Be reminded of what we have and who we are

2 John 5-6 walk as Jesus

And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John 5-6

Passages to ponder: 1 Peter 1:3-5, 13-16; 4:12; 5:10-11; 2 Peter 3:17-18; 1 John 1:5-7; 4:10-16; 5: 11-13; 2 John 5-6; 3 Jude 21-23

These early Christians needed to understand that knowing God was not a one-time event.  Knowing God is a continual and continuing relationship in which we constantly rely on Him.  He alone is the Hope we have.  He alone gives us grace and peace.

Our place and security is in Heaven to come; our joy can be declared and lived out. Christ is sufficient for faith and salvation; there is no other and there will never be.  Yes, we do have hope beyond hope.  If our place is secured in eternity-and, it is; if we have a Savior in Whom we can have faith and trust-and, we do, then we can lead lives of endurance no matter what is thrown at us.  These are things we cannot accomplish by our own means; we need Jesus.  He needs to be placed first!

Christ is our living Hope that will never fade away!

We will face the sufferings and trials; we will even be persecuted for following the faith and being good witnesses.  How we grow and what we learn through the trials is what matters to God and is the value to us.  Jesus, being fully God, suffered on our behalf; we live in a world of sin that suffers due to the consequences thereof.  Jesus bore our sins and took away our ultimate, deserved suffering.

We are chosen by God and by God alone!  The Holy Spirit sets us apart.  

We are able to hear and receive His Words of grace and life.  We need to be reminded of what we have and who we are in Christ.  If not, we will soon forget and replace His guidance either with our frailty or with the ways of the world. Our Lord modeled for us how we are to deal with suffering (1 Peter 1:16-21; 2:21, 4-25).

The key to the Christian life and spiritual growth is our faith that develops our trust in Christ, and our submission to His precepts which produces character and maturity (1 Peter 2:12; 5:10-11).

These early Christians were oppressed, confused, and struggling.  They are seeking to live for Christ in a world that not only does not understand but also persecutes those of the faith.  In the midst of the oppressions of the world and family, others come along who seek to deceive and entice them to live in sin and not for Christ.  Thus, the need to be encouraged, challenged, and hope to remain in Christ.  We need to be aware and be on guard to live for Christ, putting on His virtues and not the world’s.  These epistles are as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago; what they experienced, we experience!  The early Christians needed hope and encouragement just as need these today; the Truth is for all for all time.

False teachings, mysticism, empty philosophies, legalism, and bad traditions also threatened the health and well-being of the Christians and their evangelistic opportunities.  Sound familiar?  The Christians were under siege by prideful men seeking sensationalism and mysticism rather than Christ as Lord.  Christ’s Deity was being challenged and rebuffed for more so-called “clever and newer” ideas (Acts 19).

© 2016, 2017, R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/

 

The Epistles were written to a Church under siege

Church under siege

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11

Passages to ponder: 1 Peter 1:3-5, 13-16; 4:12; 5:10-11; 2 Peter 3:17-18; 1 John 1:5-7; 4:10-16; 5: 11-13; 2 John 5-6; 3 Jude 21-23

The siege was both internal and external with bitter conflicts and schemes from within the church and attacks from militant pagans and some hostile Jews.  Thus, the Apostles write to encourage how to cope with and prepare for the worst that would come-even more heinous persecutions. The encouragement is this:  Heed Christ as Lord, His Truth, and fight against anything that comes against this!  Be on guard and fight against heresies and false doctrines while being vigilant building faith and the Church.

The church was in a difficult place-surrounded by a Greek and pagan culture, they were having birthing and growing pains.  They were being negatively influenced and confused by the spectacle of cults and false religions that surrounded them.  They needed the Truth; they needed a Savior.  They could not just retreat inward or run away; they had to fight with faith and model the love of Jesus for those who did not understand or want it.  This was written for the early Christians; this is written for us.

Christ is our Redeemer who is our living hope even when we are hurting!

Jesus offers His forgiveness and grace; by, with and through Him, we are enabled and empowered to live holy lives.  He, indeed, has a plan and a purpose for us!   Life here-now-is preparatory and temporary.  Our citizenship is to come in a glorious, wondrous eternity!  Our God is in control and totally sovereign.  He gives us the faith and the ability to face whatever comes our way, so we do not become the hurting who hurts others (1 Pet 1:3).

We are called to set your hearts.  This means to have understanding, to think, and to have a desire for real, bona fide faith as well as Truth.  We are to think about Christ and consider what we have in Him to experience our new lives. Truth is something we want to learn for triumphant lives and effectual churches, something we want to live in.  As long as we are in Christ, our connection to purity is maintained; thus, we should not sin and live as we please.  We have no right to sin deliberately, and we have no right in thinking, “I am already forgiven so it is OK to sin” (Col. 1:9; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2)!

We are called to set your mind.  This means to place Christ first.  Bad thoughts and actions lead to bad lives, so we are called to purposefully focus ourselves on Christ, His precepts, and His presence.  When we focus on Christ, our attention is off other things and distractions–even sin!  Heavenly values will translate into earthy values when we are centered on Christ, allowing His work in and through us (Matt. 6:33; Rom. 8:5; Phil. 1:23; 4:8; 1 John 2:15-17).

We are urged to put Christ first and move on to spiritual maturity.  This creates a healthy church, prevents false teachings, and facilitates a mutual faith and hope that is contagious and effectual.  We know His Truth, and we can still be triumphant in Him in the time we have here on earth.  In so doing, we need to be known for who we are in Christ, not for just what we are against.

© 2016, 2017, R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/

 

How far is your church’s reach with kindness and truth?

DEARCHURCH

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…” 1 Peter 1:3-4

Passages to ponder: 1 Peter 1:3-5, 13-16; 4:12; 5:10-11; 2 Peter 3:17-18; 1 John 1:5-7; 4:10-16; 5: 11-13; 2 John 5-6; 3 Jude 21-23

These early Christians who were grateful for Christ, placed Him as LORD, realized we need to guard His Truth so to live in truth and love.  How are we doing with that?

The people God brings you, that is the ones in your care need to know the importance of our relationship with God and with one another.  If you are not doing that you have a gaping hole in your church!

Realize the people are given to you for stewardship, but they are not yours, they belong to Christ! You are to minister and train them up for Christ’s glory. And in the character and precepts of Christ. In this way, we can be positive with those who do not know Christ.  And not manipulative or controlling or hateful or embrace those rotten fruits…. Let’s take it where the Church today is lacking…. We must be known for who we are in Christ, not just for what we are against.

In so doing, we must show kindness and patience–the key characters of love–to those we ‘feel’ we must hate.  We never will reach others for the Gospel by our negativity or argumentations.  Our reach is effective by our kindness, by holding on to Truth, not compromising Biblical theology, and mostly by being patient with those who are ignorant or even hateful of the Truth, the Word of God.

In the calls of Scripture, we are encouraged to remain faithful, live a life of submission, purity, godly living, and be steadfast and faithful even in persecution.  

Grace and truth, the covenant that God has with humanity and His steadfast purpose to keep and fulfill it.  The truth is that there is no guarantee of happiness as a Christian; our salvation only by faith in Christ Jesus is the guarantee.  Our living hope is our new birth in Christ.  Things will not always be what we want.  In a fallen world, there will always be suffering.

There is Truth!  There is ABSOLUTE Truth.  God’s Word-the Truth-remains unchanged and inerrant even when you may not feel it or when others proclaim otherwise.  

We are called to learn and know the Truth and be on guard against false truths.  He also reminds Christians to be faithful and prepare for the coming persecutions.  Be diligent to live out and guard God’s true Truth!

The early Christians were positive with the Gospel and the call to love our fellow believers and enemies.  They exercised kindness with one another and with outsiders.  They were patient with the decadent society and persecutions they were in.  However, they had to guard the Truth from those who come into the church, not seeking Christ, but who sought to destroy, wreak havoc, and to distract others with a prideful disregard for all that is Holy and Right and True.

© 2016, 2017, R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/

 

Resembling Christ

As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 10:7 

A lot of Christians have the false presumption that discipling means we should make people like us or have them conform to our specific church, denomination, or system of belief. Some think the me in “follow me” refers to I and not Him, Christ as Lord. But, that is not what discipleship or “follow me” is about. Rather, it is about helping facilitate the spiritual growth of others. It is about being empowered by the Spirit to hook people up to Christ. It is like being plugged into His current of electricity.  

We are never to make disciples in our image, alike as who we are, or how we think, feel, or act, but like Christ. Christian means to be Christ-like, not self-like or Bob-like or Joan-like, nor is it meant to be a particular denomination or theological position.  

It is all about doing our best in resembling Christ. We are to become His disciples by our faith, by His work in us! We are then to be discipled by someone. This is not just learning about the faith as a new Christian; it is a life-long commitment to grow in Him through His Word, through our personal devotions, through fellowship, through worship, and by learning all we can, then applying what we have learned. This helps form us as the people of God. We are to disciple others so they can, in turn, disciple others. Thus, Christianity is by faith, it is communal, it is continual, and it is shared. It is a community endeavor. A lot of Christians just will not do this. Perhaps they are too individualistic—too self-absorbed in their own lives to give a thought to God or others. Perhaps, they think, once I made that prayer and I am set free, so I do not need to do anything else. And, yes, they are, if it is real and in Christ. But, what good it is to be a pew-sitter yet do nothing with what Christ gave and called us to?  

The twelve disciples spent three years of their lives following, learning, listening, observing, practicing, and experiencing life directly alongside Jesus. Then, they carried that learning and experience to the world, first as a rehearsal, then as a lifestyle. It all boils down to a decision. Will we make our faith real and impacting, relinquishing our pride, allowing ourselves to learn and grow, and, in turn, teaching others? Let us make sure our impact comes from a life transformed and carried out to the people around us. Let us follow Christ!

The Top Ten (10) Trends Affecting Church Health

1. The healthiest churches have an active supportive and trained leadership—spiritual, growing and contented members who are excited about the Gospel.

2. The healthiest churches have a high reverence for the Bible and are involved in discipleship and the multiplication of it.

3. There is a direct correlation between the decline of small groups, those who actually study the Bible, or a decline of quality small group Bible-based curricula (versus a mere book study) and the decline of evangelism, stewardship, spiritual growth, and leadership participation!

4. There is a direct correlation between the decline of personal devotions and personal prayer and Bible study amongst leaders and pastors and the decline of church health, evangelism, stewardship, spiritual growth, and leadership participation!

5. American Christians increasingly tend to be more and more isolated from their non-Christian counterparts, in one’s family, workplace, and secular society in general. The more one is involved as a Christian, the less influence they have to others in the world for the Gospel.

6. Non-Christians, academia, and the media are more and more openly hostile to the Gospel. At the same time, many younger non-Christians (ages 14 to 30) are more receptive to the Gospel message.

7. Less than 10% of Reformed and Evangelical churches (not mainline or Catholic) have an evangelism program or plans for one.

8. The churches that are growing both numerically and spiritually in fruit and maturity have an active missions program and local outreach.

9. The churches that are growing both numerically and spiritually in fruit and maturity have preaching and small groups doing active teaching or expository or exegetical Bible sermons and not simple messages.

10. Younger people, 14 to 30 year olds, are seeking a deeper relationship in churches than previous generations. They want relevant worship, deeper Bible studies, preaching that is centered on the Bible and the glorification of Christ, and practical life-relational helps. The dropout rate of 14 to 30 year olds is at an all-time high—50% to 70%. The primary reason is that they want more and the churches they visit do not offer it! The other 30% to 50% drop out because of apathy and indifference, a loss of hope, and the Church cannot fulfill them anymore.

Is Spiritual Maturity Important in the Church?

Look what we at the Schaeffer Institute found: 

We are called to spiritual growth—that is, the formation of the investment of faith Christ gives us that we give back to Him in dividends. This is a deep conviction of our faith, a practiced submission that shows our obedience, and a life of personal and relational maturity. We have to listen to God; if not, we will not learn and then we will not grow and then we will not have a life of transformation and growth. Instead, we experience a storm-tossed sea of life, wayward in every perspective because our eyes and ears are not upon our Lord (Hebrews chap 1-6; James 1). 

Eighty-three percent (83%) of the church leaders and pastors surveyed said their people were content in their Christian faith. 

Eighty-one percent (81%) of the church leaders and pastors surveyed said they had no regular or effective discipleship program or effort to mentor their people at their church. 

Eighty-one percent (81%) of the church leaders and pastors surveyed said there was no primary teaching from the pulpit to challenge or deepen their people’s Christian formation (spiritual growth and biblical application) at their church. 

Seventy-eight percent (78%) of the church leaders and pastors surveyed said they either are or will focus on new trends or ideas to try fix something they feel is not working right. Seventy percent (70%) stated this is where their primary time is spent, whereas only 22% of those sought answers for their church problems from God’s Word, good theological sources, or going to more trained and experienced pastors for advice. 

More here:

http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=44952&columnid=4545