Church Growth

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When speaking or writing on the subject of evangelism, we need to understand that the truth is we can grow if…

…we want to.

…we are willing to apply certain growth principles.

…we are willing to pay the price of growth.

…if we do not have a “terminal illness”.

Extensive studies have been conducted over the years which point to the fact that any church can grow when it decides to. However, so long as a congregation is contented to remain where they are, they will do just that, and watch themselves die off one by one until they no longer exist. Only when a congregations becomes dissatisfied with their present status; start to develop a plan to move from that status; and exercise that plan, growth can be seen.

When examining church growth, most congregations experience what is called a thirty-year pattern of growth. They grow early following their beginning, then level off, and finally stop growing. When that happens, there is but one direction to go – backwards. The simple reality is, churches do not maintain a status quo. They are either growing or dying, and there is no middle ground. With this article we want to give some thought to church growth in order to see what  must be done to bring about growth of the church in any location.

GROWTH IS NATURAL – Tragically, many smaller congregations have convinced themselves that the natural way for them to be is small and ingrown. They see larger congregations as mutations, freaks, or liberal. They perceive them to be the odd ones in God’s scheme of things. When doing so, they either forget, or overlook, the fact that growth is the natural condition in God’s world. To live is to grow. Whether it applies to trees, turnips, tadpoles, children or churches, when something stops growing, it is through. The simple reality is, when growth stops, death has already set.

When it comes to the church, growing is the natural thing for it to do. A normal, healthy, loving church, set in a reasonably normal setting, grows, naturally! Loving people reach out in love to share that love. Excited people naturally share their excitement. If faith has any meaning at all, it will be shared.  To put it negatively, we know a spiritual sickness has set in when people have been entrusted with the most important news of all time and they simply sit on it and do nothing (Romans 1:16; Matthew 28:18-20).

The church is God’s vehicle for achieving His will in His world today. If people are to ever hear the true unadulterated gospel, it must come from the church. This work has not been given to some civic organization. Neither has it been given to denominational churches. Instead, it has been given to the blood-bought body of Christ. People say the church cannot grow because it preaches the true Word of God and people do not want to hear it. Yet the first-century church preached the true Word of God and it grew (Acts 2:41; 4:32). When considering the early church, we see they faced impossible odds. They faced an oppressive, unsympathetic government, nervous about this new, upsetting, subversive religion.  They were small, to begin with and soon were scattered (Acts 8:1).  For the most part, they were poor and uneducated. They faced a vast mixture of cultures and religions.  But they grew joyously, naturally, excitingly, and rapidly.  So far as we can determine, it was not the result of a series of sermons on church growth. It just came naturally.

SOME IMPORTANT ASSUMPTIONS – Faith is the most important thing that church members have to share. It is easily seen that people need many things, but nothing is more needed than salvation.  The problem the church confronts is, we have offered, peace without the Peacemaker, service without the Servant, and knowledge without the mind of Christ.

It is imperative that it be understood that evangelism is more than seeking the lost. It can easily be said that Christ is not pleased with

Fishing without catching – Luke 5:4-11

Empty banquet tables – Luke 14:15-23

Sowing without reaping – Matthew 13:3-9

A fig tree that bears no fruit – Luke 13:6-9

Lost sheep that are not brought into the fold –

Matthew 18:11-14.

A lost coin that is sought but not found – Luke 15:8-10

Harvests that are not reaped – Matthew 9:36-38

Proclamation without response – Matthew 10:14

Sons and daughters outside the Father’s house –

Luke 15:11-32.

The bottom line is, contrary to common thinking, numbers matter. A census taker in the hills of West Virginia knocked at a door and asked the woman of the house how many lived there. She replied, “Well, there’s Willie, and there’s Sarah Ann, and there’s Butch, and there’s Alfred. . .” “No, no, no,” interrupted the census taker. “Not the names, just the number.” “Mister,” said the lady, rising to her full five feet, two inches, “in this house we don’t have numbers. We all have names.” Every number has a name. It can be said that numbers matter because each number represents a child of God. I always have to laugh when people say “Numbers do not matter to God.” If this is true, why is there a book in the Bible called    “Numbers”?

