Message of the Month

Please take time to read Acts 11:19-30; Acts 13:1-3

 If the church at Antioch had a vision statement, part of it would read, “Ours is a small story with a big impact! At this juncture in church history, neither Barnabas nor Saul is very important or well-known. They were not among those whom Jesus named apostles from the very beginning. Yet in retrospect, almost every church historian recognizes that this seemingly small story had an incredible, critical, and world impact. This was a big hinge on the gate of church history that opened the known world to the gospel. G. Campbell Morgan refers to the events of the church at Antioch as the watershed of the book of Acts. Once we know what comes of this, we realize that something remarkable happened at the beginning of this little journey: for the first time Christians heard the Spirit say, “Go with the gospel to the ends of the earth and to uncharted territories, keeping divine appointments made ready by God.”

Before we explore the features of an Antioch type church, we need some clarification about the biblical city of Antioch. For starters, it was the third largest city in the Roman Empire and the capital of the province of Syria. The city was known as the "Heathen Queen." It was a center of government, commerce, and theaters, as well as filth, perversion, and demon-energized idolatry. Roman emperors, Greek poets and Chaldean astrologers were frequent visitors. In the midst of that spiritually darkened city, however, God had his fellowship of believers who were faithfully spreading the light of the gospel of Christ. Amidst the church, He had placed spiritually gifted leaders, prophets, and teachers, to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry, not only within the church, but to the ends of the earth.

Antioch was a university community and a very culturally diverse city. They had residents from Africa, Egypt, Rome, Greece, Syria, and Judea. It was a large, bustling, integrated, interesting, and challenging place to be. The church there had learned the lessons of inclusiveness that were so difficult for the Jerusalem church at the beginning. The leadership was diverse. Simeon was called Niger, which means black. He was a black man, perhaps from somewhere in Africa. Lucius of Cyrene was from the Mediterranean coast of Africa. Manaen was raised with Herod the tetrarch, in that confusing, partially Jewish and partially Edomite family focused on the world of Roman politics. Barnabas was a Cypriot who had been converted in Jerusalem. Saul was from Tarsus, educated in Jerusalem, formerly a persecutor of the church, converted in Damascus, and so on. These people were from all different backgrounds, but they led their church together as a community. There was no bishop or senior pastor. There was a leadership council made up of preachers and Bible teachers who took the word of God seriously and acknowledged that the Spirit had spoken.

The impact of the gospel in this city exploded in such a manner as to bring the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in this spiritually dead and dark place. Eventually this new church in Antioch became the home base for Paul's missionary journeys and the sending ministry for the gospel going to the ends of the earth.

A casual observance of Paul and Barnabas trip to Antioch would conclude that because there was no fanfare, no entourage, no mighty stallions, no great ships involved anywhere, it was just another small story, involving nobodies from nowhere. Yet little is much when God is in and the apparently miniature becomes the magnificent and most expansive ministry for the extension of the kingdom of God.

Therefore, child of God, never assume that our journeys in Christ are ordinary, small, and uneventful, because the truth of the matter is we don’t know what is important and what isn’t. We don’t know when a conversation we have is going to change a life, or a community, or the world. We don’t know which act of love God will turn into an extraordinary thing of beauty. We don’t know when a grand enterprise is beginning.

The most influential, world-changing, history-shaping citizen in all of Rome’s hundreds of years of history, which included Caesars and senators and generals, was one of the men on this trip -- Saul of Tarsus, to become known from this point forward as Paul the Apostle. This little bald-headed, bug-eyed, bow-legged Jewish Christian had more influence on the centuries to come than any other single citizen of Rome. Yet no one in Rome paid any attention to this trip. Caligula was being assassinated by the Praetorian Guard in these days, and Claudius was elevated to the throne--important events in the imperial capital, yet these faded quickly in their significance. No individual of that day knew it, but a great thing was happening. God was forging a servant whose writings, vision, and passion would change the world as well as shaping a kingdom-oriented cosmopolitan church at Antioch that would hurl disciples to the ends of the known world.

