The Church (#7)

UniteHandsPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church           Lesson 7 The Church                                  (This I Believe Series)

“Church” Ephesians 1:22-23, Matthew 16:13-19, Matthew 7:24-27, John 15:5

If someone were to call you on your cell phone this very minute and ask you where you were you would likely say “at church”, but you would be wrong. Firstly you would be wrong for answering your phone and talking during the service… but secondly you would be wrong because Biblically speaking you are not “at church” — If you are a Christian you are “the Church” and if you are not then you are among “the Church”. Biblically defined this building is not the “Church” (no building is). The word “church” is from the Greek word ekklesia, which defined is “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning being not that of a building, but of a people. When somebody says “what church do you attend?”, Biblically speaking you can answer “the Body of Christ!” Jesus is both the foundation and the Head of the “Church” which He began. Ephesians 1:22-23 He also said that Hell will never prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

The Apostle Peter is not the foundation of the Church as the Catholic doctrine mistakenly declares by naming him the first pope. Jesus is the “rock” (lit. Greek: Petra= foundation stone) of the Church and “Peter” (lit. Greek: Petros = small stone) declared it. Peter represented all believers (“the Church”) when he said that Jesus is “Messiah, Son of God”. The Church (believers) receives “keys to the Kingdom” and victory over Hell by Jesus. In Matthew 7:24-25 Jesus refers to that same “rock”: floods came, winds blew, but the house stood because it was built upon “the rock”. Not upon a stone (petros) or sand but upon the Rock (Petra) -Jesus! Remember: Apart from Him we can do nothing: John 15:5                Note: Some might say “Jesus spoke Aramaic not Greek and there is no distinction in the word “rock” in the Aramaic language. Then why would the Greek translators make such an obvious distinction unless they wanted to make the correct doctrine clear?

Church History
So what happened to the “One True Church”? In a nut shell (nuts) man drifted from truth. In the first two centuries the Church was severely persecuted yet grew. By the third century the Church was moving from homes to buildings and political hierarchy was invented. The fourth century brought great persecution to the Church but ended with Constantine’s conversion. Christianity became the state religion. Land was purchased, basilicas were built, and political power came. In the fifth through the fifteenth centuries (Middle Ages) the “church” became polluted with worldliness and tortured and killed those who dared offend it. Many false doctrines were introduced to make money and to control people. Politics divided the “church” into two popes (England & Rome) and bloody crusades and inquisitions became the mark of the “church”. In the Fifteenth century Reformation began. John Wycliffe questioned the authority of the Pope, and Jan Hus spoke out against indulgences (payment to absolve sin). In 1446 the invention of the printing press brought Bibles to the common folk . The sixteenth century brought much needed change. Luther posted his 95 Thesis (1517) against the Catholic church and protesters followed his lead (protestants) in the centuries that followed. The nineteenth century produced many protestant groups called denominations as people tried to define various Bible doctrines (teachings), but an outpouring world missions resulted! Oddly, the pope was also declared infallible by the Vatican (1870). Guess they ignored history. In the twentieth century the gospel reached virtually every region in the world. 95% of the world has the Bible in their own language. The internet also brings the gospel truth, but the devil uses it too. Christianity grew in China but declines in the Western world. Islam is now the fastest growing religion in the world. This century also shows more Christians martyred than all other centuries combined.

Looking at the sins in our history it’s hard to believe that anyone still believes, but this is a testimony to God and not man. The “Church” ( true believers) have always prevailed for Jesus is our foundation and he said “the gates of Hell will not prevail.” Again…He is the indestructible foundation! Amen

The Body of Christ   1 Corinthians 12:12-13:1, 1 John 4:7-16
According to the Bible, the church is the “body of Christ”—all those who have faith in Jesus for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The Universal Church consists of everyone, everywhere, who is “born again” through Jesus (John 3:3)— these also belong to The Local Church: gatherings who regularly worship, study God’s word and serve as He commanded. Just as a body has many parts so does the Church. We are all baptized by One Spirit to form one body of believers. There is unity with all believers. We have different gifts and talents that carry out our mission. God has placed Apostles (missionaries), Prophets (Pastors), and Teachers to guide the Church. He has brought miracles and healing through others to encourage the Church. He has brought the gift of helps, guidance and different kinds of tongues (languages) to strengthen the Church. All do not have the same gifts, but we are all to have the same love. For God is love (1 John 7:8).

Keys to the Kingdom  Matthew 16:19, John 17:14-21
Just what did Jesus mean when He said that He would give His Church the Keys to the Kingdom”? The Church has the power through prayer/action to open doors to Heaven or to shut them. History shows that the “church” has often shut the door on those we were meant to bring to Christ in love. Let us never be so foolish as to think that we can do anything apart from Him personally or publicly…We are His Church let us follow His word carefully and share His message in deed and truth (1 John 3:18).