SOME IMPORTANT STRATEGIES – To reach the lost, there are certain strategies that must be put into action. Christians need to go to the groups they are best suited to reach. This is basic New Testament strategy. Andrew brought his brother Peter (John 1:40, 41). The Samaritan woman brought people from her village (John 4:28-30). Matthew brought other tax collectors (Mark 2:14, 15). A sinful woman was forgiven and soon afterwards other sinful women found their way to Jesus (Luke 7:37-8:3). A study conducted a number of years ago revealed that where people went without any previous contact or social network, the conversion success rate was 0.1 percent. This averaged out to about one convert in every 1,000 visits.  On the other hand, where there had been a previous connection with members of the local congregation, the success rate increased to 50 percent.

To reach the lost we need to go to receptive people. All people are not receptive all the time as we are more receptive at times than at other times. When those periods of receptivity do occur they do not last. In study of the ministry of Jesus we see that He knew of this principle. He instructed His disciples to move on if a village did not receive them (Luke 9:4, 5).  In essence Jesus was saying, “Go where people will listen, don’t waste your precious time on those who won’t.” They were not to cast their pearls before the swine (Matthew 7:6). Those who have “ears to hear” are the ones where we need to concentrate upon (Matthew 11:15).  The Apostle Paul knew of this principle also. He wrote of doors being closed. Instead of standing banging on doors that would not open, he moved on to find those which were open to him (Acts 16:6-10; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 14:27). The church needs to follow these examples!

When looking around it is possible to see examples of open doors. Visitors are probably the most receptive. This is so because in most cases they have initiated the contact with the local congregation. Numerous studies have shown that if a return visit to visitors is made within 48 hours, while their interest level remains high, the odds are greater of reaching them than if the visit is made later. People who have experienced major changes in their lives would be the second most likely group. A new home, a child, a new job, the death of a loved one, serious illness, a child entering school, etc., are all good examples of possible open doors as they show interest in those who have experienced such things. The third most likely group would be people who have needs. Someone has said the rule should be, “Find a need and fill it. Find a hurt and heal it.” A vibrant benevolence program can be one of the greatest ways of reaching people if it is correctly utilized.  Too often the church takes care of the physical needs without any attempt to deal with spiritual needs. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are filled with examples of Jesus finding a need and filling it while finding a hurt and healing it.  Surely the church can learn from the Master Teacher!

A principle that must be kept in mind is, “Strike while the iron is hot.” Too many opportunities pass by while the church discusses what they should do (Galatians 6:10). The church needs to use the tools they have. Each member has certain capabilities that can be used for service in many other areas.  Why can’t they be used in service to the church?  I knew of an elder in a congregation many years ago who would sell light bulbs door-to-door for a Civic organization, but wouldn’t knock doors for the church.  He said “he couldn’t do it.”

What must be understood is evangelism is more than just knocking doors. It is knocking on the door of an individual’s heart instead (Revelation 3:20). The sad truth is, 95 percent of all church members never win one person to Christ during their lifetime. This is not due to there not being any to win. It is due to not seeking the lost.

Evangelism is often like driving a dump truck; we don’t dump the whole load at once. Congregations need to understand that as they work with people they are, for the most part, working with people who are ignorant of God’s Word. Those that come into the church are as newborn babes and need to be treated that way. The church cannot expect them to act like full grown Christians overnight. They must be given time to grow (Ephesians 4:15; 1 Peter 2:2).  The question is asked, how do you eat an elephant?  The answer is simple, one bite at a time.  People continue to learn and mature. Those that the church works with must be given time to do likewise.

To reach the lost of any community, evangelism needs to be kept high. Research has shown that most churches tend to cluster around a worship attendance of 30 to 35; 70 to 85; 115 to 135; 175 to 200 and so on. The question is how does a congregation move up to the next level? First, it needs to think big. In other words, think like a church that has already reached the next level.