The church at Antioch was a Kingdom-extending church -- not an institutional-building, or denominational-furthering, or program-promoting church. What is a Kingdom-extending Church? It is a reproducing community of disciples living authentic lives as ambassadors for Christ proclaiming the whole gospel with the intent of total world impact! Let’s look at some of the characteristics of an Antioch type church.

1. An Antioch Type Church is Kingdom-extending because it sees the Great Commission to Make Disciples of all Nations as the Essence of its Existence

Acts 1:8 (NIV) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." The fact that the church at Antioch was the first to send forth disciples in missionary endeavors is proof positive that they saw the Master’s Mandate as the essence of their reason for being.

 No doubt Barnabas and Paul had stated and restated many times to the new believers at Antioch the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8 --“You shall be witnesses unto Me BOTH in Jerusalem, AND in all Judea, AND in Samaria, AND unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”  As Herb Hodges says, “They, like us today, were to see the near people as their/our assignment - “Jerusalem”; the neighboring people were their/our assignment - “Judea”; the neglected people were their/our assignment - “Samaria” (Samaria represents the people of your worst prejudice); and the next people were their/our assignment - “unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  And note carefully that it is not “either/or” with regard to these peoples, it is “both/and.”  Jesus Christ seriously expects us to take on the whole wide world!  How?  By learning and following the disciple-making strategy by which we see the masses through the man, and build the man to impact the masses - the strategy Jesus followed with His Twelve.:

The Book of Acts is one of the few books in the Bible that conveniently outlines itself. Chapters 1-7 seven reveal the witness of the early disciples in Jerusalem; chapters 8 through 12, in Judea and Samaria; and chapters 13 through 28, “unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”

The real measure of the power and effectiveness of a local body of Christ is:  How far does its influence reach?  God seriously expects the local church to take on the whole world!  After all, Jesus did it with twelve men, and He did it before telephones, televisions, telethons.  He only had tell-a-person!  Yet, He impacted the civilized world of that day through His small, rag-tag group of men.

Today, we tend to think that we must win our communities at home before we give the attention He commanded to the world. But that order is reversed. “The light that shines farther necessarily shines brightest near home.” Every church should be plotting constantly how it can get the Gospel to as many places in the world as quickly as possible; and its goal should be to build world-visionary disciples who will impact the entire world to the ends of the earth ‘til the end of time.  God said, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2:8).  Then why do we not have the heathen for our inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for our possession?  The only possible reason is, we are not asking!  Quite apparently, the church-at-large does not have on its heart what God has on His heart.  What about your church?  What about you?

"Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except the adoption of Christ's purpose toward the world he came to redeem. Fame, pleasure, and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of his eternal plans." (J. Campbell White, secretary of the Laymen's Missionary Movement, 1909).

There can be no more grand purpose than our Great Commission. As we go and make disciples we are not just telling people about the renewal of all things, we are helping to bring it about as people join in this one new man, the Body of Christ, under God's Kingdom rule. Moreover it is in partnership with God. What a privilege to work with him to fulfill his purposes and glorify his holy name!

Prof. John Frame---General Priorities: The Great Commission: “We have seen that Scripture permits considerable diversity among us in prioritizing opportunities for obedience. But there are some general, broad priorities, which all of us should share. As I pointed out, we are all equally obligated to repent and believe, to abstain from evil, to pray, to witness of Christ to the world, and above all to seek the glory of God. I believe there is also a single task that God gives to all of us as individuals and as members of his body, a task which encompasses all the other tasks, and which, therefore, can be described as the task of the church.

That single task is the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 “To be a Christian is to be a member of a missionary community and to become a participant in the activity of a missionary God.” Daniel Niles (1908-1970)

 Discipleship must always be discipleship-in-movement-to-the-world. The disciple who will not lay down his life for the world and for the gospel of reconciliation is not worthy of being a follower of Jesus Christ.” Charles Van Engen

 “When I first became a Christian, I was very self-centered about it. It was great to feel forgiven and loved, to have someone to turn to and ask for things. Looking back, I don’t think I really had much of a clue. I suppose it’s a bit like being a newborn baby: something momentous has happened, but you’ve still got everything to learn. But gradually the penny dropped. As I got to know God better, and realized more and more what an amazing Being he is, I wanted to love him for himself, not just for what I could get out of him. And then, of course, I found I wanted to tell other people about him, and see them put their whole lives in his hands, where they belong. That’s what being a disciple is all about, isn’t it?” A Scottish student

