Today, Chuck Swindoll elevates the standard for local churches. Why is the church significant to the world? Because the church represents penetrating light and undiluted salt in society. Even the public knows that it is in the Church of Jesus Christ that sin is to remain sin and not an okay gray area. That righteousness is the way for the believer to walk, and it's not okay if he compromises with it. What comes to mind when you hear the word church?
Based on personal experience, maybe the word ignites some fond childhood memories. The church was a safe harbor for you, or maybe just the opposite. When you hear the word church, it stirs up hurtful incidents from the past. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll provides a biblical definition.
The church, or the body of Christ, is made up of believers who are called to be salt and light to a world that's lost its way. Chuck titled his message, Three Cheers for the Church. Some of you will remember Alexander. Well, maybe not most of you. I really introduced him to you some time ago. I guess it's been a few years now. So you may have forgotten. I read you his little autobiography, which is called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Now you may remember. Well, that's my kind of guy. That's the kind of struggle that I identify with, don't you?
Sure, some of you do. Well, I'm glad to say that the lady who wrote that story, I think it's his mother, Judith Vjorst, has continued to write. She's also written a book called How I Became 40 and Other Atrocities. And then she wrote If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries, which I think probably links itself to something that Alexander might have written. So think about a little five or six-year-old fellow when you listen to If I Were in Charge of the World. She writes, If I were in charge of the world, I'd cancel oatmeal, Monday mornings, allergy shots, and also Sarah Steinberg. If I were in charge of the world, there would be brighter nightlights, healthier hamsters, and basketball baskets 48 inches lower. If I were in charge of the world, you wouldn't have lonely and you wouldn't have clean. You wouldn't have bedtimes or don't punch your sister. You wouldn't even have sisters. If I were in charge of the world, a chocolate sundae with whipped cream and nuts would be a vegetable.
And all 007 movies would be G. And a person who sometimes forgot to brush and sometimes forgot to flush would still be allowed to be in charge of the world. You're listening to Insight for Living. To dig deeper into the Bible with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to insight.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck titled Three Cheers for the Church. Yeah, well, I've been thinking about that line for a long time. If I were in charge of the world, I would do one thing. Even if God allowed me to be in charge for just 24 hours, I'd do one thing. I'd change people's opinion about the church.
That's what I'd do. I would magically erase all church scars and all church splits and all church bruises and all hurts that came from church gossip. And I would remove all offenses and I would for 24 hours have everybody see the value of the church.
That's what I'd do if I were in charge of the world. But since I'm not, I will ask you to take charge of something you are in charge of and that's your thoughts. And for the next few minutes, I would ask you in charge of your thoughts to allow no negative thought to enter your head about the church. Only positive. No fair.
No fair cheating now. I would ask you to take charge of your thoughts and to think only positive thoughts about the church. Okay?
Fair deal. I'll do that with you. And let's see what a marvelous thing God has done in giving us churches. Now let's go back to our childhood.
I sound like a shrink when I say that, don't I? Let's go way back. Let's go all the way back to when we first heard the hymns and we first listened to sermons and we first formed our impressions about church. And while we do that, let's go way back to Philippians chapter one.
Okay? We're going back to our childhood. Some of us have very pleasant memories. Others, unfortunately, they are not so pleasant.
But let's just make believe for a few minutes that they are. Think of the kind of church you would have wanted to have as a child if you can't think of one that is real. Some can think of the church that was an urban church and it was a busy place and there were cars buzzing by outside and horns honking and there were busy intersections and there were multiple buildings and you were in a mega church even as a little child. Others were raised in a suburban church where in the distance you could see the skyline of a busy city but you were actually in the suburb of this where this church was located. And for some of us, it was a country church. Like William Pitts wrote years ago, there's a church in the valley by the wildwood.
No lovelier place in the dale. No spot is so dear to my childhood as the little brown church in the vale. Oh, come to the church in the wildwood.
