THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
Ephesians 5:25 “…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”
In Bible study there are various laws/rules or methods of study. One of these methods is the Law of First Mention. We are going to look at the first two times “church” is used in the New Testament, this will be the very first building block, the foundation, the backbone, that the DNA of the church is built upon and attached to. We are going to look carefully at the first two mentions of the foundation of the church and of our Fundamental beliefs.
WHEN DID THE CHRUCH BEGIN?
Matthew 16:13-19 “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesa-rea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Our next occurrence of the word church in the New Testament is found in Matthew chapter 18. The word church is found in the New Testament some 113 times.
Matthew 18:15-19 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”
Look at the two expressions isolated Matthew 16:18 “I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH” and Matthew 18:17 “TELL IT TO THE CHURCH”. These are the first two mentions of the word “church” in the New Testament and in the Bible. There is no such thing as the church as we know, with two ordinances, church officers, a Great Commission to fulfill, mentioned in the Old Testament. We can find some pictures of the church in the Old Testament, such as Eve being the bride of Adam and Sarah being the bride of Abraham. The Old Testament teaching is primarily not on the church.
So, when did the church begin? We know by the reading of Matthew 16 where Jesus said “I will build my church” that is was still to come at some point in the future at that time. So, the church was apparently yet future when Jesus spoke those words in Matthew 16. Not long after speaking these words Jesus died on the cross and rose the third day. Pentecost came, and all the component parts of the church were in place. So, think for a moment. What does the Bible say the church is founded upon, what makes up the foundational DNA of the church? The Bible teaches us the church is founded upon the death, the resurrection and the ascension of Christ. The Bible teaches us that Jesus intercedes for the church in Heaven. How can He intercede there, if He is not there? Also, the Bible teaches us that when Jesus ascended on high that He led captivity captive, He moved the saints from Abrahams bosom and took them to Heaven with Him. So, Christians became part of one body the church on the day of Pentecost. One more point on this topic, the Holy Spirit never inhabited believers, as He does today, until the day of Pentecost, now look at what Ephesians 2:21-22 says “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
ON WHO IS THE CHURCH FOUNDED?
Who is the church founded upon? You may think this is a question all Christians should know the answer to, it may seem to you to be a simple question with a simple answer. But the truth is there are many Christians out there who do not know for sure the answer to the question, and there are many who think they do know the answer except it is the wrong answer that they know. For instance, Catholics will say and teach that Jesus founded His church upon the Apostle Peter based on their reading and under-standing of Matthew 16. Getting this answer correct is fundamental to who we are and to our faith and practice. The answer to this question is foundational to the church. Millions of people around the world do not believe the church is founded upon Jesus Christ. So, this section may seem simple to some, but we have to get this part right, to have the solid foundation to build our lives upon.
The Lord gave us a great illustration to understand this point in Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” Now, while thinking about this illustration in Matthew chapter 7, let’s look again at what Jesus says in Matthew 16:18 “upon this rock I will build my church”. So, the church was founded upon an unmovable large strong rock suitable for an eternal foundation, not a small pebble, not something that could be picked up and thrown, but a solid permanent, stable, eternally secure rock. Now with this thought in mind the rest of Matthew 16:18 makes sense “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
As mentioned earlier, some people and churches will say that Peter was that rock Jesus was referencing building His church upon. One way they get this thinking and this belief from is John 1:42 “And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.” Now let’s look at Matthew 16:17-20 “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”
The following comment on this passage from The Bible Knowledge Commentary sums up the issue:
“Peter’s words brought a word of commendation from the Lord. Peter was blessed because he had come to a correct conclusion about the person of Christ and because great blessing would be brought into his life. The Lord added, however, this was not a conclusion Peter had determined by his own or others’ ability. God, the Father in heaven, had revealed it to him. Peter was living up to his name (it means “rock”) for he was demonstrating himself to be a rock. When the Lord and Peter first met, Jesus had said Simon would be named Cephas (Aram. for “rock”) or Peter (Gr. for “rock”; John 1:41-42).
