Become a Working Church

imagesThird, we are to become a working church. “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). How did this happen? They preached the gospel to people. They made disciples. People got saved. So the Lord added to their number those who were saved. They were a working church.

One day, we were at a G-Group in Apas, Lahug. A little girl named, Abby asked, “What is your job?” “I’m a pastor.” Then she looked at me and said, “Is that a job?”

I don’t know why kids always ask me about my job. My daughter, Jan Marie, asked me, “Do you now have a job?” I answered, “Yes, I’m a pastor.” She said, “That’s not a job.”

We see our job and God’s job. Our job is to make disciples. God’s job is to add to our numbers.

Do you think the people got saved if the believers kept silent? Do you think we will grow in number by being silent? The people got saved because they heard the Gospel! They heard the Gospel because the believers told them. So the Lord added to their number those who were saved. The Lord will add to a church that tells the Gospel.

We must preach the gospel to everyone. We must make disciples of all believers. We must become a working church.

Maybe you’re reading this article now but you have not yet believed in Christ. You have not repented your sin. I urge you to come to Christ. Believe in Christ. Repent your sin and be baptized.

Maybe you have believed in Christ but you don’t yet belong to the body of Christ. I urge you to join a Bible-based, Christ-centered church that is devoted to the apostles’ teaching, the breaking of bread, fellowship, and prayers. Belong to a real community of Christ.

Maybe you have believed in Christ. You belong to the body of Christ. But you just stand there. You have not begun to serve the Lord. I urge you to become a worshiper. Start praising God. Become a witness of Christ. Tell others about Jesus. Testify to the gospel of Christ. Serve the Lord. Become a worker of the Lord in His harvest of people.

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Become a Witnessing Church

Second, we are to become a witnessing church.  They were “having favor with imagesall the people” (Acts 2:47). How did they gain favor from all the people? I think they witnessed to the people about Christ. To witness is to testify to God’s work. They must have testified to God’s love among the people. They must have testified to God’s work in their lives. They witnessed to Christ’s power not merely in words, but also in works. They must have provided for the needs of the poor. (Ellicott) They must have shared their food to the people. They must have done good things to other people. Their humble and devoted lives must have impressed their relatives and friends. (Henry) They were a witnessing church.

One day in 2013, a fire broke out near our church building at A. Lopez, Calamba, Cebu City. Many people lost their homes. Two lost their lives. After the fire, the GGCF ladies group called, Dorcas, decided to gather their nice extra clothes, canned goods, and other food. They gathered all those who lost their homes to the fire. They shared the Gospel to them. Then they gave away their goods. We gained the favor of all the people in the neighborhood there.

We must testify to God’s work in our lives. Show how God has changed you by doing good things to people.

Become a Worshiping Church

imagesBecome. The third thing to do is to become a working community of Christ. It is not enough to belong to the body of Christ. We must become servants of Christ. In the first church, we see three things in becoming a serving community of Christ.

First, we are to become a worshiping church.  They were “praising God” (Acts 2:47). It is not enough to go to church. We must become worshipers of God. The word, “praising” comes from aineo, “to speak of the excellence of a person, object, or event – ‘to praise.’” (Louw-Nida)

Do you praise God? How do you praise God? To praise God is to declare the excellence of God’s character, God’s works, and God’s glory.

There are people who go to church, but they don’t worship. They go to church. Then they stand outside. They don’t participate in worship. I don’t understand that. You go to church. But you don’t worship with the brethren in church. Why did you go to church anyway? Why go to church when you will not worship with the church? It is not enough to go to church. You must learn to worship with the church.

Luke wrote that day by day, they praise God. We must praise God not just weekly, but regularly. We must become a worshiping church.