Come to the church in the dale. No spot is so dear to my childhood as the little brown church in the vale. That was my church. Little country town, little country church, but what a place.
What a place to give me marvelous memories that I to this day cherish. Paul and Timothy bond servants of Christ Jesus to all the saints in Christ who are in such a church. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you. Always offering prayer and with joy in my every prayer for you all in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. Think verse 3 with verse 5. I thank my God in all my remembrance in view of your partnership in the gospel from the first day.
Think about the first church. You were just a little girl. You were just a little tad.
Just a little kid. You learned first to respect authority probably in that church. You learned to sit still longer than you wanted to sit and to pay attention to something you didn't understand longer than you wanted to pay attention. You will never forget the many things your mother kept giving you to keep you quiet and you will never forget those arms that reached around you from your father and gripped you by the shoulder and gave you just enough shake for you to be scared to death when church was over. You remember those early days when you listened to the hymns, when you formed your impressions, when you discovered that there was a man of God who opened God's book and believed it with all of his heart. You probably sang your first solo there. You joined your first choir there. You were part of an ensemble there. You discovered that you had leadership skills there, not in the home and probably not in the school but in the church. It was there you discovered that when God speaks, it's best to listen and if you ever have an option, it's best to obey. It was there you gave yourself to that first group of people. You saw them every week and you laughed with them and you wept with them and you celebrated with them and you grieved with them. Just a little pocket of people and because of them, Easter had new meaning and Christmas took on new color and Thanksgiving had substance and the New Year had purpose and direction. You thank God upon every remembrance of those people who were partners with you in the gospel.
I do. The first man I truly respected as a man of God goes back to my earliest place where we worshiped and I never saw a man that could turn to so many verses of scripture so quickly. He lost me after the third or fourth reference but I used to sit as a little kid and watch him go from passage to passage and passage to passage and usually quote them without looking. I had a pastor who fouled up in singing one of the hymns and decided that afternoon to memorize the hymnal. Before we left that church, he had the hymnal memorized. Early memories.
Now let's go a little further in the time tunnel to times of crisis. Verse 7. It is only right for me to feel this way about you because I have you in my heart since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel you are all partners of grace with me. God is my witness. How I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. Look at the reference to imprisonment.
Let's let that represent trials, crises. Think of them. Think of them. Some of you lost your mom. Some of you lost your dad. Some of you lost a brother or sister and as helpful as the hospital or the physician or the attorney tried to be, no one could minister to you like the church. No one could put their arms around you and say I understand.
And you came stumbling out of the physician's office having heard the news about that disease that may take your life. It wasn't a neighbor most likely who put her arms around you or some friend at work who said I understand. It was the church. When your mate said it's over I'm leaving and your mate walked out in all of the embarrassment and the rejection and the anger and the disillusionment, you didn't find comfort from some other person outside the church more than likely. Now maybe they didn't have an official single parent's fellowship but there was somebody there.
There was someone who said I've got a scar like that and while you're hurting I hurt with you. And even though you feel pushed out of society and like a leftover, I understand your imprisonment and I stand in defense and confirmation of you. Remember when grief struck and they had to put your loved one in a box called a casket? Maybe the banker could tell you where you could find a loan to get you through that hard time or maybe the insurance man could help you with that check that came because your mate had gone or maybe some friend from school days past helped you but chances are good the person who spoke well of your departed loved one was the pastor of a church. The people who surrounded you and gave you a place to go on and hope when you lost your baby were church people. They understood your prison.
That's the way God designed the church. It was here that compassion was massaged into your life. Remember disillusionment as a youth? No.
Just spend a moment thinking about that. I've never met anybody who wanted to be a teenager again. Never. Crisis after crisis and remember the youth pastor who believed in you when you didn't even believe in yourself? Remember the Sunday school teacher who said she loved you or he loved you regardless and emphasized regardless? Remember not knowing exactly what you should do in your career and some pastor spoke directly from the scriptures and cut right through the fog and gave you the direction you needed and he didn't even know he was doing it. Remember the tape that you were given that you played over and over and over again? You know if there had never been a church that had never been a cassette to be played from some pastor who ministered to you right on target. Not from some law office, not from some doctor's waiting room, not even from some funeral home but your help to go on came from the church.
