown cold in your family, husband, you must do something about it.  If you are going to emulate the love of Jesus Christ for His church, it is up to you to initiate love… Jesus loved us when we had no love for Him.  You are the head of your home.  If there is little or no love in that home, it is your fault.  God holds you responsible to introduce love.  You must do that by giving.

 Jay E. Adams
Christian Living in the Home, P&R Publishing, 1972, p. 101

God-Given Growth – Mark Dever

Everybody wants their church to grow. When a church doesn’t grow for a while, some begin looking for those to blame. Some might say “our sign is too old.” Others might say that the church is doing evangelism all wrong. Still others might blame themselves, and decide that they’re just not friendly enough. The preacher, the leaders, the surrounding community, all can come in for their share of blame. But are any of those people the cause of real church growth? Isn’t God the one really to blame? What should we Christians think of contemporary church-growth thinking?

First of all, it must be said that the Bible is a pro-growth book. From the garden of Genesis to the city of Revelation, God is a God who shows something of His life and energy through growth. Most growth is a good thing in this life. So I want to grow as a husband and father. I want to grow in my competence in my job. And as a Christian I want to grow in my Christian life. So what about our church — do we want our local church to grow? How does that happen? That’s what we want to consider in this article.

If we go back to the beginning of the Bible, there we find in the first chapter that God commands the creatures of the land and sea to multiply: “God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth’” (Gen. 1:22). Similar commands are given to Adam and Eve, and then to Noah and his sons after the flood. From there on in the Bible we see that God our Creator has continued to give life, from calling Abram to follow Him, to calling the Jews back home from their Babylonian exile.

It’s important for us to remember this as we consider our local church. Some people today seem to think that a church grows because it has a popular program, or because the pastor is a good communicator, or because the leaders are wise. All of these may be present in a growing church. But behind all these factors is God Himself. It is God that grows the church through His Gospel by His grace.

The rain accomplishes God’s purpose to make things grow (Isa. 55:10–11), but it is still God who gives the growth. In the same way, it is God who gives new life by His Spirit (see John 3). He is both the Creator and the re-Creator.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6–7). Any true church growth is from God, whatever means He may choose to use. Just as Jesus’ first disciples followed Jesus because He called them (John 15:16), so today we follow Him only because He first calls us. God grows the church He planted.

He does so by giving us spiritual life by giving the gift of repentance (see Acts 11:18). It is God’s kindness to us that He ever puts in our rebellious souls a distaste for our revolt against Him. In His mercy, He makes us to feel the bitterness of our choices. In His love, he causes us to turn. This new life that God gives comes through belief in the Gospel — which belief we were appointed for (Acts 13:48). Our “appointment” to such belief again makes the point that spiritual life and growth are from God. He opened the door of Lydia’s heart to respond to Paul’s message (Acts 16:14). It is by God’s “grace you have been saved through faith. And this not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).

And God brings about such repentance and faith by His Spirit’s using the preaching of His Gospel. So when the message about Christ is preached in Antioch, Luke describes the results as “the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Notice it is the Lord who is credited with this church growth. Faith comes through hearing the message (Rom. 10:17).

And the churches are strengthened by hearing the truth (Acts 16:5). So, whether we’re talking about growth through conversion, or growth in being built up and maturing, it is God’s work through the appointed means of preaching God’s truth, and most especially the Gospel, what Jesus called “the word of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:19). Such church growth could even be called “the word of the Lord” spreading (as it was in Acts 19:20) so identified is such growth with the Gospel message.

So if the above is all true — if church growth is from God, then what difference should that make in our churches and in our lives? Here are seven suggestions based upon the Bible’s teaching about church growth. Pray for these in your own life and in the life of your pastor. And share them with others in your church, including the pastors, elders, and deacons.

In order to see God’s church grow, we should use the means God has given to us. As we’ve seen, preaching the Gospel is the normal way God grows His church. Added to this, there is also prayer. Again and again in the book of Acts we find the early Christians at prayer. And as we beseech God for conversion and for maturity, we find God granting our prayers. The more we pray the more we acknowledge that God is the reason for any growth that comes. We acknowledge, in humility, that any growth that comes does not ultimately come from us.

