In the middle of an intense conversation between Jesus and an unnamed woman of Sychar, Jesus, in John 4:21-24, responding to her question, seems to digress from the point that he is the living water. Why, in the middle of this evangelistic conversation, does he spend so much time talking about worship?
Worship God in truth. It matters to God how you worship him. He reminds the woman that the Samaritans worship “what they do not know,” in contrast with the people of Israel, who worship with knowledge. He adds the significant statement that salvation is of the Jews. Jesus’ response, as well as Deuteronomy 12, point out that there are wrong ways to worship, in contrast to the right way. As Psalm 139 makes clear, the OT believer could connect with God anywhere. Central to worship is the idea that we are meeting with God. That draws an awed, reverent, joyful, fearful response from his creatures, whether the authors of the Psalms or the angelic beings of Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 and 5. Why you worship as well as how flow out of knowing God. Understand the privilege of worshiping him! Participate actively! Continue reading “Who Are We? A People Who Worship”
What does the church look like? Can you really see the church? Hebrews 12:18-24 points you to the church the way God sees it, to the church as it really is.
Walk by faith, not by sight. You have not come to a touchable mountain. Mt. Sinai was the place where God made his covenant with Israel, changing them from a group of slaves to his people. The scene was a revelation of the character of God. The physical surroundings showed God’s holiness: the fire, darkness, gloom and storm evidenced his majesty, Psalm 68:8. What was heard showed God’s righteousness. The trumpet and the loud voice showed God’s transcendence. The people could not bear God’s voice—they needed a mediator. The whole scene showed that God is perfectly holy. You have not come to Sinai or any other such mountain. As Israel camped there, that was the place to which you had to go to meet with God and his people. The author of Hebrews focuses on this piece of history because his readers were tempted to walk by sight, not by faith. They had too much focus on externals. They wondered if the church came off second best in comparison with the ceremonies of the old covenant, and may even have been in danger of turning their backs on Christ to trust in outward ceremonies. Continue reading “Who Are We? The Church You Can/Can’t See”
How do you identify the true church? That’s important if you are looking for a church. But it is also important to reflect on the question as we consider our own identity. Are we what we should be? How can we better show the marks of the church? Acts 2:42-47 helps to answer that question.
Devote yourselves to the apostles’ teaching. Proclaiming the good news about Jesus is the most basic mark of the church. The Spirit filled church in Acts devoted itself to the teaching of the apostles. In Acts 2 Peter has just proclaimed Jesus as crucified and risen. Faithful preaching is not just moralism, telling people how to live. Nor is it simply providing information about Jesus. Rather, in faithful preaching Christ himself is presented—Christ crucified, raised, exalted, and coming again. God’s call summons the nations to repent as the blessing of the Holy Spirit extends beyond Israel. The command grows out of a conviction of sin, v. 37. Don’t allow the call to repentance to be minimized as you present the gospel. Ambiguity regarding man’s sinfulness makes it impossible to appreciate the depths of God’s grace in Christ. Repentance involves a change of mind, leading to a new life. It not only marks conversion, but also characterizes the entire Christian life this side of heaven. The primary mark of the church is the preaching of the Word. No church is perfect in that, but faithfulness in the Word is essential, or the church loses its reason for existence. The kingdom belongs to those who have turned (and continue to turn) from sin to Christ. Continue reading “Who Are We? A People Devoted to . . .”
Competition can be a good thing in our economy. But life in a family operates on a different basis–as does life in the church of Jesus Christ. Because the church is connected to Christ, learn to appreciate how it works. Paul, in Ephesians 3:1-6, describes important characteristics of the church.
Recognize that the church is universal. What does “catholic” mean? We tend to think of “catholic” as “Roman Catholic,” a church which certainly claims the title. “Catholic” means “universal.” Although the concept is related to the unity of the church, unity focuses more on the fact that we as individual members (parts of the body, to use Paul’s language) are one body in Christ. “The importance of tradition for evangelicals can be seen in the strategy of the Reformers who constantly argued their position as the truly catholic one attested to by the church fathers.” (Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, p. 11). “Catholic” emphasizes that throughout the world there is one true body of Christ–and thus it is important that we be connected to that body. Like the term “Trinity,” the concept is there and is crucial. Paul in Ephesians 3 never considers what some might have suggested today: since there are all these cultural and historical differences between Jewish and Gentile Christians, lets just have parallel churches for the two groups, at least for a while. Ephesians 3 is about the catholicity of the church. If you feel uncomfortable when someone different from you comes into church, remember that the church is catholic. Continue reading “Who Are We? The Catholic and Apostolic Church”