Church Growth…God’s Way
Ephes. 4:7-16 (ESV)
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
In recent years, there have been countless trees give their lives for the purpose of producing books on church growth. This is one of the dominant topics in the Christian bookstores. As one walks the aisles, one can amass an armload of these supposed foolproof processes to pastor a mega-church. If you simply follow the principles given within the pages one will wake up one day in the Crystal Cathedral, every pastor’s dream. Read More
STAY OUT OF THE CHURCH GROWTH QUICKSAND!
By Phil VanAuken
Many a congregation has learned the hard way that church growth is a two-edged sword. The benefits and advantages of growth– more members, more ministries, more money– are obvious and inviting. Less obvious are the potential costs of overextended facilities and resources, possible staff/volunteer burnout, and the climate of disruptive change. Church growth is a complicated phenomenon that raises new problems and thorny issues not all congregations are ready for. Let’s turn our attention to some of the tougher questions raised by church growth. Read More
Walking in Unity
Ephes. 4:1-6 (ESV)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The first three chapters of Ephesians are behind us. They were mostly doctrinal in nature. They taught what things we are to believe. If one is to behave correctly, one must believe correctly, otherwise one is engaged in a religion of works not obedience from the heart. Paul is going to show us in the remainder of the book how it is we are to live out these great truths. He moves from theology to practicality. Proper theology (orthodoxy) should always lead to proper living (orthopraxy). If it doesn’t then there is something wrong with the theology or our understanding of it. Read More
Ephes. 3:14-21 (ESV)
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Have you ever started to pray and before you were finished, you were thinking about something else? The other day someone called me on the phone and asked me to pray for a young lady they knew who was struggling. As I prayed for her I was also thinking about some useful counseling resources. That led me to think about seminary where I received my counseling degree…that led me to think about where we lived and our daily routine…that led me to think about walking across the railroad tracks to class…and that led me to think about smashing pennies on the tracks…Oh how we get distracted.
Paul began a prayer in Ephesians 3:1 but was quickly led to contemplate the riches of Christ. His distraction was much better than mine. Now he is back to his prayer and he sort of picks up where he left off. From verses 3:2-3:13 he was lost in the riches of Christ. Now he is back on planet earth and busy praying for the churches. Read More
The Mysterious Gospel
Ephes. 3:1-13 (ESV)
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles-  assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,  how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.  When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,  which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.  This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.  To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,  so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.  So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Four times in this passage Paul uses the word mystery. I love a good mystery. I love to watch movies that don’t unravel till the end. It’s a good movie if you’re kept on the edge of your seat and then at the end it all makes sense. That’s what the word means today. However, that’s not exactly what Paul means by the word mystery here in this text. For Paul, he uses this word to express something beyond natural knowledge, but has been opened to us by divine revelation through the Holy Spirit. Read More
Christ’s Work of Reconciliation
Ephes. 2:11-22 (ESV)
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-  remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility  by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,  and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
As we begin to unpack these verses, let’s notice together how the Apostle Paul is moving us along. In this section of Scripture he wants the Ephesians to remember where they once were. Like the section found in Ephesians 2:1-10 where he taught that we were once dead and God brought us to life. Here, he wants us to see that we as Gentiles were once separated from God, alienated but because of Christ we are reconciled to God.
The key focus in this text is reconciliation. Wayne Grudem defines reconciliation as…The removal of enmity and the restoration of fellowship between two parties. In our text today, restoration happens between man and God and between man and man. Christ has removed the enmity between us and God. He has taken our sin away and He has performed His mediatory work bringing us back into fellowship with God. Read More
The Language of Salvation
Ephes. 2:8-10 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
As we begin, I want us to see that this text of Scripture and others have been challenged throughout Church History. A salvation that is at the mercy of God is not popular among the masses. In America this doctrine is fought against very viciously. People in general want to work and earn their keep. For the most part they want to say they have acted well toward God and so He somehow owes them salvation. We hear things like…I’m a good person, I try my best, no one is perfect, God and I have an agreement.
This type of teaching has been around from the beginning of the church.
The first famous surfacing of this false teaching happened around the fourth century. A British monk named Pelagius began to teach that mankind really wasn’t dead in sin and transgressions but born in a state of innocence, that Adam’s sin didn’t affect anyone but him. He also taught that man is unimpaired spiritually. He taught that mankind without any help from God through his freewill can choose that which is spiritually good. Mankind was not corrupt but basically good. Pelagius probably would not have liked this passage at all. This is, however, the reality of salvation…The Language of Salvation Read More
James E. Adams
What is Regeneration?
“Except a man be born again1, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Our Lord Jesus Christ taught that the new birth is so important that no one can see heaven without it. Mistakes concerning this doctrine have been very destructive to the Church of Christ. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God. It is not a work of man. It is not something that man does but something that God does. The new birth is a change wrought in us, not an act performed by us. This is stated so beautifully by the Apostle John when in the first chapter of his Gospel he speaks of the children of God as those “which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (v. 13).
What is “Decisional Regeneration”? Read More
Arthur W. Pink
“Be anxious for nothing“
Worrying is as definitely forbidden as theft. This needs to be carefully pondered and definitely realized by us, so that we do not excuse it as an innocent “infirmity.” The more we are convicted of the sinfulness of anxiety, the sooner are we likely to perceive that it is most dishonoring to God, and “strive against” it (Heb. 12:4). But how are we to “strive against” it?
First, by begging the Holy Spirit to grant us a deeper conviction of its enormity. Second, by making it a subject of special and earnest prayer, that we may be delivered from this evil. Third, by watching its beginning, and as soon as we are conscious of harassment of mind, as soon as we detect the unbelieving thought, lift up our heart to God and ask Him for deliverance from it.
The best antidote for anxiety is frequent meditation upon God’s goodness, power and sufficiency. When the saint can confidently realize “The Lord is My Shepherd,” he must draw the conclusion, “I shall not want!” Immediately following our exhortation is, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God.” Nothing is too big and nothing is too little to spread before and cast upon the Lord. The “with thanksgiving” is most important, yet it is the point at which we most fail. It means that before we receive God’s answer, we thank Him for the same: it is the confidence of the child expecting his Father to be gracious.
“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought (anxious concern) for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:25,33)
Ephesians 2:1-7 (ESV)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved-  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Paul has finished his prayer for the believers. Remember, his prayer was focused on the topic of seeing Christ clearly through knowledge of Him and that they would see where they were going. He prayed that the Ephesians would be Christ focused and heavenly minded.
One can best appreciate his current standing before God if he remembers where he was before Christ. The old saying, “Don’t forget where you came from” can well be used here in this text. The Apostle Paul was reminding the believers where they came from. Read More