To Be Established
One of the great needs of Christian lives and churches is to be firmly and Biblically established. A loose establishment does not promote a sense of well-being, confidence, or much of a reason for being. Certainly it does not yield to the matter of bearing spiritual fruit. Remember the words of Jesus to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, they ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain...” (Jn. 15:16).
This was important to the Apostle Paul, for he said to the Thessalonians regarding Timothy’s ministry to them, I have, “...sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the Gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith” (I Thess. 3:2).
The subject of this article is a discussion about what may need to be more deeply established in our lives and churches. Many things pertain, but we will consider only a few as space permits.
We need to be established in our doctrine. Doctrine simply refers to the teaching of the Word of God. Many churches have doctrines that are not the teachings of the Bible, but rather, are traditions passed on from generation to generation. In many cases, they become so ingrained in people that they become an end in themselves. The importance of doctrine is seen in Paul’s admonition to Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (I Tim. 4:16).
Many doctrines are especially significant regarding what we believe, such as the following:
The doctrine of salvation. This doctrine is so important because it affects everything else we do and believe. The Bible doctrine of salvation is salvation by the grace of God when faith is placed in Jesus Christ who died for our sins. It is belief in our identification with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection as Biblical baptism reflects. Baptism pictures the believer’s identification with Him. That is why Biblical baptism is for believers. Salvation is Jesus Christ taking our sins upon Himself and giving us His own righteousness. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). Salvation is truly an exchanged life. Spiritual death is replaced by spiritual life. The truth of salvation needs to be preached in our churches! In referring to God, Paul said, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4).
The doctrine of the local church. The local church is not just a group of people who have similar interests, or who want to be involved in doing good things, or who are following the religious traditions they have been taught.
The true local church is a group of believers who have spiritual life. By spiritual life I don’t mean enthusiasm for the ministry and activities of the church, but the life of God given to each one who comes to Him in believing faith. When Paul addressed the believers at Colosse, he said, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which be at Colosse...” (Col. 1:2). Christians are people who have been called out from the world by the preaching of the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Biblical order is as we read in the book of Acts, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:41-42). Soon after, we read, “...And the Lord added to the church daily such as be saved” (Acts 2:47).
So, the church is not made up of just people who agree to gather for “worship.” The fact is, there can really be no worship apart from people being born again by faith in Jesus Christ.
We need to be established in our relationship to a Gospel preaching local church. The local church, reflecting the body of Christ, is a creation of God. In Paul’s writings, he addressed his God-given revelation to local churches. For example, to the church at Ephesus he said, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1). He never intended that believers live independently of other believers. We need the local church for many reasons including for a place of worship, a place to use our God given talents and gifts for His glory, a place for worship with other believers, a place to give to the work of God, and a place from which to minister to others. The local church should reflect the witness and glory of God to the community in which it is situated.
Of course, the local church one attends should be teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One has to be careful today because some are departing from the truth of God’s Word and are preaching another gospel. In his message to the Galatians, Paul said, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you and would pervert the Gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7).
It would be sad indeed for one to submit himself and his family to a church that does not really honor God and His Word. Of course, the beginning of discernment is when one has been convicted for his sins and comes to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. It is then that he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and has the discernment to make truly Biblical choices.
We need to be established in our relationships. Two aspects of relationship are in view here. First is our relationship with God. As said above, our relationship with God is established when we come to Him for the forgiveness of our sins. But beyond that, there is our daily, continuing relationship with Him. There is the matter of recognizing that our lives no longer belong to us, but to Him who purchased our redemption. As Paul said, “What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19-20).
For anyone who is not a believer, this truth is incomprehensible, even if one tends to be religious. However, for the one who knows and loves God, this is the natural consequence of salvation. Of course, this is because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Holy Spirit, one can only figure for himself what the Christian life should be. [Because the Christian life is a revelation from God, man can only come to the wrong conclusion, regardless of his personal interest or education.]
Thus, a major concern for believers should be to make sure their personal relationship with God is as He intends it to be. To fail here is to fail in a major purpose of the Christian life.
Secondly, believers should be established in their relationships with one another. Even among true believers there is sometimes animosity and the carrying of grudges. Thus, fellowship and ministry are greatly hindered. For believers to be right with one another, there needs to be a Biblical resolution to fractured relationships. As Paul admonished the Ephesians, “And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
This is not to say that there won’t be differences of interest, personality, spiritual growth and other things. Still, there should be nothing that dramatically fractures relationships.
We need to be established in our fellowship. I wonder if sometimes we assume just getting together and doing things together is the essence of Christian fellowship! In a sense it is, but Christian fellowship is something beyond just being together and having similar interests. Christian fellowship is fellowship in a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said to the Ephesian church, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Cor. 1:9). It is fellowship with the Lord Jesus Himself that gives meaning to our Christian life. It is when we meditate upon the Word of God and give ample time to prayer that the Lord Himself can speak to us and direct our lives for His glory and our blessing. If one is a believer, but shorts himself of ample Bible reading and prayer, his life will be filled with many other things that detract from his fellowship with God.
Real Christian fellowship is a wonderful thing because we can be encouraged and learn so much from the knowledge and experiences of others. I believe a word of caution should be noted, though. Sometimes Christians have strong opinions that are not really of God. Often they are opinions that are learned from others and do not necessarily come from meditation on God’s word. Sometimes opinions are based on what we want to believe and not so much on the truth of God’s Word. We need to learn from others, but we really need to develop our own convictions from our study of God’s Word.
We need to be established in our ministry. First, we need to understand that ministry is not just something we do. I think that is the common way of thinking about ministry. It is indeed what we do, but there is something prior to doing and that pertains to what we are in the Person of Jesus Christ. Apart from His ministering presence in our life there really is no ministry because it is not His ministry! No one can minister on behalf of Christ without the fullness of His presence in his life.
The words of Jesus are so pertinent here, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye except ye abide in Me. I am the Vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:4-5). Thus, our works apart from His presence and enabling are totally without merit, spiritually speaking.
Some Christians live their lives with little thought of ministering to others. This may be because of the lack of spiritual growth and a failure to grasp the meaning and significance of the Christian life. Whatever else the Christian life may be, it certainly should be a life of ministry to others. We need to remember the exhortation of Paul to the Galatians, “As ye therefore have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal.6:10).
Further regarding our ministry, it would be well for us to be established in the ministry of a Bible believing local church. Granted, some ministry is not especially related to the local church because, wherever we are, our lives should minster to the presence of God in our lives. The local church, however, should be a channel from which we can especially minister. The local church will help to identify who we are and what our message is. This is in addition to who we are as believers.
We need to be established in our giving. Giving to the work of the Lord is a major part of the believer’s ministry. One cannot really be faithful and obedient to the Lord apart from giving to support the work of God. There are many things one may be led to give to, but the local church is of primary importance. If the local church is preaching the Word of God, it should be supported by those attending. The local church cannot maintain a ministry without financial support. Paul’s message to the church at Corinth is pertinent here, “But I say, He which soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Cor. 9:6-7).
It is important for Christians to be exhorted about this matter. It is so easy to hold back on giving because we may reason we can’t afford it. However, many believers would agree that they can’t afford not to give! We need to be wise and reasonable about our finances, but for believers, it begins with our accountability to God.
We need to be established about our future. This begins with knowing that we have established a saving relationship with the Lord. Nothing is more important! We don’t know what a day may bring forth and we need to be ready to meet the Lord at any moment. If we cannot say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), we had better think seriously about our future!
We should also know what the Bible says about the future of the church, especially pertaining to the rapture of the church. We should know that the Lord will return for His church at any given moment! I Thess. 4:13-18 should not just be a text in the Bible, but a truth planted firmly in our hearts.
We should know what the Bible says about the condition of the world in these last days. We know things will not get better in our lifetime, that immorality, ungodliness, disrespect for authority, dishonor for parents and many other things will continue to increase. We should know that our faith in God, though, is our security and that His Word will be fulfilled in every way.
We should also be established in our witness and testimony to those about us, including loved ones, friends and neighbors, and anyone we have some contact with. There should be no question about our relationship with God and our walk with Him. That doesn’t mean our lives are all they should or could be necessarily, but that there is no question regarding our profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Our greatest desire is to know Him and live for Him. Of course, this is not just an outward profession of faith, but an inward reality.
The above are just a few of the things we need to have well established in our lives. They are things that no serious minded Christian should ignore. They are things that will not just happen by themselves, but things we need to give some serious attention to. To ignore these things is to ignore the best life can be for us and those we love. Most of all, it is to ignore the place God should have in our lives. As believers, we know all of our sins have been forgiven by the Lord Jesus when He died on the cross for us. But let’s remember, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (I Cor. 3:13-15).
April has been a month of contrasts. Almost all of our snow was gone and then we had a pretty severe winter storm on the 9th and 10th. Many schools were closed on the 10th. We have also had some sunny, warmer days.
Easter was a blessing again this year. We had a delicious Easter breakfast at church followed by a very inspirational morning service. Following the service, we traveled to my sister Dorothy and her husband Harley’s place near Barron for a lovely Easter dinner.
We also have enjoyed seeing the robins and other spring birds return. The birds must sometimes think they hurried too much when they see all the snow we have had for much of April.
We also enjoyed watching some of the Final Four Basketball Tournament which was played in Minneapolis. Some of the games were very exciting!
We are looking forward to the warmer weather so BJ can be outside working with the flowers and just enjoy being out in the sunshine.
“He that speaketh truth showeth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit” (Prov. 12:17).
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