Well enough about prison. Look at those moments of celebration. Look at verse 9. This I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment so that you may approve the things that are excellent.
Now we're moving into celebration. In order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ, having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and to the praise of God. Where did you find your mate? Chances are good you found her or him in a church. Where were you married? Chances are good if you weren't married in a church you wish you could have been but most of us were. Perhaps by the very man who ministered to you during your courtship, who gave you the best counsel, probably a pastor, who was there to applaud the first baby, who said that marriage will get a little cold and we've got a conference just designed to help add a little spark to it, who ministered to you when you really got scared about how to rear that family, who said we applaud the family, we stand with you all the way through it even at this time when your daughter ran away, we're there, we're not leaving. Celebration times, times of praise, times when we are filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Christ to the glory and praise of God. How about when you made a decision to serve the Lord Jesus as a career? How about when you celebrated a graduation out of school and maybe even out of seminary? Who was there to say we're with you as you take off for this new work? We applaud your decision to serve the Lord Jesus.
We'll be with you through schooling, we'll be with you out of schooling and if God leads you overseas we won't drop you, we won't forget you. Perhaps the church held you closer than your own family. Perhaps the church contributed more to your income than any family has ever contributed because the church believed in you. How very often a pastor who defects on a congregation or a music minister or an associate pastor will make the headlines. How often a church split will bring a bruise or a brother or sister becomes offensive and says an ugly thing to you or about you and that weighs in your mind and it becomes the extreme which develops into the standard of your thinking when you think of church. I know many people today who say don't bother me with church I've headed up to here. I understand but I hate meeting people so jaded because I hate what they lose.
I hate what they miss. I say this with only the right motives but as wonderful as the parachurch ministries are they are all dependent upon the church to exist. When you're in college and enter varsity or campus crusade or some other campus ministry has really ministered to you and you graduate you need a church.
It is in the church week after week where we learn faithfulness. It was in the church you first gave. It was the first place I gave out of my allowance. I remember squeezing the nickel until I thought the buffalo would yell.
I finally dropped it in the plate. My dad convinced me that's where your money goes son. That's where we give. That's where you learn generosity. I didn't give it to a friend.
I didn't give it to a family member. I gave it to God's work. It is in the church that discipleship is carried out. It is in the church that accountability is carried out. It is in the church that marriage is upheld.
Singleness is dignified without your being hustled. It is in the church of Jesus Christ that we find the roots that continue to declare where we are in our faith. When the evangelistic series is over, when the crusade team members have all gone home the church stays and takes the new converts and nurtures them into their own walk. Let me get even more specific while we're in Philippians. Let me show you why the church is significant in the world and in the community and for the Christian.
Just keep reading with me. Look at verse 12 down through 14. I want you to know brethren that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel. So that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole Praetorian Guard and to everyone else. And that most of the brethren trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.
I understand he says this personally. Let me apply it to the church. Why is the church significant to the world? Because the church represents penetrating light and undiluted salt in society. You know when a conservative church becomes liberal that the public will criticize that church?
The public will write of it as though it has let the community down. Even the public knows that it is in the church of Jesus Christ that sin is to remain sin and not an OK gray area. That righteousness is the way for the believer to walk and it's not OK if he compromises with it. I remember reading about the late President Calvin Coolidge who returned home from attending church early one Sunday afternoon. He was asked by his wife what the minister spoke on. Coolidge responded, sin. Well she pressed him for a few words of explanation and being a man of few words with his wife he responded, well I think he was against it.
You better believe it. When the pulpit mentions sin, the church stands against it. When the pulpit declares moral issues, the church cuts right through the fog of society.
The church for many, many years in our nation was its conscience. And as its pulpit stood, its people stood. You are the salt of the earth, said Jesus. You are the light on a hill.
Don't put a bushel basket over it. Let the light shine. Let the salt bite. That's your role. The world expects it from you. Even though it won't agree, even though many will not enter the doors, though they are invited, they expect you to stand for the truth as you believe it in the scriptures.
How about the community? I hope you're ready for a little surprise. In verses 15 through 18, you're going to have to swallow hard, some of you who look with a squint eye at other ministries, because you're going to see a little breath in Paul that is rarely mentioned. Philippians 1.15 reads, Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will. Now the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, seeking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? As if to say, so what? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.
I don't know if you really heard what you just heard, but it's a mouthful. Why is the church significant in the community? First of all, because churches offer an availability of variety. But secondly, because the churches offer a singularity of message.
Here's what I'm saying. In fact, here's what this passage is saying. There will be churches of all different kinds.
Think of a windshield wiper on your front window of the car, on the windshield of your car. Churches will go from one extreme to another. Churches that are worth attending have the same pivot point, and that's Jesus Christ. Christ is proclaimed. Christ is declared. But some will go at it from this dimension and some will go at it from that dimension, and you will pick and choose.
You have a variety available to you. Style of worship, approach, methodology, and to use this, Paul's words, even difference in motive. Let me read this to you from the Phillips paraphrase, in case you haven't been shocked yet. I know that some are preaching Christ out of jealousy. Some are preaching him in good faith. These latter are preaching out of their love for me. The motive of the former is questionable. They preach in a partisan spirit. But what does it matter? However they may look at it, the fact remains that Christ is being preached, whether sincerely or not.
And that fact makes me very happy. I have a word to a few of you who are given to public criticism of other ministries. Learn from Paul. Even ministries that have deceptive motives, even churches that you choose not to attend, he says, I rejoice that at least Christ is proclaimed. Let's face it. If everybody attended where you attend, we wouldn't have enough room.
We'd run out of space, as if we haven't already. I give God praise that there are a variety of ministries. The last thing you need to think of is that we have the corner on truth, and that this pastor has the answers for life. No, no.
A thousand times no. God is using this man and that message, that ministry, this man in that ministry, these people in that ministry, and those in that ministry. Don't waste your time criticizing other ministries.
Just attend the one that you prefer and give God praise that Christ is exalted. You say, sounds pretty liberal to me. Sounds Pauline to me. Philippians 1, 15 to 19.
Sounds pretty Pauline to me. It is very easy in our zeal for doing what is right to think we've got the church with the answers. It's easy to be critical of other ministries, to find fault in those who declare Christ, but maybe take a different approach than we prefer. Chuck's Mindal reminds us to resist that temptation. Chuck titled today's message, Three Cheers for the Church. And remember that every sermon you hear on Insight for Living is paired with Chuck's online study notes. We call these free resources, Searching the Scriptures Studies.
To take advantage of this helpful tool, just go to insightworld.org slash studies. Chuck's positive outlook has become a hallmark of his life's work. In fact, several years ago, he shared some biblical wisdom in a way that's become widely quoted. Chuck was preaching about the virtue of developing a godly perspective. In his message about attitudes, he said, I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react. Chuck went on to say that all of us are on a journey.
But when it comes right down to it, we're the only ones who can choose how we will react to what life throws at us. Chuck's book will help you determine your choice. And you can be among the first to own a copy by getting in touch with us. Chuck's new book is called Life is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React. To purchase a copy right now, go to insight.org slash store. You can also purchase a copy by calling us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Bear in mind that Insight for Living is a nonprofit ministry solely supported by voluntary contributions from listeners.
And your gift no matter the size truly makes a difference in providing these daily visits with Chuck. To give a donation today, call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888.
Or you can give online at insight.org. I'm Bill Meyer. Chuck Swindoll's message called Three Cheers for the Church continues next time on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Three Cheers for the Church, was copyrighted in 1985, 1987, 2005, and 2011. And 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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