But his declaration about Messiah’s person led to a declaration of Messiah’s program. Peter (Petros, masc.) was strong like a rock, but Jesus added that on this rock (petra, fem.) He would build His church. Because of this change in Greek words, many conservative scholars believe that Jesus is now building His church on Himself. Others hold that the church is built on Peter and the other apostles as the building’s foundation stones (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14). Still other scholars say that the church is built on Peter’s testimony. It seems best to understand that Jesus was praising Peter for his accurate statement about Him and was introducing His (Jesus) work of building the church on Himself (Jesus).“
I Corinthians 3:11 “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Albert Barnes, in his New Testament Commentary, made the following comment of Christ being the foundation of the church “Christ is often called the foundation; the stone; the corner stone on which the church is reared, Isa 28:16; Mt 21:42; Ac 4:11; Eph 2:20; 2Ti 2:19; 1Pe 2:6. The meaning is, that no true church can be reared which does not embrace and hold the true doctrines respecting him–those which pertain to his incarnation, his Divine nature, his instructions, his example, his atonement, his resurrection, and his ascension. The reason why no true church can be established without embracing the truth as it is in Christ, is, that it is by him only that men can be saved; and where this doctrine is wanting, all is wanting that enters into the essential idea of a church. The fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion must be embraced, or a church cannot exist; and where those doctrines axe denied, no association of men can be recognized as a church of God. Nor can the foundation be modified or shaped so as to suit the wishes of men. It must be laid as it is in the Scriptures; and the superstructure must be reared on that alone.”
Phillip Doddridge also had a great comment of Christ being the foundation of the church and our faith – “This is all indeed that remains to be done; for other solid foundation no one is able to lay beside what is already laid, which is Jesus Christ, the great foundation-stone which God hath laid in Zion, elect and precious; and I take it for granted, no one who calls himself a Christian will attempt to lay any other.” Phillip Doddridge was a preacher of the Gospel in England until his death in 1751. He declined becoming part of the church of England and instead became an independent Pastor leading an independent congregation separate from the church of England. He did this because he felt there should be no earthly hierarchy over the church and that only One should have the preeminence over the local church and that was Christ and Christ alone. (Colossians 1:15-19 – Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;)
THE ESSENTIALS OF THE CHURCH (Matthew 16:13-19)
In this passage in Matthew 16, Christ focused on the essentials of the church. The essentials to a car are the engine, transmission, brakes and electrical system. If you do not have these basic essentials of a car, having just a steering wheel and some tires does not get you anywhere. Christ spoke the words in our passage of study to men He took time to disciple. So, discipling is definitely an essential of the church, Christ also commands as much in Matthew 28:18-20. Christ told Peter that the only reason he stated the correct answer to His question was because the Father illuminated his mind to the right answer. Christ must always be the head of the church, as He is the one that founded it and is the foundation of it (Ephesians 1:22-23). Another essential of the church is the involvement of the Holy Spirit; He must be in the midst of the church, He must be inhabiting the Christians in the church, because you have to be saved to be part of the church. The Holy Spirit does the work of illuminating the Word, which is another essential of the church, to those who are saved, salvation of one’s soul is an essential aspect of one being part of the church.
The number one essential of the church is Christ. Unless Christ is the center of everything in the church, there is no point in doing anything. It can be compared to a person believing in Christ for salvation, but not believing in the resurrection or life after death, what is the point then? Not having Christ in the center of all the church does is like being alive but choosing not to have a heart or lungs. You won’t be alive very long without them and a church that neglects to put Christ in the center of all it does won’t be alive very long either.
Christ must be everything He says He is or He is not Christ at all (I John 4:4 – Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.) Reading the Bible while practicing what it says is essential, loving others while serving them, so they can come to know Christ and be more like Him, is essential.
The church is the only place that Christ is the head of and the place He is directly attached (Ephesians 1:22-23 – And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.) It is a place to call the elders together to pray for healing (James 5:14-16). It is the place you discover your spiritual gifts and use them to serve others and minister to a hurt and broken world. It is the place the Pastor can be found to help minister to broken lives. It is the place where Christ wants His death to be remembered (I Corinthians 11:24-26). The church is the pillar and foundation of truth. The building of the church is where the family of God gathers each week and it is where love matters most (I John 4:8 – He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.)
H.W. Beecher says that “some churches are like lighthouses, built of stone, so strong that the thunder of the sea cannot move them…” The light that shines form these churches is the light of Christ shining through His believers. Sinners are not reached solely through the church’s ceremony, pomp, beautiful music or largeness – they are reached through the Christ-likeness of its individual members.
