THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date – 7-25-10
LESSON TITLE: “THE GLORIOUS CHURCH: HOW CAN WE IDENTIFY THE CHURCH?”
Good morning! Let me welcome you to the Living Word program on this wondrous Lord’s Day morning. What a blessing it is to have you with us for this time of offering to God. I hope you are ready to worship God today in spirit and in truth, for there is no other way to be pleasing in His sight – God’s Way is the only Way! So as we begin our focus on Almighty God, will you bow with me before His throne at this time!
Let’s begin immediately with our songs of praise this day. The first song of the morning encourages us to be loyal to our God. Are you trustworthy to your Creator? So won’t you join in with the congregation as we sing together, “To Christ Be Loyal and Be True?”
(SONG # 1)
Consider for a moment all of the choices which we have to make in our lives. There are so many opportunities and material things which bombard us on a daily basis in this country, thus it is often difficult to make the right decisions. However, great men in the Bible like Joshua were willing to stand up and be counted. They were willing to be different and to even stand alone if need be.
What about in our lives today, are we as willing and ready to stand? Jesus said we must make the choice and put Him first in all things. But why? Because it is impossible to serve more than one master. In fact, these were the exact words of Jesus Christ Himself, which are found in Matthew 6:24. There we read, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. The reality is we cannot serve God and the flesh at the same time. With God there are no second best or things which can come before Him. Why, because He demands and expects our best if we are to be found worthy in His sight.
Another passage which helps me to reflect on these things is found in Matthew 19, where again Jesus talks with someone who claims to follow His Father. This young man is often referred to as the “rich young ruler,” because he was said to have “great possessions.” This young man boldly came to Jesus and proclaimed his commitment to the things of the Old Law. But then he made the mistake of asking, but “what do I still lack.” Jesus’ knew his weakness. Christ could see where his true interest and commitment laid with the things of this world and not with God! So in verse 21, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” After hearing these things the young man went away sorrowful! He obviously hung his head down and walk away realizing that he was not willing to go far enough in his service to God.
So what about us. Just how far are we willing to go? Just what are we willing to give up in order that we put God first? Will we be bold enough to truly serve God in His Way, and to make that known before all of this world!
In just a few minutes it will be time to begin our main study of the day. Our series of the day will again focus on, “The Glorious Church!” The specific lesson of the day will answer the question, “How Can We Identify the Church?” So, please stay with us this morning and in just a few minutes I will be leading us in this study from God’s Word. Now let’s join together in our second song of the day. The name of this hymn, “O To Be Like Thee.”
(SONG # 2)
By Ray Sullins
While you are in the world among your friends possibly whether it be at work or even at play and you ask them the question, “Are you a Christian?” What is the answer that you generally get? The answer is, “Yes.” Most people very quickly will answer that they are Christians and that they are followers of Christ. When you begin to ask them however, what they believe, what do you begin to find? Well they believe differently on things like salvation, on things like worship, on things like organization, even in relationship to the things that we call ourselves as followers of God. The next question might be, “Where do you go to church?” The answer is always different from where you do and yet again we find but another grouping or standard of principles that people are following and denominating themselves in. That immediately leads us to the thought of denominationalism. Where in the Bible do we read about this idea of denominationalism? I don’t know about you but I have many friends and as well family who seem very proud to say they are of a denomination, and when you even ask them if they are of a denomination or what denomination are they of, there is no correction. They understand that they have chosen to follow a group of principles established by someone and have denominated themselves as a certain group based on what they feel the Bible says.
Again, I ask, “Where in the Bible do we read about the authority to denominate ourselves according to the Will of man?” What I would suggest is that we do not find it in the Bible. I would challenge you to write me and let me know if that be the case. Secondly, I would challenge you to understand that the Bible teaches us just the opposite. Was it not Jesus Himself there in John 17 who prayed the prayer that He wished all of His followers could be one? Do you know what He referenced as the maybe example that they should be one? In the same text around verse 20 He begins to say, “I pray that these who will believe will be one (guess what) as you Father are in Me and I in You.” What was the standard? The Father and the Son.
