RSS

Habits and Attitudes of Highly Effective Churches – Lives Are Changed

13 Sep

The “acid test” for a church’s effectiveness is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit among its members.  And what is the proof that the Spirit of God is present and active in a body of people? Lives are being changed daily!

While all Christians recall and marvel at the mighty works of Christ, some of us seem to have forgotten the power of words. The truth He communicated to men and women contained the power of God to transform and
empower their lives.

The power of words is explained this way in Scripture: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

We must cling to the joyous truth that the Word of God is powerful. When we teach it with authority and expectation, it will achieve the result God has ordained.

1. Are non-Christian therapists as effective in saving marriages as Christian therapists — working in a context of a church’s faith, prayers, and ministry?
2. Are humanistic 12-step programs as good for breaking alcohol and cocaine addiction as ones where the name of Jesus is invoked reverently and frequently?
3. What about eating disorders? Cancer? Problems with children? Sexual addiction? Depression? Personality disorders?

I am one of a growing number of non-charismatics who believes in supernatural answers to our prayers. Yes, God sometimes allows situations to remain unaltered so he can teach us the sufficiency of grace in our weakness:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10: “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! {8} Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. {9} And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. {10} Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”


So believers are not exempt from cancer, bankruptcy, or divorce. And, yes, we should use all the natural and ordinary resources such as education and medication, therapy and discipline, Alcoholics Anonymous and surgery that can help people.

But we must become bolder in prayer and spiritual ministry. God’s Holy Spirit lives among and within people, and we must believe that power at work in those who believe can bring about dramatic outcomes. Here is a clear call from God to all believers about some things that cannot be tolerated in our personal and corporate lives as people:

Colossians 3:5-10: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. {6} For it is because of these things that the wrath
of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, {7} and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. {8} But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your
mouth. {9} Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, {10} and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-”
.

In Paul’s theology, the key to this marvelous transformation lies in the fact that we have been “raised with Christ” and have set our “minds on things above” (Col. 3:1-2).

There is something about our connection with God and the truth that Christ has revealed to us that can bring about so wonderful a result. It is not by human means, but by the power of God.

“I can do everything through [Christ] who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

Christians look to Him with the expectation that He will respond to our needs. Specifically, He will not refuse a plea for moral and spiritual power to overcome sin.

A church is highly effective for God’s purposes only if it believes that divine power is at work among its members. But there is more. It must go beyond merely affirming and teaching the truth of God’s power to change lives.

Our prayer, counseling, benevolence, and teaching must assume the ability of God to work in our midst to do things we could not bring about through our own devices.

We must have the same confident attitude toward God’s power at work in today’s churches that Paul had toward it in the first century.

 

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Eph. 3:20-21).

 

Real Religion Requires Revelation
A simple truth, verified by man’s story, is stated thus by the prophet of old: “The way of man is not in himself…it is not in man that walketh to direct steps” (Jer. 10:23). Religion forces man to look beyond himself for guidance.

Obedience to the admonition to “know the Lord” (Heb. 8:11) is made possible because God reveals Himself to us.

God reveals Himself to us “in words” which are called “scripture.” Without such revelation from God, none of us could know the character and will of God. Real religion requires revelation.

Real Religion Requires a Redeemer
Man’s basic need is not to improve himself, to be a better person. Yes, religion will accomplish that. But the primary purpose of religion is found in man’s deepest need: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).

That means we all sin. And that means we all must be under the penalty of death. Because we have all sinned, and because sin has separated us from God, we all must perish without God. That is a bleak picture, if the story ended there. But it doesn’t end there: “For God so loved the world that he gave only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Christ is our Redeemer, and there can be no other. And real religion requires a redeemer.

Real Religion Requires Repentance
Because we have all sinned, a change in the way we live is required. The determination to change, to live differently than we have, is called “repentance.” In that city of Jerusalem, the apostles began the proclamation of the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:1-36).

Jesus did not come to save people in their sins; He came to save them FROM their sins. Unless people are willing  o repent, and thus determine to leave sin, they can never be saved.

He died to save us from the guilt of sin, and death motivates us to leave sin and “live for him.” A new life results when one comes to Christ, and repentance is the turning point that brings that about.

“Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2).

Real Religion Requires Regeneration
The apostle Paul wrote of our salvation, our redemption, in these words: “Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to own mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

To “regenerate” simply means to give new life or to give life again.

Note carefully the process of regeneration. The word, given by the Spirit, is preached, people receive it (Acts 2:41) and are baptized in water (Acts 8:36; 10:47). Because of that “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5), they are now “in Christ” (Rom. 6:3). And note the result of that: “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are
passed away, behold, they are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Real Religion Requires Righteousness
Many try to belittle the need for living right, claiming that such means we are trying to earn salvation. But the truth is simple: Unless religion makes us righteous in our lives, it is vain and worthless.

Paul wrote that the “gospel is the power of God unto salvation,” then  added, “Therein is revealed a righteousness of God, from faith unto faith, for it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17).

God expects us to be righteous, to work righteousness in our daily living. The apostle Paul shows the result of our being born again by being baptized into Christ — into death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-6).

He then states, “Thanks be to God, that whereas ye were the servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18).

Community Transformation
Although it is God who does this work, the plan is to bring about the “putting together again” of our lives within the community of faith called a church. And the church through which He wills to bring about salvation and change is not a vague “church universal” but the concrete local churches of which you and I are members.

The Stafford Church of Christ is intended by our Heavenly Father to be a reconciling place.  Not only are we reconciled to God in the church but with our fellow human beings as well.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

The Stafford Church of Christ is also meant by God to be a nurturingplace. Because we embrace kingdom values rather than worldly values, we both affirm the life-style of Christ (i.e., holiness) and work to equip ourselves for service (i.e., ministry).

Conclusion
A little girl whose malformed leg had undergone another in a series of corrective surgeries became discouraged with her physical therapy. She insisted she wanted to give up and accept the consequences. When her father insisted that she keep trying to walk through her pain, she fell into arms and said, “Daddy, why can’t you love me just the way I am?”

Trying to understand her situation, a father whose eyes were filled with tears hugged little girl and said, “Honey, I do love you just the way you are. But I love you too much to let you stay that way when you can get well and walk!”

That is the way God loves each of us. He loves us fully and unreservedly just the way we are — limitations, imperfections, a story of failure.

Even though you are struggling with some sin today, he loves you just the way you are and cannot love you more than he does. He has forgiven you, accepted you, and receive you into family for Jesus’ sake. But he loves you too much to let you remain as weak, handicapped, and limited as you are. He wants to transform you into the image of Holy Son Jesus.

Because God has such passion for you and me, more of our churches must become places where he is free to work miracle of changing lives. When that happens in your church, heaven touches earth again. Christ is seen. Hearts are captured. And the redemptive purposes of God through the church are continued.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 13, 2018 in Church

 

One response to “Habits and Attitudes of Highly Effective Churches – Lives Are Changed

  1. sushilove51

    September 13, 2018 at 10:13 am

    wonderful blog. True man of God.

    Like

     

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: