Our Father, we are indeed deeply grateful for the wonderful love You’ve expressed to us in Christ. We thank You for the voices of the ladies who sang so beautifully tonight the great message, “Calvary Conquered My Heart.” We thank You that indeed Calvary did conquer our hearts. We bow in submission at the cross to Christ. He did take away our sin. For that we’re grateful.
But, Lord, we face day by day and hour by hour a constant struggle as we endeavor to live according to Your principles and plans, as we endeavor to build the church in Your blessed name, as we endeavor to reach the lost wherever they are. We sense the enemy and the adversary at all times, pitting himself and all of his hellishness against us.
And so, Lord, we desperately call upon Your strength and Your power, not just for our conversion but for the very matter of living each day that we may know the divine resource that is available in You. Bless us as we look together at these thoughts that are in our hearts tonight and we’ll thank You in Christ’s name. Amen.
It’s really a wonderful joy to see so many of you here tonight. I thank God for the wonderful faithfulness of all of you to our fellowship. It’s a tremendous, tremendous thrill to me to know that you have this hunger for God’s truth, and that knowing we speak of serious issues in this particular time you’re here, yet to expose your heart and life to what the Spirit of God would say to us.
This morning I shared with you that I felt that in the last several months Satan had been working overtime at Grace Church. Satan had seemingly been attacking us with the greater amount of pressure, with heavier weapons, a more intense arsenal than I had ever experienced in the past and that I saw him attacking us at the very point of our basic commitments.
And I shared with you that four and a half years ago I gave a message on the marks of an effective church and at that time I tried to summarize the things that I believed to be true about the church, the things that I believed to be absolutely necessary if the church was to be blessed of God. These for me were the objectives. They were the direction, if not the perfection of our church. These were the principles that I believed we had to be absolutely committed to if we were to know the fullness of God’s wonderful blessing in our midst.
And in the four and a half years since, we have worked and prayed, desired with all of our hearts to see fulfillment in these areas. And though you may not have heard the message in the four and a half years in between, it’s been constantly in my mind. I’ve gone over those same notes again and again and again and again. And when I have gone out across the country or in other – other parts of the world to speak to pastors, I have gone back to those same principles and I have said this is what I believe the Bible says is necessary for a God-blessed church.
And so we have, for those four and a half years, endeavored to focus on these areas. And as I was analyzing recently the tremendous onslaught of Satan, I saw as I went back through these principles that Satan was hitting us in these very areas. And so I decided that I ought to reaffirm these areas, that I ought to reestablish these things, not that we have changed, we haven’t changed at all. It’s amazing, however, how much everything around us has changed. And unless we be reminded, we so easily fall into the persuasions of the world and lose the sense of commitment that God asks of us.
And so I shared with you this morning that I wanted to warn you that Satan wants to destroy Grace Church. And if you 4:21 ___ thought about it, you knew that was true. Satan wants to destroy this church, he wants to destroy everything that belongs to God. He goes around as a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour. He is the destroyer. The Bible calls him that. He is the usurper. He is the one who wants to make sure that God cannot accomplish His purposes in Christ. And so he works against the church. And I see him working in these very same specific areas.
Now this morning we began by saying the first principle I shared with you four and a half years ago that I believe is essential for a church that is knowing and experiencing the blessing of God is a plurality of godly elders, a plurality of godly leaders. And we have endeavored over the years that I’ve been here to see God build and bring to leadership in this church godly men.
But I have seen as never before, in the last six months the onslaught of Satan against the godly leaders of this church. I’ve spent time in prayer with elders in this church who have been attacked in almost every conceivable way in their own personal lives, key leaders in this church whose fall would have been a great and tragic thing. We see this happening.
We have seen attitudes even the church where people have lined up under certain leaders and there have been divisions. They haven’t been very large but they’ve been there and I believe it’s when they’re small they need to be dealt with. And then there’s always the imminent danger that one person would have more power than God ever intended.
And we have endeavored to reaffirm the fact that we are committed to a plurality of godly leaders and a group of people who will submit to – to those leaders. I want to go to a second point tonight. And again, I really don’t know how long I’m going to share with this – this one with you but there’s much on my heart that I’ll try to keep moving.
