A Reputation Worth Having (Part 4)
Romans 1:8, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.”
The last reason why the reputation of the church at Rome was worth having is that faith is the only thing that really matters in life. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is what ultimately matters. Knowledge is good, the Christian life is a life revolving around the pursuit of the knowledge of God. Good works are important; without good works there is really is no good and valid reason to believe that an individual is genuinely saved. In Galatians 5:22-23 we are given the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That is what we desire to see in our own personal lives and in the lives of other believers. But faith alone – faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – is essential. Hebrews 11:6 rightly says, “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Without faith in Jesus Christ no one can be justified.
The question that comes to my mind as I consider this is, do we have the spirit of the apostle Paul on this point? Is this really the way that we evaluate other Christian works and testimonies?
I don’t believe it is. We evaluate other works first on how big they are. We Americans love big things, don’t we? When we hear about a church that has ten, twenty, thirty thousand members, we are way more impressed than we are with a church with 50 members. I’m not against big churches. Big churches can and do, do some things that the little church of fifty just can’t do. I know of some wonderful mega churches that are based on strong expository preaching ministries. But we must not fall into the trap of thinking that having a lot of people attend is a sign of God’s blessing. And then also thinking that just because a church is small, they are not favored by God. What about the house churches in China? What about the small and struggling churches in the Muslim world? What about the small, faithful, rural church somewhere here in America? We may be thankful to God for numerical growth, but what we should really be thankful for is strong faith.
Is this what we modern Christians are known for, strong faith? Is our faith, like the faith of the church in Rome, spoken of throughout the world?
We also evaluate Christian work on the basis of how many programs they have and what kinds of programs they have. The more the better, the bigger the better! What’s even better is if the program is original and creative, then the people who created it can write a book about it. Please understand I am not against programs at all. Right programs that are done rightly are for the people and they minister to them. But is this the correct way to really evaluate a church? Do a plethora of programs prove God’s blessing? I seriously doubt that the little first century church in Rome had very many programs, at least not the kind we think of. But it was a well-known church – and rightly so. What was it known for? The one thing that is essential above all else, faith.
Is this what we are known for? Do people say of us, “Their faith is Christ and in God is so strong!?”
We also evaluate on the size of budgets and buildings. I’m not against either. Without adequate funding, many worthwhile Christian works cannot be done, and without adequate meeting spaces much important work is hindered. A proper concern for budgets and buildings is quite another thing from evaluating a work solely on the basis of how large the budget is or how spacious and modern the church building is. The church in Rome of Paul’s day probably just met in people’s houses; at other times we know that they met in the catacombs. Yet it was a church whose faith was known throughout the world.
Are we known for this? Or is the best or worst thing people can say about us is that we have a big budget and big building or that we have neither?
Faith is the most important thing, not how many members we have or the number and diversity of programs we have, not how big our budget is or isn’t, or the size and structure of our buildings. It is by faith that Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” John said in 1 John 5:4, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”
There are just a few things that I pray Sovereign Grace Community Church of the Yampa Valley will be known for. First of all, I pray that we will be known as a people who believe what God has told us in His Word and then actually try to live by what we have found in His Word. I pray that we will be known as a church of strong faith in Jesus Christ, where people speak often, lovingly, and fearlessly about Him. I pray that our church will be known for faith where God has placed us in His sovereign purpose, right here in the community of Craig Colorado and the Yampa Valley. I pray that we will demonstrate to our community that Jesus Christ is the answer to all our community’s problems and the problems of everyone that lives here. I pray that we will have a rock-solid faith, in adversity as well as in the good times, when we are praised and when we are persecuted.
That is my prayer for our church. I hope you will join me in that prayer.