The late great evangelical theologian Carl Henry once said that “numerical bigness has become an infectious epidemic.” When too many of us measure growth mainly in terms of numbers, we show that we forget how deceptive crowds can be. So, the crowds that cheered Jesus one day, called for His crucifixion the next. Even if our church is growing numerically, usually these days in America such numerical growth is more reflective of population redistribution than it is of new conversions.

We can’t control when someone is converted. Though some evangelists may try through well-intentioned manipulation, the human heart is beyond being manipulated to give up its revolt against God. Only a new set of loves — replacing love for self with love for God — can end our revolt, and only God’s Spirit can give that love. Therefore our job in evangelism is to pray for conversions, and work for them by regularly and faithfully sharing the Gospel as well as we can. Work on your own understanding of the Gospel. Think carefully about ways you may be able to improve in sharing it. Work to create opportunities. You can’t make sure someone becomes a Christian. But you can make sure they’ve heard the Gospel.

There is more to church growth than new converts. Those of us already converted can mature in our faith. We can learn to count trials joy, and grow in our love for one another. Remember that maturing is as much growth as seeing new people converted. Certainly in our own lives, we never finish growing in this life in terms of our spiritual maturity.

One way we are certain the church needs to grow is in we ourselves growing, and especially in our humility and self-conscious dependence on God. The Bible’s teaching that God gives growth is important for us to remember so that we won’t become prideful in our church when it does grow numerically. It is also important to encourage us in our humility. Knowing that growth is His gift should increase our time spent in prayer and remind us of our dependence upon Him.

Getting all this right calls us to trust God more and to thank Him for the growth that He does give. When Paul was discouraged in Corinth at the lack of growth in the church, God encouraged him in a vision by assuring him that many would be converted there (see Acts 18:9–10). Most of us, however, don’t have that kind of supernatural encouragement. We do know from God’s Word, however, that God promises His Word will not go out without accomplishing His purpose. But we may not be around to see the harvest from seeds that we plant. As Charles Bridges (a great nineteenth-century Anglican pastor) said, “The seed may lie under the clods till we lie there, and then spring up” (Christian Ministry, p. 75). Some sow, and others reap (John 4:36–38), but God deserves the praise for all the growth that happens.

Finally, realizing the truth about church growth should help us to keep going. It should encourage us to endure in the face of opposition, rejection or indifference. Ezekiel was called by God to preach to a people that wouldn’t listen — their refusal to listen took nothing away from Ezekiel’s faithfulness (see Ezek. (3:7–9; 33:32). How could evangelists go to unresponsive lands and keep preaching if they were constantly counting converts and gaining their main encouragement from that unsteady source? How could you and I be faithful in witnessing to friends and family over the years if we allowed ourselves to be discouraged by initial rejection, or even continuing disinterest? Our continuing to pray for someone is a testimony of our faith not in them or in ourselves, but in God. Jesus’ parable of the sower warned us that there would be a variety of responses to the Word (seeMatt. 13:1–23). And we can be confident that God will bring all His own to Christ, not one of them will be missing (see John 6:37). Present success is not always visible. We should be encouraged to realize that the calling all Christians and all congregations share is one to faithfulness, not immediately apparent success. God may in His providence even disperse our local congregation. But His plan for His universal church is certain victory. Of that we can be sure. The church’s final and ultimate growth is not in question.

“The Order of Salvation”

1. Election (God’s choice of the people to be saved)
2. The Gospel call (Proclaiming the message of the gospel)
3. Regeneration (Being born again)
4. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)
5. Justification (Right legal standing)
6. Adoption (Membership in the God’s family)
7. Sanctification (Right conduct of life)
8. Perseverance (Remaining a Christian)
9. Death (Going to be with the Lord)
10. Glorification (Receiving a ressurrection body)

Taken from: Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem

%d bloggers like this: