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Commitment to the Church B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 12, 2024 3:00 am

Commitment to the Church B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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Not becoming a member, obedient to the scriptural standard, not fellowshipping faithfully with other Christians, not submitting to the applied authority of the Word taught by pastors and teachers, not being willing to identify with Christ and Christ's own, not being eager to accept the rich privileges of family and its loving loyalty as sin, and not joining the church is saying, I don't want to serve. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. When things in your church aren't what you'd want them to be, what do you do? Should you stay put or should you find a different fellowship? Consider that today on Grace to You.

The current series is titled Foundations Volume 2, and we've pulled together some of John MacArthur's most foundational teaching, covering 10 different subjects. His focus today is commitment to the church. Now, this lesson you'll be hearing really gets to the heart of what Grace to You is all about—strengthening churches and strengthening God's people and helping you grow. And John, the letter in front of you is one example of what that life-changing ministry can look like. Yeah, this letter begins, I am 57 years old and in all that time, I have had no positive memories of my uncle.

I have known him as a drunkard, a bitter man, profane in language and harsh toward his children. Recently, I had a telephone conversation with my uncle after many decades of no communication. He began our conversation praising his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then he began witnessing to me. With a huge smile on my face and a heart swelling with joy, I allowed him the pleasure of witnessing, though I am already born again, which I told him further on in the conversation.

He is sharing the gospel everywhere he goes. In our second conversation, I asked him if he had a Bible, and he said no. Well, needless to say, that man needed a MacArthur Study Bible. We sent a leather-bound copy to him immediately.

Within a week, I received another phone call from my uncle. He was in tears, telling me he had never owned anything so precious in his life, and he promised me that he would read it. I know that we have placed in his hands the exact and perfect Study Bible for his road ahead. If this sounds like a radio ad for the MacArthur Study Bible, it is, only because I own two of them myself and have given out many as gifts over the years, and I believe that it is the one and only item that new Christians and seasoned students of Scripture must have in their personal library. I can't tell you how often I turn to it for help in rightly dividing God's Word. And she signs, God bless you, Karen. Well, God bless you, Karen.

Thank you so much. What an encouraging letter. As you were encouraged to hear what the Lord had done in your uncle's life, we're encouraged that both of those stories, yours and his, we trust the power of Scripture.

It is sharper than any two-edged sword. It does save and sanctify, just as Scripture claims. It does what it says it will do, never returning void, always accomplishing what God intends. And so, with stories like that to continue to motivate us, our commitment is to continue to bring God's Word to his people and to those who are not his people through these radio broadcasts, through books, and through the MacArthur Study Bible, and much more. So thank you for standing with us, supporting us, and sharing this wonderful story with us. Yes, friend, thank you for standing with us, especially for praying that God would use grace to you to strengthen individuals and families and even churches worldwide. And now to look at the importance of being committed to a local church, here is John. I love the church.

Through the years of ministry, I have had occasion and opportunity to consider other kinds of ministry as to mission field ministry and educational ministry and various and sundry kinds of opportunities that have come my way. But no matter how wonderful they might have been, no matter how attractive, no matter how great the need, I have never found myself able to disassociate from the church and the ministry in the church. I love the church. It is my life.

It has been the center of my life since childhood. I don't understand people who don't love the church. I don't understand people who don't have a love affair with the church and can't wait to assemble with its people. Evangelicals are systematically turning away from the church. It's sort of a pervasive kind of thing, busy winning people to Christ, but not to the church.

This is totally foreign to Scripture. My heart is really grieved at the nature of the evangelical church today. And I do feel responsible to confront it because I know the Lord loves His church. He died for His church. He shed His blood for His church. And I know the church is not only the body of Christ through which He will work His will in the world, but it is the bride of Christ, the object of His affection and love. And He wants a chaste and pure bride.

He wants the church to be all it should be. According to Hebrews 13, I have to give an account to God for you. How can you shepherd the flock to which you must give an account to God if you don't even know where the sheep are or who they are?

