….and we are His house if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. Hebrews 3:6
We cannot let go of what has been handed down to us through God’s Word and our most holy faith! There are so many competing voices, so many allegiances even in church circles today, that we need to know what we believe, why we were called and to what we have been called. One of the things that God has called us to, here at Westgate Chapel, is “prayer.”
Prayer is not man’s invention, but God’s creation in order that His people might be in an intimate, dependent, loving and passionate relationship with Him. God provided prayer as an instrument for that relationship and we partner with the sovereign purposes of a sovereign God best when we are surrendered to and moving in the priority of prayer.
I recently had a conversation about the condition of the Church in America today with a friend of mine, Dr. Steven Land, from the Church of God Seminary, in Cleveland, Tennessee. Dr. Land said that the New Testament Church in the book of Acts is not the Church of Jesus in its infancy.
He is convinced that the Church of Jesus, described in the book of Acts, is the Church in full-blown maturity. The Holy Spirit did not gradually seep into the Church. The Holy Spirit was poured into the Church. And with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit came an immediate baptism into the full maturity of the Church.
How do we know that the New Testament Church was fully mature at its inception?
Not because it was perfect!
Dr. Steven Land and Dr. Cheryl Johns, both from the seminary, have identified eight characteristics that describe a fully mature New Testament Church and found in Luke’s account of the church in Acts.
But before we get to those characteristics, it’s very important we understand that the outpouring of the Spirit was preceded by intentional, purposeful, anointed and passionate praying. The 120 disciples hadn’t just been aimlessly waiting around in Jerusalem for something to happen.
Then, when the Spirit was poured out, the eight characteristics of a mature New Testament Church that Dr. Land and Dr. Johns identified are the following:
- Authentic Worship – the crowd who witnessed this worship said they heard the Church “Declaring the mighty works of God” in their own tongue.
- Love for One Another – there was an immediate sense of unity and togetherness.
- High Commitment – they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, breaking of bread, fellowship and prayer. They had a commitment to the Lord and to one another.Unlike many churches in America today that preach low levels of commitment. The Church of Jesus in maturity has high levels of commitment to worship, studying the Word, to each other, to the power of God, to the presence of God. They “stay by the stuff.”
- Unity – the Bible says that those who believed were of one heart and one soul. There was a bond of unity.
- Fearless Preaching – read Peter’s first sermon to the crowds on Pentecost in Acts 2 beginning at verse 14. There is no political correctness there and no seeker sensitivity.
- Deep sense of conviction leading to true repentance – it’s a sign of maturity in the body of Christ when there’s deep conviction rather than sluffing off the Word of God, rather than believing the sermon or message is for someone else. All must respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit so that life producing repentance can follow. Oh Lord, restore that level of Holy Spirit conviction today!
- Signs & Wonders accompanied the preaching of the Word – filling all with a sense of awe, reverence and healthy fear of the Lord. We need that again back in the House of the Lord.
- They had an effective witness- “They were praising God, having favor with all the people and the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
God is looking for a New Testament Church today that moves under the impulse and power of the Holy Spirit through prayer. Is there really any other kind of church with which we would want to be a part?