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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - What Every Christian Should Know About Church

Robert Jeffress - What Every Christian Should Know About Church

Robert Jeffress - What Every Christian Should Know About Church
TOPICS: What Every Christian Should Know, Church

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". There was a time in American history when you could find a busy church on every street corner, but today, more and more churches are shutting their doors for good and many Christians see church attendance as optional rather than the high point of their week. So what's changed? Is the church today any less important than it was 50, a 100 or a 1000 years ago? My message is titled 'What Every Christian Should Know About The Church' on today's edition, of "Pathway to Victory".

Robert Frost once said, "Home is the place, where when you have to go there, they have to let you in". You know that begrudging attitude seems to reflect the attitude a lot of people have about the church. If many Christians were forced to describe their relationship status with the church on social media, they would choose, it's complicated. Sometimes when people think about the church, they think about good experiences they've had, if they've spent any time in the church, they've had a good experience. Maybe it came through somebody who encouraged them after a great loss. Maybe it was a Sunday school teacher or a pastor who led them to faith in Christ. They're grateful for the church, but at the same time, if you've spent any time in the church at all, you probably have been witness to petty disputes, powers, struggles, hypocritical Christians.

My mom used to say, "The miracle of Christianity is that it survived the Christians". And that's true about the church. Today we're going to look at the eighth historic belief of historic Christianity. The eighth pillar if you would, of the Christian faith, and that is the church. Today we're going to examine what the scriptures say every Christian should know about the church. Now, I know some people are surprised that I would've picked the church as one of the ten pillars of historic Christianity. Most people think of the church as a peripheral issue. The reason it's peripheral in their mind, is because it's peripheral in their life. The fact is, they think the church is just one other nice organization that wants your money and your time, but is on its way to extinction. And yet as Ephesians 5:25 tells us, "Christ loved the church and he gave himself up for her".

And if you are a disciple of Christ, if you love Jesus Christ, you're going to have that same attitude about the church. Now first of all, let's talk about the definition of the church. What do we mean when we talk about the church? The Greek word for church is "Ekklesia" in Greek, it literally means, called out ones. And the fact is, that word church sometimes in the New Testament is used to refer to the universal church, all Christians, true Christians everywhere. I define the universal church as being composed of all people in heaven and on earth who have trusted in Christ for their salvation since the day of Pentecost. That's the universal church, it's invisible. Ephesians 3 talks about the entire family of God living in heaven and earth. Some of the membership of the universal church has already gone to heaven. Some is here on earth right now, but we're all one if we've trusted in Christ since the day of Pentecost.

Now the interesting thing about the universal church is, it's never met yet once for worship. There's never yet been one worship service of the universal church, that is yet to come when we're all in heaven. But the second usage of the word church is in reference to the local church. Now, you like many Christians, might believe that the primary use of the word church in the Bible, refers to the universal church, all Christians everywhere. We think that that's really the ideal, and we see the local church as kind of a necessary evil. We get enthralled by the idea of all Christians everywhere, but the local church, well it's not quite the same as one wag said, "Oh, to dwell with the saints above that will be glory, but to worship with the saints we know, well that's another story". Again, we think of the local church as a necessary evil.

Author Dorothy Sayers says that, "God has undergone three great humiliations in history. The first humiliation was the incarnation when God took on human form. The second humiliation was the crucifixion, but the greatest humiliation of all is the church". Dorothy Sayer says, "In an awesome act of self-denial, God entrusted his reputation to ordinary people and yet God did choose the church". Here's the definition, Dr. Charles Riley gives of the local church, write it down. The local church is a group of baptized believers, who have organized themselves for the purpose of doing God's will. Let's take each of those three phrases for a further study. First of all, the church is composed of baptized believers. The church is for Christians only, anybody can attend the church, but to be a member of the church, you must be a believer, somebody who's trusted in Jesus since the day of Pentecost.

Now the fact is, the church has on its membership roles, many non-Christians. We didn't design it that way, that's what happens. In fact, seated next to you right now, may be a non-Christian, a non-Christian, don't look at that person right now, but trust me, Jesus talked about the wheat and the tiers, the false wheat that were sewn together. But ideally, the church should be composed of only believers. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 talking about the universal church, Paul said, "For by," Or with, "One Spirit we were all baptized into one body. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body". The universal church is only composed of true Christians, the local church ought to be that way as well.

