If you're new to this church, you may be watching all the activity, the buzz of special groups and programs, people rushing here and there, unfamiliar names and labels ... it can get a little overwhelming.
You may find yourself wondering silently, What's this all about?
What's the point?
If you peel back all the trappings and wrappings, you'll eventually come down to four simple truths at the core of the Assemblies of God. You may hear them referred to as our cardinal doctrines. They weave in and through all the teaching, music, preaching, discussions... everything we do. In a thousand different ways and formats, we're focusing on these facts. All the many activities revolve around them.
Before you read on, it's important that you know where we got these beliefs. We didn't think them up on our own. They come straight-on from the world's all-time bestseller, the Bible. While some people these days say the Bible is mystifying or even worthless, we find it to be a wealth of wisdom and insight. The longer we study it, the more impressed we are with what God has given humanity in this book. In fact, we trust it so much that we believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, containing His very thoughts and ideas for mankind. It is in essence a map for the way we should live. That's why you'll find these four truths at the very core of our message and everything we say and do as a church.
What's at the heart of the Assemblies of God?
First, and most important ...
1. Ordinary, regular, not-exactly-perfect people (like you and me) can be friends with God after all. (Salvation)
God may be the ultimate high and holy King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Master of everything ... but at the same time, He takes notice of each individual on this planet and wants a relationship with us. Does that seem unbelievable? After all, even the governor of your state probably doesn't know you by name. Surely the Governor of the Universe wouldn't be paying attention.
Amazingly, He is!
With remarkable sensitivity He says through one of the ancient prophets, "I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.... I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed" (Isaiah 46:4; 49:23).
What does He mean, "I will rescue you"? Rescue from what? The answer is: God will rescue us from our own follies, our mistakes, our sins, our talent for shooting ourselves in the foot. That, in fact, is why He embarked on the greatest "rescue mission" of all time by sending His Son, Jesus, to our world 2000 years ago.
Jesus came to show us what God was like. He spent time extending heaven's olive branch in our direction. Some gladly welcomed this, while others pushed Him away. Eventually, His critics had him crucified. Nevertheless, He represented "God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men" (1 Timothy 2:3-6).
Naturally, we have to reach out and accept this Savior. Relationship is a two-way street. When we respond in repentance to a holy God, He declares us acceptable after all. He welcomes us into His spiritual family and begins the process of helping us grow and mature.
More about how to start this relationship later. Meanwhile, let's go on to the second major truth...the great physician is ready to intercede with healing!
Second, important truth...
2. God is more than just "spiritual." He cares about your physical well-being, too. (Divine Healing)
Why wouldn't He? If He made your body in the first place and gave it the breath of life, it's not unthinkable that he would want it to function smoothly and healthily. This is not a minor thing for Him. After all, He's a loving God. The pain of your body is as much on His mind as the hurt in your soul.
Granted, there's a lot we can do by ourselves to stay healthy, or to regain our health after we get sick. And we should. But when human efforts fail, when doctors run out of answers, when natural rejuvenation falters ... the Great Physician is waiting to step in.
Jesus spent a great deal of His time here on earth healing the sick. It was as prominent a part of His ministry as His teaching. His disciples promptly took up where He left off. They went out "speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders" (Acts 14:3).
One of those early leaders was very explicit in his writing: "Is any one of you sick? Call the elders of the church to pray over you and anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make you well; the Lord will raise him up.... The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:14-16).
We take these Scriptures at face value and openly practice them in our church. We don't claim to be successful 100 percent of the time, but we persist in asking God to show his love and concern in tangible ways when the human body is suffering. And he does.
This brings us to the next truth God is waiting to share with you...the Holy Spirit is ready to strengthen and enable you!
Third, important truth...
3. A whole extra dimension of God's power can be yours. (Baptism in the Holy Spirit)
When Jesus returned to heaven after His "rescue mission," a replacement stepped in here on earth: the Holy Spirit. Don't let that name throw you off track; He is a real Person, the third member of the Trinity-not just a "force" or an "it." As Jesus explained some six weeks before He ascended, "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth...He lives with you and will be in you" (John 14:16-17).
That promise quickly came true in the days and years that followed, as the Holy Spirit invaded the hearts and minds of the early Christians, often in dramatic fashion. First of all, those early believers spoke in unknown languages as the Spirit gave utterance (Acts 2:4). Timid disciples became bold apostles not afraid to challenge the religious power structure. Christians of both high and low status began taking the good news of Jesus across ethnic, racial, gender and geographical lines. Special gifts of the Holy Spirit blossomed into miraculous demonstrations-things that only God could do.
This empowerment to do more, go higher, and reach farther for God is available to all believers, not just those in the First Century. The apostle Paul wrote to one Gentile church more than 600 miles from Jerusalem (site of the original outpouring), "Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.... Be filled with the Spirit, speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:17-19).
Here in the Assemblies of God, this is not just theory or history; it's current practice. The Spirit's infilling does not imply that we're better than anyone else. It only means that the Spirit has been granted more influence over us than He had previously. And we're eager for all the divine power we can receive.
But what's in store for the future is what's really amazing! Jesus will return and take us to be with Him!
Fourth, important truth...
4. Before long, God's Son will head our way again! (Second Coming)
We know-it sounds pretty far-fetched, even loony, as if we've been reading too many science fiction novels. But the truth is, Jesus was entirely serious when He said the night before He died on the cross, "I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:3).
How? The angels who showed up at His ascension gave these details: "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
In other words, this isn't a myth, a metaphor for something abstract, or just a figure of speech. It's a real, visible event that will shock the world at some future point. History will abruptly come to its climax with the Second Coming of Jesus.
Naturally, everybody asks, "When?!" People have been curious about this for 20 centuries now. The Bible gives no date; in fact, it says we won't know the day or the hour in advance.
That opens the loophole for some people to be cynical and dismiss the whole idea as a hoax. But far better to take it seriously and be prepared to face the Lord with joy rather than sorrow on that awesome day. As the apostle Paul explained, "We will all stand before God's judgment seat.... Each of us will give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:10, 12).
The main question on that docket will not be how much money we made, how many good deeds we chalked up, or how many times we warmed a church pew. The all-important question-the one that will make the difference between heaven and hell-will be what we did with God's offer of peace and forgiveness. Which brings us back to Truth No. 1, the possibility of sinful humans being reconciled to God.
So what do these four cardinal truths mean to you and me?...
Choosing your place in eternity - it's up to you!
The door is open ... but walking through it is a personal choice. To ignore the open door, or to procrastinate, may not seem all that significant today. But on that future day, it will surpass all the other decisions we've ever made in our whole lives.
If you haven't yet begun a relationship with God, here's what you need to do:
A-Admit that all is not well between you and God. Not that you're necessarily a bad person, but still ... His standards are higher than you can reach. As the Bible says with some bluntness, "There is no difference.... All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:22-23).
B-Believe that there's still a chance to remedy this situation, however, thanks to the generous sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. He took the punishment we deserved. He stepped up on our behalf. "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.... For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 5:6 and 6:23).
C-Call out to the Lord for his forgiveness and acceptance. Tell Him honestly that you want to be changed on the inside. Ask Him to adopt you as one of His special children. He won't brush you off. He will welcome you. In the words of the ancient prophet Joel, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Joel 2:32, Romans 10:13).
You can talk to God about this anytime, anywhere, using any words you wish. You don't have to come up with a formal speech. Just be honest and tell God the essence of the A-B-C points above.
If you feel uneasy, here's a short prayer you can say:
Dear God, I'd like to make things right with You. I admit I haven't always lived the way I should and I've broken Your rules. I ask for Your forgiveness of my sins. Based on what Jesus did on my behalf, please accept me as one of Your children. I recognize you as the new Authority of my life, and I'll do my best to follow Your direction. Be merciful to me, O God. Amen.
A Simple Set of Truths
Everything can be summarized as follows:
We focus on Jesus Christ as our Savior, our Healer, our Baptizer, and our Returning King. He is "what it's all about" in our church. Not religion, not tradition, not denominational competition, not money, not power, not prestige. Everything we truly need is wrapped up in Him.
Here is a passage from Paul's letter to the Colossians that says it well:
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel (Colossians 1:17-23).