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The Church: Let's Start Here, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
April 18, 2022 7:05 am

The Church: Let's Start Here, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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April 18, 2022 7:05 am

The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal

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Abidan Shah
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Truth for Life
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Today, Chuck Swindoll delivers a wake-up call to the church. Christ alone is the head of the church, not the congregation, not majority vote, not any man or woman or family, not a pastor or a board. Christ remains the head.

Why do I emphasize this? Because everybody's tendency is to fall back on everything and every other one but Christ and his word. You'll often hear our Bible teacher reinforce the preeminence of Christ in all things. This belief comes not from his own convictions, but from the Bible itself.

Yes, Christ alone is the head of the church. And today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll begins our next teaching series. This time we're addressing God's design for his church family and how this divine plan impacts our local church families today.

It also lets you see how Chuck shepherds the flock of believers who gather at Stonebriar Community Church. Our study is called The Church Awakening. God's word is alive and active and it's sharper than a double-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of the joints and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart. That word discerner is an interesting term.

It's the Greek term kritikos. We get our word critic from it. And when you think of the scriptures, think of the scriptures as constructive criticism. The word of God will tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. And that's always good for us. We all need to hear what we need to hear.

Sounds like a Yogi Berra comment, doesn't it? We need to hear what we need to hear. But often when you come to church, you're told what you want to hear and that's a waste of time. So we're here for God's word to speak to us and to instruct us in the way we ought to go. We want to do that today from two separate passages in the New Testament. One is from the first book of the New Testament. That's the Gospel by Matthew. If you'll put your finger at chapter 16, then locate the second chapter in the fifth book of the New Testament, which is the book of Acts. Acts chapter 2. Again reading there at verse 41 down to the end of verse 47. We're going to address some things that probably some things you've never heard before.

Certainly I've never said them here and they have to do with where we've been, where we are, and where we're going. Matthew 16 verse 13 down through 18, then Acts 2, 41. Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he was asking his disciples, who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they said, some say John the Baptist, and others Elijah, but still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, but who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus said to him, blessed are you Simon Barjona.

See that word? It means Son of John. Blessed are you Simon, Son of John. Because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.

And the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Acts chapter 2 verse 41. So then those who had received his word were baptized, and that day there were added about 3,000 souls. 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 had all things in common. They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all as anyone might have need. 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. You're listening to Insight for Living. To search the scriptures with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to slash studies. And now the message from Chuck called The Church.

Let's start here. Anniversaries are great occasions for reflection and evaluation. They are like cyclical milestones that give us an opportunity to look back where we've been and to look within to see where we are and then to look ahead, to think about where we're going. Such keen and disciplined thinking stops erosion. Webster defines erode like this. To diminish or destroy by degrees, to eat into or away by slow destruction of substance, to cause to deteriorate or disappear. Rather than occurring rapidly, erosion is always slow.

Instead of making a lot of noise, erosion is silent. And in place of being obvious, erosion is subtle, always subtle. You hardly know it's happening as it's happening.

This slow and silent and subtle wearing away is not only of concern to us physically, it's of greater concern to us spiritually. It can happen even in the finest of Christian organizations. Believe it or not, it can happen at a seminary that once stood strong and firm on the teaching of the Word of God and the exposition of the scriptures and teaching people how to do that. It can even happen in a church. Before our first of three morning worship services started today, I talked with a friend about he and his wife as they visited last Sunday in a church that was a part of a denomination that has long, deep, century-old roots. It was once known as one of the conservative denominations. In fact, those who originated it were made fun of by classmates at the university where they attended because they were just so, well, narrow that they loved the scriptures and they believed the Word of God and without even planning to start a movement, their lives began a movement that swept across England and then made it across the Atlantic into America.

He said while he was sitting there, he and his wife noticed that just the two of them and one other person in a group of maybe 800 even had brought a Bible that morning. That didn't happen two weeks ago or two years ago. It's happened over the long, slow, subtle path of erosion. F. B. Meyer put it this way, no one suddenly becomes base. C. S. Lewis in his cleverly written work, The Screwtape Letters, writes of this erosion, the safest road to hell is the gradual one, the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the devil.

Erosion. That's why I call the anniversary Cyclical Milestones. Remember his words?

It's without milestones. No time to really stop and look back at what was it that started us and to look within. Are we like that still?

Are those objectives still ours and then to see where we're going in light of where we are and where we wanted to be? We're a young church, but you can't tell by looking because our numerical size surprises people. We are now numbering in the thousands, but we're young. Reminds me of a couple that has been married not quite ten years and they have fifteen children. Fifteen.

