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October 23, 2020 8:00 am
One of the main reasons why churches close their doors is they forgotten why they existed in the first place.
But imagine 151 churches in America will close their doors and go out of business this coming week is because the church no longer matters is because God no longer matter, or is it because the church has lost the sense of why it existed in the first place is often very little reason to stick around.
Why are we here that's a huge philosophical question for the human race, but for Christians, we know that our purpose on earth is made very clear in God's word. This is wisdom for the heart with Steven David today Stevens going to encourage us to live with biblical purpose. It applies to our individual lives and it applies to our churches. Whether you're a Dr. homemaker student or mechanic you are a light in the dark world. And when you live with purpose.
You live for God's glory here. Steve after years of work and effort one mega online organization is not digitized 30 million books in digital form, which means you can do word searches. Now they can.
The body of data has has literally created a cultural method or study of analyzing culture in a word, they've created called culture. Onyx they're able to look at the appearances of words. The number of times words appear, and over the centuries the usages of of those words, the data goes all the way back to the year 1800 and then moves forward and it reveals what mattered what was popular with people were talking about what's in novels, books, encyclopedias, for instance, I read the words ice cream appeared and sort of took off in 1910 didn't appear before them at 1910 just after GE introduced what they called an amazing electric powered home icebox that we had the opportunity to have ice cream, otherwise known, of course, is the refrigerator suddenly those words find their way into novels and books and articles and publications, and encyclopedias. The same data sees a connection in the loss of words they saw a tremendous drop in more recent years, with the appearance of the word that gives or diet and the dropping off of the word pasta which is a sad thing to me. But that's exactly the relationship. It's interesting how it's been connected. One of the most interesting of course for our study observations that struck my attention as I read this was the steady decline of the term or word or name God the decline of the use of that word been in steady decline. Evidently, over the decades, and they can track it now make they say that today that were disappearing and publications less than one third of what it did in 1801, God is disappearing, as it were from the publication the world of our culture other research organizations are telling a different, yet I think connected story. If we connect the dots. The church at large, and especially this country is effectively disappearing right along.
God, according to a recent life way research study there saying that over the next seven years, 55,000 churches will cease to exist that all denominations, but imagine 151 churches in America will close their doors and go out of business this coming week is because the church no longer matters is because God no longer matters worse because the church is a lost the sense of why it existed in the first place that other research along with the same idea says it is primarily the mainline and liberal Protestant church along with the Catholic Church that is losing thousands of attenders annually. The recent visit of the Pope is really a fairly massive recruiting tool because thousands are literally leaving that particular church. Evangelical churches growing, if not at least holding steady.
But it's interesting if you burrow a little bit more that you discover that only 1% of evangelical churches in America are actually growing by means of reaching lost people reaching lost people, which means then that within the evangelical church growth is really not that much growth.
It is as one author writes nothing more than the shuffling of existing Christians from one church to another. There was ever a time for the church in the Christian to return to a biblical understanding of our mission. It's today we talk about who we are in our first discussion on our second what we talked about why we belong and today I want to discuss along the theme of why we exist. In other words, why didn't God just sort of whisked us away as we place our faith in his son the Lord Jesus would not be a great incentive to join the believe that you believe and suddenly you were gone. Why did you leave us here I would answer that question as best I can even take a 35,000 overview foot overview of the five statements to take you to two passages of Scripture fairly rapidly.
The first statement is this. We exist as exhibits of spiritual reality take your Bibles and turn to acts chapter 1 a familiar passage.
We pray that God will give us fresh insight and open eyes to what it might mean to us. Acts chapter 1 Jesus is announcing to his disciples something very special going to mark their lives and he says in verse eight we can just jump there, look at Fraser to he says to them, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. Speaking of course of the day of Pentecost the creation of the church, and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and then Judea and Samaria started going outward in concentric circles and even to the remotest part of your use shall be my witnesses locally, regionally and nationally and globally. By the way this text in the words of our Lord so much about what they will do what they will become. Jesus doesn't really outline a plan. He really promises a person, the person of the Holy Spirit who will descend as he ascends inhabit all of us and empower us to speak of eternal spiritual realities. He's going to empower us to in the light of this word the Lord uses and I love the choice divinely chosen that he places us in the courtroom of public opinion and and we are witnesses witness is necessarily an expert in everything we do simply delivers what he or she has seen what they know to be true. We are living exhibit a is in the courtroom to the resurrecting power and gospel of Jesus Christ. There's never been a better time for the Christian to return to this original principal. Let me say this, you are not a computer technician. You are not a housewife.
You are not a teacher you're not a mechanic and not Dr. you're not a lawyer, painter, repairman, that's what you do what you are is a witness in those arenas to the reality of the gospel of Christ.
Let's remind ourselves there is not one verse in the New Testament that ever tells an unbeliever to come to church. I'm always intrigued by churches about banners at the say please come mean nothing in the New Testament tells the unbeliever to come if I can be read the book of acts. They were afraid to come there to visit two of them got killed for lying to go there, stay away God was adding to their number daily.
