(February 10, 2023) S. Sam Selva Raj shares …
Paul made a dramatic statement in Ephesians 5:32: ‘This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.’
God’s church is the fellowship of saints. In the gospels and first 10 chapters of Acts, those who followed Jesus were called ‘disciples.’ The early church grew and in Acts 11:26 those followers were now called ‘Christians.’
Faithful Christians will –
- Not lie, or deceive others or be treacherous.
- Talk open mindedly to other Christians.
- Follow Jesus’ model, walking in His footsteps.
- Reflect Him under all conditions.
- Not deny Jesus when affected by circumstances.
- Never misuse God’s ministry for their own profit.
One of the greatest mysteries to many is the fellowship of Christians and God. The reality is that those who are born again through Jesus are God’s children (John 1:12-13).
Every truth needed for anyone to live a victorious life in this world is hidden in this secret relationship. But people (sadly even some Christians!) are trying to discover other ways to find joy and peace to progress in their lives, ignoring this relationship.
Jesus revealed His great love for us in redeeming us by His sacrifice on Calvary (Romans 5:8). He is our Saviour who overcame death and rose from the dead! Over the centuries people have hated Jesus’ church and persecuted it. This fellowship of God’s children has experienced terrible sufferings and opposition… even today!
But… no one can stop the expansion of God’s church! New churches are still being planted across the world! We continue to proclaim the gospel. When those who do not know the glory of God get the knowledge of this mystery of God, they will know peace.
God’s church is…
1. A Jesus promise!
Matthew 16:13-16 tells of Jesus asking His disciples, ‘”Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”’
Jesus responded, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock [the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son] I will build my church and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it’ (vv17-18, brackets mine).
We can learn much from this incident, this divine revelation… one cannot accept Jesus by compulsion or the efforts of others without getting the revelation of the Lord, our rock, which leads to living a life separated from this world.
People are trying to progress in their life in different ways, but the Bible teaches that only those who got this revelation and live as Jesus taught will flourish in life!
2. The Rock built!
Anyone can work. But the work of building up the church – you – rests in the Lord’s hands. Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18), not Peter or anyone else. (We assist, extending it by spreading the gospel!).
Jesus’s church is the assembly of God’s children. It is not any mere building! When I announce there will be a service in our church, I am merely denoting the place where we assemble. All who gather together in a church building are ‘God’s church’!
Our Lord promised God’s church that the gates of hades wouldn’t overcome us. When you accept this, you should give importance to the church in your life.
In saying He will build us up, Jesus means supporting, fortifying. He will see your difficulties and sufferings and strengthen you. Diseases, troubles, debts, poverty, troubles from the devil will not prevail against you because you are His church! You will never be forsaken.
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus compares followers to two people building homes. The wise one builds on solid ground, but the foolish one on sand. A storm causes heavy downpour and flooding. The house built on sand is destroyed. But the home built on rock stands firm! Difficulties, defeats – whatever – can happen to us but we can stand firm. Jesus will build you strong because you are His church! The gates of hell cannot prevail against you for Jesus – our Rock – will build you like that house built on solid rock!
We are victorious being part of the church of God. That is the reason why the Bible says that we should not forsake the assembling together (Hebrews 10:25). For many, it is difficult to attend church – it’s far away, lack of transportation, tiredness, sickness… and so on. Unfortunately, these people lose the privilege of going to God’s church, worshipping and receiving Sunday blessings. (We reach out, of course, to those who genuinely can’t attend). This mystery relationship between Jesus and His church is amazing! Because you are His church nothing in the world shall totally overcome you.
Those who have accepted Christ, do not belong to this world. Heaven protects us, meets our needs as they arise. Having accepted Jesus as Saviour, God’s church are people of a higher class. Defeats in your life will become victories for you! The base for exercising the authority of heaven on earth is His church as we care and pray for one another. Unsaved people may find all this difficult to understand… but we should still share the gospel and pray for their acceptance of Jesus.
3. Planted to flourish!
‘Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish’ states Psalm 92:13. Flourish here is pârach –to grow, spread abundantly, spring up (sounds like ‘build up’, doesn’t it?).
Artificial plants don’t need watering. Whoever is planted in God’s house is not planted temporarily like some artificial plant. We are watered by the preached word of God, and meaningful prayers.
