Category Archives: Devotional

The Model Church – Spiritual Foundations

When I was a tutor in college, I always investigated the foundational knowledge of who I was helping. This was true regardless of subject. What I often found was the reason they were struggling in the material was because they were lacking in their foundation. Therefore, we had to fix the foundation. Once that was done, it was easier to learn what they were struggling with. 

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. – Acts 2:42, ESV

The spiritual foundation of the Church revolves around the teaching of the Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers. Without this spiritual foundation, anything else will have cracks and flaws. Anything else will be less than it could be. Anything else will be more susceptible to straying from God’s will. 

The model church understand the necessity of this spiritual foundation and emphasizes it. The Word is properly preached and taught. Prayer is seen as a must, not a nice to have, and is given its proper place of importance in the life of the church. The people understand the necessity of gathering together, not just for worship service, but also to build bonds of community and support for each other. None of these are neglected. All of these are expected. 

Certainly the idea that one can be fine on their own isn’t acceptable. This wasn’t practiced by the early church. The Bible reminds us again and again that we are defeated when we try to go it alone. It is only when we have others with us that we can overcome and stay strong. As a result, if we are to live as Christ intends, we must have this foundation in our lives. Let us not neglect the spiritual foundation of the Church and of our lives as Christians. 

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The Model Church – Witnesses Everwhere

In the Church we make a big deal about foreign missionaries. Indeed, they are a big deal. A person who agrees to be a missionary to another country is giving up the comforts of home, the connections of family and friends, and is following God’s leading from everything he or she has known. However, other missions work is a big deal, too. 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8, ESV

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to be witnesses everywhere. Note where Jesus started: Jerusalem. The disciples were already in Jerusalem. Jesus was telling them to be witnesses right where they were. 

Then Jesus expanded by saying Judea and Samaria. In other words, the territory around them that was only a few days travel away. They were to be witnesses there, too. 

Finally, Jesus said, “to the end of the earth.” Their vision couldn’t be local. They needed to go as far as they could. We have historical records of the disciples obeying, going as far as India and the British Isles. Those were great distances from Jerusalem.  

That command Jesus gave His disciples still applies to us today. We are to be witnesses from where we live to the furthest parts of the world from us. There is no place too close nor any place too far. 

The model church understands that missions work encompasses anywhere and everywhere it can reach. It’s not just about missions giving. It’s also about mission doing. And it’s not just about sending out foreign missionaries. It’s also about reaching out around us. Let us be His witnesses wherever He calls us to reach and be!

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The Model Church – The Holy Spirit

There’s a lot we can do on our own. We can dig wells in deserts. We can establish bases in the harsh conditions of Antarctica. We can put a person on the moon. We can build computers to do our calculations for us. However, there is a lot we can’t do under our own power. 

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” – Acts 1:4-5, ESV

After Christ’s resurrection, he returned multiple times to believers before the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit would be poured out in a permanent way. One of these visits was to remind His disciples that they needed to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit rested upon them. God could have reached each person wherever they were in the world. However, Pentecost was to be a sign to His people, reflecting His glory and power. 

His power. Not our power. His. And He was going to pour out His power on us so that we might accomplish His will. Many of the things to be done, as great as some of our abilities might be, required God’s power. Those tasks and achievements required the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the early Church, even before it was really any semblance of a church, was told to wait on that power. 

It’s not any different today. We need the same power. We need His power. There’s a lot wrong in our families, in our churches, in our neighborhoods, in our nations, and in the world as a whole. Some things we can address with our own talents abilities, and experience. God has prepared us with those things. 

However, there is so much more we can’t do. There are needs we can’t see with our own limited vision. There are resources we don’t have in our local churches that other churches do, but they have no way of knowing of our need. There are God’s plans for the future that we can’t fully understand nor even imagine. And there are situations we will encounter that will totally outstrip those talents, abilities, and experiences we rely so heavily upon. For all of these and more, we need the Holy Spirit. 

One of the weaknesses in a lot of churches is to try and rely so much on human planning and capability. We pray marginally as bodies of Christ. We don’t seek desperately after God to know what He would have us do. Or if we do such seeking, when God raises up something we see as impossible to do under the abilities of the people who attend a particular church, we shrink away saying it is too much. Maybe we don’t use those words, but our actions reflect them. We don’t yield to the Holy Spirit and we don’t turn to Him to do what we cannot do. 

