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Challenges, Struggles, Solutions, Priorities, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
April 21, 2022 7:05 am

Challenges, Struggles, Solutions, Priorities, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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April 21, 2022 7:05 am

The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal

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Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues to describe what he calls the church awakening. We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake.

The church was never designed to be a slick institution led by a team of highly polished professionals. In fact, when we read the biblical record about the first century church, we discover an organism that acts in surprising ways, pioneered by a ragtag team of disciples that don't seem qualified. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues his teaching series called The Church Awakening. We're looking at the book of Acts, where we read about a grassroots movement that was flourishing with God's blessing.

Chuck titled today's message, Challenges, Struggles, Solutions, Priorities. All scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God or the woman of God may be brought to maturity and be equipped for every good work, just as we would starve without food on our tables to eat and digest from which we get energy we could not survive spiritually without the word of God. So not surprisingly, so not surprisingly, it is the word of God and especially the inerrancy of the scriptures that continues to be the issue of every generation.

It is really the watershed issue. Weaken the word and you have begun to erode the church. We give God our praise for his word and while we do not worship, obviously the print on the page, this print leads us to a knowledge of the one we worship, who is Jesus our master, our savior. If you are new with us and you haven't a Bible, I'm sure there's someone nearby who would be happy to share one with you.

When you come back, we invite you to do so. Be sure and bring a Bible and that way you can follow along and see where we are and where we're going. We want to read from random selections of chapters four, five, and six of the fifth book of the New Testament, the book of Acts. We'll begin at chapter four, verse one. As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to be about 5,000. Verse eight, then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that this man has been given by the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name, this man stands here before you in good health. Verse 12, and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. Chapter five, verse one, but a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and kept back some of the price for himself.

With his wife's full knowledge and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?

And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God. And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last, and great fear came over all who heard of it. Verse 14, and all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women were constantly added to their number. Verse one of chapter six, Now at this time, while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So the Twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.

Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Verse seven, the word of God kept on spreading, and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem. And a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith. May God honor the reading of and the living out of the truth of His word. 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 studies. And now the message from Chuck called Challenges, Struggles, Solutions, Priorities. One of the worst things the church can do is take its cues from the world. But it's a great temptation to do that because there are so many of them out there, and they look like they know what they're doing. And they often say their stuff in such a convincing way that we think, well, maybe they're right and we're beginning to miss it. But our world has lost its way. And so it's not surprising when a church takes its cues from the world that's lost its way that the church begins to lose its way. It doesn't happen quickly. It's a matter of erosion, as we learned last time we were together. It's silent. It's slow.

It's subtle. I thought of how this disintegration can happen when I, some time ago, read an article from the Smithsonian Magazine where a fascinating experiment was carried out. Dr. John Calhoun, a research psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health, built a nine-foot square cage for selected mice and observed them as their population grew from 8 to 2,200. The cage was designed to contain comfortably a population of 160.

Food, water, and other resources were always abundant. All the mortality factors, except aging, were eliminated. As the population reached its peak at 2,200 after about two and a half years, the colony of mice began to disintegrate. There was no physical escape from their closed environment. Adult mice formed natural groups of about a dozen individual mice. In the groups, each mouse performed a particular social role, but there were no roles in which to place the healthy young mice. This totally disrupted the whole society. The males, who had protected their territory, withdrew from leadership. The females became aggressive and forced out the young, and the young grew to be only self-indulgent. They ate, drank, slept, groomed themselves, but showed no normal aggression and failed to reproduce. Dr. Calhoun observed that courtship and mating, the most complex activities for mice, were the first activities to cease.

After five years, all of the mice had died, all of the mice had died, despite the fact that they had plenty of water, food, and no disease. What result would such overcrowding have on humanity? Calhoun suggests that we would first of all cease to reproduce our ideas, and along with ideas, our goals and ideals. In other words, our values would be lost. The experiment is more than fascinating.

It's very revealing. I'm especially troubled by the last five words of the report. Our values would be lost. What can happen in an overpopulated world can happen also in a fast-growing church. Values, purpose, objectives, reason for existence, all of these are of primary importance when it comes to being a distinct body of people altogether different from a world that's lost its way. As I've said before and you will hear me say again, when the church is doing what it has been called to do, we will become the most attractive and contagious body of people in a community.

Not when we mimic what is around us, but when we reveal a life marked by values and purpose and meaning and definition. Last time we were together, I've concluded with three valuable statements, I call them, and you may have misplaced them or not even noticed at the end of the message the importance of them until later. And so today I thought we would begin where we left off last time and simply recall these statements. I would be pedantic enough to say, find a pen or a pencil and write down the statements. I would even be bold enough to add, memorize them.

They will help you in days to come. Retain your values. The first is this, clear biblical thinking must override secular planning and a corporate mentality. Repeat, clear biblical thinking must override secular thinking or planning, secular planning and a corporate mentality. I added to that statement, think spiritual. When you think of the work of God, when you consider your life in light of being a servant of the living God, spirituality is of paramount importance. Not the secular world, not the corporate mindset, but a spiritual mentality.

Think spiritual. Second, studied accurate decisions must originate from God's word, not human opinions. And we added to that statement, stay biblical. Stay biblical. Live with your Bible open. Just as I was taught when I learned how to preach, always have your finger on the text and as you look away to make a point or whatever, you'll be able to return to the very place that you have left. Stay in the text, stay in the scriptures, make the scriptures your guide. You will never be led astray if you guide your life according to statements and or principles from the written word of God.

So we form our studied and accurate decisions because they are originating from the word of God, not human opinion. Here's the third, wise essential changes must occur to counteract any sign of erosion. Wise essential changes must occur to counteract any sign of erosion. I added to that statement, be flexible. Think spiritual, stay biblical, be flexible.

Changes are often an essential part of the course, certainly of any course correction. I spent some time this past week with a pastor who serves a church that's over 100 years old. He has been there for a number of years. I asked him to describe the church to me because he seemed a little burdened when we sat down together for lunch. He said I can do it all in one word, dysfunctional, dysfunctional. He said the roots that have been formed, the ruts that have been formed are so deep and long, it's hard to imagine that I could be the one to pull the church out of those ruts. And I said to him, as I say to you, how tragic, how tragic. I remember the words of Ray Stedman when he crossed into Alaska.

He said I saw a sign on the side of the road that was hand painted. It read choose your rut carefully, you'll be in it for the next 200 miles. The same can be said in many a church.

My answer to that is stay out of the rut. Let the scriptures keep you on the proper plane of living. Now let's go from today's church back to the first century.

It's not a perfect setting, but it is certainly more pristine than ours today. These were people who understood persecution, martyrdom was commonplace, the fear of God was a regular experience, the hand of God on their lives was palpable, and they began to grow and they grew rapidly. The end of chapter 2 tells us that their number was being added to day by day as the Lord blessed them.

So they were growing. Chapter 4 verse 4 picks up where that leaves off. Many of those who had heard the message believed and the number of the men came to be about 5,000.

It began at over 3,000 and now it's 5,000. And if we were to go on through the book of Acts, as Bruce calls it, the spreading flame just increases. The spreading flame of the church grows. Nothing wrong with rapid growth. But as we learned from the nine-foot square cage for mice, if things aren't handled correctly, you begin to disintegrate. I made a list of some things that can occur as a result of growth that's that's rapid. Uncertainty of purpose, blurred vision, fuzzy and compromised priorities, the tendency away from volunteerism and toward professionalism.

That's a big one. The church can get slick. Its ministers can become perfunctory in their tasks. I guess that's why I love John Piper's book titled, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.

Listen to his writing. We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet.

It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake. For there is no professional child likeness.