Those who serve their church with real dedication will flourish. Sadly, there are churchgoers who do not have such a desire. Some even leave good Bible-balanced churches and establish their own organisation, running activities unacceptable to the Lord, and get into all sorts of difficulties.
In a good church, free of wrong teachings? There you will flourish as you faithfully practise the vision, work and responsibilities vested on you by God… whatever they may be, no matter how humble. When I was a young boy, I cleaned my old pastor’s sandals and helped him. That was ‘my ministry.’ From this small service, in time God led me to establish Echo of His Call Ministries.
Today a lot of people are not firmly planted believers, just visitors. A plant that is well set in the ground produces fruits. The lives of many are fruitless today! They might say they’re believers… but are not victorious. The more you are involved in God’s church, the stronger you are planted and the more God can build you to flourish.
The well-known late Pastor G. Sundaram used to challengingly tell those doing ministry work independently, ‘You can do ministerial work anywhere and whichever way you like; but you must tie a rope around your garment and tie the other end to a church. You must give importance to your church. You will get power only from that church. Otherwise you will be orphans in your spiritual life.’ What a truth!
I myself function under a leader, obedient to my seniors. God has graciously ensured that I have several assistant pastors, and I am very happy, blessed. What is your position… are you planted in the church… or just placed there?
4. Delights in gathering!
God’s church meets together regularly, especially on Sundays.
‘If you keep your feet … from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights…’ advises the Lord (Isaiah 58:13-14).
Most of us want to improve our positions, and ‘ride triumphantly.’ How can we do this? On Sundays, we should do what is pleasing to God, not just pleasing to ourselves. Sunday is a good day, one of delight, the day of celebration… honour this day.
(Above: Portion of EoHC worship service)
Don’t waste time watching disputable ‘Christian’ TV programs – but be faithful in in attending your church. Then you will delight yourself in the Lord. Dedicate this day for Jesus. When you consider Sunday as one of delight and keep it apart for Him, you will know happiness.
Having economic or health problems, or depression in your spiritual life, or feel something is lacking? Ask the Lord why! Is the Holy Spirit talking to you very clearly through this message? If you consider His day one of delight, you will be happy and the Lord will keep you at the highest place.
5. Supported by attenders!
Mentioning that God’s church needs financing is a touchy issue to some!
Some contribute only what they feel they can. Although that is good, it misses the heart of 2 Corinthians 9:7-8NLT: ‘… don’t give reluctantly … “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.’
Personally, I have been blessed by giving a tithe… God has ensured that all my needs are met. I believe in the Malachi 3:10 principles of ‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse… and prove me now in this’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not… pour out for you such blessing, that there will not be room enough to receive it.’
Message Bible reads, ‘… Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.’
Here is the promise of uncountable blessings from contributing finance first and foremost to God’s storehouse – your local church – so that it’s evangelistic mission can ‘triumph on heights’ too and achieve its goals, fulfill its vision! Your church can use your offerings not only for its ministerial evangelistic work, but also allocate to the poor and needy.
I know that some people struggle with tithing, but there’s a principle here… the Lord promises if we are faithful in contributing financially, He will bless us abundantly! ‘Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back’ (Luke 6:38).
Czarina Org, Christianity Today (May 16, 2016), quoted Dr Billy Graham on tithing: ‘We’re only returning to God a portion of what He has already given us.’
Note: It is most important that your church uses its income only for God’s work, not frivolously, especially on unneeded items, and not on anyone’s personal gain.
Mystery and truth
Remember our opening scripture, Ephesians 5:32. CJB version reads, ‘There is profound truth hidden here.’
Many are unaware of this deep relationship between God and His church. I trust you are. Embrace it fully, standing on the Rock, Jesus, and see what happens. Victory will be yours ‘beyond your wildest dreams’!
Dr S Sam Selva Raj is founder of India’s National Spiritual Newspaper Echo of His Call, printed monthly in 16 languages. For over 54 years Dr Sam has overseen many community outreaches blessing thousands, the Chennai church, Nehemiah Bible College, St Paul’s Matriculation School, postal and online Bible correspondence/theological courses. Dr Sam’s 2023 challenge from God is daily broadcasting 5-minute messages in Hindi, Tamil and English on YouTube, trusting Him only to provide for the costs. Links: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com