Congregations need to see themselves as being larger. They need to gear their activities for a larger number. Secondly, congregations need to keep their focus.  When evangelism becomes something other than the purpose for living, churches are in trouble. It is important that members understand that the church exists not to satisfy itself, but to serve as God’s vehicle for the promulgation of the gospel (Mark 16:15, 16). Everything that is done should be geared with this in mind. Thirdly, congregations should know their goal.  We begin with the question, what is the goal for the church? If no one can tell what it is, then how do we hope to meet it? What must a congregation have in order to know what their goal is?  The answer is simple, a goal.  As someone has said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” For the church to grow, it must set a goal and then stick to it.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE? – First, we note the congregation’s price. Christians must give themselves to the cause before them (2 Corinthians 8:5). So long as Christians hearts are somewhere other than upon the work set before them, it will never get done. Like Israel of old in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Christians must have a mind to work (Nehemiah 4:6). Likewise, Christians must realize their purpose for being here. Every child of God has been purchased to serve Him (1 Corinthians 6:20). Because of this, they are willing servants in the kingdom of God (Romans 12:1). We can sum it up by saying; the church has been saved to save! Secondly, Christians must give financially. It costs money to do what we are talking about. Christians need to understand their responsibility to give properly to the church (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2).  They must be careful to not get caught up in the world in trying to get ahead to the point that they rob God of what is due Him (Malachi 3:8; Matthew 6:19, 20). Too many times God ends up paying for the little “extras” that Christians feel they need. This must not be.  Thirdly, Christians must be willing to give of their time and energy. The work of the church cannot be done unless church members do it. Christians have responsibilities which must be fulfilled.

As we consider growth, we need to take note of what we may call the profile of a growing congregation. First, it is a loving congregation.  People are attracted to loving churches more so than they are any other reason. At first, to many people, doctrine is not that important.  It is the reception they receive when they first visit that will make or break most people.  We need to remember that we have been called to love one another (John 13:34, 35; 1 Peter 2:17).  Secondly, it is an open congregation to new people. New people will not fight their way into the church. They must be accepted. They must feel welcome.  Granted, some people would feel out of place no matter what we do. But they are the exception to the rule.  Thirdly, we need to be open to new ideas.  Someone has said that the seven last words of a dying congregation are, “We never did it that way before.”  Flexibility is extremely important to the growth of the church. Not doctrinal flexibility, but flexibility when it comes to practicing our mission.  Fourthly, we need to be open to old ideas.  We can add another sentence to the words of the dying congregation, “We tried that before and it didn’t work.” Did you ever go out and try to start your car and it wouldn’t start the first time and give up?  Usually we try again and again until it starts or we  know it never will.

Can’t we apply this same thinking to the work of the church? So what if something was tried before and it didn’t work? Maybe the time wasn’t right. Have you ever wondered about the number of inventions that we now take for granted that would not have survived had the inventor given up at his first failure?  How many times did you try to walk before you walked without falling?  The truth is, only God gets everything perfect the first time.

Before we close, let me list a couple “terminal illnesses” that kill the church. First, there is “Ethnikitis”. Sometimes we shut people out of the kingdom simply because they are of a different race than we are. We must remember that each person is precious in God’s eyes (John 3:16).  Secondly, there is “populus abandonmentosis”.  We cannot abandon the people and still expect to win them. Jesus had many disciples because He constantly was out among the people tending their needs.  Congregations shutting themselves up in their buildings will not result in reaching anyone.  The early church was successful because it taught daily from house to house with the gospel (Acts 5:42).

The lost can be reached if the church will get busy looking for ways to reach out and follow up on those ways. Not only are the souls of those outside the church being jeopardize by the lack of effort, but so are the souls of many who refuse to take seriously their responsibility in this area as children of God. The church cannot sit idly by and allow the world to be lost without paying the price in eternity.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD “AUDIENCE”

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Contained within the book of Acts are numerous “cases of conversion” that make crystal clear the what, how, and means of conversion. They show that every person, regardless of age or rank, is saved the same way. As we consider Acts 10:32, 33, we are not going to be concerned with “conversion”, but with the “audience” that was present. It is not too uncommon to hear the speaker exalted and praised due to people’s attitude toward preaching. Sometimes this is done with no regard for the attitude of the audience. For those who have ever taught in a public manner, they realize that the “audience” is most essential to the effectiveness of the message. The gospel in the hands of the most effective speaker will avail nothing if the attitude of the “audience” is not good. It is like good seed in bad soil. With this article I would like for us to study the “audience” that we find in Acts 10:33 in view of the fact that in the book of Acts there are different types of audiences.

