I have been doing much study on the word “kingdom” in Matthew’s Gospel, and my study has produced clarity and thoroughness to my understanding of the word in a New Testament context. For instance, there are three things about “kingdom” that are important to understand. First, there is the geographical application of the word; Herod was king of Judea, an area of land with people residing within that area, that are being known as his kingdom. Second, the word, as John and Jesus both preached it, was near. If it was near, but Herod already had a kingdom, then that which John/Jesus preached is different than Herod’s kingdom; that is, it was not a kingdom similar to Herod’s. Herod, of course, did not understand this, thus he went after the baby Jesus when he learned of a king being born. Third, in the model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), Jesus taught His disciples to pray for it to come (6:10). In this third point I want to emphasize the kingdom, God’s kingdom, within the heart. If the kingdom is within (cf. Luke 17:20-21; Col. 3:16), lives are changed. Is it within you? RT
I remember living in New Mexico, serving in the United States Air Force. I was somewhat moderately religious, but the moderation was because of heritage more than anything else. I did read the Bible and had some low-level knowledge, like knowing where the Ten-Commandments could be found when someone asked me. I was also a member of the Nazarene Church, the church of which my parents were associated, but one to which my grandmother was loyal. My experience in the Nazarene Church was good, but my commitment to them was not as good. As a member of the USAF, while in New Mexico, I was introduced to the “church of Christ” for the first time. To me, one church was a good as another and, by and large, they were all good. The churches I knew I had no real interest in would have been the Mormons and Catholics, but Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists – I had no real objections to these.
Due to poor decisions in my life, confusion and misdirection seemed to be the way I was going. I remember well the many evenings I lamented, was angered, and appealed to the Lord for direction out of my stupidity. I had a roommate (Dave Hunt) who had fallen away from the church of which he was a member, but had enough interest in me that he thought I might be interested in attending when he went. This was about the time of Easter in 1983. I went, but was not all that intrigued by anything. What intrigued me more was the conversations my roommate and I had, how he called upon me to “show him in the Bible” whatever answer I would give to his questions and comments. My failings in this area was an embarrassment and moved me toward looking to the Scriptures to gain answers. Mom and Dad purchased a book for my birthday to help me (Naves Topical Bible). After much effort on my part, after some Bible studies with the local preacher, on November 1st, 1983, I was baptized into the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. That is my story.
From that time forward, I have made it my life to tell the Lord’s story. Not only do I want to tell of His death, burial, and resurrection, but I also want to tell others of His church. I don’t want to be a member of any church – no matter how genuine, serious and devoted the members are or might be – I don’t want to be a member of any church that has no New Testament sanction to exist. The Nazarene Church of which I was once a member does not have New Testament sanction to exist. It came into existence nearly two-thousand years after the Lord’s church was set up by the Lord through His apostles (Mt. 16:13-19; Acts 2:47). According to “Charts on Church History” (Robert C. Walton), the Nazarene Church came into existence, separating from the Methodist Episcopal Church in about 1908 (Chart 71; also see (http://nazarene.org/history)).
Whatever might be said about the particular doctrines of the church, the church came into existence much too long after the time of Christ and, moreover, it has the wrong name. Compare the name Nazarene Church with what Paul said to those in Rome, “The churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16). Is there no significance in a name? To the Lord there is, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This is the church of which I want to be a member.
My membership in the Lord’s church, the churches of Christ, is not simply a matter of being associated with it; I want to be a worker for the Lord. The Lord’s story, with all my personal failings, is now my story. RT
Is one REQUIRED to “go to church”? One can almost hear the lament or moan in the asking of the question. What a shame that some people, many people even ask the question. Yet, in the asking of it, it is very likely there is an exposure of one’s real desire.
If you say yes, there is a requirement, then you will be asked to show the verse that says, “thou shalt go to church!” putting such emphasis on a command/law, and little on the heart. There are a number of people who resist any affirmative answer to “going to church,” and this is because there is no desire to go. The reason they don’t want to go is because their love for the Lord is not as they think it is.
Can a case be made for attending church services? It is truly a shame that anyone would ask this question. But, it is asked, so let us tackle it.
Note where the emphasis is placed in the question. It is the word “required.” In other words, there are many people who do not want to be required by anyone, even God, to do something they have no desire to do. Of course, in this life, in our country, one can’t require anyone to “go to church” or attend church if there is no desire.
It is very often the case that with questions like this one we are considering in this bulletin article it is a reflection of an incomplete love or self-serving disposition of wanting to love God, but only to obey Him in so far as it is convenient.
