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We Are Called To Belong – 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
May 3, 2024 1:00 am

We Are Called To Belong – 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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May 3, 2024 1:00 am

God called us to become part of a church. But many have differing perceptions of what the church should be. In this message from 1 Peter 2, Pastor Lutzer clarifies two identifying marks of God’s people. A church body isn’t connected because of a common interest, but rather a common life—a life in Christ.

This month’s special offer is available for a donation of any amount. Get yours at rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. 

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. All too many believers have withdrawn from a local fellowship, but the body of Christ can only help each member grow when each member follows God's call to meet in groups on a regular basis. Today, why you and I need a local church.

From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, why do so many believers choose to go it alone these days? I think, Dave, one of the most important reasons has to do with bitterness and anger. So a young man says to himself, I hate my father, therefore I hate his God.

I hate the church that he attends. I'm going my own way. And what we need to do is to help people like that to understand that no matter what has happened to them, there is a path back. And that's why I've written a book entitled When You've Been Wronged, Moving from Bitterness to Forgiveness. For a gift of any amount, we're making it available for you. I think it'll be of tremendous help.

Go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. We cannot live the Christian life alone. Let's remember we must lay down our bitterness and unite with God's people. In the book of Revelation, we find that Jesus is walking among the candlesticks. And the candlesticks are the churches. As he goes up and down the aisles of these churches, he observes their worship, and most of all, he observes their hearts. And then he dictates seven letters to the churches whom he has observed.

And there he points out their weaknesses and their strength. Today I want you to visualize that Jesus is going down the aisles of our church here at Moody Church. And it's not just that he's going down the aisles, but he's also going down the rows because what he's interested is in your heart. Did you sing the songs that we sang today with a heart that is full of praise and God directed? Or perhaps we are like the people in the New Testament who sing the right songs and say the right words, but our hearts are far from him. He was watching this morning, as he always does. What is the church?

That's a question that we want to answer today in a very brief kind of way to understand exactly where we are at. Today we find that there are people who say, well, you know, I'm into spirituality, but I don't go to church or I'm not committed to a church. Now sometimes you hear that because people have been hurt, and they remember that hurt.

If I remember correctly, Nancy Reagan's father said that she said that her dad went to Sunday school one time and quoted some verses better than the pastor's son, and yet the pastor's son got the Bible because after all he was the pastor's son. And this boy grew up and never attended church again, at least when he became an adult because he couldn't forget the hurt. I want to plead with you today that if you have been hurt by a church, would you please lay it down because the church needs you and you need the church. Do not allow a bad experience to keep you from what God wants to do in your life connected to other saints. Now sometimes we find that there are people who come to Moody Church who say that we're just here to heal from various experiences in churches, and that's fine. Take time to heal, but after a time of healing I am going to challenge you today to engage, to become a part of everything that God is doing. But there's another kind of attitude with this I'm into spirituality. Jesus and me, we've got this thing going just between us, and we don't commit ourselves to a church. The problem is that such kind of a response brings about weakness and brokenness of the wrong kind.

It is not productive, and you cannot be a good Christian and say that and mean it. One day a father said to his little girl early as Sunday morning, he said, it's Sunday morning, we're going to pack a lunch and we're going to go and we're going to have a picnic and then we're going to the lake. But his little daughter loved church and she said, daddy I want to go to church. He said, well we can worship God just as well out on the lake as we can in church, we can can't we?

And she said, yeah but we won't, will we? And may I add, we don't, do we? We self deceive ourselves thinking that a non-commitment to a church is somehow a higher view of spirituality. What is Moody Church? Years ago we adopted a 15 word promise statement that we are still keeping, but also now we have a mission statement. 15 words if you begin with the, the Moody Church is a community called by God to live passionately for Jesus Christ.

Now that's not hard to remember, is it? 15 words, in fact isn't it printed out there in your bulletin where you have sermon notes available to you? The Moody Church is a community called by God. We've talked about calling and we will again today, but it's a community called by God to live passionately for Jesus Christ. Could I ask you to repeat it with me?

All right, are you all ready? We don't do this often enough in church where you can actually talk. You can go home today and say to your friends, we were at Moody Church today and during the service we were allowed to talk. Well how many words did you say? 15.

All right, are you ready? The Moody Church is a community called by God to live passionately for Jesus Christ. That's who we are, we are a community. In a very little helpful, in a helpful book I should say, a little book but a helpful book, a friend of mine by the name of Tom Nelson who's a pastor, wrote this little book entitled Ekklesia which is the Greek word for church. He gives four different ways in which church is perceived by some people. The first way is the church as filling station. You know I fill my car with gas every week and every week I come to church to get a little bit of inspiration to enjoy the music and then a week later I need a little boost and so I'm there again and I fill my tank and then I wait until next week. Church as filling station. Church as movie theater. You come and you want to know what's happening because you want to know whether or not it's worthwhile attending church. Just like I invited a man to church one time and he said well what are you speaking on?

