Distinctives of The Living Church
BAPTISM AND COMMUNION
Baptism and communion are the two ordinances required in the church. We believe that Christian baptism by immersion in water is a public identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Although baptism is not required for salvation, it is commanded of all believers and is for believers only (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38, 41; Acts 18:18). Scripture shows that a person was baptized after personally receiving forgiveness of sin by accepting Jesus Christ. The waters of baptism are a symbol of death, burial, and resurrection to newness of life that happens when a person becomes a new creation in Christ (Colossians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:1-4). Communion is the commemoration by believers of Christ’s death and a reminder—through the bread and the juice—of the Savior’s broken body and shed blood. Communion is to be a time of confession of sin and should be preceded by careful self-examination (Acts 4:13; Romans 6:3-6; 1 Corinthians 11:20-29).
SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE
We believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures and that they contain all the words of God that we need in order to completely trust and obey Him. The Scriptures are inerrant in their original writings (Psalm 119:97-104; Psalm 119:160; Matthew 5:18; John 5:46-47; John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:15-16) and are infallible in their instruction (Proverbs 6:32; 2 Peter 1:19), eternal in duration (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:23-25); the final authority and the standard for faith and practice (Matthew 4:4; Psalm 119); and sufficient for counsel in every issue of life (Psalm 19:14-17; 2 Timothy 3:16). We believe that the very words of Scripture in the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic are inspired by God. Therefore, we believe that the Bible versions which translate God’s Word most literally into modern English should be preferred.
CREATION, EVOLUTION AND GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY
We believe God created the universe in six 24-hour days and that, before He created the universe, nothing except God existed (Genesis 1; Exodus 31:17; Psalm 33:6-9; Acts 17:24; Hebrews 11:3; Colossians 1:16). God chose to create the universe and all that is in it to reveal His glory, divine nature, eternal power, infinite wisdom and supreme authority. (Isaiah 43:7; Psalm 19:1-2; Jeremiah 10:12; Romans 1:20; Revelation 4:11). We deny the theory of evolution, which states that nonliving substances gave rise to the first living material, which then reproduced and diversified to produce all living creatures.
We believe that all people are descendants of Adam and Eve, whom God created personally and individually and as complete human beings (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 2:7; Genesis 2:21-22; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9). The fall of Adam and Eve infected all people with sin and death, but the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives the opportunity to receive God’s gift of eternal life. (Romans 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
God rules over His creation and cares about and is involved in the lives of individual people (Job 12:10; Acts 17:25; Acts 25:28; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:13; Ephesians 4:6).
SALVATION AND SECURITY
It is God’s divine decision to save a person (John 6:37; John 6:44; John 6:65; Romans 8:29-30; Romans 9:11-18; Acts 13:48; Acts 16:14; Ephesians 1:4-6; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Peter 1:3) and it is God’s kindness, forbearance and patience that lead that person to repentance (Romans 2:4). The Bible also teaches that each person is responsible to embrace or reject Jesus as Savior and Lord and that God welcomes all who come to Him by faith apart from works (Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 15:7; Luke 20:9-18; John 6:37; John 7:37; Romans 10:9-13; Acts 16:30-34; Acts 17:30). Both of these two truths—God’s sovereignty in salvation and man’s decision to embrace Christ—are taught in the Scriptures. Their co-existence is a mystery and is completely understood only in the mind of our omniscient God.
All glory for the salvation of every believer belongs to God alone (Romans 3:21-31; Ephesians 1:7-9; Ephesians 2:8-9, Jude 1:24-25).
Those who are born of God’s Spirit through Jesus Christ persevere in the faith (Matthew 13:13; John 15:4-8; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:10-13; 1 John 4:13; 2 John 9). God is faithful to His people, and empowers them to persevere in the faith (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 1 John 2:19-20).
We believe that everyone who is born of God’s Spirit through Jesus Christ is assured of salvation from the moment of conversion (Ephesians 1:13-14). This assurance relies on God’s decisive and faithful grace rather than on the works of the Christian. Obedience, good works and fruit-bearing do not earn or retain the believer’s salvation, but indicate the reality of the person’s love of Christ and profession of faith (Luke 6:46; John 14:21; James 2:17-18).
Eternal security in salvation relies on the Lord’s guarantee of each believer’s adoption as His son or daughter (Galatians 4:4-7), and His seal of the believer by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14) and the conviction that God gives the Holy Spirit to each believer as a down payment toward future bliss in heaven (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
A person who professes genuine faith in Christ immediately becomes His possession (Luke 23:42-43; Acts 2:40-41; Acts 16:30-34), and nothing can snatch that person out of His hands (John 10:27-29). Having been bought with the price of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion as complete payment for sin, Christians are not their own. They are Christ’s possession (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This assurance is absolutely certain, reserved in heaven, protected by God’s unlimited power (1 Peter 1:4-5).
PROCESS OF SANCTIFICATION AND MATURITY
Mature disciples walk with Christ, worship Christ and work for Christ. A person committed to a relationship with Christ focuses on a personal walk with Him, worship of Him and work for Him. That person will experience significant growth in personal sanctification and, therefore, will experience a closer personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and will become complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
We are committed to multiplying the godly characteristics of leaders’ lives into others (2 Timothy 2:2). This multiplication of ministry is key to the healthy growth of the church.
We believe the disciples of Jesus Christ should minister to one another in the local church, rather than one or a small number of professional pastors bearing total responsibility to care for the entire congregation. God has given spiritual gifts to all of His people to provide mutual ministry in the context of the healthy and strong local church (Ephesians 4:11-12).
