Is The Church Changing?z
Good evening everyone. I've got some thoughts running through my head right now about some conversations this morning after services having to do with the auditorium being painted. I am blaming the comments made on the auditorium... not my preaching. That is, the color of the auditorium. A couple of ladies, as they walked out this morning, said they had already had their afternoon nap, It was because of the color of the room. It made them feel calm and sedate. It is different isn't it? When you think about what we've been worshiping in for the last six years. But we still get to come together. We still get to worship together, and even though they are being lighthearted by jokingly saying things like that, we still come together for a reason: Worship! We are part of the body of Christ. That promise that Jesus made in Matthew chapter 16 is something that still rings loud and clear. Clearer to me every single day.
Back in 2010, Diane Sawyer was making some comments on a book called "The Light Of The World, The Pope, The church" and it was during that time that something was taking place. Pope Benedict -- It seemed like people were complaining that, "Their version of the church was changing to meet the times," and changing to be more politically correct and less scripturally correct. You see that all around today. There are denominations that are starting to divide over certain things. It has been in the news just this week. So the question I have for us this evening: "Is the church changing?" On the chart, I put the word "changing" in different letters on purpose, because you just never know. It is not uniform anymore around the world. Thinking about religion in general, it's not the same, is it?
But Jesus in Matthew chapter 16 said he was going to build His church. He promised something that everybody who entered into the kingdom could be a part of; and He promised something that could be found to be a place where we can be in fellowship with Him! But the world, what it is doing, is mounting a feverish challenge to those who are people of faith today, aren't they? They are putting pressure on people of faith and they're saying that Christians must change with the times.
You have probably heard someone say that if you don't change, you're going to be on the wrong side of history. Hillary Clinton, in 2015 - the year before the political campaign - really ramped up the women in the World Summit, by commenting, "That deep seated cultural cold codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed!" And I want to know why?
I ask that question all the time. Why? Because it's the influence of the world, isn't it? It is what the world wants. We have to ask the question, then, "Is that what God wants? Is that truly His desire?" And for those who, who are refusing that type of change -- that's admirable.
But it doesn't matter whether I approve or not, it is whether God approves. It matters, whether that promise Jesus made to Peter when he said, "...upon this rock, I will build My church," if that still means anything to the people of the world today. Of people of the "world" today, it doesn't, but it should mean something to those who even remotely say that they're religious, because it is a promise that Jesus Christ made himself. And when I think about Jesus in the church and think about what he said there in Matthew 16 -- pay attention -- He said upon this rock what? Well, that rock was actually the confession. Peter made not Peter. The confession that Jesus Christ is the son of God. That is the foundation for the church. And thinking about that, Jesus said, "I will build MY church." He didn't say, I will build A church -- which would leave the door open to just about any design imaginable. He didn't say, I will build churches (plural) because then you would see a multiplicity of churches, and actually, that's what we see in the world today, isn't it? In the world today, we see what many people deem to be multiple churches. And I would say this: Part of what the worldview of the church is... They lump everybody into one basket. It doesn't matter what denomination you are a part of, you are in the basket. You're part of that church. It doesn't matter if you say you are non-denominational, you are a member of the church of Christ -- which fits the model of Matthew chapter 16 -- you are still a part of that same basket church, according to the world. And so there's a misunderstanding even in the world today in general. But what they're saying is you need to change.
I'm reminded, then, of Hebrews chapter 13, verse eight, because it says there, "...Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today..." and forever. And what makes sense to me is if Jesus doesn't need to change, neither does His church. The church that He promised to build is based on the fact that He doesn't change.
And so is the world, right? Well, obviously, No! You see that what's happening and when you look around and you start looking at the religious community in general -- now let's make that broad brushstroke -- What is happening? Well, if in the world's view, some of the churches are changing. They have developed a "Field Of Dreams" mindset. When I say, a field of dreams mindset, I mean the "Build it, and they will come!" mindset. And when I say build it and they will come, it means they bring the "world" into their buildings and are attracting people with that rather than the gospel.
