Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus said, Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it. But what does that body of believers look like today? And when you think about your own experience, how would you describe the condition of your church family? Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues the teaching series called The Church Awakening, in which we'll gain a whole new appreciation for the divine institution that God established centuries ago.
Chuck titled his first message, The Church. Let's start here. Truth be told, Lord, there are times in our lives when we are just as stubborn as mules. We just resist you, and we fight your way, and we want to go our own path, and we want to pull our own plow, and we're determined to make it work. A lot of us have lived long enough to remember and even have the scars to prove those foolish decisions, when like mules we went our own way. And then we came to realize we are really goats. We're not a part of the sheepfold.
And we found ourselves on the outside looking in, and we didn't know the songs, and we didn't know the truth, and we didn't know the way, and we didn't know how to walk in it. So we sort of butted our way through life until we finally realized what a waste, that you want us to be sheep. And so we come today like little lambs.
We can't protect ourselves, so we need you to do that. We don't know where there's good food, so we need you to guide us to those pastures that are green. We can't find quiet waters, and so we rely on you just like a sheep on the shepherd to guide us. And once we are there, Father, we become like deer panting for the water brooks. Our souls thirst for you, Lord, and out of the overflow of our lives, we give to you like a deer in the forest. We trust you, Father. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Everybody said amen. 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 insightworld.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck called The Church.
Let's start here. 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. It's a good time to pause from where we are right now and go back 20 centuries. As we do that, turn to Matthew chapter 16. Remember, we've gone back 20 centuries.
This is first century. There are no churches. They've never heard of a church. 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 you 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. Peter, your thought comes directly from my heavenly Father.
He 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.
Aye. 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. 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, 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, 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 a building.
This is a body. 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. 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. 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. But I sensed God's hand in it and I came. 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. And I gave them four, four and a half years. But I still had burning within me a desire to start a church. I just didn't know where and I didn't know how.
And the Lord began to work on me. I looked at a couple of other well-established churches, didn't feel a fit. I knew if I stepped into there I'd have long-standing traditions to keep up with and I was up to here with long-standing traditions and I was just old enough not to care. And so I said, I don't want to go there and I don't want to fit into what you see with all of the expectations you have for your seventh or eighth or tenth or twelfth pastor. That's just not me, not now. If I ever get into a church, I'm going to start one. I'd never done it before.
I will never do it again. Anyway, in starting the church, I said to the Lord, one thing is for sure, Lord, you and I are going to do this together. I don't mean that to sound like anything more than just a simple statement of faith. My point is I don't want to be like any other church. If there is another church like that, people can go there. And so I'm not going to concern myself with this ministry or that one.
We're brothers and we're friends and with many of them, we're colleagues in ministry, but there's no reason to duplicate what they're doing. I want you to guide me, lead me into fresh thoughts. And so, Lord, I'm going to trust you. If you're promising to build your church, I want to be a part of that.
I'm excited about that. Now, I just have to tell you, I didn't hear a voice from heaven. I've never seen sky writing. I don't believe in that. I wasn't awake in the middle of the night. But the urging kept going on. And so I said to Cynthia one day, you know what, it would be great to just start with maybe a Bible class. Let's do that. Just a little gathering of people.
It'd be fun. And so word got out through our radio ministry, Insight for Living, and we didn't do a big demographic study. We didn't canvas a neighborhood. We didn't even know where we should meet. We just said, let's get going with a group of people.
We need that. And I'd love to be preaching again. See, that's great. So we wound up at Stone Briar Country Club, and the first meeting, 300 people showed up. And I remember saying to one guy, do we know what we're doing? He said, I don't, but you're here, so let's go. What he didn't know is I didn't know either. So met a number of people. I guess some of the people knew each other.
I didn't know. So we got started. Didn't have a church in mind.
Just start with a Bible class. Problem is, the next time we met, we doubled in some size. And by now the country club is getting nervous because we pushed out all of the accordion walls and we didn't have any more room to meet. And they said to me by the third meeting, which by then we were half again larger, they said, we just can't keep doing that.
It was October of 98. And I also realized that this is getting past what I expected. So let me be very candid with you here as if I haven't already been.