We need the church as established by Christ, the foundation of the church is the basis of everything, without it we have nothing to build upon. The foundation of the church is Jesus Christ. He is the head of the church, the founder of the church, the interceder for the church, and the Savior of the church. Everything centers on Christ, as should everything in our life too.
Psalm 34:17-19 “The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.”
Discouragement can come in many forms and can come at you from many different directions, including some directions you never thought it could come from. The Devil loves to use this tool, I believe it to be one of his favorite weapons of choice. Discouragement can be caused by being disillusioned about something you never expected to be disillusioned about, or you always assumed it would not be, or you just plain never thought about it much even though you knew this particular source of discouragement could come, you preferred not to think about it.
Once we start to dwell on this source of discouragement we start to give the Devil a foothold into our mind and spirit. He will then seek to deepen this feeling of discouragement, he will seek to deepen the hurt that may have led to it, he will seek to make you think about it over and over again so it will lead you to deeper discouragement and even to despair.
We need to be on the lookout for this trap of his. We need to be on guard against this area of attack. Your present source of discouragement is only one mishap or event in your life of many more to come that will cause you some discouragement. Disappointment is part of life. It does not mean dealing with it is not difficult, it is, but it does mean you need to look at the big picture or life and not dwell on this one event and make it bigger than it really is.
When you get discouraged, look to the Lord, look to His Word, look to His many promises He has given us in His Word. Nowhere does the Bible promise us a perfect carefree, worry-free, discouragement free life, but is does promise that we will never have to face these situations alone, we will always have the Comforter living within us, if we are saved, and the Lord will always be there with us, walking through that disillusionment with us.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture for such a situation, and one I turn to over and over again as I go through life is Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” Keep everything in perspective and trust the Lord to know what is best, trust Him to work out everything according to His will in the situation, trust His Word and use His Word to guide you through the difficult situation one step, and one moment at a time. Seek His face in prayer and poor out your hearts concerns to Him. He will provide you with true comfort and true hope for the next second, the next moment, the next day and the rest of your life.
Turn to the Lord with your disillusionment and discouragement and don’t let the Devil entrap you with these weapons of his. It is easy to fall into his trap of discouragement and depression, all of us are susceptible to this. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you notice you have fallen for these. A man after God’s own heart, David, also fell into these traps of Satan, but he eventually turned back to the Lord and that is what we need to do too. Trust the Lord with your disappointments, give them over to Him, rest in His comfort that only He can provide. (Hebrews 4:9-11 – There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.)
The Lord will see you through this trial, through this situation, He will see you through to the other side of this disillusionment. Just trust in Him, remember the answer to your prayers could come in unexpected ways, and from unexpected sources. Just be true to the Lord, He will help you to get past this moment and this situation in your life. (Isaiah 55:8-9 – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.) Encourage yourself in the Lord, just as David did in a great trial of discouragement and heartache, and the Lord will help you and encourage you, just as He did David. (I Samuel 30:6 – And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.)
I Corinthians 13:4-7 “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
True love, right love, godly love longs for a proper relationship, it longs for restoration if the relationship is broken, it longs for a consistent relationship, it longs for close relationships. Do we have this kind of love in the relationships in our life?
You know the saying that distance makes the heart grow fonder? Well by current personal experience I would have to agree with that. But that is on a temporal earthly level, it is through the perspective of man. When separated from family for long periods of time or by great distance or both, usually people begin to miss their family, they begin to long for their family, they begin to want to talk to them, text with them, see them face to face. It is a natural thing for man to want and desire that which he cannot currently have and is unable to have due to certain circumstances he may be in. I, as of this writing, have not had any personal contact, except by phone, text or FaceTime with my family for a couple weeks now. I can tell you I miss them sorely. I want that relationship restored to its fullest as quickly as possible. I cannot wait to see them, I cannot wait to fellowship with them, I cannot wait to embrace them.
But how many of us feel the same way as I have described in the above paragraph concerning our relationship with the Lord? Do we long to see Him face to face, do we long to embrace Him and put our arms around Him? Do we long for restoration of a broken fellowship with Him we may have, do we long to talk with Him and tell Him about our day and our concerns? Do we desire to be united with Him? Are we willing to do anything and go to any lengths to have our relationship with the Lord be as great as it can be? – I would reply to these questions by sadly saying I think many of us do not have this same kind of longing and desire for a relationship with our Savior as we do for our family. When our relationship is interrupted or a separation of distance or time has occurred we long for our family; do we long for the Lord in the same way? Do you love the Lord less than your family, as much as your family or more than your family? Jesus asked a similar question to Peter “lovest thou me more than these?” Do we… do we truly love the Lord like we should? Do we truly long for the kind of relationship with the Lord like we should?