What are they saying to justify their action? Well, if we get them there, then we can convert them. The truth is, they are going about it the wrong way -- they have got it backwards! Because what we should be trying to do is get the "world" OUT of us... Take the world out of us. We're trying to sacrifice our lives, deny ourselves, deny our worldliness and take up our cross and follow Christ! And if we do that, then we can enter into that kingdom, into that church that Jesus Christ promised to build.
It's one of those things that when I think about Jesus and the church, then I think about not only what was stated there in Matthew chapter 16 and in Hebrews chapter 13, but then I read something in Matthew chapter 28, verse 18: There, as Jesus starts to give his disciples the "Great Commission" -- Matthew's account of it. Jesus Christ himself says, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth." He is the one that promised to build the church. He doesn't change. He's the one that has all authority. So who has the authority to change the church? Only Christ! -- and He doesn't change.
Is the church changing? Well, if it is, then we are in danger. Therefore, you look at the scriptures, and you see in Ephesians chapter one and verse 22, "That Christ is the Head of the church!" And He has been given "All Things" to be the head over the church -- by God Himself, the Father. And that position there, that church, is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all. And so, when considering the question, "Is the church changing?" we must conclude: If it is changing, then it won't look like Him, who is it's head!
The body doesn't change. You think about that in that particular sense, the body is not supposed to change. Well, so I ask the question again, "Doesn't it make sense that if Christ does not change, then the very church that he promised to build should not change? I'm not being overly wise when I come up with a question like that or get it just to me, it seems rather logical to move in that particular direction, but consider this too: "If Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday, and forever -- and He doesn't change, and his church doesn't change, then that tells me something else: "The word of God doesn't change!"
I don't know if you're connecting the dots like I am. Sometimes my mind works differently than everybody else's, I know that. But I'm trying to look at things the way the world does, yet I am trying to keep the perspective of the spiritual kingdom, of which, we are a part: I know the draw of the world, and trying to get people that way. But, actually, thinking of it that way, it appears what they are doing is almost a "Bait and Switch" scheme. They "bait" you with the things of the world to get you in, and then try to switch you to the spiritual. That just doesn't work. The two don't go together, do they? They don't. They don't meld together at all because what happens is: "We try to incorporate one with the other and they were never meant to mix together. Both Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul, in writing his epistles, encouraged the brethren to be separate from the world. What were they to be separate from? They had to be separate from the world in order to be part of His church.
There has to be a guide, then, a blueprint. We speak of a "Pattern." The Hebrew writer talks about a pattern, the pattern of the tabernacle, and we talk about a pattern in the new Testament for the church, and I agree with that. But what is that pattern based on? It is based on God's word itself! Christ doesn't change. His church shouldn't change. His word doesn't change, and so when we think about second Timothy chapter three verses 16 and 17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete thoroughly equipped for every good work."
I read a post the other day on Facebook from another preacher. He said, he had heard some people say that God has given us everything. Well, that's not quite true. He's given us all we need -- but he hasn't given us the answer to every question that we have. He has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness. When you think about what is stated in Peter's letter. What that means then is we've been given enough so that we can teach correctly the doctrine, the teaching -- so that we can reprove for correction. When those things are necessary, it is there to put us back on the path that we're supposed to be on. That makes us equipped for every good work. I think that's wonderful! When you look at it without examining it and breaking it down real deeply, you think about what Paul said to Timothy: Timothy is going to be preaching a message. He is going to be teaching a message that comes from God. And when we preach today, as part of the church, that is what we should be doing. God's word doesn't change. Second Peter chapter one verses 20 and 21 goes on to say, "...knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation." That means I don't have the right to say that a passage means something it doesn't say. I don't have the right, since Jesus Christ has given us a blueprint for His church in His word, to say, "Well, I think it would be better if we do this over here."