Belong to a Sharing Church

Third, we are to belong to a sharing church. Luke wrote in Acts 2:44-46,images

44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts

Note that “they had all things in common.” Does this mean they practiced communism? No, they practiced community—the sharing of things. Just like today, there were those in the first church who had plenty, and those who were in poverty. There were those who owned things; and those in need of things. Those who owned things sold it and gave it to the needy. That is not communism. Rather, that is community. The owners were not forced to share, which is communism. They sold it voluntarily, which is community.

Actually, this is nothing new. It was the practice of the Israelites in the OT. It is the command of the Lord. Deut. 15:7-8, 11 says:

7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother,

8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be

11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”

The first church obeyed this command. They practiced sharing their goods with the needy in church. They did not rely on the rich members to provide for the poor members. They all shared their goods to the needy brethren in church.

To provide for the poor in church is to love in action, and not just in words. John wrote in 1 John 3,

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

One day Jesus told the rich young man, “Go, sell all your possessions and give it to the poor and come, follow me.” The rich young man turned and walked away. He loved his money more than Jesus. Then Peter said, “We have left everything and followed you.” They took Jesus’ teaching literally. They literally left everything—father, mother, brother, sister, and yes, their lands, and followed Jesus (Matt. 19:16-30).

They did the same radical thing in the first church. They gave up their goods and gave it to the needy in church. I call that “radical community.” They practiced radical community. The radical thing is that they obeyed Jesus’ call to give up their goods and give it to the poor.

That is what is lacking in many churches today. We are good in worship. We are good in preaching. We are good in building nice buildings. We are even good in getting members from other churches. But when the poor in church need money, we are not good in sharing with them. Instead, we are good in closing our eyes and ears to them.

The problem of believers in many churches is covetousness. Because we are covetous, we find it hard to be generous. We want to hold on to our goods. We don’t want to give up our goods and give it to the poor. It is a problem of the heart, which is the heart of the problem.

If we should practice radical community, we must be willing to obey Jesus literally. We must forsake the sin of covetousness. We must give up our goods and give it to the poor. Sell that extra car and give it to the poor. Sell that extra cell phone and give it to the poor. Give your extra clothes to the poor. Then the people watching you will begin to wonder what in the world is happening in your church. Actually, it’s not in the world. It’s out of this world—the kingdom of God ruling in the hearts of believers in church.

At GGCF, every December, I invite everyone to look inside their clothing cabinets. I encourage them to bring out the clothes that they don’t need any more. Nice used clothes, not unusable clothes. You will be surprised to see that you have more clothes than you need. I urge the folks to bring it to church, gather it in bundles, and give it to the poor.

The day will come when I will open a big bed sheet in the center of our church meeting. I will invite all of you to throw in your extra jewelry, your extra money, your extra car keys, and your extra watch.

At GGCF, we have a budget item for mercy ministries—for members who are sick and with sky-high hospital bills, victims of calamities, etc. Last March, a GGCF member lost their home to a fire. We gave a special offering for the fire victim. But that falls short of what they did in the first church. They sold their goods and gave it to a fund for the needy. Can we do that at GGCF? If so, I assure you that there will be no needy person in church. People will be amazed at how we really take care of each other.

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 4:46). The word, “together” from the Greek, homothumadon, is an interesting word. It means, “with one mind or purpose.” (Gingrich) I like the KJV translation, “with one accord.” In the temple and in their homes, they were of one mind. They were united in purpose. In Acts 4:32, they were “one heart and soul.” They were united in Christ. This spiritual unity is driven by the Spirit.

I’d like to see this in GGCF—one mind and heart for each other, for the gospel, for the kingdom, and for the glory of God. Is there spiritual unity in GGCF Bacolod? Do you gather for corporate worship and in the homes? Do you share your things for the needy in church? Let us practice radical community!

Belong to a Steadfast Church

10430046_591102347670389_2930612886265442091_nSecond, we are to belong to a steadfast church. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The verb, “devoted,” is from the Greek, proskartereo, “hold fast to, continue or persevere in.” (Gingrich) It means steadfastness, persistence, and faithfulness. They were a steadfast church.