Does our Savior, who possesses perfect love for us, feel the same way toward us when we have grown distant from Him as we do when our relationship with our family is distant? Does He long to see us restored in fellowship with Him again? Does He want that face time with us to be restored? Does He long to hear our prayers directed at Him? Does He mourn when fellowship with us is broken? – I would say yes to all of these questions. So now start thinking of your relationship with God with an eternal perspective. Just as I am longing to see my family as soon as possible and I only have human imperfect love toward them; imagine how the Lord longs for a consistent and loving relationship with us as He possess perfect love toward us.
Are you making your Lord mournful as a result of your flippant, irreverent, inconsistent and lackadaisical attitude you take to your relationship with Him? That would be a terrible thing, a terrible sin to be guilty of. The Lord longs for a great relationship with us, much more than I, an imperfect vessel, longs for a face to face restored relationship with my family. This distance I now am experiencing from my family has given me a different perspective and understanding; and the Lord has used this separation of distance, in my family relationship, to teach me about how He must feel when we let our relationship grow distant with Him. How must God feel when we are so uncaringly distant in our relationship to Him. I pray that we all consider and examine ourselves to determine if our relationship with the Lord is how it should be and how the Lord told us it should be. (II Corinthians 13:5a – Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves…)
Why don’t you take some time to examine the status of your relationship with the Lord and determine if you are as close to Him as you should be? I would say all of us could have a better relationship with the Lord, all of us could draw closer to Him. Are you causing rejoicing in Heaven because of the status of your relationship with the Lord? Or are you causing a deep sadness, grief and disappointment in Heaven based on the status of your relationship with the Lord? Are you grieving the Lord with the current state of your relationship with Him, with how you act toward Him, with how you communicate or don’t communicate with Him? (Ephesians 4:30 – And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.)
Most importantly have you ever even established a relationship with the Lord? Have you ever accepted Him as your personal Savior? We all need to make sure of our salvation, then with the Lords help and the help of the Holy Spirit living within us after we are saved strive to keep that relationship with the Lord unbroken and constantly growing in love and dedication as we should strive to do the same with our family. (I John 5:13 – These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.)
BEWARE OF THE COMFORT ZONE
A comfort zone is exactly as it sounds; it is a zone of comfort. It is a place you like to be or at least you are used to being and are unwilling to step out of it. It is not necessarily a set location or occupation, but it could be, it is more or less a certain set of circumstances you live in, that you have decided is a good place, or a good enough place to be, or even possibly just have settled into, without ever consciously deciding to do so. The Comfort Zone is not always a place of comfort though, as paradoxical as that can sound to some, but it is an accurate statement, the Comfort Zone is not always comfortable. I know of people, myself at times included, that were not actually very comfortable in their comfort zone. I know some reading this are thinking I am saying two things at odds with each other, but I am not. A Comfort Zone is not always a comforting place to be or to live in, and here is the condition that makes all I just rambled about make sense, a Comfort Zone is not always a comforting place to be if we are living in it outside of God’s will for our life. Do we actually live like we believe what the Lord says in Matthew 6:10 “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” If we are to live out this verse chances are you will not visit the comfort zone very long. The Lord likes to stretch us to get the most out of us for His glory and His kingdom and for His will.