In other words if it's exciting, if the sermon topic seems to be one that I might be interested in then I might actually attend and so what you have is you go home then and you play the role of Roger Ebert and you are church critic and you find lots that you like and you find lots that you don't like. It's an old story but I love to tell it about the Baptist and if you're a Baptist here today I hope you have a sense of humor. I used to be a Baptist pastor so I have a right to tell this story. A Baptist was washed up on an island and he was there for 20 years all alone. When he was found the person said show me around the island and the guy said I'm glad to and they noticed that there were three huts and the guy said now what's this hut? He said that's where I live. He said and what's that hut?

He said that's the hut where I go to church and he said well what's the third hut and the guy said that's where I used to go to church. So what you are is your movie critic okay you know I liked it. The sermon wasn't that interesting. I grade the choir and give it an A. The sermon was maybe a B. As far as the baptism I was too late.

I got in late and missed it so I can't grade that and so it's church as movie theater. Or there are those who say you know it's church as drugstore. I need therapy. I'm going through a bad marriage.

I have difficult relationships. I am in trouble and I need just the right prescription and I hope that the pastor says exactly what I need to hear for my need and if not I'm not sure that I'll be back next week and so it's church as drugstore. Church also number four as retailer. It's Target. It's Walmart. Where can I go to get a pretty good bargain at a low price?

That's what you really want. I read a cute story about a boy who his mother said boy she said where did you get that chocolate bar? He said I bought it with a dollar you gave me. She said I gave you that dollar because that was for church.

He said I know mom but the pastor met me at the door and he let me in free. So what you have now is church as retailer. Where can I go? I want a family ministry.

I want something like this but I'm not necessarily committed to what's happening. Now I need to tell you that not all these things are inherently wrong. We've probably all attended church for one reason or another that fits into this category and I might say also that if these are the reasons that you attend church it is still better that you attend than you not attend but folks you're missing it. We are not just a filling station, a movie theater.

We're not just a place where you can get a good deal. We are a body. We are a community called by God and today I want to lift your vision to something higher to something better than simply coming without you understanding what participation in the body is really all about. Our text is 1st Peter chapter 2 verse 9. I asked you to memorize this verse as well.

I will not ask for a show of hands today but I might next week. How many of you memorized 1st Peter chapter 2 verse 9? That's the anchor text for this brief series that I'm doing and you'll notice he says here but you were a chosen race.

Let's take these phrases one at a time. If you have a Bible that is there in the seat ahead of you it is page 1015. You are a chosen race. A reference of course to Israel but now we are the church and we are the chosen race I might say. Chosen for special privileges. Imagine we're to show forth the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light which is my topic next time.

Remember Moody Church is a community called by God to live passionately for Jesus Christ and next week it is on how to live passionately for Jesus Christ. But chosen and not only chosen by God but owned by God. People for his own possession it says here.

Can you imagine that we if all of our frailty belong to God doesn't that give us value and give us hope? You know the object if something belongs to somebody it can be a very special thing. For example you know a dress that was worn say by Lady Diana.

Diana Spencer who was Princess Diana as she was called. I mean you know you you don't buy that one off the rack that's for sure. You can buy another one like it I suppose. Somewhere in the back of my memory I file things that are not very important to me but somewhere I think I read that Michael Jackson's glove sold for a lot of money. Now I don't know exactly what it looked like but I've seen it from a distance and I know that out on the farm we used to have gloves that I think looked a lot better than Michael Jackson's glove. And I'll tell you we'd have sold it to anybody for half that price.

What in the world made that so expensive? It belonged to Michael Jackson my friend today in the balcony here on the lower floor watching by means of our streaming ministry or the radio. Remember this if you were a believer you were owned by God God's own possession. You are indeed a chosen race.

Why do you think that God in the Old Testament had such things as as festivals where they'd all go to Jerusalem together? What God was saying is solidarity because hear it clearly today and I may say it a number of times before the message is over. If you are called to Jesus Christ you are called to community. There's no such thing as that lone Christian out there who's doing his own thing between he and Jesus. You are called to community.

We are a chosen race. Notice we're a royal priesthood a royal priesthood. Now for that Peter actually expounds on that your Bibles are open to chapter 2 of 1 Peter verse 4. As you come to him a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. We come to the living stone that is Jesus. He is the cornerstone. The next verses say that he is the cornerstone and you know that in those days the cornerstone was actually quarried at a right angle so it determined the size of the building and the strength of the building. Jesus is the cornerstone for sure and some people stumbled over him Peter says and other people are honored to receive him it says in verse 7.

I hope you've accepted that honor but here's the point. What God says is I'm building a tabernacle. I'm building a temple let's put it that way with all these different stones and Peter here is using a very bold metaphor about living stones.