The second thing that we were committed to four and a half years ago, in fact we’ve always been committed to. In fact, Grace Church was committed to this before I ever came. But we reaffirmed it then and I reaffirm it now, is a high standard of holiness among all the people, a high standard of holiness among all the people. I can never think of a time in my ministry when I have seen the abandonment of the divine principles of moral behavior the way I’ve seen them in the last few months and years in Grace Church and across our country.
The whole nation is eroded morally, isn’t it? The whole nation. And the church falls victim to what happens in society. And that is happening in the church. But Peter knew that. He knew that that wouldn’t be anything new because the church in the New Testament had fallen prey to the corruption of society. Read the 1 Corinthian letter, and look and see that terrible series of tragedies that occurred in the life of the Corinthians as they went down a moral slide into a pit of immorality, so much so that there was even incest.
And they were proud of it in the church. First Peter 4:17 says this, “Judgment must begin at the house of God.” Before the church has any hope of reaching the world, the church has got to clean up its own house. And sin in the church is a crucial issue. Go with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 5 for a moment and let me just be specific about the matter facing the Corinthian church, at least in this one chapter. First Corinthians chapter 5, and we could talk about this in a lot of areas.
But, people, I am greatly disturbed about the immorality of our nation. I’m disturbed about the filth on the movie screen. I am disturbed about the filth on television. I am disturbed about the vile wretched satanic music that is pumped through the radio stations and the records. I’m concerned at what your children are listening to. I’m concerned that there are a million teen age pregnancies. I am concerned that they begin at the age of ten.
I am concerned when I hear people discussing abortions for their children. I am concerned when wives come in to tell of unfaithful husbands. I am concerned when husbands tell of unfaithful wives. I am concerned when we set about to marry somebody and then we find out that somebody is an adulteress, a fornicator who violated a previous marriage and forfeits that purity which I believe God sets apart for a second marriage.
I’m concerned about these things. I’m concerned about the immorality of not only the world, but I’m concerned that it even creeps into the church. And why should we be any more immune to it than were the Corinthian believers 9:43 ___, verse 1. “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you.” Commonly. It is reported commonly.
I mean, it’s just a known fact. It just goes without saying. You don’t even have to be specific. It’s just run of the mill. It’s just routine. We have to discipline people because of this. We hear about young teenagers who are living dissolute lives in repeated immoralities. And they are children of people in our own church. And so to the Corinthians he says, “It’s reported commonly that there’s fornication among you.”
You say, “Yeah, but maybe they were kind of a different church.” No, no. It says in chapter 1 that they were sanctified in Christ Jesus, they were called saints. It says that the grace of God had been given to them by Jesus Christ. It says they were enriched by Him in all utterance, in all knowledge. It says the testimony of Christ was confirmed in them. It says they came behind in no gift. It says they were waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Listen, that church had it all theologically. It had it all in terms of the gifts of the Spirit. It had it all in terms of the teaching and ministry that God could bring to bear. But in spite of all of that, the apostle says it’s reported commonly that there is sexual sin among you. And such as is not so much as named among the pagans. Amazing. Things that are worse than the world does. And then he lists one illustration that someone should have his father’s wife, that’s an incestuous relationship. And instead of being repentant, verse 2 says, “You are puffed up.”
I baptized a young man, said he was a converted homosexual. Within a few weeks he was back in that total life style, rejecting the Christ he had claimed. There are others in this church who are attacked in that area, in every area of morality constantly because Satan wants to destroy the church and lower the standard of holiness. People are always kind of pressuring you to be tolerant and more tolerant and understanding. “Well, well I know that’s wrong but you have to understand the pressure.”
Well we want to understand the pressure and we want to be as forgiving as God is. And the Lord said to Peter, “You’re to forgive seventy times seven.” In other words, infinitely. And we do forgive but that doesn’t mean we change the standard. I don’t care what the world does. I don’t care what is promoted on the films and the television. I don’t care what the music says in our day. That’s not where we get our standard. Our standard comes from the timeless and eternal Word of God which is unchanging. And if you tolerate that kind of stuff in your fellowship, all it will do is corrupt it.