The chief purpose of mankind is to glorify God by loving Him with the entire heart, soul, mind and might (Deuteronomy 6:5; Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 22:37). All believing men, women and children are to glorify God and thus fulfill the purpose of their existence.
Worship glorifies God through adoration (Psalm 95:6), praise (Psalm 99:5), prayer (Daniel 6:10-11), thanksgiving (Nehemiah 12:46) and a complete yielding to Him (Romans 12:1). Worship declares His worth, pays Him homage and celebrates Him in a life of devotion.
We seek to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (Exodus 15:1-21; 2 Samuel 6:14-16; Psalm 5:7; John 4:23-24; Revelation 4:11; 5:12).
Several tenets guide our worship. We seek to:
• lift high the name of Jesus Christ (John 4:22-26; John 12:32; John 14:6);
• lead God’s people to lift their hearts and voices to Him, giving Him praise and thanks in music and lyric (Nehemiah 12:45-46; Psalm 66:1-4; Psalm 95:1-2);
• prepare hearts to hear the Lord speak through the proclamation of Scripture (Psalm 95:6-9; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:41-42);
• emphasize fresh and contemporary expressions while retaining traditional elements that recognize the richness of our heritage in the faith (Deuteronomy 32:7; Psalm 33:3; Isaiah 46:8-9; Matthew 13:32, Ephesians 5:19; Revelation 5:9);
• pursue excellence in worship, knowing that God is worthy of our best (Exodus 12; Deuteronomy 17:1; Psalm 33:3, 1 Timothy 4:14-15; Hebrews 11:4).
Satan and his demonic servants viciously oppose the work God performs in and through His people (1 Peter 5:8; Genesis 3:1-7; Ephesians 6:12). God, who by His nature is infinitely more powerful than Satan, in due time will have complete and total victory over Satan (1 John 4:4; Revelation 20:1-10).
Although it is appropriate to pray in Jesus’ name for protection against demonic activity, the Scriptures do not instruct the Christian to “bind Satan in Jesus’ name.” Rather, the Scriptures instruct the Christian to combat Satan by:
• humbly drawing near to God, knowing that He will give grace, mercy and strength (2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Hebrews 4:15-16; James 4:8; 1 Peter 5:6-10);
• resisting his temptations (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9);
• rightly applying the truth of the Scriptures (Matthew 4:1-11; John 8:44; Ephesians 4:24-27);
• forgiving offenses (2 Corinthians 2:10-11);
• putting on the armor of God’s truth, righteousness, readiness to share the gospel, faith, salvation and prayer (Ephesians 6:11-20);
• demonstrating faithfulness to the Lord by enduring trials (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 3:9-10)
Isaiah 9:6 calls the Messiah “Wonderful Counselor” and so He is. Jesus said the Father would send “another Helper, the Holy Spirit, [the Intercessor, one called alongside to help] … that He may be with you forever.” (John 14:16,17) This is the foundation for our ministry of counseling at TLC. As we minister in the power of God, to the glory of God, and for the Son of God, Who is preeminent in all things, we can summarize the ministry in six principles.
God-centered. It is focused on our God; it is localized in our relationship with Christ Jesus; it is Spirit-empowered, or energized by the work of the Holy Spirit. Rather than emphasizing problems or personal benefit, God’s transforming work in our lives is our concern.
Oriented toward Holiness. Christ-likeness is the goal of sanctification, which counseling serves to advance, rather than relief from problems or the promise of comfort. As the Apostle James (1:2-4) reminds us, trials are to be a joy for us because they produce endurance whose perfect result is maturity. The goal of the body of Christ is that “we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” God said it like this: “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Tempered by Love and Compassion. As God is love, so Jesus told us that others would know we were His disciples by our love for one another. We abide in faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…” (John 13:34) And “as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”(Col 3:12)
Spiritual in Nature. Believers are alive in the Spirit of God because they have been born of the Spirit and this new life is enabled by His indwelling presence. Our obligation is to live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Romans 8:12f). Scripture makes clear that the flesh and the Spirit are in conflict with one another (Galatians 5:17), that we are to make no provision for the flesh in regard to its desires (Romans 13:14), and that we are not be taken captive by philosophy, deception, tradition, and other elementary principles of the world (Colossians 2:8). In contrast, 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 provide us the perfect portrait: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God…we have the mind of Christ…We are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
Founded on the Word of God. The Word of God is both Authoritative and Sufficient for all our needs. 2 Timothy 3:16 reads ”All scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” The word is “living and active and sharper than any two- edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints marrow, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart”(Heb 4:12)
Directed by Biblical Wisdom. Divine wisdom as preserved for us in God’s Word is what directs our lives. Rather than relying upon human wisdom and knowledge, we are to heed the Bible’s call for wisdom. Prov. 2 “…Make your ear attentive to wisdom… if cry for discernment… seek her as silver…then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God…For the Lord gives wisdom; He is a shield…guarding the paths of justice…then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course…wisdom will enter your heart…discretion will guard you… understanding will watch over you…” Wisdom guards our counsel.
Every (obedient) Believer Competent. According the grace God has given each one, he can and should minister the manifestation of the Spirit of God which is given for the common good (1 Cor 12:7; Rom 12:6-8; 1 Pet 4:10,11), teaching and admonishing one another (Col 3:16); not turning aside to human philosophy (Col 2:6-9), nor the counsel of the wicked(Ps 1:1) for wisdom or insight; any and all ability of the believer to counsel is dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s influence and power. The obedient believer continues to abide in the Word of God and the Word abides in him and he will be fruitful. (John 15:4-11)