And by the way, it's not just believers, it's baptized believers. When you get to the Book of Acts throughout the rest of the New Testament, there is not one example anywhere of somebody who was a Christian who was not baptized. And remember in our study of Acts chapter 2, we saw the order is always the same. Believe and be baptized. Never was there a command to be baptized first and then believe later. There's not one instance of infant baptism, I use that word lightly, infant baptism. It's impossible to be baptized by being sprinkled, the word baptize means to be immersed. If you as a baby or as a young child got sprinkled with water, you got wet but you didn't get baptized. The Bible says, "We believe first and then we are baptized as a sign of our faith in Christ". This was baptized believers, they were what composed the local church.

Secondly, not only is a group of baptized believers, but it's believers who have organized themselves. There is an organization, a God-given organization to the church. Now, occasionally I'll run into somebody, I'll ask 'em where they go to church. They say, "Well, we just haven't been able to find a church". Isn't that interesting of the thousands of churches, somehow they haven't found one quite perfect enough for them. They say, "We haven't been able to find a church, so we started our own church". I said, "Oh really? Well tell me about it". "Well, we meet our living room every other Sunday, a group of friends and a couple family members, and we take turns reading the Bible and we pray and we do life with one another, and that's our church". I said, "Oh, well who's your pastor"? "Oh, well, we don't have a pastor, we don't want all that hierarchy stuff".

My response is already the same. I said, "Well, you may have a nice fellowship group or a Bible study, but you don't have a church". If you don't have a pastor and you don't have deacons, you don't have a church. Because the Bible says a church designed by God has two offices in it that are approved by the congregation. We've talked about that in Acts chapter 6. Remember the two offices of the church? The first office is the pastor. Every church is to have a pastor. The Greek New Testament uses three words to describe the same office of pastor. Sometimes the pastor is called the pastor, the shepherd, the "Poy-mane," referring to his job to care for the sheep. Sometimes he's called the "Presbuteros," the elder, that refers to the dignity of the office. Sometimes he's called the "Episkopos," the overseer, the ruler, the leader of the church. His duty to give direction to the church. Three different words, but it's all the same office.

In fact, in 1 Peter 5:1-4, you see those three words being used interchangeably. "I urge the elders among you to shepherd the flock of God, exercising oversight". That is the pastor. The second office in the church is the deacon. In Philippians 1, verses 1 and 2, the letter was written to the pastors, the overseers and the deacons. In 1 Timothy 3, you have the qualifications for the overseer and the deacons. 1 Timothy 3:8-13 tells us what those qualifications are. The word deacon, "Diákonos" means servant, minister. The office of the deacon was born out of the need for a group of men to take care of the practical needs of the congregation. We have 300 plus deacons here at First Baptist Dallas, and they do a great job of taking things off of my shoulders, the practical things of the church, the business responsibilities, the finances of the church, caring for widows, preparing the Lord's Supper. Those are all things that are very important.

So, who has the final say in the church? Who has the final determination of what happens at First Baptist Church Dallas? Is it the pastor? No. Is it the 300 deacons? No, it is you, the congregation. Every biblical New Testament church, was ultimately approved by the congregation. Doesn't mean the congregation votes on everything, the congregation vests some authority in the pastor, some in the deacons, but the congregation has the final say. Acts 6:5 says, that the proposal to institute deacons, was met with the approval of the whole congregation. Major decisions in the New Testament were made by the entire congregation. A famous pastor once said, "A New Testament church is pastor led, deacon served and congregationally approved". That's what a New Testament church is, baptize believers who have organized themselves, the third phrase is, in order to do God's will.

Chuck Swindall tells about a huge machine that had a number of wheels, cogs, pulleys, and conveyor belts that had lights that would light up with a touch of the button. Somebody asked the inventor, "What does your machine do"? He said, "Absolutely nothing, but doesn't it run beautifully"? You know, that's a great description of many churches. They're impressive, they're large, they've got great organization, but they've forgotten what they're supposed to be doing. A New Testament church is focused on doing God's will. What is God's will for the church? Jesus told us in Matthew chapter 28, verse 18 through 20, "Go into all of the world and" what? "Mathetes," make disciples. Not just converts, but fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. That's the unique mission of the church to go into the world and make disciples. And no other organization, either secular or Christian has been given that mandate, that mandate was given to the church of Jesus Christ.

Now, in a minute we're gonna talk about the four activities of the church that contribute to the church fulfilling that purpose of making disciples. But let me just say something about the singular nature of this purpose. Many of you know the name Peter Drucker. If you go to business school, you know he is held out as the guru of modern management principles. Many people don't know that Peter Drucker was also a Christian. And I remember reading an interview with him one time when he was talking about the church and he said, "The church is the only organization in the world that is focused on meeting people's needs on the other side of the grave".