Verse 6, “Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” You just have to put a little bit of leaven in, don’t you, to get the bread to rise, and it impacts the whole thing. “You better purge out the old leaven that you may be a new lump as ye are unleavened, for even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” In other words, Christ has provided for us – watch this – a purification and a separation that we are to follow in our behavior and in our living.
But in the Corinthian church they had tolerated evil, they had tolerated immorality. And so he says in verse 9 – watch this – “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.” When you know somebody who lives like this, when you know somebody that does this, you are not to have company with them. “Yet not all together with the fornicators of this world or with the covetous or extortioners or idolaters for then must you needs go out of the world.”
He says I’m not talking about the unsaved. I’m not talking about the ones that don’t know the Lord. You better company with them or you’ll never reach them for Christ. You can’t expect them to act any other way. You can’t go in to some dissolute situation with a bunch of ungodly people doing what their base nature tells them to do and say, “You know that you ought to be living better than you are.” They don’t have any resource to change that. They don’t have any capacity to alter that behavior. And so they must be reached.
You see, Jesus went among the sinners and the wine bibbers, didn’t He? And He hung around with the dirty politicians and the prostitutes and the street people and the scum of the earth. Why? Because they 12:20 ___ knew to be reached. Well what are you talking about, Paul? Well, verse 11, “But I have written unto you not to keep company if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator or covetous or idolater or railer or drunkard or extortioner; which such a one, no you’re not even to have a meal.”
We can’t tolerate that kind of thing in the church, people that are fornicators, porneia, sex sin – we get the word “pornography” from it – or covetous, people who are money hungry, whose minds are grasping at things that do not belong to them; or idolaters, people who worship other than the true God, whether their gods be religious or secular. Railers, that is people who speak evil of others, people who are verbally abusive. Or drunkards, people who are alcoholics. Beloved, that’s not a disease, that’s a sin. That’s a sin. But sin is more habit forming than we imagine. Or extortioners. You know what an extortioner is? It’s somebody who uses somebody to gain his ends. You’re not even to eat with them if they’re in the church. The standard hasn’t changed. That’s our standard.
And, you know, if you want to see Grace Church destroyed, all we have to do is lower the standard and let the sinful Christians be comfortable. Just let them be comfortable. That’s what they want. You know, the last thing a sinful person wants is to be confronted. You want to find a place where you can be comfortable.
You know, every once in a while, we’ll have somebody who commits a sin and is unrepentant and continues to live in that sin. And so we’ll go to that person and say, “You know, we wish you’d repent but if you don’t repent we’re going to put you out.” And they’ll say, “Well that’s okay, I’m going to go to another church where they’ll tolerate me.”
And you know what happens? More often than not when we discipline someone and put them out of the church, they go along to the next church and they’re accepted because nobody wants to rock the boat. But the church of Jesus Christ must be pure. We must be holy. You can’t tolerate sin. It’s destructive.
Look with me at Revelation chapter 2. I know that if we tolerated sin in this church the church would be destroyed. Better churches than this in God’s history have been destroyed by a toleration of sin. The Lord Jesus is writing in chapter 2 of Revelation in verse 18 to the church at Thyatira which was a city in Asia Minor to the east of Ephesus in the area now known today as Turkey. And He writes, “These things saith the Son of God who hath His eyes like a flame of fire and His feet are like fine bronze.”
Now, frankly, folks, that’s not a very comforting introduction. I mean, when the Lord introduces Himself as the one with eyes like a flame of fire and feet like fine bronze, it’s a little intimidating. The fire in His eyes is that which penetrates and sees all. The bronze feet is that which stamps out judgment.
And He comes to the church at Thyatira and He says, “I know thy works.” Boy, you’ve got a great program, lots of things going on. “And your love.” There’s love in that church in Thyatira. “And your service. Not only good works toward God, and not only a great love, and not only service to those outside, but your faith and your patience and your works and the last to be more than the first.” You’re even getting better. Isn’t that amazing?
“Boy, what a church,” you say. If this whole thing ended in verse 19, we’d make Thyatira the model church. What a great church. I mean, good works and love and service and faith and patience, and they’re getting better. The last works they’ve done are even better than the first ones.
