Body Life Teaching

Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal writes:

“We have been through a hard 10 years. They were not, as some have argued, the worst ever, or even the worst of the past century. The ’30s started with the Great Depression, featured the rise of Hitler and Stalin, and ended with World War II. That’s a bad decade for you. In the ’60s we saw our leaders assassinated, our great cities hit by riots, a war tear our country apart. But the ‘[20]00’s were hard, starting with a disputed presidential election, moving on to the shocked pain of 9/11, marked by an effort to absorb the fact that we had entered the age of terror, and ending with a historic, world-shaking economic crash. Maybe the most worrying trend the past 10 years can be found in this phrase: “They forgot the mission.” So many great American institutions—institutions that every day help hold us together—acted as if they had forgotten their mission, forgotten what they were about, what their role and purpose was, what they existed to do. You, as you read, can probably think of an institution that has forgotten its reason for being. Maybe it’s the one you’re part of.”[1]

Noonan is writing about the loss of mission of Wall Street, the federal government, journalism and even the Catholic Church; yet I believe she’s hit the nail on the head for most organizations. Look at almost any organization and you can see a diminished or disappearing sense of vision and purpose. Perhaps, could this be said about SPBC?

This message series on “Body Life” is about recovering an identity. It is about refreshing and refocusing what our purpose and mission is as a body of believers who are called to serve God together. The last message was about “Fellowship” and growing together under God’s grace. In essence, this message will center on the foundation for growth – the gospel.

God has a plan for His church. He does not wish to hide His purposes. The secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he reveals his covenant to them.”[2]  The Scriptures are and have been central to the community of faith in revealing God and His ways. Significant for the early church was their devotion to the apostle’s teaching (2:42). The NT writers were viewed on par with OT Scriptures and carrying equal authority.[3] Luke further describes the importance of the Scriptures in the early church growth in the advancement of “the word”. This phrase is mentioned over 35X in the book with its purpose to spread the word to the ends of the earth.[4]

Acts 13:44-49 44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ “ 48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region.

The teaching of the early church centered on the word of the Lord, or in other terms – the gospel. The gospel was the core of their teaching. Likewise, the gospel word should be the heart of the teaching for believers today. Unfortunately, the gospel is far from the core purpose of most churches. Contemporary culture wants to change the truth message. This teaching revolves around feel good messages meeting felt needs; it’s man centered rather than God centered.[5] This is not the gospel of the early church. If today’s church is to advance and grow as the early church it must return to a clear understanding of the gospel. This message will examine “Body Life Gospel Teaching”.

To examine “Body Life Gospel Teaching” you must look at the first sermon of the early church, found in Acts 2:22-39.

“Men of Israel, hear these words [NIV, HCSB: “listen carefully”]…
This sermon was very important. Peter raises his voice and calls attention to his message (also 2:14).

Jesus of Nazareth (2:22)
All of Scripture points to Jesus, from Genesis 3:15 hinting at God’s intention to provide a purifying sacrifice for sin to Revelation showing Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.[6] History is marked by the entry of Jesus of Nazareth and there is no denying his existence.

Churches must keep Jesus as the focus. It’s like a band with one song, a library with one book or television station with one show. Jesus is everything to believers. And the world knows this which is why they react so provocatively towards even the mention of his name. The latest example is Brit Hume’s comments to Tiger Woods. Nonetheless, the gospel means nothing if it doesn’t contain Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures.

Was a man (2:22)
This fact is often overlooked by religious teachers. Jesus is elevated high, and rightly so, but sometimes at the exclusion of his humanity. The significance of Jesus taking on flesh is that he can identify with us and becoming our sacrifice on the cross.

John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have the one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Accredited by God (2:22)
Likewise, as Jesus was a man he was also divine. He pointed people to God through his life, teaching, and miracles. The problem was that the crowds wanted him to continue the supernatural magic show while Jesus wanted them to see the source of signs, pointing beyond itself to God (food – Jesus as bread of life; blind – Jesus as light of world; dead – Jesus as resurrection, etc.).

The distinction of Jesus from every other religious figure was that he was God which was approved through all his signs but the greatest sign was the resurrection.

Delivered to death (2:23)
Peter and the apostle’s message hinged on the death and resurrection of Jesus.[7] Peter made this even more personal in linking Jesus’ death to God’s purposes and man’s actions. Notice, there is always a blend of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Yet, Jesus was murdered because of lawless men shouting “Crucify him!”.

Crucifixion was reserved for the severest of criminals. Christ was crucified to portray the heinous gravity of our sin.

Raised to life (2:24-31)
The power of Jesus did not end in enduring the cross. Instead it was extended to his power to resurrect. It was not possible for death to hold Jesus. The grave would not be his final address, nor does it have to be yours. Christ’s resurrection makes it possible for your resurrection. We can have confidence in this life knowing that there is more…

“death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting…But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Corinthians 15:54, 57

Reigning as Lord (2:32-26)
Jesus is Lord. The resurrection gives Jesus the authority over all creation. In hearing this gospel news you must respond like the crowd. Are you cut to the heart ready to respond? If so, repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.[8]

The past couple weeks we had snow. In one sense I dislike the snow because I dislike the cold. In another, I enjoy it because it reminds me of the gospel. You see, as I look out the window of my house and examine my lawn I can see many imperfections – spotty grass, holes, mole tunnels and many other faulty dimensions that fall short of a well manicured lawn. However, the snow covers all that. The snow is a symbol of how God’s grace through the cross covers our imperfections. It covers us completely. Will you respond in faith to this gospel teaching; this Jesus that pursues you with His love displayed on the cross and His resurrection?

Isaiah 1:18 “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

TAKING IT HOME

  • How are churches forgetting their mission today?
  • “God has a plan for the church”. Does this statement give you confidence or stress? Explain how it could do both.
  • Why is Biblical teaching important in growing a church? What’s the difference between studying the Bible for information and studying for transformation?
  • Which is more important: Jesus’ humanity or Jesus’ divinity? Explain.
  • Do a word search in the Bible of: crucify, cross. What did you learn?
  • How does/should the resurrection impact the way you live your life? (cf Philippians 3:10)
  • What area of your life is missing Jesus’ lordship? What are you going to do about it?

 


[1] Found at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704152804574628522483219740.html  

[2] Psalm 25:14, also cf. Deut  29:29; Amos 3:7; Matt 13:35; Mark 4:11.

[3] See 1 Tim 5:18; 1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 3:15-16.

[4] Acts 2:41, 4:29, 4:31, 6:2, 6:4, 6:7, 8:4, 8:14, 8:25, 10:36, 11:1, 11:16, 11:19, 12:24, 13:5, 13:7, 13:44, 13:46, 13:48, 13:49, 14:3, 14:25, 15:7, 15:35, 15:36, 16:6, 16:32, 17:11, 17:13, 18:5, 18:11, 19:10, 19:20, 20:32, 20:38.

[5] The Bible is not a book about man searching for God but a record of God pursuing man. Man is not the seeker, God is.

[6] To see Jesus as central teaching message see Acts 2:38, 3:6, 13:39, 16:18, 27:21.

[7] Acts 2:22-24, 3:15, 4:2, 4:10, 5:30, 10:39-43, 13:27-31.

[8] This is how we begin entry into the “Body Life Fellowship” with God and believers.

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