Every other organization is geared toward helping people on this side of the grave to do good things, to live healthy and productive lives, but only the church is focused on the other side of the grave. And he said, "The greatest danger for a successful organization including the church, is to take on things that do not fit its purpose". And he uses this example. He said, if you go to the American Lung Association and you say to them, "Have you seen the frightening statistics that 97% of Americans have ingrown toenails"? You know what the American Lung Association will say to you? They'll say, "Well, that's really bad, but our interest in people stops above the neck and below the naval. We're singularly focused on people's lungs".

And he said, in the very same way, many people assume the church is supposed to take care of every need that's out there, every need that people have, and he said, "Effective churches have to learn to say no". But the effective ones do say no to good things, but good things that are not a part of their unique purpose statement. For example, this will shock some of you, but there's no mandate in the New Testament for the church to take care of the physical needs of people, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked. Oh, you're gonna point to Jesus and all. Every command, the few that talk about that, are talking about fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We have a responsibility to take care of the physical needs of our members who are in need.

If you see a brother or sister in need, James says, "We are to take care of them," but there is no mandate to go take care of the physical needs of the world, we are not a sanctified social agency. Only the church has been given the task of going into all the world and making disciples. Now, let's talk for a moment about the beginning of the church. We've talked about the definition of the church, baptize believers, organize to do God's will. Let's talk about the beginning of the church. The church has not always existed.

We're gonna talk about Abraham in a few weeks, he was not a member of the church, of the Universal Church. We're gonna talk about Moses, he was never a member of the church. John the Baptist wasn't a member of the church. The church had a beginning time, even in Jesus's day, the church was still future. Remember what he said in Matthew 16, "Upon this rock, I will build my church". The church was born on the day of Pentecost. We went through this in our series on Acts, so I won't belabor it, but let me show you the birthday of the church.

Acts 2 beginning with verse 1. "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place". All the followers, 120 of them were in that upper room. Remember, Jesus had told them to wait there, he said, "John baptized with water, but I will baptize you with the Holy Spirit". So they were there waiting for that. "And suddenly there came from heaven, a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them".

Later on, Peter would look back on this day and describe it as the day they received the baptism with the Holy Spirit of God. I've defined on your outline, the baptism with the Holy Spirit is the supernatural act of God, by which Christ immerses believers with the Holy Spirit, joining them to himself and to other Christians. They were waiting for the baptism with the Spirit, but since Acts chapter 2, every Christian the moment he is saved, is immediately baptized with the Holy Spirit of God. We don't have to wait for it, beg for it, barter with God for it, it is ours as part of our birthright as Christians.

1 Corinthians 12:13 again says, "For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body". That's how we became a part of the universal church. Now let's talk about the activities of the church. What does the church do in order to reach its mission statement of making disciples? You have a description of the activities of the early church in Acts 2, beginning with verse 42. "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and they had all things in common".

Verse 46, "Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved". My very first sermon here 15 years ago, was based on this passage. It was titled A Church That Wins. And I used the word wins, W I N S, as an acrostic for the four activities of the early church. Do you remember what those four components were? I didn't think you would, neither did I actually till I went back to look at it. But as you look at this passage, here's what the early church did and what we ought to be doing as well. The W in WINS stands for worship.

Acts 2 says, "They were praising God together". Worship, worship. Psalm 34 verse 3 said, "Oh, let us magnify the Lord together and let us exalt his name". When we meet together for worship, and don't we have spectacular worship here at First Baptist Dallas? The purpose of worship regardless of the music style, is to magnify God. To magnify something means to make something look bigger.

You think, "Wait a minute, we're supposed to magnify God. Is it really possible to make God bigger"? Remember, vision is a matter of perspective. For example, have you ever done this maybe as a child take two nickels and put one into each eye and look up at the sky and these two little nickels can block out the entire sun that is billions of times larger than the nickel. How is that possible? Vision is a matter of focus, what we're focusing on. Every day of the week, we are bombarded with problems in our family, in our work life, in a thousand other areas, and those problems are what the focus of our life is, and many times those problems block out our vision of God.

There needs to be one day a week when we lay aside the concerns that we have and focus on God, focus on him, and when we do that, he regains his proper place in our life, his proper size in our life. If we focus only on our problems like those nickels, we're gonna be filled with anxiety and worry and stress. There needs to be a time that we look at God and remember who he is, and that is the purpose of worship. They worshiped God. The I in that acrostic stands for instruction. Acts 2:42 says that, "They devoted themselves, first of all to the apostles teaching". Now remember, this was in the days when there was no New Testament, so the apostles actually had to do the teaching.
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