“But” – verse 20 – “I have something against you because you allowed that woman Jezebel,” now I doubt if her name was Jezebel, nobody in their right mind would name their daughter Jezebel. It’s like naming your son Judas. Even Nero is only fit for a dog. Nobody is going to name their daughter Jezebel. But this is a characterization of whoever this woman was in the church of Thyatira, and the Lord just calls her by the name of Jezebel. “And she calls herself a prophetess and she has been teaching and seducing My servants to commit fornication.”
You allow her to come into the church and seduce people into sexual evil. And the implication is you didn’t do one thing about it. You know, you hear all the time, people will say, “Well, you know, MacArthur he’s kind of judgmental, and that Grace Church, pretty narrow over there. You know, they’re so narrow they hide behind a clothes line and all of that.” I hear all that stuff. “And you know they’re just hard nose about things and they’re not – they don’t have a lot of love.”
You want to know something? Thyatira had a lot of love but the Lord came in with eyes full of fire and feet of bronze. People say, “We need more love. We want to be sure we don’t offend.” “Oh,” I’ve heard people say, “I would never preach against that. Oh, it might offend and we must show love.”
Well Thyatira had a lot of love and they tolerated fornication. And in verse 21 the Lord says, “I gave her time to repent of the fornication and there was no repentance and the church never dealt with it, I’ll cast her into a bed and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation except they repent of their deeds.” They think they’ve seen a bed, they haven’t seen anything to the bed that I’m going to cast them into. “And I will kill her children with death and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and the hearts and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say and to the rest at Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine and who have not known the depths of Satan as they speak, I will put upon you no other burden.”
In other words, there was a true and a pure remnant but there was corruption. And the Lord says if that corruption doesn’t change, I’m going to come in judgment and there’s going to be some death. And, you know, if that corruption spread, it would be the death of that church, the death of that church. Sadly the church at Thyatira did die. Corruption took its toll.
God looks at Grace Church, I believe, and gives us the same message. If we choose to tolerate immorality, if we become at all soft on fornication or adultery or homosexuality or any other heinous sin, or covetous or any of those things like extortion or any other issue that the Bible pointedly speaks to – lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, or anything. As we become soft on those things we give footholds to Satan, don’t we? And we fail to provide restraints and we all need those restraints. And so a church can never tolerate sin.
Do you want to know something? You say, “Well, if you just teach the Bible, John, just keep teaching the Bible.” Well, you know, you can’t – if your life is all messed up it doesn’t do me any good to do that. I can talk till I’m blue in the face. I can even say things that are really good and clear and understandable and I can give you the best shot I’ve got. But if your life is messed up, you will not be able to receive that.
So the Word of God, the Word of God is only received by one who deals with those issues in his life. That’s why in 1 Peter 2 it says “as a babe desire the sincere milk of the Word.” Sure, but in verse 1 it says, “Cleanse – cleanse all of these things out of your life, set aside deceit and evil and guile and evil speaking,” and all of these other things, and then desire the milk. Because until you get your life purged you’re not even going to be able to receive the Word.
And, you know, when you talk about the sins of the saints in the early church, it shows how strongly God felt about them because in Acts chapter 5 we have the first sin in the church that was made public. And Ananias and Sapphira, you know, they were watching lots of people in – in the church. And some of the people in the church had decided that they would give their money to the Lord. They’d sell a piece of property and give their money to the Lord.
And, you know, the people in the church appreciated that. And there was a wonderful spirit. And so Ananias and Sapphira thought to themselves, “Well wouldn’t it be great if we did that? We want to be holy, too. We want to be pious.” And they were seeking self-righteousness. So they said, “Well, we’re going to sell a certain thing and we’re going to take all of the proceeds, we’re going to vow a vow to the Lord. We’re going to take all the proceeds and we’re going to give them to the Lord.”
Well that sounded great. And then when they sold it and they got all that money they decided, “Well, we’ll keep a little for ourselves.” They lied. They were covetous. And you know what happened in Acts 5. God struck them dead in front of the whole church right in the front. They just fell over dead, both of them. Now I daresay that’s a pretty strong lesson. And it went on to say in Acts 5 that nobody dared to join that church.