Now we know that actual stones do not live but he's speaking metaphorically. You know what God does? I'll tell you exactly what God does. God goes into the quarry of sin and he finds you there. He goes into the quarry of sin he finds you there he chisels you out and he brings you into community to be connected with other believers in this temple that he is building and he takes some stones that are older and he puts them next to stones that are younger and the stones have different colors and they have come from different parts of the world and God puts them together in a temple so that they can worship in a very special way. That's what God does and then you find some Christians who say oh you know we're spiritual but we would never go to church or be loyal to a church.

Oh no you know what that's like? It's like walking along the street and you see a lone stone on the side and somebody says oh show me your building. Well here it is well it's just a stone one stone. You were saved to fit into a building and if God has led you here to the Moody Church it is the Moody Church building that you are to fit into because you are not a lone stone along the highway somewhere. We come together as community and the text says that we are a royal priesthood. I wish I had time to tell you the revolutionary idea of Martin Luther when he concluded from scripture accurately that everybody was priests but let me just tell you a little bit what happened.

It just totally destroyed the structure of the medieval church where you had the priest who had certain responsibilities and he had the ability to dispense sacraments that would lead you either to heaven or to hell and and he had a special opportunity of praying. No we are all priests. You are a priest before God. It is not that we have a priest we are priests a royal priesthood. Sometimes you know whether it's a picnic or a luncheon or whatever the person in charge will look around and find me it often happens this is pastor Luther would you lead in prayer?

Well I'm glad to lead in prayer because I love the opportunity of talking to Jesus but actually my prayers are not any better than anybody else's if we all as sinners are coming in the name of Jesus I have no special clout with God the only person who has clout with God is Jesus Christ and if you pray in his name you too will be heard by him. Priests have access to God and priests also offer sacrifices to God. You say well what's that in New Testament terms I'm so glad that you asked by the way see I try to follow your mind and ask the questions that you are asking when you're sitting there because the New Testament lists a number of them in Romans chapter 12 it says I ask you to present your bodies a living sacrifice to God. Hebrews chapter 13 speaks about the sacrifice of praise that's why in our services you will always find praise because God loves it when we praise his name and he has every right to love it when we praise his name because he's worthy of all the praise that we could possibly give him. My friend one of the reasons that you ought to go to church on Sunday is because if you are a believer in Jesus Christ you are a priest before God.

The priesthood of the believer is one of the most beautiful transforming truths of the New Testament but oftentimes people don't go to church some because of physical issues but often perhaps most often because of emotional reasons. That's why I've written a book entitled when you've been wrong the subtitle is moving from bitterness to forgiveness. What I try to do in this book is to show the horror and that's a strong word but I want to use it of maintaining bitterness in our lives and the effect that it has on others because whatever you don't forgive you pass on. So it is a book of hope in the midst of a world that has been hurt. Here's what you do go to rtwoffer.com that's rtwoffer.com or pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-218-9337. Even if you think you don't need this book you surely know people who do.

When you've been wronged go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Pastor Lutzer there's one sin some Christians fear may be unforgivable. An anonymous listener to running to win poses this question for you. If a Christian commits suicide will he or she be in heaven?

The answer to your question I believe is yes. I've known Christians who were godly, led Bible studies, led people to saving faith in Jesus Christ, gave all the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit and yet as a result of deep endless depression chose to end their life. And I would say to you today that I do believe that Christians commit suicide and I believe that they will be in heaven.

Now having said that of course I have to clarify a couple of things. First of all some people say well you're dying with sin in your life. Sin that can't be confessed. Well the answer is of course yes you are because suicide basically is murder.

But at the same time there are many Christians who die with sin on their consciences and we believe that they go to heaven so why wouldn't someone who had this sin on his or her conscience go to heaven? But the next thing that has to be said is this if you are thinking of committing suicide don't. It's a very bad idea. Suicide is putting a period where God intends that there be a comma.

It is a defeat. It is oftentimes a very selfish act because you think to yourself that you're going to escape you know whatever it is that you're going through here on earth you think you're going to escape and then you begin to think of what this will mean to your family and to your friends and you realize what an unbelievable devastation it will be to them. So don't. Furthermore some of you who think that suicide might be an option you need to be warned that perhaps you are not a believer. I'm reminded of the words of Hamlet in Shakespeare's play you know in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil. Death is fearsome. Even for those of us who've trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior there are so many unknowns.

It's not our responsibility to determine the time when we arrive in heaven. Let God do that. Now if you're experiencing depression go for help and one word of hope and encouragement to you from my heart to yours. Even though today you are living in darkness I promise you that someday the Sun will shine.

Someday you'll be very glad that you didn't do something foolish something sinful. God bless you. Thank you Dr. Lutzer for that compassionate answer. If you'd like to hear your question answered go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on ask pastor Lutzer or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard Chicago Illinois 60614. All believers are part of a royal priesthood. Next time we'll look at the priesthood past and present to understand our status in the church. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-03 02:07:49 / 2024-05-03 02:16:27 / 9

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