It means that no prophecy... The interpretation is not mine, it has been given to us by God. Prophecy never came by the will of man, but through Holy men of God, who spoke as they were moved by the Holy spirit. What did Paul say in second Timothy? Chapter two? "All scripture is inspired of God" -- Second Timothy chapter three, not chapter two. That's what Peter is saying right here in this text and Peter will go on to say then in first Peter chapter four in verse 11 that if anyone speaks, "...Let him speak as the Oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it with the ability which God supplies, so that in all things, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen."
"If anyone speaks..." I look at the great commission: These men who were going to be building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. Beginning on the day of Pentecost, when they are empowered by the Holy spirit, they begin speaking. And their message was not a message of the world. Their message was a message from God, to the people. The Gospel, that "Good News" we talked about; that message of grace, that we talked about this morning, that allows people to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
We speak as the Oracles of God as if we are speaking directly from Him. One of the things that keeps us from interpreting things the way that we want to interpret them is when we just let the word speak for itself. Several years ago I remember talking to a gentleman, who was always bringing things up. One of the things we were talking about, was Old Testament prophecy. He said, "Have you ever noticed that if you look at prophecy, or if you even look at some of the parables that Jesus said, or the teachings of Jesus; there were similarities that took place: You will see a prophecy in a particular place, then a little bit later the scriptures will explain that prophecy to you. You don't have to interpret it, because the text will do it for you.
If we're going to speak as the Oracles of God, what that means is we need to be using this book that we call our Bible more readily. To keep the church from changing, we need to stick to what God says, and not deviate from it. When you were in the process of building this building, how many corrections to the blueprints were made? Do you remember? You didn't go straight off the first set of blueprints, did you? You came back and saw that you needed to do things this way, or that way. We don't have to do that with what Jesus has described as the church. He gave us the perfect blueprint and it's in his word! I look at that and I ask the question one more time: Is the church changing? I pray that it never does! The only change that a church should ever make is one of repentance because they've left their first love, or the works that God knows they should be doing.
When you look at the seven churches of Asia, you might think about Ephesus and that they had left their first love. What were they being implored to do? Return to that first love -- return to what was supposed to be. When you think about Laodicea, who had become so lazy and lackadaisical in their own beliefs that they became lukewarm. What were they implored to do? Come back! Reconcile with God. That's the only change that needs to be made, because the church as it was, and as it should be today, does it need to change?
So has the work and worship of the church changed? Only if man has changed it. If it has changed it is not because of what God did. I think about the work of the church and three words, that you see on the screen, Evangelism, Edification, and Benevolence stand out, because we quite often use them as the New Testament pattern. Well, evangelism is the bedrock of the church. And what I mean by that is without evangelism, the church doesn't exist. Without the preaching of the gospel -- Without you and me working together and reaching out to those around us -- Reaching friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, whoever it may be, the church would not exist in Fort Smith without evangelism.
The church itself would continue to exist somewhere, but evangelism is part of it and and even going as far as as what you heard announced this evening, not just necessarily keeping it local by helping somebody else in another area preach the gospel. That's the apostles being told, go into all the world and preach the gospel. That's Paul telling Timothy, teach faithful men so that they can teach others. Evangelism is what is going to save the world, not video games or movies.
The gospel -- that is what will save people. Evangelism is absolutely necessary. Just for a moment, turn over to the book of Ephesians and look at at something Paul says there in Ephesians chapter four. Pay, attention because we see two of the items on the screen her: Ephesians, chapter four, verse 11: He himself, being Christ, gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, some teachers. Do you understand what all that's for? He tells us in the next verse: It is for the equipping of the saints! But each of those types of individuals have an evangelistic work to do. I take part in the spreading of the gospel, but also for the equipping of the saints. What's that? That's edification, If you think about it. It is the building up. It's the strengthening of one another, and we have a responsibility then to each other. That hasn't changed. We continue to do that. Why do we meet on the Lord's day, Sunday morning? To worship God, but also to Edify and strengthen one another?