It's very difficult, very difficult. It's very difficult, for example, when someone leaves the church who's not a member of the church to have any way to know they ever left, except in a small group of people that may know them. Sometimes a person will leave a church and we will try everything we can to track them because we feel responsible for their spiritual life. And so that we hear that they end up in a church in another place and so it may come down to a letter that says, we think this person was at our church until so-and-so. Now we think they've gone to your church. We're not sure.

That's very difficult. And we may get a letter back and say that the person you think was in your church who you think is in my church, I don't think is in my church. How can we be responsible for shepherding? How can we be responsible for keeping account of people to which we have to give an answer to God? So if you want to do it, as Hebrews 13, 17 says, so that we can do it with joy and not with grief, then you learn to submit and obey and be a part of the flock with which you identify. Now I want to teach you some essential issues of church membership, okay?

And these are things that I think will be clear to you and hopefully motivating. First of all, it's an obedience issue. Identifying with the church officially, joining, and being a part is an obedience issue. The New Testament clearly indicates that believers were baptized and assembled into gathered recognizable groups.

Their names were put on a list. They were identified as the flock and the shepherds knew who they were. And when they moved from one place to another, some letter went along with them in order that a transfer might be affected to another local assembly of believers. Letters, epistles of the New Testament were written to those gathered believers.

There was never any assumption that some Christian would be floating around loose all by himself. There was a real spiritual unity of saved souls and that real spiritual unity, just as it is today, was manifest in local groups of believers gathered together for the purpose of sanctification and worship and witness. It's a biblical pattern. And what we have today in this evangelical consumerism is not biblical, this church hopping and bouncing around. We do everything we can to track every person that comes and goes from our church.

I read one of the little lists. Someone had left our church and the little comment at the bottom after they were called and we'd send letters and we'd try everything we can to know where they go was, we are now attending and they listed a certain church and a couple of other churches. That's a dead giveaway to me.

What that means is they're not probably going anywhere very frequently and when they do, they hop around to where the action is. Utterly unknown to a biblical pattern of identification with a gathered group of believers to whom we commit ourselves for the glory of Christ. It is an obedience issue. And I think it may be a sin issue. There may be things in your life that you don't want exposed. Let me encourage you by saying all the rest of us have problems, too.

Don't wait until you get perfect before you come. One lady said, I don't want to join the church, there are too many hypocrites. I said, fine, we can always take more.

It's only a question of degree, right? It is an obedience issue. Secondly, it's a fellowship issue. Believers were introduced into a church, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ for the sake of common shared spiritual life. We are those of like precious faith. We have entered into a fellowship, a partnership, participation. Paul told the Corinthians they had been called into the fellowship, the fellowship of His Son, God's Son, a fellowship which was so wonderful and so unique and so blended that they were to make sure there were no divisions and no quarrels and no divisions and no quarrels and no arguments and no debates in the fellowship. John, the apostle, in writing 1 John 1, verse 3, what we've seen and heard we proclaim to you that you may have fellowship with us. And indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, saved to enter into the fellowship, the partnership.

The word kononia means partnership. Galatians 2 9 says, in recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, Paul writing, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me in Barnabas the right hand of what? Fellowship.

That's why we do that. It's New Testament. You're taking them by the hand and bringing them into the fellowship, common participation in eternal life as it's manifest in the visible life of the church. In Hebrews chapter 10 is a wonderful section of Scripture, verse 23, let's hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good needs, not forsaking our own assembling together. It's the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

The closer we get to the return of Jesus Christ, the more we need the fellowship. Don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Stimulate one another to love and good deeds.

It is the habit of some, he says, not to be together, not to be in the assembly. It's wrong, sinful. The sharing of our common life, the building of friendships, the bearing of burdens, mutual care, mutual prayer, that's the life of the church. It's the life of sharing love. It's the life of sacrifice.

