The Marks of a Miracle and Mighty Church! Pt. 1
Preached By Ken Humphries,
Every true Church of Jesus Christ is a Miracle Church and should therefore be a Mighty Church!
I mean,the Lord Jesus takes sinners who are at a distance from God and turns them into wonderful Miracles of Grace. They are changed from the inside out,never to be the same again. God then places Such into a fellowship of his people and intends that they live lives on the Miracle level,thus becoming a Mighty people for God and his Glory.
The evidences that this infant Church in Thessalonica is both a miracle and a mighty Church are very real and worthy of some consideration.
It is without doubt A Miracle Church, Paul has gone into Thessalonica, a large city of about 200,000 People,a noted centre of trading in the then known world, and infect, still exists and thrives today.
As was Paul’s habit he searched out the local synagogue and began reasoning with the people and before he concluded he began to preach Christ unto them. The result of such reasoning and preaching we discover, a body of new Christians were formed into a fellowship and became known as Paul declares in Ch.1v1 "Unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God, the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ."
We soon discover, that this infant church has it’s roots firmly based in the truth and teaching of the Apostle’s doctrine as indeed all churches should.
As Billy Graham,in his earlier days became well known in his preaching ministry around the world another well know preacher was asked what he thought of this new evangelist,"Billy Graham has set the church back two hundred years" was his retort. Some years later when Billy Graham was being interviewed by the same reporter he mentioned the preacher’s comments, "Oh," said Billy, "I am greatly saddened by that comment,you see I had wanted to set the church back two thousand years that we might re-discover our roots from which we seem to have wandered."
That remark of course was exactly correct, a church is intended to have its bedrock in the teaching and truths of the Apostles doctrine,just as with the apostle,our preaching is to be Apostolic, Authoritative, Absolute, Affectionate and Apocalyptic.
Not only was this infant church a miracle church but without doubt,it was A Mighty Church.
That becomes clear as we read through the first chapter,although they had no resident Pastor, no Teaching Elders as yet,they followed closely the directives of the Scriptures,the Spirit,and the Servant of God who,although having been with them such a short time left them with a good foundation upon which to build. There was no setting out their own stall here,no laying down their own criteria or power base. I heard Dr.Martyn Lloyd Jones preach many years ago in the Wellington Hall Belfast On the subject of the church he said,"there is but one way to build a true church for Jesus Christ, that is a church that will stand the test and become effective, such a church must be built on "The Preaching of the Scriptures, The Power of the Spirit, and The Prayers of the Saints."
Through out the whole of this first epistle we see the reality of a church that is set to stay the course and become powerfully effective.
In Chapter one they display themselves as a mighty people.
In Chapter two they take direction from a mighty Pastor.
In Chapter three they get involved in a mighty Spirit filled program.
In Chapter’s four and five they determine a mighty practice.
Beloved,whatever we might think of our selves,no matter how highly we rate ourselves,one thing is sure,a true people of God will always display clearly the marks of reality, surely that is the exercise the Apostle is about here,he is taking the lid of this church and displaying them in all their wonderful reality,just as we must do to the dark world around us.
When I was a boy there was a little rhyme often quoted! This is the church,this is the steeple,open the door and there are the people. In effect,that is what Paul is doing, he is opening this infant church up to the eyes of the present day to show us those things that mark them out as true believers lest we are guilty of having moved away from early beginnings or forgotten in the midst of all that’s new, our New Testament roots.
Now at once you will notice in v3, three very familiar words, Faith, Hope, and Love. As we read those words surely the best-known text springs to mind,1 Cor.13v13. "Now abideth faith, hope,love,these three; but the greatest of these is love."
Now, I believe without doubt those three words summarise what the church is all about. Allow me to explain. All of us live our lives in three dimensions, as we read these words we know without having to be told, we have a past, a present, and a future. You can look back to times in your life when you can recall much that has happened that’s your past. More than likely you are sitting somewhere just now reading these words, that’s part of your present. But then you also have a future, however long or short that future may be at this very moment in your mind you can think of certain arrangements you may have made or about to make and we look on those arrangements as part of our future.
Now, in the very same way these three words, faith, hope and love display in a very practical way how The Lord Jesus impacts our lives in all three of these tenses.