 2. An Antioch Type Church is Kingdom-extending because it does not have a PROGRAM for Missions; rather, they PARTICIPATE in Missions -- (Read Acts 11:19-30)

An Antioch type church will long to see the glory of God manifested in the proclamation of the gospel to the nations. They will recognize the pleasure of God in saving masses of persons from every “ta ethne” -- tribe, tongue, people and nation. They will understand that this global work of missions is not the assignment of a handful of specialists that we label as missionaries, but that it is their job in the local church. The Antioch church will prayerfully and prophetically seek to know the part God would have each of its members undertake in fulfilling the Master’s Mandate. This type of church will desire to develop a local church mission strategy that is God-centered, God-glorifying, God-dependent, and world-visionary and world-impacting. 

The Antioch type church understands that the local church is to be the nursery, training ground, and launching pad for sending forth disciples to the ends of the earth. 

How did the church at Antioch participate as a local church in extending the kingdom?

 a. They are People-Interested (11:19-20) – When Christians get on their heart what God has on His, they will begin to see people differently and seek them out for Jesus more diligently, because people are what God has on His heart.

Making disciples of all people groups is not an option for some, but an obligation of ever believer!

There are at least 6,434 unreached people groups that represent 2.62 billion people who have no gospel witness! For the most part, we don't feel the dreadful force of this state of affairs because we don't look beyond America. Here there is one evangelical for every three adults. There is one vocational Christian worker for every 296 people and there is one church for every 800 people. But in India there is one Christian church for every 8,000 people and one Christian worker for every 4,500 people and one evangelical for every 173 people.

Oswald Smith used to ask, "What would you do if you saw ten men lifting a log; and if nine were on one end and one on the other?" Yet year in and year out we send men and women to the wrong end of the log. It is as though during WWII we drafted one million men and then sent 600 to fight Hitler and 999,400 to Norfolk.

b. They were Christ-Centered (11:21b) – The church at Antioch was Christ-centered. They gave priority to the SUPREMACY of Christ. What does this mean? It is about Christ right to keep us at the center of who HE is (focus), where HE is headed (fulfillment), what HE is doing (fullness), and how HE is blessed (fervency). Only in the supremacy of God’s Son do we find all the H O P E we are meant to have and enjoy and can be employed in the age of advantage.

 David Bryant: “The Church must be re-awakened, intentionally and thoroughly, to fresh hope and passion focused on Christ and the full extent of His supremacy. He must be for God’s people the summation, consummation, approximation and consuming passion of all the promises, prophecies and purposes of the Father, for us and for the nations. In one sense, there needs to be a wholesale “re-conversion” of many of God’s people back to God’s Son for ALL that He is. I call this a “Christ-awakening”.

The people of God need re-converted and refocused to a radical and very old vision of the Man, Jesus Christ—fully God, fully man, fully sovereign, fully redeeming by his substitutionary, wrath-absorbing death, fully alive by His bodily resurrection and fully reigning via His ascension and heavenly enthronement, fully revealed for our salvation in the inerrant Word of God – the Bible, and fully committed to preaching Him in His fullness with doctrinal propositions based on biblical truth followed by miracles, signs and wonders!

John Piper observes that, “The great central heartbeat of Christianity is that Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord, is exalted and hallowed and sanctified by the happy hope that his people put in him. And he shines all the brighter when our hope is fearless and well-defended and meek and zealous for good deeds.”

Our presence and our message as we come alongside others shouldn’t be, "Was my message impressive. Logically correct, or relevant; was it practical and useful; or was it encouraging to them?" But instead, to the best of my ability, have I helped my hearers leave my presence with a deeper understanding of the glory of Christ and of an available, abounding, overflowing hope that is seen, shaped, and shared by the supremacy of Christ in all things for the joys of all people?