You know, I hope – I would hope we’d have a similar – you know, people in that day said, “Look, you don’t want to join that outfit, one false move and you’re dead.” You know, I would almost hope and pray that the church of Jesus Christ in the world today would have such a reputation that people wouldn’t even identify with us unless they were willing to pay the price of living the kind of life God asks.
You know, when Christianity gets so watered down that it just wants to embrace everybody and anybody and it wants to tolerate everybody and anybody. And all you’ve got to do is know a few code words and utter a few clichés and you’re acceptable, then all we’re doing is inviting problems. Because unless there’s clarity in terms of the commitment to salvation as it involves obedience to the lordship of Christ we are asking for immorality to entrench itself in the church.
Because if you bring into the church people who superficially appear to be saved but your examination is not clear enough to know the truth, you are inviting godlessness to co-exist. And that is a tragic thing when the Bible speaks of the devastation that can come to a church when there’s immorality of any kind.
And I was thinking recently about some things that we – we read some lists in the New Testament about murder and lying and stealing and fornication and homosexuality and adultery and all these gross kind of things. You know, I was reading and I also noticed that those lists include things like this. Busybodies. That is an interesting word, busybody. You say, “You mean it’s mixed up with murderers and liars and bad people?” Busybody? That’s right, busybody. No time to be about God’s business, no time for spiritual priorities, they’re too busy checking everybody out.
Those lists include whisperers. You know what whisperers are? Yeah, you do. “Have you heard about?” Whisperers. I don’t like people to whisper when I’m around. Do you like that? I don’t like that. I worry about that. I figure they’re saying something about me. I’m sure they are or they wouldn’t be whispering.
And then the Bible includes in some of those lists slanderers. You know what a slanderer is? Someone who speaks evil of someone else. Someone who speaks against someone else. You better be careful how you do that. That’s a corrupt act. I say that to my own heart, too, because we’re all tempted to do that, especially when people have stepped on us.
The Bible talks about wicked lips. Boy, that’s – that really hits home, wicked lips. It talks about talkers. It writes about tattlers, tattlers. 8:58 ___ That’s something you have to teach your children, don’t you? The other day I said to my kids in the midst of one of these little things, I said, “You know, we ought to have a newspaper we have so many reporters.” I think they got the message.
Tattlers, backbiters, gossipers, tale bearers, don’t be that way. God help Grace Church if you are. Purge your conversation just as you purge your life. Because if you don’t this church will suffer devastation. I promise you, it will suffer devastation. In James chapter 3 James says, “If you don’t control the tongue you’ll set the whole world on fire.” The whole world. You can’t do anything but you can say anything and the tongue is the most easily used part of the human body to do condemning devastating work. The immoral deed and the unwholesome word are intolerable and will destroy the holiness of the church.
You know, beloved, we’re going to have to make sure we’re committed to these things. The issue isn’t – as I said this morning, it’s not the government. The issue is not the IRS. The issue is us. And if we are committed to holiness in our lives, the gates of hell cannot touch us.
A young man named Dan Edwards was going to the mission field in Germany. Charles Spurgeon preached his ordination sermon. He said to him, “Young man, remember this, every cavalry officer keeps his saber clean. He wipes it off with the greatest care because he knows it is an indispensable weapon.” He said, “A pure and holy life is equally an awesome weapon in the hand of Almighty God.”
And then he said this and I’ve never forgotten it. I only read it once years ago. He said, “It is not great ideas God blesses, it is great likeness to Jesus Christ.” That’s true. That is true. You give me two men, one with an IQ of 170, one who is a great orator, brilliant, prolific, erudite, scholarly and you give me another man who is like Jesus Christ, with an IQ of 75, and it’s no choice. Because God works through holy instruments and an unholy one creates havoc in the church.
I’m telling you, people, if you want to see Grace Church destroyed, then you fall prey to the attack of Satan in your life as he tries to draw you into unwholesome deeds and unwholesome talk and unwholesome thought and unholy relationships and alliances as well. and you’ll do your damage to this church. We are only as strong as the weakest link. Isn’t that true? You see, 8:58 ___ your life for a lot of people is the reputation of Jesus Christ in the world. Do you understand that?