It's the life of giving sacrificially, both my money and my time and my energy on behalf of others. It's coming together for the sake of the Lord's table. It's coming together to sing praises to Him and the collective choir, the collective hallelujahs that rise from an assembled congregation. That's the fellowship. Coming to the Lord's table is when we come for purging and purification and repentance and confession and renewed devotion.

That's a precious, precious treasure. And the fellowship should run deeper and deeper as our lives are more entwined and as we get to know each other more and more, and we really do have spiritual friendships that are deep and profound and life-changing and strengthening. It is a fellowship issue to be a part of a church, a local assembly.

Thirdly, it's an authority issue. Believers are to be brought into the church under pastoral rule. Now, we rule not by might or by power, but by the Word of God. I don't have any authority over your life.

Some pastors like to think they do, and you get these pastors in these churches that are somewhat abusive or dictatorial where they tell you, you can't marry this person, you can't marry that person, you can't take that job, you can't move your family over here, you can't do this and they want to control your life. That is an illegitimate authority. The only authority we have is the authority that comes out of the Word of God and by the Spirit working through our giftedness, applying the Word to your life.

But you need to come under that authority. In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 12, we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, that's your elders and pastors and teachers, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction. You need to appreciate those whose role it is to lead you and guide you, oversee your life, to instruct you, to teach you, to train you.

You are to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 7, remember those who led you, who spoke the Word of God to you. Imitate their faith. And then in verse 17, he says, obey your leaders and submit to them, for they watch over your souls as those who will give an account.

Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. And it is a grief when you're responsible to shepherd people who won't be faithful to be in the flock. We're here to train and disciple and support and serve you. We're here to pray and teach. We're here to give you oversight. We're here also to admonish and to warn and to reprove and rebuke and exhort and even to discipline in the application of the Word of God to your life. But that's all for your good, isn't it?

To evade that, to avoid that is to your detriment. We're here to enforce the Word of God occasionally, where we find a factious man, we rebuke him once and twice, and then reject him. Where we find someone who continues in sin, we discipline and put him out of the church, admonishing him to repent, but not allowing him to associate with us. All of that is for the purity of the church. All of that is for the cleansing of the church, for the virtue and holiness of the flock.

We're here to protect you from the wolves who would tear you up from the people who would steal away your heart, your resources, your energies, confuse you about the truth. You need the oversight. It is an authority issue. It is a soft authority. It is a biblical authority. It is not a personal one. It is not a harsh one.

It's for your benefit. It's the authority of a loving father and a tender mother, as Paul described it to the Thessalonians. You wouldn't imagine, would you, that a child would flourish on its own, and yet how many Christians try to do that? Little wonder they're confused, and in the battle with sin, they're losing. Fourthly, this matter of church membership is an identity issue.

It is an identity issue. You are by title a Christian. That means a little Christ. You have been joined together with a Christian. That means a little Christ. You have been joined together with Christ.

There's no way to tell in a sense where He stops and you start. Your life and His life are together. Your life is hid with Christ in God. Nevertheless, you live, yet not you, but Christ lives in you, Galatians 2.20. You are His own. You've been bought with a price, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. You bear His name.

That's who you are. More than anything else, you are Christ's by virtue of His salvation, and you bear His name more than any other name. You are His church, you are His body, and you are His bride.

It is true, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, one Spirit, one church, one hope. We are all united with the selfsame Christ. Are you ashamed to belong? Are you like Timothy maybe on the edge of that when Paul said to him, don't be ashamed of the Lord or of me as prisoner? Are you ashamed to bear that identification and to bear the identification with other believers of like precious faith? Amazingly, the Lord is not ashamed to call you His, and that could ruin His reputation, frankly, to be identified with you and me. And though He's not ashamed to call us His, are we ashamed to call Him ours?

