(PART 10) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
(PART 10) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
In this chapter, we will take a look at some of the characteristics of those churches that will inhibit us in our walk with God, along with looking at some of the characteristics of those churches that will enhance our walk with God.
Finally, I Have Some Direction.
Now that you are a Christian, trying to find your way in your walk with God can become very difficult. Not every place where people are gathered together to worship God will preach the Gospel. The Holy Spirit and His subsequent gifts are not operative in every church. The content of the teachings could be such that they emphasize self-reliance and not reliance on the Holy Spirit. Recognition and confession of sin could be considered outdated.
For many churches, live and let live is the motto as long as you respect each other. Some will say you should just try to be good and do good for others and don’t worry about your weaknesses or the weaknesses of other members of the church. They will say that if you have hurt others that is in the past, so don’t worry about it. As far as entertaining influences that corrupt the mind, they might say you can entertain whatever you want as long as you don’t commit a crime. And as far as regrets, everyone has them. Do the best you can, because they are just a part of life.
If you abide in these kinds of churches, you will not grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, you are saved, if you have responded to the Gospel, but there will be little if any recognition in your own life of the working of the Holy Spirit. His qualities of love, joy, peace, etc. will be significantly inhibited thus leaving you in the place of serving God in your own power.
This is not the way our spiritual lives should be. Our spiritual walk should be exciting. We should be able to learn how to address our areas of weakness, be impacted more and more by the Spirit’s presence, become increasingly aware of the gift or gifts that He has given us, and show evidence of Christ-likeness in response to the situations and circumstances that come before us.
If what I have just said is happening in the church you are attending, then you are on your way to spiritual adulthood (maturity). If this is not the case, then go on a God journey, and go look for Him. And when you find Him, be like the merchant mentioned in the following verse, not ever letting Him go.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)
There has been a lot of information presented in this study in answer to “You are a Christian. Now what? What is the Christian life all about?” I don’t believe I would be doing this teaching due diligence unless I provided for you a summary of what you should look for when attending any church. I will call this last section “The Believers Guide To Spiritual Prosperity--The Guide to Spiritual Prosperity Checklist.” Take it with you when you go to any church so that you will be able to recognize whether this is where you should remain to grow spiritually and be conformed to the image of God’s Son.
The Believers Guide to Spiritual Prosperity
What do you want out of your walk with God?
When you go to church, what should be happening there?
This guide should help you in answering both of these questions so that you will have the proper perspective in making a determination as to whether the church you have decided to attend will cause you to come to the realization in your own life of the prayer of the apostle Paul when he said:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10)
Paul’s desire was to know Christ (personal knowledge gained by direct personal communion with the Lord), and the power of His resurrection (to experience the same power that raised Christ from the dead working in us), and the fellowship of His sufferings (becoming a joint participant in His sufferings for righteousness sake), and to be made conformable to His death (striving to put his old self, his sinful nature to death and living a new life by means of Christ's resurrection power).
If this is what you desire to occur in your life while you are on this spiritual journey, then ascribe to what is being presented in the guide which follows and you will find that by doing so you will decrease (less dependence on your sin nature) and God will increase (more dependence on His blessings--operating in divine perspective and power).
The Guide to Spiritual Prosperity Checklist
Below is a checklist that you can use when visiting any church. It will help you to determine if this is where God shows up, where His gifts are operational, where inspired traditions are being observed, where you will learn about the newly revealed doctrinal truths for the New Testament believer, where you will learn how to address areas of weakness so that the fruit of the Holy Spirit will be manifested in your life, and where the names of the offices of the church are scripturally delineated, whose collective purpose for the body of Christ is clearly stated.
Without these two things, God, the Holy Spirit, will not have an opportunity to indwell the unbeliever.
□ Is the Gospel message being presented?
The Gospel message is the good news that Christ, who is the God-man, paid for the sins of the whole world, which canceled their debt (providing forgiveness). He died on a cross and descended into hell. He preached unto the spirits (fallen angels) in prison (in hell, in a place called Tartarus). (1 Peter 3:19) After three days, by means of the Holy Spirit, He was raised from the dead. He re-entered his fleshly body, which became transformed into a glorified body, never to die again. He ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father thus providing the opportunity for mankind to enter this heavenly abode immediately at physical death. For any person in this dispensation (which is called the Church Age) to enter heaven upon physical death, he or she must satisfy two conditions.
These two conditions are:
- To repent (having a change of mind; acknowledgment of being a sinner) of their sins to God the Father.
- To believe in His Son Jesus Christ.
Whosoever repents and believes will receive another member of the Trinity called the Holy Spirit, who will come to indwell their body, thus providing a new nature and guarantee of eternal life.