I went into the prison one time and I was preaching. And I preached a message and afterwards a guy came up to me and he said, “Man,” he said, “that was super. That was really right on.” I said, “Thank you.” He said, “Oh yeah,” he said, “I’m – I’m a Christian.” I said, “You are?” He said, “Yep.” He said, “In fact I worked for a Christian organization, I’m in the ministry.” I said, “You are?” He had a number on him.
I said, “What kind of ministry are you in, Secret Service?” You know.” I said, “What kind of ministry are you in?” He says, “Well I work with young people.” I said, “What are you doing here?” “Well,” he said, “I, you know, I got 14 traffic violations and a few other little deals and, you know, I’ve got to serve three months.”
I said this to him, you might not believe it but I did, I said, “Do me a favor, will you? Don’t let people know you’re a Christian.” I said, “It doesn’t help the cause.” In a sense that’s true. And we went on from there to talk. I hope it was helpful to him.
You see, you are the reputation of Jesus Christ in somebody’s world. And it devastates the whole testimony of the church if your life isn’t right. And, boy, you would be surprised what people pick up. Oh, I go around this community and people say to me, “34:00 ___ Ah, I have a friend who goes to your church but I’m really shocked to hear they go there. The guy’s always screaming at his wife.” You know, you’d be amazed what people tell me. And so, how important it is that we have more moral character.
Let me go to a third point. You know what. We could say so much more on that but I – I need to keep moving and the rest will go faster. Those really were key. If we want to see Grace Church destroyed, all we have to do is abandon the plurality of godly leaders and, secondly, lower the standard of morality. Thirdly, all we have to do is to fail to have the proper spiritual goals, the proper spiritual goals. You know, there was a movement a few years ago where everybody was saying, “Well, you know, you really don’t have to plan anything, you just kind of hang loose and the Holy Spirit just sort of brings it to pass.”
Yeah, well that’s what the Corinthians did and what a mess they had. They just let it all hang out and let the Holy Spirit do it. Only that wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. The Lord said to them, “Let the spirit of the prophets be subject to the prophets.” You better get your leaders to get their act together. And I really feel that one of the things that we said four and a half years ago that is still true and still is an affirmation, is that we must have goals and directions for the ministry.
We have to know the target if we’re going to hit it. If you don’t know what the target is, you’re sure not going to hit it. You say, “Well what does that have to do with us?” Just this. I don’t think we’ve hit it yet. I don’t think we’re there. But I think a lot of people think we are. We haven’t arrived, folks. But it’s so easy in a big church to get smug, self-content, status quo. “Well, you know, I’ve got my little group and we’re doing our little thing.”
And you know what happens as the time goes on in the church? You kind of settle, you know, it’s just like anything, you just kind of settle in. Everybody gets a groove, you know. And it’s us four, no more, shut the door, you know, we’ve got our little deal. Somebody recently said to me, “Well, we’re all going to leave Grace Church.” Why? “Well because, you see, we’ve got this wonderful little group.” I said, “Really? It’s just your little group?” “Oh, we’re so close and we’ve never been able to find anybody to match this little group.”
That’s not a good little group if you can’t get in it. You know? And they forgot the goals and objectives of the church. Not to create little groups, not to create people who are all settled in to little grooves, and they’ve forgotten that we’re still in a race and we’re still pursuing a goal. And one of the great fears I have for this church is that people think we’ve arrived. Here we are. Look, we’ve got all this thing here, it’s all filled up.
People say, “Well we certainly – I mean, it’s bad enough now, you’ve got to squeeze up and what are we going to do? I put my little child in the nursery, you know, and they give me back the wrong baby in my baby’s clothes, and you know.” Or, “I had to dig under three babies to get mine out.” “We’ve gone too far, we never should have come here. We – we – we,” you know.
I’ve even heard people say, “Small is good and big is bad. We don’t want to get any bigger. We – we – we just – we love our little group.” Boy, that is a strangle hold, you want to know that? Because we’ve forgotten our objective. The church is not a static organization, it is a living organism. I can no more stop it than I could start it. I had people actually say, “Why did you get this many people here? Don’t you realize the problems we have? Now we’ve got all these people we can’t minister to. What are we going to do?
We should never – these people should never have – we shouldn’t have built this building. If we just brought the walls in 30 feet, you see, then those people would have been outside and they could go home and they wouldn’t – we wouldn’t have to” That doesn’t make any sense. And my answer to that is I didn’t do this. I don’t know where the “go” button is and I don’t know where the “stop” button is either. I’ve had people suggest that I should leave before it gets any worse. That’s the truth.
“You should go because if you keep staying here it’s just going to get worse, we’re going to have more people.” And I say, “What is the – what are we supposed to be doing? Are we supposed to – is there a place in the Bible where it says that’s it, cut it off? And do not let anyone else get saved?” That’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. A church is a living organism, not a static organization.
People say, “Well, you know, the church has gone the way it’s gone. Now, what we really ought to do is just – we ought to go only to a certain number and then split off and then we’ll do another one like that and we’ll split off 39:47 ___” That doesn’t work that way. You can’t just – t’s not a piece of pie, you can’t just cut it in equal parts. It’s an organism. And there’s no model really except the New Testament model.
When anybody starts telling me the church is too big, I ask them what are they going to do when the church 40:03 ___ on the day of Pentecost had 3,000 the first day it was organized? And by the time you get to the next chapter they’ve got 5,000 and another chapter they’ve got 20,000. What do you think they did? Said, “Well, we’ve gone too far, let’s retreat?” No. They went on to fill all Jerusalem with their doctrine.
Beloved, you have to keep this in mind, we haven’t arrived. Every time I fly into this city on an airplane, I’m – I’m awed, aren’t you, at the sea of humanity. We think, “Isn’t it wonderful. Look, we’ve got 3,000 people here tonight, or whatever” Listen, there’s eight million people. That’s a lot more outside than inside. They’re everywhere and unreached and just as pagan as if they were running around in a jungle somewhere, maybe more pagan.
I realize there are many people in our church who aren’t having their needs met, but I’m not going to say, “Let’s – let’s not take the responsibility, we shouldn’t have gotten into this.” Let’s say “God gave us these people, let’s meet their needs.” Beloved, listen. The challenge to Grace Church is as exciting and great today as it was the day this church was founded.
Twenty some years ago a group of people met in a home, Dick Smith’s living room, right, Dick? And then it was a nursery. And they thought the challenge was great then. And then they built that little chapel over there. And I remember my wife and I on our honeymoon – she remembers our honeymoon because we went to a double-header and – I mean, I – it was my only opportunity to see Willy Mays twice.
We went to a double-header and then we went to Grace Community Church, even though I didn’t even have anything to do with this church. And it was a little chapel over there filled with little metal chairs on linoleum floor with outlines for shuffle board. And the challenge was great then. And then I came here and they had pushed the walls out. And then we were in the gym and now we’re here.
You want to know something? The challenge is greater now than it’s ever been. And it’s not the time for us to forget the goals. The goals are very clear in the Word of God. We are to edify the saints and we are to evangelize the lost. Isn’t that it? And that isn’t changing. And if you’re getting indifferent or smug or settled in or comfortable, then we’re in real trouble. If we have lost that same compassionate driving zeal, then we’re really in trouble. If you’re content with whatever little dimension of spiritual life you’re involved in, you are in trouble.
I was so thrilled the other night to have a friend say to me, “You know, I have a burden to reach a certain city and I want to do something to reach that city for Christ.” Boy, I was excited. That’s the way we ought to feel. But as time goes on and we have so many things, such a lovely place and such wonderful music and such a nice Family Center and great fellowship. And we have our dinners and Bible studies and our social times and all of these things fill our lives. And all of a sudden, instead of being in a war, we’re on a vacation somewhere. We’ve forgotten the goals.
You know, somebody said to me a few weeks ago, they said, “You know, for the first time this Sunday I sat on the front row. It’s really different. I always sit in the back and now, I have a whole new understanding of the church and what you were saying.” Well you know why, you’ve got to listen, I’m looking at you, right? You sit in spitting range and you better be listening. I’ll use you as an illustration.
