Robert Jeffress - A Winning Church - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". When Peter confessed that Jesus was Christ, Jesus said to him, "You are Peter. Upon this rock I will build my church". That promise came true, and over 2.000 years later, the church remains one of the most influential forces on earth. Today, I'll explain why every believer should be involved in a local church, and how the church can help us experience the power of the Holy Spirit. My message is titled "A Winning Church" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
The fact is, God did not create us to try to find him or receive the nourishment we need from him apart from our involvement with other Christians. We're kind of like those two porcupines that were huddled together up in a frozen tundra region of Canada. They huddled together to keep warm. They needed one another even though they needled one another. You know, Christians are like that. The fact is, we need one another, not just for warmth, but we need one another for the energy that flows from them into our lives. And that's the truth we're going to see illustrated this morning. If you have your Bibles, turn to Acts 2. Acts 2. We're in our series on the Holy Spirit entitled "Unleashed: Experiencing The Power of The Holy Spirit".
Wouldn't you like to experience the power of God surging through your life every day? Wouldn't you like to have the very same power in your life that Jesus experienced 24/7? Here is the most understated and the untaught truth in all of Christendom today, you can experience God's power in your life. You don't have to wait till you get to heaven to experience it. You can have it all right now. Let me be real specific what I'm talking about. You can have power to experience answered prayer in your life. You can have power to be at peace no matter what is happening around you. You can have power to be content with your finances no matter what those finances are. You can have the power to forgive rather than get even with your enemies. You can have the power to say no to sin and to break its enslavement over your life. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in your life right now available to you if you know how to tap into it.
Now, that's the key. You see, as we've seen, the Bible says, the moment you're saved, the Holy Spirit comes into your life. It's like God places a spiritual generator into your life. He's called the Holy Spirit of God. But there are some things you have to do to access his power. As we've seen in this series, there are four transmission lines, if you will. Four channels, four conduits through which the Holy Spirit's energy surges into your life. What are those conduits? Well, we, first of all, said, conduit channel number one is the Word of God, the Bible. God uses the Bible to bring his power into your life. Channel number two is conversation with God, prayer. There's something about prayer that connects us to the incredible power of the Holy Spirit.
And last time, we began looking at the third channel that God uses to flow his power, his energy into our life, and that is our connection to the people of God, the church. Other Christians are our transmission line that bring God's power into your life. And we see that, beginning in Acts 2. Remember, this was the account of the early church. They had just received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. And you see how God used the early church to generate power into the individual lives of believers. What are those four characteristics of a church that God uses to generate his power into our lives? Today's message is titled "A church that wins," "A winning church," and that word wins forms an acrostic that gives us the four characteristics of a church that can pour God's power into your life. Notice that this early church, first of all, centered on, and the w stands for, worship.
Acts 2:46 says that these early believers were continually praising God and having favor with all men. That's what worship is. Worship in a nutshell is expressing our gratitude and our appreciation to God for all he's done in our life. That's worship. Worshiping God, and even though we can worship God individually, and we should worship God individually, worship is best done with other believers corporately. And we saw that last time. Now let's look at the I for this word wins. The second attribute of a church that God uses to pour his energy into our life, that I stands for instruction. Look at verse 42. "And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching," to the apostles' instruction. Not only did the early church worship God, but they also received the apostles' teaching, the instruction that came from God's word.
Now I've actually just created a false dichotomy in separating the worship of God from the instruction that comes from God. There are a lot of people that see a difference between worship and instruction or preaching. They say, you know, worship, we're going to worship, we're going to praise God for the first 30 minutes and then comes the preaching. You know, we see a difference between worship and preaching, but that dichotomy does not exist in the Bible. We think that, well, real worship, that reaches the heart, but instruction, preaching, that only reaches the head. We think of something that is different between worship and preaching, but that dichotomy does not exist in the Bible.
Let me show you what I mean. Hold your place here and turn over to John 4 for just a moment. Remember the story of Jesus' encounter with the woman at Jacob's well? She was a Samaritan, and he was talking to her about her own relationship with God, but she was involved in a sticky moral situation. She had been married multiple times, and so she wanted to try to divert Jesus' attention away from her own personal situation and get involved in a theological discussion. And so she says, "Now, Jesus, you know, we Samaritans, we worship at mount Gerizim, but you Jews, you worship in Jerusalem. Now, where is the right place to worship God, mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem"?
And if she were talking to the Lord today, she might ask a question like this. Now, Lord, you know, our people, the Samaritans, we prefer contemporary music, but you Jews, you like that traditional music. Now, what kind of music does God like? Does God like contemporary music or does he like traditional music? You know what Jesus said? He couldn't care less. Jesus refused to get involved in the worship wars of his day. He said, God doesn't care whether it's mount Gerizim or whether it's Jerusalem. And by the way, ladies and gentlemen, God doesn't care whether it's traditional or contemporary music. It is not the form, it's the heart attitude that God cares about.
