Three Pictures Of The Church

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

When you’ve been at a church service have you ever asked yourself, “What are we doing here? What exactly is ‘church’? What are we supposed to be doing?”  

 Some people think church is saints going out to tell people about Jesus, and some people think church is saints coming together to hear about Jesus (see Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:18). I think this is an either-or trap. 

I think a better way of looking at this is “both-and” and “so that”: BOTH coming to a gathering of believers so that we can be equipped to go out AND going out to tell people about Jesus so that we can bring new disciples into the church. 

Our foundational truth statement says: The Church is the Body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of her great commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven. 

To help us see where we play a vital role in all of this, the Bible gives us three pictures of the church:

  1. A Body
  2. A Building
  3. A Bride

(see Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Ephesians 2:19-22; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:21-33)

All of these pictures speak of multiple parts making up one unified, healthy whole. Remove any part or any function, and the whole thing is diminished. All of these pictures also speak of intentionality. No one becomes healthy by accident, or builds a sound structure by accident, or enjoys a fulfilling marriage by accident. Health, soundness, and fulfillment all result from being intentional about our choices and interactions. 

I believe these three pictures also help us see what the church isn’t and is. 

  • A healthy church isn’t about numbers  
  • A healthy church isn’t about the day of the week that we meet
  • A healthy church isn’t about an “order of service” (there is no such thing listed in the New Testament!)
  • A healthy church is about Jesus being the focal point. As Jesus said, “I will build My Church.”   
  • A healthy church is about being intentional in everything we do 
  • A healthy church is about doing everything we can to glorify Jesus, both when we come together and when we go out into the world

(see Matthew 18:20; Romans 14:5; Matthew 16:18; Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Hebrews 10:23-25) 

The first Church in the New Testament showed us how they followed the example of Jesus. Before trying to fulfill the Great Commission of going into all the world, they first obeyed the directive from Jesus to stay in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. Then we see an intentionality, and an empowerment, and a complete reliance on the Holy Spirit in everything they undertook from that point on. 

(see Acts 1:8; 2:42-47; 4:29-35; 6:1-7; 8:4, 26; 10:19-20; 13:1-3; 15:1-29)  

It’s not about going to “my church” or going to “your church.” It’s about being the Church (with a capital “C”)—the Body of of Christ, the Building of Christ, the Bride of Christ. 

Bottom line:

Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known. 

This is a part of our ongoing series looking at our foundational truths. If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here.

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Ordinances Of The Church

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Many churches recognize a various numbers of ordinances within their worship services. The dictionary gives two definitions of the word ordinance that are helpful for us: (1) a rule to be followed, and (2) something believed to be ordained (or made holy). 

There are two ordinances that we celebrate: baptism in water and holy communion. 

Water Baptism

This wasn’t a practice invented by Christians, but teachers had been baptizing their students for years as an outward sign of followership. Not only did various members of the Israelite community come to John to be baptized, but even Jesus desired to be water baptized (Matthew 3:5-6, 13-17). 

Why would Jesus need to be baptized? Look at how Jesus replied to John, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires” (Matthew 3:15 NLT), or in the NIV: “to fulfill all righteousness.” 

Jesus came to be our High Priest. One of the requirements for the priest was “he must bathe himself in water before he puts” on the ceremonial robes that were to be worn in the tabernacle (Leviticus 16:4). Jesus also came to be our perfect sacrifice, so He needed to be like us in every single way. If Jesus wasn’t water baptized, not “all righteousness” would have been fulfilled. 

Jesus was also baptized as an example for us. We, too, are priests in God’s Kingdom that need to be washed for our priestly service (1 Peter 2:9; 3:20-21). 

Our foundational truth statement on this is: “The ordinance of baptism by immersion is commanded by the Scriptures. All who repent and believe on Christ as Savior and Lord are to be baptized. Thus they declare to the world that they have died with Christ and that they also have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life.” 

Jesus gave us this rule to follow for new Christians: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This is also what Peter announced to the new believers on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).  

Communion

Sometimes called The Last Supper or The Lord’s Supper, the Israelites had continued to celebrate the Passover (Exodus 12) with unleavened bread and wine—symbolizing the body and the blood of the sacrificial lamb which saved them from death. 

Our foundational truth statement on this is: “The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements—bread and the fruit of the vine—is the symbol expressing our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, a memorial of his suffering and death, and a prophecy of His second coming, and is enjoined on all believers ‘till He come!’” 