Now, track with Piper as he continues with that thought. There is no professional tenderheartedness. There is no professional panting after God. We are to deny ourselves and take up the blood-spattered cross daily.

How do you carry a cross professionally? We have been crucified with Christ and yet now we live by faith in the one who loved us and gave himself for us. What is professional faith? We are not to be filled with wine but with the Spirit. We are to be God-besotted lovers of Christ. How can you be drunk with Jesus professionally? Then, wonder of wonders, we were given the gospel treasure to carry in clay pots to show that the transcendent power belongs to God.

Is there a way to be a professional clay pot? Brothers and sisters, we're not running a professional organization. We'll let the world do that. This isn't a building with a cross stuck on top. This is a ministry.

We do not look to the government or the state to guide us. This is a ministry. Now, you can expect, as the first church experienced, there will be strong resistance.

That's always true. In fact, we just read of it earlier. Look at chapter 4 again, verse 1, after the man is healed. In chapter 3, as Peter and John are speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the guard and the Sadducees, these are all the professionals. They came up to them and they were greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. How dare you do that? We just nailed him to a cross. How dare you tell people that he's been raised from the dead? We put him in a grave. Somebody stole the body. By the way, they've never been able to produce the skeleton.

They've never found the body. But that's beside the point. These men are trying to silence these spokesmen for Christ. And so they laid their hands on them. Verse 3, they put them in jail until the next day for it was already evening. But lest you think that Peter is intimidated, I want you to see his response. Verse 8, he's in jail.

These men have the power to make his life pretty miserable, certainly to torture him. And he's filled with the spirit, verse 8. He said to them, rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, how's that for being politically incorrect, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead by this name, this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, and which became the chief cornerstone.

There is salvation in no other, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. He is unintimidated. You have to love it. Now these professionals are watching this, blinking, not knowing whether to spit or wind their watch. And they're thinking, well, we're told what they were thinking, 13. As they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed. They were just amazed. They began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

I love it. Look at the courage of these two men. They not realize we can make their lives dead.

They not realize we can make their lives dead. When you are filled with the Spirit and speaking for Christ, you're invincible. Peter and John had remarkable tenacity, resisting the temptation to keel under pressure. Through their courage, these disciples shaped the trajectory of the church, and much of what we practice today was forged from this model. You're listening to Insight for Living and the Bible teaching of Chuck Swindoll. He's just begun a series called The Church Awakening.

In addition to Peter and John, Paul was another man who pioneered the early church movement, and his story is told in a helpful biography that Chuck has written. It's from the Great Lives series, and it's called Paul, a Man of Grace and Grit. To purchase a copy of Chuck's biography on Paul, give us a call.

If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888 or go directly to insight.org slash offer. Then, as the international news continues to focus on the intense conflicts in Eastern Europe, we'll remind you that for many years, Insight for Living has been speaking into this part of the world. We've done so through Chuck's Bible teaching, translated into languages such as Polish and Romanian. These ministries are part of our long-range strategic plan to make disciples for Jesus Christ in all 195 countries of the world.

We call it Vision 195. When you give a gift, you're helping us provide Chuck's teaching in your own country, and a portion is applied to going beyond our borders, where clear Bible teaching is desperately needed. So thank you for supporting the ministry of Insight for Living.

If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888 or give your donation online at insight.org slash donate. One more thing, did you know that Chuck has a daily email devotional? It's sent to your inbox each morning to help you start your day with God. Thousands are taking advantage of these daily inspirations that come from some of Chuck's best writing, and you can too. The email devotional is absolutely free. To sign up, go to insight.org slash devotional.

I'm Bill Meyer, inviting you to join us when Chuck Swindoll continues his series called The Church Awakening, Friday on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Challenges, Struggles, Solutions, Priorities, was copyrighted in 2008, 2010, and 2022. And the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-29 11:27:48 / 2023-04-29 11:36:24 / 9

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