Let me tell you how that would work. A year after marriage, they have a set of twins. Two years later, they have triplets. For who knows whatever reason, the following year, they adopt four children from other countries out of compassion. Two weeks later, she finds she's pregnant with triplets again. She locks them out of the bedroom, tells them to get a vasectomy or not come back in.

He does. It doesn't work. She's now pregnant. Once again with triplets. So that's fifteen. I forgot to tell you she's homeschooling. And they're also living in the same house they were when they first got married.

That's Stonebriar Community Church. That's where we are. As would be true of any couple in that situation, there wouldn't be time to have been able to give to each child's need.

There wouldn't have been the attention provided or the training. No one couple can do all of that. In a brief period, some things you, well they erode. But neither one of them wants the family to erode.

It just goes with the rapid size. It's a good time to pause from where we are right now and go back 20 centuries. Because we do that, turn to Matthew chapter 16. Remember we've gone back 20 centuries.

Listen carefully. Having gone back 20 centuries, obviously there is no United States of America. Obviously there is no American culture.

Obviously there is no corporate mentality. There is no tradition except Jewish. And that's been brought over through the synagogue. There are a few cults, if any. There is no denominational gathering. There really is little liturgy. This is first century. There are no churches.

They've never heard of a church. Churches mention in 17 books and or letters of the New Testament, this is the first place. When you do research, you want to go back to the passage of primary reference, if you can.

Here we go back to the section of primary reference. First mention of the word church in the New Testament is Matthew 16, 18. These words follow a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples. Verses 13 to 16, he's asking them the public opinion of his identity. Who do folks out there say I am? Some say you're John the baptizer. Others say you're Elijah. Some say you're Jeremiah or one of the prophets. They're getting it wrong. So Jesus looks at the group, his followers, and says who do y'all say I am?

It's plural. Who do you men say I am? Peter speaks for the group. You are the Christ, the son of the living God.

Peter was never more right, never more accurate. You are Messiah. You are the anointed one, the anointed one, the son of the living God.

Jesus at that moment changes the dialogue to a monologue and he commends Peter, blessed are you son of John. Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my Father who is in heaven. May I pause and say there are rare moments in our lives when we get instruction directly from heaven. Those are called original thoughts and there are few of them.

The closest we can get to original thoughts is the word of God. Peter, your thought comes directly from my heavenly Father that commends you. In fact, it is like a rock statement. On this rock-like statement, five words follow. I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not erode it, will not prevail against it. I'm taken by those five monosyllable words.

Let's take them apart. First, I. Make no mistake about it, the church has Christ as its architect. He is the originator.

It's his original idea. Will obviously looks to the future. Not have built, not even am building. I will build. So it's future. It's not yet happened when he makes this statement. Build is a word that is a progress.

It is a project. It is something that goes on. I will build my church. If you love music, there's a crescendo mark that looks like a long arrowhead where the musicians sing or play louder and louder and louder as the lines separate from one another. That's the church.

It begins at a certain point and it grows and grows and grows. That's because Christ is building his church. He's adding to it.

He's enlarging it. I will build my church. Not only is he the originator, he is the head of it. It's his church.

My church. Forgive me if this is too elementary but sometime we need to go back and put our finger on essentials. This is essential. Christ originated it. It had not yet happened when he gave the prediction.

It would be an ongoing project. It belongs to him. Colossians 1 says he is its head and in everything he is to have first place. Never forget that.

Never forget that. Always ask yourself is Christ the head of this? Is he got first place in this?

Is this all about him? Because that's the way it is in his church that hasn't eroded. And finally the word church. Interesting term. When Matthew wrote he used a word ekklesia. E-K-K-L-E-S-I-A. Ekk from out from among. Out from among.

Ekklesia from a verb that means to call. To call out from among. A church is a body of people called out from among the world for the distinct and unique purpose of glorifying their head and savior and master, Christ. It's a universal church. This is not the church on the corner. This is not a church on a piece of real estate. This is not a building. This is a body. It is invisible.

Listen closely. This body is without political roots. It is without cultural boundaries. It is without linguistic restrictions.

It is apart from racial barriers. It has no denominational ties. It is not a business establishment with a cross stuck into it. It is a spiritual entity. It is not a corporation.

The church that Jesus Christ predicted would begin would be a spiritual entity. The state cannot and the state does not dictate our ways. We do not listen to the state to get our message. We do not wait for the state to give us our approval. We stand separate from and apart from the state, the nation. The church is a spiritual entity. Christ remains the head, Colossians 1, 15 to 18. Not the congregation.

