The Church (for the True Believer)

By Steven Shaw 

Inspiration and summaries from “Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem

Definition: The church is the community of all true believers for all time. Those who are truly saved. In Eph. 5:25 Paul writes, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her“. Christ died to redeem his chosen people, the church. Eph, 1:22-23 “He has put all things under his feet and made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Jesus has called us to him. We are called to be a worshiping assembly before him. God thought of his people as the church from the start. In Deut. 4:10 The Lord said to Moses “Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live upon earth…” Stephen speaks of the people of Israel in the wilderness as “the church“. Acts 7:38, “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give us.” Hebrews 2:12, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” In Ephesians 2:14-16 it says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that might he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” Do you see the importance of unity with each other? Christ doesn’t want us to just be friends or just “nice” to each other. He calls us to be one. So bonded and connected through Christ that there is no division in us. Throughout all of scripture God has always called his people to assemble to together to worship himself.

As a fellowship of true believers, the church is invisible. This is because you can’t see the spiritual condition of people’s hearts. We can see people who attend “church”. We can see outward evidence of inward spiritual change. But we cannot see into people’s hearts and view their spiritual state, only God can. Paul says in 2 Tim. 2:19 “The Lord knows those who are his.” And there is no fooling him. The invisible church is the church how God sees it. On the other hand, the true church certainly has a visible aspect as well. The visible church is the church as Christians on earth see it. In this sense the visible church includes all who profess faith in Christ and give evidence of that faith in their lives. If you call yourself a christian, i’d check your heart and thoughts when it comes to the body of Christ aka the church. Matthew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from from thornbushes, or fig from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree connote bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” We can fight the importance of being actively involved in a church family till we’re blue in the face. But its clear in scripture that its an important and necessary part of the true Christians life.

In the New Testament the word “church” may be applied to a group of believers at any level. It can range from a very small group meeting in a private home all the way to the group of all true believers in the universal church. Meaning every true believer over all the world in all time. The community of God’s people considered at any level can be rightly called a church. But that’s not an excuse to meet with a friend once a month and talk about God and call it your church. A real church is part of your daily life. As you are being washed everyday in Christ’s word and being guided by the Holy Spirit in all you do. Your church family is actively strengthening, guiding, sharpening and loving you. As well as you daily loving, serving, giving of yourself and blessing others with your gifts. Paul said in Col. 1:28 that his own goal was not simply to bring people to initial saving faith but to “present every person mature in Christ“. He told the church in Ephesus that God gave the church gifted persons “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” Eph. 4:12-13. Our goal as a church isn’t just to bring people to initial saving faith but present them to God as “mature in Christ” Col. 1:28.

Are you doing your part? Not as to earn your own salvation. But having such a love of Christ’s mercy and love that it is exploding from your very being. Or are you a young christian that thinks this is all for older people? You’ll worry about it when you’re older. Or are you married with kids and think you have no time for anything else in your life? Or you’re a bible reader but still immature in your faith because you are left to your own interpretations with no refinement. That’s a dangerous place to be. Or you might just be older and stubborn, been part of some bad church experiences and have convinced yourself that church is not needed. If what has been written in the bible isn’t convincing you than I doubt anything i’ve written or summarized will change your mind. But I will be prayer for you. God knows your heart. He knows what and why you aren’t involved in advancing his kingdom. And one day he will ask you “what have you done with what I gave you?” I hope you can answer confidently, “I have been forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ. I have been made clean and have been adopted into Your house. I lived my life in surrender to you because of your grace and mercy. With the Holy Spirit I ran the good race and strived to make disciples of all people. With the power of the Spirit in me I helped your chosen people hear your word and lives were saved“. Or are you living for yourself? How’s that working out for you? Find a true church. A bible teaching faithful church. Don’t search for perfection because you won’t find it. It’s a family. Families are messed up. But you strive to keep and grow those relationships. You do your part that God has given you to do. I don’t mean to sound harsh in all this but this is real stuff. This is life and death. Please contact me with any questions.

Closing.

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the bible, read Gospel saturated books by good authors, read commentaries on the bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and his glory. Love you all!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Music www.TheShawsMusic.com

Podcast www.MisfitMinistry.com

Instagram @fitbeard @fitcore @theshaws

 

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My Testimony (A Sinner Saved by Grace)

By Steven Shaw 

Ephesians 2:1-10

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I didn’t have this blog proofread like I usually do because I wanted it to be me, faults and all. Hope you enjoy.

The Beginning:

I grew up in Santa Ana Ca. Raised in a “Christian” home. I remember enjoying my childhood. Not too much drama in the early years that I can recall. When I hit the 6th grade my mom and dad started having issues (that I remember). All I really remember in those days was, when my dad got home there would be nothing much but arguing. Looking back I knew God had a hand of protection over me. I should be way more messed up than I am. I knew God was real from a young age. I knew He was the One distracting me with other things such as body surfing, music, and friends, instead of being overly affected by my home situation. Thank You, Jesus.

A Change:

My parents got divorced and in many ways, I was relieved because I knew the drama would stop. My mom was leaving and my sister and I were staying with dad. I was very excited about that as my mom was the main reason for the drama (I love you mom, if you ever read this, just telling the story as I saw it). I was always close to my dad and now I knew I would thrive in our relationship. However, I did start to act up and started doing bad things around this time. Looking back it was my expected reaction from years of unhealthy family life. My dad got married a couple years later to a Christian woman who really brought me back to the right mindset. I was able to find Christian music (metal) to help me on my path, and learning how to play guitar was a huge thing for me to bury myself in while I was dealing with these changes in life.

High School:

In high school, I started playing music (metal) every second I could. I was playing a lot of shows with my band, Warpath and life was good. My dad started playing bass in our band and it was a wonderful time for us. I was going to Saddleback Church when it was still in tents and played with the worship band here and there. I had a girlfriend for most my high school years. I brought her to church and she became a believer (missionary dating is not recommended). I had made a vow that I’d save myself until marriage and stayed true to that at that point.

Sin City:

I graduated High school (barely). Do to music and gig opportunity we all moved to Vegas. Me, My dad, my sister, and my drummer/best friend and our other friend/roadie. Vegas is where the real problems began. They don’t call it sin city for nothing. About 6 months of being in Vegas my girlfriend and I were planning our next stage of life. She would move to Vegas and we’d go from there. We knew we would get married and due to that, we decided not to save our selves anymore. We would give ourselves to one another. We broke up 3 months later. This is when everything started going downhill.

The Plunge:

I had a girlfriend the next day. Ya, things had just begun. I still knew there was a God and “loved” Him but church was my only source of conviction and I wasn’t going. I had never read more than a chapter or two from the bible in my life. I knew God was real in my heart but hated reading. I lived an infant Christian life for 30 years. God always kept me close and kept me more protected than I deserved. I could have done a lot worse. I’m not bragging about my sin, I am telling you that as I was a filthy rebel against God, He was still showing me grace and mercy. Not allowing me to plunge as deep as I could have.

Living in Sin:

Over the next 4 years, the band had virtually died.  My Dad started doing his own thing and our drummer moved back to Cali. Me, all the while living a life of sin. I bounced from job to job, girl to girl and moved back and forth from Vegas to Cali. I Spent months at a time in each place. I had no obligations and no responsibilities, I just moved around, girls and drink was my drive. But of course, things must progress. I was introduced to meth and things changed. Now first let me explain. I don’t have an addictive personality (Thank God!) so this isn’t a wild testimony of my recovery from drugs and alcohol. I would do it every couple months to go have a wild and crazy night that would last 24 hrs and then It would take 3 days to feel normal again. I would do it every few months cause I hated that down feeling. But in those times, I experienced the darkest places, not only in the people I was around or the places I went but seeing and knowing the evils inside of me. These things have changed me forever. Even after forgiveness and grace, there are consequences for my actions. It’s a day to day, moment by moment dying to self and living for Christ battle. Anyway, I’m jumping ahead. I wish this was the end of the sin.

Things Get Scary:

I got engaged and moved to Seattle (to a girl I met in Vegas). I enrolled into the army after not being able to find a steady job and now having to take care of her and her baby from a previous marriage, it was the only way I thought I could provide for my soon to be family. She worked and provided for us most the time, I was kind of a stay at home dad, It was a weird time. A few months pass and we brake up, so I move to new Mexico where my dad and sister had lived. We have family there and we were all pretty unstable at this time, close to family seemed good. Plus, I didn’t want to stay with my ex for the last month before I shipped out to the army. So I moved to New Mexico. A small town with very small town mentality. Corrupt cops, bad people and lots of drugs. So what to do? Girls and drugs. But now add gangs, cops, and crazy people. I can’t go into detail about what happened, but basically, we had cops hunting us out, not because we had done anything wrong other than expose their corruption. We all moved shortly after that. Dad and sister moved back to Vegas and I moved back to Cali. I had dropped out of the army while I was in N.M. because I realized I didn’t have all the responsibility that I had with my ex. So off to Cali I went.

