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I Believe In Belonging Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
April 11, 2023 1:00 am

I Believe In Belonging Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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April 11, 2023 1:00 am

Being accountable to others is key to living a holy life. The church is how God intended for us to display our unity and experience mutual accountability. In this message from Acts 5, we find five reasons why the Bible affirms we should belong to a local church. What are the benefits of belonging to a body of believers?

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Keeping on the right path can be tough, with the world's influences dragging us down. Being accountable to others is key when it comes to living a holy life. The church provides the place God intended for us to display our unity and experience accountability.

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, Americans are big on personal liberty. What do you say to those who find the church too restrictive?

Dave, that's a fascinating question. I thought perhaps your question was going to be, what do you say to those who believe that the church no longer has any standards? I've written a book entitled Holy Living in an Unholy World, and I mention that here because one of the emphases in the book has to do with the nature of legalism. Here's a question. If somebody lives by rules, are they legalistic? If so, what does legalism really mean? Should we not live by rules?

These are difficult questions, and of course they are questions that have divided people throughout the centuries. But I've written this book in order to help us think through exactly those kinds of questions. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. The title of the book, Holy Living in an Unholy World. Let me give you a second reason. It affirms our unity. Unity. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. This is Acts chapter 2, verse 43. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles, and the believers were together and had everything in common. They said we belong to one another. Oh, my dear friend, I can tell you this, that belonging somewhere and belonging to one another is a great strength in the church.

It's a strength for you, it's a strength for us, because we all profit by our strength. You know that old line that says, you know, if we don't hang together, we will hang separately. And the unity of the church, the strength that is derived, we can do things together that we can never possibly do individually, as we've already seen today by having this vision for missions and being able to touch the world in some sense with the gospel and with the love of Jesus Christ. And we are unified in the doctrines of the apostles, as it mentions. You know, people today say, oh, every church should just be unified, just take all of Christendom and unify it.

No, no, no, no. The purpose of doctrine is to unite, but it is also to divide people and to say, here's the dividing line, we believe this and you believe that, and because of the conviction of our belief, we respect you and we love you, but we're not into fellowship with you. That's important. I'm going to preach, God willing, a whole series of messages on the business of understanding how to properly judge these kinds of things in today's world. But we affirm our unity.

We speak well of one another. And if somebody speaks ill of a believer, that person is then taken to the believer about whom he is speaking ill, and he resolves it, because we will not tolerate disunity. My wife and I had about a half dozen pastors and their wives over to our place last night for dinner.

It's a group of pastors that has been meeting for years, and we meet together a few times a year and we swap stories and we talk and we pray together and have some fun sometimes also. One of the pastors shared how there was somebody in his church who was part of a committee, an expansion committee, and they were purchasing some land, and he agreed that this was a good deal. But after the deal was signed, he turned against the pastor, said that this was a terrible decision, even though he had been a part of it, and he began to accuse the pastor of dishonesty and other things that were—and accused the whole staff. And when they asked him for evidence—this is classic now, listen to this—he said, I do not need any evidence because the Holy Spirit showed all these things to me. And I say to you, beware of people who don't need any evidence because the Holy Spirit shows them these things. It's more from the other side of the spirit world. So eventually he left and he's gone to another church and he's already ingrained there in another church and he's going to do the same thing.

I can tell you that right now because we know those kinds of personalities. Now listen, he did a lot of damage in the church because you always find somebody who's going to believe somebody, no matter how disconnected they are from reality. And God says, I hate the disunity. God says he wants unity in the church. And when you become a member, what you are saying is, I believe where you are going. I believe in your vision. I believe in your doctrine.

I believe in your passion. And I want to sign up and go with you. And I have to say today, very honestly and openly, we need you to come with us where we're going.

We can't do this alone. So it affirms our unity. It affirms our accountability.

Now these people bless them. For example, it talks about how they broke bread together and they were unified and they were under the authority of the apostles. When you become a member of Moody Church, what you are doing is you are giving us permission to pick you up when you fall. Because what you're saying is that I believe that I need some accountability. I believe that I have to be under authority. And as a result of that, I want to be able to be accountable so that I'm not just an independent Christian on my own, but rather I am a part of that body. The whole business of church discipline all has to do with membership because we can't discipline those who have never bought into our agenda, those who have never said that they are a part of us in that sense. So it affirms our accountability.

It affirms our opportunity. Here every day the text says, this is verse 46 of chapter 2, they continued to meet together. They broke bread in their homes. And what's going on there is, you see, they knew the people who were believers and you wouldn't just break bread in anyone's home, but those who were a part of the fellowship. Now here at the Moody Church, there are many things that you can do and not be a member, but there are some things that you can't do unless you are a member.

You can't teach a Sunday school class, you can't become an elder, you can't become a deacon, you can't become a deaconess. Why? It's because we want people who say we believe like you do. We think in this sense along with you. We share your vision, we share your passion. And so it's a means of opportunity, it opens the doors for other means of service. It also affirms your generosity. Now of course you can give and not be a member and many of you are doing that, we thank God for that, but I want you to know that there's something about buying into a vision in the church.