Acts 2:14, 41-42 “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:” & 41-42 “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
In the Book of Acts we read how the Apostle Peter preached and 3,000 souls were saved in one day; but that never would have happened if Peter had not first been willing, by simple faith in Jesus Christ, to step out of his comfort zone. Peter was a fisherman by trade and that kind of life was his comfort zone. God was able to use Peter once he stepped out of that life. Peter was a rough kind of character, he was impulsive and unpolished, but God was able to use him. God did not call Peter when he was trained, ready and willing to leave his comfort zone to serve Him. God called Peter, when he was untrained, rough around the edges and personally unable to do what God was calling him to do. But that is what God does, He delights in calling those the world would never call, God delights in using those who are unable in mans perception to do the thing God is calling them to do. God delights in using those who are simply willing to obey that call, leave their comfort zone, and trust God to enable them to do what He is calling them to do. Fortunately that is exactly what Peter did; were there some hiccups along the way – yes there usually is. We are frail and weak sheep that need our Lords help. The hiccups usually occur when we think to ourselves “we got this”, and it turns out we don’t. We always need the Lords enabling to do His will with our life. (I Timothy 1:12 – And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;)
Now do you trust the Lord to enable you? Or are you choosing rather to live your life in the status quo and miss out on what God has for you? If you are comfortably living outside of God’s will for your life, you are comfortably living in a sinful state, choosing your will over God’s will. When someone chooses their will over God’s will, who then is the God of their life? Who is on the throne of the person’s life if they are choosing their will above God’s will? Is it themselves or is it God? When someone chooses their own will over God’s will they are putting themselves on an importance level above God. Who else in Scripture did the same thing? I can think of one example, and he is not someone you would want to be compared with, Isaiah 14:12-15 tells us about this “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Have you chosen your will for your life over God’s will, so you do not have to leave your comfort zone? Don’t make your comfort zone your God, don’t put your will above God’s will. Repent of this great sin of subordinating God’s will to your will, if you have done so, and immediately submit yourself to the will of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. (James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.)
Don’t lose hope though if you have currently chosen comfort zone living over God’s will for your life. I dare to say most of us have at some point in our life chosen the comfortable status quo over trusting in the leading of the Lord. The most important thing to do is once you recognize this in your life you need to then choose God and begin the prayer and counsel needed to determine your next step on your adventurous life of living for the Lord, and putting your full trust and confidence in Him. Trust Him with your comfort and happiness and stop trusting in your Comfort Zone; trust God with your future and with your needs and not your Comfort Zone. This needs to become a practice throughout our life, and upon examining my life I remember several distinct moments in my life where I just trusted God and took that leap of faith. I went way, and I mean way out of the comfort zone I was in, and just by faith and faith alone in God, jumped into His will for my life. I hope we all can recognize moments in our life like that too, where we just simply trusted in the leading of the Lord and willingly and enthusiastically jumped into the Lord’s will for our life.
I wish to challenge you to think of what comfort zones you have in your life; are they of the Lord? Or are they of your own making? Watch out and diligently consider if that comfort zone that came to your mind is actually in accordance to God’s will for your life. Do you even consider God’s will in your decision making, as you build your comfort zone or is it all done according to your own will? If you are sensing the Lord trying to tell you something or guide you to something, don’t try to block it out, don’t ignore it, and don’t try to give God some advice on His will for you. Just seek to get assurance of it as quickly as possible and formulate your plan of action to expeditiously pursue His will for your life, no matter what that pursuit of God’s will does to your comfort zone. Make Jesus Christ and His will the preeminent factor in your life. Determine to ensure that your affections are off your comfort zone and that they are actively pursuing Christ and His will for your life. (Colossians 3:1-2 – If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.)
So how do we do this? How do we make sure we are living according to God’s will for our life and not according to our own will? I would think the best thing to do is to follow the examples set for us in Scripture. What did Abraham do when he was trying to determine the will of God, what did Moses do, what did David do, what did so many others do when they were trying to determine the Lords will for their life? Simple…. they prayed, they sought counsel, they searched the Holy Scriptures and in many cases they waited on the Lord for the answer, for the assurance in the next step in pursuing God’s will. So we should at least do the same, there is nothing better than good old fashioned prayer and lots of it in determining the will of God for our life. God speaks to us from His Word, if you are not reading His Word on a consistent basis how do you expect to hear from Him? Sometimes the Lord just wants us to wait, are you willing to do that? The Bible tells us in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom. For me, I personally seek out trusted Godly men to talk to and pray with and request prayers from whenever I need to make a decision that I think the Lord may be leading me into. You will never determine the will of God for your life if you are not willing to pray like you should, if you are not reading your Bible like you should, if you are not willing to wait on the Lord like you should and if you are not seeking counsel like you should. Be on the lookout for those comforts zones of life and always seek to be living for the will of God and not the comfort zone and trust the Lord’s enabling to do so.