The Conviction:

I remember driving back from New Mexico, while I was passing Vegas, and it hit me. I remember hearing God speak to me. He said “What are you doing? Why this life? Don’t you see the things you’ve done?” In a flash, I saw the last 5 years and all the evils I did, saw, though, and spoke. The feeling I had was convicting but more than anything it was love. I felt like a child who had just got caught doing something really bad and can do nothing but run into his father’s arms and weep. I wept and wept for hours, my soul was being cleansed.

Back to Cali:

I’m back and fully ready to do things right. But when the tears had dried, it was really easy to be the filthy rag I was previously. I fell back a bit. Not drugs, just girls, but with a new restraint. I wasn’t as wild. I had gotten to the point of not caring before, and now I had some control. But sinning it was, none the less. Why? Because I still was not reading the bible. Not being washed with the Word every day. I was back in church and yes playing on the worship team but still trying to do good out of my own efforts. That’s never a good idea. We have no power outside of Jesus.

The Forgiveness:

I went with some guys from my church to a worship conference. I was never a big “raise my hands, sing along, be all into the worship band” type person (I’m still not). I was usually busy judging the music (I still struggle with this). But halfway through, God called out to me. This time it was nothing but love, no conviction, just love. As my hands (involuntarily, at least seemed that way) raised to heaven and I begin to cry my heart out (and singing), I felt for the first time forgiven of my past. God completely took my shame and guilt. I heard Him say “Stop holding on to this, let me take it, give it to Me.” I felt such a burden lifted from me that night. I can’t write this or ever talk about it without getting teary. It was the most powerful thing that had to happen to me. I really tried to live right after that. Still not reading my bible but much more involved with church and bible studies. At least I was getting more of Gods word in my soul other than just Sunday mornings. I had sworn off dating/girls cause I knew that was a problem for me.

Lauren King: Now “Shaw”

No more than 3 months of no girls I felt myself starting to need that again. But I knew myself and did not want to slip up again. But God, still having mercy on me, had other plans. I was helping my friends move and paint their new place late one night. It was a weeknight and I wanted to go home cause I had work the next morning. No one talks me into things, if I don’t want to go I don’t go. But somehow they talked me into going to this little 24hr diner across the street from their place. We walked in and I saw this brunette facing away from me and I just knew she was beautiful (I had a trained eye at this point). We walked past her, thinking of sitting in the back of the diner. At this point, I can see her face and we make eye contact…Wow, better than I could have imagined. My friends point to the back of the diner to sit and I immediately protest. They look curious, and ask me why? Then they see the very reason. They knew me, and so they giggle and say “ok” with an eye roll,”we can sit over there”. “Over there” being the booth right beside hers. We sit for a little while and I peak my head into her booth and introduce myself. She’s sitting with a friend so I meet them both. We make small talk, she says she’s 18 and a Christian (i’m 24 at this time). She asks about my “Godly tattoos” and I go back to my booth. Lauren goes to the bathroom a couple minutes later and I ask her friend if she’s single? With the answer “yes” I was oh so excited. But at the same time, I was thinking to myself “what are you doing? You aren’t getting back into all this!”. Lauren came back and I asked for her phone number. I couldn’t resist. She gives it to me and I call her the very next day (I don’t play games). The conversation went great but it turns out she’s 17 and later found out she was saving herself for marriage. This was all out of my comfort zone, but having beautiful friends is never a bad thing :). She was turning 18 in 2 months and I wouldn’t try to take her purity away from her anyway, so figured we are good to go. God knew what He was doing. Now I’m in love with a girl I have to be “good” with. So we develop our relationship deeply over the next 2 years, we got married and I can’t believe I married a girl that surpassed everything my made up “dream girl” had. She is way more than I expected or deserve. We have been together 13 years and married 11. She is the biggest blessing from God in my life (other than grace of course).