They devoted themselves to four practices—the teaching of the apostles, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. They were steadfast in the apostle’s doctrine. What did the apostles teach them? The apostles taught them everything Jesus taught them. They taught them the gospel of the kingdom, the resurrection, the true meaning of the Law, and all the doctrines of Christ. The apostles’ teaching is now contained in the NT.

At GGCF, we strive to teach the Bible verse by verse. We are a Bible-teaching church. We are a Bible-based church. Every teaching and preaching must be drawn from the Word. We expound the Word of God systematically. We teach the whole counsel of God. We hold our pastors to a high standard of expounding the Word of God. We will do no less.

We see that the first church was also steadfast in fellowship. The word, “fellowship” is from koinonia, “association, communion, fellowship, close relationship.” (Gingrich) How did they maintain fellowship? They maintained fellowship through the Lord’s Supper. They shared their goods with those in need (Acts 2:45). They had “love feasts” or agape meals together. I hear that you eat a meal together. If you do it in the love of Christ, then that is an agape meal.

Last Sunday, we had a new couple that attended our church. The wife is not yet a believer. I asked them what they think about our worship. The wife replied that she was very impressed with our “bonding” after worship. We serve snacks after worship. We have fellowship after worship. She noted the close relationship we had with one another. I answered that we are imperfect people who try to love one another in the name of Jesus.

The first church was also steadfast in the breaking of bread. Most likely, it refers to the Lord’s Supper. They devoted themselves to remember the death of Christ. They continued steadfastly in the meaning of the cross in the Lord’s Supper.

They were steadfast in the prayers. Note the article, “the,” identifying the prayers. Note the plural, “prayers.” It can mean two things—(1) the prayers in the temple and (2) the prayers in worship and fellowship in the homes. They met in the temple day by day. They must have prayed the temple prayers. They were Jews who prayed to Yahweh in the temple. But they were also Christ-believers who prayed in Jesus’ name.

Day by day, they were “attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes” (Acts 4:46). They met in the temple and in the homes. They had corporate worship and house fellowship. They prayed in the temple. They prayed in the homes.

At GGCF, we meet for corporate worship and in small group fellowship. We pray in corporate worship together. We pray in small groups together. We believe in the power of prayer because we believe in the power of God!

I thank God for the couple that lent their house for worship. I thank God that we now have 18 small groups meeting weekly in Cebu and Bacolod. The goal is to maintain 14 small groups in Bacolod City by the end of 2015. We call it G-Groups—Grace Groups. These G-Groups are discipleship groups. These are small groups for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. The goal is to disciple new and old believers. The goal is to produce leaders. The goal is to bring in new disciples.

Are you a Christ-follower? Do you belong to a saved church? Belong to a steadfast church–devoted to the apostles’ teaching, to the breaking of bread, to fellowship, and to prayers.

Belong to a Saved Church

Belong. The second thing to do to follow Christ is to belong to the body of indexChrist, the church, the community of believers. We see three things about the theme of belonging to the church.

First, we are to belong to a saved church. “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Note that only those who received the Word of God were baptized. Only those who were baptized were added to the church. Conversely, baptism is only for those who believe in Christ. Church membership is only for those who are baptized believers. The first church was a saved church. Every member of the church repented his sin. Every member was a believer. Every member was baptized.

Do you belong to a saved church? Does your pastor and church believe that the church should compose of only saved believers? Do they require conversion to Christ before joining the church? Does your church follow the pattern of the first church—preaching repentance and faith in Christ, baptism by immersion, and then, participation in the church? If so, you belong to a saved church. If not, find a saved church.

At GGCF, we preach repentance and faith in Christ. We teach baptism of believers. We teach the adding of believers to the church. We follow the NT model of a saved church.