And notice what he says here in verse 23 and 24. Jesus said to this woman, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the worshiper shall worship the father in spirit and," what? "truth". "For such people the father seeks to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him and spirit and in truth". Jesus said, God is looking for one thing right now. He's looking across the earth for people, men and women, who will worship him, who will pour out their sincere admiration and appreciation for who God is. And God is looking for people who do that, not out of ritualistic duty, but out of a wellspring of emotion from their heart. That's the kind of worshiper God is looking for. And he's looking for people who will worship him in spirit and in truth. Both are vital. Worship has to come out of a wellspring of emotion. It can't be cold and sterile. Worship is to be filled with emotion, but it's to be bathed in the truth of God's word.
Notice how he puts the two together. Worship involves emotion and it involves truth. John Stott, the Anglican pastor who passed away just a few weeks ago, wrote about the inseparable connection between the worship of God and the Word of God. Listen to what he says. "Word and worship belong inseparably to each other. All worship is an intelligent and loving response to the revelation of God, because it is the adoration of his name. Therefore acceptable worship is impossible without preaching. Far from being an alien intrusion into worship, the reading and the preaching of God's word are actually indispensable to it. The two cannot be divorced". The early church understood that. The early church understood that an integral part of worship was receiving the instruction that comes from God's word.
And I know some of your thinking, you're saying, well, Robert, I agree. I need to receive the instruction of God's word, but now that the Holy Spirit dwells within me, I mean, can't I just study God's word on my own? Why do I need to go to a church in order to hear God's word? A priesthood of the believer. I've got the Holy Spirit in me, who needs a church? Haven't you heard that before? Well, let's see what God says about that. Hold your place here and turn over to Ephesians 4:11-13. I know we're looking at a lot of scripture today, but that's what we do at first Baptist Dallas. And listen to the rustling of those pages. That is music to a pastor's ear to hear us turning to God's word.
Look at Ephesians 4:11-13. Now here's God's plan for the church. Paul writes, "And God gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors," and your translation probably says pastors and teachers. There is no and in the original text. There's no conjunction. It's not pastors and teachers, it's not pastors, comma, teachers, it's one word, pastor-teacher, same office. "He gave some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastor-teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ: until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ". That's a mouthful, Paul.
You know, Paul could have benefited for some English classes and not had those run-on sentences. But the fact is, they were inspired run-on sentences. To understand what Paul says here you have to go to the very end. The ultimate purpose of the church is to build you, the believer, up in such a way that you resemble Jesus Christ in all of his fullness, the fullness of Christ. Well, let me illustrate it for you this way. God is then the body-building business. You know that's what he's trying to do? He's trying to build up the body of Christ. Now that has two meanings, and we're going to look at both of them today.
First of all, when he talks about building up the body of Christ, it means he is putting you through a regimen, every circumstance in your life is working together to mold you to make you look like Jesus Christ, not in your physique, but in your actions, attitudes, and affections. And that's why God gave these specific ministers to the church, to equip the saints for the work of service until the building up of the body of Christ, until we all resemble Jesus Christ. That's what he is saying here. So, God is in the process of making you look just like Jesus Christ.
Now, how does he accomplish that? Well, let's think about an athlete for just a moment. No athlete, who is serious about training, trains only by himself. If he's really serious about getting into shape, he will work alongside a trainer. The coach will put him with a trainer and that trainer will help develop him physically. Well, it's the same way here. God is the coach, he's the bodybuilder, the church is the gymnasium, but God has hired some trainers to help you become just like Jesus Christ. And the trainer, he has hired for the church. He sent missionaries, those are the apostles. He sent evangelists, those that go to the unsaved, but for the church, the trainer is the pastor-teacher. He is the one God has ordained to teach you the Word of God so that you can grow in your faith.
Now I'm going to say something here that some of you are going to immediately reject, because you have been conditioned by your culture so much. But before you reject this, when you go home and discuss it, and you will go home and discuss this, I'll guarantee you, I just want you to ask yourself, now am I opposed to this because the Word of God is opposed to it, or am I having trouble with this idea because of the culture in which I was raised? You know, for the last 50 years among Christians, it has been very popular to talk about and emphasize every Christian ought to study God's word for himself. And we've really taught that over and over again, your personal study of the Word of God.
