Matt 16:18 What Is A Church? This is the first reference in all of the Bible to the church. It might surprise you to see the church being referenced by Jesus before the cross; yet, why not? The church had been part of the plan of God from before the foundations of this world. There are a lot of churches in America and around the world. I received a post card from the Bethlehem General Baptist Youth, a ministry, I suppose, of the Bethlehem General Baptist of Whitewater, Missouri. The card said there were 374,000 churches in America. Of course that probably includes all kinds of churches—sound ones and unsound—but even if they were all sound, it would not be enough! The problem is, "How do you know a good church from a bad one?" This morning, let’s answer the question, "What is a church?" I. A church is a place that glorifies God. This is the most important of all purposes of the church. There is no purpose which comes before this one and there are no purposes which can be adequately fulfilled without this one. How do we glorify God? A. A church pleases God. 1. We need to understand a basic, Bible principal; that is, there is a conflict between the spiritual and the flesh. Romans 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 2. That means that would please men would not please God and what would make man comfortable would not make God comfortable. a. A church is not a place for man’s comfort. b. That doesn’t mean we have to design church to make man miserable but man’s comfort is not a goal. 3. The church are the people of God meeting together so that they can collectively have fellowship with God. a. The party that needs to be made comfortable in a church is God not man. b. Remember, sin offends God. (1) Sin includes transgression of God’s laws, worldliness, and carnality (2) Transgression of the law (a) When you use that definition, people want to say you are a legalist; however, that is a New Testament definition. 1Jo 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (b) How can you say a New Testament definition of sin is legalism? (3) Worldliness (a) Worldliness is worldly behavior. (b) Our churches are more like bars today than churches. (c) They are dark with strobe lights, marsh pits, rap and rock music, and a little sermonette on the side. (4) Carnal means fleshly or appealing to the flesh. c. How is a holy God being made comfortable in churches like that? d. It is strange but in this day holiness offends men, and most men think that is worse than for our sin to offend God. 4. Most have lost the understanding of what a church is for but the number one reason is to glorify God. a. When people look for a church, they are far more concerned with what a church can do for them than what a church does for God. b. That is both backwards and sinful. c. If you want to look for a church that glorifies God AND has programs, nice facilities, and is friendly— fine; but make sure you do not forget the primary purpose of a church. B. A church preaches the Word. 1. The biggest compliment a true preacher can have is that he preaches God’s Word. 2. The biggest cut to any preacher ought to be that he does NOT preach God’s Word. 3. John tells us that there are many false prophets gone out into the world today \\#1John 4:1\\. 4. Be careful about exposing yourself to a false preacher. a. If you listen to one, you expose yourself to a false spirit. (1) That is even more dangerous than exposing yourself to error. (2) A false spirit is a demonic spirit. (3) By the way, a person does not have to be wrong about everything to be a false prophet. They only have to be wrong about one important thing. b. If you promote one in anyway—even just by telling others you listen to one—you are promoting a false spirit. c. If you give funds in anyway—even by purchasing a book or CD—you are funding the devil’s business. 5. The church exists to preach the Word! C. A church prays with power. 1. A church is a place of prayer and a place where power comes as a result of prayer. 2. Every weakness that exists in the world today is because of our lack of prayer. a. Our weakness in missions, soul winning, standing against sin, stopping the devil. b. The church has the ability to win every battle as long as it fights every battle on its knees. Charles Stanley - The shortest distance between a problem and its solution is the distance between your needs and the floor. II. A church is a wall against sin. How does a church do that? 2Thess 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. A. A church wins the lost. 1. Winning the lost is the first and the most important way of standing against sin. 2. Winning the lost undercuts sin by eliminating sin’s participants. 3. Many churches have gotten side-tracked trying to stop immorality and wickedness with laws and ordinances. a. I’m for godly laws and ordinances, but they are not the first work. They are way on down the list. b. Law has begun to accommodate sin not restrict it and you can’t put that genie back into the bottle unless the people want it. c. But salvation could and would. d. Salvation of the lost could put virtue and purity back in charge and run sin back into the crevices of darkness and shame. B. A church dispels ignorance. 1. That is why we are called light. 2. We expose sin as sin. 3. We do that with our words, our reasoning, our behavior, but more than anything else with the power of the Holy Spirit. 4. With words - We preach/teach/talk about sin being sinful. Ac 5:42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. a. Of course the pastor does this from the pulpit, but what about people doing it with other people? (1) My role as the pastor is to equip you with the truth so that you CAN stand toe-to-toe with any error. Eph 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints…. (2) That is why you hear me discuss things like evolution, atheism, secular American history, and homosexuality in sermons, in Sunday school, via films, and our websites. (3) If you cannot answer some of their arguments either you are not listening or I am not doing my ministry. 