Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. To visit a place where the apostle Paul preached, go to Greece and visit ancient Corinth. You'll find an amazing excavation of the very streets and buildings that Paul saw when he brought the gospel here. Today, we'll watch God open hearts to the gospel in yet another place.
From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Dr. Lutzer, Corinth was a haven of immorality, a tough audience for Paul. Not only a tough audience for the apostle Paul, Dave, but also a very tough audience for us. The difference of course is that in those days, they didn't have the media promoting immorality, insisting on it and trying to justify it in many philosophical and psychological ways.
But that's where we're at today. That's why I've written a new book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. And I give an entire chapter to the issue of gender neutrality and what that means.
I help parents answer questions that their children might have, such as, Mom and Dad, I think I'm trans. How do you respond to that? For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours, No Reason to Hide. But let's go to Corinth and realize that the gospel of Jesus Christ was able to penetrate that culture and to do so successfully. And the same gospel applies to us today. This morning I want you to use your imagination. What I'm going to say I hope will stimulate a great deal of interest and a great deal of talk and a great deal of prayer. But it's time for your imagination to work. I want you to visualize this beautiful sanctuary here at the Moody Church with every single seat taken out. I want you to visualize that it's been turned into a restaurant. All along the way here where the aisles are, there are tables with nice white tablecloths. And in the evening patrons come from all over the city of Chicago to a great place to eat. Or let's imagine that all of the seats have been removed and what you have is a bookstore, something like Barnes and Noble. And you can go to the balcony there and you can study and you can buy books. Why do I begin with that illustration?
Let me give you one other more ominously. Let us suppose that all the seats are removed and rugs are on the floor entirely because this is the biggest mosque in the city of Chicago. Muslims come here to pray. As a matter of fact when you walk outside the church you discover that there are four minarets.
The number of minarets indicates the importance of the building and since this happens to be Chicago's most famous mosque, people come from all over the world to come and to look and to pray at what once was a church. I tell you that story because a week ago today Rebecca and I were in Athens and we were catching a cab from our hotel to the airport. In the back of the cab there was this magazine which I pulled out. It was both in English and Greek. And I noticed that there was an article that caught my eye. The headline was, oh God, old European churches turn into contemporary temples of indulgence. And what it was is a story of seven or eight churches, cathedrals in Europe, for example some in the Netherlands, some in Glasgow, Scotland, and elsewhere throughout Europe that have become such things as cafes. They've been turned into bookstores and even one has been turned into a hotel and it showed pictures of the church and the new temple of indulgence that it has become. Now before we were in Athens we toured the seven churches of Asia Minor.
They are in the land of Turkey today. And when you go into the land of Turkey you discover that there is no church to speak of. Oh there may be pockets of believers here and there but we visited all seven churches. But let me take you today to the church in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was one of the churches of Asia Minor to whom Jesus wrote a letter and he said, behold I have set before you an open door that no man can shut and if I shut it nobody can open it and if I open it nobody can close it.
Philadelphia. Of course we were not expecting in Philadelphia to find a church, the same congregation that was there 2,000 years ago. But we discovered that there are really no churches in Philadelphia. In fact Rebecca took a picture of me standing in the ruins of a 5th century church which is really all that's left of the ancient city and across the street is a mosque and you can see the minaret. And that became symbolic really of our entire tour because as you know Islam crushes the church wherever it goes. And so the seven churches of Asia Minor remind us that churches can be turned into mosques. When we were in Istanbul we were in Hagia Sophia.
Now it's my second time to be there. When I became the pastor of Moody Church I prayed and said, Lord someday I want to be in Hagia Sophia. It is the largest church I suppose in Christendom. You could take a couple of Moody churches and put it in to that church. Dedicated to Christ in 537, 1,500 years old. But when Islam conquered Istanbul as it is called today in 1453 it became a mosque for 500 years.
But all of the major churches of Istanbul were turned into mosques after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. You know there are many lessons that I learned as a result of being on this tour. In fact I've come up with seven or eight of them. But what I'd like to do is to share perhaps today only one or two lessons. And one of the most poignant is simply this that we do not know the future of any individual congregation. We don't know what Moody Church is going to be like in 50 years or 100 years. You do know don't you? It's in the news. That today in Chicago area this weekend there is the first Islamic supremacist group the headline reads holds its first US conference.
And the title of the conference is the fall of capitalism and the rise of Islam. The lesson of Turkey that we learned is simply this that we do not know we cannot presume the continuation of any given congregation. In the past churches have been extinguished and it's possible it could happen to us as well. Just because Moody Church has been in existence for nearly 150 years that does not mean that we shall exist as a Bible preaching church for the next 150 years. I pray that under our watch it will always be what it was called to be namely a house where the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached.
I would like to think that everyone who's listening to me would be willing to die for the faith if that were to ever happen. But at the same time we cannot be presumptuous and we must stop to think and ask ourselves this question what is it that preserves a church and why do churches die? It's a huge question and I'm not going to be able to answer it today.
In fact I'm not sure that I have a final answer at all. But I am going to probe the scriptures for this reason. As you take your Bibles and turn to the 18th chapter of the book of Acts, Acts chapter 18 we are introduced to the way in which the church began in Corinth. And I'd like to submit to you that if we can understand the beginning of a church, if we can understand those doctrines that make a church great maybe we can also understand what it is that causes a church to continue despite hardship and despite persecution. When the Apostle Paul came to the city of Corinth he was coming to a city which at that time already was really greater than Athens in terms of being a commercial center. And the ancient city of Corinth today basically is ruins.
Archaeologists have uncovered a good deal of it but not yet all of it believe it or not. And of course there's a modern city of Corinth as well but when we were there we visited the ancient city with its ruins. And among its many ruins there is a temple to the god Apollo and that temple is also a reminder to us that of a second lesson that we learned when we were on this tour and that is that the Church of Jesus Christ is always tempted, always tempted to compromise with its culture. Apollo was a god that was given many different responsibilities in both Greek and Roman traditions.
Apollo was the god sometimes of light and darkness, the god of revelation at the oracle of Delphi. And so the Christian church always found itself in the midst of this paganism. In the midst of paganism is where the church began in Corinth and let's look at how it began.
And maybe we can get a little bit of insight into how a church can continue despite its unknown future. The Apostle Paul came to Corinth and there's where he met Aquila and Priscilla. They were a couple that were into tent making as the Apostle Paul was into tent making and he became friends and actually stayed in their home, the Bible says in the opening verses of the 18th chapter of Acts. And you'll notice in verse 4 Paul reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. He reasoned with them.
The word means that there's dialogue going on. When the people came there to the synagogue they simply didn't hear a sermon, they heard dialogue. I need to emphasize that we here at the Moody Church have a means by which we would like to train you to do dialoguing the gospel because it's the only way in which you can really do it today. More about that in just a moment. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia Paul was occupied with a word testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.
Let's stop there. One of the great truths that made the church great and made it strong and kept it on track was a message that transforms. A message that transforms. The Apostle Paul came there and he had one thing in mind and that is to help the people to understand who Jesus Christ was. That Jesus was Christ, Jesus was Messiah. And many of the Jews believed. One day at a Bible study I met a woman who told me her story. She was Jewish. She grew up not liking Jesus at all and she began to study the Bible and she began to read the New Testament and suddenly she was confronted and she was filled with fear, she said. And she used to pray and she'd say, oh God turn out to be anybody but Jesus. Well you probably know the rest of the story as she continued to study.
Guess what? Her worst fear was realized. God turned out to be Jesus and she accepted him as her Messiah. And that's the message that the Apostle Paul preached. Interestingly he gave us a window into what was going on in his heart when he came to the city of Corinth when he wrote them his first letter. The letter to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians chapter 2. The Apostle Paul says when I came to you he said I didn't come with excellency of speech. In those days there were people who admired oratory.
Paul says I didn't come with excellency of speech proclaiming to you the gospel of God. He said I was with you in fear and in weakness and in much trembling because he saw the gods, the pagan gods of Apollo. He saw the immorality of the city. It was a very immoral city. As a matter of fact to say that you were Corinthianizing meant that you were into immorality with a thousand prostitutes coming down from the Corinthian Acropolis every night. It was a city that was filled with debauchery and Paul says I went there and then he said I came in fear and trembling.
He didn't try to clean the place up morally. There may be a place for that but but that wasn't the heart of his message. The heart of his message was that Jesus Christ died for sinners. He said I knew nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Now this is a long story because almost every point I make here in the message today I could go on a while but I must summarize. But the Christian church throughout history has oftentimes compromised the one message that can found a church and the message that can hold it together and that is Jesus Christ and him crucified. Now today we find that there are many churches who demean the gospel and there are so many different ways to do it. For example there are those who reduce the gospel. By that I mean they are people who who preach the gospel every Sunday but every Sunday it's the same thing. John 3 16.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Now now that's the heart of the message but it's not as if that's all of the message of the cross. To think that that is the only part of the message would be like going out in the night sky and surveying surveying the stars and then saying that now you understand astronomy.
No you don't. You understand the big picture but now you need to understand the constellations and you have to study the stars in detail and you have to learn distances. And you see that's why here at Moody Church we are a gospel centered church but you don't hear simply John 3 16 every Sunday. We relate the gospel to all of life and that's why we have equipping classes by the way. When you read in the bulletin that you can take a course in doctrine that you can take a course in apologetics or Christ and culture or how to share your faith or the history of doctrine that isn't there simply because we think that you don't have enough to do and we want to keep you off the streets. That is there because we want you to be equipped to understand the full orb gospel so that you can reason and you can present your faith intelligibly and understand that the gospel has many different spokes even though the hub is Jesus Christ and him crucified. When you begin to unpack that you begin to realize that you are in a lifelong endeavor to try to understand what Jesus did and its implications but it's the heart of everything. Then there are other churches that neglect the cross because they substitute other things talking about health and wealth and all kinds of other things.
True story in the south a Muslim family came to saving faith in Jesus Christ. They wanted to go to a church to be encouraged to be inspired to learn how do they live out their faith and the pastor and I say this with a broken heart was speaking on nutrition. Now nutrition is important in fact it's very important but I hope that the walls of Moody Church collapse when the day comes when the pastor stands up and preaches on nutrition on a Sunday morning.
Are you with me or am I all alone out here? There are so many different ways to minimize the gospel you can sacramentalize the gospel that's what happened by the way in Turkey the seven churches. Another long story grace was sacramentalized and now after the time of Constantine when you have basilicas being built there was a distinction between the laity and the supposed pastor or priest and this distinction led to an impersonal relationship with God where all that you needed to do was to participate in the mass and somehow you were included in God's program even if you didn't know Christ personally and even if you had never understood the basis of your assurance.
So there are many different ways to minimize the gospel but I want to quote the words of P.J. Forsythe speaking of the cross of Jesus Christ he says if you move faith from that center you have driven the nail into the coffin of the church. The church then is doomed to death and it is only a matter of time when it shall expire. The church can only live and breathe at the cross and if we want to exist as a church we must have conversion and the cross as the heart of our message must always be there. That's the first great truth that makes the church great. It founded the church and it can keep the church. The second is we need a God who saves. I could have changed this and said we need a God who is sovereign. You'll notice that the Apostle Paul has a revelation from God when he's there in Corinth. Actually he received six visions and this is one of them. Verse nine and the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision do not be afraid but go on speaking and do not be silent for I am with you and no one will attack you to harm you for I have many in this city who are my people. Is that okay with you? God is saying I don't have merely people in this city who will be mine.
They're already mine. They just haven't believed the gospel yet. We find this throughout the book of Acts and we find it in the New Testament. Acts chapter 13 verse 48 the Bible says and as many as were appointed unto eternal life believed. Now we have a great deal of problems with that and we need to balance that with the fact that Paul reasoned with them and tried to persuade the Jews that Jesus was the Christ and to persuade the Greeks that he was the savior of the world. So we balance it out but the fact is that throughout the New Testament you always find that when the gospel is preached God works and if God isn't working nothing eternal is going to be accomplished. What God does is he opens the minds and the hearts of people so that they see their sin, so they see their need, so they see that Jesus is the answer to their need and gives them the ability to believe. So salvation is entirely of God and that's why God could say I have many people in this city. They haven't believed yet but they're mine.
They're mine. This is Pastor Lutzer. Isn't it wonderful to know that when we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in a sense we are actually co-workers with God because God uses that message to convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment and to lead them to faith. And the apostle Paul did that back in his culture that was highly sexualized and we have to do that in ours as well. That's why I've written a book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture.
Let me ask you this question. If I were to ask you what is the greatest lie that has ever been perpetrated, how would you answer? Well of course the greatest lie is that man can take the place of God. In this book I have an entire chapter on the triumph of the self. I discuss for example Karl Marx and his hatred and rebellion against God and the continuing impact he still has in society. And then how Marx and Freud have teamed up so to speak. So the same kind of political power that Marx spoke about, that's the kind of sexual power that people want today to impose their agenda on your children and on your life.
How do we respond to this? For a gift of any amount this book can be yours. It's entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. It's a brand new book that discusses a multitude of various pressure points that the church must confront today. Here's what you do. Go to RTWOffer.com.
I want to thank you in advance for helping us financially and with your prayers. Go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the new book, No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. That's exactly what we are called to do.
Go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. While living in Corinth, Paul plied a trade of tent making. By running a business, Paul let his light shine before the people. Through his efforts, a church was born. A church that later received two epistles we still read in the New Testament. Next time on Running to Win, more about the Gospel's power in ancient Greece.
It's no secret that America is in crisis. Pastors' book, No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture, will be sent as our gift to you when you give a gift of any amount to support Running to Win. Just call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. Online go to RTWOffer.com or write to Running to Win, Moody Church, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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