ďDE-EMPHASIZING CHURCHĒ

Hebrews 10.23-25

 

EXPOSITION:

1.   Anyone who has attended this church for more than a couple of Sunday morning services has heard me rather vigorously excoriate the dangerous religious frauds in southern California who claim to be Christian.

2.   I deny that someone who denies the trinity is a fellow brother in Christ.  I deny that someone who has turned the grace of God into lasciviousness is a fellow brother in Christ.  And I deny that a dog who has returned to his vomit is a fellow brother in Christ.

3.   I do not vigorously oppose what I call southern California Christianity merely because I do not believe it represents the faith once delivered to the saints.  I oppose southern California Christianity because it is profoundly confusing to someone who is not converted who hears me preach and then looks around at what the so-called Christians at work or at school live like.

4.   That unsaved person must either become convinced that southern California Christianity and the gospel which I preach represent two entirely different religions, or he will think that I am arbitrary and confused in my own thinking about the Christian faith.

5.   So, I impress upon people that they have to choose between TBN and the gospel which I preach, between the local religious channel and the gospel which I preach, between Calvary Chapel and the gospel which I preach, between some Pentecostal church and the gospel which I preach.  By the way, I preach the gospel of Jesus Christ the way Paul preached it.

6.   Part of the problem which I face when dealing with lost people, and which I suspect pastors other than I face, is the emphasis which the Bible puts upon church, and the relative de-emphasis of church that is accepted by what I call southern California Christians. 

7.   For example:  Are you a professional athlete?  The fake Christians think that you are therefore exempt from going to go to church on Sunday.  Do you want to go camping?  Just check out for the weekend.  Do you feel like staying home and watching 60 Minutes on Sunday night?  Okay.  They think that is perfectly fine.

8.   Excuse me, but the mindset that takes that approach to church attendance is foreign to what I find in Godís Word.  So, to clear things up in your thinking, I would like you to turn in your Bible to Hebrews 10.23-25.  When you find that passage, please stand for the reading of Godís Word:

23    Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

24    And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25    Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 

9.   The Jewish Christians written to here were on the verge of faltering in their Christian lives.  The writer of Hebrews was inspired of God to encourage them, to warn them, to straighten them out.  They needed to know, and you need to know, just as every Christian needs to know, how important your regular and faithful attendance at church is.

10. Your faithful church attendance is related to several important things: 

1A.   First, YOUR PROFESSION OF FAITH

Verse 23:  ďLet us hold fast the profession of our faith without waveringĒ

1B.    Do you see this word ďprofession?Ē  Itís the noun form of the word ďconfess,Ē found in First John 1.9:  ďIf we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.Ē  The word here refers to what your lifestyle is declaring for one and all to see.  We typically refer to this as a personís testimony.

2B.      You see, if you claim to be a Christian your testimony in the community is important, your testimony at work is important, and your testimony at home with your family is important.  But our text shows us that your regular and faithful attendance at church is a critical factor in establishing your public testimony.

3B.    So, if you do not faithfully attend church, regularly and routinely, you are wavering in your profession, you have a wobbly testimony.  In other words, you are creating doubts in peopleís minds about your brand of Christianity, if you do not faithfully and regularly attend the church services.  That means church is very important.  Is it important to you? 

2A.   Your faithful Church attendance is also related to YOUR CONSIDERATION OF OTHERS

Verse 24:  ďAnd let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.Ē

1B.    Rare is that individual who stays home from church because of his concern for the spiritual welfare of his fellow church members.  Rare is that individual who stays home from church because of his concern for the spiritual welfare of his neighbors.  Rare is that individual who stays home from church because of his concern for the spiritual welfare of his family.

2B.    Neither do I recall ever having seen anyone provoked unto love and good works by someone who wasnít at church, who stayed home, who went golfing instead of attending church, or by the self-serving fellow who decided that making millions of dollars playing a professional sport was Godís will for his life.  How do those things provoke unto love and good works?

3B.    You see, failing to attend church is almost always for selfish reasons.  Rare is the individual who, like a woman in our own church, stayed home because her heart is too weak to attend two services on a Sunday.  Most who miss a Sunday evening service claim they are tired, but they still go to bed late that night.  Or they want some family time, though they spend the entire day farther away from the wife and kids than if theyíd sat next to them in church.

4B.    If you are considerate of others, if you care about others, if you place the welfare of others ahead of selfish pursuits, if you are at all concerned about the eternal destiny of those you say you love and want to look after, then you will faithfully and routinely attend church. 

3A.   Finally, your Church attendance is related to YOUR EXHORTATION OF OTHERS

Verse 25:  ďNot forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.Ē 

1B.    Some see the ďdayĒ that is approaching in this verse as a reference to the impending destruction of the city of Jerusalem, which was a foregone conclusion in those early years of Christianity once the sea port at Caesaria was completed.  The Romans had just gotten fed up with Jewish resistance and had decided to crush it once and for all.  As the Caesaria port neared completion, where huge numbers of Roman soldiers would soon disembark, folks saw the handwriting on the wall.  Jerusalem would fall.