What the Gospel is not
If you don’t hear the Gospel being presented at any time during the worship service, then it is safe to assume that most of the members of the church are void of the indwelling Holy Spirit unless the congregation is small and everyone is known to be born again. This simply means that the members serve God by what they do, but have no personal relationship with him.
If someone says this is the Gospel, and you are not sure if that is what is being presented, then these are some clues as to what the Gospel is not.
~ The Gospel is not declaring that we need to repent of our sins to God the Father, and then follow this up by saying that certain sins are to be condoned as being acceptable (e.g. adultery, fornication, homosexuality, etc.) types of behavior, because of societal approval.
~ The Gospel is not declaring that an unbeliever must believe in Jesus Christ, who they will acknowledge as being a teacher, prophet, the Son of God, but will not recognize Him as being deity, God incarnate (God come in the flesh).
~ The Gospel is not an announcement that says God loves everyone; therefore, there is no hell, and heaven is the final resting place for all mankind.
~ The Gospel is not saying that if you were brought up in a Christian family, this makes you a Christian.
~ The Gospel is not an announcement that says all roads (faiths) lead to heaven.
~ The Gospel is not the declaration which says that if a person engages in some practice or ritual, then this will cause them to receive the indwelling Spirit and become a child of God.
God the Holy Spirit gives each believer at least one of these (non- leadership gifts) at salvation to reveal His activity in each believer’s life and promote harmony in the church. I have personally seen most of the gifts of the Spirit be manifested.
□ Are the gifts of the Holy Spirit being evidenced?
If the Gospel is preached and responded to, then the members of the assembly should have residing in each and everyone one of them the person of the Holy Spirit, who distributes His gifts individually as He wills (chooses). This gives each believer some proof of His presence. There could be as many as 15 gifts of the Spirit.
In examining the operation of the first nine gifts, what becomes apparent is the direct involvement of the Holy Spirit who provides a supernatural utterance. This is a peculiar impulse that offers assurance that His power will assist in the performing of some matter, divine energy, and the unveiling of truth concerning the past, present, or future. To reiterate, the nine gifts are prophecy, divers kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues, faith, healing, the working of miracles, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, and the discerning of spirits. The remaining six gifts are teaching, exhorting, giving with simplicity, governments, showing mercy, and helps.
What the gifts of the Spirit are not
Some churches will teach that the gifts of the Spirit are no more, but I believe if the members have the indwelling Spirit, the gifts will not remain repressed. If there is a declaration in the teaching of the leadership that the gifts of the Spirit include the gift of singing, the gift of painting, the gift of building houses, etc. this is evidence of a misunderstanding of the gifts of the Spirit. Someone who excels at singing, painting, building houses, etc. is exhibiting a natural talent. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not natural talents, but spiritual endowments.
Beware when some churches ascribe the gifts of the Spirit with different names and functions that are man-centered or man-directed such as:
~ Wisdom - by which we desire to contemplate the things of God; to be clever or smart.
~ Understanding - allows one to grasp truth.
~ Counsel - to be able to judge how best to act almost by intuition.
~ Fortitude (courage) - gives us the strength to follow through on the actions suggested by the gift of counsel.66
~ Knowledge - the ability to judge all things according to truth; a human accumulation of facts.
~ Piety - the willingness to worship and serve God.
~ Fear of the Lord - the desire to not offend God.
~ Faith - to believe for something.
Believe it or not, the names which are ascribed to those in leadership will have a direct bearing as to the kinds of teachings they will proclaim.
□ Are the names of the offices (office gifts) of the leadership of the church clearly delineated as being that of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers?
In some churches, the offices of apostle and prophet are considered as no longer being in effect thereby reducing the leadership offices to evangelists and pastor-teachers. Whether there are still apostles and prophets in the church today will be discussed in a different study.
What the names of these offices are not called
The names of these offices should not be labeled as Priest, Imam, Lama, Chief Rabbi, Father, Guru, Mullah, High Priest, the Most High, Pope, The Exalted One, The Special One, etc. Most of the names that appear on this list do not provide teachings on the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. As such, there is no Gospel message and hence no personal salvation.
Some names are associated with teachings on the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. However, in most cases, the Gospel message is presented as the need for an unbeliever to be engaged in a ritualistic practice which supposedly will cause them to receive the indwelling Spirit. Here, spiritual growth is based on ceremonialism and ritual observances.
Entrance into heaven is determined by pre-set conditions of behavior and pre-set practices of certain obligations of the faith that occur at different times throughout each year.
The content of the teachings will clearly reveal whether those in leadership are dispensational or non-dispensational.
