The church is a hospital.
Sick people are welcome. I'm not saying that if you have a problem, you shouldn't come to church with your problem. Dr. Tony Evans says the church is here to offer help to anyone who wants real healing.
And so if you come with a weakness, if you come with a sin, fine, but come with an attitude I don't mind the scalpel. This is The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, author, speaker, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and president of The Urban Alternative. God can do amazing things through the church, but only when it's healthy. Today Dr. Evans points out how some churches can actually do more harm than good and discusses how your church can avoid that fate.
Let's join him. The Jesus that far too many churches have is not the Jesus who wrote to the churches in Revelation 1. In Revelation 1, this is no mamby-pamby, milk-toast Jesus.
This is no nice, smooth-skinned, ivory-soaked hand savior. This is the Jesus with calluses on his hands. This is the Jesus Christ who speaks with the voice, John says in verse 15, of many waters, thunderous in his statements. This is the Jesus, verse 16 says, where the sword comes out of his mouth. In fact, when John, verse 17, ran into this Jesus, he says he felt like a dead man. When's the last time Jesus made you do that? Because if the impact of the Lord of the church doesn't ever make its members fall as dead men, we don't know who we dealing with.
And Satan has caused us to reduce Jesus to someone other than the Lord of the universe and the head of the church. John is on the Isle of Patmos on his final days, and he gets a vision from God, and it is the book of Revelation. Unlike any other book in the New Testament, this book offers a special blessing to those who read it. Verse 3, blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and heed the things which are written in it for the time is near. It's a hard book to understand, but a powerful book to read, because when you've read it, you come to understand God is not playing games.
He is dead serious. And while it's a book about the prophecy, about the prophecy of the future, it's a book written to the church in the present. Verse 11 says, God tells John, write a book of what you see and send it to the seven churches. Now in the Bible, the word seven is the number of perfection. In other words, whenever you see something is seven, it means complete. So while this was written to seven churches of Asia Minor, it was the complete message that God wanted to give its church regarding how they are to function under the lordship of Jesus Christ in opposition to the deception of the devil.
And that's why he begins the chapter letting you see who Jesus is, letting you see that this one who according to verse 14 had hair white like white wool, like snow whose eyes were a flame of fire and feet like brandish bronze that glowed like in a furnace, the voice of many waters. That Jesus and no other Jesus is the Jesus to whom the church responds. So what's the point of the message to the seven churches?
It's simply this. Jesus and only Jesus is the standard by which the people of God function. And when the people of God function in accordance with that standard, then the church is the church. Now, when you see a British person in London look up and then make an adjustment on his watch, that meant he was looking at something. And what he was looking at is Big Ben. Big Ben is that towering clock that serves as the reflection of the official time. And if your time on your little clock doesn't match the time on Big Ben, you must adjust your little clock to Ben's time because Big Ben is the standard.
Well, what we want to do is stop other people and say, what time do you have? Jesus is Big Ben and he wants our church to adjust its ministry, its program, its thinking to who Jesus the Lord of the church is. And so Jesus has seven messages each given to one church. And if any church takes all seven messages, it will be a church that beats the devil rather than a church beaten by the devil.
Now, I want you to know something. I want you to know the difference as we go into these seven principles between your standing and your state. 1 John 5 5 says that anybody who has come to Christ is an overcomer.
That's very important. If you have come to Jesus Christ, you're not trying to make it, you have already made it. You are an overcomer.
And that's why the most important thing this church can do for you as one of its members is to teach you about your position in Christ. Because as long as you don't think you're an overcomer, you will not overcome. That is why even though John says in 1 John 5 5 you have already overcome, he in his message to the seven churches says now to him who overcomes. In other words, you can overcome by position but not being overcome by practice. It is possible to have a right relationship with God and never experience the power of God. It is possible to be on your way to heaven and never have experienced heaven come down to earth.
That is possible to be an overcomer who does not overcome because you have not matched your position with your practice. What does he say to the church? He says seven things. As he writes a letter to the angel, spiritual warfare, it is given by angels through human messengers. First of all, number one, to the church at Ephesus, verse 1 of chapter 2. He says write to the seven churches. Church number one, it is the lesson of love. He says in verse 2, I know your deeds, I know your toil, I know your perseverance, I know you cannot endure evil men, I know you put to the test those who call themselves apostles and are not, and that you have found them to be false, and that you have perseverance, have endured for my name's sake, have not grown weary. I know you are a pretty good looking Bible church.
But, verse 4, I have this against you, you have left your first love. What is the lesson that we must learn? Lesson number one is that if we want to see the authority of the risen Christ, Revelation chapter 1, operating in our church, we must never let program replace passion. This church had a great program. This church believed all the right things. It had doctrinal soundness.
It had teachers that were potent. It had all of the right set of truth, but it didn't have first love. God never means for the 100 or so ministries that we have here to serve people, to replace our passion for Jesus Christ. And it is possible to be a church with every T-cross, every I-dotted, every program conceivable, and be dead as a doorknob, because we lose sight of Christ. If there's one thing that's impacted me in this past year, it is to pursue Christ over program, and not to let program replace Christ. It's right to have good doctrine, but good doctrine ought to help you to love Christ more. It's right to take a stand for the truth, but the truth should make you love Christ more. So if you know more and are enjoying it less, it means your spiritual priorities are off.