Let me just tell you what's happened. I'm involved in Running in Sight for Living along with Cynthia, and we are commuting then 98, 99. We haven't moved the ministry here. We are traveling to Southern California and back here. We've built a little place down in Dallas where we would live.
And I was president of the seminary, and we were involved in a major fundraising campaign there. My hands are full. My arms are full. My heart is full.
I'm loving it all. But the church is growing. It's growing. By now we are located at Collin County Community College, and our number is now 2,000, or a little over 1,000. I don't want to exaggerate to 1,000.
It seemed like it was a million, but the gym was full, and all of us will remember those white chairs and the rain on the roof. Remember that and the fun of that and the challenge of that. But what you didn't know is that behind the scenes, like a mother with too many kids, I was a pastor with too many people, and I couldn't keep up with a lot of things. So I delegated a lot of things.
Things were delegated to good men, individuals, but not men who had my heart, not men who had my vision, not individuals who they weren't trying to hurt anything or destroy anything. But little did I realize that when I delegated and released, I wasn't training. I wasn't mentoring. I wasn't shaping the thinking. I wasn't carrying out the vision God had given me back in the mid-90s. Wasn't able to.
And when I realized it, it had gotten too far along. Staff had been hired that probably should have never been hired. And I'm grateful to say that we never lost our integrity financially.
There weren't fistfights in the back room. It's not like that. I realized, especially here in the last two to three years, how far we have drifted from the original dream and vision. And that's a tough place to find yourself, because the church is now the size it is, and we're all excited about that, and I mean that genuinely. It seemed to me a good time for us to pull back and look directly at where we've been, where we are, where we ought to be going, and to stop the erosion, wherever it may be. Now, it's not been easy. There have been difficult times. There have been tears. There have been hurt feelings. There have been hard moments. But remember, Sunday comes every seven days, so I never brought the struggle to the pulpit. I simply announced from week to week, we're building a building, we're going ahead, we're moving on, we're trusting God. But I finally had to come to realize it's time to stop it. Wait. Let's look again.
Let's see what it is God is doing, and let's examine what it is God would have us do, and let's do that. That meant some changes. That meant moving in a direction that had not been moving in. That meant certain staff didn't remain. That meant some elders didn't stay. And all the way through, my hope was to keep it on vision, on stream. Some of you will remember that in a message I brought last time, we announced that we wanted to have Dr. Toussaint and Dr. Hendricks and Dr. Mark Young help us with the remaining elders and with some senior staff think through where we are, who we are, where we're going.
And it's been of inestimable value to have them. The meetings are now fun again, and the ideas are coming again, and the freshness of this is all happening. Now, we're going to skip from Matthew 16 to Acts 2 because I want you to see, as the Lord began to build his church, what it looked like.
Take a look here. Acts chapter 2 verse 14 through verse 36, Peter preaches a message. There's 120 people that have been in a room where the Spirit of God has come. It seems clear that it was there the church began.
Remember the number, 120. As a result, a number of these people come down into the streets and they began to preach to people who are from all over the world. They're declaring the good news of the Savior. Verses 38 to 40, Peter ends his message, and then there's a response. Look at the response of the people. So then those who had received his word were baptized.
Don't go any further. The people's response was, they received the word. That term means that they showed approval by accepting it.
Epo apodekomai, they showed approval by accepting the word. As the gospel was given, they received it. It's what you do when you hear of Christ. You receive him. You believe in him. So they are believers.
Watch what happens. They are then baptized. Can you imagine this? That day there were added 3,000 souls. And they've got some people that don't believe in big churches. But the very first one that got going was 3,000 strong.
Admittedly, they met in homes and caves and dens and hidden places, rarely in public. But look at the size. John Stott is correct. He writes, the body of Christ in Jerusalem multiplied 26 times, from 120 to 3,120. Suddenly, there are 3,000 brand new Christians.
I mean, that baptism is a sheep dip. Huge number of people. Huge number. And you think, I felt uneasy with the growth. Can you imagine, Peter?