5. With reasoning a. Our first argument is always the Word of God, but because many do not accept the Bible as God’s Word and because some of today’s topics are outside of the Word of God (American history), we must be able to give not just Biblical answers but sound, factual, provable answers to the lost about contemporary issues. 1Peter 3:15 …be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: b. Creation Museum, The Ark Encounter, monuments and building in Washington, real history, real science, real logic c. The primary purpose of education in America was NEVER just so that you could make more money. It was so that you could know God better! Benjamin Franklin "A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district—all studied and appreciated as they merit—are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty." John Jay, 1st US Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: "…and as the weak and the wicked are generally in alliance, as much care should be taken to diminish the" first as the last. "Education is the way to do this, and nothing should be left undone to afford all ranks of people the means of obtaining a proper degree…." 6. With behavior a. Sin is not just something we preach against. b. Sin is something that we refuse to participate in. (1) Anything less is hypocrisy. (2) The number one reason "Christian" homes are falling apart is and always has been hypocrisy. (3) Christians who say they love Jesus but their behavior does not bear that out. (4) Gossiping, backbiting, jealous, greedy, laying out of church, buying toys and never tithing, carrying a Bible on Sunday but cursing on Monday. (5) Do you think your children are so blind that they cannot see? (6) You confuse their spirits and damn their precious souls by such behavior. c. And more, sin is something we physically stand against. (1) Should Christians not be on the battle lines against vile politics, abortion, legalization of sin, false education, and immoral lifestyles? (2) Is Christ only worthy of a pew and a hardy amen or is He not worth our time, our legs, our backs, our voices, and our public behavior? (3) You may think a Christian standing on a street corner with a placard and a cause is embarrassing but I think more of us out to be standing out there with him! C. A church slows sin. 1. That is why we are called salt. 2. The battle against sin is a losing battle. a. It always has been. b. God told us from the beginning how this would end. c. Salt does not stop meat from decaying but it slows the process. 3. But the church slows the progression of sin. a. You might sound like a voice in the wilderness (no one hears you), but keep crying aloud for your wilderness voice with my wilderness voice and the wilderness voice of every other Christian has an effect. b. When the church’s presence is no longer accomplishing anything for God, God will take us home. III. A church is the body of Christ. A. There are many verses where the church is compared to the body of Christ. 1Cor 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 1Cor 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. B. How is the church like Christ’s body? 1. A body grows. a. As a body grows, so the church grows. (1) A body grows in maturity (i.e. wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.) Lu 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. (a) With each passing week, the church should know more about God, sin, salvation, and the Savior. There is no "cap" on that kind of knowledge. (b) But even more important, the church should have more wisdom and understanding. fulfilling Jesus’ commandment. Mt 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (2) A body grows stronger. (a) Since a church’s battle is spiritual, it’s spiritual strength should be what is growing. 2Cor 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) (b) Having bigger and nicer buildings, larger budgets and more staff, are not necessarily marks of a stronger church. (c) Reaching more people for Christ, helping the hunger, the sick, and the naked—those are the marks of a strong church. (3) A body grows in number. (a) And yes, a church should be growing in number. (b) The human body reproduces itself and so should God’s church. b. If a body does not grow, something is wrong. (1) If you want to read some sad stories, do a search on the internet for children who never grew up. (a) Brooke Greenberg - 20 year old woman in a one year old body. Both her body and mind are still that of a toddler. (b) Gabby Williams - 9 year old girl the size of a toddler. It is estimated that she ages one year for four normal years. (c) No one knows the cause for these and the other children like them, but all agree it is not normal. i. In Gabby’s situation, at least she is ageing. Perhaps she will live to be 400 years old. ii. But in Brooke’s case, it looks like she will be a toddler no matter how long she lives. (2) Is our church growing? (a) In some ways, YES. i. Our church has such a good spirit in it. ii. Our church is a giving church. iii. Our church is an active church. We have a much higher percentage of participation in our church than most churches. (b) But in some ways, we need to grow more. i. We need to pray more. ii. We need to do more to win the lost. iii. We need to find ways to meet the needs of the hurting, the lonely, the poor, the addicts, the abused. iv. We need to make the devil run. 2. A body unifies. a. A body can only function as it is joined and working together. (1) If your foot is in room and your leg in another, something might be wrong. (2) If you awake to find your hands are gone, you certainly will not get much work done. b. Body parts are not supposed to be missing, neither should they be working against you. (1) Brother Truman McVea is still recuperating from his stroke. He gets better every day but after a month, his body still does not do what he tells it to do. Talking with him, he shared that his left hand drops things and sometimes he cannot tell it until he hears it hit the floor. (2) That is not supposed to happen. It is as if his hand is refusing to cooperate. c. What unifies the body? (1) The brain, the head, the controller. (2) For the church, Jesus is the Head, the Brain, the Controller. 3. A body serves.
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