What Is The Church Supposed To Look Like?

If someone asked you what a church is supposed to look like, do you describe steeples and crosses, stained glass windows and big wooden pulpits?

Guess what? The first Church in Jerusalem had none of those things!

Luke the historian describes the church this way: “They studied and prayed together, they ate with each other, they fed the hungry, and they took care of the poor. God performed miracles through them, everyone thought well of them, and people were getting saved every single day” (see Acts 2:42-47). Other historians of the day noted that Christians started the first orphanages, the first feeding programs, the first homes/schools for the blind, and the first medical dispensaries. They described how the Christians changed the cultural understanding of marriage and family, and how they gave dignity to women, children, the elderly, and the sick. 

They did this by putting their faith into action, just as Jesus described (see Matthew 25:31-40). James reminds us that this required a deeply personal faith and a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude. In fact, James went so far as to say that faith in Jesus wasn’t enough. 

Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is useless. We must believe it and live it. We need both faith and works.

Everyone can do this… 

  • if a young kid is hungry, get involved with feeding them
  • if an elderly lady in your neighborhood needs a friend, stop by for coffee
  • if a neighbor is sick and can’t cover their usual tasks, mow their lawn 
  • if a high school student can’t go to homecoming because she can’t afford the dress, take her shopping and buy the dress for her
  • if someone has an extended hospital stay, collect their mail and water their plants
  • if no one is visiting them in the hospital, go sit with them for a while

Jesus said, “When you do this for others, you are really doing it for Me.” 

Luke didn’t say, “Every day the Christians were preaching.” He says, “Every day the Christians were serving. And then every day God was adding to their number people who were being saved.” 

Your faith in action speaks a sermon louder and more convincingly than any sermon ever could. 

How will you show your neighbors the love of Jesus this week?

The Day Of The Lord

All we know about the prophet Joel is that he is the son of Pethuel, and his name means Jehovah is God. He appears to be addressing the southern part of Israel (Judah/Jerusalem). 

What is interesting to note about Joel’s writing is a recurring theme that goes something like this: 

Foreshadowing (or prophetic foretelling) → Calling for a godly response → God’s blessing on a right response or God’s punishment on a wrong response → An outcome which foreshadows or foretells another more dire event → repeat…

For instance, in Joel’s prophesy the massive invasion of locusts was intended to get the Israelites to pay attention to their sins. Joel calls for fasting and repentance and warns (foreshadows/foretells) that an invading army at a later date would do even greater damage (1:2-14). 

Likewise, the invading army—which would do more damage than the invading locusts—should also call the Israelites to repentance and imploring God for His help. 

Jesus, just like Joel, taught that whether it was an evil man, an accident, or even a natural disaster, painful things should cause us to consider the state of our eternal soul (see Luke 13:1-5). And Jesus and Joel both foretell of the Day of the Lord when there will be no more opportunities for repentance. 

To prepare God-fearing people for this dreadful day of the Lord, Joel foretells if the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is the same empowering Spirit that Jesus said would equip His followers to take the message of salvation to all four points of the compass (Acts 1:4-8). And just as Joel foretold 800 years earlier, on the first Pentecost Sunday after Christ’s ascension back into heaven, the Christians were baptized in the Holy Spirit, prompting Peter to quote an extension passage from Joel (compare Joel 2:28-32 with Acts 2:14-21).

Joel’s final chapter talks about Judgment Day, and about the multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. Peter confronted his audience as well about the decision they should make to turn to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. 

The Day of the Lord could come at any moment and millions around the world are still in the valley of decision. I find these words quite sobering—

“Someone asked, ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?’ It is more a question with me whether we—who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not—can be saved.” —Charles Spurgeon 

We are even closer to the Day of the Lord today than we were yesterday. What will you do?

Please join me this Sunday as we continue our series learning the major lessons from the minor prophets.

Favorable Influence

Twice the 80th psalm declares—Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved (Psalm 80:19). 

But if we are already a Christian that has been saved from the penalty of our sin and saved to an eternal reward, then that also means that God’s face IS already shining on us, He HAS already restored us, and He HAS already given us His favor. 

I like how the Amplified Bible renders this verse: Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; cause Your face to shine in pleasure, approval, and favor on us, and we shall be saved! 

What we have received is too wonderful for us to keep to ourselves, so we must let His pleasure, approval, and favor now shine out of us! 