Felix – indifferent – Acts 24:24, 25.

Jews – rebellious – Acts 7:51.

Jews – receptive – Acts 2:41.

Eunuch – seeking – Acts 8:26-38.

“WE ARE ALL HERE” – Cornelius, as he explained to Peter what was going on, impressed upon him that they were all there. In looking at these words, we see that there is completeness found when he said, “We are all here.” In comparison to us, as we meet to study the Word of God, how often can that be said of us? It is interesting to see that Cornelius stated “we” and not “they.”

“PRESENT BEFORE GOD” – The ideal audience is aware of Deity’s presence (Hebrews 2:12). Even though there are no outward signs of the presence of Deity, we should know that He is with us. The realization of God’s presence should cause us to be present and reverent (Psalms 89:7).    So often, when a preacher stands in the pulpit, he sees many things other than people being reverent before God (people whispering, passing notes, sleeping, etc.). If we really believed that we were in the presence of God, would we do such?

I used to lose sleep over those who refuse to return on Sunday and Wednesday nights. I took it personal. But I now know that if they will not come knowing that God is there waiting to be worshipped, then they won’t come just because I am going to teach from His Word. I still lose sleep over this, but I no longer take it personal, I “allow” God to do so.

 “TO HEAR” – These were present before God to hear the Word. Can you imagine that? Today people attend out of courtesy, to appease their conscience, or to “feel” something. But at Cornelius’ house, they came to hear God’s word. We hear on every hand about the failure to communicate in government, in the home, in business, and even in the church. One of the problems is, everyone is talking and no one is listening. We sign up for classes on public speaking. Maybe we need classes on public listening. How many on Monday morning can tell what was studied Sunday morning? How many pay enough attention to apply what is being said themselves? We hear the prayers for this, but are they just words? When we assemble, are we all here present before God to hear what He would have us to hear? (James 1:22-25).

“ALL THINGS COMMANDED THEE OF GOD” – A good listener will cast aside their prejudices and make application of the truths that are taught (Matthew 4:4). Some want “watered down” lessons which will convict no one of their sin. Others dislike lessons on worldliness. We want a partial gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). Cornelius and his household, though, wanted to hear all things commanded of God. They did not want anything left out. How do we compare to Cornelius? Do we want to hear it all (Acts 20:20). Or just those things that suit us? Are we quick to say, “preach the word”, but include in that the thought to leave our sins alone? Do we become angered when our “toes” are stepped on, or do we say “preach the word, be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort”? (2 Timothy 4:2). Do we say “Amen,” or do we say, “Can’t he find something else to preach about?” When we assemble, are we all “present before God to hear all things commanded thee of God”, or are we just here?

God knows the difference! And He knows why we are here.

BUY THE TRUTH AND SELL IT NOT

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We are living in a world of buying and selling. Either directly or indirectly, we are dependent upon it for our livelihood. In the text for this article, Proverbs 23:23, the commercial terms “buy” and “sell” are used to teach an important lesson relative to the importance of accepting the truth. With this article we want to consider what it means to “buy the truth and sell it not.”

BUY THE TRUTH – Truth is the commodity we are urged to “buy”. With that in mind, we ask the question that Pilate asked of Jesus, “what is the truth” (John 18:38)? First, we see that it is the Word of God (John 17:17). Secondly, we see that Jesus is the manifestation of the truth (John 14:6). Thirdly, we take note that the gospe1 with its commands, facts and promises is the truth (Acts 26:25; Galatians 2:14). Once we come to the understanding of what the truth is, we ask, why “buy” it? The answer to this question is simple, it will save us (James 1:21) and is needed in every effort to live the Christian life.

BUY ONLY THE TRUTH – We realize that not everything that is sold is as good as it is said to be. We must be careful so as to buy what is authentic and not a “knockoff”. With that understood, we take note that not everything said to be the truth is the truth. Due to this, we need to examine what is said before we “buy” or accept it. We need to examine the doctrine that is taught to verify that it is from God (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). If the Bible teaches it, if it is in harmony with what the Bible teaches, then we should accept it. But if not, it should be rejected! We must discriminate between truth and error (John 5:39). Just about everything of importance has been counterfeited.  When it comes to matters of religion, it is important to reject all error, no matter who is teaching it.

BUY ALL THE TRUTH – It is just as bad not to “buy” all the truth as to “buy” what is not truth. Whether we buy a car or a sewing machine we want all of it. It will do no good to have just part of it. When it comes to the Bible, some will accept part of the truth, but not all of it. Some accept the truth concerning the need for salvation, but want to leave out baptism. Others accept the truth when it comes to the need to worship, but want to leave out Lord’s Supper or congregational singing.

WE MUST BUY THE TRUTH REGARDLESS OF THE PRICE – We need to be willing to “pay” whatever the price is (Luke 14:26-33). We must be willing to “pay” the price of self-denial (Luke 9:23). Whatever is necessary, we must be willing to “pay” the price, even to the very point of death (Revelation 2:10).

BUY THE TRUTH – It is not sufficient to hear about it. It is not sufficient to hear and know about it. It is not sufficient to recommend it to others. It is not sufficient to intend to buy it. To be blessed by the truth, we must “buy” or accept it (Matthew 7:21-23; John 8:32; Hebrews 5:9; James 1:22).

BUY THE TRUTH NOW – Scripture teaches the urgency of obeying now (2 Corinthians 6:2; James 4:14). Look at all the “cases of conversion” in Acts. Notice that in each case they obeyed when they heard, not putting it off, realizing the urgency of prompt acceptance of God’s Word. Too often we put it off until it is too late, and the “damage is done” (Acts 24:25; 26:28).

SELL IT NOT – When “purchasing” the truth, we need to do so as a permanent investment. It should be “purchased” as that which we intend not to part with. We do not “sell” it for livelihood, pleasure or anything else. We are cheated when we bargain it away, even if we do so for the whole world (Mark 8:36, 37).

It is important to “buy the truth and sell it not” while we can. Tomorrow may be too late. For those of us who have already “bought” it, we must be careful to not bargain it away as we are drawn away after worldly desires (James 1:14).

CHRISTIANITY, A VERY “EXCEPTIONAL” RELIGION

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After great efforts to save the ship, and the sailor’s attempt to abandon it, the Apostle Paul issued the following warning to the centurion: “”Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 27:31). In this statement we find an absolute requisite for the salvation of those who were on the ship. Their very lives hung on the balance of this exception. Everything depended upon the word “except”. The ship, and all those who were on it were lost, “except” those who would remain in the ship. Remaining with the ship was the condition upon which all lives could be saved. As already stated, it was an absolute requirement.

This same emphatic, conditional and provisional word “except” is employed in the Scriptures to express the absolute conditions upon which God offers salvation from sin, and the promise of eternal life. To ignore the “exceptions” of God’s instruction is to jeopardize one’s opportunity to be saved. In view of this, it can be said that Christianity is an “exceptional” religion. It is imperative that man recognize every such “exception” found in God’s plan of salvation. This article will assist us in seeing them.

EXCEPT THE LORD BUILD THE HOUSE – PSALM 127:1 – Man must conclude that God alone can build the “house” that is worthy, and will stand eternally. Further, we must conclude that God alone can keep the city. When we understand that the church, as God’s house, is to be built by none other than Deity, we will understand how that those who attempt to do otherwise labor in vain (1 Timothy 3:15). The Lord promised to build but one church (Matthew 16:18). Further, we see that the New Testament teaches that Jesus is the head of but one church (Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians 1:18). Jesus clearly warned about the result of those “plants” which His Father did not plant (Matthew 15:13). Many religious groups exist, having been built by man, with human creeds, wearing human names that are waiting the day of which they will be rooted up.

EXCEPT YE BELIEVE IN JESUS – JOHN 8:24 – Herein, Jesus warned concerning the necessity of belief, and the consequences for failure to do so. To die in one’s sins is to face eternal condemnation. Yet, there is an exception to such a death. One can believe in Christ. This is an absolute condition, stated herein, for salvation is of faith. The world is lost without salvation. Except man turns to God in belief, he will die in that condition. It is imperative that we note that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).