Let me ask you a question. Do you think the Father and the Son are different in their beliefs? Do you think that God the Father thinks one thing…? Oh God the Father says you are supposed to be saved like this, and the Son says you are supposed to be saved like this, and oh yeah, the Holy Spirit delivered another whole different idea. Isn’t that silly? In fact, it is almost ridiculous to think about, but yet you and I today often divide ourselves and say, “But oh I can teach whatever I want on what it takes to become a Christian or how we worship, and it really doesn’t matter.” Does that really make sense? Is that really what Jesus wanted? That we be what? One. Is that the principle of the Bible? I have had denominational friends of mine try to take me to John chapter 15 and they use this text and they say, “Well you see Jesus was the vine, and all of these different religious groups or denominations were simply the branches.” Is that how it works? I don’t know about you, but the last time I planted a tomato plant, and I put the seed in the ground and the vine came forth and the branches that came off the vine produced tomatoes just like the vine. And I don’t know about you, but the last time I planted a seed for a tree, that seed came forth and the trunk of that tree produced branches and those branches produced the same apple that was intended from the very beginning and there was not one kind of apple on different branches and an orange on this one and a pear on that one! They all produced identically alike! Why? Because they started with the same seed. They started with the same foundation, the same trunk. They started with the same vine. Yes, Jesus is the vine. And if Jesus is the vine and I am a branch that comes off of that main vine, guess what I am going to do. I am not going to produce like Ray thinks. I am not going to produce like someone else. I’m going to produce as the vine did. That means whatever I do, whatever I say is going to be about Jesus Christ, and according to His Will, not mine, and not anyone else’s.
Still not convinced? Let’s see what the Holy Spirit said through Paul. Turn with me if you will over to 1 Corinthians chapter 1. It was even here that people had begun to denominate themselves based on who baptized them. Do you notice that in the text, verse 12? “Some say, I am of Paul. Some say I am of Apollo’s, some say I am of Cephas, and some even say I am of Christ.”
Well do you mean some were claiming to be Pauline’s? Somewhere claiming to be the Jonathans and some were claiming to be this and that? Yes! And what was it that Paul told them in verse 13? “Is Christ divided? Did I die for you? Did Cephas die for you? Christ died for you.”
Now I want you to back up to verse 10 in that same text because here is the plan Jesus gave once again. Paul said, “I plead with you.” Remember these words are through the Holy Spirit requested by the Son Jesus from the Father above. These were inspired men. These were not just Paul’s words. Paul records for us, “Now I plead with you brethren in the name of Jesus Christ, by the name of, in the authority of…” This is God’s Will! “…that you speak the same thing. Secondly, that there be no divisions among you. Third, that you be perfectly joined together. Fourth, in the same mind. Fifth, with the same judgment.” The only way you can misunderstand that verse is by just dismissing it, and by not accepting the will of it because that verse doesn’t say anything about us agreeing to disagree. That verse doesn’t say anything about willingness to be different and to accept the differences doctrinally and others. That verse says to speak the same things, to have the same mind, to have the same judgment, to be perfectly joined together in Christ. Why? That there be some divisions? NO divisions!
What I am suggesting to you is that God doesn’t like the division. God doesn’t not only not like them, He does not accept the divisions among us today who all claim to be Christian, yet we are all different. And so what do you find? You drive around Springfield, you immediately what do you find? Well you find one church calling itself after the name of someone. You find one church calling itself after the name of an act of obedience. You find another church calling itself… Why is this so? Then you go up to any of the doors and you knock on them and you say, I want to become a Christian, what must I do? Every group has a different pattern. Okay I want to join your church, what do I do? Every group has a different way. Any question you ask is different. Why is that? The reason is the standard is not the same. The standard. What is the standard? Jesus. How many heads are there to the church? There is only one head. In fact, the Bible tells us clearly in Ephesians chapter 1 that Christ is the head of the church. Guess what, His body.