“If the result of our experience of God does not compel and propel us into global mission, it is doubtful whether we have really encountered the God of the Bible.” —Dick Brogden 

Jesus stated His mission simply and then sent us out on the exact same mission (Luke 4:18-19; John 20:21). We do this best by living closely among people so they can also see us shine with God’s favor.

Paul called us to shine as well: Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people (Philippians 2:15). I believe this is a perfect definition of the word influence. The origin of the word meant the supposed flowing of ethereal fluid from the stars thought to affect the actions of men. Christians that let their good deeds shine in the darkness can influence the entire culture around them!

“Radical Christianity is not going on a missions trip or a big conference. Radical Christianity is staying steady for decades.” —Mike Bickle 

Being a person that shines with favorable influence requires staying involved for the long haul so that you can build trustworthiness. It’s being in visible places not to get glory, but to let people see God’s glory. When they see His glory shine on you and out of you, they will want what you have too!

Solomon said, By the blessing of the influence of the upright and God’s favor—because of them the city is exalted (Proverbs 11:11). So, my fellow Christian, let me ask you: 

  • Has God shined on you?
  • Are you letting Him shine out of you? 
  • Are you living a noteworthy, trustworthy, visible life in your dark community? 

“It’s your choice: You can be a part of your city’s elevation or its deterioration.”

—Craig T. Owens

Interrupted But Not Discouraged

…I will…if the Lord permits… (1 Corinthians 16:5-7). 

Paul had a desire to visit certain cities to share the Gospel, so he made his plans. But he was careful to add, “if the Lord permits.” He knew from personal experience that God knows best the where and the when.

In fact, the first time Paul came to Macedonia, it was only after he had been blocked from his original plans—

They tried to go to certain regions of Asia, but they were prevented by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6).

They headed toward Bythinia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there (Acts 16:7).

While at Troas, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia, so they concluded that God was calling them to preach there (Acts 16:9-10).

We must know that we know that God has green-lighted an opportunity for us. Where God opens opportunities, satan is sure to attack (1 Corinthians 16:9). We don’t want to then assume that the attack means that we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or even in the right place at the wrong time.

Paul made his plans, but he also remained interruptible.

When God said, “Go!” Paul could endure any opposition because he was assured that God had called. And when God said, “No” Paul could rest peacefully because he was assured that God knew the best place at the best time.

The same principle is true for godly leaders today—

A mark of a godly leader is one who is interruptible without becoming discouraged.

This is part 39 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Devil Isn’t Scared Of You

This is part 2 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible? 

Statement #2—Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Is that in the Bible? Yes, those words are there, but we need some perspective. 

First of all, demons are real and they are dangerous. No, the devil and his henchmen are not behind every calamity we face. C.S. Lewis explained it well—

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” —C.S. Lewis 

Some people think there is a struggle between Jesus and satan that has an uncertain outcome, almost like Jesus and satan are locked in an epic arm wrestling duel. But the victory is already assured—Jesus has already won (Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54-58)!  

But while we are on Earth, we are living in a battle zone. Jesus said the devil’s agenda was pretty straightforward—steal, kill, destroy. He tries to accomplish this in a number of ways: everything from lying to us, to intimidation, to misquoting Scripture. 

And that’s where we need to be aware. Yes, the words “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” are in the Bible, but they are only valid when spoken in light of the first part of the verse—“Submit yourself to God.” 

“satan is not scared of your show of force toward him, but of your show of submission to God.” —Craig T. Owens 

There were some guys who tried to invoke the name of Jesus in a spiritual battle, and they ended up running out of the house bleeding and naked (Acts 19:11-16)! 

Last time I said that God helps those who cannot help themselves. The prayer He loves to respond to is, “God, help!” If ever we face a situation that we cannot help ourselves, it’s dealing with demons. We can’t, but God can! 

So before anything else submit yourself to God. Hide under the shadow of His wings, let Him be your shield and your defender. Only then will the devil flee from you (see Psalm 91). 

Remember: the devil lies. He can even use Scripture to lie. His lie is getting you to believe you can resist him on your own. The truth is he’s not afraid of who you are, but he flees when he sees Whose you are!

3 Lessons From A Devoted Dad

If you were to pick a man that would have been desperately devoted to Jesus as his Savior, Cornelius wouldn’t make anyone’s “top 10” list! 