Why do we always say pray for one another? Because we're trying to strengthen one another, encourage one another. And I think about that and understand that yes, this hasn't changed and benevolence, there's different types of benevolence. It's not, not just taking care of of those who are poor; but it's taken care of those who are in need within and among the brothers and sisters in Christ as well. As you have opportunity do good to all men, especially those who are of the household of faith. We do have a responsibility to one another and taking care of one another and we have a responsibility to those that might be on the outside that when we have the ability to do so. We have the opportunity to do those things daily, don't we? As part of God's kingdom. So the work of the church really hasn't changed.
What about the worship? What we've done here this evening, there's preaching, teaching that goes on, the singing, prayer, taking of the Lord's supper, giving. I want to suggest something to us though -- worship extends outside of this building. It is something that you can do on your own. It's not something that is simply done corporately, but we do come together and we do do these things and we find each and every one of these things within the new Testament. So we're not going outside of God's blueprint, the Lord's blueprint for his church, when we do these things, do we? We're supposed to teach and admonish one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs -- that's singing and that's what we do. And yes, when we go back to Ephesians chapter four and you see that Jesus gave some to be apostles, and prophets, and pastors, and evangelists, and teachers -- That is the preaching and teaching that takes place.
We remember the Lord's death until he returns each Lord's day. But you can worship God outside of this assembly. If you are part of His kingdom and you're not worshiping at other times than Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night... You might need to reevaluate where you stand in your relationship to God. Are you really abiding in Him? I think there's something to be said about that too. When we say that we are abiding in Him... To abide in Him, and for Him to be abiding in us, we must be doing His will at all times.
So is the church changing? It should not change! But the warning comes because the world is changing around us. The world is calling good, evil and evil, good... and the world is not ashamed of that. The world doesn't blush about things anymore. It used to be that if you started discussing certain topics -- topics surrounding immorality -- they just not discussed openly. They were taboo in many instances. But now everything is out in the open and right in your face. It's the world that is changing. But we do need to change the world's perception of the church -- we don't need to change the church. We do need to change the hearts of individuals through the gospel. Let me suggest two reasons that the church will not change: The church will not change as long as it uses the inspired word of God as its guide -- as long as we remember that Jesus Christ is the same! If the head of the church doesn't change -- remember, He's the same yesterday, today and forever. And He promised to build His church -- that which came in to being on the day of Pentecost in acts chapter two -- The church should be that same church that He said He would build in Matthew chapter 16 and verse 18. That also means that God's plan to save mankind would not change. It has remained the same. It is all a part of that same blueprint we call the Bible. Why hasn't it changed? It hasn't changed because men still need the remedy of sin! We sin and fall short of the glory of God. (We talked about that this morning when we were talking about in our first lesson on grace) knowing that we don't live perfect lives, that we all live broken lives.
God's grace tells us that we have sin. God's plan has not changed because He sent His Son so that we may have forgiveness of our sins. Even though we were created perfectly, sin entered into the world shortly after creation, and God set in motion a plan to send His Son into the world. That plan did not change because He doesn't change! Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins and the only way man can be reconciled to God is through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. That hasn't changed -- the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin -- but that one sacrifice, the one perfect sacrifice for all time could save mankind from the death of sin. No man can come to the father except through Jesus Christ -- the one who is the head of the church. The one who promised the church, The one who does not change! We must go through him and so if we ask the question again: Is the church changing? No! The real issue is that men and women are changing the world, but they cannot change the church that Jesus promised.
Are we truly a part of it? We're trying. That is our goal, our aim: To be part of His church. And so, God's plan for salvation, as found within His scriptures, is about faith. Faith is an absolute must! As mentioned this morning, in Ephesians chapter two verse eight: "For by grace you have been saved through faith." It is God's grace -- He has done all the work, but that grace is conditional upon OUR faith that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and on our willingness to repent of our sins, confess him before men, and being baptized for the remission of our sins. Then to remain faithful.