□ The content of the teachings
The teachings that are presented by the leadership should be centered on topics such as forgiveness, redemption, resurrection, the offices of the church, salvation, giving financially, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Birth, the end times, etc. If these are in order, there are other things to look for in the teachings such as: Is there any discussion on the topic of personal sanctification? In other words, how do believers learn to rely on the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit and not on their sin nature?
Personal sanctification becomes effectual in our lives when we become aware of what sin is, the weaknesses we have been operating in, the need to confess these immediately after they occur whether mentally, verbally, or overtly to God the Father, and appropriating God’s perspective for ourselves that would be attained by memorizing and meditating on them so that the fruit (spiritual qualities) of the Holy Spirit can be operative in us and be manifested to others.
What the content of the teachings should not be about
The content of the teachings should not mandate that the assembly observe certain aspects of the Mosaic Law such as tithing, keeping the Sabbath, obeying the Ten Commandments, eating certain foods, etc. Those that teach such are called non-dispensationalists. In other words, they will take the protocol, or the way that God addressed believers who were living at different times, and apply these procedures for the current New Testament saints.
Also, the teachings of the leadership should not be such that they condone certain sins because of societal acceptance, and nor should they advocate strict rules on the wearing of clothing or jewelry. Neither should they emphasize that it is by doing this or that which causes a member to please God and secure a place in heaven upon physical death.
How do you know whether the teachings of the leadership are man-centered or God-dependent? Simply listen to them, take notes, and ask God the Father in prayer to give you discernment in this area. If your spiritual walk is consumed with doing-doing-doing and not changing inwardly by the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, then you are involved with religion--plain and simple.
How do we know which traditions are inspired and which are not?
□ Are the traditions that are being presented inspired?
A tradition is defined as the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc. from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice: a story that has come down to us by popular tradition.67 Inspired traditions are divine instructions delivered orally or in writing that are contained in the written word.
Some of these are water baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the Agape Feast, the anointing with oil, the laying on of hands, the Gospel, the allowance of those in leadership to marry, the believer’s immediate entrance to heaven upon physical death, Christ’s temptation by the devil in the wilderness for 40 days and nights, the resurrection of Christ, Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem as the Messiah King of the Jews, Christ’s suffering and death on the cross paying the debt owed by mankind to satisfy God’s justice, prayer for personal direction, guidance, protection, spiritual growth, etc., the faith that once for all was delivered to the saints, teachings given by inspired men, and teachings that come from God to guide our lives.
What church traditions are not
Many church traditions are not inspired and yet are included in certain faiths as that which should be observed. Examples are celibacy for those in leadership, water baptism salvation, the literal changing at communion of the elements of bread into Christ’s body and wine into his literal blood called Transubstantiation, not being allowed to eat meat on certain days, the receiving of palm leaves on a certain day which also signifies the victory of martyrs and as such the honoring of their relics, having your forehead rubbed with the burnt ashes of palm leaves, the confession of one’s sins to someone in leadership for forgiveness, the belief that some will go to a temporary place called Purgatory at physical death in order to atone for any unconfessed venial sins, the mandatory attending of specific worship days throughout the year, and prayers for those residing in a temporary dwelling place following physical death which hopefully will speed up their arrival into heaven.
Most of the inspired traditions have taken on an entirely different meaning as evidenced in the teaching of certain faiths, which have used references to support them but are contrary to Scripture contained in the completed canon composed of 66 books (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament). The changed meaning could be due to the declaration made by a Church Council or by the use of Scriptures taken from a book known as the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha refers to eleven or twelve books that are not included in the Hebrew Bible. In other cases, some activity or observance has been added which was not mentioned in Scripture.
So, there it is. I hope what I have presented here will assist you in finding an assembly of believers where you will be able to grow to spiritual adulthood and be all that God would have you to be. I wish this checklist had been given to me to use following my conversion.
What attending church should not be
~ Attending church could mean that you mention God’s name without ever having a personal relationship with Him.
~ Attending church could mean that you are involved with doing what the leadership asks without ever being prompted by the Spirit to exercise one of the gifts which He has given you.
~ Attending church could mean that you try to be a better person in your own power instead of being a changed person by the power of one of the members of the Godhead.
~ Attending church could mean that your behavioral lifestyle is condoned instead of learning how to address these areas of weakness by the Word of God so that the ministry of the Holy Spirit could be operational in your life.
~ Attending church could mean that when you die you have hope of eternal life, but not certainty of eternal life.
After reading this book, you now have the answers to the question, “You are a Christian – Now what?” May you put into practice what you have learned.
66The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
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