Let’s Think Transition, Part 3: Spiritual Posturing for Re-Gathering the ChurchUncategorized Neal Thornton
Greetings Church family!
Welcome back! We are pleased to announce a return to live worship gatherings for the month of June. It’s been a long swim, but we’re crossing this river together. Thank you for your faithfulness and flexibility.
Your pastors and deacons prayerfully discussed a plan to safely re-gather our church. Options were presented, medical professionals were consulted, and with a unanimous decision, a plan was established. Each Sunday we will hold two identical services: 9:30am and 6:00pm. If you consider yourself to be at high risk, let us encourage you to worship with us from home. The 9:30am service will be live-streamed and later posted to our website available on demand. Be sure to check out the sermon discussion guide as well.
For the safety of all, please note that Sunday school and childcare will not be provided during the month of June. Weekly groups are encouraged to meet in homes or alternate locations. Please see our main landing page at coatsbaptist.com for a complete list of details.
As a simple courtesy, members of our congregation will likely receive a phone call this week from one of our deacons, who will outline our reopening plan and help with any questions you may have. To ensure everyone gets the news they need, I’ll be sending a personal letter to our congregation. Be sure to watch for it in the mail.
Now for the main point of this post. Let me show my cards up front: I’m praying for revival. I’m praying that June 2020 is a spiritual marker in the life of Coats Baptist Church. May it be a Holy Spirit saturated month of corporate worship gatherings. No, not spooky, but holy. Let me explain.
Gathered to Worship
Coats Baptist has a re-gathering plan. I’m grateful for that plan. But as much as we love a good plan, it’s quite easy to stress the mechanical and neglect the spiritual. We must keep in mind that we are re-gathering for a purpose. We are coming together for worship. It is a worship gathering for which we have planned. God’s people are not called to simply be in the same room together. There are no gold stars for setting foot in the building. We know this. Instead, God’s people are called to gather for God.
The worship of God is an innately spiritual event. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). God cannot be worshipped without the aid and empowerment of the Spirit. Jesus is making a bold claim: only Christians can truly worship God. It is only the Christian who has been indwelt by the Spirit at their conversion (1 Cor. 12:13) and sealed by the Spirit for the day of their redemption (Eph. 1:13). In short, the Christian has been saved to worship.
Filled by the Spirit
But the New Testament never calls the Christian to be indwelt by the Spirit. That’s a package deal with salvation. However, Scripture does call us to be filled by the Spirit. To be indwelt refers to the believer’s position in Christ, but to be filled refers to their condition in Christ. The filling of the Spirit is separate and distinct from the once for all time indwelling of the Spirit that accompanies the Spirit’s regenerating work of new birth (John 3:3, 6, 8; Titus 3:5).
That is a significant point we need not miss: Christians can be indwelt by the Spirit because of their conversion, but not filled with the Spirit. We therefore, striving to obey Scripture (Eph. 5:18), seek to be filled by the Spirit. We consciously pursue holiness (Heb. 12:14), yield to the Spirit’s will (Acts 16:6-7), and posture towards the good bearing of fruit as the apostle Paul outlines in Galatians 5:22-23, “the fruit of the Spirit is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” And lest we miss Paul’s point earlier in the passage, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). We are to live Holy Spirit incarnate lives. We are to live in such a way as to not “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 4:30) but to invite him into his habitable home (1 Cor. 6:19). A life filled by the Spirit is marked with fruit, noticed by all and seen from afar. It is a life pleasing to God, and one that he delights to use in special and sovereign ways.
Our Great Need
Why do I make such an emphatic point? Revival is our great need, and revival comes on the backs of Spirit-filled Christians. In other words, I am personally persuaded that Spirit-filled Christians make for Spirit-filled churches. The revived church brings glory to God and attracts a dying world to life in Christ. Bottom line: God will do corporately what he cannot do with us as individuals. That’s how God’s economy works. He seeks to control us as a people, to meet with us as a corporate body, to own the service, to give his bride the clean presence and power of Christ the bridegroom.
Spirit-filled churches make themselves attractive to the Spirit by giving themselves to those common lanes by which the Spirit typically descends: importunate and sacrificial prayer, corporate holiness, and expository preaching. In short, Christ-centered prayer, piety, and preaching create a conducive environment for the Spirit to dwell. Such worship events make for a spiritually vigorous corporate worship that can be found at no other time and place. Lightning only strikes in the most intense thunderstorms. Or if you’d like another analogy, we put our sails in the air and ask God to send the wind of his Spirit. We will not have true success void of the Spirit’s attendance in our lives and in our church.
Prayer for Revival
In the later years of the nineteenth century from the pulpit of London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, Charles Haddon Spurgeon prayed these words,
At this time also, great Father, will you visit this church with Your great favor; and as You have abounded toward us these many years in blessing, so give us now some new token, some fresh visitation for good. Lord, You have not always given summer weather to the field of nature, but spring comes on and summer returns. Oh, give us summer weather as a church. May there be a great revival of religion in all the members, and especially in the minds of such as are growing cold or indifferent to holy things. Wherever there is any laxity of life, any slight holding of precious truth; wherever there is anything of sin which our eye sees not, but which Your eye detects, be pleased to put it away. Fill the whole church with unity, with love, with life, and with power.[i]
Revival is a corporate event. It is a spiritually sovereign event. Man cannot drum up what only God can send down. With sails in the air, we pray for wind. May the coming re-gathering together of Christians of Coats Baptist Church attract the Spirit of Christ and empower us to truly worship.
How will we know revival has come? When we see these four fingerprints of the Spirit: Unity, Love, Life, and Power. I’ll be preaching a four-week series starting June 7 entitled, “The Spirit-filled Church.”
See you Sunday. Let’s go sailing!
[i] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Pastor In Prayer: A Collection of the Sunday Morning Prayers of Charles Spurgeon, (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2019), 109.