In this newsletter, we will continue the topic begun last newsletter, "Searching for the right church".
In the last newsletter, we discussed the following things NOT to look for in a church.
2. Support and Encouragement.
3. Eloquent, Enthusiastic, Entertaining, Charismatic Speakers…
4. Fun, Games, Recreation, Entertainment.
5. Preaching that doesn’t require you to change...
Each of the above features is important in any church, but they are also important in every successful organization, religious or secular. Churches are spiritual organizations; therefore churches have requirements in addition to the above-mentioned items. When you are looking for a church home, you want a church that has all the above qualities, but you also want a church that is spiritual, a church that will lead you in a closer walk with Jesus Christ.
What To Look For In A Church
In this short paper, I will not be able to state every factor a person should look for in a church, but I will give a short summary of Bible doctrines necessary to any true church. Also, please understand that doctrines alone do not make a true church. A church can have all the right doctrines, but if that church does not put Christ first, it is not a true church. Jesus told the doctrinally sound church at Ephesus, Revelation 2:1-7, that because they had left their first love (the love for God and his ways – see Matthew 22:34-40) their candlestick (authority to be a light for God) would be removed.
The presence of God is what constitutes a true church. A church does not have to be perfect, but they must put God first in all things.
The Truth About The Bible
Every person should attend and be a member of a church which believes the Bible is the Word of God. The King James Bible is the Bible for all English speaking people. A true church of the Lord Jesus Christ will believe God verbally inspired holy men of old, and that God has preserved his word for us today. II Timothy 3:16, 17 declares, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
A true church body will believe, preach and practice the truths contained in the Bible. The true church body will believe the Bible is the final, supreme authority by which they should live, and the Word by which a most Holy God shall judge us. True churches will fellowship together, their fellowship being centered on the Word of God.
When you attend services, you should expect the pastor to read, and give understanding to the teachings of the Bible, both generally and specifically. The pastor will encourage both members and visitors to read, meditate and use the Bible as a daily guide for Christian living.
The Truth About Jesus Christ
In a true church, the pastor will preach Jesus Christ clearly and consistently. The personality of Jesus Christ will be the predominate personality of the church.
There will be no doubt that Jesus Christ is the virgin born, only begotten Son of God, as stated in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
It should be clearly taught that Jesus Christ was God before he was born in Bethlehem, and that he remains God until this very day. I John 4:1-3 states, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 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." A church which leaves any doubt concerning who Jesus Christ is, and what he came to do should be considered a false church. Jesus Christ was not just a good man, or a prophet. Jesus was and is the only begotten son of God, and according to Philippians 2:6-8, he was with God and equal to God before he was born in Bethlehem. "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Jesus Christ willingly died, taking our sins upon himself that he might give us eternal life and his righteousness.
In the true church a pastor will preach, concerning the Godhead, that there are three parts of the one true God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three are one and are equal in every divine attribute.
The work of the three parts of the trinity will be clearly and consistently taught. I Peter 1:2 states, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied." God the Father elects sinners to salvation, who are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit of God separating (sanctifying) them to salvation.
The Truth Concerning the Gospel
According to I Corinthians 15:1-4, the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"
In a true church it will be plainly taught that every person is totally depraved and needs Jesus Christ as their personal saviour and Lord. The gospel will be preached and the lost will be urged to receive the free gift of salvation.
The Truth of Baptism
After salvation, individuals will be urged to submit themselves to scriptural baptism by the authority given to that local church by the Lord Jesus Christ. Scriptural baptism is more than "dunking" a person in water, but involves (1) a saved person (2) being completely immersed in water (3) by the authority of a scriptural Baptist church (4) for the purpose of proclaiming the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the individual’s commitment to a lifetime of faithfulness to God.
The Truth of Faithfulness
The true church will preach faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Faithfulness involves many things, as stated in the church covenant.
"We also engage to maintain family and secret devotion; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage, and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Saviour.
"We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, and mindful of the rules of our Saviour to secure it without delay."
The Truth Concerning Separation From Worldliness
The true church will continually urge the scripturally baptized believer to separate themselves from the wickedness and sin of this present evil world. I Corinthians 5:9-10 states, "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world."
The negative aspect of separation teaches that believers should have nothing to do with wickedness or sin. Wild parties, drinking alcohol, using tobacco, using drugs, cursing, stealing, shoplifting, telling dirty jokes and other such examples of wickedness are preached against and stood against. Of course, true believers do not want to have anything to do with wickedness. When believers received eternal life, they also received a hatred for their former life, and a love for the things of God.
The positive aspect of separation teaches believers can enjoy sports, shopping, working, and playing in the various activities of this world. In short, God intends for the believer to enjoy this present world, yet never partake of its sins. Ecclesiastes 2: 24 affirms, "There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God."
While all these "earthly" activities can and should be enjoyed, the focal point of the believer’s life is on Christ, not on activities. God intends his people to enjoy this world and the fruit of their labors.
The true church of the Lord Jesus Christ lives and preaches separation from the world. Separation is not just physical, but is separation in the heart and mind. True separation involves a complete dedication to the things of God – and enjoying every minute of it.