The awesome sense of spiritual reality through the lives of these changed individuals was so impactful if the world is not being raised of our American culture. If only 1% of the church in America seeing individuals come to faith in Jesus Christ to be the church is really all that committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ that is a non sequitur.
Could we take responsibility and figure this way. If this church, this local church dependent about what you did to grow. Where would we be today, as opposed to last year. The year before the year before. The church really believe that mankind is eternally lost without Christ, we really buy that we really think about it we really believe it.
Jesus saw the wandering Shepherd less masses of people were told often that he was moved with compassion for them. Matthew nine Matthew chapter 14 Matthew chapter 18 were told that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey and everybody's waving palm branches and everybody celebrating any of the idea in your mind that he's smiling now. The Bible tells us he is paying as he is riding on a donkey's over the belief of the nation. Luke 19 Charles Spurgeon, the great pastor the 1800s, once wrote that every unbeliever ought to go to hell with our arms wrapped around their way as if we were doing everything possible to keep them from going to the questions the church ought to be asking. I will tell of the carpet is the programs are nice to use an organ or guitar, you know, whatever the dress code might be. But do we believe the gospel that there's a heaven or hell do we rely on the power of the gospel.
It is the saving power of God and the salvation are we getting the gospel right are we getting the gospel out. Are we praying for the work of the gospel are we investing our lives for the gospel. Are we training the next generation in the gospel. These are the kind of questions you ask of the church you want to join because it is our mission. According to Jesus Christ to be living exhibitors of spiritual reality and we gather as he defines the church to rehearse the truth and teach them in co-labor together in strategy and methods to deliver give you another. Secondly, we exist to expose sinful corruption. In other words, there is a distasteful part of this is why you hear preachers on television or news Say we only want to talk about sin.
This is the other side of the gospel.
We deliver the gospel and when we deliver the gospel we deliver the need for the gospel need the gospel because sooner and you need a Savior turn back to Matthew chapter 5 the Lord is informing us that we are witnesses. We exist to testify to the spiritual reality of Christ. The gospel now notices rather shocking words. I always shocked me because we think of the Lord is in these terms, but he says this of us. Verse 13 you are the salt of the earth it doesn't then tell us you were supposed to do just as you are your salt will become tasteless. That's worthless to be trampled underfoot by men. It becomes part of the pathway. Jesus is speaking to his disciples, and he's challenging them that they are so that whatever we as in the average American, or perhaps international. As a part of our church. Think of salt. We typically think of the food back in the South. We love so we sold our food before tasting it is I do because I just assume I need more now get old enough they say, is that substitute stuff forget that I'm using the real thing but direly I'm going to heaven okay now the problem is we don't think like the first century person that they use salt for number things. One of them was these different currency. Roman soldiers were often paid and salt was so valuable he bartered and sold for more than it was worth it especially is also back that same man is not worth his salt saying he didn't deserve his paycheck. Represented purity to the first century unbeliever mystically sure divine affected Gentiles will often offer salt as an offering to their gods. They attached all kinds of superstition to this shimmering white parents and it it it it created their view infected. Recall that state divinity that some time divine power superstitions you I can now be over overcome bad luck for a little bit over your shoulder.
Whatever course we don't flavored food. We know salt creates thirst every weekend I suggest including building to this text. What we believe means what God wants us to understand. We certainly can understand that it deters corruption and decay want to focus there.
The presence of salt both exposes the need for because that substance.
It is attached to his decaying decomposing serves in effect, to determine that to inhibit it to slow it down.
The life of a human being it's it's a little different it it it hurts. We think of salt in a wound, very painful to an ordeal is good for the church to remember that every Christian that God and his word never called us sugar like a waitress at Vacaville.
He calls us salt and not the were not supposed be kinder, compassionate or gracious or tactful their very presence to a decaying culture is like salt to alone. Our presidents are in existence. Then you can anticipated creates a frustration to a decaying culture as we expose it we deter it and often were like salt in the wound.
Thirdly, we expel satanic darkness we expel.
We exist to expel satanic darkness goes further in the text adverse 14 you are the light of the world that's shocking to me.
We know Jesus is the light of early says you are the light. You are and give us 10 things alike supposed to do is say like a city upon a hill can't be hidden no light candle and and and put something over in a basket or a bushel. Children sing this little light of mine on the Y shine hiding under a bushel, no time limit.
They sing it all in our our culture is so dark, so dark, absolutely. What better time for light to exist now when God planted the very first New Testament church in Jerusalem that first century idolized the human body along with a pantheon of gods and superstitions. The athletes who competed in those early years in the Olympic Games competed completely naked so that the entire body could be magnified in idolized the Roman culture at large, mocked, heterosexuality is prudish close minded bisexuality was normative Roman Emperor Nero had both married several women in succession. He also married publicly. A man without any apparent public reaction in that generation drugs were legal and rampant sin were actually part of worship, drunkenness, child prostitution was legalized and pornography was an epidemic where one letter dated one year before the birth of Christ from a man named Larry and was widely rights. If you have our child while I am away and it is a boil and live. It is a girl expose it and let it die.