Have you and are you daily “setting apart Christ as Lord?" Is he savored, seen and shown in your life as the greatest value, the most supreme treasure, the greatest admiration, the most cherished prize, the one you esteem and honor and love the most out of all persons and all things in the world? Are you fearing Him only, favoring and following in awe of His lordship, bowing before his sovereign rule and trembling with joy and gladness at His majesty and glory?

c. They were Spirit-Empowered (11:21a) -- There is a tendency on the part of God’s people to think that it would have been more advantageous for us to have lived when Jesus lived, to have seen him, touched him, talked to Him, and heard him. The tendency is to feel that we can’t do much without having Jesus visibly present and physically accessible in a temple in Jerusalem where He rules with might and no mercy. But this is not what Jesus said. He said that it is actually to our advantage that He left and sent the Spirit. These are the best days of all. This whole age between the initial and final coming of Jesus is the Age of Advantage! The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, and he dwells within everyone who believes (Roms 8:9; Gals 4:6; Phils 1:19; 1 Pet 1:11). Jesus with everyone who believes is better than Jesus in one place, and Jesus in you is better than Jesus outside you.

Recovering the loss of hope and learning to live always having the advantage begins by getting to know personally, intimately, obediently and powerfully the Other Jesus without a body – Third Person of the Trinity – Holy Spirit. Notice what Jesus said in Jn 14:17 – He tells His disciples that they would know the Holy Spirit. But for the most part the average Christian today has never really come to know or gotten personally and intimately acquainted with the Holy Spirit. Someone has accurately described the Holy Spirit as the displaced member of the Trinity. One of the most successful tactics of the devil has been to make most Christians so afraid of the abuses people have performed under the guise of being Spirit?filled or Spirit?led that they settle for the Holy Spirit's absence. We are so afraid of "excesses" that we are willing to wallow in deficiency. The blunders and disasters of the Church are largely, if not entirely, accounted for by the neglect of the Spirit's ministry and mission. The Church corporately and multitudes of the people of God individually have lost the note of authority, the secret of wisdom, the gift of power, the joy of their Lord, and perhaps greatest, all the hope and advantage that is available for them now – and all this because she has lost her experiential acquaintance and knowledge of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of God gave the Church a supernatural entrance into history and will give her a supernatural exit. Therefore the church must live a supernatural existence and experience. The church may employ Madison Avenue tactics to draw the masses, but there won't be any miracles. And without the obvious presence of the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit, we will boast about being many for God, but we won't be much for God! We can convince unbelievers by the power of our reasoning that God exists, but only the Holy Spirit can convict and bring the revelation that God can be known by personal experience.

d. They were Grace-Based (11:23) – “saw the evidence of the grace of God,” – The church at Antioch begin in the grace of the gospel and lived in it to such an extent that it was visible to others. Jay Wegter writes, “Oh how the Church needs to feed on the grace of the Gospel. A passion for God’s glory in our lives is the blessed byproduct of walking through the gates of Ephesians  chapters one through three, and (by the Spirit’s enablement) understanding what God is doing in the world – He is glorifying His grace, and He desires that the saints align their entire lives with His plan. By God’s design, the glorious effect of grace – namely to be taken up and “intoxicated” with God (hungering and panting after Him and delighting in communion with Him) is the prerequisite for selfless ministry to others (including a zeal for evangelism – genuine ministry is the overflow of worship).

The Gospel of grace alone can make us leave our comfort zones on behalf of the needs of others.  Grace alone can move us past self-protection.  Transforming grace is what is needed in order for us to be lifted out of self concern and to be taken up with God.  Apart from Divine View Point, our tendency is to settle into a relational life characterized by personal interests, independence, guarded privacy, prickly defenses, and cherished masks. Preaching grace truths to ourselves regularly is not an option. Without a steady spiritual diet of the word of grace, of Christ and Him crucified, the lower nature will assert itself. Performing, pretending, and a passionless spirit will dominate our lives if we are not feeding upon Christ as He is revealed in the Gospel.

Here is the unbreakable truth, if your own identity in Christ, as defined by the Gospel, is your controlling identity, then you will see the Gospel as your life. The Gospel through Christ’s constraining love will animate you; it will determine how you see everything. It will mark out your value syste

“Grace-awakenings” have a sanctifying effect upon the Christian life. As Pastor Al Martin noted, the inescapable repetitive theme of Scripture from cover to cover is sin and grace. As pastors, we have the often unappreciated task, but awesome privilege of persuading folks that God loves people by His active confrontation of their sin.

By His Word, His Spirit, and His ministers, God continually brings people to the crossroads of repentance. We are heralds of a message that is always timely: Repent, confess, mortify sin – experience renewed cleansing and restoration. Delight in God again, find new wonder and gratitude as you commune with Him; have the joy of your salvation restored. Experience joyful integration (as the Psalmists) when you come out of hiding and walk in the light again; living a sin-judged life of transparency before God.

But how do most of our parishioners live in the private world of their spiritual lives?  What lies behind the guarded shutters of their souls?  Beneath their quiet desperation and patterns of spiritual defeat is a fear that if their rebellion, and weakness, and failure were to come into the full light of God’s gaze, they would be devastated.

As a result, they shore up the little hovel that conceals their depravity with self-protective strategies to defend against judgment.  Beneath that stiff upper lip is a proud, but fearful spirit that won’t take the “risk” of running to the atonement one more time.

The flesh works overtime to shield itself from any feelings of condemnation, shame, diminishment, and failure. Chutzpah becomes the rule of the day – the posture that is maintained says, “I have it all together.”  Prickly defenses are employed to keep others from drawing too close.  Personal brokenness is kept at arm’s length as a repugnant thing too filled with weakness to be considered beneficial.

What is needed is a grace awakening. When Mike Horton wrote the book, Putting the Amazing back in Grace, he was addressing a pervasive problem – it’s all too common for believers to lose their wonder and awe of God’s grace. Why does this happen?

Amazement at God’s grace is a function of being conversant with our ill desert and ruin by reason of sin. The greater our apprehension of our need for Christ, the more we will marvel at God’s grace. The reverse is also true – without a deep awareness of our ill desert and ruin by sin, we will unintentionally devalue divine grace.

It’s needful, but humbling to wake each day with the intent of facing our utter dependency upon Christ.  The alternative is choosing to be managers of our own depravity.  When we lose our amazement at God’s grace, it’s generally because we have drifted into a lifestyle of managing our own dereliction and depravity with something other than the grace of God in Christ.  Preaching the Gospel of God’s grace to ourselves each day is the solution!  Do you do the ‘book keeping’ of your soul and conscience by the Gospel?

We need to be able to share how that free grace captured our hearts -- We must show that our hope is no mere imagination, but is founded on the most certain truth; We must declare that it was not by works but by God’s free grace, that was shown in a manner consistent with God’s righteousness, through the work of His Son Jesus Christ, who according to 1 Pet 3:18  -- “…suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” This is the gospel, and when relied upon and its promises believed, lays a firm foundation for all the great and glorious expectations which we entertain.

e. They were Financially Generous (11:29-30) [29] The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. [30] This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. Giving Is Not Based on God's blessing us financially, but on a Grace-begotten Faith in a Gracious God!

Gary Inrig: "We all serve something or someone. There is no partial discipleship to Jesus, and there is no part-time employment by Mammon. We must choose our ultimate loyalty. When we choose the Lord as our sole master, He does not remove our money. In fact, He takes the money and transforms it into an ally. The same dollar that places a bet, pays a prostitute, or purchases “crack” cocaine also buys a Bible, digs a well, or supports a missionary.

Miserly people are miserable people. Takers and Keepers end up Losers and Weepers! What we selfishly spend, we lose; What we stingily hoard, will be left for others; What we invest in the kingdom of God as directed by the Spirit of God will LAST FOREVER!

3. An Antioch Type Church is Kingdom-extending because they were not Satisfied to SEND and SUPPORT; they emphasize BEING and DOING

 The challenge of the Great Commission at this point in history includes 238 nations and 12,862 people groups, 2,161 in World A which had not even had access to the gospel a few years ago. Our target is a world of 7 billion people (2 billion in World A) and more than 8,600 languages. How many missionaries would be required to get the job done?

 For Southern Baptist, the current ratio is one missionary unit for approximately 2.8 million people. Imagine what could happen if our strategies went beyond our own limitations and included a vision for reaching, discipling and releasing 10’s of thousands of men and women to the ends of the earth in turning all nations into disciples of Jesus.

