Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Birth of the Church

The Birth of the Church

“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” – Revelation 12:1-6
I am not a fan of denominational labels.  They are a means by which the Family of God has been divided.  I’m often asked, because I attend a church that is non-denominational what denomination I am.  I don’t have one.  Jesus never wrote Baptist, Methodist, Catholic or any other label, none of which exists in the Holy Word of God, on my heart.  I choose to not put a label created by man over the faith in which Christ gave me.  I choose to follow Him, and God’s Holy Word, which is what He requires.

There are many that believe their denomination is the first, the one that Christ began with His church.  And there are those that believe that ONLY their denomination will be in Heaven. I grew up hearing that the denomination of Baptist was the first church because it was named after John the Baptist.  As I got older and began to study my Bible with the leadership of God, to my great surprise, I discovered this was not true.  In fact, the Baptist denomination began much later, in 1609 under the leadership of John Smyth in Amsterdam.  If you’re believing that your denomination is the first, the one which Christ was head of, do your research and free yourself from the division of the Body of Christ.

Revelation 12 takes us back to the beginning of the Family of God.  It is beautifully written with imagery that has such great meaning.  Being the bride of Christ, the church is seen as female. It says she was “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet” which is not literal, but figurative to describe the glory of the church as seen in Heaven.  Some believe the moon to be the Levitical laws, the first covenant.  Others believe the moon being representative of darkness, and darkness of evil, is under her feet.  Through the shed blood of Christ, all believers have overcome evil…whether our flesh knows it and acts like it or not! 

The sun being representative of light, and light of good, covers her. Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” She is “clothed in the sun”, the light of life, which is the righteousness of God. 

On her head she wore “a garland of twelve stars”.  She is said to have been with child and “she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth”.  It says “She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.”  Truly the only one born to “rule all nations” that was “caught up to God and His throne” was Jesus.  This is the birth of the new covenant, the salvation through Jesus Christ, who became flesh through His earthly birth. 

But Jesus was not without adversary, even from the beginning.  Verse 4 tells of Satan, and says that “His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth”.  These are the third of the angels of Heaven who were following Satan’s rebellion while still in Heaven. And it says that he “stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born”. King Herod killed all male children two years old and under in an attempt to kill Jesus.    

Verse 6 says that the woman “fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” The feeding of the church was the ministry of Jesus, which lasted around 3 ½ years, a near equivalent of 1260 days.

Then a war is described, which took place in Heaven, and is described so that it can be understood what happens with the church today on earth.  Verse 7 says “Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

He was cast to the earth, allowed to deceive the whole world.  His lies show up in the many denominations that liter the signs of the houses of God.  Divide and conquer seems to be his plan.    

Yet verse 10 says that there was a LOUD voice in heaven that said “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”  Praise God for the salvation and power we receive from Christ through salvation! 

Verse 11 continues saying, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”  God, the loud voice, clearly proclaimed that the only way to overcome Satan, the one that has been “cast to the earth”, is not by following a denominational law, not by assuring you attend a certain labeling of church.  It is “by the blood of the Lamb”, by your testimony of belief in Him. This is “salvation and strength” and “the power of His Christ”.

Friends, it’s not about what church you go to.  It’s about WHO you say He is. 

You can attend church, put your name on their roll book, and be there every time the doors are open.  You can read your Bible and pray daily and still die and be met with Hell.   Your works, regardless of how good and pure, are not good enough to earn salvation.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” It’s a gift. A gift cannot be earned, or then it would be a wage and not a gift.  It is His grace, by faith in Jesus that saves you from Hell.  The only way to overcome sin is accepting Christ as your savior through faith in Him.  It’s in trusting Him, that He is who He says He is, the resurrected Son of God.

Yet, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17).  You can’t believe in someone you’ve never heard of.  And it can be difficult to hear the word of God without attending church.  1 Corinthians 1:21 says that “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”  This is the primary value of attending church, hearing the message of the gospel. 

Church also gives strength to the believer through fellowship with other believers.  Hearing the word of God preached will makes us stronger in the word, past the point of justification from our sin, which is salvation.  We are to continue into sanctification, being purified by His word, Holy as Christ is Holy.

Choose the church you attend carefully, not based on the label on the sign, but on what is being preached.  Fill your heart with the truth of God’s word.  1 John 4 tells us to “test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  You will know the true churches of God by one thing: “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.”

It’s not about a denominational label.  It’s about a Family, undivided by walls of churches and legalism of denominations, and connected by belief in the Son, Jesus Christ.    

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”( 1 John 4:4)

What denomination am I?  None.  I’m a member of God’s Family.  Is that not enough?

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