For a genuine and true Christian, one not in name only, there is no other desire but to love the Lord and be with His people. Why is that? Note what the Holy Spirit says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:19-25, NET).
Do you love the Lord? If so, then why would you (or anyone) dismiss His exhortation as He expressed it here? If you genuinely love the Lord, you won’t dismiss anything that He said. In fact, there will be no “requirement” associated with it at all; it will be a pleasure! You will be there because you love the Lord, you will be there because you love the brethren, you will be there because of the encouragement given and received, you will be there because of the teaching received. On the other hand, if you say you love the Lord, but do not want to attend, the problem is and always will be you. RT
“Going to church” is not a matter of going to the building as some sort of check off list. It is not a matter of “works religion.” Gathering together with the saints is much more than that. The saints in the first century did so (Acts 20:7), and Paul exhorted the saints in Corinth to do the same (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 4:17). Those who love the Lord won’t be any place but where the Lord desires, and for the reasons the Lord desires.
Here are some points for your consideration: 1) Matthew 16:13-19—Jesus “built” (established) His church. 2) Ephesians 1:22-23—Jesus is the head of His church, His body. 3) Ephesians 4:4—There is one body (church). 4) Ephesians 5:23-32—The church is the saved. Paul wrote to the local body (in Ephesus); he did not delineate between the local, visible, invisible, and/or universal church. 5) Hebrews 10:19-31—After a lengthy discussion on the differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit gives a number of exhortations in this section: a) the saints are to draw near with a true heart (10:22), b) the saints are to hold fast their confession (10:23; cf. Romans 10:9-10), c) the saints are to consider one another (10:24), d) the saints are not to forsake (abandon) the assembling together (10:25); this is your “go to church.” e) to sin willfully is to crucify the Son of God afresh (10:26), f) it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (10:31).
What’s hard to understand? For one who doesn’t want to understand, maybe it’s the heart that is hard.
In Romans 7, the Lord’s apostle expounds on the significance of the Law of Moses in relation to the Lord’s New Covenant. In this exposition, he speak of marriage and adultery. To the Jew, to obey a law other than the Law of Moses, one was guilty of adultery, and adultery is punishable by death (cf. Deut. 17:1-5). In fact, this theme is seen throughout the writings of the prophets.
To those of Jewish persuasion, Paul knew he had a case to make. This he does in his letter to the church at Rome, just as he did when went into the synagogues each Sabbath day when the local Jewish community gathered for study of the Torah and Prophets (cf. Acts 17:3).
As long as the Law of Moses was sanctioned by God and in active force, for one who was a Jew, to obey something that was different than the Law of Moses was to be liable to punishment. However, if the Law of Moses was no longer sanctioned by God and in active force, to obey the New Covenant not only relieved one from the punishment of death, but actually liberated those who obeyed from the heart (6:16-18) from sin, something they could not be relieved from by the Law of Moses (Acts 13:39).
Using the illustration of marriage, Paul makes his point. A woman is married, but when her husband dies she is no longer married (but a widow). According to the Lord, the Law of Moses died (Colossians 2:14); thus, those who “marry” the New Covenant, now live life with a new groom.
Judgment is something that we are all very familiar with; the Lord declared that we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, answering for what we have done in the body, be it good or bad. Of course, the “good” in this context starts with one’s response to the Lord Jesus; the “bad” is everything else. Peter reminds his readers that judgment will start with the church, the “house of God” (1 Peter 4:17). If the church is scarcely saved, then what about those outside the church of our Lord? To ask is to answer. Unless we don’t love our fellow man, we should make it our mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). If we follow Jesus, that is exactly what we are already doing. Are you following Jesus?
When the apostle Paul was being prosecuted (Acts 23) by those in authority, it did not take long before Paul took advantage of the situation to bring the “trial” to a stand-still. He noticed the divided loyalty that existed amongst those persecuting him for the cause of Christ. Taking advantage of the situation that he knew was nothing more than a farce he threw the proceedings into confusion by bringing his own religious heritage into the discussion. Those of a similar persuasion then set themselves to defend their own honor by defending Paul against a contrary persuasion (the Sadducees). For many, religious loyalty is still like that today; there is more commitment to one’s own honor than to the Lord’s way of righteousness. RT
The strength of the local congregation, especially small ones, is found in the following areas.
First, there is one’s commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is paramount, and the foundation to it all. Without the foundation in place the strength of a local congregation is only perceived (imagined), not real. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:16, NKJV). Note the following from this simple declaration. Jesus is THE way, he is THE truth, and he is THE life. Thus, if anyone would know of truth, if anyone would know the way, if anyone would enjoy life, then one must go through Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)
Second, the strength of the local congregation is found in its people. If the members of the local church are committed to Christ, then that commitment will show itself in the lives lived. We understand the significance of Jesus, but this does not always translate into actions completed. In Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, he gave exhortations that was to shape lives in conformity to the Holy Spirit’s will. These exhortations consisted in seeking those things that are above (the things of God); this means physical life is NOT the answer to one’s satisfaction. Additionally, after seeking those things above, the Christian is to set his (or her) mind on those things that are above (the things of God). This anchors one’s heart in those spiritual things in life that are transcendent. Finally, Christians need to put to death those things on earth that do nothing but corrupt the purity of that which the Lord has prepared for us.
Third, the strength of the local congregation is also found in attendance. There are some who feel as if this is not important. The Holy Spirit knew some would think this way, so he authored these words: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:24-27).
It is this last point that needs to be developed a bit further. The Lord’s church in Sullivan is small; those committed to the Lord and his way will not be discouraged by such a thing. They will, on the other hand, “roll up their sleeves” and set themselves to the Lord’s work. This includes not only evangelistic efforts outside the walls of the building, but also a working effort that tends to the needs of the saints who gather within. In small congregations, young families are of great encouragement; they can be very helpful to the local body by also “rolling up their sleeves” and setting themselves to the work. If they leave, they have removed themselves from being a local solution to what they consider to be a discouraging problem.
The ultimate solution to a congregation, in the final analysis, is: the Lord, one’s commitment to him, one’s willingness to work, and perseverance.
They are “bound by their belief in unbelief” is a line in a recent article concerning atheist mega-churches. The originators of the atheistic mega-church idea seeks to raise just under a million dollars for the perpetuation of their ideology and “Sunday gatherings.” They do this as an affront and with jealousy to the various churches spread abroad in western society. The news report (Foxnews.com) tells us, to the credit of these founders, “They don’t bash believers but want to find a new way to meet likeminded people, engage in the community and make their presence more visible in a landscape dominated by faith.”
One of the intellectual challenges atheists have is in association with meaning in life. Many atheists feel the need to give themselves meaning in life when their ideology presents no meaning, no purpose to life’s existence. In order to combat the meaninglessness of life, they “copycat” the religious community’s sense of belonging and purpose with their own. “Hey, wait a minute. We are charitable, we are good people, we’re good parents and we are just as good citizens as you and we’re going to start a church to prove it.”
There are many atheistic people in this world who try to live life in such a way to be good, productive citizens in the community. With regard to that effort, they are to be commended. If they are right, however, there is no point to such efforts. If there is no objective reality (God), then everyone can do whatever is liked because there is no ultimate accountability. Simply because someone else, or some group, does not like it is…well, meaningless.
Atheism is not supported by science; it is not supported by morality; it is not supported by philosophy; it is not supported by the nature of man; and it is not supported by the rational component of man. What supports it then? One’s willingness to reject all of the above and allow themselves to be in bondage to emptiness.
As Christians, it is important we take the time and try to persuade those who think and live this way, however good it may be considered by some, that life’s meaning is not in the empty philosophy of atheism.
- Atheism can’t explain man’s existence, or even the world’s existence (meaning).
- Atheism can’t explain why man should be moral, or even what morality is (direction).
- Atheism can’t give any good rational reasons for living or even continuing life (hope).
- Atheism can’t explain the “component” of man that is non-material (the mind).
- Atheism rejects history (the Bible) for the sake of an ideology (irrational).
Satan will not let you (or me) engage this fight without being scarred in the battle. Satan is evil, and he desires his philosophy to hold sway with as many as he can get to accept it. Unfortunately many have. “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1, NKJV).
In last week’s bulletin, we had a brief discussion on the word “restore” from Acts 1:6. We noticed the word is not necessarily associated with the apostle’s incomplete and inadequate understanding of the word “kingdom,” but with regard to the timing of its arrival. Let us, now, say a few more words on this. In John 3:3-5, Jesus spoke in relation to the new birth and kingdom entrance; exactly what the disciples may have understood at the time is unknown. It was later that Jesus said some other things about the kingdom of God (Luke 17:20-21). Clearly, the disciples were able to put some things together when they asked Him (Acts 1:6) concerning the “restore” of the kingdom: spiritual rebirth put one in the kingdom; but David’s kingdom was material. If the kingdom was in their midst (Jesus was present), then the kingdom they asked about pertained to the spiritual kingdom of Christ, the church. RT (PART 2)