The model church embraces the Holy Spirit. He is God. He is all-powerful. Just as the Son obeys the Father, so does the Holy Spirit. That means He is here to provide the means for believers to accomplish the Father’s will. He is not a feeling. He is not an energy drink to give us a boost of enthusiasm during worship service. He is God. The model church understands this, embraces Him, and is obedient to Him. He is a vital part of such a church. Let our churches by more like the model church, O Lord!

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John 5:25-29

There is another heresy which believes the Son, Jesus, is of lesser authority than the Father, that He is a creation of the Father and subordinate to Him. This heretical belief is called Arianism and came to the forefront initially in the 3rd century. However, certain sects and “denominations” of Christianity still hold to this heretical idea today. Again, Jesus’ own words stand against such heresy:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. – John 5:25-29, ESV

Part of this whole discourse is Jesus pointing out that He is of equal authority with the Father. Combined with other passages, such as John 1:1, there is no support for Jesus either being a creation of the Father or Jesus being subordinate to the Father. He has been from the beginning, He is God, and and He was with the Father, who is also God. 

Why is this important? If you’ve ever dealt with someone who had a supervisor who could overrule a decision and then had that decision changed to your detriment by said superior, you have an understanding of how important this is with regards to something like salvation and eternal life. And because of that, Jesus made it clear that with regards to life or judgment, He makes the call. 

Therefore, we can take solace in the fact the He is the arbiter for forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. His death on the Cross has paid for our sins and by His grace we are saved. There are no additional requirements. There are no others we are required to please. Christ alone. Not just for how we are saved, but also for who determines our salvation. Praise Him!

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John 5:21-24

A core Christian belief is that Jesus has the power to grant eternal life. However, there is a heresy that has regained traction in recent years which is the belief that everyone will be saved. This is part of what leads folks to say, “We all worship the same God,” or, “We all find our own path to spiritual enlightenment.” That is, if they believe in the divine at all. Some of the folks who say such things are within churches. Some even lead churches. But if those statements were true, then we Christians have a Biblical problem:

For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. – John 5:21-24, ESV

Jesus Himself said that our starting position is to enter into eternal judgment. Only by believing the Father, in what He says about Jesus, will one escape judgment and therefore have eternal life. Jesus is the one making the call, and He says a person has to honor the Father. By the way, if one doesn’t honor Jesus, that person also don’t honor the Father. Therefore, eternal life ties back to Jesus. Without Jesus one dishonors the Father and is not saved. 

This belief of the Christian Faith used to be held without question. This isn’t the only place in the Scriptures where we are told Jesus is the only way. Therefore, the idea that God eventually saves everyone or that one can find eternal salvation through some other path than Jesus doesn’t match up with Jesus’ words. And if either or both of those beliefs are true, then Jesus is a liar. That puts us in quite a bad spot. If Jesus lied about how one might be saved, couldn’t He also lie about saving us? Absolutely He could. 

The good news is that Jesus is truth. As a result, He won’t lie. He can’t lie. What He says about salvation, about eternal life is true. However, that also means that anything in contradiction to what He says is wrong. In a case like who will be saved and how, it’s heresy. There’s no way to tip-toe around it. 

We can be encouraged because Jesus is speaking so plainly about eternal life. He gave us these words to encourage us but also to ensure we understood He is the only way. The Bible tells us to believe and confess and we will be saved. We must believe Jesus is who He said He was and that He will save us. There’s no “heavy lifting” on our parts. Jesus has done it all. And in that, too, we can rejoice. 

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John 5:19-20

I think a lot about the state of the Church. I think about how big Christianity has grown. I think about how big some individual churches are. We tend to measure success by numbers. However, does a higher count mean more success? Does having 150 baptisms mean a church is doing better than 15? How about a youth group of 75 versus 25? As I think back to Jesus’ own example I can honestly say no, numbers aren’t a true measure of success. Jesus could have had numbers. However, He chose against numbers. He chose truth. He chose this:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. – John 5:19-20, ESV

Jesus chose to do what He saw the Father doing. Jesus didn’t choose based on what others did. Jesus wasn’t a cult leader. He wasn’t trying to recruit an army. He wasn’t interested in leading a rebellion against the Roman Empire. Jesus was interested in the reason He had departed from the Father and came to walk with us: to save us from our sins for the glory of the Father. This meant he would do things which would hurt the numbers. And not just small losses, either. John 6:66 tells us that many disciples turned their back on Jesus after He revealed some hard-to-accept truths. Truths about them. Truths that cut to the core of their problems: sin and their condemnation in it. We’ll look at that more as we explore John 6, however, we can understand John 6 in context with what Jesus said here. 

