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The Church that Lasts

We face questions in life that are different at every stage. But after 20+ years of building a career or family, there is one question that keeps you up at night. “Will it last?” That is Paul’s question about the work he and his team started in Thessalonica, about the Church that was born over those three short weeks.

In this text, we see Paul write more emotionally and vulnerably than anywhere else. And it’s clear that the church that lasts has four characteristics: It is loved by her leaders; stabilized by personal ministry; tested through afflictions; and lasts by faith.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:17, 3:5; Hebrews 13:7; John 16:33; Revelation 7:15-17

How the Gospel Works

We live in the era of text messages and Marco Polo. Back in the day, we used to write letters. My wife saved a box of letters we wrote to each other before we were married. If you read them, you’d know what we were doing, questions we were asking, things we were hoping for, you’d know what was happening in our lives.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Church for several reasons, but one was to affirm their faith, love, and hope during hard times. He let them know their lives made him grateful to God for the work of His grace in them and through them. And in the midst of affirming them and thanking God for them, he shows us how the gospel works.

It comes to you, it works in you, and it echos from you. The questions are: Have you repented? Do you believe the gospel? How is the gospel working in you now? Who are you pointing to Jesus?

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10; Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Romans 10:14; Ephesians 1; Deuteronomy 7

God’s Wisdom for Work

Do you remember your first job? Over a lifetime, the average person will spend about 90,000 hours at work. That’s 3,750 days.

Work takes a significant amount of time in our lives and Proverbs has plenty to teach us about the way we work. In fact, there’s the way the world works, and then there’s the better way. Everyday you go to work, you’re faced with the question, “Will I continue to work the way the world works, or will I take the better way to work?”

Inspection: Modeling Faith for Watching Eyes and Listening Ears

Look at your family tree and consider the traits passed from one generation to the next. We have no control over biological traits, but every family has unique traits that mark each generation that are passed on through intentional effort.

We transmit what we treasure. We pass on our passions. If we want the next generation to love Jesus with all their heart, soul and strength, then this generation must love Him wholeheartedly, and show our children and our children’s children what that looks like in every season of our lives.

So, how do we practice intentionality in modeling our faith before our children? This text shows us five ways…

Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:1-25; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Timothy 1:5; Hebrews 13:7

Make Disciples – Teach Them

How do people come to faith in Christ? How do Christians grow in Christ? One thing is central to both – the scriptures. Apart from the scriptures, apart from teaching the Word, disciples cannot be made, and teaching them cannot happen.

This text shows us that Paul, Aquilla and Priscilla, and Apollos all rely on the scriptures to help non-believers come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, and to help believers grow in their faith in Christ.

The text begins at the end of the second missionary journey and takes us through to Paul’s first significant stope on the third missionary journey. Luke points us, triumphantly, in verse 10 to the results of all this work in the Word, “This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”

What would it take for all the residents of Ahwatukee to hear the Word of the Lord? How many people groups are here (Jews and Greeks), because unique peoples require unique approaches. Are we raising up gospel teachers who can spread the gospel and disciple others?

Foothills was planted over 30 years ago by a group of believers who had a vision for the gospel to fill the Ahwatukee Foothills! 30 years on, do we dare dream with them again? (Acts 5:28) Do we dare believe that God has planted us here, like gospel seed, among so many who need Jesus? (Acts 8:1-2; Acts 17:26) And if we believe God has done this in His sovereign purpose, then what should we do to see that “all the residents of Ahwatukee hear the Word of the Lord… and have an opportunity to be discipled to follow Jesus?” What does it look like to engage people to put Jesus first for the sake of others through the scriptures?

Scripture: Acts 18:18-19:10; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 5:28, 8:1-2, 17:6, 17:26

Giving and Receiving the Scriptures

Once again in Acts we see the Apostles proclaiming the gospel. And we see people respond much the same way as we have, some are persuaded and some are jealous and create so much conflict that the Apostolic team has to pivot to another place.

But in the midst of these verses, we don’t just see Paul give out the Scriptures, we learn something of his method for proclaiming the gospel, and we don’t just see how people respond, we learn something about how and why we should engage with the Scriptures, and the gospel.

How do we read and engage with the Bible? Does this passage teach us anything about how we should read and engage with the Bible? There is a stark contrast in the way people engage with and receive the Scriptures in this text. Where do we fall? And why should we engage with the Bible? Why should we read it, study it, and seek by the power of the spirit to respond to it as it is – the authoritative word of God.

Scripture: Acts 17:1-15

The Disrupting Affects of the Gospel and the Power of Jesus

This text introduces us to a significant event in the history of the world. Today, people tour the great Cathedrals of Europe. But before there were Cathedrals, a small group of faithful followers of Jesus crossed the sea from Asia to Europe and shared the gospel on the banks of a river in Philippi.

When Paul and Barnabas introduce the gospel in Philippi a businesswoman is saved, a demon-possessed slave girl is delivered, and a jailer is also saved. At the same time, the gospel of Christ disrupts people’s lives, stirring up conflict and fights. But it also comforts hearts. Through it all, the Church of Christ is planted and God continues to unleash the gospel to the world.

Scripture: Acts 16:6-40

Membership in the Church

The idea of church membership is fading. Many churches are doing away with it altogether. Many people see it as nothing more than a bureaucratic tool for keeping track of people’s attendance and giving. In our culture spirituality has become an individual rather than community pursuit. And even “churched people” often attend more than one church at a time, depending on the speaker, the music, the setting, the programs. We’ve become consumers of spiritual goods and services.

The New Testament paints a different picture. Are there scriptural evidences for why anyone should become a member of a local church? The big idea is this: Local Church membership is the life of committed relationships and responsibilities to which every Christian is called. We are called to identify with and belong to a local church; to follow local church leaders; and want and engage in local church mutuality and accountability.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; Romans 16:3-5; Hebrew 13:17; 1 Peter 5:5; Matthew 18:15-18, 16:18ff; 1 Corinthians 5

Be Devoted to Prayer

James teaches the early followers of Christ that wherever you’re coming from or whatever you’re going through – pray – because God works through prayer. Prayer isn’t mainly about certain postures or practices. It’s the expression of a relationship between a believer and their Heavenly Father. He’s holy and great, so we worship Him. He’s just and merciful, so we repent of our sin. He’s gracious and kind, so we give thanks. He’s loving and caring, so we ask for ourselves, our family, friends, and the world.

Scripture: James 5:13-18

Be Devoted to the Bible

Fasting, worship, serving, giving, solitude; you’ll find most of these on a list of “spiritual disciplines.” Others call them “means of grace.” This message is on the second of what I consider to be the big three habits of grace for any follower of Christ – being devoted to God’s Word. Habits of grace position your heart to keep receiving what God is continuously giving – grace to become more and more like Jesus.

When you consistently spend time in the Word of God, start to obey the commands of God, and live a life pleasing to God you will experience the enabling grace of God to grow a life that is strong, durable, fruitful, and prosperous.

Scripture: Psalm 1