When the light of the gospel came to Ephesus, a riot broke out. A thriving local business made idols for a major pagan temple, and when the Apostle Paul began to preach about the true God, interest in the false god Artemis began to dry up. As we read in Acts chapter 19, the Ephesian culture was indeed impacted. Today we'll learn about idols, ancient and modern, and how the gospel makes it clear that all idols must go.
Stay with us. From Chicago, this is The Moody Church Hour, a weekly service of worship and teaching with Pastor Erwin Lutzer. Today we continue an eight-part series on light shining in darkness, how the gospel impacts culture. Later in our broadcast, Erwin Lutzer takes us back to the time that the light shined in Ephesus. Pastor Lutzer comes now to open today's service. In a moment we're going to sing together, sing praise to God who reigns above.
But I have a question for you. How is your heart this morning? Elijah had an interesting experience. He actually went to Mount Sinai, and the Bible says there there was a fire and there was an earthquake, but after all the noise there was a still small voice.
If God wanted to speak to you today, what barriers would he have to get by to get to you? Did you have a tough time parking this morning? Did you have an argument with your wife this morning?
Did the children misbehave? Was your heart unsettled? Let's take out a moment right now, and may our hearts be quiet before the Lord as we prepare ourselves to be in his presence in a very special way and hear his voice. Join me as we bow together. Father, make these moments transforming. May we leave here knowing we've been in your presence as we sing songs, as we listen to your word read, as we listen to a message. Make this, Father, an opportunity, and let us receive all the benefits that we can from it, but for your glory, because ultimately this is about you and not us. Weld our hearts together as we sing in Jesus' name.
Amen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the beautiful gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, look at us.
And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, I have no silver and gold, but what I do have, I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, by what power or by what name do you do this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you. Well, this Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone, and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
The glory of our God, the triumphs of His grace. Jesus, the king and the high priest, let his sorrow cease. Let his name now seriously please the land of heaven and peace.
He breaks the power of Christ of sin, he sets the place where free. His one and great God comes free, is the land of glory. Here in the land is raised up, through the loose and the out and gone. May God be all your Savior, and in the end, Lord God. Jesus, that's the land of God, that is the true glory, to the strength of all, dear God, may He come from my name.
Let's take a look at our hearts. Here in the land is the realm of our God. He is of earth, through the forest, close to the moon. Stood through my weakness, my dear God, let me be the King as I go through love. In this land he was, the King I believe, all of my own soul, God, their strength and power. I see the God of heaven, He's my God to thee, oh, let me see Him and go back to me high. He's here a struggle of our soul to bear, to check the fighting of the rebel strife. Here in the land is the kingdom of nature, of answer and prayer. He is free to help me, as the angels flow. Wonderful in passion, tilling all my faith, God is my God, and He said let go.
I am a rebel and I love the King. Today I'm going to preach an unusual message in the sense that it's going to cover an awful lot of territory. We don't have a lot of time to cover territory, but we're going to do it, and it will be like flying over in a jet plane and watching the terrain below. What I decided to do is to finally give you a message devoted to the question of what it is that we saw as we visited the seven churches of Asia Minor, which are referred to in the book of Revelation, Jesus dictating a letter to John written to the seven churches. We visited all of them, and last time I mentioned some things, and I'll be repeating a few of those things.
It's not because I'm losing it, it's because as we get to the end of the message, I just want to kind of lay it all out on the table. I gave a message recently at a Bible conference this week, and I had eleven lessons that we can learn from these churches. Yesterday afternoon I boiled these lessons down to nine, and we're going to cover them, even if at the end of the message I just have to list them.
Every one of the lessons would be deserving of a separate message. But first of all, to get into it, I want to talk about the Acts 19, where you have the story of the beginning of the Church of Ephesus. Acts 19 is today a big city, and to give you an idea, one of the things that we learned was how far the Apostle Paul had to travel. It was truly remarkable. For example, we were on a ship and we were going from Philippi to Ephesus, and it took an entire night, another entire 24-hour day, and we got there the next day, going about 15 miles an hour.
One of the directors of the ship told me. So the Apostle Paul really had much travel in his agenda, but he comes to Ephesus, and today the ancient city of Ephesus is primarily ruins, ruins of temples, ruins of shops. The city is one that is very, very interesting, and you have to walk maybe even a mile, a mile worth of ruins. Well, what we're going to talk about today is how the Church was founded, what Jesus had to say to the Church, and then we're going to say some other things, and then we'll get into the lessons.
That's the agenda for the next 30 minutes or so. First of all, the way in which the Church was founded. Very briefly, we notice in Acts 19 that there are four different responses to the gospel. Four different responses to the gospel. It says in verse 8, He entered into the synagogue, and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the way, that was an expression for the Christian faith.
They called it the way. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. Paul withdrew from them and took the disciples and reasoned daily in the Hall of Tyrannias.
We don't know where that Hall is today, but this continued for two years. And because of the people who received Christ and they told others, the Bible says, all of Asia heard the word of the Lord. But one response is to reject the gospel.
And you'll notice it says, some became hardened and stubborn, and Paul says, because of that, he says, we went out and we lectured at this lecture hall rather than in the synagogue. Some believed and some didn't, the rejection of the gospel. Let me give you a second example of how the gospel was received.
It was misunderstood, a misunderstanding of the gospel. Verse 11 says, God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them. Evil spirits came out of them. There are some faith healers today who call you various, the water, holy water, or water that they have prayed over.
I do not think at all that that's what was going on here. But notice it says, then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, I adjure you by the name of Jesus, whom Paul proclaims. Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, Jesus, I know, and Paul, I know.
But who are you? And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them, overpowered them so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. Wow, what a story. Here were some exorcists, and Satan might have cooperated in their exorcisms.
Separate story. That's maybe why it is Jesus said, many will say to me in that day, we cast out demons in the name of Jesus, and I'll tell them I never knew you. It may well be because of the cooperation of Satan in giving the illusion of true exorcisms. These were syncretists, and they were willing to use any name, any technique.
Marvelous, interesting story. What they thought was, oh, the name Jesus works for Paul? Hey, we'll use the name Jesus too, as if it was a magical charm. They didn't understand that it is not possible to exercise the authority of Jesus unless you are under the authority of Jesus.
There's no magical word or incantation that is going to do it. Now, you see in the history of the Christian Church that this has been an error. You think, for example, during the days when the Mass was in Latin. You ask the people, what is he saying?
The answer is, it didn't matter because it was the act itself. I was in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul five years ago speaking to one of the guides who always prayed in Arabic. I said, do you understand Arabic? He said, no, not at all. He said, but all of our prayers are in Arabic. I said, do you know what you're saying? No, he said, I don't. But he said, I don't have to because it's in the act of saying it itself, that it has value. And then he referred to the Latin Mass in the established Church. So there's always that danger of impersonalizing the gospel by saying, give me the formula, give me the words, and that's all I need.
Well, this proved that it didn't work, did it? I mean, what an amazing story. The demons said, Paul, I know and Jesus I know, but who in the world are you? Now, let me ask you a question, dear saint. Is your name known among the evil hosts that Satan controls? Does he say, yes, I know the name of that sister because of the way in which she prays and the way in which she can stand against Satan? Is your name known in the spirit world because of how you stand against it? So we have the gospel rejected, the gospel misinterpreted, and no wonder the Bible says, after that, fear came upon everybody in the name of the Lord was honored.
I guess so. Once this story got out, people began to give Jesus a second look for sure. Now, let me give you a third response. A third response is to practice the gospel. You'll notice it says that the people in verse 18, many of those who were now believers came confessing, divulging their practices. A number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it to come to 50,000 pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and to prevail.