That would be legal Seneca. In fact, one of Nero's court advisors wrote these words that give us a little hint into how how little human life was valued during the days of the early church. He wrote these words was a brilliant senator and court advisor.
He said as he simply expose their culture quote we slaughter of fear socks. We strangle a mad dog and the child was born, we performed we drown. And this is the generation when God effectively says you know this is the perfect time to create the New Testament church is no better time than now.
Sprinkle the earth with people like salt to have them shine like light. What a perfect time to reveal that there is a way out of enslavement to the darkness of the world and into the kingdom of light. Peter would motivate us all to proclaim the excellencies of the waters called us out of darkness into a marvelous light.
First Peter 29 Paul reminded the Corinthians that they had received the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ segment is 46, Paul described the Ephesian believers as those who once belonged to the darkness, but are now lights in the Lord, to the Roman Christians he challenge them to put on the armor of light shine is why we exist. Jesus is here you are light of the world word for world and this text is cosmos which refers to the world system. My right that of the margin. Your Bible, the world system and we know that Satan is the chief ruler. He has delegated authority is given permission by God to do whatever he does for the purposes of God, but he has created this incredible complex kingdom. We call the kingdom of darkness and we have this world system ruled it's under his thumb, as it were. We have that the organization of of Paul writes to the Ephesians of rulers. Speaking of Satan's hierarchy rulers and powers and world forces of this darkness, so you and I are lights, individually and collectively lights in the midst of a world system under the influence of Satan and our world system is wandering around in the darkness of sin is lost, it is entirely confused was ironic to me in the midst of studying for the sermon that I got this past week's edition of Time magazine. Its front cover if you saw it it's it's red completely red and then all over the cover art?'s all these?'s and underneath each? Is little question the headline of the top cover reads is monogamy over? In the subtitle reads 21 other questions about the way we live now to the world is open about its questions.
Are we open about the answers. I found it interesting. The question that provoked me. In fact there were several by the way I read the whole article they are dealing with question. Some important, some not so important but one of the questions is related to public nudity and authors you know way and on why it's good why it's bad it is there is there a way to call offensive art, blasphemous art, you know good and they weigh in on that is polygamy to be accepted in authors weighed in on that on both sides, but the one question that really stood out to me on the front cover down near the bottom and they didn't deal with it on the inside but it is the question what will we regret the answer that everything every listener dark of the world system the more necessary and more distinctive and more dramatic and more different and more disliked your leg will be culture's response. In fact, it's gonna be like you, shining up flashlight someone's face until you turn off that light get the light out of my culture that you are so dark you do not stop crying in her suit. For one thing, there's no better time to be like the dark place. God is as much on the throne today as he was in first century Rome right yes Satan is loose buddies on a leash and that lease is held in the hand of our sovereign Lord and he is chosen us to be in this generation. In this location in this world in this country with his influence now to shine and to be salt church doesn't need freedom in order to be fruitful, and I think it's important to remember Tucker brothers and sisters in China were evangelical believers are now estimated to outnumber members of the Communist Party church doesn't need approval from its culture in order to receive the approval of God say the church is way off the mark when all it wants to do is receive the approval of man, there's more that we need to learn about God's purpose of the church, but we don't have time to develop it today when we come back on Monday will conclude this lesson be sure to join us. You're listening to wisdom for the hearts with Stephen Davey Stevens currently working through a series on the topic of the church called upon this rock. Today's lesson from that series is called why we exist. We have a resource were making available for pastors, deacons, elders or other church leaders. Stephen preached this series because the church he pastors was going through the process of revising its Constitution and bylaws, and adding some additional points to the doctrinal statement we needed to address some issues that weren't as prevalent when the church was founded, we addressed issues like euthanasia, gender, and a biblical definition of marriage if it would help your church to see these things we be happy to send you a copy just call and let us know that you wanted. Our number is 86 648 Bible numerically. That's 866-482-4253 give us a call and ask for a copy of the colonial Baptist Church Constitution were a separate ministry from the church, but we do have a few copies here in the wisdom international office and would be happy to send you one. You can learn more about our ministry by visiting us firstname.lastname@example.org.
We post each day's lesson there so if you ever miss a broadcast you can keep caught up with these lessons if you have a smart phone, you'll find the wisdom international In either the iTunes or the Google play store and if you don't already receive it. Be sure and fill out the online form to receive the next three issues of our monthly magazine heart to heart were actually expanding it for next month. We wanted to add some more pages so we can include some fun elements like a recipe Stevens daughter Candace provided the first one so sign up for that today and then join us Monday for more wisdom