 

Spirit Filled (Lesson 6)

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The Gathering/ Pastor Barry Bruce:  This I Believe Series/ Spirit Filled (Lesson 6)                   To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

The Holy Spirit

In our last lesson we learned how all things become new when we give our lives over to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Newness doesn’t come to us because of the hard work we do to be holy.  We are saved not by our works but by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8).  It is His Spirit that works in us (Philippians 2:13) to produce the holiness that He requires (1 Peter 1:15-16).  In this lesson we will learn all about The Holy Spirit’s working in the Christian life.

 The Dove Matthew 3:16, Deuteronomy 4:15-19, Romans 1:20

Of all the creatures under heaven God chose the dove to represent the likeness of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16). A dove even illustrated this at Jesus baptism in bodily form (Luke 3:22).  Some facts about the dove help us to understand why:

 DOVE FACT 1:  The only bird that feeds its young milk (from the glands in the neck) God desires us to long for the “pure milk” of His word.  Peter 2:2   DOVE FACT 2:  The dove only mates once in life.  A faithful bird.  God is faithful in all  He does. Psalm 145:13  DOVE FACT 3:  The only bird with a world wide association of peace. The Holy Spirit brings God’s peace. Romans 14:7, 15:3  DOVE FACT 4:  The bird Biblically associated with new beginnings and new life. The dove came back to Noah with an olive branch after the flood. Genesis 8:10-12  The Holy Spirit brings new life and hope for new beginnings.  John 6:63  DOVE FACT 5:  The dove has 9 flight feathers (upward pointing on either wing) that equip them to fly. The Holy Spirit gives 9 “gifts” and 9 “fruits” to believers to equip them. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, Galatians 5:22-23  DOVE FACT 6:  The dove has 5 underlying tail feathers, like a rudder giving balance & direction. The 5 fold ministry of the Church “giving some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers” brings balance/ direction to the church. Ephesians 4:11-12   DOVE FACT 7:  The white dove is Biblically colored to represent the Holy Spirit. Biblically the color white always stands for purity, holiness and righteousness. Daniel 7:9

We can see above that there are many metaphorical similarities between the dove and the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is not a literal dove.  We can also find many metaphorical similarities between a serpent and the Devil (intriguing, cunning,biting , mesmerizing: Revelation 12:7), but the Devil is not a snake. We are not to see them as such but to understand them better through the illustrations that God has provided.  In the same way the Spirit of God is not nature or the stars in the sky.  We simply understand His existence and work through such things (Deuteronomy 4:15-19, Romans 1:20). The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity, not because He is less than the Father and Son (they are One) but because that is usually the order they are mentioned together.  We know the Holy Spirit is a person by His names: Comforter (John 14:26), Guide (John 16:13), Intercessor (Romans 8:26-27). The person hood of the Holy Spirit is also shown by His characteristics:  He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), a mind (Romans 8:27) and great knowledge John 14:26.  

Let Him Work! Ephesians 1:13-14, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God and He wants to empower you in your walk with Him.  In fact, apart from Him we cannot live the life that God desires us to live.  Ephesians 1:13-14 teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the seal of salvation for all those who believe. He is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until we are in glory. The Bible clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit is received at the moment of salvation, but others believe that the “baptism of the Spirit” is another special act of God given only to those Christians who specifically ask.  The Bible clearly teaches that the filling of the Spirit is an ongoing process in the Christian life (sanctification: the process of holiness). We only grow and experience God as we submit to His Spirit.  As we read God’s word we should always be open to what He wants to do in us and through us.  We should be “doers” not just those who hear (James 1:22).  To do otherwise “grieves” the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and “quenches” the work He wants to accomplish in us (1 Thessalonians 5:19).  The most miserable person in the world is the Christian who refuses the work of the Holy Spirit in his/her life.  His carnal desires will not let him enjoy his Christian life and the Holy Spirit will not allow him to enjoy his sin.  Let Him have His way (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). 

“Be Filled” Ephesians 5:15-20, Galatians 5:22-26, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

As we established, the permanent indwelling of the Spirit is not for a select few believers, but for all believers. The “filling of the Spirit” ( Ephesians 5:18) speaks to being so yielded to the Holy Spirit that He possess us fully.  You will know the one who is “filled” by their “fruit” (actions: Matthew 7:16). 

