“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 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.
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.
Acts 2 marks the successful delivery of more than three thousand “baby” Christians! It was the miraculous, Spirit-fuelled birth of the church. What an adventure! A large gathering of people witnessed the incredible, supernatural power of the Holy Spirit and heard the life-changing Gospel message preached by Peter and the other apostles. Birthday: Pentecost.
By the end of this message, we want you to discover why it’s important to have a personal mission, decide what types of things need to be part of your personal mission, and then take some time to prayerfully write a first draft of your own mission statement.
Studies in anatomy occupy the attention of every medical student in the world. Christians would do well to emulate students of medicine. Since we are members of His body, over which Christ serves as Head, understanding the body would give us a better understanding of the church—how it’s put together, how it functions, and how to respond when it malfunctions.