Listen, if this is where God has called you, this is then your primary place where you generously support God's work. My wife and I receive many, many different opportunities to give as you do, but, and we accept some of them because they're good organizations, but primarily this is where we are committed, this is the work. We know that when we give here, we're not just giving to something local, we're strengthening the local ministry, but it is because of our desire for a global impact. We're having a part in what God is doing and in 10% of all that we give to our expansion program goes to missions and that's why we can do some of the things that you've been hearing about. And so it's an opportunity to give and to be generous. Now the early church, they sold everything. The scripture says selling their possessions, verse 45, and goods they gave to anyone as he had need. We don't do that today.

Japuza does. Jesus people USA, just a couple of miles north here. Some of you perhaps have visited there. I was there with them a few years ago and there are people that sell everything and nobody owns anything and it's all distributed according to the leadership.

It's very, very interesting way. Now this was not reproduced later. We don't have any evidence in the epistles that the apostle Paul asked other churches to do this, but this was their means of generosity spontaneously, joyfully. They sold everything and they gave it to the apostles and said, distributed however you might have need. You know, when God saves people, when God really saves people, he always also saves their bank account. It also becomes converted and comes under his authority.

And if it doesn't, we have to wonder about whether or not you got the real thing. Flip Wilson in one of his lines has a section or a shtick as it is sometimes said that we could simply call Rev. Rev is preaching and Rev says, folks, God not only wants this church to crawl, he wants it to stand. And everybody shouts, let it stand, Rev, let it stand. And then he says, God not only wants this church to stand, he wants this church to walk. And everybody says, let it walk, Rev, let it walk. And then he says, God not only wants this church to walk, he wants this church to run. And they said, let it run, Rev, let it run. He said, God not only wants this church to run, he wants this church to fly. They said, let it fly, Rev, let it fly. And he said, okay, now if this church is going to fly, you have to sacrificially give your tithes and offerings. And somebody in the balcony shouted, let it crawl, Rev, let it crawl. God does want this church to fly. What I'm asking for today is your commitment because we can't do it alone.

We need your help. Listen, I'm not talking to those of you who are just checking us out. You're new in the area and you're checking out various churches, fine, check all of them out. Just come back to us afterwards.

I'm just kidding. I'm talking about those of you who know that this is where God has planted you and yet there's something within you that is withholding that final commitment that says, this is the place. This is the place of sacrifice, of learning, of becoming, of being, because I'm buying their vision.

I'm talking to you today and I'm telling you that we need you. Let me give two final observations. First of all, the church is to represent Christ in the world.

That's what we're to do. A couple of weeks ago, I read a story that really stuck in my heart. It was written by a young man who was one of these activists who wants to change the world, a Christian young man. And he was on a panel discussion or on a television station in another city discussing with a number of people, including John Perkins whom some of us know, a pioneer actually in racial reconciliation and a marvelous man of God who has preached from this pulpit. He was in this panel discussion also and the moderator was talking about the proliferation of pornography shops and strip joints and everything that was happening in this city.

And the moderator asked this question, who actually is responsible for all these things that are happening that we're talking about? And this young man was about to open his mouth. He was ready for the answer. He was going to blame the mayor. He was going to blame liberal judges. He was going to blame the media.

And John Perkins interrupted him before he could say anything. And Perkins said, I am responsible. He said, I take the blame.

I take all of it. He said, I've been a minister in this city. We hold Bible studies. And he said, I am at fault because my ministry has not been used to so transform this community that something like this could never happen. It's my fault.

Boy, that stopped everyone in the panel. I don't know whether or not I can even get my mind around this because this is further than I really intend to go, but I have to ask this question. When you think of the breakdown of the family, when you think of the city of Chicago with its crime, when you think of all the things that happen sometimes not too many miles from us, could it be that it's our fault? Because we in our little cloistered way coming to church here have not touched the community.

We have not been willing to build those bridges. And as a result, we are the ones through negligence who has created an atmosphere where those kinds of things can happen. Because Jesus said that you are salt, and you are light. Let me say also that it is God who causes the church to grow.

I'm still in chapter 2. You'll notice it says in verse 47, they were praising God, enjoying the favor of all the people, and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Now, of course, let's distinguish now between the church universal, which is the body of Jesus Christ. God was adding to those people. People were being saved, which is the first state, of course, the first thing that we must do. But having been saved, God was adding these people to their number.

I think in the early church it was unthinkable that you were a Christian that simply drifted. If you were saved, you belonged. And my message today is I believe in belonging. And I'm urging you sitting on the sidelines, I urge you to belong and to come and to help us make a difference in this community and in this city.

