How I Can Be a Part of God’s Church
How I Can Be a Part of God’s Church
We have studied much about the church’s past. We have seen how God has been working out His plan. We have also studied the meaning of the word church. So now we are ready to look at the present. We do not live in the past. We do not live in a world of ideas. We live today.
What does the past mean to me? What does the meaning of the church matter to me? In this lesson, we will look at the church and you. This is a very personal lesson. It might be the most important part of this book. Many people have problems because they do not know the truth presented in this lesson. The church has many troubles when it does not understand the truth. Study these pages carefully.
Probably I have never met you, and you have never seen me. But if you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, then we are both members of the church. By God’s grace, someday we will meet. We will be together in heaven! In heaven, we will praise God together for His grace in Christ. We will understand more completely the nature of His church.
We have seen some of the wonderful things God will do for His church. It would be terrible to be left out. What must you do to be part of God’s church?
First, the Bible tells us that we must repent. To repent means “to change your mind, your way of thinking, and your attitude.” In repenting, a man looks at his past. He feels sorry for his errors and decides to change. Repentance is moving “self” from the center and giving that place to God. Paul described it this way, “But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ’s sake” (Philippians 3:7). Jesus told a wonderful story about a young man who left his father and wasted his money and his life. Then he repented and returned to his father. He felt sorry for what he had done and decided to change his life. That is true repentance (Luke 15:11-32).
The word conversion is found 40 times in the New Testament. It means “the act of turning.” It is used many times in the book of Acts. These words are usually followed by “to the Lord” or “to God” (Acts 9:35; 11:21; 15:19). A person must turn from the old (repentance) and towards the new (conversion). He must give himself to God.
This turning is both away from something and towards something else. Paul told the church at Thessalonica that Christians everywhere “speak about how you received us when we visited you, and how you turned away from idols to God, to serve the true and living God” (1 Thessalonians 1: 9).
To believe in means “to put trust in” or “to count on.” The Bible says, “Abraham put his trust in the Lord, and because of this the Lord was pleased with him and accepted him” (Genesis 15:6). The New Testament quotes these words, but it adds, “the Scripture predicted that God would put the Gentiles right with himself through faith.” Faith and belief are very similar in meaning.
To have belief in Christ is to meet Him, to love Him, to trust Him. It means to obey Him and to remain faithful to Him. Faith is not inactive. Faith is active trust in God. Our faith is shown by our actions.
Repentance, conversion, and belief are closely related. They are three parts of the same experience. Have you truly repented, been converted, and do you have faith (belief) in Christ? If you have not done so, accept Christ by faith now. This is the only way into God’s church.
God’s Work in Salvation
So far in this lesson, I have shown you man’s part in coming to God. Yet man cannot do his part without God’s help. God brings people into the church. Luke said of the church, “And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
The New Birth
It is not by physical birth that people become Christians. It is by the new birth. Speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus made clear the need for being born again. (See John 3:3-7.) Jesus said, “A person is born physically of human parents, but he is born spiritually of the Spirit” (John 3:6). Paul repeated the same truth, “What is made of flesh and blood cannot share in God’s kingdom” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
Yes, God wants you to be born again. He wants you to have a new start. The Bible calls this regeneration. Just as you were born into a human family, you must be born spiritually into God’s family.
The New Nature
You were born with a certain nature. When you are born again, you get a new nature. You get God’s nature. Peter spoke of the believer as one who “came to share the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Paul explained it this way, “When anyone is joined to Christ, he is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Bible teaches that there are two pieces of evidence of being born again. The first evidence is the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (Romans 8:16). The second
is the fruit of righteousness which is produced in the believer’s life. Those who are born of the Spirit should bring forth fruit of the Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22-23 for a list of the fruit of the Spirit.)
God’s Names for his People
Many people call themselves Christians. Some of these people, however, have not had the spiritual experience we have studied. They are not Christians even if they associate with the visible church. They are not members of God’s true church. They are called “unconverted” people.
Unconverted people who associate with the visible church cannot be called by any of the names given in the Bible to members of the true church. We will look at only four of these names. But our list could be much longer.
Throughout the book of Acts, believers are called disciples. (See Acts 6:2; 9:1; 11:26; 14:21- 22; 18:27; and 19:9 [KJV].) Jesus called His followers disciples. A disciple is a learner. He adopts the doctrine of his master. In the gospels, the disciples stayed close to the Master. They bound themselves to obey Christ.
Unconverted people cannot obey Christ. Unconverted people cannot be called disciples. Such people should not be called Christians, because they are not true Christians.
The New Testament often calls church members saints. (See Acts 9:13, 41; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 13:13; Ephesians 4:12; and Colossians 1:12 [KJV].) Notice that saints are on earth as well as in heaven.
Saints are those separated from God. Unconverted people are not saints. Unconverted people are not in God’s church. They have not been set apart by God.
The term brethren is the most common name for believers in the New Testament. This word shows the ties between believers within the church. The church is God’s family. Believers have been born into God’s family by the new birth. Believers are Christ’s brethren (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:11-12, 17 [KJV]).
Unconverted people are not Christ’s brethren. They are not, therefore, part of God’s church.
As we have seen, believers were not at first called Christians. They were called disciples, saints, or brethren. The term Christian was first used to mock believers. But it refers to those that belong to Him. They are like Christ (Acts 11:26; 26:28; and 1 Peter 4:16).
The term Christian should only be used for those who have been born again and have Christ’s nature.
The early believers were called by many names. Each name, however, is to be used only for born-again people in the church. They should not be used for those who associate with a visible church organization but have not been born again.
I trust that you have had the experience of being born again. I trust you are part of God’s church. This experience is the most important thing in your life. You might be a church member. You might be called a Christian. But you must be born again to be part of God’s church. Do it right now!