If you have more doctrine, more truth, more programs, more this, more that, but the fire is gone. It's like I said about marriage. Most people date to marry when in the Bible you ought to marry to date. Most people do all their dating up front and they get real boring after they get married. They wonder what happened to the fire.
They got it backwards. They dated to marry rather than marry to date. Because when you marry to date, you still have a program, but the program is designed to keep the passion alive.
And so we want to evaluate everything I do, every church evaluates whatever it does, to make sure we have not left our first love. It's like the husband who says to the wife, I don't love you anymore, but don't worry, nothing much is going to change. I don't love you anymore, but I'm still going to go to work. I don't love you anymore, but I'm still going to bring my money home. I don't love you anymore, but I'm still not going to run around. I don't love you anymore, but I'm still not going to do. I have a program I'm going to keep even though I don't love you anymore.
What mate wants that kind of relationship? relationship, what savior wants that kind of relationship? The first message to the church in the city of Ephesus with its satanic center, the temple of Diana that was controlling the agenda of the day is don't lose your passion for Christ. Whenever you spend more time doing your program than you do being in God's presence, your priorities are off and that's why the most important thing this church is gonna do in the days to come is to become a praying church because if we're a praying church we're gonna get God's attention and when we get God's attention he'll make sense of the programs and the programs will produce rather than them being an end in themselves. And Dr. Evans will examine how the church even if under persecution can properly function without fear when he continues our study in a moment. First though I want to tell you about the perfect follow-up resource for our current series, Tony's powerful book Victory in Spiritual Warfare. It'll help you discover how much of what you chuck up to life just being hard is really the result of the invisible battle going on around you.
You'll also learn how to break down the devil's strongholds and keep your defenses solid. Right now when you make a contribution to help support Tony's ministry we'll say thanks by sending you a copy of Victory in Spiritual Warfare or Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare, your choice, along with all 12 full-length messages on CD or instantly downloadable mp3s from Tony's current two-volume audio series on spiritual warfare. This special package is only available through Monday so visit TonyEvans.org today or call our resource request line at 1-800-800-3222.
It never closes so there's no need to wait. That's 1-800-800-3222. Well Dr. Evans will return right after this. Impactful, amazing, intense, thought-provoking. That's how just a few students describe their experience since enrolling in the Tony Evans Training Center. The best part is the training center is wherever you and your online connection are. Going beyond a Sunday sermon, these compelling Bible study courses take a much deeper look at Scripture, the Bible's writers, social issues of today, and so much more. Log on today to learn more at TonyEvansTraining.org.
TonyEvansTraining.org. Explore the kingdom anytime, anywhere. Secondly, to the church at Smyrna.
The angel of the Lord to the church at Smyrna writes, he puts in verse 9, I know your tribulation and your poverty but you are rich and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews that are not but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold the devil is about to cast some of you into prison that you may be tested and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful under death and I will give you the crown of life. It's a lesson of faithfulness. He says to the church at Smyrna, don't throw me away when the going gets tough.
When the going gets tough, don't stop standing up for me. Or to put it another way, don't just be a convenient church made up of convenient Christians who only serve me when they're being blessed. These believers were going through a tough time, they were going through tribulation.
Many of them were poor and things were not working out perhaps as they would like due to their standing in Jesus Christ. Our job as a church is not to please everybody else. Our job is to please the Lord and sometimes everybody else won't like it. And we're not here to win friends and influence people. The church is not here to win a popularity contest because when the Savior took a stand he wasn't popular in many areas. So if we're going to be a church that Jesus is proud of and that he's going to empower, it means that during tough times we will not bail out on the Savior.
You know we live in a day of quitters. People jump out of their marriages when the time gets tough. When the time gets tough, like the little girl who saw her grandmother, grandmother had on these thick wedding rings, these old thick wedding rings. She said, grandmother, boy back then when y'all got married those wedding rings sure were thick.
She said, yeah darling because when we got married wedding rings were made the last. But when we get today, well I didn't know he was like this. I'm gone. I quit. I don't want to back up regroup and come back at it. Everybody wants to quit.
Jesus says if you want to know my authority you cannot quit. Just because times are tough. You can't bail out just because things are hard. You can't run just because times are down. And the day we live in this consumer generation, people come to church and then they want to leave to leave the church and join another church.
Why? Because that church is not ministering to my needs. Well maybe if you minister to somebody else's needs God would let the church minister to you.
People want to quit when the going gets tough rather than be submitted to the authority of Christ. That's the call to faithfulness. Thirdly, the church at Pergamum, verse 12, to the angel of the church at Pergamum write. This is the third thing.
It's the lesson of compromise. He says in verse 13, I know where you dwell. You dwell where Satan's throne is. So I mean this was referring to the throne of Zeus.