Are we ashamed to identify with Him? You must be a part of what you believe in. I'm amazed how many things people join that reflect what they believe in. I mean, people join all kinds of organizations for what they believe in, and more than any other thing, any other organization on the face of the earth, if you want to talk about really belonging, then you really belong when you're a Christian because you're not even a citizen of this world.

You belong to an eternal family. Shouldn't you be willing outwardly to identify with the visible gathered members of that group to which you eternally belong? Church membership is an issue of obedience, fellowship, authority, identity. Fifthly, it's an issue of loyalty. It is an issue of loyalty.

We're like a family. I love loyalty. In fact, I can't think of anything I like better than loyalty. I love the fact that God is loyal to His own and Christ is loyal to His own. I love the fact that believers are loyal to one another and loyal to the Lord.

But that isn't how people think today. People don't say, you know, I probably ought to go to church tonight because there might be somebody there who would need me. There might be somebody there I could pray for. There might be somebody there I could sit with and sing hymns of praise to God. I better go tonight because it might encourage the pastor that I'm there. I better go because the Spirit of God might have something to say to me that's going to make my life more effective as a witness to the people around me. You know, I really need to be there because there are going to be people there who probably have burdens and maybe I'll run into one of them.

They'll share it with me and I'll need to know it so I can pray about it. We don't think like that. We say, well, let's see, should we go to dinner over here or should we go to church? Or, well, we could go visit Aunt Martha over there. You know, she'll leave us in the will if we show up enough times or whatever. We just grieve in our hearts who are pastors at the disloyalty of so many people.

They're loyal to their own interests, but they're certainly not loyal to the interests of others, the needs of others. And the gathered church...listen to Ephesians 2, yes, verse...well, I'll start at verse 19. So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens. We're not just floating around out there, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and you're of God's household. Wow, part of a family. We've tried to raise our children to understand family loyalty.

You never do anything that violates family loyalty. These are the people God has given you. These are the most precious people in your world. These are the people you need most. These are the people that mean the most.

These are the people that offer the most to you. Family is a precious thing and you need to be loyal. There should never be rivalries within the family or animosity in the family.

It's too precious. We need each other. It's a difficult world. You don't want to ever alienate your children from their grandparents. You don't want to alienate brothers and sisters because they need each other. And in the spiritual dimension that is so true, how crucial it is to realize we're God's family and there needs to be a high level of loyalty to that family.

Sixth, it's a ministry issue or service issue. All the spiritual gifts function in the church. The church is the place where spiritual gifts are to be ministered. It's what the New Testament calls the fellowship of serving. Unselfish love will make you serve.

You come to serve. You say, I want to go because I might be able to talk to somebody. I might give them counsel out of the Scripture.

I've been reading a book on this and maybe somebody will need the answers that I've gained from this book. Maybe I'll be able to pray with somebody. Maybe I'll be able to encourage somebody or comfort somebody.

Maybe my spiritual gift can be used, whether it's a gift of preaching or teaching or a gift of helps or a gift of giving or a gift of instruction, whatever that spiritual gift might be. That all goes on in the church. You see, we're here as prophets, evangelists, and pastors, and teachers, as Ephesians 4 and 11 says, for the perfecting of the saints for the work of service. We're here simply to pour our lives into you so you can serve each other. That's how the whole thing works. That's how a body works, right? It just ministers to itself.

It mutually meets all the needs of all the parts, so it functions perfectly. It grieves me that people can be involved in a church superficially and have no ministry. They can be very busy in a whole lot of stuff that's going to burn, perish, and have absolutely no heart for what will alone last forever. I have a hero, a real hero in my life. His name is Epaphroditus. In Philippians chapter 2, it tells about him. Paul says, verse 25, I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus.

Listen to this, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier. Here was a man who had come alongside the apostle Paul and served with him. He is a servant to my need, he says, and he said, the reason I'm sending him because, verse 26, he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. He was upset, not because he was sick, but because he thought they'd be upset because they found out he was sick.

