Finding a True Church
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
God commands His people to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The “Sabbath Day” was changed by the Apostolic Church to the First Day, Sunday. The Church refers to every Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Each Lord’s Day is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a professing Christian will seek to find a local church in which to invest in the Kingdom and worship the King!
God’s command is addressed to believers in the Risen Lord Jesus. A genuine believer is one who has been born again by the Spirit of God working in concert with the Word of God. When God raises the spiritually dead, He makes him a new creation. As a new creation, He gives new desires. Believers have a desire to worship God. Therefore, a believer will desire to find a body of believers with whom he can worship God.
A believer is one who has been saved, is being saved and will be saved. The Bible details God’s order of salvation, Romans 8:28-30. First, God Effectually Calls a dead person to come to life. Second, the effect of His call is Regeneration. All men are born dead in sin. God must raise a sinner from death to life. This is what Jesus meant by being born again, John 3. Third, God converts a sinner to a saint. In conversion God gives two gifts. One is the gift of faith and the second is the gift of repentance. Those gifts are exercised by those who receive them. Fourth, the result of turning from sin and turning to Jesus is Justification. Justification is a legal term. God declares a sinner to be in right standing before Him only by the merit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God covers the sinner with the perfect life of Jesus Christ and transfers the sinner’s sin to Jesus. This is called double imputation. Fifth and following justification, God Adopts the sinner into His family. Those changed by God become heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven. Sixthly, after justification God begins His work of Sanctification. As Justification covers the sinner with perfect righteousness, Sanctification is God’s progressive work to make the sinner righteous from the inside out. In Sanctification, the sinner responds to God’s work in him. God promised to make us more and more like Christ. Seventh and finally, the end result of Sanctification is what is called Glorification. God promised to take us to glory. Every believer will be in glory in heaven. The comforting fact of glorification is that God sees us as already glorified. Notice Paul’s use of the past tense for all the verbs in Romans 8:30.
A Christian, one who is in Christ has been saved; is being saved and will be saved by God’s grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone. He desires to worship God with fellow Christians. This desire is an expression of God’s adoption. Christians demonstrate their desire for God within the visible church. Likewise, Christian fathers and mothers desire to teach their children the blessing of worshiping God.
Those in Christ gather to: praise God, pray to Him, and hear Him speak both in the reading and proclamation of Scripture. Thereby, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed.
Christians grow by participating in corporate worship. Therefore, finding a church in which one can grow in Christ requires knowing what constitutes a “true church.”
The Bible reveals three marks of a true church. The first is that the pure word of God is preached. The second is that the two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution. The third is that Church Discipline is exercised in accordance with God’s word.
Christians are often deceived by pragmatists and others who base supreme value on “what works” to grow in numbers. Christians too often seek churches with the right programs, or an age group of those of similar life circumstances. It sometimes seems that God-centered worship and ministry has fallen on “hard times”, especially in the American Evangelical Church. Worship has all too often been turned into entertainment with man at the center.
But, against man-centeredness stands a true church. May you intentionally seek a local church that is God-centered rather than man-centered. For God has ordained Christian growth in Christ through the ministry of a local church centered on Him.