Belief in Christ and Forgiveness of Sins

imagesThird, belief in Christ results to remission of sins. “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’” (Acts 2:38). The preposition, “for,” basically means, “for the purpose of.” Repentance and baptism are for the intent of forgiveness of sin. Clearly, repentance and baptism are for the purpose of forgiveness of sins.

Many stumble over these words. Some think that baptism is for the purpose of forgiveness of sins. Baptism therefore is required for salvation. However, Peter requires both repentance and baptism to be forgiven. It is not baptism alone that is required for forgiveness of sins. It is repentance resulting to baptism that is required for forgiveness. It is baptism resulting from repentance that is required for forgiveness. Baptism is not essential to salvation. But repentance and baptism are essential to belief in Christ.

Others think that the preposition, “for,” can mean, “because of” or “on the basis of.” Peter would be saying, “Repent and be baptized, because of forgiveness of sins.” If so, then forgiveness of sins precedes repentance and baptism. They are forgiven first before they repent and be baptized. However, it does not fit the pattern in Luke-Acts. In Luke-Acts, baptism always precedes forgiveness of sins. John preached a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. Peter preached repentance and baptism for forgiveness of sins. The pattern is repentance, baptism, and then, forgiveness of sins.

The point of Luke is that baptism is the response of repentance. For Luke, the response of repentance is baptism in Acts 2. The response of faith is baptism in Acts 16. Thus, baptism is the response of repentance and faith in Christ. Repentance is the reality; baptism is the ritual. For Peter, the reality and the ritual go together. The reality bears fruit in the ritual. The ritual is the fruit of the reality. Thus, repentance is the internal reality of baptism. Baptism is the external ritual of repentance. Both are required for the forgiveness of sins.

Fourth, belief in Christ results to the reception of the Spirit. “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). Luke shows in Acts that everyone who repented also received the gift of the Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is the baptism of the Spirit, who is the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4-5). The gift of the Spirit is given to those who repent and believe in Christ.

Thus, belief in Christ involves four elements. A person who trusts Christ will repent. He will follow the rite of baptism. He will receive forgiveness his sins. He will receive the gift of the Spirit.

Belief in Christ and Baptism

imagesSecond, belief in Christ requires the rite of baptism. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Peter is not talking about repentance alone or baptism alone. Peter is talking about both repentance and baptism. The two are connected. Repentance is the inner attitude. Baptism is the outward act. Repentance is the attitude of baptism. Baptism is the act of repentance.

In Luke 3, John the Baptist preached a “baptism of repentance.” In Greek grammar, it is the genitive case. The words, “baptism of repentance,” expresses a genitive of source—a baptism coming from repentance. John said, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Lk. 3:8). Then he said, tax collectors, don’t collect more than is required. Soldiers, don’t extort money by threats. For John, to repent is to turn from sin and to right the wrong. He will baptize only those who repented.

Peter repeats the same message here. Repent and then be baptized, for the forgiveness of sins. Peter is saying that baptism follows repentance. Repent and be baptized. Hence, baptism is only for those who repent. Repentance is the cause of baptism. Baptism is the result of repentance. To be baptized is to have repented your sin. To repent is to be willing to be baptized.

Have you repented your sin? Then be baptized. Show your repentance and faith in Christ by baptism. Baptism is the external act of the internal attitude of repentance.

Believe. Belong. Become.

10537812_10204551614214135_2034924838333151875_nI preached this sermon on the occasion of the GGCF Bacolod 1st Anniversary and Baptism at the clubhouse of Forest Hills Subd., Alijis, Bacolod, last April 12, 2015.

I’m so glad to be here with you all on the first anniversary of GGCF Bacolod. I rejoice every time I hear about the work of the Lord in your lives. We have been praying to start a church here in Bacolod for many years now. When I told the IBCP Board of Trustees of our plan to start a church in 2014, all of them unanimously supported the idea. Another good sign was when I met Pastor Dan again in 2013, after many years of being out of touch with each other. When he told me that he is willing to work with GGCF and plant a new church in Bacolod, I knew that the Spirit was moving.

