Portrait of a God-Honoring Church, Part 3

(Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

#8 - Jesus Rose from the Dead After Three Days

Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead, (Acts 10:40-41)

If we only focus on the Cross, without the resurrection, then we have a dead Savior—who isn’t a Savior at all. If we don’t have a risen Savior, we don’t have victory over Satan, a perfect mediator between us and God, forgiveness, reconciliation, adoption into God’s family, the promise of eternal inheritance, the promise of eternal life, the promise of His second coming or the promise of a new earth in a new creation. In short, we have nothing at all.

Jesus rose from the dead—it’s part of the gospel, and people need to know about this and the cross of Calvary! God raised Him from the dead. God showed Him openly and plainly to the people. Peter and the others even ate and drank with Him—what more simple and forceful proof could there even be for His real resurrection? He wasn’t a spirit, an apparition or a ghost—He was flesh and blood, come back to life from the dead!

If a church doesn’t actually believe and teach Christ’s resurrection, then they’re preaching a different Gospel, a false Gospel. When we share the gospel with people, the resurrection must be there. If it’s not, you’re building a car with only three wheels.

#9 - Jesus Will Judge You

And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead, (Acts 10:42)

Jesus gave a command to the apostles, and Christians today are heirs of that same command and are beholden to obey that command—He gave orders and those orders still stand. What are those orders? To (1) preach to the people, and (2) testify and bear witness to the fact that Jesus Christ was appointed and ordained by God to be the judge of the living and the dead. These are the Christian’s marching orders. These are the commands every single Christian is obligated to carry out. This is the charge every local church is responsible for trumpeting from the rooftops to everybody it can reach.

Jesus Christ will judge every single person on the face of the earth. It doesn’t matter if you’re alive. It doesn’t matter if you’re already dead. You will stand before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and you will be judged on the basis of one single question—did you repent and believe the gospel? This message must be proclaimed, not edited.1 We’re ambassadors who have been handed a single and simple message to deliver to this present, evil world—and if we don’t deliver that message as ordered, then we’re worthless ambassadors and a disgrace to the nation which sent us.2

We are all guilty criminals before God—worthless and unacceptable. Because you have committed, are committing and will continue to commit crimes against God, you deserve to be punished for those crimes in hell forever (2 Thess 1:8-9). You will stand in the courtroom and be judged by Jesus Christ one day. Nothing will save you except the gospel, and if you reject that Good News, then you reject the Judge who gave Himself for your sins. Therefore, God will reject you and Jesus will sentence you to life imprisonment in the fires of hell itself.

#10 - Believe in Jesus to be Pardoned From Your Sins

To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins, (Acts 10:43)

The Bible is not a dead book—the inspired Scriptures record divine and timeless truths that will never become obsolete. Even in his day, Luke could write that all the prophets are bearing witness (present-tense) about Jesus Christ—they’re all dead but they still speak! In our day, Luke is dead but he still speaks!

What are all the prophets bearing witness to? What single message are all the prophets testifying to, even after they’re long in their grave? They’re testifying that every person who believes in Jesus Christ will be receiving pardon and remission of sins. This pardon isn’t just a one-time event; this is present-tense—your sins will be pardoned as they occur, during the entire course of your life, in real-time. If a local church doesn’t proclaim this message, then it should close its doors and donate it’s building to the YMCA—at least then something useful might take place inside those four walls.

This is the model the Apostle Peter left for local churches to follow:

  • God doesn’t play favorites—that’s why we’re all guilty in His eyes!
  • Only Jesus brings peace through the gospel
  • Jesus is Lord—and unless you repent and believe the gospel, you’re in deliberate rebellion against Him
  • God anointed and christened Jesus as the Messiah—the only one who can take away the sins of the world
  • Jesus “did good” by preaching the gospel
  • Jesus is the only One who has defeated Satan, whom you’re born a slave to
  • Jesus willingly let Himself be murdered for the sake of the gospel
  • God raised Him from the dead on the third day, proving Jesus has power over Satan and the curses of sin and death—and can grant you that victory, too!
  • Jesus will be your judge and determine your eternal destiny
  • Your sins will only be forgiven and pardoned if you believe on His name

This is the only message a local church should concern itself with. It means life vs. death, light vs. darkness, slavery vs. freedom, forgiveness vs. condemnation, love vs. wrath, hostility vs. affection, innocence vs. guilt and being a convict vs. being a freedman.

Just within the past two weeks, I spoke to two teenage boys who had been sentenced to a few hours of community service for some teenage shenanigans. Their parents asked if they could fulfill this community obligation at the church. I agreed, and after the boys helped me move an old desk the size of an aircraft carrier out to the garage, I did a one hour bible study with them. These boys have been going to churches on a semi-regular basis for perhaps 10 years. They used to attend a generic, non-denominational church, and recently they have been going to youth group with a large Assembly of God congregation. These boys have never heard the gospel. They don’t know why Christ came. They don’t know He lived a perfect life, why He died or what the resurrection means. They’ve never heard the command, “You must be born again.” They’ve never heard about being dead in sins, a child of Satan, and being lost and without hope—unacceptable to God. Based on their expressions once we finished the Bible study, I almost think they believe I’m a cult leader! Here is a representative excerpt from our conversation:

  • Me: “What on earth do you guys talk about at youth group?”
  • Boy: “We usually just play basketball.”
  • Me: “Do you ever study the Bible?”
  • Boy: “If we do talk about God, it’s just about how God always forgives, and stuff like that…”
  • Me: “Do they ever tell you how to get this forgiveness?”
  • Boy: (short pause, lost in thought)… “No, actually—they never have…”

This is disgraceful. This is shameful. There are many “churches” out there which blaspheme God and the gospel. They deceive sinners. They inoculate people against the truth. They’re either too cowardly to preach the truth, or they’re lost and don’t have the truth at all.

The gospel is precious. The gospel frees people from bondage to Satan. We must preach and proclaim it. We owe Christ too much. Local churches need to follow Peter’s example, preach the whole counsel of God, and be God-honoring churches.

Notes

1 As far as I know, this maxim was coined by James R. White, a Christian apologist with Alpha & Omega Ministries.

2 Steven J. Lawson has written, “While an orator is measured by the response he is able to elicit from his listeners, this is not the case with a herald. An orator is results-driven, whereas a herald is message-driven…. Every herald who steps into a pulpit is directly responsible to the One who commissioned him to the task. If you please God, it does not matter whom you displease. And if you displease Him, it does not matter whom you please,” (The Kind of Preaching God Blesses [Eugene, OR: Harvest Home, 2013; Kindle ed.], 65, 67-68.

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