2B.    But other Bible students are of the opinion that the approaching ďdayĒ mentioned here refers to the impending second coming of Christ, and our need to be even more faithful in church as these last days come to a close.  And this is likely the more correct interpretation.

3B.    But in either case the message is clear.  When significant things are about to happen, such as the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish people, such as the second coming of Christ, such as the turn of our entire civilization toward pagan humanism, the need of the hour is the same.  You need to faithfully attend church to exhort others, and to be exhorted by others, during times of crisis.

4B.    There are times when even the most sure-footed believer stumbles and falls.  Where will that helping hand be when you need it, but youíve stumbled elsewhere?  Where will your helping hand be when someone stumbles and you are elsewhere? 

CONCLUSION:

1.   Donít miss church.  Donít miss it for work and donít miss it for leisure.  Donít miss it when you feel great or when you feel puny.  If you are well enough to go to work you are well enough to go to church.  And donít miss church to get well for work.  Miss work to get well for church, because church is more important.

2.   Are there a couple of times a year when you need to tend to family business or to vacation?  Perhaps there is a time when illness requires that you stay home to recover.  But generally speaking, church is something that should occupy a place of such profound importance in your life that you simply should not miss a service.

3.   After all, your public testimony as a Christian, your consideration of others, and your exhortation of others, is greatly affected by your faithful attendance in church.

4.   If those three things mean little or nothing to you then youíll stay home tonight.  But if those three things are important to you, and you desire that no indication be given by your lifestyle that you are apostatizing the Christian faith, then you will take great pains to be here tonight, and for every service.

5.   Now, letís sing a verse from the hymnal before this morningís sermon from Godís Word. 

INTRODUCTION:

1.   De-emphasizing church.  Thatís one of the characteristics, I believe, of these end times and the general turning of our culture away from Christianity.

2.   Now, there are various ways in which church can be de-emphasized.  Paul Crouch and the TBN crowd has de-emphasized church by replacing the gathering of the saints with a television experience.  No good.

3.   Robert Schuller de-emphasized church in his early days by replacing the gathering of the saints with drive-up services, in which men in bath robes and women in curlers could sit in their cars and watch Schullerís performance like someone attending a drive-in movie.  No good.

4.   But now heís back in an auditorium, de-emphasizing church by trivializing the message he preaches, substituting positive thinking for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and giving people entertainment instead of the truth.  Still no good.

5.   Other de-emphasize church by canceling regularly scheduled services, so there will be only one or two services a week.  I suppose pastors think that by reducing exposure to Godís Word and by reducing exposure to Godís people folks will somehow be benefited.  But, I find that reasoning very strange and contrary to what I understand the Word of God to teach.

6.   I could go on and on this morning, but I would like to lay out before you some considerations that will show you why this de-emphasizing of church is so wrong.  I hope, instead, you will leave this morning with the firm conviction that church, your church, is extremely important in Godís Word, is extremely important to God, and should be extremely important to you.

7.   Why should the de-emphasizing of the church be reversed?  Why is your church so important? 

1A.   First, BECAUSE THE CHURCH IS THE USUAL MEANS OF GRACE

First Corinthians 1.18:      ďFor the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.Ē

 

First Corinthians 14.24-25:     ď24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.Ē 

1B.    It would not be correct to insist that no one ever gets saved anywhere but in a church service, for that simply is not true.  I was not converted in a church service.  But it should not be denied by anyone that church is the most frequent place sinners are converted.

2B.    And this is understandable for several reasons:  Church is the most frequent venue for preachers to preach the gospel, church is the place where those who seek the conversion of the lost gather, and church is the place where sinners both hear the gospel preached and see the gospel lived out in the lives of Godís people.

3B.    Richard Baxter, great Puritan pastor and preacher, correctly observed that church is the usual means of saving grace.  And John R. Rice once correctly observed that most people get saved in a church service.  These menís observations cannot be doubted by honest folks.

4B.    So, church is important because church is the usual means of grace.  It is where most people who get saved actually get saved.  Therefore, to de-emphasize church is a travesty.  No good. 

2A.   Second, THE CHURCH IS THE CUSTODIAN OF DIVINE TRUTH

First Timothy 3.15:  ďBut if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.Ē 

1B.    The Lord Jesus Christ is the truth incarnate.  He said ďI am the way, the truth, and the life.Ē  The Word of God is the truth in writing.  Jesus also said to the Father, ďThy word is truth.Ē  But the church is the pillar and ground of the truth.  Now, what does this mean?  Pillar and ground is that which holds the truth up where it can be seen by men.

2B.    But how does a church like this one hold the truth up to be seen by men (the Lord Jesus Christ who is the incarnate truth, and the Word of God which is the written truth), but by gathering together for the teaching and preaching of Godís Word to point sinners to Christ?

3B.    And do you doubt the need for such a custodian of the truth as this church provides?  Then ask yourself how many have gotten saved in synagogues over the last 2000 years, though they have every one of them a scroll of the Hebrew scriptures?  Or ask yourself how many have gotten saved in cathedrals over the last 2000 years, though they have every one of them copies of the Word of God?