When I was in seminary, my master's thesis was on inductive Bible study, how valuable it is to study the word for yourself. And I believe that, like 1 Peter says, "Like newborn babes, we ought to long for the pure milk of the word, that by it we may grow in respect to salvation". However, however, a personal study of God's word is no substitute for sitting under the preaching of God's word. In fact, I invite you to do a little study and see how many times in the New Testament you are actually commanded to study the Word of God for yourself versus how much emphasis there is placed in the Bible on listening to the sound teaching of the Word of God. And I know somebody's like, study to show thyself approved under God, a workman needs not be ashamed.
That was Paul writing to another pastor, okay? Look and see how many times in the New Testament the emphasis is on our personal study of the word versus listening to the sound teaching of the word. And you'll find that listening to the Word of God from a sound teacher is commanded as much or more often than studying the word for yourself. Now, it's not an either/or proposition, but what I'm saying to you this morning is, if you're just engaged in your own personal Bible study, or you're going just to a Sunday school class, or you're just going to a weekday Bible class and said, that's my instruction from the Word of God, you're missing out on what God has planned for you. You cannot grow as a Christian unless you are sitting under the teaching of that God-appointed teacher, the pastor-teacher, that God has placed over the church as the teacher of the church.
And I'm speaking to some of you right now who are listening to this broadcast and I hear from you regularly, and you say, well, I'm going to such and such church and the pastor doesn't preach the word, but I love my Sunday school class, and I love the fellowship, and I just think I'm going to stay where I am. If that is true of you, you need to leave that church immediately and go find a church where you can sit under the teaching of a God-ordained and God- appointed man who is the one God has placed over you to teach you the Word of God. That is God's plan for our growth. That's what the early church did. They received the instruction that came from the pastor-teacher, and that's God's plan for us as well.
What is it that made this church such an energy-packed church? They engaged in worship, they engaged in instruction, and notice, third, the n stands for nourishment. Luke tells us that another priority for this first century church was the emotional nourishment they received from one another. Look at verse 42. "And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship". Fellowship was an important part of the early church.
Now, we've got this screwy idea in Baptist churches today about what fellowship is. You know, we think about fellowship about those minutes before Sunday school standing around the coffee urn and, you know, engaging in meaningless conversation, you know, oh, you think it's going to be 100 another day today? Are we going to break the record or not? Or, oh, what about the stock market, what's going to happen there? Or, you know, what do you think about the election and the primaries? And how old do you think those donuts really are?
And you know, those are some of the things that we talk about, and we think that is fellowship. That's not fellowship. When we talk about fellowship in the early church, it refers to the unconditional devotion that these first century believers had to one another. In fact, when you read Acts 2, you find that they were so involved with one another's lives that when one Christian had a need, other Christians would sell what they had to meet that need. That's what fellowship is. It is an emotional involvement with the needs of other believers.
Anne Ortlund says that the church can be compared to either a bag of marbles or a bag of grapes. How many of you remember marbles? Remember marbles, played with them as a kid? You put a bag of marbles and you start shaking that bag and they make this scratching sound as they bang up against one another. There's a lot of friction when you have marbles rubbing up against one another. But if you take a bag of grapes and start shaking it, what's going to happen? You're going to have a mess, aren't you? Because those grapes, they start to meld into one another, they start to ooze into one another, where you can't really tell the single grapes from the cluster of grapes.
What the Word of God is saying is, God meant for us as Christians not to be a bag of marbles, irritating one another, offending one another, staying separate from one another. He meant us to be a bag of grapes, being so closely associated with other believers that we ooze into one another's lives. That's what fellowship is. Why do we need other Christians? What do they do for us we can't do for ourselves?
So glad you asked. Turn over to the Hebrews 10 for just a moment. Here's the passage we read this morning Hebrews 10:24-25. I want us to look at this passage, maybe in a little bit different way than you've looked at it before. The writer says, beginning in verse 24, "And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and to 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".
Let me mention three things that other Christians do for us that we cannot do for ourselves. First of all, other Christians offer us challenge when we are complacent. A challenge when we are complacent. Underline that word in verse 24, stimulate, "Let us consider how to stimulate". That word literally in Greek means to provoke or to irritate. In Ephesians 6:4, Paul uses it in a negative way. By the way, this is my children's favorite verse, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger".
That's what the word is. It means to irritate. It means to be, as a father, so overbearing and critical that you just exasperate your children. You discourage them. And Paul says, don't be that way. That's the word provoke in a negative way, but this word provoke or irritate can also be used in a positive way. For example, what happens when you put a grain of sand in an oyster? That grain of sand will irritate the oyster, but something beautiful comes out of it, doesn't it? A pearl. And that's the way he's using the word here. He saying, when we get together as Christians, we ought to, in a positive way, irritate, stimulate, one another to produce something good. And that is faith and good deeds. We need to be around other Christians who will provoke us, who will stimulate us to be more Christ.