“Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” (Hebrews 13:1-3)
This week at Beckwith, we started a book study, a new event for our church! The book we are going through is called Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom S. Rainer. It is a book that takes a hard look at how your church operates and offers suggestions and discussion questions to make your church more inviting to visitors. Like I mentioned, this was the first time we have tried anything like this, and by any other standards, it probably would have been viewed as a failure--in a church with over 120 active members on the role, only 10 people showed up; however, sitting there with these nine other people, I saw a great future for the church.
Age and gender varied with this group. There was an almost equal number of males and females, and the ages ranged from a 12-year-old to people in their sixties, with every decade in between represented (don’t worry, I won’t share actual ages for those who came). Educational and work backgrounds were also different amongst the ten of us, and that brought ten different perspectives that all contributed to the conversation. We had an hour of great discussion about where the church was and where it could be.
When Jesus began his ministry as an adult, he initially chose twelve disciples to follow him and learn his teachings. From these twelve disciples (or apostles), following the teachings of Jesus, Christianity spread throughout the region and eventually, over many years, throughout the world. Those twelve apostles were not perfect people--Peter denied and Thomas doubted, and Judas betrayed them all--but they all had a role to play in God’s plan, and that is why I am able to write this blog today and to be able to say that I have been saved by God’s grace. The work those few put in made all the difference.
Now, I am not saying that a book study comprised of ten people will have the impact on the world Jesus and his apostles did by any means, but I am suggesting that, even though the number is small, the local impact can be great. If those ten people each tell one person to read the book, and that person tells one person, and it happens one more time after that, suddenly, eighty people have been impacted by this book study! All of this because of the work of ten people.
To the brothers and sisters who attended the book study, thank you for coming. Just working our way through the introduction brought up so many great ideas! To those who messaged saying you were not able to attend, it is understandable. Life can be busy at times, and family is important. We do hope to see you next Tuesday though! And for those who either didn’t want to come or didn’t know about the book study, try it out. You don’t have to pay for the book, and I’m even bringing cookies this week. Even if it is the same ten people, or even nine though, that means there are nine people who are wanting to work for the Lord and make our church an even more inviting place, and that makes me grin from ear to ear!
The Book Study of Beckwith meets every Tuesday at 5:30 pm from Sept. 25 through Oct. 30. Everyone is welcome to attend, and a book will be provided if you come!
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:12-17)
I was speaking with someone the other day about God and salvation, and the statement was said, “I am not good enough to be saved.” I responded with “You’re absolutely right!” You see, in Romans 3:23, we read that “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The fact of the matter is that none of us are good enough to be saved.
Paul is a great example of this. In the scripture above, Paul talks about his past. Before Paul was saved (while he was still known as Saul), he tormented Christians. By his own admission, in Galations 1:13-14, Paul writes, “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” Paul was intent on destroying Christianity because of the zealotry he had for Judaism, including destroying the very people who were spreading this “new” religion. In fact, after Paul had been saved and started going to meet with other disciples in Jerusalem, those disciples questioned as to whether he had really been saved. Talk about not feeling like you’re good enough! Paul had more reasons than not to feel that way.
The fact of the matter is, as it was mentioned before, none of us are “good” enough to be saved. That went out the window when Adam and Eve both ate the fruit in the Garden of Eden. If salvation were based on works, we would all be hellbound, because there is no way our good works could ever outweigh our bad ones. Thankfully, like Paul, we have the opportunity to be redeemed in spite of that.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
If the case against works wasn’t clear enough, these verses in Ephesians makes it even more plain. Salvation is by grace through faith, and that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t have anything to do with us other than we are receiving salvation from God. It’s also important to note that works of another man can’t save you either. Salvation is between you and God, and ONLY you and God. It’s your own prayer, your own experience, and no one else can save you or pray through to God for you.
Now, if you’re wondering when this happens, it happens after you have felt conviction--a burden (heavy feeling) on your heart. Once this happens, all you have to do is humble yourself and pray for God to save you. If you will humble yourselves, then He will save you. That’s not a work: it’s turning everything over to God. Once you have that complete trust, you will receive salvation, and it is like a sweet peace that envelops you and replaces the burden you had.
The best part about all this is the salvation experience I have been talking about is available to everyone! You are not “too bad” to be saved; salvation is offered for everyone who is willing to humble themselves. That’s the hard part though. Pride is a hard thing to overcome. Paul didn’t realize the true path of salvation until he heard Stephen preaching as he was being stoned to death. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, Paul (as Saul) ordered that execution to happen.
You have an opportunity right now. Forget about what you’ve done in the past. Forget about all the things that don’t make you good enough. If, after reading this, you realize that you haven’t been saved, you have an opportunity to make an altar (start praying) and humble yourself, and God WILL save you. Doing this could make the difference between an eternity of paradise or damnation. Where does your heart stand with God?
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Two days ago, posts were all over social media in recognition of the 17th anniversary of the terror attack on September 11th. Seventeen years ago, people came into the United States and attacked us, killing thousands, because of our way of life and our ideals, including the religious freedoms granted to us by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The days following September 11th were some of the most inspiring moments, especially for a sixth grader like me. The entire country came together, not divided by race or politics: a truly united America. In addition to all this, the country turned to God during this time of tragedy.
Beckwith Missionary Baptist was no exception to this. In the time of mourning, we chose to meet the next evening (a Wednesday) for a prayer vigil in memory of those who passed away, those who were missing, and the families of those affected by the attacks. (A brief history note: that was the beginning of our weekly Wednesday night services.) That was a very spiritual night: we even had people join the church as a result.
As I was reminiscing about all of these events and the current state of our nation and world, it made me realize how blessed we are to be living in America. I don’t know if you’re aware or not, but the same rights we often take for granted are not available to the rest of the world. In China, for example, over the past few months churches have been getting shut down if they don’t have specific licenses from the country. Thousands of church-going people are having their opportunity to worship as an assembly taken away from them, yet we (and I am definitely included) have trouble making it to church twice a week because we would rather sleep in or we can’t “fit it in our schedule.”
That’s not okay.
As Christians in America, we have a great opportunity to live out the lives God intended for us to live. In the scripture above from Hebrews, we should not “forsake the assembling of ourselves.” When we gather together to worship, learn, and fellowship, we give ourselves the opportunity to grow spiritually, which is important for all Christians. It gives us a support base: a group of people who can encourage us and “provoke [us] unto love and good works.”
Let’s take advantage of the opportunities we have. Go to church on Sundays and whenever there are other events! Hang out with your fellow church members, and study your Bible and pray! The early church did this, and reading Acts 2, we can see the results when we do those things. I’ll leave you with that passage of scripture:
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
Bro. Lain Tomlinson is the Youth Director at Beckwith Missionary Baptist Church. He was called to preach in October 2015 and has preached all over middle Tennessee and Texas since then.