It's amazing. There's no corruption. There's no tradition. There are no bylaws. There's no building. There's no senior pastor. There's no leadership structure.
There's no splinter group. Just 3,000 people living their lives now that Christ is living within them. So what did they do? Watch closely. Next verse. They continually devoted themselves.
Get your pencil ready. Mark the word teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. That's the lowest common denominator of a church. You can't have a church if you take away any of the four. You have to have teaching, teaching and preaching.
You've got to have fellowship. That's not dinner on the grounds. That's closeness. That's sharing in life. That's close relationships. That's harmony. That's sharing in one another's life.
Teaching, fellowship. Third, they had worship, breaking of bread. That means not only meals, but following the meal, they took time for the Lord's table. And they mentioned baptism, so they had the elements that were served as well as these ordinances, baptism in the Lord's table, and then there was prayer.
You can have more than four. You cannot have less than four and be a church. These are the defining components of a healthy local church. Teaching, fellowship, worship and prayer. And there's much more teaching ahead, so please stay with us.
This is Insight for Living. Chuck Swindoll is presenting the first message in this teaching series called The Church Awakening. And to learn more about Chuck Swindoll and this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org. Did you know that every single sermon in this series is paired with an interactive study tool that Chuck calls Searching the Scriptures? It's interactive because you can jot down your personal notes online or print out the PDF for safekeeping. It's designed to help you truly engage with the Bible and its application.
Take a look and discover what's available to you by going to insight.org slash studies. In addition, Chuck has written a biography on the Apostle Paul that's helpful as well. In this book, you'll discover the character traits that caused Paul to become so effective in ministry. The biography is titled Paul, a Man of Grace and Grit.
It's a story of strength and determination, and it's dripping with mercy and grace. To purchase a copy, go to insight.org slash offer or call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. We rely on your support to make these daily Bible studies with Chuck possible. And if it's been a while since you've responded to the need or you've never stepped forward with a contribution, we invite you to give a donation today. Just call us.
If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888 or give a donation online at insight.org slash donate. Now with several minutes remaining, let's enjoy these closing comments from our teacher. Chuck reminds us that the Bible rises above any other book. Stand firm on the inspired word of God.
We've now come to the watershed issue of every generation. All scripture is inspired of God. It may be familiar territory for many of you, but believe me today, my words come as strange words in the ears of the majority. Most people have never been taught about the inspired word of God, and many who have been taught have been taught to disbelieve it. Whereas scripture states it is inspired of God. Learn a little information that might seem over your head, but it isn't at all.
It may sound strange, but you'll get it quickly. Theopneustos is the word translated inspired of God. Theos is the word for God.
Pneustos is the word for spirit or breath. God hyphen breathed. The scriptures are the God-breathed message from God to mankind. That means God superintended the human authors so that using their individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error Holy Scripture, right down to the very words themselves. This was not mechanical dictation, but the writing of various authors who were carried along by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.
Let me give you three words that will help you. Revelation is God's giving his word to mankind that has ceased. There is no longer inspired scripture being given to mankind. That was done when the Bible was being written. The Bible has now been written. The second word is inspiration. That's human beings recording without error the very word and mind of God.
The third is illumination. Revelation has ceased. Inspiration has ceased, but illumination goes on.
It's happening right now. You are learning things that you did not know 30 minutes ago, perhaps. You are discovering things from the scriptures that are sort of enlightening you or opening your eyes to them. It's called the doctrine of illumination. God has revealed his word.
That's miraculous. God is inspiring his word, has inspired his word, miraculous transfer of information so that humans wrote it down without error, and now we have his word and it inspires us. It illumines us. It guides us. It gives us direction. When I'm not sure where to go, I seek the scriptures and I go to prayer. I ask the Lord for guidance and I ask him to use some part of his word I may have learned or I may now read and open my eyes to see how I can best respond to the situation in which I find myself. By that we are standing firm on the inspired Word of God. I'm Bill Meyer. Chuck Swindoll's teaching series called The Church Awakening continues tomorrow right here on Insight for Living. The preceding message, The Church, Let's Start Here, was copyrighted in 2008, 2010, and 2011, when 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.
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