Fitcore:

I’ve bounced around to just about every job, and have hated all of them. I am a musician, an artist by heart and mind. I hated school and the second it was over, school was over. College wasn’t a second thought (as in no). So there I was with my life going well, married to my dream girl and no money, but we survived just fine. Living in a 500 sq foot appt, we still had a blast, but still no money. Through this, Lauren never once gave me a hard time or expressed worry about our future. She quietly prayed for me. She prayed that I would find something I was passionate about and could make a good living for us and our hopefully growing family. All this without me knowing. I was working at the bank for about a year after a couple years of marriage, and it was not my thing but it seemed like a good place to grow. A year in, I was over it. At this point in life, I was always working out and had a love of fitness. It really was my only other passion. One day I realized “why am I not doing something with this?” I created business cards and started handing them out to the bank clients. Little by little I got calls and referrals and word of mouth grew and grew. Another year later and I’m working 16 hr days because I was working at the bank while training people before and after work. Finally, I take the leap and quit the bank. My clients picked up and I was busy all day doing what I love. I’m all of a sudden a businessman. Marketing, networking, growing, designing and making connections. It was really weird to me but we but great and we’re happy. After about a year of Fitcore on its own, Lauren revealed that she had been praying for me, I was amazed, it totally made sense, I felt that gift from God. He literally gave me a drive in my heart and head and said: “now go”. It took off and He has sustained it for over 10 years. Everyone knows Fitcore and I have only God to thank! Read my blog about my Vistaprint commercial here. 

Fitcore.net if you are interested 🙂

Christian for 30 Years and a Follower of Jesus for 7 Years: 

I wanted to share this with whomever cared enough to read it because a lot of you didn’t really know my story. My wretched past and forgiven present. I labeled this section accordingly because all this time of “believing in God” with all my own effort in life wasn’t doing the trick. My life was not focused on Christ as it should be. As Lauren and I started serving more at our church we finally got the opportunity to lead music every Sunday night at our Sunday night service. With the inspiration from all my friends I served beside each week I really felt the responsibility and desire to start reading my bible and grow in the knowledge of this God that I have loved for so long. But I hated reading and have never read a full book in my life at this point. Pathetic I know. So I start listening to the bible from my bible app every day, I thought this would do the trick. But a few weeks into this I finally got myself an ESV bible and began to read. I’ve attempted this a few times in life and have never made it past the first 15 chapters of Genesis. But this time I felt the drive. I began to read and as I read through the O.T. (Old Testament) It hits me! The bigness of God, the grace of God, the wrath of God, the law of God and so many other attributes of God that I’ve never really even thought about. Realizing that the God of the O.T. is the same God in the N.T. (New Testament). That is both scary and awesome. As the months pass and now I’m diving into the Bible every day as much as I can, my heart, soul, mind, everything about me comes to life. I’ve been doing this wrong for 30 years! Knowing some stories of the Bible, knowing truths and facts from the bible was great but nothing like reading the whole story and how it all comes together and how it all points to Jesus. I started the Bible in May of 2012, I finished in May of 2013. I didn’t follow a reading plan, I just read as much as I could every day. Not as an obligation or out of trying to please God but because my soul yearned for it. The more I read the more I wanted to read. Not only was I reading through the bible but I finished about 5 other gospel-centered books that year as well. I was Just thirsty for truth. Thirsty for God. Now I am so excited to share the love of Jesus with everyone, it changed me in every way, and God has blessed me with so much creativity to write music for our church since then. Not only music but a completely different style of music I’ve never written before. In a year I’ve written and or re-written over 60 songs to bless His people and glorify His name. I have over 80 songs online now at www.theshawsmusic.com. And I’m still going. I’m not boasting of my talents by any means. I’m telling you I know for a fact that all this is from God. He’s opened my eyes to His truth through His word and I’ll never be the same. Only the power of God could have changed me. (It’s now been 7 years now and God continues to blow my mind with His gifts and graces in my life)

Everyday:

One of my biggest passions now is helping other Christian and non-christian people understand the importance of diving into the bible every day. It’s a daily death to self and life through Christ. The word of God has power, it’s not just a book. It’s not just a bunch of stories, but it is, in fact, the Word of God. It changed me and continues to change me each day. I’ve started reading it over again and I will continue to re-read it my entire life. And oh how wretched I am when I’m not daily reading and surrendering my life to Christ. It just reassures what a dirtbag I am on my own. It’s not a once and for all thing. Christ’s work is done and our salvation has been bought by Him for those who believe, but our striving for Him isn’t done. Not a “one-time prayer” thing. It’s a fully surrendered life, it’s a moment by moment sacrifice through the power of the Holy Spirit alone. If you proclaim the name of Jesus than you need to be reading His word. It’s the only way to know that God you claim to love. God is only silent if your bible is closed. It’s not out of “good deeds” it’s out of living through His power and not your own. Left to our own power we fail miserably. Trust me I know. Use the bible so you can discern between false teachers and theology sound teachers. OK, now I’m just getting preachy. I’m done. Thank you for reading!

Glory be to God!

Music www.TheShawsMusic.com

Podcast www.MisfitMinistry.com

Instagram @fitbeard @fitcore @theshaws