In this lesson, we will learn that encouragement is not the responsibility of a gifted few but the responsibility of the entire family of God. That means you.
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.
Itʼs a bit dismaying to realize that you’re going to be spending eternity with people in the family of God you don’t even speak with on earth! Quite frankly, when someone has wounded us with his or her sharp quills, it’s natural to want to keep our distance. But we do need each other, needles and all!
Priorities govern the words of spiritual nourishment that come from the pulpit. It’s easy to see a church’s priorities when the ministry is just starting out, when the ink of the congregation’s ideals is still wet on the paper. But later on, when storms roll in, the priority list can get blown away in a gust of confusion.
The best snapshot of the situation in the first-century church is in John’s third letter. We will also see a reflection of modern-day churches as we examine these 14 verses.
At a time when we have every reason to pull together and work in harmony to get the job done, it seems as though some would much rather weaken the ranks and hinder our effectiveness. Today, let’s go back to some of the basics that our indulged era seems to have forgotten.
God cares about good leadership—the kind mentioned in Scripture, modelled by men and women who served their generations with integrity and refused to lag behind because of pressure, demands, or ingratitude. Strong and determined yet gracious and godly are the qualities we witness in those we will study in this lesson.
How would you define hope? In what way would your definition apply to a local church? What if hope were missing from a congregation? Would anybody notice? We’ll think about these and other things as we allow Peter’s words to guide us into the truth about hope. These passages of Scripture suggest several ingredients that must be present if hope is to remain a vital part of a church’s life.
Christians are unwise when they remain out of touch and live in secrecy. Being responsible includes being accountable, not just to God but also to one another. If carried out in the power and under the control of the Holy Spirit, accountability can be one of the most secure and reassuring facets of our Christian experience.
Joshua's final speech can be summarized in three words: “choose for yourselves” (Joshua 24:15). These three words apply so perfectly to us today as we consider how to build congregational relationships. In the final analysis, we either will or will not pull together, grow deeper, and become a caring body of believers. It’s really up to each of us to choose whether or not to bond with other believers.
Centuries ago, as God led the ancient Hebrews into the Promised Land, He specifically instructed them to clear the territory of the foreign tribes and to rid themselves of the influence of Canaanite civilization. From this example, we can draw an analogy for today. If we truly desire to grow deeper, pull together, and go further than skin-deep superficiality in our relationships, we must remove those things that hinder true community.