The Holy Spirit equips the believer with both “gifts” and “fruits” to live and act according to God’s good pleasure.  The 9 “fruits” (Galatians 5:22-23) are characteristics of God that show up in increasing measure as we allow Him to work in our lives.  The 9 “gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) are given at will by the Holy Spirit for the “common good” (to accomplish His work).  There are different gifts given in different measure by the same God. These are given as He determines.  It is not some great Christian contest to be “filled” more than another.  It is a call to all.  God wants us to fly like the dove and bring His peace and new life to mankind.  Will you let Him fill you?

Holiness (Lesson 5)

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Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church  This I Believe Series: Holiness (Lesson 5)         To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Be Holy Leviticus 19:1-2, Ephesians 2:1-10, Matthew 5:14-16, John 17:14-21

In our last lesson we learned that God commands His children to be Holy.  We also learned that this command is impossible except through the shed blood of Christ on our behalf.  The Apostle Paul explained in his letter to the Ephesians that apart from Christ we are dead in our transgressions and sin.  We are like zombies following “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (the Devil: Satan is the ruler of the demonic kingdom that resides between earth and space.) Christ has made those of us who trust in Him “alive” through His grace and seated us with Him “in the heavenly realms” (with Heaven as our inheritance).  Paul makes it clear that we have been saved by God’s grace (a “gift” through faith in Jesus: Grace= unmerited favor) and by no work of ourselves.  God has done this so that we would do “good works” that He prepared for us to do even in advance of our salvation.  In other words, any good thing that we do as believers is accomplished because of the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us brought by salvation through the work of Jesus Christ who saved us (as a gift) when we believed!   

The “good works” Paul speaks of are the ones Jesus talked about in His Sermon On The Mount (Matthew 5:13-16).  As Christians we are to be “salt” (bringing good taste and preventing decay) and “light” (making truth visible)  in this world thereby glorifying God.  Mark this, we can never work our way into Heaven by doing good works; however, “good works” is what will flow out of a person’s life who lives by faith in Jesus.  “Good works” is the by product (fruit) of a person who has received Christ as Lord because the Holy Spirit is in him. 

As God’s children we should desire holiness because to be holy is to be like our God.  We are no longer children of the world that we should reflect the Prince of this world (the Devil).  We are children of God and we are to reflect Him.  As Jesus said, ( John 17:14-21) we are to be sanctified (set apart) by God’s word so that the world (unbelievers) may believe in JesusBy living in holiness we make Him visible who is invisible to a lost world.

The Pursuit of Happiness Romans 8:5-15, Matthew 6:33-34, Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-13   If we were as intent in being holy as we are in being happy we would be both more holy and more happy as a result.  Oswald Chambers (early twentieth-century Scottish Baptist evangelist/ teacher)  said “Holiness, not happiness, is the chief end of man” You can be sure that no man ever said on his death bed “I wish I had been less holy”. In fact there is usually a rush to holiness once one has been given his death sentence, but dying men may often say “I wish I had experienced a happier life”.  Those men, I assure you,  are those who lived an unholy life. 

Being holy is not work — it is allowing God to work in you.  The problem is that our constant pursuit of happiness most often gets in the way of what God’s Spirit wants to do in us.  We make a tragic mistake when we make the distinction between being happy and being holy because they are one and the same.  We can only be blessed (made happy through God’s favor) when we do God’s will and it is His will for us to be holy. 

The Apostle Paul explained it beautifully for us in Romans 8:5-6: “Those who live according to the flesh (Pursue happiness in a worldly way) have their minds set on what the flesh (world) desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit (pursue holiness) have their minds set on what the Spirit     desires (Which is your happiness!). He goes on to say: The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Do you desire life and peace?  Then stop pursuing happiness and pursue God!  

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness. John 10:10

At His Sermon On The Mount Jesus reminded those people then, who were in pursuit of their own happiness , to seek God’s kingdom first and then they would have all that they needed (Matthew 6:33-34).  Hundreds of years   earlier the prophet Isaiah reminded his people of the same thing… “seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-9), he prophesied.  He went on to say that God’s ways are not our ways.  His “ways are higher.”  This is why today we must pursue Him and not happiness.  As we pursue God and His word He will accomplish what He desires (Isaiah 55:11-13) in us which is indeed happiness… joy forever!  We can never be truly happy without holiness. 

“Dead Things” and New Creations 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

 Jackie Hill Perry (Christian writer, poet, hip-hop artist and author) said: Sinners don’t just sin because, being sinners, they have to. Sinners sin because they want to — they enjoy sinning (John 3:19). Being made in the image of God, we were made for joy, but not the shallow and  temporary joy we feel when we sin”.  God wants us to have life to the full. 

Although we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and no longer slaves to loving “dead things” (Ephesians 2:1), we are still tempted to believe that they will provide the joy we want. We must see this for the lie that it is and choose to live delighting in obedience to the one we love. He is all about bringing life so how are we, His children, to play with “dead things”? 

