1 Thessalonians 1:3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we’re all called to serve. We serve God by doing the things He’s planned for us, and we serve others as well. If we strive to keep the two greatest commands (Matthew 22:37-40), we’ll be doing a lot of serving.
To an outsider, it may seem like all Christians do is work their tails off. If we follow the Bible’s guidance to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3), do all of the “unto one another” things listed, and work “as though working for God and not for man” (Colossians 3:23), it could sure seem that way. The thing is, though, when you’re working for the Lord, it doesn’t feel like work at all.
The Apostle Paul knew this better than anyone. He poured out his life as an offering (2 Timothy 4:6) without complaint because he knew every sacrifice he could make for the Lord was worth it. It wasn’t just him either. Paul acknowledged the hard work and service of the people in the churches to whom he wrote. He reminded them that they were working out their faith and that they labored in love, as well as that they were showing their hope in Jesus Christ by doing what they did.
You’ll never know who’s being blessed by your service for the Lord. Your labor of love could be what brings someone to know Him. Keep up the hard work!
1 Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
A brief survey of American Christianity can easily lead one to get pretty confused. If someone had never heard of Christianity before and then took a look at our churches, I’m not sure what they’d conclude about us. What do we believe? What is good to do and what isn’t?
It’s amazing how varied local churches and denominations can be when there’s but one Bible from which to get guidance. There’s one Spirit to lead us and it’s in fact one God in whom we all claim to believe and follow.
But some don’t even listen to God. They don’t consider the Bible a guide at all, let alone an authoritative one. Some will follow teachers who sound good and say things that people want to hear. Some will come up with silly practices and even require believers to abstain from things that God has said are good. They’ll make up rules that God never laid out and claim they’re from Him. They’ll cause confusion and even make up doctrine that goes in direct opposition to what God has taught through His Word. But people will follow.
We’re in confusing times. There is an abundance of religion and it all gets mixed up at times. That’s why God gave us His Word, to keep us grounded. He knew that people would go astray and that the only way to preserve what’s right is to put it in writing. Every single church or denomination that strays from God begins by lowering their view of His book. It’s true for individuals as well. Show me someone who used to be a strong believer that has gone away, and I’ll show you someone who began to view the Bible as less than God’s inerrant Word.
If you want to remain strong in your faith, it’s best to remain close to God by staying in communication with Him. Speak to Him in prayer at all times, and listen to Him in His Word. Stick to what He says is right.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 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. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
The Bible, especially the New Testament, has no lack of interesting metaphors for the Church. Perhaps one of the most colorful is a field. Some are called to plant, some to water, and it’s God to is responsible for the growth.
This analogy speaks both to the individual and to the Church as a whole. YOU are God’s field, but WE are also God’s field. It works both ways. We’re all expected to grow spiritually, closer to God and closer into the likeness of His Son. Many people are used along the way to help us, and we’re also used to help others.
Think about your journey. How many people have had an impact on you, guiding you deeper into a relationship with the Lord? How many other people have you impacted since you came to know Him? We’re God’s fellow workers in this field, all of us, as a family.
John 15:4-5 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
From where does the Church get its power? You have to admit that this institution that’s lasted for so many centuries clearly has something in its favor to withstand the test of time. Even atheists would have to agree that the Church is a powerful thing.
Just as a tree branch cannot live on its own, apart from the trunk and the roots of the tree, the Church (and individual Christians) can’t thrive apart from the power God bestows. A church void of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an effective one.
At the center of Christianity is Christ. This goes without saying, right? It’s assumed that if a group of people gathering together call themselves a church then they are following Christ and operating in His power, but there is a distinction to be drawn.
The churches that really are doing God’s will are those that have humbled themselves before Him and seek His glory. The ones that are operating apart from His direction and guidance are like tree branches that are trying to stay alive without the nourishment the tree gives. Sure, for a while they may still give the appearance of being alive, but in time the truth will be evident.
You and I can’t bear fruit in our own lives apart from abiding in Jesus. Neither can the Church.
1 Timothy 3:15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
Godliness: not often the subject of most talks about the Church and its relationship to the Father. It’s true, though, that just as there are expectations in your own household there are expectations and behavioral norms in the household of God.
It’s already been mentioned that the Church is a family. That means everyone has their own role and they must function in that role for the sake of everyone else. It’s slightly different to think of the Church as a household than it is a family. It may sound like the same thing, but a family is more about the relationship and a household is more about the identity.
In Christ, we’re all one family, under the “same roof,” so to speak. It’s under the banner of Christ that we’re all united, despite our differences. A functioning household runs well if everyone knows the expectations that are required of someone who is identified as belonging to that household. For the Church, that’s godliness, truth, and love.
We know from God’s Word how we’re expected to behave as believers. We can see the character and nature of God, His love for us, and what He requires of us, all within the pages of Scripture. When we look for it, we can see what makes us part of His household.
What are your thoughts? What expectations does the household of God have?
Romans 12:4-5 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Probably one of the most common metaphors for the Church is that of a body. Ask anyone if they know of a comparison to something given in the Bible to the Church, and they will likely answer that the Church is like a body. And rightly so, because this is used many times in the New Testament.
The problem, though, when something becomes common, is that we lose sight of what it really means. You’ve heard that the Church is like a body, but what does that mean? Does this apply only to the local church or to the global church as well?
Though we are many, scattered throughout the world, all believers in Christ are one body. Every member of the body is like a physical member of a physical body, each with its own particular function. I can’t do what you’re called to do, and you can’t do what I’m called to do.
As Christ followers, we belong to Him and He belongs to us. Beyond that, we all belong to each other. As Paul says, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Think of the body and how each member cares for the others. This is how we’re meant to be as the Church.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
The Church is not a building. God’s people, however, are a temple for the living God. Did I lose you?
In Ephesians 2:18-22, we’re told that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone for the Church and that the foundation was laid by the Apostles. That’s construction talk, but it’s not literally talking about a church building. We, together, are the temple of the Lord. You’re not the temple, I’m not the temple. WE are the temple.
How can God’s temple be holy (v.17) if we’re each so sinful? How can we be the dwelling place of our Lord if we’re stained and tainted? We’re unworthy to be called His people, let alone His dwelling. The Spirit dwells in us collectively, though. It’s because of His presence, because of the righteousness instilled by Christ, that we’re given the privilege of being a home for God.
The holiness of Jesus is the starting point of this Church, laid upon the foundation which came with God’s commission to His people. And I’ll let Paul finish by saying, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) Find comfort in the fact that all together we make up the temple of God, which He swears to protect.
John 10:11-16 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
What’s your favorite metaphor that the Bible uses for the Church? Mine is a flock. The beautiful imagery of Jesus Christ as our Shepherd is hard not to love.
Just as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his flock, our Good Shepherd looks after us with affection and with the dedication of one who cares for His own. Some look at God as a distant deity, someone who just created things and then stepped back and doesn’t care what happens. On the contrary, though, the Father cares very much for His people.
He cares so much, in fact, that He appointed the Son over His flock, that we might be cared for in the very best manner possible. He’s even given Him the task of calling those who don’t belong to His flock to become part of it, that there might be just one flock, one united Church, under the headship of our loving Shepherd.
Do you know the Shepherd? Are you His?
Ephesians 2:18-22 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
If the local church is a family, then the worldwide church is one great big family. All who put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation have been adopted into the family of God. That means that it doesn’t matter where you live on planet earth, we’re all one in Him.
This whole notion of a global Church is built on the foundation laid by Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. It’s in Him and through Him that the Church exists. If we’re in Him, we’re united as one. Regardless of language, worship style, Bible translation, or type of building, we share one thing in common: our Lord, Jesus.
This beautiful depiction of the church given in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us all we need to know about the Church. Through Jesus we’re given access to the Father. We’re in one Spirit. We’re all citizens in the household of God, Jesus being the Head over us all.
If, instead of the Church being so divided, we’d come together, we’d see miraculous results. We’ll discuss further the idea of God’s people being built together into a dwelling place (living stones), but in the meantime take a few moments to re-read Ephesians 2:18-22 and really savor what it says. The global Church united under Christ is a thing of beauty.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
What is your immediate thought when the word “church” is used? Do you think of a building? If we’re not careful, we’ll fall into the state of mind that a local church is the gathering place where believers meet together. The church, though, was never meant to be known as a place.
There are various commands given in the New Testament that apply to how Christ followers should treat one another. The thing is, we can’t fulfill those commands if we don’t interact with one another. If we think that we can manage to live the lives God has called us to on our own, we’re mistaken. There are very good reasons to gather together as one.
As previously mentioned, the church is a family, and in a family there are relationships, expectations, and communication that take place. In order for that to be the case, people in the family of God need to gather. We need to learn and we need to worship, we need to encourage each other, and we need to help each other grow.
The local church is necessary for all of us who belong in the family of God. We can’t go at this life alone. We need each other, and we need a time and a place to congregate. The local church isn’t a building, it’s a people. If you’re not part of a local church family, you’re missing out on what the Father has in store for you.