One final question, why you ask, should we be willing to leave our Comfort Zone? Why should we be willing to do whatever the Lord leads us to do or to go wherever the Lord leads us to go? Why is this so important? Why should we be in submission to the Lords will for our life, why do we need to lay all on the altar of sacrifice for our Lord? – One simple answer exists to all the why questions a Christian could think to ask the Lord for leaving our zone of comfort and that is this “because he first loved us” I John 4:19b. We ought to love Him, “because he first loved us” and this ought to motivate us to desire His will and motivate us to translate that desire into the action of doing His will, to follow His leading, to go where He wants us to go and to be what He wants us to be.
One last practical application, you may be thinking how does all of this apply to me right now, in the situation I am presently in? Maybe you are still in your parent’s home, maybe you are older, maybe you already know I am where I am supposed to be, or maybe you have no control over the circumstances you face and could not presently change them no matter what you did. You still need to be willing to step out in faith and leave that “comfort zone” you are in. You may say the state I am presently in is not something I would call comfortable, you still need to approach God with a submissive and contrite heart and be willing to be used by Him, be willing to speak up for Him, and be willing to witness and be a testimony for Him right where you are at. As long as you have that attitude of willing faithful submission to the Lord you will be amazed at what He can do with your life. There are no circumstances too big that the Lord could not change, there is no obstacle too large that the Lord could not remove, and there is no mountain too high that the Lord could not help you to climb. You may be in a terrible valley right now, but the Lord can change your circumstance in an instant. God will not only enable you to change and to trust Him and to do what He wills you to do, He will also, in His time, influence the situations of your life to change. He can change the path of your life when you cannot and when you least expect it, so you can do what He wills for you to do with your life, in whatever state of life you find yourself in. We just need to trust Him. Beware of the Comfort Zone and beware equally of not trusting the Lord to be able to change what you cannot. If you are truly walking with Christ you will not be in that Comfort Zone very long, for He is always willing us to grow for Him and to learn something from Him, we just need to do our part and trust in Him and obey His will and direction. (Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.)
II Corinthians 13:11 “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”
Sometimes the Lord ordains the sun to set on one chapter of your life, just so a new chapter can begin. You know the saying “All good things must come to an end”? Saying goodbye to people you love, to people you have co-labored with, to people you have ministered to, to people who have gone through thick and thin with you, and to family whom you love dearly, is a very hard thing to do. Saying goodbye is a very sad thing to do, it can be a very heart wrenching thing to do. You never realize how good you had it sometimes, until it comes to an end. The Lord brings us into people’s lives for a reason, we do not always know why, and we may never know why, but the Lord does all things for a reason, for a purpose, for an eternal purpose, the Bible teaches us that His ways are above our ways, well it is hard to accept His ways sometimes. It can be emotionally trying to accept the change that sometimes comes into our life. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 – To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:)
I have had to say goodbye to people, to situations, and to family in the past, and it never gets easy. Each time I say goodbye it feels like a little of yourself is left in those people, in those circumstances or in that setting. If you have been ministering to a group of people, you have watched over their souls, you have brought their names to God in prayer, over and over again. When you see them and talk to them you are watching for any little indication of how they are doing spiritually and you try to minister to them in some way. Life is not always a happy situation; life comes with its share of sad goodbyes, as well as its share of happy tomorrows.
I had to tell the news of my imminent departure to the group of people I have been pouring my life into for the last six years recently, and if it were not for the strength the Lord gave me at that moment I spoke the words, letting them know I would soon be leaving, I could not have told them on my own. The Lord provided the strength for the goodbye, just like He provided the strength and the wisdom all those times I taught them, and sought to minister to them in some way. The Lord is my strength, I shall not be moved, unless it is the Lord who is the one moving me. My parting admonition to them would be what Paul said in Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”
The Lord orders the steps of a good man, the Bible teaches us. Looking back over the years of my life, I can see the Lord neatly and in a very organized way ordering my steps, training me along the way, and preparing me for His service. It may have taken a lot longer in my case to get me ready for what He was wanting to do with my life, I kept thinking throughout my early years, I was just too shy, I was too unusable to do anything of real consequence for the Lord. Boy was I wrong, everything we do every ministry we have, no matter how big or how small, if we are doing it for the Lord, is of great consequence for Him, and for His kingdom.
