PART 2 YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
PART 3 YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
What is the Christian life all about?
Where Should I Go to Church That Will Benefit Me Spiritually?
- The preaching of the Gospel
- The gifts of the Holy Spirit
Where Should I Go to Church That Will Benefit Me Spiritually?
I can’t stress this enough. This is of paramount importance to any believer. The idea of where you should go to church needs to be determined by what you should look for in whatever church you decide to visit. Wherever it is that you have chosen to visit, someone probably will greet you as you proceed to enter the facility. In some cases, there will be literature available which will inform you about said church. You will fill it out and submit it to someone and/or take it home with you. Most churches will have a service format of music, a financial offering, a message, announcements, a closing in prayer, and in some cases will be followed by a place to gather for coffee, tea, and snacks. This is all well and fine.
However, there are some things to which you should pay close attention. Failure to recognize what these things are will severely hamper your Christian walk. Your purpose in going to church shouldn’t be just to have a place where you can socialize with your friends or neighbors while consuming the available food and drinks. It should be a place where you learn how to become a mature adult in Christ.
Over the years, I have attended many churches. I was initially brought up Catholic. There was definitely an allure to this church. Many of the buildings had an architectural aura all to themselves. The Mass, even though at that time was in Latin, exhibited a kind of formal ceremonial order. The priests seemed to portray in their mannerisms that the rituals they were engaged in while conducting Mass were necessary to please God. The music had a mystical sense to it. There was a place to go if you needed to confess your sins. Certain days of the year were set aside as being vitally important to attend. Everything that was done seemed to have a Godly slant to it. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that. If you followed the directives to the best of your ability, you were told that you would go to purgatory and eventually to heaven, or that you might even go straight to heaven if the life that you lived before God and man had been exemplary.
As I grew up and was passing through my teenage years, I became less and less interested in attending church. Maybe in part this was because I wanted to sow oats, like many young men. Maybe it was also in part because something was missing in this church. It was not until my middle twenties that I had a desire to find God. I began my journey by attending many churches in my hometown area. I did not know what to look for other than for God Himself.
What was it that would convince me that I had found Him; or rather that He had found me? The only thing I was aware of as a possible answer to this question occurred to me a few years earlier when I was attending a four-year liberal arts college. One of the electives that I took had the intention of proving that the Bible had errors in it. The professor focused on the life of King Saul, who was Israel’s first king. Apparently, there were a few books in the Old Testament that talked about his life and in some cases gave what appeared to be contradictory information concerning it.
The one thing that stood out to me was how God was personal with him through various means (e.g. prophets, the on-resting Spirit, the Ark of God, the casting of lots, etc.). So, as I was visiting different churches, my thought process was this: If God was personal with King Saul, why couldn’t He be personal with me?
As time passed, I found an assembly of believers where I was given an opportunity to meet this one, true, personal God for myself. What is it that caused Him to come into my life? Whatever it was, this is one of the many things you should look for when visiting a church assembly. As a Christian, I’m sure you are already aware of this.
What is this called?
A. The preaching of the Gospel
Without the preaching of the Gospel (good news), there will be no opportunity for unbelievers to receive the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, the assembly will be left trying to serve God in their own energy. This is called religion; trying to please God by what we do in our own power.
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 forthwith descended into hell. He preached unto the spirits (fallen angels) who were in prison (in a place called Tartarus). After three days, by means of the Holy Spirit, He was raised from the dead. His human spirit re-entered his fleshly body, which became transformed into a glorified body, never to die again.
He remained on earth for forty days following his resurrection and witnessed to over 500 people. After that, 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. For any person in this dispensation, which is called the Church Age, to enter this place upon physical death, he/she must satisfy two conditions.
With this in mind, you should be looking for someone in leadership who will ask out loud if anyone in the audience would like to begin anew by receiving a new nature, no matter what sins they have committed in the past. They might ask those in attendance to come to the front near where they are standing or just simply to stay put. An invitation should be presented for them to make a decision to repent of their sins to God the Father and believe in His Son Jesus Christ.
Some leaders might ask for a showing of hands from anyone who has responded to the gospel. This is usually done so that literature can be given to them at this moment by some of the church members who are watching for the raised hands. This literature might contain a form where they can provide personal information. There may be materials for them to read and a schedule of church events.
Whether the church assembly is small or large in number, if you don’t hear the Gospel preached, I would attend a couple of more times. If the Gospel is still not mentioned, then this should serve as a red flag. If it appears that the Gospel is being preached, then listen carefully to what is being said and make sure an accurate declaration is being stated of who Christ is. Before we continue, consider these thoughts regarding what the Gospel is not.
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:3)
The Gospel message should not declare that Jesus is only a teacher, a prophet, and the Son of God. It is true that Jesus is a teacher, a prophet, and the Son of God, but He is also God come in the flesh as one of the members of the Trinity; the other two being God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. I am not suggesting that there are three Gods, but I am declaring that there is one God in essence, who reveals himself in three persons.
