Four Distinctives

- Jim Cottington

 

Towards the end of last year I preached a series of sermons on four distinctives of the church I am privileged to pastor. These are

 

1) The Importance of God’s Word.

2) We are a Pentecostal Church.

3) The importance of Israel and the Jew in God’s plans.

4) The Second Coming of Christ.

 

Of course there are other important distinctives but we felt that these are the main ones, which set Crawley New Life Church apart from many churches. At the encouragement of the editor, I am going to summarise the main points, in the hope it will encourage us all to remain faithful to these truths in an increasing apostate climate, as well as to stimulate our faith.

 

1) The Importance of God’s word.

 

There are two scriptures in the New Testament, which affirm that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God.

 

“….and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:15-16

 

“…knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20-21

 

In all matters of faith and practice the New Testament church has but one authority and that authority is the Bible, the very word of God. The biblical church holds fast to the word of God in spite of opposition. The compromising church alters the word of God because of opposition. It is quite possible that soon it will be illegal to preach from certain passages of the Bible, for example those dealing with human sexuality. Because of this, many will alter their theology to fit the culture while the biblical church will preach the word of God in spite of governmental fines, penalties, lawsuits and even serving time in jail.

 

A church that is being instructed in God’s word is not called to co-exist with this sinful society. We are called to confront it.

 

“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” Prov. 30:5-6.

 

“Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will by no means pass away.” Matt 24:35

 

Today’s remnant church must stand apart from the compromising, seeker friendly churches and be fellowships who love God’s word and whose lives are impacted by it.

 

2) Pentecostal in Practice.

 

Jesus said,

 

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” John 7:37, 38.

 

What did Jesus mean? John, the biblical author, went on to explain,

 

“By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” John 7:39.

 

Walking in the Spirit moment by moment is a lifestyle. It is learning to depend upon the Holy Spirit for His abundant resources as a way of life. Those who control their own lives never know the extreme joy of knowing God. Jesus said,

 

"Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me."

 

1. As we walk in the Spirit, we have the ability to live a life pleasing to God. (Galatians 5:16, 25)

2. As we walk in the Spirit, we experience intimacy with God and all He has for us. (Galatians 5:22, 23)

 

Faith (trust in God and His promises) is the only way a Christian can live by the Spirit. The essence of the Christian life is what God does in and through us, not what we do for God. Christ’s life is reproduced in the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is to be directed and empowered by Him. By faith, we experience God’s power through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16, 17).

 

We are of no use without the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Christianity without the Holy Spirit in it is a shell, a beautiful form, but lifeless, dead. Only God, the Holy Spirit, can produce the spark that quickens -- the flame that kindles. "It's not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit".

 

Superficial or Supernatural?

A true Pentecostal Church is where the community of believers is dead to sin and alive in the Spirit. The question is are we walking in divine power and authority? We are either in Christ dominating the darkness or the darkness is dominating us. We are either winning the battle or losing. We can’t fool God. We can’t fool the devil.

 

3) An Understanding of God’s Plan for Israel and the Jew

 

The Scriptures are quite clear that among all the nations in the world, God chose Israel as the one He would work with. This was the nation that God delivered out of slavery in Egypt, the nation to whom God gave the land of Canaan, and the nation through whom would come Jesus, the Messiah. Was there something special about these people unlike others? Amazingly, God sovereignly chose to love Israel because of their weaknesses, in order to demonstrate this principle: His grace according to His promise is sufficient for any person to trust in, for his grace is made perfect in His power. Israel was chosen: to be God’s instrument of love expressed to the entire world. This blessing of love and grace would be ultimately personified in Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham, Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world Genesis 12:1-3.

 

God’s purpose in choosing Israel was for them to be a model nation to other nations and that through them “all the families of the earth” would be blessed. He wanted Israel to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Other nations would see that when the Israelites obeyed God, they were blessed (verse 5), and when they disobeyed God, they would be punished (Deuteronomy 28).

 

The prophet Jeremiah spoke of a time to come when Israel would serve the Lord their God and Christ their Messiah. God continued and said, Jeremiah 30:10-11 “Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,' says the Lord, 'Nor be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar, And your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you,' says the Lord, 'to save you; though I make a full end of all nation  where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished.” God is not done dealing with Israel. Israel still has a part in God’s divine plan for the remainder of time. The church is not Israel, and Israel is not the church. Christians are not the “new Israel”, and God has not forsaken the Jewish people. The church has not replaced Israel. Do read Jeremiah 23:5-8. Israel has a glorious future centered in the kingdom of the Messiah.

 

4) The Second Coming of Christ

 

One only has to read a newspaper or watch the news in order to see Bible prophecy being fulfilled. There have been more prophecies fulfilled in the last 100 years than in any other time in church history. A most notable one is the return of the Jews to their own land. The time is rapidly approaching for the Lord Jesus Christ to return to this earth and take the kingdoms of this world for Himself. There are more promises and more prophesies concerning the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, than there are of His First Coming? While there are three hundred prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the First Coming of Jesus Christ, there are five hundred prophecies in the Old Testament, that have to do with His second coming! The New Testament is packed with information and prophesies that have to do with Jesus returning to the earth! In the New Testament, one out of every twenty five verses has to do with the second coming of Jesus Christ. If Jesus fulfilled everyone of the three hundred prophesies pertaining to His first coming, we can be sure that He will do the same with the prophesies affecting to His second coming!

 

The main theme of the Bible is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the main subject is the Kingdom that His Father has promised Him. There are many Bible prophecies that speak of this coming King and Kingdom. (Jer. 23:5) “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. Such Old Testament verses as these state very clearly that God intends to set the Lord Jesus Christ up as King over the earth. There have been many kings to rise and fall throughout history, but God has in mind a PERFECT King for His promised Kingdom.

 

Coming to the New Testament we find that God still has this Kingdom very much in mind. John the Baptist came preaching that this Kingdom was at hand in Matthew 3:2, and Jesus also preached this message when He began to preach (Mat. 4:17). From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Christianity" without teaching of the Second Coming is a very selfish religion, for it robs Jesus Christ of all God's precious promises to Him. The teaching and preaching of the Second Coming is essential, because it speaks of God's righteous King returning to this earth and taking what rightfully belongs to Him. Christians should be rejoicing! The Lord Jesus Christ, the Captain of our Salvation will soon return to this earth and set things in order and we can be on the winning side!

 

Jesus came the first time! The whole world marks time by it! It happened, just as promised! It will be the same with the second coming of Christ! We must be prepared! Serve Jesus while we can!

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