Charles Stanley - Together in the Christian Life
Many professing Christians say that they don't really and truly need to be a part of a church because they can live their Christian life fine without a church. In fact, they will even tell you, that there are churches that have conflict with each other, which we understand. They will say that there are many people in the churches who have conflict with one another. And they'll even tell you that they know some people who are professing Christians and what they say is not the way they live.
Now, we would not deny any of that. That all of those things are true. And I do understand why people sometimes on the outside look in and say, Well, you know what, I think I can do just as well without you all. Well, I can understand why you would say that, but what you have to ask is this, what is the opinion of Almighty God about His church? We can be critical of it, we can see our faults and our fallacies and we understand and in fact if you'll think through it. In the New Testament, most of the Epistles deal with problems in the church. When you look at the first Corinthians, for example, and second Corinthians and all the problems that the church was having and difficulty that's going on. So, much of what Paul wrote was trying to help them straighten that out. But does that mean that the church is no longer important? Does it mean that it's not important that you and I be a part of a fellowship?
Well, it's one thing to say, well, I think I can live the Christian life just as good as anybody else and not have a relationship with the church. Well, I understand you saying that but let me ask you a question, is that the will of God? You may say, Well, for me, it's the will of God. Well, is that what the Word of God says? Well, I don't know about that part but I just know that I can live it without the church. Well, let me ask you this, what's the implication of that? If you can live without the church, what's the implication? So, I want to ask two questions in this message, and I want you to think soberly about them. Now, I want to say right up front, I realize there are people who cannot go to church because of health reasons. They would if they could, but they literally can't, I understand that. There are some people who live in distant places where the church is not anywhere close by, I understand that. There are some people who live in little towns or big towns, whatever it might be. And they can't find a church that's preaching the truth of the Word of God. And they know the difference. I understand that. That does not mean that the church is not important or that they shouldn't belong if at all possible.
I just want to ask two questions, and if you're one of those persons who goes to church, fine, or maybe if you don't, I'm not questioning your salvation. I want you to think about these two questions. So, I want you to turn if you will, to the tenth chapter of Hebrews and I want to begin reading in this nineteenth verse. And I'll just sort of explain these verses as we go along for a moment, before we come to the heart of the message. Beginning in verse nineteen of Hebrews, chapter ten. The writer says, "Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus". And what he's referring to here is the fact of our presence. That is, we can live and walk in the presence of God today. And whereas in the Old Testament that was veils and so forth and inner part of the temple. He says, "Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus". That is, in His presence, by His blood at the cross, "By a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh".
That is, when He died on the cross, the veil was rent from top to bottom, and opened the way so that anyone can come to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. And since we have a great priest over the house of God, Which is Jesus? "Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with the pure water". That is, we have been sanctified. Then he says, "Let us hold fast," that is, take a firm grip. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful," that is, our hope is our strong anticipation that God will fulfill His promise because it's in His nature to do so. "And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near".
And what he was simply saying here is, they could probably foresee what was happening because in 70 A.D. Titus, the Roman general, came and destroyed the temple. Or the fact that the judgment of God might be close by. So, what I want you to see is this, this twenty fifth verse is the strongest verse in the New Testament, concerning the assembling of Christians together. For worship, for instruction, for encouragement and for good works. The strongest verse in the New Testament. And notice what he says, "Not forsaking our own assembling together". Which was exactly what was beginning to happen in some places and so the writer of Hebrews to say, Listen, wait a minute, you need to stop and think about what you're doing by straying away from the church.
So, what I'd like to ask is this, if a person can live a good Christian life, walking in obedience to God and do His will, and accomplish His purpose in their life, alone apart from the church, then why did Jesus establish the church? That is, if a person can live that kind of life, then why did He establish the church? And the Scripture says, in the Matthew, chapter sixteen, very clearly the Scripture says, that Jesus said speaking to His disciples, he asked them. He said, "Now, who do people say that I am"? Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God". And Jesus replied by saying to him, Peter, you're right. And he says, "Upon this rock I will build My church". Now, you don't build the Body of Christ on a man. You build the Body of Christ on the Son of God. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God". And so, Jesus was saying, Upon this foundation, what foundation? The foundation that Jesus is the Messiah, He's the Son of God, He's the Savior of the world, man's only hope. Upon this truth, He says, I will build My church.
And if you'll think about it that is what the church has been built upon, the person of Jesus Christ. And you and I can understand why the devil works so hard to get people to believe that He is not the Son of God, that there's more than one way and all the other things that come along and all the other religions in the world. So, what I want us to think about here is this. If Jesus said, I'm establishing my church and the gates of hell will not be able to prevail over the church. And you and I have seen over time in history, all kind of isms have come and gone, and the church is still here and growing by leaps and bounds all over the world. Why? Because it's His church, not man's church. It's not a denomination. In fact, God did not establish denominations.