 Acts 13:1-3 (NIV), “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. [2] While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." [3] So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

a. If a Church is Worshipping the Lord Acceptably, they will be Sending forth Disciples for World Impact Regularly!

 While they were worshipping they were:

(1) seeking the guidance of the Spirit

(2) sharing the giftedness of the Spirit

(3) selecting and sending gifted men for world-impact

They Selected, Set Apart, and Sent Their Best! These five leaders from the church at Antioch started nine churches and literally changed the world. It is worth noting that these five men were distinctly different. They came from diverse backgrounds, of education and training, ethnicity, experience, economic scales, religious heritage, and lifestyles. God uses all kinds of people to reach all kinds of people as He builds His kingdom. 

4. An Antioch Type Church is Kingdom-extending because they Refuse to be Content in a MAINTENANCE Ministry When they are Under Orders to MULTIPLY

 Acts 14:21-23 (NIV) They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, [22] strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. [23] Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”

 Paul and Barnabus passed along to these disciples in the cities referred to in the verses above what was given to them at Antioch. They led them to do four things:

1. They Challenged them to Count the Cost (21-22)

2. They Strengthened them by Discipling Them

3. They Encouraged them to be Faithful to Christ

4. They Reminded them that Hardships always Attend Discipleship

Your Antioch will be Characterized by these Features:

1. Spiritual Accountability to the Congregation of Saints

Antioch is that place where I meet with a number of like-minded disciples who hold each other to biblical standards that build each other up and make the gospel appealing by the way the disciples of Jesus love one another.

What do we mean by accountability? Perhaps we can better understand what we mean by considering what we don’t mean. We are not talking about coercive tactics, the invasion of privacy, or bringing others under the weight of someone’s taboos or legalism or manipulative or dominating tactics. Rather, by accountability we mean developing relationships with other Christians that help to promote spiritual reality, honesty, obedience to God, and genuine evaluations of one’s walk and relationship with God and with others. We are talking about relationships that help believers change by the Spirit of God and the truth of the Word of God through inward spiritual conviction and faith.

Left to ourselves, there is the great temptation to do mainly what we want rather than what God wants and what is best for others. So what is meant by accountability? We are talking about teaching, exhorting, supporting, and encouraging one another in such a way that it promotes accountability to Christ and to others in the body of Christ, but never by manipulation or domination.

The Necessity of Accountability and Why we Need It

In his book, The Disciple Making Pastor, Bill Hull writes about the need of accountability in the disciple-making process. He says, “To believe you can make disciples or develop true maturity in others without some form of accountability is like believing that you can raise children without discipline, run a company without rules, or lead and army without authority. Accountability is to the Great Commission what tracks are to a train.”

Professor Howard Hendricks said, “Every man should have three individuals in his life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy.” Naturally, this is applicable to both men and women, but for reasons of maintaining moral purity and to avoid temptation, such should be of the same sex. Hendricks continues: “A Paul is an older man who is willing to mentor you, to build into your life. Not someone who’s smarter or more gifted than you, but somebody who’s been down the road. Somebody willing to share his strengths and weaknesses—everything he’s learned in the laboratory of life. Somebody whose faith you’ll want to imitate.

A Barnabas is a soul brother, somebody who loves you but is not impressed by you. Somebody to whom you can be accountable. Somebody who’s willing to keep you honest, who’s willing to say, “Hey, man, you’re neglecting your wife, and don’t give me any guff!”

A Timothy is a younger man into whose life you are building. For a model, read 1 and 2 Timothy. Here was Paul, the quintessential mentor, building into the life of his protégé -- affirming, encouraging, teaching, correcting, directing, praying.

Do you have these three guys in your life?

2. Mutual Perceptivity of the Voice of the Spirit

The coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost inaugurated a new age of revelation and communication in which, not just special priests and prophets, but all believer’s, regardless of gender or age, could expect to hear the voice of the Lord. This entire dispensation of the Spirit, from the book of Acts until now, is one of communication. The problem is most of the church thinks communication means talking to God in prayer and not getting any response in return save and occasional nudge or goose-bump feeling inside that is translated into a “yes”, “no”, or “not yet”.

