God’s gospel work continues in the church through the process of ongoing gospel sanctification. In the “equipping” description of followers of Jesus, God brings humble believers into vital connection with other humble and dependent church members to establish Christ-centered and others-oriented hearts in the people of God at Nor’wood Bible Church.
God uses the truth of His word and the fellowship of God’s people, both empowered by the Holy Spirit, to transform the lives of His people. As the people of God grow in their understanding of sound doctrine and experience life in the fellowship of God’s people, their lives will produce evidence of godly character. The following verses show why a solid foundation of biblical truth is essential to gospel transformation.
John 17:14–17 “14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
Romans 12:1–2 “1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
2 Corinthians 3:17–18 (In the context of reading the Scripture, Paul makes the following point) “17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
James 1:22–25 “22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
Since the truth of the Bible is so important to gospel transformation, we desire to be a church that communicates biblical truth from the pulpit, in the classrooms, in small groups, and in the events associated with our church. We encourage our members to be involved in an annual Bible reading program and in our church’s Bible memory programs.
Realized in Intentional Relationships
It is critical to understand that it is not enough to simply learn about God and gain knowledge of the Bible. God desires the truth of His word to transform the lives of His people. When a believer is transformed or sanctified by the truth, the Holy Spirit brings about a humble awareness of changes that need to be made in attitude, motivation, and the action of applying biblical truth. God designed the application of biblical truth to occur in a context of active and intentional interaction among God’s people. Proper gospel transformation cannot be achieved through independent or isolated followers of Jesus (Proverbs 18:1).
Although the pulpit ministry is not designed to be interactive, the preaching of God’s word in the context of the congregation is important because truth can be shared corporately with directness and forthrightness in a manner things could not be shared in a small group or one-to-one (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Truth shared in this fashion can be used by the Holy Spirit to transform the hearts of God’s people as they are convicted of sin and pressed into Jesus for forgiveness and transformation. Biblical messages presented from the pulpit also become common points of conversation and application. This is encouraged through “Recap and App” times that take place in small groups. As biblical followers of Jesus share and interact with one another, the truths of Scripture being the foundation of that interaction, God uses this interaction to bring about gospel transformation.
Humility and Dependence
The spiritual growth process is energized by the vital connection of brothers and sisters in Christ as they care for and support one another by sharing in each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and spiritual giftedness. Our desire is to be a congregation where the power of God is sought through confession of sin, humble prayer for God’s grace, and the mutual ministry of God’s people. This will result in God’s grace being made evident through repentance and faith in the transforming promises of God’s word, which produces God-honoring fruit in the believer’s life. Healthy followers of Jesus are characterized by humility and dependence upon God and one another. Spiritual growth that produces comparative condemnation is not true spiritual growth. We must protect against fleshly pride and worldly arrogance!
Attentive to One Another
Just as gospel comprehension is a life-long process, gospel transformation is an ongoing process as well. As the process unfolds, believers will experience a variety of circumstances and situations in life. As a congregation, we need to develop corporate awareness and sensitivity to those in our realm of influence to help one another grow and develop as a church experiencing consistent gospel transformation. The following verses help us to understand that this is a responsibility and a blessing for every member of the church.
Ephesians 4:11-13 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…
1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Hebrews 3:12-13 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
1 Peter 2:4-5 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
We want to see our church produce intentional interaction to stimulate gospel transformation as we meet with one another at church, for fellowship, in small groups, for instructional courses, during retreats, at church events, and at outreach endeavors. When we meet together with hearts blessed with spiritual sensitivity toward one another, the following are areas in the lives of our brothers and sisters where we need to develop ongoing sensitivity.
When we meet with one another, our interaction will bring to light people in our midst that need help. As followers of Jesus walk the narrow path, there will be repeated times help is needed. It may be the need for insight from God’s word, encouragement to keep pressing on, or the prayerful advice of a fellow believer. We want to develop sensitivity to those among us who need help because God uses our needs to connect us to one another.
Because we live in a fallen world, there will always be times of heartache, pain, suffering, and sorrow. Those who follow Jesus go against the flow of this world and other religions. This can cause opposition and persecution for believers. Our role as a church is to provide loving support for the persecuted and hurting, communicating the faithfulness of our God and encouraging perseverance as God’s people go through the refining fires of suffering. Unfortunately, hardship and trial can become an opportunity for the flesh to manifest a self-centered attitude. When the people of God drop their guard, they need to be lovingly encouraged to address their selfishness and to trust God and the faithfulness of His promises. Sinful and selfish choices also cause problems. The best thing that can be done for people who are overtaken in sin is to approach them in a humble and loving manner, illuminate their sin in the light of biblical truth, encourage them to confess their sin, and return to the joy and satisfaction of obeying God.
The journey of walking with Jesus through life is not one where the achievement of perfection is possible but where consistency in a God-honoring direction is pursued. The church can help people consistently pursue God by encouraging devotion to biblical instruction, encouraging fellowship with God’s people, encouraging the consistent observance of communion, and encouraging the practice of prayer. This helps them keep their lives centered on the gospel. As we witness the grace of God enabling the steady improvement of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to affirm God’s grace in them through words of encouragement to them and prayers of praise to God for the fruit He is producing in the lives of His followers.
Our church needs to pray for gospel grace in our life-long process of sanctification. We believe this grace will be evidenced through the lives of believers that are mutually founded on biblical truth. This truth will give substance to the relationships we have in the church that are vital to our growth. These relationships must be characterized by humility and dependence on our Lord Jesus Christ and on one another. When this happens, we will be properly attentive to each other as we are empowered to love one another, support one another, and affirm God’s grace in one another’s lives.