Sunday, October 30, 2011

From Acts to Revelation - Part 1: The Church Revealed


From Acts to Revelation
Part 1 – The Church Revealed
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | www.PS127.org | www.TruthDigest.org

INTRODUCTION
We are beginning a new series this week, which I have entitled “From Acts to Revelation - The Church Revealed”.  

We will be exploring many things through the scriptures over the following weeks, as we take a look at defining “The Church” by our own terms, the ideas and thoughts of others, and finally through the definition given to us by the Holy Scriptures themselves.

Over the next few months, I expect we will see ourselves in many differing lights, with the hope that when we conclude this series, we will become the Church Christ died for us to be.

Without self-examination, one cannot rightly assess their performance.  Without judging ones performance, you cannot expect to do any better than mediocre at whatever task you set out to do.

If your relationship with God is just that, mediocre, then you can never expect to experience the greatness that the Lord has in wait for you in your life.

It is true, that each of us has as much of God as we wish in our lives.  If you want more of God's involvement in your life, then you must get more involved with Him.

Too often I hear people ask, “Where's God?”, and every time I hear this, I am saddened that we are not being the presence we should be. We need to rightly represent our Lord, so that others will want more of Him in their lives. It is not God failing mankind today, but His Church that He has sent forth to represent Him.

If today, you are not experiencing the full power of God in your life, it is not because of God’s unwillingness, but your own lack of seeking. Jesus promises, IF we seek, we WILL find, and IF we knock, the door SHALL BE OPENED.

My hope is that through this series, you will ask yourself the most important question, am I truly seeking?  Do I have enough of God in my life?



SCRIPTURE READING - What is The Church?
I Corinthians 12:12-13; 27
12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink... 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”


I.                   DEFINING WHO WE ARE AS THE CHURCH
a.      Who do we think we are?
i. Some denominations believe they are the only way to heaven.
1.      Denominations are a creation of men who cannot live in unity with one another, although we were all baptized by the same spirit, and believe there is but one God.

2.      Paul warns us about being divided as believers, stating here that though there are many parts, we are one body, promoting unity, not division.

ii.                      Because of man's inability to live in peace with others, denominations have watered down the Body of Christ, and made it nearly ineffective in this day and age.

iii.                   Some denominations have created new writings, which they hold on the same level as the Holy Scriptures.
1.      But we know from the Holy Bible, nothing is to be added or taken away.  What is contained in the scriptures, is the complete intention of God.  To think that man in his wisdom can add anything only compounds the problem of division, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees did in their day.

2.      We dare not expound on God's wisdom, and need only to take Him at His word, even when we don't fully understand the reasoning.
a.      His ways are above our ways, we cannot fully see as of yet!

b.     Who do others say we are?
i. Bigots, intolerant, hateful, lustful, hypocrites.
1.      TV Evangelists in sex scandals
2.      Evangelists in money scandals
3.      Tax fraud, evasion, money laundering
4.      Priests sex abuse
5.      Charlatans and fake healing seminars
6.      False doomsday, end-of-time prophets
7.      Cults
8.      Let us just say, we are not viewed in a good light.

c.      Who Jesus says we are
i. Jesus tells us, we are the children of the living God.
ii.                      We are instructed to be the Body of Christ. His presence here on earth!
iii.                   We are to GO into ALL the world.
iv.                     Baptizing into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
v.                        And teach those baptized by the one Spirit, to OBEY all Christ commanded.
vi.                     This, by Christ's definition is the Church.

d.     How does one become a member of the Body of Christ?
i. Jesus told Peter that by exclaiming his belief in the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, he was a member.  This exclamation IS the foundation of Christ's Church on earth!  Jesus said so.

e.      Who have we become?
i. Given enough time, we mess things up.
ii.                      God gave His word to the Israelites, and the Sadducees and Pharisees messed it up.
iii.                   God gave His word to the Church, and guess what...the Church today is not as Christ intended.
iv.                     BUT, the Good News is, we have the Word of God, and through reading it, and examining it, we CAN be the Church Christ intended us to be, as His presence here on earth!


II.               THE BOOK OF ACTS
a.      The importance of The Book of Acts 
i. The life of the early church is recorded and preserved for us in the book of Acts and the epistles.

ii.                      The importance of this second of Luke's two-volume work can hardly be over-estimated, for without it we would have no record of the beginnings and development of the early church.

iii.                   Therefore, as Acts furnishes for us a selective record of events that took place during the formative years of the church, it provides us with the history of our faith, and the forming of the Church.

iv.                     It also provides helpful information of the facts surrounding many of the letters of the apostles, which in turn helps us to better understand when they said what they said and why they said it. It was written in the early 60's, perhaps from Antioch, Rome or Ephesus.


b.     The Purpose of The Book of Acts
i. As was stated, Acts is the second part of what was originally a two-part, single volume (i.e. Luke-Acts; cf. Acts 1:1).  Therefore, it is reasonable to include Luke's purpose for Acts as falling under his purpose for the book of Luke. 
1.      In Luke 1:4 the author says that he is writing to "most excellent Theophilus" . . . "in order that he might know the certainty of the things he had been taught."  Apparently, Theophilus seems to have been a man, who though receptive to the gospel and perhaps even convinced by its claims, had many questions about Christianity, as he knew it. 

2.      Luke wrote to strengthen him in his belief.  Given the contents of the book of Acts, Theophilus appears to have had questions about the coming and activity of the Holy Spirit, the ministry of the apostles, Paul and his dealings with the Jerusalem apostles and the advancement of Christianity.

ii.                       In a sentence, given the emphasis on the unity of the church and its expansion from Jerusalem to Rome we may say that Luke's purpose was to demonstrate to Theophilus the sovereign, unified and everlasting advance of the gospel into all the world.
1.      There are seven "progress reports" on the unity and advance of the church that further confirm this (2:47; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:30, 31).  With this knowledge, Theophilus, who was probably a Roman official, could understand how Christianity reached his city.




c.      What we will discover
i. I believe we will come to a better understanding of what defines us as a church, what takes place in a church, and exactly how a church behaves in a world filled with sin.


III.      THE REVELATION
a.      The importance of The Revelation
i. No story is complete without an end.  Just as Genesis tells us all about the beginning, God also tells us all about the end of this “time”, or dispensation after the “Church” age.

b.     The purpose of The Revelation
i. Our purpose for examining Revelation in part, will be to see the warnings which are given to the seven churches, examining ourselves with each church to see if we are falling short in our end-times.

CLOSING

1.       Starting next week, we will begin examining the Introduction to the Beginning of the Church
2.       Afterword, we will examine a selection of Revelation
3.      Lastly, we will examine ourselves as a church closely, and see where we stand 

ALTAR CALL