EXCEPT YE REPENT – LUKE 13:3, 5 – In these passages, Jesus spoke clearly of this exception. Here, we see clear evidence that those who refuse to repent of their sins will be lost eternally. The Apostle Paul spoke of the same need of repentance in Acts 17:30, 31. It is important to understand that one cannot find life in Christ without repenting (Acts 11:18). It is also important to understand that God does not desire that any perish, but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

EXCEPT A MAN BE BORN AGAIN – JOHN 3:3, 5 – When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night to inquire of salvation he was told of the necessity of the new birth. Thus, for one to enter the Kingdom of God, he must be willing to be born anew. This is an absolute requirement! To understand what is meant here we turn to the first gospel sermon preached following the ascension of Christ (Acts 2:37-41).

EXCEPT YE ABIDE IN ME – JOHN 15:4 – As children of God, it is important to realize the necessity of abiding in Christ. Herein Jesus taught that He is the vine, and we are the branches, and so long as the branches remain attached to the vine they are seeking to bear fruit. But apart from the vine, they are barren. Jesus issued a clear warning concerning the need to constantly abide in him (John 15:6, 7). Abiding in Jesus is so important due to the fact that it is in him that so much happens:

  1. In Him have all spiritual blessings – Ephesians 1:3.
  2. In Him we become new creatures – 2 Corinthians 5:17.
  3. In Him we obtain salvation – 2 Timothy 2:10.
  4. In Him we have no condemnation – Romans 8:1.
  5. In Him we are made alive – 1 Corinthians 15:22.
  6. In Him we triumph – 2 Corinthians 2:14.
  7. In Him we are made one – Galatians 3:28.
  8. In Him we are made partakers of the promise – Ephesians 3:6.
  9. In Him we rejoice more abundantly – Philippians 1:26.

 Clearly we see the exception here on each of these points.

 

Christ, The Coming One

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Prior to Jesus’ departure from this earth He, on numerous occasions, spoke of His return (Matthew 16:27; 24:30, 44; 26:64).  As He ascended into the heavens, two “men” in white apparel, commonly believed to be angels, announced His return (Acts 1:9-11). In fact, every New Testament writer makes reference to the return of Christ – Matthew (25:13); Mark (8:38); Luke (21:27); John (14:3); Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:16); James (5:8); Peter (1 Peter 5:4); and Jude (14, 15).  As such, those who accept the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures do not doubt that Jesus is coming again. In this article we want to give consideration to Christ, the coming One.

FIRST, WHAT WILL BE THE MANNER OF HIS COMING? – His coming will be with great demonstration and power (Mark 13:26). In fact, the resurrection of the dead, and the destruction of the heavens and earth are connected with the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; 2 Peter 3:10-12).

His coming will be with great glory (Matthew 16:27; Luke 21:27). What a sight it will be to behold, the appearance in the skies of Jesus and his “mighty angels.” His coming will be a glorious event when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, when His shout will be heard throughout the domains of the earth; when the voice of the archangel will speak; and when the harp of God will be heard (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

His coming will be with the clouds (Revelation 1:7). As the clouds transported Him through the skies back to His heavenly home, so the Scriptures teach that He will come again (Matthew 24:30; 26:64).

His coming will be unexpected, as no man knows the day or the hour of His return (Mark 13:32; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5). Like a thief in the night, His coming will come upon the world. On the other hand, while Christians do not know the time of His coming, in one sense it will not overtake us as a thief, as we expect His coming some day

His coming will be universally visible (Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:26, 27).

SECONDLY, THE SECOND COMING WILL BE RECEIVED IN TWO WAYS – The righteous will welcome the second coming. The Apostle Paul wrote of Christ’s appearing as the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). The Scriptures represent Christians as looking for, or waiting for, the coming of Christ (2 Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 9:28; 2 Peter 3:11, 12). With the coming of Christ will be ushered in those things that will consummate redemption. As the redeemed, with purified spirits and glorified bodies, we shall dwell forever with the Lord.

On the other hand, the day of the Lord will be a day of calamity for the wicked. The thought of the second coming of Christ, and of judgment, has always been the fear and dread of the world.