It tells you a couple of things, all of the silver that this would be worth. Actually, when it says books, the Greek word is a little bit ambiguous there. I think you could almost translate paraphernalia. Maybe it was some books or manuscripts in those days. It was probably also involved some of their shrines, some of the things that they used in their occult practices. And they did the best things. They had a bonfire and they burned them.
There are some people who come back from the mission field, missionaries, who bring artifacts with them that were used in heathen worship. Bad idea. Best to get rid of them. If you can't burn them, throw them in the garbage. Some of you ought to take things that you have in your homes and burn them in the garbage. There is music that should be burned in the garbage. No question about it.
Just yesterday somebody was telling me about some kinds of heavy metal music that is just filled with aggression, Satanism, all kinds of things. And I say to the young people particularly, you're listening to this kind of stuff. The best thing to do is to burn them, throw them away, take an axe, or give the axe to somebody who's used one before, might be a good idea, and smash them to bits. And take the pornography out of your garage and burn it too. I mention that because that's where one man told me he kept his. So whatever it is that causes you to fall back into the same sin, get rid of it.
Just get rid of it. See, the reason we make provision for the flesh, don't make provision for the flesh. When it comes to sin, take care of it.
Somewhere I read that if you're going to jump across a chasm, it is much better to do it in one long jump than in two short ones. And when you get rid of sin, do it upright. All right, now we have those responses. Let's go now to another response, and that was, they were enraged because of it. There was a man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis. This is verse 23. And he brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together with workmen, and basically I'll give you a summary of his speech.
He says, we're losing money. People who are coming to Christ aren't buying these little shrines anymore. And because of the money, Paul is saying that the gods made with hands are not gods. That's the last part of verse 26.
Doesn't that amuse you? Well, yeah, I would think so. I would think that if you made it with your hands, it's probably not a god. But anyway, there are people today who have idols in their homes. They would not call them idols, but they are idols. They bow before them.
They may kiss them. And there is a danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, whom she and all the world worship. Now, this was actually the great temple of Artemis or Diana, and it was famous. Now, there were all kinds of other small ones, but this is the one that was central. And by the way, whole tour groups would come to worship there. That's another reason why, you see, they were making so much money off of these idols, is because of all the tourists that came to look and to pray.
And this was one of the seven wonders of the world, the wonderful great temple. And so what he's really saying is it's calling into question this. This is so interesting. First of all, he begins by talking about the fact that they are losing money. Then it gets to a matter of worship and the whole bit.
Now, look at what happens next. It says, when they were heard this, they were enraged and were crying out, great is Artemis of the Ephesians. So the city was filled with confusion and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them, Gaius and Aristarchus, etc. And today, when you are there in the city of Ephesus, the ancient ruins, there you can see the theater. And this is where that happened. Now, it is true that the theater that you see is one that has been reconstructed.
It was rebuilt. But here's the theater. You know, when you take these tours, you are just again amazed at the Bible, how that the Bible deals with real events, real situations, the whole thing is real. And here you see the theater into which it is that they came. Now, there's a verse here. I have to tell you that Darryl Worley, who used to be on staff, I shouldn't tell this about him, but he used to say that this was one of his favorite verses.
He said that with a smile on his face. I always say, it sounds like an independent Baptist annual meeting. You'll notice it says in verse 32, now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion and most of them did not know why they had come together.
There are some church meetings like that. But all of this is happening here in the theater, in the theater at Ephesus, and you have this rebellion. All right, now, later on, the Apostle Paul, and you'll have to read the whole chapter to find out what Paul did. We don't have time.
We're going today on a jet plane. Now, years later, the Apostle Paul, sometime later, he writes the book of Ephesus, the book of Ephesians, and he writes a letter to this church, one of the most beautiful, deep letters in all the New Testament. He prays for them twice in that letter, and once he prays that they might know the length and the depth and the height of the love of God.
All right, now, we fast forward 30 years. All Bibles out of their places now because you are listening. Revelation 2. We're talking about, say, 30 years later now, Revelation 2. To the angel of the church in Ephesus write the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands, I know your works, your toil, your patient endurance, how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, but found them to be false.
I know that you are enduring patiently, bearing up for my namesake, and you have not grown weary, but I have this against you, you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at the beginning. If not, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent. Well, as we noticed in the last message, there is no lampstand in Ephesus. Oh, there may be in the modern city, there may be believers, but there's no place where you can say, oh, here's a church. Islam has snuffed out the church in these seven different areas. Not that there was a church building as such. When Jesus was writing this, it was probably a house church. But the question still is this.
What do we have to learn? And in order to help us, I want to refer one more time to Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is the church of holy wisdom in Istanbul. Remember, it was dedicated in the year 537 by Justinian, an emperor. I'd love to tell you today why an emperor got involved doing this, but we don't have time.
But you'll know that it was by an emperor. And one of the reasons I wanted to be there, and I was there five years ago and then recently, is because the architecture of Moody Church is patterned after Hagia Sophia. When you go inside the church, you can see some of these parallels.
And at least if not being patterned, that's too strong a statement. It was inspired by Hagia Sophia. Our architecture is a combination of Byzantine architecture, Byzantine, and also Romanesque.
It's really both. And so I wanted to be there, and God, in His grace, has given me the opportunity to be there twice. Now, it becomes a symbol for all that I'm talking about. A Christian church from 537 to 1453, the fall of Constantinople, it has turned into a mosque for 500 years, and since the 1920s has been a museum. All of the major churches of Constantinople, as it was called back then, it's Istanbul today, all of the major churches have been turned into mosques. So with that background, what I would like to do now is to give you the nine lessons, nine lessons that I believe. First of all, let me say as I begin these lessons that the church is really important to Jesus. I told you nine lessons.
I had eleven this week. One of the first was the importance of the church to Jesus. It is He who walks among the golden candlesticks. He observes our worship. He goes up and down the aisle. He watched today what we gave in our offering. He watched whether or not we were singing or whether or not we were just standing there wondering when the song was going to be over. Jesus says the church is number one, and He walks amid the candlesticks, and He walks at Moody Church. No matter where you are listening to this today, He walks down the aisle of your church, too, and notices everything that is done.
Wow. Very quickly the lessons. Number one, the continuation of any church, the continuation of any congregation, can never be taken for granted. I know that some of you will want to write these lessons down, and of course you can, but I'm also thinking of a way by which we can get them to you so that they are written out in advance with some commentary.
We'll think of a way. First of all, then, the existence of any congregation, the continuation of it, can't be taken for granted. There were churches there, and they are not there now. I understand here in America there was a church that became a restaurant serving fried chicken, and it was known in the area people came. And the question was, how did you end up selling fried chicken? Well, the answer is, in order to supplement the budget, we began to sell fried chicken, and we got better at selling fried chicken than we did selling the gospel. So today the church sells fried chicken. Usually when a church closes, it is because of the church's neglect of a lot of different things.
Sometimes it may not be. You have situations in the world today where radicals come in, and they wipe out a whole congregation and shoot them in church. If that church closes, it's not because of unfaithfulness. But usually it is because of unfaithfulness.
Now, you can understand why each of these lessons is one that needs explanation. Secondly, the church has always been always been an island of righteousness in a sea of paganism. It's always been an island of righteousness in a sea of paganism. Come with me to Pergamum. Pergamum, a whole complex of temples, and there's the temple of Hadrian that we saw. And Hadrian said that you have to worship me.
And the Christians were there, and when Jesus wrote the letter to the church at Pergamum, what did he say? He said, I know where you dwell. You're dwelling where Satan's seat is. By the way, did you know that God knows where you dwell, too? God says to you today, I know where you work. I know the people around you. I know what they're saying behind your back. I know what you're going through.
I understand. And so Jesus said that to the church at Pergamum. You are where Satan's seat is, but you have the opportunity of representing me in the midst of Satan's seat. And some people think that Satan's seat was the temple to Zeus that was there.
If that's the case, I have walked on Satan's seat. In the 1920s, German archaeologists went to Pergamum. They took apart the altar to Zeus, stone by stone, and they reconstructed it in Berlin. And today, if you go to Berlin, whatever you do, do not miss the Pergamum Museum. And there in Berlin, you not only see that, but you actually see a reconstruction of the original Ishtar Gate.
It's an amazing museum to see. But the church has always been an island of righteousness in a sea of paganism. Third, the church has always had resistance from the culture. The church has always had resistance from the culture.
You think, for example, of Ephesus. And here you have these makers of shrines getting mad. The church always impacts culture. And the reason that it impacts culture is because the church, if it is the church, is always going to challenge the idols of its culture. Today, the idols of eroticism, of materialism, the idols of self-aggrandizement, all of these idols.
We need to challenge them as a church, and the world will resist that. Let's suppose you're a Christian businessman in Ephesus. Would you have sold those little shrines? Would you have sold them saying that I need to make a business, too? I mean, you know, they're selling them next door, and then people are going to buy them anyway. It's not as if I'm the only seller of them.
So that's the biggest trade in town when tourists come from all over the then-known world to worship at the great temple. Sure, I'd sell them, we say to ourselves. Or would you, or would you say, I refuse to sell these idols that are going to be used in worship even if I have to shut down and trust God for my next loaf of bread?
What would you do? The reason I was talking to a friend of mine is involved in a court case in which three Christians under oath lied because they were representing a certain company, and they probably knew that if they told the truth they'd be fired from their jobs. How much does integrity mean to us? At what point do we as individuals and we as a Church are we tempted to compromise with our culture? The culture is always going to put pressure on us.
Always. That's lesson number three. Number four, even when the Church, I love this one, even when the Church is in the hands of Satan, even when the Church is in the hands of Satan, it is still in the hands of God, still in the hands of God. The Church at Smyrna, Jesus said to the Church, he says, you know, there are those from the synagogue of Satan, they are going to persecute you, and Satan will throw you into prison for ten days. Now let me say that if Jesus said it's going to be ten days, it's not going to be eleven because he is sovereign. And then Jesus said, be faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.
Wow. You see, even though Satan is the one, they're in Satan's hands to be delivered over to prison, falsely accused, and Jesus said, you're still in my hand, though, because the worst that they can do to you is to kill you, be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. You say, well, you know, if I don't die as a martyr, can I get this special crown?
Yes, you can. It's referred to one other place in the New Testament, James 1, 12, where it says, blessed is he overcomes temptation, for he will receive the crown of life. You are a single, there is pressure on you to be sexually immoral, and you continue to stand your ground, and you continue to say no, or you are married, and you are involved in temptation, and you say no, I'm going to keep my vows, I'm going to be committed, and the Bible says, if you overcome temptation, you too can receive the crown of life.
It's a special crown. Of course, everybody has eternal life who believes in Jesus, but it is a special enjoyment of eternal life. That's why we also can be faithful where God has planted us.
But the point is this. Here's a church thrown into the hands of the devil, still in the hands of God, just like Jesus when he died on the cross. You know, I mean, the Bible says, wicked hands crucified him. Okay, wicked hands crucified him. And what does Jesus say as he looks up in his dying breath? He says, I commit my hands, I commit my spirit.
He's still in the hands of God, even though he was given into the hands of Satan. Let's go on to the next one. We're making progress here. Number five, the size of a church is not as important as its character. The size of a church is not as important as its character.
I'm impressed with the fact that I read the seven letters, and I don't hear Jesus say a single thing about the fact that you should be bigger and you should be growing. Now, of course, I believe that churches should be growing. We want to grow as a church.
We want to grow to have a greater impact in our community and to touch more lives. But Jesus doesn't say anything about that. All that he talks about is their relationship to him. Whether or not they're morally pure, whether or not they're doctrinally sound, whether or not they're compromising with the world and the other things, that's all that Jesus has to say about them. Wow, that's very unlike a lot of books that have been written about the church.
They have no political power, none. Jesus said to one of the churches, I know you are poor, and then in parenthesis, but you know you're rich. Wow, that's interesting. That's the church at Smyrna, the one that is being persecuted. Jesus just throws that in. To the church at Philadelphia, he says, in effect, you don't have a lot of might, but you did keep my word. Oh, how differently Jesus looks at the church than the way in which we have been schooled to look at it. So the issue is not the size of the church nearly as much as its character and its relationship to him.
That's another lesson that we can learn. Number six, it's not necessary to have freedom to be faithful to the gospel. It's not necessary to have freedom to be faithful to the gospel.
We're concerned about our freedoms being gobbled up. Well, yeah, they might be, but martyrs throughout the centuries have proven you don't have to have freedom to be faithful right from the early church. We obey God rather than men. You're going to throw us into prison, throw us into prison, but we're not going to stop talking about Jesus.
That's all that we can say, and that's always been the pattern. What if I were to tell you this, that more Christians died after the Reformation and were massacred because they believed that one should be baptized upon profession of faith rather than as an infant. On that issue, more Christians died and were massacred than died in the persecutions of Rome. You say, Pastor Lucy, you can't throw that out without explaining it.
Oh, yeah, I can. It's always been the lot of the true church to be persecuted. It's a bloodline. Churches, individuals have always proved you do not need freedom to be faithful to the gospel. Number seven, Jesus knew in every church there would be those who would have ears and those who wouldn't. You know, those who have ears to hear, let them hear.
Well, everybody has ears, most people do, but they just don't get it. In every church there are those who get it and those who don't. Those who let it blow past them and those who say, wow, this is a letter from Jesus, we'd better obey it and we'd better listen carefully.
There's always two. And, you know, the statements that Jesus made about overcomers in the book of Revelation, it boggles your mind. He who overcomes, I'll give him the hidden manna. He who overcomes, I'll give him a name that no one else knows except he and me. Your wife won't even know the name that Jesus gives you.
It's going to be between you and him. I mean, this is mind-boggling. We get to Laodicea. And by the way, today, Laodicea is a pile of stones. You can see the ruins of the city.
We walk possibly a half mile at least in Laodicea. There's an old amphitheater there. But that's the church, you know, that's lukewarm. And most people misinterpret what Jesus said.
You know, people I've heard preachers say ever since I was young, something like this. Jesus said, I would that you be cold or hot, but not lukewarm. And so cold was referred to as stone hard. It's better to have a stony, hard, cold heart or to have a hot heart, which of course is best. But it's better to have a stony, cold heart than it is to be lukewarm. Of course, that's not what Jesus is saying.
It doesn't make any sense even. When you go to Laodicea, you finally see it. I read about this, but now I saw it with my eyes. On the one hand, from Hierapolis, you've got this aqueduct bringing hot water. On the other side, you have another aqueduct coming from the opposite direction, which brought cold water. They used both cold and hot. They used hot as healing. They used cold for refreshment. And what Jesus is saying, either be cold and refresh people or be hot and heal people, but be one or the other. Whatever you do, don't be a combination of that.
Don't be lukewarm. That's what Jesus meant. But then to that Church, he says, if you overcome, I'll grant for you to sit with me on my throne, even as I overcame and sat on my Father with his throne.
You say, Jesus, you can't be serious. Is overcoming worth it? Is it worth it? Think of the promises and think of eternity.
We're coming close to the end, but we're not there yet. The continuation of the Church always depends on its message. Would you come with me one more time to Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom? When you go now into the balcony, what you see are crosses that were part of the original masonry. And if you look carefully, you'll notice that those crosses are defaced. The crosses are chiseled out. You can still see that there were crosses there, but they're defaced.
Five years ago, when I was with my Muslim guide, very, very devout Muslim, and we got along very well, though we did have some very strong conversations, he showed them to me. And he said, No Muslim can ever pray in the presence of the cross. We can have pictures of Mary, but we cannot have a cross.
I looked at a door, and I thought for a moment that the door had a cross, but actually I went and rubbed my hand, and I realized the cross had been ripped off, and what I saw instead was simply the form of the shadow of where the cross was. And the issue will always be the cross. As I mentioned last time, evangelicals neglect the cross, and it is the cross of Jesus Christ, both preached and lived, whosoever is not willing to carry his cross and come after me.
Jesus said, It cannot be my disciple. And the real issue always has to do with the issue of the gospel, and the American evangelical church is abandoning the gospel. And we forget the words of Bonhoeffer, who said, It is not before us, but before the cross that the world trembles. That's number eight, number nine. We as a church have to think through how to prepare the next generation for what it will face.
We have to think through what the next generation will face. About five years ago, there was a speaker at Moody Bible Institute who was a convert from Islam to Christianity, and his expertise was Islamic law. And he gave a lecture to the pastors, which he wouldn't allow to be taped. He gave a lecture to us on what it would mean for America if Sharia law were instituted.
It was chilling. Perhaps I mentioned to you that after that lecture, I saw him in the Commons and said, Let's have coffee together. In the middle of it, we're talking about what to do, what to do. And finally, I said, We have to prepare the next generation to be martyrs for Christ. And he pointed his finger at me and put his finger right against my chest and said, That's what God is calling you to do, is to prepare the next generation to be martyrs for Christ.
We need to think in those terms, because we need to think historically, we need to think of what the Church has gone through in previous eras, and we have to think about what is happening in the United States of America. Now, I conclude today by asking you a question. What does the cross mean to you? Can you point to a time in your life when you received Christ a Savior where you say, This is the day I was converted. I acknowledged my sin. I prayed. I received the Lord. If you can't do that, almost surely, you aren't saved even though you think you might be.
Lots of deception going on in that area. Because the cross of Christ alone is able to bring us to God through the forgiveness of sins, through the bridge between God and man, that Jesus died there so that he was a redeeming God. And it is to the cross that we cling, and it is the cross that we gladly identify with in our lives privately and publicly. Let us pray.
If you've never trusted Christ as Savior, right now, say, Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, and you died for sinners, and I receive you by faith as my sin-bearer. Father, whatever the implications are of the cross, we ask today that you'll help us to live it out. May we be faithful. I think of the many people who are here today at The Moody Church. Lord, multiply our numbers, not because numbers are important in terms of ministry, but because numbers represent lives and lives represent the opportunity of more people hearing the good news of the gospel.
We don't want to become large to be known as large. We want to become, Father, what you want us to be in your blessed presence, and you add people to us according to your good will and pleasure. May this be a time of dedication, we ask in your blessed name.
Amen. . . . . . . . . On today's Moody Church Hour, Pastor Lutzer brought the fourth of eight messages on light shining in darkness, how the gospel impacts culture. We saw the light shine in the city of Ephesus. Next week, we'll trace why Paul went to Jerusalem against the advice of his friends and supporters.
It's no secret that America is in crisis. Pastor Lutzer has written a powerful new book, No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. This book can point the way for your walk with God in the difficult days ahead, as we face economic failure, racial strife, and moral decadence. No Reason to Hide will be sent as our thank you to you for your gift of any amount to support The Moody Church Hour. Just call 1-800-215-5001. Let us know you'd like to support Moody Church's ministry. Call 1-800-215-5001 or you can write to us at Moody Church Media, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. You can also go online at moodyoffer.com. That's moodyoffer.com. Join us next time for another Moody Church Hour with Pastor Erwin Lutzer and the Congregation of Historic Moody Church in Chicago. This broadcast is a ministry of The Moody Church.
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