I can see how all the ministries I have participated in, all the secular jobs I have held, all the schooling I have taken, all of it was ordered and designed providentially to train me, to equip me, to enable me for the ministry God had, in His loving and providential wisdom, had willed me to do. Do not ever think you are unworthy for the service of the Lord. I, of all people, should not be able to do what I am doing and will soon be doing for the Lord, it is definitely not a natural thing for me to stand in front of people and talk, leading others is not something I have ever strived to do, but all throughout my life, God has put me into leadership position, after leadership position, all without my trying to attain that position. I always tried not to be the leader or supervisor or manager, but I always inevitably would end up in that position. I never wanted to stand in front of people and talk, but over the course of my life, the Lord has put me in that position over and over again. He had a plan, and He wanted me to know clearly it was not of myself, that I was able to do this or that for the Lord, it was and will continue to be, all by the Lords enabling that I have been able to do this or that for the Lord and that is how it will continue in my life. (I Timothy 1:12 – And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;)
Goodbyes are sad, goodbyes are hard; goodbyes though mean a new beginning is around the corner. When we say goodbye to a loved one, who is entering eternity with Jesus, it is sad, it is hard for us; but they have just entered a new glorious beginning to a new and joyous chapter of their life. They get to see Jesus, they get to worship their Savior face to face, they get to wrap their arms around their Saviors neck and sob tears of joy and thankfulness to Him, what a glorious future Christians have to look forward to. Goodbyes when we change locations are also truly sad, these can be stressful as well, but look toward the Lord, look toward Him for guidance, for help, for comfort and for joy. He will help you to adjust to the change, He will lead you into the paths of righteousness, He will not suffer us to be lost along the way. He will encourage you if you let Him do so. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and all your being and all your soul, and do not lean on your own understanding of the situation, instead lean on God and trust His sovereign will and His sovereign understanding of the whole situation, of the big picture in our life.
Goodbyes are hard, but the Lord is bigger than any goodbye we may ever have to face, just point your face to His and just trust and obey His direction in your life, “Finally, brethren, farewell.”
“He shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” – Most people who follow sinful pleasures, think they can give them up whenever they please; but sin repeated becomes customary, usual, we get used to it. It no longer seems so bad. We start to justify it in our minds. The usual or often done sin soon becomes habit; and habit in the end assumes the form of necessity then the form of bondage; the man becomes “holden with the cords of his sins” or he becomes bound with the cords of sin. He becomes in bondage to that sin. A slave to that sin; and so he may at first thought he was exercising his “freedom” to sin a particular way, but in the end that so called “freedom” was really the Devils ploy to put him into bondage and so this man who wanted his freedom “to live it up” is now led captive by the devil by his own desire to sin. “For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” – Acts 8:23
Genesis 5:1-2 “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”
Man is not his own creation, neither are we a result of evolution or a “big bang” – God created man, God created man in His own likeness. God created humans with only two sexes – male and female. God creates you either a man or a woman. God makes no mistakes. You were born either male or female, and you will remain either male or female the rest of your life.
There was a day when God, in His infinite wisdom, created man. We have not eternally existed, though we are a creation of an eternally existing God.
“in the likeness of God” – This is mentioned to remind us how highly God had honored man, and how shamefully man has sinned against God. Think about that statement for a minute, we were created in the image or the likeness of The God! What an honor God bestowed upon man, and then think how much man has fallen since then to the point now some men and women even doubt or have confusion over whether they are men or woman. But thankfully God sent His Son, to die for all of mans sins (for we are all sinners). Jesus came to pay the sin debt of all of mans sins, even the most dreadful and shameful of sins, Jesus has died for them; and all man has to do is to accept God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as their Savior by faith – to receive that forgiveness and to accept that sin debt paid on our behalf! And to have eternal life with God one day in Heaven.
Matthew 5:13 – Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
“Ye are the salt of the earth” – Our Lord shows us here what all who profess to follow Him, should be; we should be the salt of the earth, to preserve the world from putrefaction and destruction. Salt renders food pleasant and palatable; so Christians, by their lives and influence, are to keep the world from entire moral corruption. By sending up their prayers, the blessing of God, and by their influence and example, they save the world from universal vice and crime.
“But if the salt have lost his savour” – A Christian, who has lost the life of Christ, and the witness of His Spirit, out of his soul, may be likened to this salt. He may have the sparks and glittering particles of true wisdom, but without its unction or comfort; only the soul that is in union with Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit, can preserve its savor and influence, and be the instrument of good to others.