Holiness is happiness and anyone practicing the art will see.  Let us reject the shallow and realize all the eternal riches we have been given in Christ.  We are His “ambassadors”— “lights of the world!”. Let His Spirit shine through you.

 

 

Law & Grace (Lesson 4)

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Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church: This I Believe Series (Lesson 4) Law & Grace   To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

The First Law Broken Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6-13

We have all heard the cliché “Christians aren’t perfect they’re just forgiven”.  Ironically this cliché  has actually become an excuse for some Christians to remain sinful despite the actual word of God which says: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:1-2).  Holy means to be set apart for God.

The first man (Adam) did not get away with this excuse for sin nor has anyone  after him and nor shall we. God told Adam “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die”.  The first man disobeyed God and death resulted for him and all of his offspring thereafter.  That was the first law of God broken by man and it was not excused. 

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— Romans 5:12 

Like untreated cancer, sin infected and ravaged mankind—sin entered the world and became part of man’s DNA.  Every child was born with sin and therefore every person sinned—the consequences of that sin has continued to result in death, because the wages (byproduct) of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and “death”, as described in the bible, is not just a physical death but an everlasting awareness and separation from God—Hell: Matthew 10:28, 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Sin can not dwell in God’s presence (Psalm 5:4) and therefore neither can sinful man. 

The fact that sin brings death and separates us from a holy and righteous God is a spiritual law in the same way that gravity is a natural law.  No one blames  gravity for how it functions; we simply obey it or perish.  The effects of gravity are obvious and so is the law of sin if we care to look.  We die because everyone sins and because we sin our offspring is born into sin.  Sin has literally spoiled the earth and everything in it.  It has also spoiled the eternity God wants with us.

After Adam and Eve broke God’s law they hid from Him (Genesis 3:8-9). They feared Him and felt shame in their nakedness. Their relationship with God and one another was damaged.  When God called Adam on his sin he blamed Eve and God for creating her. Eve blamed the serpent, but each was held accountable for the sin of breaking God’s law (Genesis 3:14-19).  Even then; God would show grace: He  covered their nakedness and protected them from the irreversible “forever” consequences of their fall (Genesis 3:21-24). 

Bad to Worse Genesis 12:1-3, Deuteronomy 7:7-12, Hebrews 9:19-22

From Adam to Noah wickedness increased and the result was a flood of judgment and the destruction of mankind, but God would show grace to Noah and his sons. He would make a covenant (Promise: Genesis 9:8) with them and life would begin again.  Life continued and so did sin, yet God showed grace again by calling out a man named Abram (later called Abraham : Genesis 17:5) and making a covenant to bless the Earth through his offspring (Isaac to Jacob, later called Israel: Genesis 32:28) Through Abraham’s lineage came the nation Israel and Jesus Christ, our Savior!

Long before the redemption of sin would come through Jesus, God would show His grace to mankind by making a third covenant with Moses and the Jews (Exodus 19:5-6) that He rescued from Egyptian slavery and brought into the land that He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the nation of Israel).  God would choose the Jewish nation as His own because of the promise He made to Abraham (Deuteronomy 7:7-12) and for no other reason.  In this covenant God gave man 1.) reasonable laws to live by (Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:3-17) and 2.) sacrificial (blood of animals) and religious laws so that they would never forget the seriousness (blood=death= eternal separation) of their sin, their agreement to serve a holy God, and His forgiveness and grace offered to them through the blood of their sacrifices. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:19-22).

The earth continued in sin and God’s people broke His covenant with them. Their religious acts of sacrifice became meaningless. The Bible is both a record of man’s covenant breaking as well as God’s covenant keeping.    

Once For All Romans 3:10-12, 23-25a, Hebrews 10:4-10,14-18

Mankind failed God, the Jews failed God, you and I fail God every day. Not one is righteous, none are holy (Romans 3:10) so God showed His grace one more time by bringing redemption through a new covenant.  God set aside the old covenant to establish the new.  He came down, wrapped Himself in human flesh, and presented Himself in Christ as a perfect blood sacrifice for sin, “once for all” ( Hebrews 10:10). Now anyone can be made “holy” (as commanded by God (Leviticus 19:1-2) through faith in Jesus Christ… “sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary” (Hebrews 10:18).

Fulfillment of Law Matthew 5:17-18, Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 6:2

God alone is holy and good. His law will be accomplished because God is just.  Jesus alone fulfills the law and pays our debt of sin.  Faith in Him alone is  credited as righteousness. This is God’s amazing grace!  Rejecting that grace rightfully condemns us to pay for that sin ourselves.  The wages of sin is death (Hell)  but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus.  Have you received His grace?  Now is the time for salvation. 

For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.                                   2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT