Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Monday, September fifth. What does the Bible say about building a strong church? You'll hear the answer in today's opening session of the series simply titled Strong. There are hundreds and thousands of buildings all across this country and around the world called churches. And some of them are large, some of them are small, some of them are weak, some of them are strong. The truth is that these church buildings are not the church. The church building houses the church. And so, there are many, many churches of many, many different kinds. And some of them are not all Christian churches. Some of them belong to other religions. They call them churches. Some of them have other names for their churches, but that's what they call them. And so, when you think about that and you think about millions of people belong to a church. Some people are saved and they don't belong to a church. What is a church anyway? And so, when you think about that, you think about, well, what kind of church do I want to belong to? Do I want to belong to a weak church or do I want to belong to a strong church? And so, the title of this message is A Strong Church. When Jesus said, I will build my church, anything that He builds, I have to be interested in. I wouldn't want to be interested. I must be interested in. So, I want us to read a passage of Scripture that I want to give a little explanation for in order that you won't be thinking about it when I move from it.
Now, that sounds sort of odd. Turn, if you will, to the sixteenth chapter of Matthew. And I want us to begin reading in the thirteenth verse, read through the twentieth verses.
And then I want to talk about this whole issue of the characteristics of a strong church. In the thirteenth verse of Matthew sixteen, Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea of Philippi, He was asking His disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist.
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 Barjuna, 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.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. Now, I want to explain what it means so you won't be wondering about this when I come to the eleven characteristics of a strong church. So, let's go back up when Jesus said to him, Who do people say that I am? He said, You are Christ, the Son of the living God. And so when Jesus said to him, You are Peter, and you didn't think this up, God revealed this to you. And He said to him, I say to you, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.
Now, listen carefully. Jesus was not saying that He was going to build His church upon the apostle Peter. The apostle Peter was far from being perfect. In fact, he was one of the most ornery of the disciples. In fact, Jesus said to him one time, You're just like the devil.
And He said, Get behind me. When he was in the church later on, Paul had to bring him to a realization. And he said to him, Peter, you're compromising your conviction because you don't want these folks to think that you're fraternizing with the Gentiles. And so, Jesus would never have found His church on an imperfect apostle.
So, what did He mean? He said, This is the foundation of the church, this, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. That's what the church is all about. That's what the church is founded upon. Listen, if you take any building, cathedral, whatever it may be, and whatever's going on in there, if you remove that truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, it is no longer a church.
It may be an institution. It may be a beautiful building or cathedral, but it's not a church. The church is built on the truth, the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that's how it is to be built. Then He says, the gates of Hades will not overpower it. And what He's simply saying is this, all the forces of evil will not be able to withstand the onslaught of the church, the work of the church, the movement of the church. Likewise, it means that death, no matter what Satan may do, death cannot destroy the church. Jesus said, if you recall in this eleventh chapter of John, when He was talking to Mary and Martha, He said, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live even if he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.
Do you believe this? And so, what He's simply saying is this, Hades, that is all the works of darkness and the devil will never overcome the body of Christ, the church. And if you'll think about it, all kinds of people have done their best to destroy the church and all kind of things going on. And so, this is the body of Christ, the Son of the living God established His church. It will not be overcome by anything or anybody. Rome tried their best to destroy Christianity.
Everything they could possibly do, it only made them stronger. And that is the blood of the martyrs strengthens the body of the church. And so, the church is very important. There are people who say, well, I can be a Christian. I don't have to belong to a church. I don't have to, but I can tell you this, if you don't belong to a Bible-believing church that teaches the Word of God, you're missing out on something in your Christian life. And I don't believe that you are obeying Almighty God if you're deliberately making that decision. I understand that there are people who live in places that it's very difficult to get to church.
I understand that. This is why we have in touch, so that anybody and everybody who wants to hear the truth of the gospel can hear it and see it if they choose to do so. The church is very important in the eyes of God. And He said, I will build My church and nothing is going to destroy it.
There may be times of persecution when they shut them down and they're destroyed, but only for a season of time because it is God's church and God is absolutely omnipotent. Then when He speaks down here later on, He says, I'll give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth, watch this. Whatever you bind on earth shall have been already, past tense, bound in heaven.
Whatever you loose on earth shall have been already, past tense, loosed in heaven. That is, He says your authority is going to be those things that God says that I've already decided. Jesus says the decisions have already been made and He was simply saying to the apostles that they'll be making decisions, but they're making decisions under what? Under the authority of the living God who's already made those decisions in heaven. Nobody can lock anybody else out of the kingdom. People choose to be lost, to die without Christ, out of choice, not because they have to.
There are people, for example, who've never heard yet. We'll come to that in just a moment. So, with that in mind, and I want to clarify all of that so you wouldn't be wondering, well, what's all that about while I'm talking about something else? So, let's talk about what are the characteristics that make for a strong church, wherever you may go and whatever your church may be. And the first thing is this, Spirit-filled leadership. If you have leadership in a church that is not filled with the Spirit of God, you're starting out already with weakness. Because, if you'll recall, Jesus said to His disciples, you're not ready to do what I called you to do. He gave them the Great Commission, but He says, I want you to stay in the city of Jerusalem until you be filled with the Holy Spirit, till the Holy Spirit comes upon you. Because He knew that they could not do what He called them to do, unless the Spirit of God was in them, empowering them, enabling them, energizing them, giving them direction and guidance to do what He called them to do. Because, think about this, He gave twelve men. One of them had to be laid aside, Judas.
And then another one took his place, Matthias. And then the hundred and twenty, He gave them the challenge to get His truth to the entire world. Can you imagine how absolutely ridiculous that may have sounded in His day? Today we can say we have radio, we have TV, we have iPhones, we've got everything.
In that day, it was word of mouth. And He said, but you're not ready. You're not ready until you have filled the Spirit. And the truth is same today. No staff of a church is adequate to do the work that God calls them to do, unless they be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is not only the pastors, but the members of the staff. And so, if you're going to have a strong church, then the leadership of the staff must be filled with the Holy Spirit, listening to Him and depending upon Him for direction and for guidance and for the power and the energy and the know-how to carry out the work of a church. Churches and what we attempt to do does not just happen.
There's a lot that goes on in the midst of it all. So, first of all, you have to have Spirit-filled leadership. And in their lives, out of their life, there should be the evidence that they're filled with the Spirit, which Paul gives us in Galatians chapter five of love and joy and peace and all the rest he mentions. So, that's number one. That's the beginning. That's first. Strong church, pastoral leadership, all the staff are people who are filled with Spirit.
Secondly, they're doctrinally sound messaged that they have that meets the needs of the people. Now, I think about how many people go to church week after week after week, never carry a Bible. So, think about this. They go to church and then they get up and go home.
Well, what do they carry with them? Well, somebody says, well, you can remember. How much do you remember? Listen, I sort of drive it every Sunday to some degree because I want you to remember it.
And yet, you don't remember a lot of that. That's why you should carry your Bible to church. And somebody said to me, if I carried my Bible to some churches, I guess had he been in those kind of churches, they'd wonder what I was doing with it. I intended to preach. And you think about churches you go to, nobody has the Bible open. And I can remember this thing. God knows I'm not taking any credit. I'm simply saying, to my knowledge and as I looked and watched earlier in the ministry and I'd watched the TV and I never saw a single church on television where the people had a Bible in their hand.
I didn't even hear of it. And so, one Sunday I was thinking and I said to our folks, I said, you know, you're going to come listen to me preach for fifty or fifty-five minutes or whatever it was then and you're not going to remember much. And I said, you need to start bringing your Bible and a pad and taking notes.
Why do you want to sit and waste your time listening to somebody if you're not going to remember anything He said? So, little by little, probably in a couple of months, I'd say, well, how many of you have your Bible? Raise your Bible. This is God's handbook. And if you don't, listen, if you don't have the handbook, then all you have is somebody's opinion. Now, one of the reasons I don't seem to get a lot of joy out of listening to the Bible on CD or something is because first of all, if I'm listening, my mind and my eyes, it's conflict. I ought to keep my eye on the road or whatever it might be. And so, I'm sure part of it's because I grew up reading the Word of God, seeing the words, and as a pastor, checking out the tense of verbs and these things and being sure I understand how this verse relates to the next one.
But I think about people who just go to church and don't carry a Bible. How do you know if what He said is truth or not? And you have a right.
It's your privilege. It's your responsibility to question, have I heard the truth or have I not? So, to be doctrinally sound means that we have beliefs that are fastened to the Word of God. They are born from the Word of God. They're taught in the Word of God and that we're to teach others the same. And so, to be doctrinally sound means that we believe the truth. The truth is taught by God's Word.
Somebody says, well, now what about people who don't agree with us? We're not always, always going to agree with each other about some particular verse of Scripture. This is why I say you need to read and you need to compare this verse with other verses.