Jesus, while celebrating Passover with His disciples, showed how Passover had been pointing to His First and Second Advents (Luke 22:13-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 

Both of these ordinances have reminders in them of our new life in Christ:

  1. Water baptism is a one-time event, just as our justification (“just as if I’d never sinned”) is a one-time event. This looks back to what Jesus did on the Cross. 
  2. Communion is an ongoing celebration “until He comes,” just as our sanctification (“saint-ification”) is an ongoing process. This looks ahead to what Jesus will complete when we are glorified in Heaven. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can find the complete list by clicking here.

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Confirmation Of The Baptism In The Holy Spirit

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is what Pentecostal Christians frequently refer to as our distinctive doctrine. Notice I said distinctive, not better. Can someone go to heaven without being baptized in the Spirit? Yes! But I’ve found that living in this distinctive empowerment makes the journey to heaven so much more productive and joyful.   

After the resurrection of Jesus, everything took on a whole new meaning, because the “light” had been turned on in the Old Testament palace. All of the practices that Jews had been observing for thousands of years suddenly had a new illumination in the New Testament.  

Pentecost had always been a celebration 50 days following the Passover. In the Old Testament, the law was given from Sinai on the fiftieth day after the deliverance from Egypt, so in a sense, the appearance of God on Sinai was the birthday of the Jewish nation. In the New Testament, the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost after Jesus ascended to heaven was the birthday of the Christian nation for all people. 

One of our foundational truths says: “All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church.” 

And another foundational truth is a corollary: “The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.” 

God has always confirmed His presence with signs and wonders. From the signs in Egypt to convince Pharaoh that Jehovah was greater than the Egyptian gods to the ministry of Jesus. In fact, Peter said that the signs and wonders done by Jesus were God’s authentication of His ministry (see Luke 5:17-26; Acts 2:22; Acts 10:38). 

Jesus said this should characterize our ministry too (see Mark 16:15-20; Acts 1:5, 8).  

R.A. Torrey noted, “The baptism of the Holy Spirit always imparts power for service…. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God falling upon the believer, taking possession of his faculties, imparting to him gifts not naturally his own, but which qualify him for the service to which God has called him.” 

Check out this chart that walks us through the book of Acts to see how God authenticated the ministry of those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit by performing signs and wonders through them:

You may download this chart in a PDF format by clicking here Chart of signs in Acts ←

When a Christian is baptized in the Holy Spirit there are two types of evidence:

  1. Initial evidence—typically speaking in a language that hasn’t been studied but has been supernaturally given by God. 
  2. Ongoing evidence—I would sum this up in the word sanctification (or as I like to remember it by saying “saint-ification”). This is the lifestyle change, the empowered living, and even the miraculous that cannot be counterfeited by man’s efforts alone. 

Let’s not try to put God in a box—telling Him when, where, how, and through whom He can work. Instead, let’s yield ourselves entirely to Him by letting the Holy Spirit empower us to be effective, unmistakable witnesses for Jesus Christ. 

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I will be relaunching our series called We Are: Pentecostal in two weeks. Please follow along with all of the messages in this series by clicking here for the details.

And if you would like to check out the other messages in our series looking at our foundational belief statements, you can find the full list by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—Standing On The Promises

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Standing on the promise of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God. —Russell Kelso Carter

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God Is One, God Is Love

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

There is a common characteristic among every human civilization: they all have had a pantheon of gods. It seems that no one god could capture all of the attributes each civilization thought were important, so they created multiple gods to help fill in the gaps. 

Onto the world scene comes the account recorded for us in the Bible of a God who creates the universe. The Hebrew word for this God is elohiym which means “a divine one.” This name is used throughout the Creation story in Genesis 1. 

Then in Genesis 2:4, a new name appears, one that is used over 6500 times in the Bible. It is the unpronounceable name YHWH: often pronounced Yahweh or substituted with the word Jehovah. In most Bible translations this name is designated by all capital letters: LORD. Yahweh or Jehovah means “the existing One.” 

The first part of our second foundational truth states, “The one true God has revealed Himself as the eternally self-existent ‘I AM,’ the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of mankind.” This Creator is uncreated: He sustains the universe without needing to be replenished Himself. He is utterly complete in Himself; hence, His name means I AM (see Exodus 3:13-15). 