That word faith takes care of our past, the sin question has been settled, by faith we called upon the name of the Lord and were saved. Acts 2v21 "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." That word love takes care of our present, because my sins are forgiven, I am now free to love as God wants me to love, in the present. John 13v35 "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." That word hope takes care of our future, my sins are forgiven through grace and by faith, my love is becoming more and more like God’s love, so I can look to the future with a steadfast look, why? Because "my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Blood and Righteousness." Now we all recognise that these three words describe for us three very wonderful Spiritual commodities, but the point is we really cannot see faith, we cannot see hope, we cannot see love. So the Holy Spirit shows us in these verses what these Spiritual commodities produce that becomes visible in a person’s life. So we have 1.your work of faith, your labour of love, your patience of hope, and those three describe the kind of energetic activity that ought to be evident in every one who profess faith in Jesus Christ.
So come with me on a journey through this infant church and let us endeavour to discover the secret of their Power for God and his glory.
Your work of faith! "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith" 1 Thess. Ch.1v3a.
The report brought by Timothy and Silas, sent by Paul to see what was happening to his church child just birthed some months before, he himself having to leave so suddenly, under the threat of death such a short time after this infant church had come into being and not being able to return to them himself , awaited so eagerly, brought delight to the Apostle’s heart. Why? Because it was evident they really were the true church of Jesus Christ as he declares in verse one. As he writes back to this
church child, he says, I hear your faith is working. Well, would he not rejoice with great rejoicing? for as Peter reminds us, faith results in Spiritual growth. 2 Peter 1v5-11.
Where there is life there must be growth. The New Birth is not the end, it’s just the beginning.
God gives his children all they need to live godly lives, but they in turn must apply themselves and be diligent in using the means of grace he has provided.
Spiritual growth is not automatic, it requires co-operation with God and the application of spiritual Diligence and discipline. "Work out your own salvation….for it is God which worketh in you" Phil.2v12-13.
Now Peter lists seven characteristics to be added to life that will produce godly living, and we must not think of them as seven beads on a string or even stages of development. The word translated in 2 Peter 1v5 "add" really means "to supply generously" in other words this is to be a process of development of one quality as we exercise another quality.
For example, as I add virtue I develop knowledge, as I add knowledge I develop self-control, as I add self-control I develop patience, as I add patience I develop godliness, as I add godliness I develop brotherly-kindness, as I add brotherly-kindness I develop love, as I add Love I develop virtue! You see these graces relate to each other the way the branch relates to the tree trunk and the twigs relate to the branch. Like the fruit of the spirit in Gal.5v22-23 these qualities grow out of a life that has a vital relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not enough for the Christian to "let go and let God" as though spiritual growth was God’s work alone. Literally, Peter was saying, "make every effort to bring alongside." The Father and child must work together.
How can Paul be so bold in his prayer for all those Christians in Thessalonica, because they were displaying a work of faith that says they were real and true Christians.
We are facing a demon active world, and the only way to meet that demon-stration is with a demonstration of the Spirit of God and power. The best argument for Christianity is a Christian.
As Dr.Vance Havner reminds us, the word Christian is both a noun and an adjective.
If I say John is a Christian I am using the word as a noun, if I say John is a Christian man I am using the word as an adjective. And what we need in this demonised world are more adjective Christians, people who are what they profess to be.
There is nothing distinctive about many church members today, they have lost their identity because they have lost their identification. They are lost in the crowd, assimilated, amalgamated, homogenised, and meshed into the mass.
A true, deep, saving faith in Jesus Christ is always going to cause a change in the life. To put it simply The true child of God lives a life that is marked by wholly righteous deeds! Their faith works.
2.Your labour of love! "and your labour of love" 1 Thess. Ch.1v3b.
That word "labour" is a very powerful word! It’s the word "kapus" it means "to labour to the point of Exhaustion" its a labouring that is firmly rooted in love, absolutely no other motive involved. It Means, because of real and not imagined love for the Lord Jesus,we will desire to labour to the very point of exhaustion. No matter what people may say to upset you, no matter what people will do to annoy you, you keep on labouring to the point of weariness because within you beats a heart of love that nothing can quench and it’s a love that displays itself to the Saviour, the Saints and to Sinners.