So, people say, well, it's so confusing today with all these denominations. Forget that. Find you a church that's teaching and preaching the Word of God. It's not denominations. And so, whatever those excuses may be, ask yourself this question, that is, if Jesus said, and He says this in the twelfth chapter of Romans that the church is the Body of Christ. That is, when He left and ascended, He left His followers as His physical living body. We are the Body of Christ. That is, it's our hands now through which He works, our eyes through which He sees, our ears through which He hears, and it's our life through which He works. We are His body. This is the church.
So, when I'm talking about church, I'm not only talking about the large corporate body of believers all over the world. Whether they're Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Americans or Brazilians or whatever it might be, but there's also local churches. And if you look in the Book of Galatians and Colossians and Philippians and Ephesians and all. These were local assemblies. And so, if a person can be a good Christian, live a godly life, fulfill God's purpose in their life, and understand the things of the Word of God, and do all of that, with ever no assembling with other people, then then my question is, what's the implication of that? Here's the first implication, that simply is that Jesus made a big mistake. He made a mistake by saying, I will establish My church, if it's not important. That is, if we can go it alone in the Christian life, and every single person do whatever they do individually without any relationship to any other Christian, then Jesus made a big mistake. Because look at all the time we spend, look at all the resources we spend, all of our efforts to get the Gospel all over the world. That is, if we can do it alone, why this whole idea of the church? It would mean that the assembling of ourselves together on Sunday morning would be absolutely unnecessary.
And so, why do people do that? Of course, we would be saying that Christians don't need each other. We can grow spiritually on our own, without any relationships. And think about this, the Christian life is all about relationships. My relationship to Him; my relationship to others. Your Christian life is your relationship to Him, but it's also your relationship to others, and I want to show you why that's so true here. And so, every believer would be expected to be interpreting the Word of God, according to their own personal view. In other words, the implications of being able to live a godly life, and do the will of God in your life, fulfill His purpose in your life, without having any relationship to a local body of believers. The implication is somebody made a big mistake. And it was Jesus, because it wasn't necessary. But on the other hand, let's ask ourselves the question, why did He establish the church? I know it's divided into denominations and all that kind of thing, but you don't have to let that bother you. You have to choose to belong to a body of people with whom you can relate, who believe as you believe, and who are teaching the truth of God's Word.
So, the question is this, what is God's purpose for saying, Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together? That is, we are to assemble ourselves together; we are to worship as a body. Well, look at what the church does. For example, the first thing we are to do and that is we meet together and we worship. So, what do we do by worship? Well, we sing, and we praise the Lord and give Him thanks for the good things that He's done for us. We pray and recall His blessings in our life. Make our request, we give of our finances in obedience to Him, and so and what do we do? We fellowship with each other. A second thing is this, and that is, He wanted us to assemble together because He wants us to have instruction in the Word of God.
Now, listen to two verses carefully. Go back to second Timothy, chapter two for a moment and look at this passage. Second Timothy two in Paul's writing to young Timothy and giving him some instruction. He says in this fifteenth verse of second Timothy two, listen, he says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth". Let me ask you a question, without any Biblical instruction in your life, how much truth would you know? If it was just left up to you to read the Bible and figure it out. Now, you say, Well, does that mean that we can't we can't study the Word of God without having a pastor? No, I'm not saying that. I'm simply saying this, that the Word of God says that we're responsible for reading and studying and praying of the Scripture and interpreting it properly.
Now, here's what gets people in trouble. What gets people in trouble is, they find them a passage they like and so they go after that one. They say, Well, here's what I believe. Well, see that's the way denominations start and that's the way groups start and cults start. And people, they pick and choose. This is, listen, this is the only way to properly, honestly, genuinely, interpret the Word of God. Are you listening? Say, Amen. And that is, you compare Scripture with Scripture. Not Scripture with my opinion, not Scripture with what I want, not Scripture with what I don't like. But what, in other words, there are no contradictions in the Word of God. Does that mean that we will always agree? One of the wonderful things about the Scriptures is this, you'll never exhaust it. You can study for a thousand years and God will still be talking. But here's the warning, and then I want you to look to this passage. In the fourth chapter of second Timothy, and the first few verses here, listen to what he said to Timothy. He says, "I charge you in the presence of God and Jesus Christ, who is the judge of the living and the dead, and by the appearing of His kingdom, Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction".
Now, watch this, he says, this is what I want you to do in the church, for this reason. Watch this, the third verse, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, And will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths". One of the reasons that people get in trouble in what they believe is because they listen to false doctrine. Then notice what he says. He says, The time will come when they will not endure, they don't want the truth. They don't want the truth. They want something that tickles their ears, which is what he was saying is, they want something that that they want to hear. When it comes to the purpose of the church, it's not only worship and instruction. It's doing something you cannot do alone. Think about this, he says, the Great Commission involves all of us. Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He's given us the Commission to evangelize to where we cannot do that singularly. We do it together. And so, did Jesus make a mistake when He said, I'm establishing the church? No, He did not.
Now, one of the primary reasons He established the church is this passage of Scripture that I want us to think about here for a moment. Look in second Timothy chapter four again, if you will. And look at look at this third verse. Because He says, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires". Now, watch this, "And will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths". What's the purpose of the church? To protect us. To protect us from being what? From being swayed and pulled away from Almighty God Himself. Because here's what I've watched, and any pastor will tell you this, when people who are Christians and church members, for example, when they stop coming to church. That is, when they cease to come to church, before long, when you go looking for them, here's what you find, they not they not only have drifted away from church, they drift away from God.
Listen, think about all the sounds you hear, all the ideas you hear. All the implications, in other words, all the temptations. All the things that are just bombarding you continually day after day after day. Sitting and watching television or listening to the radio, the kind of music and the kind of programs. What is it that keeps your straight? It's this relationship, in other words, God created the church. Not only for instruction and worship and and evangelizing the world, but also for our protection. We need one another. And I can say to you my friend, if you do not go to church, if you've no relationship to a church, you need to be in a body of believers with whom you agree that you believe that are consistent with the Word of God. Then what about this whole idea of your spiritual gifts? He's given some the gift of organization, he's given some the gift of exhortation, some mercy, and some giving, and some prophesy. And the all the spiritual gifts God has given us. He doesn't give us those gifts just to exercise on ourselves.
For example, my gift is a several mixture of prophesy and exhortation. So, what am I going to do? Stand in the front of the mirror and talk to myself? Well, Charles, you oughta shape up. No, what we, for example, you have the gift of organization. After you organize your house, what are you going to do? Now, I've been in some homes, I don't think anybody had the gift of organization, but that's ok. What I want you to see is this, God has given every single one of His children a spiritual gift and it is to be exercised among the Body of Christ. He's gifted you for that. Not for yourself, but to give it away. Then of course, one of His primary reasons for the church is, watch this, watch this carefully, we all need one another.
Now, over twenty-five times in the New Testament Paul talks about our relationship to one another. So, I'm just going to read you a few of them. Listen to what He says. He says, We are to first of all, love one another, build up each other, forgive one another, accept one another. Encourage each other, serve one another, be patient with one another, kind to each other, devoted to each other, admonishing each other. Comforting one another, stimulating one another, confessing to one another, fellowshipping with one another. The church is all about relationship. And so, when He says, forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, what He was doing? He was admonishing us to be wise about how we live our life in relationship to Him and our relationship to each other. And the impact all of us together can have on the world.
I think about someone for example, who can only give maybe a couple of bucks a week, something like that. Maybe that's all they that's all they have. Or somebody else who can give more, it's not all about money, because He uses all of us. I think about people who pray and pray diligently daily. It's what we do. Whenever you have the lone ranger idea, you have the non-Biblical idea. You're just, every single one of us is equally important in the eyes of God. It's just that He gives us different relationships and different things.
So, when somebody says, Well, I can do just as good without the church, I'm going to tell you, No, you can't. First of all, the implication is that Jesus made a mistake. Church is not necessary, which means that God made a mistake. And that all this church business is not necessary. You just haven't thought about what we do. And the reason you're able to hear the truth, is because a group of us got together and said, We want people to hear it who can't hear it. And we're giving our money and our time and our resources and our life and our energy, all of us together, so that you can hear the truth. And my desire for you is that you'd be wise enough to realize you have a responsibility before Almighty God, to assemble with other believers, whomever you choose to worship Him and encourage each other and be instructed in the truth of the Word of God. And carry out the work that God has called you to do, as a member of His fellowship. You cannot explain that away, because the implications are, God made a mistake, Jesus made a mistake, and all this is all manmade when it's not.
Now, you may not be a believer and you say, Well, you know I just never have been a church member. I understand that. And I wouldn't want you to join a church first. This is where it all starts. It all starts with you recognizing that you're a sinner, lost and separated from Almighty God. And if you died today, you'd be lost eternally. But the love of God, expressed at the cross when Jesus was crucified. He died for your sins; He paid the price for your sinfulness. He is willing to forgive you for your sins, and to cleanse you and to give you a whole new beginning. He's willing to change your life. And He wants that life not only to change by faith, through the grace of God, but to be a part of a fellowship of believers and to be baptized this is God's way of saying, Declare to the world that you've died to the old way and you have died to yourself and you have risen to walk in newness of life.
It's my prayer that you will trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. That you will acknowledge that you have a responsibility. You are accountable to God for the gifts and all that He's given you, to share with other people. And He's willing to use you beyond your imagination, if you'll just let Him do it. And that is my prayer that you will.
Father how grateful we are that you take us just like we are. And we sing that song, "Just as I am without one plea". Our plea, we have no plea, except for mercy. And I pray that every single person who's watching and listening to this message, would recognize and be honest enough to recognize and admit and confess and be willing to change. And find a local fellowship somewhere they can enjoy being a part of the church of Jesus Christ. We love You and we praise You, Father, and we thank You for the awesome opportunity of being a church, being a missionary outpost, not only for here, but for the whole world, in Jesus' name, amen.the local church. This program is sponsored by In Touch Ministries, and is made possible by the grace of God and your faithful prayers and gifts.