I’d like to thank our pastors and movers who worked hard to prepare for this anniversary. Heartfelt thanks also to the pastors’ wives. I do believe that behind the great work of men are women. Thank you for supporting your husbands in the ministry of the gospel.

I regret to announce that Atty. Yoyoy Galicia cannot join us today. His father, Pastor Emmanuel Galicia Sr., suffered a stroke. There is bleeding of blood in his brain. Atty. Yoy has already bought a plane ticket about three months ago. But he decided to stay with his ailing father at this critical time. It falls on me now to preach the Word to you today.

Our GGCF theme for 2014-2015 is “believebelongbecome.” It uses three action verbs—believe, belong, and become. It describes the actions of followers of Christ. The first action is belief in Christ. The second is belonging to the body of Christ. The third action is becoming a follower of Christ. We see these three acts in the first church in Acts 2.

Believe To become a follower of Christ, you must first believe in Christ. You must trust Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. In Acts 2, we see that belief in Christ involves four things—(1) repentance, (2) rite of baptism, (3) remission of sins, and (4) reception of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:37-38 reads, 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

First, belief in Christ requires repentance. The word, “repent” is from the Greek word, metanoeo, which means, “lit. change one’s mind.’” (Gingrich) To repent is to change your mind about sin and God. In the OT, repentance is turning from sin and turning to God. Note that those who repented were also those who believed. “And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44) They repented their sin. They believed in Christ. In Acts 16, the jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Always in Luke-Acts, repentance and faith go together. One must repent his sin and believe in Christ to be saved.

Have you repented your sin and trusted in Christ as your Savior and Lord? To believe in Christ is to repent your sin and trust Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Paul wrote in Phil. 3:13, “straining forward to what lies ahead.” Paul pictures himself as a runner not looking back. Now Paul sees himself as a runner straining forward to the goal. He is straining forward, stretching every muscle. He will keep his eye on the finish line. He will bend his body forward until the finish line. He has no intention to falter or fail or give up. He will keep running until he reaches the goal.

Paul wrote, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He is not running aimlessly. He is running with his eye toward the goal, to win the prize. His life is driven by a purpose—to know Christ.

After a church service on Sunday morning, a young boy suddenly announced to his mother, ‘I’ve decided to become a minister when I grow up.’

‘That’s okay with us, but what made you decide that?’

‘Well,’ said the little boy, ‘I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it

will be more fun to stand up and yell, than to sit and listen.’

What is your goal in life? Is it to finish school, work, marry, make money, and die? Is that what your life is all about? Did God put you here to make money and forget God? Did God put you here to grow old and die?

There is more to that. God put you here to glorify God. God put you here to know God. God is the God who wants people to know Him, love Him, and worship Him. In knowing God, you will find satisfaction, meaning, and purpose in God. You will only know God through Jesus Christ. Thus, your goal is to know God through Christ. That is the goal of the apostle Paul. That is our goal as followers of Christ.

Paul says, I press on toward the goal for the prize. What is this prize? Paul says, “the prize of the upward call.”  The prize is the full and complete knowing of Christ. The prize is the total laying hold of Christ who laid hold of Paul. The prize is the reward of perfect fellowship with Christ, for whom Paul has counted all things but loss. The prize is Christ Himself.[1]

The call comes from God—the one who called you. This call from God is in Christ Jesus. It is only in the sphere of Christ that God calls you.

The call is upward because it is heavenward. The call is upward not because it comes from heaven. The call is upward because it leads to heaven.

What are you living for today? I hope you will say today, I am living for Christ today. I want to know Christ, to know His sufferings, to know His death. Forgetting what lies behind, straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of knowing Christ. I press on for the prize of perfect fellowship and knowledge of Christ.

[1] Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians (WBC 43; ed. Ralph P. Martin; Nashville:Thomas Nelson, 2004), 210.