If we are going to hear the voice of the Spirit, we must learn the ways that He speaks. These ways of speaking fall under four basic areas: through Biblical Encounters; through Personal Experiences; through Supernatural Expressions; through Circumstantial Events.

In our focus on the church at Antioch, we see that the Holy Spirit Speaks corporately to the Church – Acts 13:2. Also the Holy Spirit Speaks Prophetically to Believers and to the Church – Acts 11:28; 21:10-11.

When we are in real community and accountability, the Holy Spirit often speaks to us through others around us. When this occurs, we are to test the word in order to confirm its authenticity. We need to ask question like: Does this lead me to the Lord Jesus Christ and fill me with love for His church? Does this promote righteousness and purity in my life? Does this align itself with the clear and emphatic teaching of God’s Word? Does this strengthen my faith and fill me with a sense of a noble destiny and an honorable purpose in life? Does this turn me from my sin and selfishness to seek the Lord and serve Him in faithfulness and love? Does this build up the body of Christ and equip believers to do the work of the ministry?

3. Vital Community in the Interdependence of the Sons of God

It is said of Jesus in Mark 3:14-15, that “… He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons”. Withness, i.e. with-Him, Togetherness, Community, Fellowship – these words express the very reason for God saving us. God’s desire is for a Huge Family of hot-hearted, passionate sons who delight in Him and in each other, not a Labor Force of Field Hands who work for Him.

What is this Withness, Togetherness -- this thing called Community? Someone defined community as a unified people who possess a common way, embrace a common truth and celebrate a common life.  Community, or Fellowship, is translated by our English New Testaments as communion, association, fellowship, sharing, partakers, common, contribution, communicate, and partnership.

Although no one English word can catch the full meaning of the Greek, the New English Bible comes close as it translates all of the above by the expression “sharing in the common life.” Community is first and foremost a relationship we have, rather than an activity we engage in!

In the NT, what is shared in common is shared first of all because of a common relationship that we all have together with the Father, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit. Any idea of a community or fellowship based primarily upon social interaction, common interests, human nature, physical ties like in a family, or from “going to church” was foreign to the NT church. In the NT, believers can have fellowship or vital community and share together because they all have a relationship with God through Christ and share Him in common (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3). The New English Bible translates 1 John 1:3 as follows: “what we have seen and heard we declare to you, so that you and we together may share in a common life, that life which we share with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

Christian Community is not something you create or manufacture, based on common social need -- community is something you receive; something you are reborn into. Community is the very nature of God, for God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are in eternal community. Thus, the Three-in-One God is the basis for Fellowship or Community. Christian community means we belong to each other in a living, loving relationship because we belong to God via the common life and love given us by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 There is to be a mutual and reciprocal giving and receiving in the Community of Faith.  For this reason, there are more than fifty commands in the NT in which we are commanded to certain ministries and duties to “one another” and “each other.”

 Community involves a vertical and horizontal dimension: 

(1) The Vertical: This is our communion and fellowship with the Lord through the Word, prayer, the filling of the Holy Spirit, and the abiding life.

 (2) The Horizontal: This is our communion and fellowship with the body of Christ, other believers. This includes: (a) assembling together as a whole body (Acts. 2:42; Heb. 10:25); (b) assembling in smaller groups (2 Tim. 2:2); (c) meeting together one-on-one (1 Thess. 5:11); (d) sharing and communicating truth together and building up one another (Rom. 1:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Thess 5:11; Philem. 6); (e) sharing together in worship, i.e., the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 10:16), the singing of hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), prayer (1 Cor. 14:16-17), the ministry of the Word (Acts 20:20; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 4:10-11); (f) sharing together as partners in the needs, burdens, concerns, joys, and blessings for the purpose of encouragement, comfort, challenge or exhortation, praise, prayer and physical help according to the needs and ability (cf. Phil. 1:5 with 1:19; and 2:4 with 1:27; also 4:3; Rom. 12:15; and 1 Thess. 5:11,14,15; Heb. 10:33).

 We, the Community of Faith are TIGHT! Relationship, Partnership, Companionship, and Stewardship, all made a reality by the bonds of Calvary love! I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God!


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