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The church directory

OPINION by Pastor Chuck DeVane, guest column | February 26, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Pastor Chuck DeVane

Special to The Sentinel-Record

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

-- Acts 1:8

The book of Acts is the oldest church directory in the world. In it, you can read the names and imagine the faces of the members of the very first church. It is mostly group shots, however, as the plural pronouns above indicate that faith and obedience to Christ is a personal commitment that results in a corporate experience with His church.

The church is a family, of brothers and sisters who have come to God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son by the power of God the Spirit. We are a fraternity of friends, chosen by God and choosing to congregate in small communities we call our churches. We are making our own directories, now, not to be enshrined in Holy Scripture, but to be cherished as we carry out the responsibilities and seek the rewards of our shared experiences together.

We experience the gospel together. We are not all saved at the same time, but in the same way. It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, alone. Acts reminds us up front that the corporate work of the church is impossible unless her members are personally committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation cannot be obtained by meditation, moral codes, or the many other religions in the world. It can only be experienced by responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ in personal repentance and faith. This makes you, singular, a babe in Christ and a child of God. Babies need families, children need friends, and the church is the family and friends of God.

We experience the Holy Spirit together. The first church sure did, on the first Christian day of Pentecost. It was a corporate experience, but one poured out upon individual believers already indwelled with the Holy Spirit. No person has ever been saved by God except by the Holy Spirit of God, who convicts, regenerates, fills, equips, and guides. But then the Holy Spirit gives diverse gifts to different believers, and by proxy to different churches, too. There was a great need in that moment for the gospel to be preached to the many people gathered from many nationalities at Pentecost, so the Spirit enabled the members of that first church to speak the gospel in a host of other languages. The Spirit enables the church of today to witness the gospel, too, to the people around us, and our own language will do quite fine.

We experience the kingdom of God together. The early Christians, like devout Old Covenant Jews before them, conceived of a Messiah who would come as the Suffering Servant to deal with the sins of God's people, then immediately enjoin them in ruling the world as Lord and King. But the early church learned quickly that the true kingdom of God is spiritual, not geographical or political, and it exists wherever and in whomever Jesus is Lord. We put the kingdom of God first, then represent God in politics and business and sport. But we must never let politics and business or sport be our god. Remember what happens in your church, be it on Main Street or Central Avenue, is more important than anything that is happening on Wall Street or Pennsylvania Avenue.

We will experience the return of Christ together. When we experience the gospel, the Holy Spirit, and the kingdom of God together, we will then experience the return of Christ together. We do not know when it will be, but we have assurance that it will happen. The promise of the angels at the ascension of Christ is plain: "This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." He is coming for His bride, embracing His body, renewing His building. The bride, body, and building of Christ is the church.

Upon Christ's return at the end of time, the great Church directory of all the ages will be complete. It will be a beautiful collection of mostly group photographs, like the book of Acts. There you be able to see members of the church worshipping and witnessing for the Lord. Better make sure your picture is in there, too.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, 5963 Central Ave. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]

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