Anyone who says that Jesus is not God come in the flesh is antichrist (an opponent of Christ’s incarnation). I believe the leadership and assembly in this type of environment will not have received the indwelling Spirit, even though they have repented to God the Father and believed in Jesus as a prophet, teacher, and Son of God. Therefore, they will be void of God’s power and guidance. Those who attend this church, even if they are born again and have received the indwelling Spirit, will likewise not grow because the teachings are man-centered and not Spirit-initiated.
The next thing to look for when attending church is a direct result of the preaching of the Gospel.
What do you think this is?
B. The gifts of the Holy Spirit
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (1 Corinthians 12:7)
If the Gospel has been preached and responded to, then the Holy Spirit will have come to indwell and give each of the newly converted to the Christian faith at least one gift (spiritual endowment). The gifts of the Holy Spirit are divine empowerments, extraordinary powers, and favor which one receives without any merit of his/her own.
Don’t confuse the gifts of the Holy Spirit with natural talents. Talents are received at birth. They are natural endowments. Gifts are not talents. They are given to each member for the edification of the church. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, these gifts cannot be received.
What is the name for each of these gifts, and in what manner do they provide edification for the church assembly? The mentioning of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit are found in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1, 7-10, 28. Sometimes a gift is mentioned in both sections of scripture under a different name.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (Ephesians 4:11)
There is also another type of gift known as an office (leadership) gift. Every believer is given at least one non-office gift by the Holy Spirit. However, not every believer is given an office gift. Those include apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor - teacher.
The following are the names of some of the gifts (non-office) of the Holy Spirit along with their functions. Please read each one and enjoy the divine blessings that each provides for the edification of the body of Christ.
- Divers kinds of tongues means speaking in a foreign language that one has not learned which is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The gift of tongues speaks to God and to the sinner, while prophecy speaks only to the people.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. (Acts 2:4-6)
- Healing is the power to heal various kinds of illnesses or diseases. Healing can come through a prayer of faith and the laying on of hands by the elders (James 5:14-15) or by speaking a word from the Lord for a specific healing (Acts 3:6). We can pray and lay hands on the sick as we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:8).
Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. (Acts 3:1-7)
- The word of knowledge is the revealing of a fact in existence (of the present or past) that can only be supernaturally revealed. In other words, this is not something that could be known naturally but something one’s eyes have not seen, and ears have not heard.7
The Holy Spirit transmits his specific knowledge to you on something that you would have no ability or means to be able to know about with your own limited intelligence and knowledge levels. This can come in the form of: a thought or an impression on your mind; a vision or a picture in your mind’s eye, a scripture for yourself or a direct word from the Lord to give to someone else. 2 Kings 20:18 This specific knowledge can also be referred to as a divinely given power to appropriate spiritual intuition in problem-solving.9
While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. (Acts 10:19-20)
God gives each member of the body of Christ at least one non-office gift as shall manifest the work and nature of the Spirit’s operation on the mind.10 This gives each person some proof of the Spirit’s presence to promote harmony in the church.
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20)
The diversity of gifts is given to the members to bring about reliance upon each member. There is not one particular gift that is given to each member. There are more gifts of the Spirit other than the nine that were just mentioned, such as:
- Interpretation of Tongues
- The working of miracles
- The word of wisdom
- Discerning of spirits
- Giving with simplicity
- Ruling with diligence/governments
- Showing mercy with cheerfulness
What I wanted you to notice about the initial three gifts which were presented is that they are not man-centered. In other words, the Holy Spirit is a unique participant in the exercise of each of these gifts. He provides a supernatural utterance (a peculiar impulse that provides assurance that His power will assist in the performing of some matter), divine energy, and the unveiling of truth for the past, present, or future.
But beware of counterfeit gifts!
What are counterfeit gifts?
Counterfeit gifts are man’s attempts or desires to do this or that without any reliance on the Holy Spirit.
For example, some churches might say that courage is a gift of the Spirit. While it is true that there many examples in the scriptures of courage, one prime example of such is that of David confronting the giant Goliath, the definition of courage as illustrated by this encounter is the strength to follow through on the actions11 suggested by intuition. However, intuition is human insight and not spiritual perception. So, keep in mind that the initial nine gifts of the Holy Spirit are exercised by means of the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
If the Gospel is not being preached and there is no evidence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then you could conclude that the assembly you are involved in is religious, being void of the Spirit. You might respond to this assumption by saying that you don’t believe this to be the case because you are a born-again believer who happens to attend that specific assembly. It is true that some who attend such a church are indeed born again, but it is also true that God is not evidencing himself in this congregation.
What else should you, as a newly converted saint, look for when trying to determine which church assembly will assist you in understanding how God can become more operative in your life on a day-to-day basis? The next section, simply put, indicates that if the leadership offices of the church are misunderstood, then in all likelihood the teachings that are disseminated will express confusion in regard to the believers’ walk with God.
7Lester Sumrall, The Gifts and Ministries of the Holy Spirit, Lester Sumrall Evangelical Association, 1982.
9The 9 Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
11Scott Richert, The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, 26 March 2015 ˂http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/tp/Gifts_of_the_ Holy_Spirit.htm>.
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