When is the last time you saw a person walking down the road with two heads, three heads, four heads? In other words, you’ve got all these leaders directing the same body. How far is that going to get you? Nowhere. In fact, even when you see freaks of nature, how long do they live? Not very long. When those animals have two heads, etc. because there is too much problem between the two determining who will have the greater force. One generally dies off because it is not able to overcome in that situation. On the other hand, how often do you see a head walking down the road and you see two bodies or three or four bodies hanging out of the same head? Denominationalism. Does that make sense? Don’t you find it is so interesting that Jesus said, “I will build My church?” He said, “This is My body.” We know what a body is, “and My body has got one head and I am the head.” I am the head of the church. Who else could be head? Didn’t Jesus die for us? Who else could be head? Did not Jesus die for us? Did He not purchase the church with His blood? (Acts 20:28) And how men today wear the name of the church when they have not given their lives for it or purchased it. They were not the son of God and yet they are arrogant enough to allow their names to be worn on billboards, on signs, and what claim to be churches in the name of God. How sad. How sad! Who is to receive the glory? Who is the one only worthy of our praise and adoration? God Almighty. Why then would we call ourselves anything except that which praises God? I don’t know about you but I want to be the church of God, the church of Christ, the church of the Firstborn. I want to be the church of the Living Christ. I want to be those things that we find in the scripture. That tells me a lot about somebody. When I say, “What church do you go to?” and they give me a name that is a man’s name or the name of an act that maybe some people do in their worship or in other situations, or they give me some name that doesn’t give praise to God, instantly I know something is wrong in their theology, something is wrong with their praise, something is wrong with their commitment because they choose to go after the name of Paul or after the name of John or after the name of another man. How sad. It should not be so.
Do we love God? Do we serve God? Do we give Him full and complete diligence or do we serve another? Sad to say but I am afraid in our world today many have chosen to serve another and they have done so by saying, “Oh, but how could it matter? We all love Jesus and we are all heading to Jesus.” Was it not then Jesus who said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Is it not Jesus who said, “Someday I will come (Matthew 7) and I will separate the sheep from the goats,” who also said, “The way to Me is narrow, few there’ll be who find it, the broad way to destruction.” Was it not Jesus in Matthew 25 who said, “Someday Heaven will be the reward for the faithful and Hell the punishment for the wicked.”
The fact is my friends, we do have to do it God’s way. We do need to understand the thought of the church and the body and the kingdom and the oneness of it and we need to figure out how we can again become one and the only standard that will bring that about is this book again, the Bible. Isn’t that what the Bible teaches us as we look throughout its wondrous pages? Do you know the Bible in several passages makes the clear comparison and illusion that we have from this book all things that we need? For instance, in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by God, is profitable (for what?) doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness that the man of God might (be what?) (verse 17) complete and thoroughly furnished unto every good works.” Not some good works. All good works! Where do we get that ability? The Bible! If you do what the Bible says and I do what the Bible says, guess what we come out with. The same thing.
What does it say in the book of Peter there in 2 Peter chapter 1? The Word of God or God in His love has given us what? The “power of knowledge.” How? “Giving us all things pertaining to life and godliness.” Verse 20 and 21 of the same text tells us how that happened. Holy men of God were led by the spirit of God to do what? Pen the scripture.
When I go to the Bible and I ask the question that you asked, we come up with the same answers except we are looking for different answers. Instead of trying to justify what I want or you want, we ask the question, “What does God want?” I read Acts chapter 2 and I read, “What must I do to be saved?” and it says, “Repent and be baptized,” then there is my answer. Why do I have to look for something else? Why do I have to find something that is of man? Where in the Bible do I find the example of the command of the sinner’s prayer unto salvation? Nowhere! Is prayer great? Yes. Do we need to pray when we are saved? Yes. Do we need to pray unto salvation? Certainly. Is that what saves us? Not according to scripture.
You see, the understanding that we need to have is no longer our own. That’s what we’ve done when we’ve died to the old man, when we’ve crucified that which is behind. We have committed ourselves to Christ or have we?
I challenge you today to do it God’s way, to look at what you do for Him in His way and obey only those things that are provable through His precious and perfect Word.
(SONG # 3 - “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less!”)
May I again take this opportunity to thank you for joining us today? I hope our time together has been an encouragement and thus a blessing to us all. Please remember that you are invited back to join us every first day of the week, at 7:30, as we commit ourselves to this time of Worship before God!
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May we all look to God’s Word as the only standard to identify the Lord’s Church? Are you in the church which Jesus built? Can you find the religion you attend clearly in the Bible?