August 2019 | Disciple Making

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Marks of a Spirit-filled Church
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Marks of a Spirit-filled Church

Dr. Valson Abraham

Years ago, the late Billy Graham, held one of his large evangelistic crusades in a certain city.  A prominent minister of that city was approached by a reporter who asked him how he thought the crusade was going.

The minister grumbled, “Billy Graham has set back the churches of this city fifty years!”

Later, the reporter told Billy Graham what that minister said.  Billy Graham replied with a smile, “I pray I will set back the churches of this city two thousand years!”

Billy Graham was referring to those days immediately after the Day of Pentecost.  On that day, the Holy Spirit descended upon a group of 120 men and women in an upper room, and their lives (and ours) were changed forever.  That day, the church was born.

On that day, Peter, the arrogant and cowardly fisherman from Galilee, found within himself a newfound ability to preach his first of many eloquent sermons before a crowd of thousands of people from all over the then-known world.  

That day, the former coward, Peter, boldly preached a hard-hitting sermon, and when it was over, 3,000 people were added to the church.  From that day, the gospel spread like wildfire throughout the known world, and within only 30 years, the gospel that began with a handful of people had spread to Europe as far as Rome and even to Spain.

The church was off to a good start.  Through Paul and the rest of the apostles, the church kept focused upon its main mission - to make disciples among all peoples, preparing the way for the Second Advent of Christ who would bring about a New Heaven and New Earth, free from the curse of sin and death.  

There was a great sense of electrifying expectancy that all of this could take place in their own generation.  Those early Christians lived and worked in this world without becoming a part of the general corruption that marked the society and religious establishment.  The society took notice, and many people from all walks of life wanted to become a part of this new movement, even members of the household of Caesar and of Herod the Great (see Romans 16).

What were the marks of that first Spirit-filled church that was marked by transformed lives?  Luke tells us in Acts 2:42-47 that the Jerusalem church was characterized by 

teaching the Word of God, 

worship, praise and prayer, 

fellowship, 

evangelism, 

stewardship, 

Spirit-envisioned leadership, 

care for the poor.  

From this foundation rose a church marked by transformation, power and love.  We are told that every day, the Lord was “adding to the church those who were being saved.”

Satan hates Spirit-filled churches.  Such churches quickly fulfill the Great Commission, the one condition that must take place before Jesus comes again, sets up His kingdom and puts Satan out of business forever!  Thus, Satan does all he can to quench the Spirit through persecution, corruption and distraction.  He is a master at persuading churches to major in minors or avoid too much “fanaticism”, i.e., do nothing.

Has your church been “set back two thousand years”?  Do you have a Spirit-filled church where the Lord is adding daily those who are being saved?  Is your church marked by the same signs of the Jerusalem church that accomplished so much in so little time?

How many new believers (not church transfers or biological growth)  have been added to your church lately?  Is your community transformed through the Spirit-led vitality of your church?  What sacrifices do you and your church make to transform others by the gospel, both at home and abroad, especially where the gospel has never gone before?

Do we live and work in the world without becoming a part of it?  Do we and the other members of our churches stand out from the general culture and its corruption?  Or is our testimony corrupted by “the system” of which we have become a part?

Do we have an electrifying expectancy of the imminent return of Jesus Christ?  Do we have a vision of the New Heaven and New Earth that His Second Coming will bring?  Do we regard the sufferings of this present time to be unworthy of the coming glory that will be revealed in us?

In the life of every church, policy debates arise over the church’s function.  Without a model other than our own feelings, the church always goes off course and fails at God’s mission for the church.  That mission is to take the gospel to all peoples whom He loves and become salt and light, preparing the way for His glorious kingdom on earth.  

We have a timeless biblical model in the church of Jerusalem.  As we confront new challenges in the days ahead, let us keep this model before us.  Any deviation from this model is less than satisfactory to God and His long-range purposes, however satisfied we may feel.  

Pray that all our churches will be set back two thousand years!

* * * 

Father God, in our troubled times, we need a church that speaks and acts by the power of the Holy Spirit even as it did in those days when you gave your Holy Spirit to your people.  Set me back 2,000 years, and set my church back 2,000 years, that we may glorify your name, and that your gospel will cover all the earth.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Tim Chacko Thomas

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