Not majority vote. Not any man or woman or family. Not a pastor or a board.

Are you ready for the first major shock? The word board never appears in the New Testament. That's just the first of several shocking statements you may want to know. Christ alone is the head of the church. Why do I emphasize this?

Because everybody's tendency is to fall back on everything and every other one but Christ and his word. Now a brief history. It was back in the middle 1990s that the Lord began to move on my heart. When I came to Dallas Seminary as a part of its leadership team, I came as a shepherd. I had never led a school and I didn't see myself as a president of really anything and I was a pastor.

I'd been with a sheep so long I smelled like a sheep. I came and was convinced the seminary had missed it on this one but I sensed God's hand in it and I came. I told the board then, by the way boards fit in schools in case you wonder why I would answer to a board. The board of the school is the governing body and they asked me would you be sure and give us your best years, these first two or three years without starting a church.

I said absolutely. I gave them four, four and a half years. But I still had burning within me a desire to start a church. As you can see this is a deeply personal subject for our teacher. This series called The Church Awakening embodies the essence of God's design for the local church and these timeless principles should steer anyone who leads or loves a local church family. You're listening to Insight for Living and the Bible teaching of Chuck Swindoll. To learn more about Chuck Swindoll in this ministry visit us online at

Right now I'd like to remind you about an excellent resource that will help you make the most of this study. Paul the Apostle was one of the spiritual giants that God used to pioneer the church in its infancy and his personal story is quite compelling. Chuck wrote a biography on Paul. It's called Paul a Man of Grace and Grit. Despite rejection, distress, attacks, hunger, solitude and suffering the Apostle Paul pushed through it all.

He clung to the overwhelming sufficiency of God's grace so that others would have it too. To add this study tool to your collection give us a call. If you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888. Ask for a copy of Chuck's biography on Paul a Man of Grace and Grit.

You can also purchase a copy online by going to slash offer. In recent days most of us have heard the desperate cries that are prevalent in Ukraine and surrounding regions. You'll be encouraged to hear that our regional offices in Poland and Romania have worked tirelessly to care for the needs of the refugees pouring into their cities. Our office in the United States along with our other international offices are allocating funds as able to our Polish and Romanian offices to help ease what physical suffering we can and to help offer spiritual comfort in the love and power of Christ. And these ministries are made possible in part when you give a much needed donation to Insight for Living. To give a gift today call us.

If you're listening in the United States call 800-772-8888 or give online at slash donate. And now these closing thoughts from our teacher Chuck Swindoll. A church that's contagious is strong in grace and it's led by people who were strong in grace. Paul could write it because he modeled grace. He calls himself in one place the apostle of grace. Isn't it amazing that this legalist, this Pharisee, this man who earlier in life is making sure that Christians are wiped out, is stopped on the road to Damascus and is made blind by a light from heaven as the Lord Jesus speaks to him and calls him of all people into his work. And Paul becomes the spokesman for grace. And he gives the message of the gospel to all people, the dogs, the Gentiles.

Not just to his own people, the Jews. So he says to us, model grace. Proclaim grace. Remind people of grace. Salvation is by grace through faith. Peace with God comes because of his grace demonstrated to us at the cross. The grace in the Christian life. Remember our Lord Jesus who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor that we might have his riches. That's grace. Receiving what we don't deserve.

John Newton put it best. His grace has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home. Churches of grace are attractive places. People who come out of toxic religion will always tell you of the rigors of the regulations and rules of that former place where they managed to survive. Lists of requirements and demands. Judgment placed against them if they didn't measure up to some preacher's requirement of them.

Not a biblical requirement but his own list. You must look like this. You must dress like this. You must observe things like this. You must say it like this.

And you're structured and strapped by the rules. I call it religious bondage and it is not a contagious place. It's a frightening place. Folks sometime wind up at Stonebriar Church coming out of that context and they arrive here with a sigh. I tell them often you just need time to heal.

You just need time. And you'll be given room to grow and to heal here. Occasionally they'll share their scars and it's frightening. Toxic religious places have no acceptance of others. A graceless church like a graceless pastor is a frightening thought. I'm Bill Meyer inviting you to join us again tomorrow when Chuck Swindoll continues his series called The Church Awakening on Insight for Living. The preceding message, The Church, Let's Start Here, was copyrighted in 2008, 2010, and 2011. And the sound recording was copyrighted in 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-30 13:55:36 / 2023-04-30 14:04:03 / 8

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