The second part of this foundational truth statement says, “He has further revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” 

The I AM is One (see Deuteronomy 6:4), but He reveals Himself in three Persons—Father, Son, Spirit—that we call the Trinity (although this is not a word found in the Bible). 

Sometimes Christians have done a disservice to the I AM by making it appear He is divided. For instance, we might say, “The Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Spirit is the Regenerator.” But remember that our One God is not a pantheon of gods; He is One. We see the fullness of the Trinity operating in every area. Here’s just a short sampling:  

  • The creation of the universe—Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:15-16; Psalm 104:30 
  • The creation of man—Genesis 1:26-27 
  • A prophecy about Jesus’ advent—Isaiah 9:6 
  • The incarnation of Jesus—Luke 1:35 
  • The baptism of Jesus—Matthew 3:16-17
  • The resurrection of Jesus—Acts 2:32; John 10:18; Romans 1:4 
  • Our atonement—Hebrews 9:14 
  • A Christian’s baptism in the Holy Spirit—John 14:16 

(You can read all of these verses for yourself by clicking here.) 

A good question for us to ponder is: Why would this I AM God create humans? If He needs nothing to complete Himself or sustain Himself, why make us? 

The apostle John captures the essence of the Trinity in three words: God is love.

God created us out of an overflow of His love so that we too could enjoy the intimate, eternal pleasure of being at-onement with Him forever. God then wants our love to overflow to everyone around us, so that they will also be drawn into this at-oneness with the I AM. 

When Jesus was asked to state the greatest commandment, He first quoted from Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD [Yahweh] our God, the LORD [Yahweh] is one.” Christ’s conclusion was for us to love this All-Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And then Jesus added an obvious overflow of that love: “And love your neighbor as yourself” (see Mark 12:29-31).

Love to God and from God should overflow from us to others to bring them into the One God who is love itself.  

The more we understand this love that the I AM has for us: (1) the better able we will be to love and worship Him, (2) the more we will love others out of this overflow of love, and (3) the more glory our awesome GOD will receive. Which is exactly what the apostle Paul prayed for us in Ephesians 3:14-19. 

This idea of an I AM God who reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit has been described by the Latin phrase mysterium tremendum. It is indeed a mystery: not one that frightens and confuses, but one that energizes and enlivens. Pray Paul’s prayer for yourself, so that you can see more dimensions of this awesome love that God has for you! 

If you missed any parts of this series exploring our foundational belief statements, you can check out the full list by clicking here.

Foundation Stones

foundation-stonesAny architect will tell you: You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation.

This is just as true in the spiritual realm, which is why John Calvin warned, “Those who are strong only in fervor and sharpness, but are not fortified with solid doctrine, weary themselves in their vigorous efforts, make a great noise…[and] make no headway because they build without foundation.

We have had on the Calvary website since Day 1 a link to “What we believe,” but more than just having them listed there, it is important to discuss them.

So the first Sunday of each month through the rest of 2021, we will be exploring our strong doctrinal foundation. I promise you that this won’t be “dry” theology or doctrine, but it will be an exciting journey of discovery of the foundation upon which we stand.

Please join me on Sunday, June 6, as we look at our next Foundation Stone.

Here are the topics we have covered so far:

Saturday In The Psalms—Blessings For The Obedient

Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments (Psalm 112:1).

For the one who loves God and wants to obey Him, check out these blessings—

  • blessed, powerful descendants
  • blessing the current generation
  • taking care of his household
  • keeping his righteousness intact
  • giving him light in dark times
  • multiplying his graciousness, compassion, and righteousness
  • blessing him to be a blessing to others
  • giving him discretion
  • a solid, unshakable foundation
  • a legacy to pass on to his children
  • no fear of evil
  • steadfastness
  • more than enough to share with others in need
  • exalted on earth and in heaven

Bring it on!

Dads Are The Foundation

Dads Are The FoundationIt’s been said (and I believe it’s absolutely correct), “As the family goes, so goes the society.” But I think it’s even more important to specify, “As the father goes, so goes the family.”

Dads are vital to the success of a family.

I know that’s a lot of responsibility to place on a father. God knows it too, so He has provided unique help for Dads to help them be the solid foundation for their families and for our societies.

Please join me at Calvary Assembly of God at 10:30am this Sunday for Father’s Day 2013 as we look at the help God has given to fathers to be successful as the godly foundation for their families.

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