PART 4 RICHES BEYOND MEASURE
What Will Help the Believer Experience God’s Abundant Life?
Attending a Spirit-Filled Church Assembly
What is a Spirit-filled church assembly? It might sound like, it’s a church environment where everyone knows each other, likes each other, and enjoys volunteering for church functions. And might I say, I would hope these interactions would be such. But at the heart of it all, there should be something or someone that binds everyone and everything together.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s define what should characterize a Spirit-filled assembly. A Spirit-filled assembly is an assembly where the believers are being influenced and prompted by the Holy Spirit not only when they attend the worship services, but in every day of their life.
How do I know whether the church I am attending or the one that I might attend is Spirit-filled?
This is the million-dollar question. I believe there are certain characteristics that will be evidenced when a believer attends a Spirit-filled church. Some of these you might recognize and some of these you might not. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at them.
A. The Gospel of Christ should be clearly presented
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
I can’t stress how important this is. There should be a time during the assembly gathering, when the Gospel of Christ is presented to unbelievers.
The presenting of the gospel in a church service would most likely be done by the leadership who would declare to anyone that was an unbeliever, their need to repent (to have a change of mind; to acknowledge oneself as a sinner) of their sins to God the Father and believe in His Son Jesus Christ. While we have already talked about this earlier in this study, it is crucial to point out that at this moment the believer receives the indwelling Spirit into their life along with eternal (abundant) life and a number of other benefits.
The gospel message and the unbeliever’s response to it allows one of the members of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, to enter his/her life so that he/she can experience God’s presence, can be convicted of sin, can have access to God the Father in prayer, can be given at least one spiritual gift which signifies his/her place in the body of Christ, can be provided with the proper motivation to serve God the Father, and can be helped to grow spiritually so that over time he/she will be given insight into the meanings of truth and will also be guided to be able to test (examine) the teachings of those in leadership, etc.
What this tells us is that God wants to become a very active participant with us on earth as we learn how to rely on Him and fulfill His plan for our life. Furthermore, we realize that we are not trying to please God by what we do, but by learning, memorizing, and meditating upon the declarations of the Word as to whom He has made us to be so that it is by His power and prompting that encourages us to be a witness of His life in thought, word, and deed.
What else should we look for, when we gather together with the saints for worship and praise?
B. Church teachings that include personal sanctification.
You might be thinking, I know what you mean by this. You mean find a church where the teachings are all about not committing certain sins. Most churches will have a preset doctrinal platform whose teachings should discuss such subjects as redemption, eternal security, justification, divine discipline, prayer, the gifts of the Spirit, water baptism, the atonement, etc.
And in many cases, there is an emphasis of not engaging in certain egregious behaviors. While teaching on these topics will provide the believer with an intellectual understanding of their faith, they might not necessarily help them grow in the faith. I know what you are thinking, this doesn’t make any sense.
Just because we are learning about various doctrines of the faith, are trying not to commit sin, and are obeying the directives of leadership, this doesn’t mean that we are growing spirituality. What this really means is we are growing intellectually, trying really hard to be moral, and please the leadership, and hopefully God by what we do. You might ask, what else is there? Please go to the book of Romans.
The renewing of the mind
Romans 12:2b … but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The apostle Paul is instructing the Christians at Rome to be transformed by the renewing of their mind. The word transformed in the Greek means inward transformation; to appear as new people with new habits; of a person changing his outward expression from that which he has to a different one, an expression which comes from and is representative of his inner being.30 So, what causes inward transformation in the believer? It is having our minds renewed that brings about inward transformation. The words renewing of your mind in the Greek means the changing into new views and feelings; a complete change for the better of the believers’ mental processes; as the mind keeps on being made new by the spiritual input of God's Word, … his lifestyle keeps on being transformed31; as you spend time meditating on God's Word, memorizing it, and making it a part of your inner man, God will gradually make your mind more spiritual.32
Do you understand what this verse is saying? It’s saying that it’s not obedience to the do’s and don’ts that brings about inner transformation. It’s no knowing backward and forward the doctrinal platform of the church. It’s not obeying leadership as to whatever their commands are for us to participate in. What it is, it’s addressing each and every aspect of our old sin nature, i.e. worldly thoughts pertaining to jealousy, lying, stealing, fornication, extortion, etc. by replacing them with how we should think what the divine perspective is in relation to these areas. For instance, jealous thoughts are to be replaced with the scriptural perspective of contentment, vengeful thoughts are to be replaced with the scriptural perspective of loving your enemies, wanting to curse someone is to be replaced with words of blessing, etc.
Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
This is another way of saying that we need to learn how to put on the new man, the new person we have become with the new thoughts about this spiritual reality that are contained in the Word.
So, go ahead and ask yourself this, in the church you are attending are you learning about Who you are, i.e., how you should think about yourself? Are you learning about how to think about others Scripturally? And are you learning about how to think about the circumstances or trials of life that are a part of God’s plan?
There is another thing we should look for when attending any church. This one bothers me to no end. It seems like it rears its ugly head in most Christian churches that I have gone to.
C. The Mosaic Law should be appreciated as to its rightful place in the teachings of the church.
My wife and I have been saved for over 40 years and we have attended many churches over this time. It seems that in most cases if you stay in said church for a period of time, you will begin to understand their doctrinal belief system. And as sure as I am telling you now usually at some point an announcement or teaching ensues that says to the church members how imperative it is that they obey certain commands otherwise, God will not be pleased with them and there will be divine retribution. Some of these commands are taken from what is called the Mosaic Law.
Well, what is the Mosaic Law? For whom was it given? And what is its’ meaning and purpose?
The Mosaic Law was an intermediate institution that was given by God (Jehovah) for the Jews to obey during a period of time known as the Age of the Jews. The purposes of the Law were designed to:
~ Tell the Jews that they were really doing wrong by doing certain things.
~ Disclose the true nature of sin.
~ Deter them from committing sin by declaring its consequences.
~ Reveal to them that it could not make them righteous before God.
~ Reveal that a barrier of sin still remained between them and God no matter how many sacrifices were offered for sin.
~ Reveal that there was a need for a savior, who would take care of this barrier of sin between God and man without whose sacrifice heaven would remain closed to mankind and the debt of sin unpaid.
~ Clearly delineate to them the spiritual code (the 7th day Sabbath, the tabernacle, the four yearly feasts, etc.), the moral code (the commandments), the laws belonging to civil government, and the laws commemorating the commemoration of certain events.
In these churches, spiritual growth is determined by obedience to Old and New Testament commands. Certain days of the year are designated as being imperative to attend. Committing certain sins or habitually committing sin can determine the status of one’s salvation. Tithing or giving financially in this manner is imperative. In some instances, financial records are kept on each member making sure that the estimated tithe amount comes in every week.
As far as learning how to put on the new man or person we have become at salvation, there might be a proclamation made to the church that they are the children of God, but learning how to be transformed by the renewal of one’s mind is in most cases not understood.
In certain cases, I have experienced God’s abundant life in these churches. But I will tell you that it is difficult to remain in any one of them, because of the conditions placed on being able to secure one’s salvation and exhibiting such evidence to the leadership and church that you are following in-line. Any deviation from certain commands is seen as an affront to the leadership and God. Soon a message from the pulpit reminding the congregation, albeit meant for certain individuals, to change their ways is proclaimed. And if it is noticed that there is still a certain individual or individuals who have not heeded to the warnings, then they will be approached privately and in some cases be asked to leave the assembly altogether.
My suggestion is, if you are in a church like this, where there is an admixture of Law and Grace, pray to God the Father asking for guidance as to whether you should remain or go look for another assembly.
Is there another characteristic of a Spirit-filled church that we should look for?
D. The offices of the leadership should be clearly delineated.
This might seem petty. Some might be easily offended by this characteristic. Remember what was said earlier. There is only one name under heaven by which an unbeliever can be saved. Likewise, I believe that there are certain offices that God gives to certain members of the church, and these offices have certain names and functions.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (Ephesians 4:11)
The names of the offices of leadership are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. Some churches believe that the offices of apostle and prophet are no more. In these churches, there is usually one pastor who is considered as the head one. On another note, there are a number of churches that believe in a plurality of elders (pastors). This means that there is no distinct head pastor.
The main point I’m trying to make here without appearing to be wacky is that the name or names ascribed to leadership can imply the faith or teachings that they follow. The title Imam means someone who leads prayer in a mosque. The word priest refers to someone in leadership in the Catholic faith. When we hear these titles of leadership, we should be asking ourselves, who is the God they believe in, do they believe in Christ as Messiah/Savior, do they believe that salvation is by repentance and belief, do they believe in Christ’s deity, atonement for sin, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven, do they believe in the indwelling Spirit, and what is the basis for a member going to a better place when they die, etc?
Believe it or not there is another characteristic of a Spirit-filled church.
E. Inspired traditions are to be firmly held onto.
This is another aspect of the church that has been misunderstood. Over hundreds of years certain practices have crept into church teachings and have become as accepted as the Scriptures themselves. These are called traditions. One of them that can I clearly remember when I was a kid would take place on a day called Easter Sunday, the day which is observed to commemorate Jesus resurrection from the dead. I think most of the church kids knew that following Mass there would be Easter eggs placed on the church grounds to be found. In some of them, we were told was money. I couldn’t wait for church to get over so I could find as many as I could. So, here is the question.
How many observed traditions are of human intent (origin) and how many are inspired by God?
What is the difference?
A human centered tradition is defined as being 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.33 Whereas, inspired traditions are divine instructions delivered orally or in writing that are contained in the written Word.
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
What are some of the divine traditions that we as believers should continue to observe?
Some of these are as follows:
The agape feast - a weekly gathering of the saints, when a common meal was to be partaken of, to be followed by the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
The anointing with oil - the anointing with virgin oil on the forehead of a believer in the sign of the cross, who was physically sick, by the elders (pastors) of the church while having their hands extended over them being accompanied with prayer for restoration to bodily health.
The laying on of hands on the head of a believer signifying commissioning and granting of authority.
The faith that once for all was delivered to the saints.
Teachings delivered by inspired men, and teachings that come from God to guide our lives.
Water Baptism Immersion following a person repenting to God the Father of their sins and believing in Christ as to who He is and what he has accomplished.
Observing the Lord’s Supper as a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross being brutally beaten and dying for our sins paying the penalty of sin owed to satisfy the justice of God and forgiving them (removing the record of them forever).
I thing that these are the traditions that should be taught and illustrated to the kids and adults at church. As for human traditions, families should be able to decide for themselves which ones to observe at home or outside the church.
There is one final characteristic of a Spirit-filled church left for us to take a look at which evidences that the assembly of believers are Spirit-filled.
F. The gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Every time I mention this, I get a response by a fellow believer that I must be involved in a Pentecostal church. In my youth, I would attend a mainstream church with my parents and I can honestly say I never heard of the gifts of the Spirit. After my spiritual conversion, which took place in my mid-twenties, I attended a Spirit-filled non-denominational church that evidenced these gifts even though I wouldn’t describe this church as being Pentecostal in the sense of there being an overemphasis placed on them. I would say that this church was Pentecostal in the sense of teaching the Word, emphasizing the work of the Spirit, and experiencing God’s presence.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (1 Corinthians 12:7)
What I don’t understand is why would a believer not want a gift of the Spirit for themselves or disparage another believer if the gift God has given him/her has become aware to them over time and is now being used to bless the church? I can however, empathize with a fellow believer, who hasn’t received any teachings on the gifts of the Spirit or who has been told that these gifts are no longer operative.
When I got involved in the non-denomination church, I too had no understanding about them and evidence of them. As I remained in this church and learned about the functions of each gift, I recognized them when they were evidenced by fellow believers and soon began to recognize for myself which gift or gifts God had given me. So, here are a couple of questions for us concerning these gifts.
What are the gifts of the Spirit? What is their purpose? How many are there and what are their names and functions?
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are divine empowerments, extraordinary powers, and a favor which one receives without any merit of their own. The gifts of the Spirit are not natural talents? Talents are received at birth. They are natural endowments. As for their purpose, I love this explanation. God gives to each member of the body of Christ at least one gift as shall manifest the work and nature of the Spirit’s operation on the mind which gives each person some proof of the Spirit’s presence in order to promote harmony in the church.34 Some believe there are 15 gifts. Their names can be found in the book of Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1, 7-10, 28. I will mention two of them now just so we can have an awareness of what some of them are all about.
There you have it, the characteristics of a Spirit-filled church. I can understand if you don’t agree with a couple of these that were mentioned. All I can tell you is even if you don’t agree with what was said, what do you have to lose by attending a church whose qualities are such? If your sin nature decreases and your new nature increases, if God’s presence is more apparent, if you begin to recognize your God-given gift or gifts, and if you notice unbelievers getting saved wouldn’t it all be worth it?
In the next section, even though it was mentioned briefly in this chapter, we will attempt to answer the following question.
What kind of decisions about my own walk with God could I make that would help me experience God’s abundant life on a daily basis?
New Covenant Ministries - Ministerios NuevoPacto
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Harbor Church, Block Island
30 Weust’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005. BIBLESOFT. WEB. 09 February 2020 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
31 Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament, 2000. BIBLESOFT. WEB. 09 February 2020 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
32 The Bible Exposition Commentary/New Testament, 1989. BIBLESOFT. WEB. 09 February 2020 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.