For example, if I read some pastors' descriptions of contradiction to something, that's an issue. But the truth is there are no contradictions in the Word of God. The Old Testament is the Old Testament. The New Testament is the New Testament.
A greater, a longer revelation in the New Testament than we had in the Old Testament. And so, we won't always agree exactly about some things. But most things we ought to agree on because most of it is clearly given to us in the Word. And so, you should have a personal doctrine. Here's what I believe about Jesus Christ. Here's what I believe about heaven. Here's what I believe about sanctification, justification. Here's what I believe about the church. Here's what I believe about the devil.
Here's what I believe about all of these things. You should have your own personal doctrine based on the Word of God if you don't somebody come along and teach you something that is absolutely false. And so, when somebody says, What do you believe? Well, ask them why do they believe it.
If they pull out some pamphlet or something somebody's written, you say, Let's see, what does the Word of God say? And so, you should know what you believe and why you believe it. And not only that, you have a responsibility to teach your children what you believe about the Word of God. When they grow up, they should grow up believing as you believe if you believe the Word of God. Their doctrine should become a part of their life early in life because it's what you believe. Now, there's going to come a time when they're going to test that and they're going to say, Well, I know that's what you believe, but I'm not sure that's what I believe. You know what?
That's okay. They can test it. If you have taught them the truth, the truth will not only survive, but it'll conquer. And then, of course, uncompromising in their convictions. If a church is a strong church, it's because people have convictions they don't lay aside and they stand by them. For example, if you have a conviction that you should not drink alcoholic beverage and somebody comes along and says, Well, I mean, a little bit's not going to hurt you.
And the Bible's, hmm, hmm, hmm, on and on they go. And you say, Well, you know, I believe that, but I don't guess it'll hurt me too much or I don't want to be an oddball so forth. No, you just compromise your conviction. When you compromise your conviction, what you do is you lay aside what you believe in order to please somebody else or please yourself knowing that you're doing the wrong thing. Compromise of the truth is a sin against Almighty God. If you have convictions about who you associate with, who your friends are, places you go, things that you do, how you spend your money.
You should have convictions about all these things that you absolutely will not compromise. A church in which the pastor compromises the Word of God is a weak church. Whether people compromise their convictions, it's a weak church. God wants a strong church based and built on the solid unwavering truth of the Word of the living God. Then of course, there is the strong emphasis on faith and prayer. If a church is going to be strong, you've got to be strong about prayer and about faith. If you don't pray, you're not going to live a godly life. And you've heard me say it week after week after week, you ought to begin the day on your knees. If you can't get on your knees, sit in the chair, whatever, but talking to God. Not just talking to Him and reading His Word. Listen, if you don't read the Word of God, you can drift off into all kind of things. If you will read the Word of God daily and you'll, listen, start the day.
Here's what you're saying. You're saying, God, I acknowledge that I need You this day, Lord. I want You to speak to my heart. I want You to give me guidance and direction for this day all day long. I want to walk in Your will. When you start the day like that, you think God's not going to answer that prayer?
Yes, He will. And here's what'll happen. You'll find there'll be times when you read a passage of Scripture, you'll think, what does that mean? What does that mean? But somehow it struck your heart. Before the day is over, something will happen.
You'll think, oh God, You gave me a warning and I ignored it. God is a personal God. He's intimate. He wants to work in your life in such a fashion that the two of you have an intimate relationship.
That intimate relationship is only going to come through the reading of the Word of God and absorbing it in your mind and heart. You say, well, some things are better I don't understand. You know what? You just keep reading. You'll understand. You just keep reading the Word of God. And God will show you the truth. He will show you the truth. Listen, He's going to show you the truth, especially things that you need in your life. He's going to show you how to accomplish that.
He's going to show you where to go, when to go, who to avoid, what to avoid, how to spend your money. That is, God is an awesome, listen, He's the best friend you can possibly have. And you can't lose being obedient to Almighty God.
No way. So, faith and prayer are absolutely essential. If you think about this, my faith will determine my life because if I believe what He says, here's what'll happen.
If I don't believe what He says, these things won't happen. We're to live by faith. He says that justice shall live by faith. We accepted Jesus Christ by faith. We accept the truth of the Word of God by faith.
And when you got married, you made a promise to your husband or your wife. And by faith, you've lived together believing that they meant what they said when they stood at the altar to promise their love for you. Faith and prayer, absolutely essential in a strong church. Thank you for listening to A Strong Church. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or In Touch Ministries, stop by intouch.org. This podcast is a presentation of In Touch Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-02 07:20:15 / 2023-03-02 07:28:51 / 9