Of course, I need to clarify something. We are not saved through church membership. If somewhere along the line in the last 20 minutes you picked up the idea that if you become a member of Moody Church, you're going to go to heaven, you know, of course, that's wrong. You know, I sometimes joke saying you don't have to be a member of Moody Church to get to heaven, but why take a chance? Well, that's just a joke. I tell you, there are members of Moody Church who will not be in heaven because they slipped through as unsaved.

D.L. Moody, since he is our founder, he gave this story and I conclude with this story since he is our founder. He said that he was in a meeting one time where a man stood up and said it took me 42 years to learn three things. And Moody thought, well, you know, if it took him 42 years to learn it, maybe I can learn this in three minutes.

That would speed up the process. Listen, there are some of you now who have taken years and years and years and years to learn the three things that this man shared. And they were all true things, but how long it takes for us to learn them. The first thing said is that the man learned at first that he could do nothing toward his salvation.

He can make no contribution. Nothing in my hand I bring, but simply to thy cross I cling. That was number one that he learned. Number two is that God didn't expect him to add to his salvation or to save himself. God didn't expect that.

Isn't that a relief? Those of you who think you're trying to impress God with your good works and you know right well that there's no reason in the world why he should be impressed. Isn't it nice to know that he doesn't expect you to be able to save yourself? And the third thing that this man learned is that Christ did it all and that his death on the cross was a sacrifice for sinners. And the first thing that we do is not become a member of a church, some local church with our name on the road, but the first thing that we do is we believe in Christ and are saved. And that is a free gift given to those who finally give up on their own good works and transfer their trust to Christ alone.

After that, now you become a church member and you say, yes, I want to become part of something that is greater than I am and I want to buy into the vision. This comes today from my heart to your heart directly. Are you willing to say yes, yes, by God's grace we've been led here, called here, we'll buy into it with sacrifice and joy. Join me as we pray. And our Father, we want to thank you today for the early church, for its vigor, for its joy, for its generosity. And we pray today, Father, that in Moody Church you might reproduce in us the blessed power of the Holy Spirit, the freedom of the Spirit, the strength of the Spirit, the purity of the Spirit, and make us, O God, a change agent in this city that could indeed touch the world. O Lord God, that is our plea to you today in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen. And my friend, when we talk about touching a city with the gospel of Jesus Christ, a city like Chicago that could indeed influence the entire world, I can tell you that we cannot do this individually.

We have to do it as a collective body. And that's why the Church of Jesus Christ is so critical. I know that during the pandemic, people no longer attended church physically.

They stayed home. They were able to watch their computers and to listen to sermons and enjoy the music. But there's nothing like being connected directly with other saints. I've written a book entitled Holy Living in an Unholy World. It discusses all kinds of issues as it relates to the Church, issues of doctrine and conduct, because I want us to think through what Jesus meant when he said that we should be in the world but not of the world.

What does that mean for us today? For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now, I know that sometimes it is difficult to pick up a pen or a pencil quickly enough, so I'll give you that contact info again.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the book Holy Living in an Unholy World. All of us need to ask ourselves that question because, indeed, how do we live holy in an unholy world? It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Church is not what it used to be.

Michael is from Arizona, and here's us on Here's his story, We've moved to a new city and are trying to find a church home. My wife and children are really enthralled with one of the local mega churches because of all that it has to offer by way of children's programs and so on.

I am not enthralled. This church, like many large churches, has a coffee shop inside. The rates seem similar to Starbucks.

They also have a bookstore. Based on Matthew 21, 12 and 13, I'm offended by the sale of items in any church, but no one else seems to be. Am I wrong?

Well, Michael, you probably are wrong. I don't think that it is right to equate selling coffee in a lobby in a church with what Jesus did with the money changers in the temple in the New Testament. For one thing, those money changers, they were ripping people off. For the other, they had to be used to buy the people because people came from various areas and they had to buy a sheep or some pigeons or whatever to offer them as sacrifices. So they had a monopoly on what was happening and they were making a lot of money and they were doing it fraudulently. The whole idea of having coffee in church, I don't think that that's a determinative factor in terms of your choosing a church or selling books in a bookstore.

Once again, if these items are sold at a reasonable price and people benefit from them, I think it's fine. Now, here's what I want to suggest to you, however. Something much more important about that church is its doctrine. You know that there are many mega churches today who have become very thin when it comes to theology. They have become oftentimes so seeker sensitive that they no longer really teach the doctrines of the word for Christians.

Now, those are the kind of decisions that become very, very important. Even the gospel of Jesus Christ is often diminished in evangelical circles. So I'm not judging your church.

I have no idea what the church is, but I'm simply saying that that would be more important to me, its doctrine, than whether or not you can buy a cup of coffee in the lobby after a service. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer, for those words of counsel. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Next time on Running to Win, another way we can believe in the church, embracing the value of fellowship. This means fellowship with God and fellowship with one another. Plan to join us. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-11 03:51:53 / 2023-04-11 04:00:51 / 9

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