Just take a look at all the strikes against this man. He was a… 

  • Gentile—to Jews, Gentiles were just the fuel to stoke the fires of hell. 
  • resident of the city of Caesarea—since this was the headquarters of the Roman government for Palestine, not many Jews would venture there. 
  • Roman—historians say only 10% of Romans in this era were monotheistic. 
  • centurion—not just any centurion, but an extremely powerful centurion from the Italian Regiment (not just a local mercenary who was in it for the money). And he took his name from Cornelius Sulla, a Roman general known both for his mercy and his ruthlessness.

All of this makes Cornelius a fully self-sufficient and a well-to-do man who was not likely to look for help from God. Nor was he the type of person that a Christian missionary might seek out. 

But clearly, something was missing in Cornelius’ life because he was completely countercultural in his pursuit after God. Not just his pursuit of God, but his quick understanding of exactly who Jesus was. 

Luke the historian describes Cornelius as:

  • devout and God-fearing. The Greek word for devout literally means “a right worshipper.” It’s a word Luke only uses three times in Acts, and two of those times are describing Cornelius. 
  • prayerful. The word Luke uses for him means someone who makes prayer personal and ongoing. 
  • generous. Cornelius took care of people who couldn’t take care of themselves. 

All of this got God’s attention (see Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Proverbs 19:17), and He sent an angel to direct Cornelius to Peter. 

When Peter came to Cornelius’ house, twice he said “as you know” (vv. 36, 37), showing us that Cornelius was aware that there was not only one true God, but that a relationship with Jesus was the only way to be in right relationship with God. As Peter spoke with Cornelius, his family, his relatives, his close friends, and even his fellow soldiers, the Holy Spirit baptized them just as He had done with the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost. 

So here are 3 vital lessons for all men to learn from the life of Cornelius the centurion—

  1. Your devotion to God is influential. People around you do notice your devoted pursuit of God.
  2. Your openness to all that God has puts your family, friends, and coworkers in a place to receive God’s blessings too.
  3. God’s blessings flowing through you have lasting and far-reaching results. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius may have opened the door for Christian evangelism to Gentiles unlike anything that had happened before.

Dads, be devoted to God. Desire all He has for you, and all He has for those around you. Pursue Him no matter how many “strikes” there may be against you. 

Be sure to check out the other messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal.

4 Holy Spirit-Enhanced Habits

According to Paul, there are only two ways people can live: in the flesh or in the Spirit. That is—(1) operating separate from God, or (2) with a soul/body that is operating with God’s full involvement. 

The trouble is: we’re always—as long as we’re alive—still in the flesh because we need these bodies to carry around our soul and spirit. But changes begin to occur first at salvation (when the connection of our spirit to God’s Spirit is reestablished), and even more so after being baptized in the Holy Spirit (when we are not trying to work out things on our own). 

As a result, we have the same brain, but a mind that is being renewed; the same eyes, but insight that is being expanded; the same ears, but learning new ways to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. 

Remember that Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things differently, but to have our spirit so enlivened by the Holy Spirit that we are living, breathing, walking, talking witnesses of a life transformed.

Have you noticed that there wasn’t a steep “learning curve” for the disciples of Jesus following Pentecost? Part of that is due to four key habits that the Holy Spirit helped form in their lives. 

  1. Correct biblical application—We immediately see people going from “They didn’t understand from the Scriptures” to quickly applying biblical texts to their current situations. This is exactly what Jesus promised would happen (John 20:6-9; Acts 2:16, 25, 34; John 14:26). 
  1. Intercessory prayer—To intercede is to take someone else’s needs to God on their behalf. The Holy Spirit can help us apply Scripture to our prayers, and can even help us without words at all (Acts 4:24-26; Romans 8:26-27). 
  1. Creative thinking—Christians should be the most creative thinkers in the world (Psalm 119:99; Jeremiah 33:3; 1 Corinthians 2:10). 
  1. Healthy conflict resolution—We’re all different, so not seeing eye-to-eye is bound to happen, but Spirit-empowered Christians will be able to resolve conflicts faster and with better results (Acts 6:1-8; Acts 15:1-31). 

“Your life as a Christian should make unbelievers question their disbelief in God.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Amen! Your life as a Christian that is living out daily habits that have been empowered by the Spirit should make everyone around you want to go deeper and deeper into all that the Holy Spirit has in store for them too. 

Join me next Sunday as we take another look at what it means when we say We Are: Pentecostal. 

%d bloggers like this: