Foundational Pillars of the Church
Churches today are built of many different materials. Some are built on programs. Others are built on people. Still others are built on politics. Congregations meet for various reasons. Some meet for entertainment. Others meet for education. Still others meet for encouragement. At Sparr 329 (Sparr Baptist Church) we are a church founded on biblical foundational pillars.
Our foundation is Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone. He also is the builder. 1 Peter 2:4-7 describes the church as a spiritual structure on the foundation of Christ. Christ builds and strengthens this spiritual structure with Resurrection Power. Jews reading Peter’s letter would have understood from his word choice that he meant the church was a spiritual temple where the Spirit of God lives and interacts with His people. This spiritual structure is built up with living stones, the people of God who are called to follow Him. The people of God are brought together in unity for a purpose. Peter draws from the imagery of Old Testament priests to emphasize that every believer now has access to the Father through the Holy Spirit. As such we offer spiritual sacrifices on our own behalf out of the overflow of the Spirit’s work in and through us. These sacrifices enhance our relationship with Christ, and as we strengthen that relationship the spiritual body of Christ grows stronger as well. In physical terms, the more connecting pieces you have, the stronger a structure will be.
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus responds to Peter’s declaration that He is the Christ by saying, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
A structure is built on a strong foundation. (Matthew 7:24-27) Here we begin to see another connection between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The spiritual church works together to bring glory to the Father. Built on the foundation of Christ, the church binds together by the Spirit at work within us. How does the Spirit work within us in ways that honor God? First the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to teach us, to correct us, to repair us, and to train us (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Second, the Holy Spirit uses gifts to mold us and to stretch us and to reveal God’s glory (Ephesians 4). The Spirit, then, uses the word of God as the “setting compound” (as with concrete) t make sure that we are firm and settled in who we are supposed to be. Once we are settled in who we are supposed to be, the Spirit works to demonstrate power through fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) and gifts (Romans 12:3-8) to equip us for what we are supposed to do.
To summarize, the foundation of Christ contains Spirit and truth. The Holy Spirit strengthens the community of believers by firmly establishing Jesus as Truth (John 14:6) as revealed in God’s word and by creatively displaying fruit and gifts that reveal God’s glory.
The framework of the structure consists of parts that hold the body together. These are worship, fellowship, disciplemaking (evangelism and missions), and ministry. The church in Acts grew as these four pillars formed a structure for the church.
Because Scripture is a key tool the Spirit uses to strengthen us, we cannot flesh out the framework of the spiritual house (the spiritual church) if we are not familiar with what the Bible teaches about how that framework functions. As a church, we focus on equipping believers in multiple ways of spiritual growth. One of the primary ways we emphasize is the study of Scripture. We will spend most of our time during this session on this topic because once we embrace our own personal study of God’s word the rest of the framework will become more clear.
Today we will talk about how to study the Bible. Some key thoughts to remember as we set out to study God’s word are listed below:
Once we recognize these key thoughts we can move to practical ways to understand what God is teaching us through His word today. How should I approach the study of Scripture so that I stay true to what the text meant while also exposing what the text means today? How will I apply the Truth of scripture to my daily living? Here are some key steps in a process that works for many:
Israel had a choce to make. Would they move forward "as is" or would they start fresh with the Lord? They decided to start fresh with God by renewing their commitment to the covenant God made with Abraham and reaffirmed with them. Would you take some time and reflect on God's covenant with you in Christ? What does it mean that God has made a covenant with you in Christ?
When you stop to have time alone with God or when you come to worship, how much thought do you put into God's covenant and what that covenant cost Him? What keeps you from stopping long enough to consider the cost?
Take a moment and write in your journal a renewed commitment to the covenant of God in Christ for you and all believers.
Sunday morning we learned the importance of leading others into blessing. As believers we have a responsibility to reflect Christ and lead others into His presence. 2 Corinthians 5:18 says we are Ambassadors for Christ. What does being an Ambassador mean to you?
One of the ways we lead others into blessing is by carefully handling the word of Truth. Truth tends to be a relative term in our society, yet God's Truth is absolute. We can never go wrong by holding out the word of Truth. In the same way, we must guard against adding to the Truth. Tradition is not Truth.
What Truth do you feel is important for those who are seeking to know Christ? Take some time to write some thoughts from Sunday's message in your journal and pray about your role in leading others into blessing.
I’m not sure how often people still use the phrase, but many years ago, I used to hear people talking about being stuck in a rut. Some circumstance was keeping them from moving forward. Often a struggle in relationships, finances, the workplace, politics, community, and others create ruts that keep us spinning our wheels but making no progress. I remember someone once said that worry is like a rocking chair. You can rock all day and never get anywhere. I wonder if you are stuck in a rut. Has God led you to a struggle and even walked you through the struggle, yet mentally and emotionally you just can’t move on?
Wilderness Israel never made it to the blessing, and Promised Land Israel had a choice to make. They made the right choice and followed God into the midst of the struggle, finally making it all the way through to the blessing. Take some time and read ahead. Joshua 4 and 5 give us insight into what happened once Israel entered the blessing. Make some notes about what you find.
As you read Joshua 4 specifically, you likely noticed God’s direction about the 12 stones. What did He tell each representative to do and why?
As you read further, notice the reason for the memorial stones. One day children and grandchildren would ask about those stones. What message did God want the Israelites to pass on?
What message are you passing on? When someone asks how you are doing, can you speak to the moment or do you have to remind them of everything that has gone wrong over the last year? When your children or grandchildren ask you in a few years the question from that history assignment the teacher will surely give, what will you say? What question you may ask? How about this one. “If you know someone who was alive during 2020, interview that person and ask them what it was like?” I remember asking my grandfather that question in response to a history lesson on WWII. The details of his answer aren’t important here, but the details of your answer do matter. What will you tell those who come behind you about the power of God in 2020? In 2000? In 1980? Spend some time reflecting on and recording the blessing. Leave out any over emphasis on the struggle. How quickly are you able to speak to God’s work in your life?
Twenty first century American believers seem hardwired to see a struggle and then strategize to overcome it. We have unlimited resources in churches today to fix what ails us. Scripture highlights that when God brings us to a struggle, he also brings us through the struggle. He may call for our cooperation, but He certainly doesn’t need our help.
Consider Paul on his way to Rome. Take some time today and read Acts 24-28. What observations surface that highlight God bringing Paul and the others through the struggle? Please make some notes in your journal or even on a napkin so that you can work through what God is doing in your life. Paul was not a sailor. He relied on others to transport him. Yet, in this storm Paul was confident that he would be delivered. What made him so confident?
Once the ship wrecks in Malta many would consider the victory and say that Paul should leave good enough alone. Malta, though, was not the mission. Rome was the target, and God had promised to get him there. Paul was determined that no matter what difficulty he experienced, reaching Rome to deliver the message of Christ was worth it. Paul knew that his purpose was to reflect Christ for worldwide impact. He saw this purpose as the reason for his continued existence. What significance do you see in the last verses of Acts 28? How does Paul’s story make sense with what we read in Philippians 1:19-21?
What struggle are your facing? What crisis are you hiding from or avoiding? Are you waiting until you can figure it out on your own? Will you lay aside the 21st century American believer mindset that says “you can do it,” and instead get on your knees and honestly cry out to God, “God, only You can do it,”? He will bring you through the struggle. Something amazing waits on the other side.
In Sunday's message we considered the reality that God often brings us to a struggle to find ways to bring Him glory so that all people of the earth will know Him. One specific example occurs in John 9. Maybe the story is familiar to you. Please take a moment and read the account of the man born blind, healed miraculously by Jesus. Many pointed fingers at the man's family. Someone must be to blame for the man's blindness. Jesus had a peculiar response in John 9:3. What thoughts come to mind about Jesus' response? What struggle are you experiencing today or have you experienced lately that you would be willing to examine for a similar purpose?
When we experience struggles, we are tempted to fall into safe, old patterns to make sense of our situation. Take some time today and consider your situation. It's okay to be honest. It's just you and the Lord. Are you struggling with grief, doubt, confusion, addiction, apathy, illness, or any other host of circumstances that could cause you to wander in the wilderness? Would you adjust your inquiry around these questions?
Instead of asking, "Why is this happening to me?" ask, "What are you working to accomplish, Lord?"
Instead of asking, "How can I get out of this mess?" ask, "How will I draw closer to Christ?"
Consider that your relationships, your finances, your habits, your addictions, your distance from God all may be crisis moments God has brought you to in order to draw you closer to Him and His inheritance for you. Maybe God has brought you to your moment like Israel crossing the Jordan River because He is ready to make a big move on your behalf for His glory.
Take some time now and mediate on John 9:3. How will you embrace the struggle God has brought to you?
Our Sunday meals from God’s word serve as reminders that God works in the lives of His people to expand His glory. When we cooperate with Him we experience blessing, and when we don’t we experience heartache and defeat. What thoughts do you have as you reflect on Sunday’s message? How is the Holy Spirit actively working in your life?