The throne of Zeus was on a hill in Pergamum. And remember behind every idol or false God is a demon. So he calls it, rather than calling it the throne of Zeus, he calls it the throne of the devil because behind every idol is the devil or one of his demons. And you hold fast to my name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Annabas, my witness, my faithful one who was killed among you where Satan dwells.
But I have a few things against you because you have there some. Some of your members hold the teaching of Balaam who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel to eat things, sacrifice the idol, and to commit acts of immorality. Thus you also have some who in the same way hold to the teachings of the Nicolaiadans. This was a cultural church. This was a compromising church. This was a church that would preach right sermons, verse 2, but not expect members to live right lives. This was a church that says the preacher can preach it, but we don't have to live it. It was a compromising church. One of the reasons today that we are not seeing the power of God is there's too much compromise.
We want to make everybody happy. Listen, when you take a stand, people are going to be uncomfortable. When you say that sex outside of marriage, any kind of sex outside of marriage, is sin. Some people not gonna come to your church, okay? Now it's not popular, especially today in the 21st century, but it's what God says. The teaching of Balaam was promoting idolatry and committing acts of immorality, and it was okayed. Rather than call the church to a higher standard, they were preaching the truth.
He says that in verse 13, you know, you have the basic truth. You didn't deny my name, you didn't deny my faith, but you had a compromising ministry. Now don't get me wrong, the church is a hospital.
Sick people are welcome. I'm not at all saying that if you have a problem, you shouldn't come to church with your problem. I am saying, but like a hospital, the job of the church is to perform surgery, not to make you feel better about being sick. The job of the church is not to let you occupy a room and let you skip surgery because you just want to be in the hospital today. The job of the church is to perform spiritual surgery. People want to bring false doctrine and get it set up in the church, and so Balaam destroyed Israel by compromise, by lowering the standard. And so if you come with a weakness, if you come with a sin, fine, come.
But come with an attitude I don't mind the scalpel. It's easy to say amen to them nice things. Big Ben, I heard amen. You know, let's all love Jesus, amen. Let's all follow Jesus, amen.
Let's cut out compromise. We don't want that kind of sermon, but that's okay, because if you amen all my sermons, that means I'm not preaching right. If you amen all my, in fact if I amen all my sermons, I'm not preaching right. Because some sermons ought to make you squirm in your seat. Some sermons ought to make you sweat, get nerve. Some sermons ought to make you pull out a handkerchief and do that. Some sermons ought to promote guilt. People ought to say, well, well, I don't think the preacher should make you feel guilty. If you have something to feel guilty about, you ought to feel guilty.
That is exactly how you should feel. And one of the things that we must address is compromise. I must address it in my life, you must address it in your life, because God has called us to a higher standard, and if we want to see this Christ of chapter one, we must deal with the issue of compromise. The church is to be visibly different.
It is not to win a popularity contest. 2nd Corinthians 6, 14, and 15 says, what fellowship have light with darkness? Some of you ladies, you want to marry a non-christian man, because they're the only man you didn't found.
You want to save him after you get married. The Bible calls that compromise. The biblical standard is, I know it's radical, but the biblical standard is singleness before compromise. It's a biblical standard. You say, but that is not normal, right? But we're talking about heavenly places.
We're talking about stuff that's supernatural, not stuff that's normal. We're not trying to be normal, we're trying to be biblical. Yeah, but everybody else, now what do you tell your kid when they tell you everybody else? I ain't feeding everybody else. I'm not providing a house for everybody else.
Everybody else ain't getting on my nerves like you are. Not no everybody else. This is our house, and Joshua would say, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. No compromise. You go with the other gods, no compromise.
And if you're compromising in your life, you need to confess it as a sin, stop calling it culturally acceptable, stop calling it everybody else doesn't, and say that's compromise, that's sin, by God's grace I have been made an overcomer, so I'm gonna stop it. So if we want to see the Christ of chapter 1 working in this body, in this midst, in this church, defeating Satan even though we live in its midst, no compromise. Dr. Tony Evans, with a call for all believers to stand firm in their devotion to the Lord. Now before we finish up today, I want to encourage you to look into getting a copy of Tony's current teaching series called Spiritual Warfare, a set of 12 messages that'll help you readjust your spiritual armor.
It contains today's message as well as plenty of material we won't have time to present on the air. As I mentioned earlier, it's yours with our thanks when you make a donation toward Tony's ministry. And as a special bonus, we'll also let you choose a copy of either Victory in Spiritual Warfare or Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare, two powerful books from Dr. Evans that build on what we've been learning in this series. Take advantage of this special bundle of resources before time runs out by visiting TonyEvans.org or call our resource request line at 1-800-800-3222 any time of the day or night. Again, that's 1-800-800-3222 or online at TonyEvans.org. Is there a connection between a church's history and its health? Well, Dr. Evans will answer that question tomorrow as he talks about ways to keep Satan from trivializing your congregation. I hope you'll join us. The alternative with Dr. Tony Evans is brought to you by The Urban Alternative and is made possible by the generous contributions of listeners like you.
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