“To be trodden underfoot” – There was a type of salt in Judea, which was generated at the lake Asphaltites, and therefore called bituminous salt, easily rendered savorless, and of no other use but to be spread in a part of the temple, to prevent slipping in wet weather. This is probably what our Lord alludes to in this place; to the existence of such a salt, and to its application to such a use.
We need to keep a constant watch out for bad influences in our life, and we need to keep a constant check to make sure we are being good influences for the Lord. What kind of influences are we letting into our life to affect us and our decision making? What kind of influence are we being to those around us, to our friends and to our family? Are you being a bad worldly influence, or are you being a Godly Christ like influence. Are we letting Satan and the world influence us negatively and letting the devil pull us deeper and deeper into sin and farther and farther away from God? Or are we letting Christ influence us by digging deep into His Word, by praying and meditating on His truths and growing closer and closer to Him each and every day
Illustration on being a good influence – Four preachers were discussing the merits of various translations of the Bible. One liked the King James best because of its simple, beautiful English language. Another preferred the American Standard Version because it is more literal and he likes lots of error in what he reads. Still another favored the New International Version because of its up-to-date vocabulary and it has a lot less words and verses to worry about reading and studying. When the fourth preacher was asked his opinion, he replied, “I like my mother’s translation best.” The other three were a little puzzled. They were unaware that his mother had translated the Bible. “Yes, she did,” he stated, “She translated the Bible into life. She lived what she read, and hers was the most convincing translation I ever saw.” This good mother had a fine Christian influence on her son. What about your influence? Do you so live out the Bible, like this mother did, that people can see the Word of God in you come out in your everyday life and actions?
“Those who hold to the faith of the gospel according to Philippians 1:27, those who believe in the deity , the virgin birth, miraculous life, atoning death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in the inspiration of the Scriptures in which these things are clearly revealed from God and who have personally trusted Christ as Saviour are Christians worthy of our fellowship, and should be called Christians.” (pp. 145)
I recently got a “new” old book by John R. Rice and I am enjoying it greatly. From what I have been able to ascertain it is no longer in print. I bought a used copy of it after searching for it for a long time. Below our some of his thoughts on biblical separation, they are very interesting from his book “Dr. Rice, Here are more Questions…“
“One might break fellowship with a born-again Christian who continues in gross sin, as we see from I Corinthians 5:11-13. And one might refuse fellowship to a born-again Christian if he made doubtful disputations, divisions and strife on lesser matters, according to Romans 14:1. For example, I could let a Pentecostal brother come to a revival and help us win souls and I could have Christian fellowship with him, pray with him, and enjoy the Word of God with him provided he did not make special issue of tongues. If he did cause “doubtful disputations” we could not continue in fellowship. That would lead others wrong.” (pp. 146)
“If a born-again Christian makes constant division and strife over lesser matters, then sometimes he breaks the fellowship with other Christians.” (pp. 146)
This is a heresy taught by several different groups and churches. They teach that the church has always supposed to have kept the Sabbath and if you do not and meet on Sunday instead you are the ones committing a heresy, this is a false and unbiblical teaching. The Jews under the Law of Moses were commanded to keep the Sabbath day (Saturday) as a sign of their relationship with God (Exodus 20:8-11, Ezekiel 20:12 & 20, Nehemiah 9:14).
Since Jesus “finished” the Old Testament law we are no longer under the bondage of the law but we are under grace (Romans 6:14 – For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.). The Sabbath is no longer in effect as a sign between God and His people. Colossians 2:16-17 could not be any clearer about this it says “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
The “first day of the week” (Sunday) is the appointed day of gathering together for meeting and worship for true New Testament Christians. The disciples and the New Testament Christians met and worshiped on the first day of the week (Acts 20:6-7, I Corinthians 16:2). Jesus rose and completed our redemption on the first day of the week (Mark 16:9). Jesus met with the disciples after His resurrection, more than once, on the first day of the week (Mark 16:9-12, Matthew 28:8-10, Luke 24:36). Jesus blessed His disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit on the first day of the week (John 20:19). The Gospel of a risen Savior was first preached on the first day of the week (Acts 2 – we know the Pentecost was on a Sunday because it was always on the 50th day after Passover – Leviticus 23:15-16). Christians do not keep the Sabbath, or they should not, though we know some erring groups do. Christians following the New Testament teaching on the subject meet on the first day of the week, what is called the Lords Day by John in Revelation 1:10, or what we all know as Sunday.