The church has always been known for its resolute spirit. Problems occur, though, when we think that because the church’s message is changeless, the church’s methods must be changeless too. How can we expect to make a difference in a rapidly changing world if we’re living in the past? Are we ready for the changes the future will bring?
In Israel's northern city of Caesarea Philippi, among the ruins of a worship centre dedicated to the Greek god Pan, a cave exists that was long believed by those who worshipped there to be the doorway into the netherworld. It was in the vicinity of this grotto, the alleged gateway to hell, that Jesus promised: "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it" (Matthew 16:18).
From Pentecost in the first century to the present day, Satan has attempted to destroy Christ's Church—yet it endures. From a small group of Jewish outsiders in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, Christ built His Church to reach even the remotest parts of the world. Despite controversies, wars, and denominational splits, the Church continues to be the means through which God announces to a dark and dying world that light and life have come in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
For these reasons, and many more, we learn about and appreciate the body of Christ, the Church.
It’s time to push aside the negative thinking and draw our attention to God’s perspective of His church. He smells the sin, but He also breathes in the sweet aroma. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul highlighted six fragrant qualities that will help us think rightly about the church.
How tempting it is to claim the credit ourselves for the mighty works God does in and around us. Perhaps no one feels that temptation more than those who serve God in a public ministry—those who have been called to hold His glory in sacred trust. Whether their work becomes a movement of God or calcifies into a monument to themselves depends on one crucial factor: who gets the glory.
“You can’t judge a book by its cover”—that’s a phrase we’ve all heard before. What’s true of people is also true of churches—you can’t tell the effectiveness of a church by its building. To discover the traits of an effective church, we have to examine what’s on the inside. Fortunately, Jesus Himself shows us what to look for.
In the previous lesson, we studied several faithful men from the Reformation era. Time failed us, though, to tell the whole story of the greatest difference maker of that period, Martin Luther. Let’s pause for a while at his portrait and draw courage from his example of faith.
To illustrate how God uses ordinary people, let’s travel back in time to a period of history called the Reformation. The Reformation’s heroes and battlefields may not be as recognizable as the American Revolution’s George Washington and Valley Forge. Yet the soldiers who led a religious revolution from the 1300s to the 1500s made a tremendous difference in what matters most to us—our understanding of God, the Bible, and salvation.
Change is one of life’s rare certainties! We aren’t exactly the same people we were last week, and we won’t be exactly the same next week, either. With each day and each experience, we grow to become different people.
God’s miraculous power might seem distant or theoretical at times, but it’s not. It is real! The Acts of the Apostles proves it, teeming with true stories of supernatural encounters and glorious surprises. In this lesson, we discover how God used intercessory prayer to perform an incredible miracle in the life of Peter, the fisherman-turned-apostle.
In Acts 9, Saul was in hot pursuit of Christians located miles away from Jerusalem, in Damascus. Saul was in hot pursuit of Christians, but God pursued him even more relentlessly. Saul’s own words in Acts 22:3 to 5, Acts 26:9 to 11, Galatians 1:13 and 14, 1 Timothy 1:13 serve as a confession, as he describes his former ruthlessness in stark relief to the great grace of God.
The apostles certainly had their share of adventure! After receiving the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, they embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Empowered and emboldened by the Spirit, they preached the Gospel and performed extraordinary miracles, touching others’ lives as they went. Let’s take a look at how they effectively ministered to others so we can discover some positive principles to use in our own lives.