You see we can labour and not love but we cannot love and not labour!
Remember with me the story of the elder brother, the prodigal came home the elder brother had been In the fields, on his return he could hear all this rejoicing and merrymaking because his wayward brother had returned. Recall his words, they were most telling. "Father, I have been working all this time in the fields, I was in all things and you never even gave me a kid." You know what his problem was? He laboured without love. In the Old Testament Jacob was told he must labour seven years for Rachel, and the Bible says those seven years were like a few days to Jacob because of the great love he had for Rachel. You see, you can labour and not love like the elder brother, but like Jacob, you cannot love and not labour.
That of course was the major problem in the Church at Ephesus Rev.2v1-7 here was a church that was a veritable bee-hive of activity yet the Lord said of them "I have somewhat against you" what?
What are you saying Lord? what could you possibly have against us, look at the activity we are involved with! "You have left your first love." Your labour is worthless because its loveless!
In his book The Uniqueness of the Church page 92 Pastor Robert Clarke, formerly Pastor of Monkstown Baptist Church Northern Ireland, says this, "The church is at first a local community.
It is the totality of those who have accepted the salvation which is in Christ, and who are living in mutual love as the children of God." What is the good Pastor saying? He is saying, one mark of true Christianity is a love that is mutual among the fellowship of God’s dear people, and oh the difference that kind of love makes in our service for God.
3.Your patience of hope! "and patience of hope" 1 Thess. Ch.1v3c.
As verse 10 reveals, this was a patient hope they were developing as they waited for the coming of the Son from heaven. Paul was rejoicing that they still had this patient hope in their hearts, why?
Because he knew the truth of 1 John 3v3 "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth Himself even as he is pure."
Dale Crawley said, "Those who cherish the blessed hope of Christ’s return do not question the verities of God’s word. When this doctrine is believed, all other doctrines are accepted with simplicity of faith.
It is a balanced staff that enables the believer to avoid impatience. It is a sanctifying, purifying hope."
This is the hope that sustains us, this is our lamb in the night,
This is the beacon we follow, waiting till faith becomes sight!
This is our pillow of night time, the promise in each golden dawn,
This is the spur for the sluggish, occupy while I am gone!
This is our hearts choicest treasure, balm for our sorrow and pain,
Words that are precious as rubies, Christ Jesus is coming again!
A traveller in Switzerland came upon a beautiful villa on the shores of a lake, far from the beaten track of tourists. An aged gardener, caring for the beautiful grounds, seemed glad to welcome visitors, having been alone for some years."How often does the owner come to visit his beautiful home and give you instructions?" Was the question of the traveller! "Oh, not very often" came the reply from the gardener. "Indeed it has been several years since his last visit"! "Well", said the traveller, "you have everything in such perfect order, everywhere is so fresh and flourishing, everything is co clean and tidy, it looks as though you were expecting the owner tomorrow!" "Oh no," said the gardener, "I am expecting him today, so I must keep everything and everywhere in order!" The Lord Jesus made that very forceful point in Matt.24v44 "Be ye also ready:for in such an hour as Ye think not the son of man cometh"
You see that kind of hope is the hope that perseveres, its what the old reformers called, The Perseverance of the Saints. That is a hope that will not die, it will not fade, it may become blured from time to time, it may become distant on occasions, but it will not be totally abandon. How can I make such a statement? 1 John 5v4-5 "For whosoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God." The birth mark of the born again one is the forming of a habit of life to know victory in the warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil. To experience defeat is to be the exception, not the rule! And indeed its as we know this kind of conquest in our living and it shows, it will give not only hope to ourselves but to others, and especially those who are weak in the faith. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have Eternal Life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." 1 John 5v13.
The Bible is saying, it is possible for Christians to have a certainty in life that we can live in confidence that we genuinely know we are the children of God. And something else, as others look on who have gone back, who have grown cold, who are struggling, they will be able to see something real that brings upon them the conviction in their own hearts of the reality that can be for them.
This infant Church at Thessalonica is displaying divine authentication of the fact that they know they are true children of God but they are also displaying that they show divine authentication so others may see for themselves. In other words, if we are to be an effective witness in the work of God we will need to work on our relationship with Jesus Christ continually.