What a compassionate, selfless man. Indeed, verse 27 says, he was sick to the point of death. He almost died, but God had mercy on him and not on him only, but on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow if there was one guy I didn't want to lose, it was him.

How did he get sick? Verse 30, he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me. He almost killed himself in service.

Boy, that's a far cry from what many people, most people are willing to do. He almost killed himself in serving someone else. Did he ever preach? I don't know. None of his sermons are recorded. Did he ever have the front?

I don't know. I don't know if he ever said anything profound or significant or life-changing, but whatever he did on a personal...I mean to a large group, but whatever he did on a personal level was life-changing. And Paul couldn't imagine anything but sorrow upon sorrow if he wasn't there. That's how he had endeared himself to Paul by being a servant. It is an issue of ministry. Belonging to the church is an issue of sharing your life and your spiritual gift and pouring yourself into the needs of others. Service. This is the place for that. This is where that happens.

And we always say that. When you become a part of the church, you're saying, I'm ready to serve. And when you don't become a part of the church, you're saying, I don't want to serve. Don't get me into that.

I don't want responsibility. Well, listen, you're also going to miss privilege and blessing and joy and peace and fulfillment and eternal reward. And then seventh and lastly, it is a witness issue. It is an evangelistic issue. You know, I just grieve in my heart sometimes when I ask myself, what do people in the world think Christians are? Just these floating people who sort of call themselves Christians and just kind of wander around out there and say, well, I'm a Christian. And somebody says, well, what church do you belong to? Well, I'm a free Christian.

I just...it's like a range chicken, you know, they...whatever those are. I just sort of float around in John 13, 34 and 35. Jesus said, by this shall all men know that you're My disciples if you have love one for another.

They're going to...your witness is going to be believable on the basis of your relationships. 1 Corinthians 14, 24 and 25, an unbeliever comes into the assembly. He hears the word being proclaimed. He sees you worshiping.

He falls on his face. He repents. First Peter chapter 2, verse 9 says, you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

I love that. You are a nation. You are a group, a people for God's own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Here we are collected together proclaiming the reality of Christ. This is powerful. There's reality here. We don't need to dramatize.

We'll just show you reality. Not becoming a member, obedient to the scriptural standard, not fellowshiping faithfully with other Christians, not submitting to the applied authority of the Word taught by pastors and teachers, not being willing to identify with Christ and Christ's own, not being eager to accept the rich privileges of family and its loving loyalty as sin, and not joining the church as saying, I don't want to serve the only institution that Christ ever built, and not joining the church hampers our witness because it shows a lack of non-commitment on the part of people who name the name of God. How wonderful can Christ be if we're not even committed to being associated with His church?

Commitment in a day like today is so crucial. That's Grace to You with John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary. And John's current study here on Grace to You is a collection of some of his most pivotal sermons.

We've titled it Foundations Volume 2. Now friend, if you look to this ministry for consistent and clear teaching, or if you've been strengthened in your walk with Christ from listening to this broadcast, would you let us know? Your letters are a real encouragement to John and our staff.

Send us a note when you contact us today. You can email your story to letters at gty.org. You can also write to us at Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. And remember, to help you build a strong spiritual foundation beyond the current study, Foundations Volume 2, we have thousands of free resources available to you at gty.org. To deepen your love for God and His Word, or to help you finally understand a difficult passage that has challenged you, you're sure to find a sermon, blog article, or devotional that will meet your spiritual need. And while you're at the website, be sure to download the Study Bible app. It's a free app that gives you the full text of the Bible and it links you to the sermons and blog articles and other resources that we have on whatever passage you're studying. The app, again, it's simply called the Study Bible, is free to download from gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Remember to watch Grace to You television this Sunday on DIRECTV Channel 378, and then be here Monday when John helps you avoid four ways to miss heaven. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-12 05:53:25 / 2024-01-12 06:04:33 / 11

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