Personally, the Spirit challenged me to consider folks who wear the label “Christian” yet live in Old Testament Israel. Just like the difference between wilderness Israel and Promised Land Israel, there is a difference between the Old Testament Christian label and the New Testament, Spirit filled, gospel centered Christ follower. Many wear the label Christian, but they follow from a distance. What about you? What evidence do you have in your life that the Holy Spirit lives within you?
As you listened to the message did you take time to consider how the Holy Spirit teaches us? What if any thoughts do you have about how the Holy Spirit teaches you? Would you spend some time making real inquiry into your spiritual life? Do you learn from the Holy Spirit or simply from the teaching of others?
Taking time to think about the Holy Spirit’s work in our life can be frightening, but taking the time is necessary if we are to advance into blessing. Don’t fall into the old patterns of doing what comes natural. Get up and go. Be strong and courageous as you move forward in your walk with Christ.
Please leave some comments and thoughts about what the Lord is teaching you over the last few days.
God gave Joshua several instructions in Joshua 1. Obviously there would be challenges as the Israelites obediently move forward with courage. An important part of the message is clearly identified in Joshua 1:8. Through the entire journey Joshua (and Israel as a whole) must remember to keep the Word of God top of mind and close to heart. This challenge calls for more than a casual look at God's word. This challenge calls for more than an occasional look at God's word. Meditation requires focus, stillness, determination, and devotion.
Jesus also spoke of remaining in John 15. Would you spend some time today reading John 15 and making notes about Jesus' comments on remaining in Christ. What does it mean to remain? What is the result of remaining? Why do we often interpret Jesus' words as a suggestion and not a command?
Imagine for a moment that you are one of the many getting ready to cross the Jordan River. You have so much to remember. You are about to fight a battle that will take you away from family and friends. You want to be fit and alert. Now, you hear from Joshua that you should also remember the commands of God and meditate on them to have success. What about all of the battle plans? What about your weapons? What about all that you have prepared? How do you tend to respond when someone challenges you to spend more time in God's word? How strong is your belief that meditating on God's word and remaining in His presence is the foundation of success in Christ?
Thanks for comments this week. Please continue to comment and share what God is teaching you this week. Sunday's message will focus on Israel crossing the Jordan. Can't wait to dig into the meal God is preparing for us.
Think of a time when you were less than courageous. That sounds so mighty doesn't it? Think of a time when you were down right scared and couldn't make a move if you wanted to. That's more like it, right? We tend to overstate our strength as Christ followers. We find ourselves repeating phrases like "trust in the Lord," and "He will see you through it" as if they were lines in a recipe for mom's apple pie. The reality is that we all face times when we are afraid.
Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness because of fear. They failed to recognize that God was more powerful than anything they might face. What do you believe about the power of God? How does what you believe change your actions?
Spend some time today reflecting on circumstances of your life and what it means to be strong and courageous.
Now consider your children or grandchildren. How will you teach them to be strong and courageous in the midst of suffering? Will you teach them to act in the power of Christ?
Good morning, my friends. Yesterday we heard from the Lord together as we dug in deeper to Joshua 1. Moving into the second part of Overcoming Barriers to Blessing, we examined three signals that help usher us into blessing. We will find nourishment this week by considering each signal more personally.
When God told Joshua to "arise and go ...." He signaled a new beginning for Joshua. The opportunity required him to take some action and to lead the children of Israel into their blessing. Time in the wilderness had been difficult, and finally the Israelites recognized that the pain of staying the same was greater than then pain of change. Seeing this reality was not enough for the Israelites, and seeing this reality is not enough for us, either. We must get up and go to the land of blessing on the modern day "right side of the Jordan."
Go back to Numbers 13 and 14. Make some notes about wilderness Israel's response to the get up and go message (report from the spies).
Once you see how Israel responded, take some time and draw from last week's nourishment. Based on the blocks you identified last week, where is God leading you to "get up and go." Not only where is He leading you, what are you doing about it?
There are two generations highlighted in Numbers through Joshua. One generation (Wilderness Israel) is the generation waiting to die before God would bring His blessing. The other generation is the generation that God would bless once they acted obediently on His direction. Which generation are you are part of? No one but you will see your notes or thoughts so please be honest about where you are in the journey. Will you make a choice to get up and go, thus becoming part of Promised Land People?
Please leave comments below to encourage and challenge others as we consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds.