Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Wherever the Gospel has gone, light has burst forth into the culture.
But sometimes that light is extinguished. Take a tour of the sites of the seven churches of Revelation in what is now Turkey. All of them are long gone.
What happened? Stay with us. 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. Pastor Lutzer, the gigantic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul reminds us that it is possible for the Christian faith to give way to the forces of darkness.
Yes, Dave, you're absolutely right. What a warning for us. We cannot take the church for granted. That's why I'm so convinced that we have to stand against the culture rather than submitting to the culture. And in my new book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture, I intend to give some hope to the church, some instruction, but also to encourage people to say, here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. You know, as I've traveled around the country, oftentimes speaking on the topic of the relationship of the church to its culture and to politics, people say, I attend a church that is in a bubble.
It pretends as if the culture doesn't exist. We need to grapple with the issues around us, and that's why I've written this book. But for now, I want you to listen as we preach the Word of God from the first century. 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, 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 at 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. 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're 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. And no matter where you are listening to this today, he walks down the aisle of your church too and notices everything that is done well.
Very quickly, the lessons. Number one, the continuation of any church, the continuation of any congregation can never be taken for granted. 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 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. The 1920s, German archeologists 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. Here, the church has always had resistance from the culture. Church has always had resistance from the culture.
You think, for example, of Ephesus. You know, 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 reason people are going to buy them anyway. It's not as if, you know, 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 in order to worship at the great temple. Sure, 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 10 days. Now let me say that if Jesus said it's going to be 10 days, it's not going to be 11 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'll 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's 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, into thy 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 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 you know, martyrs throughout the centuries have proven you don't have to be, have freedom to be faithful right from the early church. You know, 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 believe 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 Lizzie, 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 is an old amphitheater there. But that's the church, you know, that's lukewarm. And most people misinterpret what Jesus said. Jesus said, I would that you be cold or hot, but not lukewarm. 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 use 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. Number eight, the continuation of the church always depends on its message, 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 said, 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, 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, cannot be my disciple. And the real issue always has to do with the issue of the gospel and the American Church, 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 as 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, 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. Well, this is Pastor Luther, and once again I want to urge you, if you've never received Christ as Savior, go to that cross where Jesus died and receive the gift of eternal life. But at the same time, Jesus said that we should carry his cross into the world.
What does that mean? In my new book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture, each chapter ends with the story of a person who stood against the culture, an example for all of us. And I did that because so often people say to me, what can one person do? Well, you can stand against the culture as well.
No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. How are we going to answer the questions that our children have, those who are studying in college or in grade school, the issues that they confront? Well, those are the kinds of things I answer in the book.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Sometimes God uses unexpected circumstances to spread the Gospel. The Apostle Paul rejected the counsel of his peers and went back to Jerusalem after completing two missionary journeys. He was determined to settle a church split there. Next time on Running to Win, we'll watch as Paul returns to moderate that church split and ends up on his way to Rome to face Caesar.
It's no secret that America is in crisis. Pastor's 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. That's rtwoffer.com. Or write to Running to Win, Moody Church, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 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.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-03 05:08:44 / 2022-12-03 05:17:34 / 9