...and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23).

An online interactive spiritual publication for the strengthening and building up of the Kingdom.

30 May 2010

A Strong Church

Strength is an admirable characteristic. Individuals who are strong-willed and strong-minded are much preferred over the weak and unstable. Certainly, the characteristics of strength that applies to human beings is one that is applicable and clearly associated with the Lord’s Church. Jesus emphasized the strength which the Church was to exhibit when He answered Peter, “…upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The Hebrew writer echoed the same truth: “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28). The Church as a divine institution has been given unparalleled strength and power by God.

Writing directly to the Ephesians, and indirectly to all Christians of all times, Paul commanded, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). The strength and power of the Church as a divine institution is not in question. Rather, the question is, how can the Church can maintain its unparalleled strength? What Paul wrote to the Church was an exhortation to preserve the institution purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. The same responsibility given to the Church in the first century remains with the Church in the twenty-first century. Our challenge is finding how we can preserve, increase, and perpetuate the strength and power of the Church which is demanded of us by God.

Loyalty to God and His Word

The only way we will be successful in our endeavors to preserve, increase, and perpetuate the strength and power of the Church is by being loyal to God and His word. When 3,000 Jews obeyed the Gospel on the day of Pentecost, they became loyal and committed to the service of God. The account says they “…continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…And they, continued daily with one accord in the temple…” (Acts 2:42, 46). Even though they faced great persecutions, they were committed to the cause of Christ and the duty of making the Church strong.

As Christians, we are to remain steadfast and diligent to the cause of the Lord. Paul told the Corinthians to, “…be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). This is a call for loyalty. The Hebrew writer penned, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3:14).

If the Church is going to be strong and unwavering in the face of evil, we must exercise consistently to attain the goal of becoming strong in the Lord and in His word. How many of us have done as David did when he declared, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11)? Hiding the word in our hearts means to commit and secure God’s word in our hearts and in our minds. Yes, this takes time. Yes, this requires effort. Yes, this involves work. When we became Christians, we made a vow to God to make the time, put forth the effort, and do the work necessary to preserve, increase, and perpetuate the strength and power of the Church. Are we still doing this?

Converted Members

The Church needs members who have been truly converted to the preservation of its strength and power. How many of us who have been converted by the Gospel are still converted? Converted members are committed members; members who are loyal and dedicated to the cause of Christ; members who are interested in the spiritual welfare of the world.

Weakness in the Church is displayed through indifferent, lazy members. Jesus spoke against halfhearted service and indifference. Notice His strong statement regarding those who become stagnant in their service to the Lord: “…No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). The word “fit” is a small word, but carries much weight in its meaning as Jesus uses the word in this context. We might use this word in this context: “This food is not fit to eat.” What are our feelings toward the particular food? We are disgusted and repulsed by the food to the point we will not even try to “choke it down.” To those indifferent, lazy Christians, Jesus says they are not “fit for the kingdom of God.”

A similar statement is found in the book of Revelation. In Luke 9:62, Jesus focused more on the individual than on the whole. In Revelation, John’s focus is on the congregation as a whole. Yes, indifferent and lazy members will translate into indifferent, lazy congregations, as well. To the congregation at Laodicea, Jesus, through John, had this to say: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:14-16).

This congregation had become complacent in their service to the Lord. They were weak, and thereby, a hindrance to the work of preserving, increasing, and perpetuating the strength and power of the Church. The Laodiceans, as a congregation, were not “fit for the kingdom of God.” This is what the Lord meant when He said, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). This congregation disgusted and repulsed God with their weakness; with their compliance to the world; with their indifference. Could the same be said of us?

Unsatisfied Members

Finally, to preserve, increase, and perpetuate the strength and power of the Church, members must be unsatisfied with their results in reaching the lost. No matter how successful we are in carrying out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-19; Mark 16:15), we must not become satisfied.

Satisfaction can become a questionable characteristic in a Christian. In most avenues in life, we aspire to satisfaction. When we set a goal for ourselves, we work relentlessly towards its achievement. Once we accomplish our goal, we rest. When athletes win championships, there is nothing left to accomplish, so they retire. Whenever we feel as though we have reached a pinnacle, we stop and relish in our success. To the contrary, if we set out to accomplish something, but are defeated, we quit and accept the unfortunate outcome. In both scenarios, we stop and accept the hand we are dealt. No matter how commonly this pattern is observed, it is not to be characteristic of Christians.

A profound statement was made by the apostle Paul to the Colossians in relation to his own and the Church’s accomplishment. He said, “…be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven…” (Colossians 1:23). All the people of the world had heard the Gospel. What an amazing achievement! However, we cannot read of Paul becoming satisfied with the results. Nowhere do we read of Paul’s retirement. Even as Paul faced great opposition to the Gospel, he did not accept defeat and quit. He told the Philippians, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul only continued onward and upward in his work to preserve, increase, and perpetuate the strength and power of the Church. We must do the same.

What about Us?

What are we doing to insure the Church will not be moved? What are we doing to preserve, increase, and perpetuate the strength and power of the Church? We must ask and answer these questions individually, and then congregationally. Where improvements need to be made, we must not hesitate to make them. In our hands lies the future strength or weakness of the Church.

David Flatt
September 2006

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