Those who have grown up under the influence of Christianity, but who have not yielded their lives to God, are not able to be at ease because of this thought. And, truly, it should fill their souls with anxiety. On that day, Jesus will be revealed to them, not as the One for whom they are longing, but as the One who comes in vengeance and flaming fire (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Jude 14, 15).

THIRDLY, THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT THE DAY OF THE LORD:

                        It will be a day of eternal separation, even of loved ones (Luke 17:34-36).

The opportunity of salvation will be forever withdrawn (Luke 13:24, 25).

The angels will sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them

into eternal fire (Matthew 13:49, 50).

The angels will gather together the saved to be with the Lord (Matthew 24:31).

The dead will be raised (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).

It will be a day of great sorrow and weeping (Luke 13:28).

It will be a day of great joy (Revelation 22:12).

FOURTHLY, WE ARE TO WATCH AND BE READY FOR HIS COMING – Jesus did not place emphasis upon the time of His coming, but upon the necessity of our being ready for His coming (Matthew 24:42). Because we do not know the time of His coming, we are exhorted to be ever ready. The parable of the ten virgins was taught for the express purpose of teaching the necessity of always being prepared for Christ’s return (Matthew 25:1-13).

Christ is coming again. That is not the question. The question is will you be ready when He comes?

 

CHRIST OUR SAVIOR

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It has been said that Napoleon once stated, “I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ was not a man.” By that statement we see his belief that there was more to Jesus than his being a mere mortal. There are many titles ascribed to Jesus, but all are included in the overall concept of his being the Savior. The incarnation of Jesus is a cardinal doctrine of the Bible. It, actually, stands at the center of God’s dealing with sinful man. Everything that pre-dates him looks toward his incarnation, while everything from his incarnation looks backward to this time in history. There are numerous scriptures which present a reason for his coming but, I suppose, none so clearly do so as Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Other passages that could be considered are, Luke 2:20-30; John 1:29; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 5:31; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 3:5. All of these present Jesus not as a Savior, but as the one and only Savior.

Having noted this let us consider why it is that man needs a savior. The question can easily be answered by the fact of man’s lost condition. The whole of Scripture teaches this fundamental fact in such passages as Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:10, 23; Ephesians 2:1-5. The first step in reaching those outside of Christ is the step of their coming to the realization that they are lost. When such is done as it should be, it becomes much like one in a burning building, who you do not need to beg to leave. The realization that the world was lost explains the urgency found in the preaching of the early church.

With this in mind we then need to ponder the question of “from what does Christ save?” The New Testament answers this question clearly. People are lost due to sin! All who have not obeyed the gospel stand condemned before God, no matter how morally good they may be. Consider the words of Paul to the church at Thessalonica, “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). With many the sense of sin is declining. Many, even in the name of religion, have attempted to explain it away. Others look upon sin as being nothing more than a misfortune. The sinner is viewed as a victim rather than as an offender.

So, to who is Christ the Savior? It is important to take note that Jesus saves people from their sins and not in their sins (Matthew 1:21). Jesus died to save all men, but not all will accept it. Only those who believe and obey will do so, as seen in John 3:16; Hebrews 5:8, 9; 10:39. It can be said that man is saved by faith, but it cannot be said that man is saved by faith alone (James 2:20-24). Biblical faith has always produced obedience (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Hebrews 11). Let us understand that the church is composed of the saved, which are those who have submitted themselves in simple obedience to the gospel and have maintained faithful to the gospel (Acts 2:47; 20:28; Ephesians 2:23-25. In the end, the only thing that matters will be whether we have accepted this offer from God. Have you done so?

 

CHOICES

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Life is full of choices as is manifested in our day to day walk. We make choices when it comes to the clothing we wear, the food we eat, where we live, the degree of education that we pursue, along with many other things too numerous to mention. All of these have to do with this life, but do not always have eternal significance. Other choices are such that will affect us throughout the entirety of our lives from the moment we make them, and even beyond the grave. For example, the choice that we make in a spouse may well have something to do with where we will be for eternity. I have often said that as Christians we need to be careful to choose a mate that will assist us in getting to heaven, and not hell. The simple truth is, I can get there on my own, I do not need help! The same, of course, could be said of children born into our homes. A non-Christian mate will, in many cases, be a hindrance to our setting our children on the right path in life (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). Choosing to either become or refuse to become a Christian will, affect our eternal destiny. Numerous passages of scripture in both the Old and New Testaments indicate the eternal significance of many of the   choices we make. Our text for this article is Matthew 7:13-27 which clearly sets the stage for a proper understanding of the need to make choices in life with a view toward eternity.