Within the Church, we use the phrase, “imitators of Christ.” Christ was an imitator of the Father. What the Father did, Jesus did. So if we imitate Christ, we imitate the Father. Likewise, if we don’t imitate Christ, we don’t imitate the Father, either. That’s a problem. And when we chose to follow after something that we don’t see the Father (or Christ) doing, then we’re following after the wrong thing. Sure, it may increase our numbers, but it’s still not right. We are so consumed with numbers, though, that we choose to ignore this truth. 

However, if we choose to follow after Christ, and therefore the Father, there’s incredible blessing in doing so. Jesus told His disciples that the Father was showing Him all that the Father was doing. The Father was showing Him because of love. How does this apply to us? Look at Jesus’s last words in the quoted passage, “so that you may marvel.” We will be able to see the Father’s works. When we do, we will marvel at them. As desensitizing as our current world is to us, whatever the Father is doing will cause us to go, “Wow!” However, we must be with the Son, with Jesus, and be imitators of the Father. 

Doing it God’s way may not produce the numbers which other methods might. However, those are empty numbers. There are plenty of places in Scripture where we’re told folks are going to come before God and claim how faithful or zealous they were and some will cite the equivalent of numbers. Yet God will dismiss them, stating He never knew them. If we think our God is primarily about numbers, we’ve got it all wrong. He is about imitation: us imitating Him. Let us do so, regardless of the numbers. 

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John 5:16-18

The Gospel writers made it clear that they believed Jesus to be the Son of God. They also ensured that the reader knew Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. There’s no middle ground. He didn’t claim to be another rabbi or even another prophet. Jesus stated with precise words that He believed Himself to be God in the flesh. 

And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. – John 5:16-18, ESV

He healed the cripple on the Sabbath. Then He ordered the man to get up, take his bedding, and go, for the man had been healed. As a result, Jesus came into conflict with the interpretation of men as to what the Sabbath was for. It wasn’t the former cripple whom the religious leaders were after. Jesus was their target. 

This brought about an opportunity for Jesus to make a claim about Himself. He pointed out that God doesn’t stop working, just because it’s the Sabbath. It’s not like prayers suddenly go unheard and unanswered. The Universe doesn’t stop working and go off kilter every Sabbath day. No, God continues to watch over His creation and exert His will. Jesus pointed out this is the way God is. And then Jesus drew attention to who He was by tying Himself to God by calling God His “Father.”

To us, at first glance that doesn’t mean much. We refer to God the Father all the time. We call Him our Father. But we do these things precisely because Jesus told us to do so. In Jesus’ time, calling God your Father would mean you were the same type as Him. In other words, you were God. The same is true if you used the phrase, “Son of God,” or if you referred to yourself in the same way God did, which is “I AM.” Jesus also did these things. Jesus didn’t leaving room for a mixed interpretation. 

It is left to us to decide whether or not to believe what Jesus said about Himself is true. Until Jesus rose again, this isn’t something His disciples truly understood. After He arose and after He taught them again with the Scriptures did comprehension as to who Jesus was break through. So for us it is logical that this is a point of struggle. After all, God setting aside all rights of His divinity to put Himself into the frail form of one of His creations? How absurd! But this is the claim the Bible makes. And this is where we have to make a choice. Do we believe or don’t we?

In this claim there is no middle ground. There are no shades of gray. Either we believe or we don’t. Either we believe completely or we don’t at all. God doesn’t give us the option of a partial choice. Do you truly believe Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe He is who He claimed to be, God Himself? If so, you are to worship Him. I am to worship Him. All who believe are to worship Him. We are to glorify Him first. But He is worthy of such worship and glory. For Jesus was God in the flesh, who chose to leave His throne in heaven and offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He did what no other could do: pay the price for our iniquities once and for all. Therefore, let us respond with hearts glad in joy for what He has done for us. 

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