4B.    Being the pillar and ground of the truth is much more than just having a copy of the Bible on hand, or talking about Jesus, as the Catholics and Orthodox churches continually do.  Folks, itís the appointed task of an appointed people to be the pillar and ground of the truth.  And those appointed people are you and your pastor, and other congregations like this one.

5B.    And since itís the truth which sets men free, when that truth is properly handled and communicated, and not like cathedrals and synagogues handle the truth, church is extremely important and should never by anyone be de-emphasized.  Souls hang in the balance. 

3A.   Third, THE CHURCH IS THE HIGHEST SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY ON EARTH

Matthew 18.15-19:  ď15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.Ē 

1B.    Setting aside, for now, what this passage is dealing with, let us consider the implication of verses 18 and 19.  Read those two verses again.

2B.    My friend, can you find evidence anywhere else that grants to an institution here on earth that kind of clout, that kind of influence, that kind of authority?  What astounding authority is vested in this church, and in other churches of Jesus Christ!

3B.    Therefore, how profoundly negligent is the pastor who does not emphasize the church he serves.  And how dull of understanding are those in attendance who do not realize the place in Godís economy their church occupies, and the place that their church ought to occupy in their own lives.  De-emphasizing church is no good. 

4A.   Fourth, THE CHURCH IS THE TRAINING GROUND FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING

Ephesians 4.11-16:  ď11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.Ē 

1B.    This passage deals with gifted men (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers) who are used by God to bring to Christ, and to bring to maturity in Christ, the people of God.

2B.    But what do we know of apostles in the New Testament?  They established churches.  What do we know about pastor-teachers?  They preach in churches.  And the prophets and evangelists listed between those two men do some variation of the same things those men do.

3B.    The point that I seek to make is this:  If you want to be sure youíve come to Christ, and if you want to be sure to grow to spiritual maturity after youíve come to Christ, you need to submit to the ministry of a gifted man.  But where are such men found, according to Godís Word?  In churches, preaching and teaching and providing spiritual leadership to the gathered flock.

4B.    So, if growing to spiritual maturity is important to you, if learning how to live the Christian life is of interest to you, if learning how to be a husband or a wife or a mom or a dad is important to you, then do not de-emphasize church. 

5A.   Fifth, THE CHURCH IS THE COMMUNITY OF THE REDEEMED

Acts 2.42, 46:  ď42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostlesí doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. . . 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.Ē 

1B.    I was lonely before my conversion.  Those of you who have grown up in church have never experienced that degree of loneliness, I hope.  But others of you may know what I mean.

2B.    God gives you something you can literally feel when you get converted and become part of a church.  And on many occasions have I heard people testify that church seems more like family to them than their blood kin.

3B.    Folks?  This church is your spiritual home.  Itís your little bit of heaven while waiting for heaven.  Itís your place of belonging in a world where you donít belong, and where youíve never truly felt like you belonged.

4B.    From Acts 2.42 and 46 we can be sure the saints in Jerusalem felt the same way.  Church is the one place you can come where truth is believed, where Christ is glorified, where God is honored, where growth is encouraged.  This is your green house in the winter and your oasis in the dessert, the place where you gather as the community of the redeemed.

5B.    Is that unimportant to you?  Itís profoundly important to me, which is on reason why I emphasize church so much. 

6A.   Sixth, THE CHURCH IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD WE LABOR TO BUILD

First Corinthians 3.12-17:  ď12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every manís work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every manís work of what sort it is. 14 If any manís work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any manís work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. 16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.Ē 

1B.    I will state what I can prove in Godís Word, but do not have the time to prove in the time remaining:  First, the congregation is the temple of God, verse 16.  Second, your labor as a Christian will be judged and rewarded, verses 13 and 14.  Third, and this is usually overlooked, your rewards will be for the part you played in building the temple, verses 12 and 16.

2B.    My friend, the reason the judgment seat of Christ will focus on your church activity and service is because the local congregation is Godís appointed means of spreading the gospel during this age in which we live.  If you fail to labor and serve in your church, regardless of your efforts elsewhere, you are not striving lawfully and will not be crowned, according to Second Timothy 2.5.

3B.    So, your involvement in church carries with it consequences that will be felt for eternity.  That being true, do not de-emphasize church. 

CONCLUSION:

1.   Folks, I could go on and on and on and on, but I think my point is already well made.  Church is important and should never be de-emphasized.  This church is important and should never be de-emphasized.

2.   De-emphasizing church is a part of the growing end time apostasy.  De-emphasizing church is part of a personís personal falling away from the Christian faith.  And de-emphasizing church is very obviously contrary to Godís will for your life, as we have seen in the Bible.

3.   So, donít ever let anyone convince you that this church is not important, and that it should not be emphasized.  Emphasize this church so much that you re-order your priorities to center around your church life.  Emphasis this church so much that it becomes the central focus of the outworking of your Christian faith.

4.   You see, there is nothing that you do that is more important than come to church.  More important than praying.  More important than witnessing.  More important than reading your Bible.  For you see, it is at church that you are taught to pray and how to pray, that you are prompted to witness and shown how to witness, that you are encouraged to read your Bible and told by your pastor what Godís Word actually teaches.

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