A CHOICE MUST BE MADE – Needless to say, the most important choices are those of a spiritual nature. In view of our text, we see we can choose the narrow way or the broad way. We can choose to be like the wise man who built his house on the rock or like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. Several years ago, while working as a self-employed carpenter, the footer of the basement walls of a house we were building gave way due to the unstable condition of the soil beneath it. We were totally unaware of the soil’s condition until it was too late. Such does not need to be the case when it comes to spiritual matters. God has given us His Word to provide us with the information necessary that we “…may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:17). Likewise, He has given “…us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” (2 Peter 1:3).

It is important to understand that daily choices have an accumulated effect. One choice is added to another, and another to another, until eventually an established way of life is formed and an eternal destiny is set. Much like the “Christian Graces,” found in 2 Peter 1:5-11, that are added one to another, proper choices, when added up at the end of the day, may result in our developing the holiness expected of us by God (1 Peter 1:15, 16).

CHOOSING THE NARROW WAY – The narrow way consists of following Deity and Deity alone as we walk consistently in “his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Regardless of what man would have us to believe, we dare not choose another to follow when it comes to our spiritual lives. When one chooses someone other than Christ, he severs himself from the only means to reach God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). To properly make the right choices we need to choose true wisdom rather than the worldly wisdom that so many pursue today (Proverbs 23:23; Psalms 119:130; 19:7-11). To seek only worldly wisdom, as opposed to the spiritual wisdom, is pictured as a vain pursuit (Ecclesiastes 1:13-18; 2:15, 16).

We think of the words of the Apostle Paul as he addressed this matter with the Corinthians(1 Corinthians 1:19, 20). Although it can be said that a certain amount of worldly wisdom is necessary to survive in this world, it should never be pursued to the neglect of spiritual wisdom.

The truth of the matter is, often those who pursue worldly wisdom have a very selfish view in mind. It is imperative that we choose the gospel, rather than man-made gimmicks, as we seek for salvation (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12). The reason for this is clearly seen as we take note that the gospel way is the narrow way and as such, it is the right way. Likewise, it is “the power,” not “a power,” as though it is one among many. The simple truth is, the gospel is God’s only “drawing power” to save mankind. In spite of this, modern man continues to use every conceivable means to win and hold members. We must be cautioned to not follow in their path.

CHOOSING “A” CHURCH – We need to choose the Lord’s church as revealed in the Scriptures and not denominational churches which have been built by man (Psalm 127:1;    1 Timothy 3:15; Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47). In the New Testament, local churches had a particular organization, work, and worship. In view of such, we need to pattern ourselves after what God ordained for His church.

CHOOSING GOD’S “FAMILY VALUES” – We need to choose God’s “family values” and not the “values” of modern man. God’s way promotes marriage and the home (Proverbs 18:22; 1 Timothy 5:14). Modern man, on the other hand, promotes divorce and so-called “live-ins.” God’s “values” promotes sexual purity as seen in Hebrews 13:4, while man’s “values” would have us live much like an alley cat. God’s ways would have us to accept the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife (Genesis 2:24) while the “wisdom” of the world promotes homosexuality on every front.

CHOOSE TO BE A WISE PERSON – Jesus said that the wise person is the one who hears His sayings and does them (Matthew 7:24). To do so involves reasoning and making the proper response to what Jesus taught. No greater choice could ever be made and displays wisdom in the life of the one who has chosen to do so.

Our day to day choices are important. We can choose the narrow way which leads to life, or we can go in the broad way which leads to destruction. We can choose to be wise by obeying the Lord, or we can choose to be foolish by not heeding his commands (John 1:10-13). When the proper choice is made, those who receive Jesus have a right to become children of God.

 

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