But, you know, just as there are people who are on the limits of the seats, there are people who are on the periphery of the church too, aren’t there? Sure there are. You know, they come in, go out, that’s it. Oh maybe, once in a while, they show up at something. And they’re on the periphery and their needs aren’t being met. Beloved, we still have to reach out. Don’t assume anything.
Because somebody – I learned this a long time ago. Because somebody comes to church, don’t assume anything. Don’t assume anything. They still need our touch. Because, you see, “Oh I see them here all the time.” That doesn’t mean a thing. Don’t assume anything about that. They may be in the midst of heartaches. They may desperately need your prayers and your hand of warm love.
They may need your fellowship. They may need you to invite them over to dinner. They may need you to open your heart and your home to them. They may need you to take them along to a class in the morning or to invite them to a Bible study, or to ask them to come to baptism or something like that. You don’t have to take any of those things for granted. You need to reach out. I just fear, people, that having a lot of people makes us all so comfortable and then we get these little groups where we settle down and we stop reaching out.
You know when you – you ever—do you ever go on vacation and visit some little obscure church somewhere? It’s really kind of fun. You walk in and, of course, you’ve got to stand up and give a speech. The pastor says, “Well it appears that” – you know, they’ve only got 20. And here you come in, and if it’s us, you know, with four kids, we parade in and we double the congregation.
And we’re sitting, you know, and so you’ve got to give an explanation of who you are and where you’re from. And they – it’s a big and everybody’s involved. But when a church gets big it’s so easy to get lost. And, beloved, I just feel so strongly in my heart that we can’t lose our perspective on what our objectives are. We’ve got to touch people’s lives.
You know, we have 3,000 members in this church, 3,000 people who have said I submit my life to the elders and I want a ministry there, 3,000. But do you know on a Sunday morning there’s 7,000 people here and there are probably, I don’t know, Sam probably has calculated this. There must be 10,000 people who come and go at Grace Church with an absentee factor, right? All the time. If there are 10,000 members – or 10,000 attenders somewhat regular – and I’m sure that’s conservative – and 3,000 members, that’s 7,000 people who are somewhere and have some relationship to this church that’s undefined.
And I believe that we still have the objective of putting our arms around those people and loving those people and cherishing those people and nurturing those people and admonishing those people and edifying those people, and in some cases, evangelizing those people. And we can’t be contented. You know what happens? The more we get entrenched with our little friendships and our little circle, the less we can even find those people. And that’s a tragedy. That’s a tragedy.
And so, we need to be constantly alerted, constantly aware of the fact that the goals are clear, edify and evangelize. We need to be aggressive in reaching out to people. We need to be establishing Bible studies. We need to get involved in sharing books and tapes, bringing people to women’s ministries and men’s ministries and whatever else is going on. We need to be encouraging people to take Logos classes to get involved in ACTS, to take kids to AWANA, to bring them to the sports’ programs. Don’t assume that anything goes on without you because you’re vital to all of it.
You know, when a church gets so large it – everything gets kind of compartmentalized, and we see this even on the staff, you know. Guy’s over here and another guy is over here and another guy is over – and we forget that we all need each other. We all need each other. Oh, beloved, I’m so fearful in my heart that we’ll lose our goals, that we’ll think we’ve arrived. You know, here’s – you hear people say they go to Grace Church sometime almost as if it’s synonymous to being raptured. You know, like they’ve already gotten their crown.
Listen, it’s still a war and there’s still hungry hearts right in this place tonight. There’s still needy people who want somebody to touch their lives. My wife called a dear lady today ‘cause we found her Bible, and she expressed deep loneliness. She loves Jesus Christ with all her heart. She has a serious disease which prohibits her from always being her – here. And so she sits home all alone. And her heart is hungry for someone to love her and care for her. And the world and Grace Church is filled with those kinds of people.
We haven’t arrived, people. Don’t you think it for a minute. Listen, if we had an auditorium to seat 25,000 people, we wouldn’t be done, would we? Because our Lord said to go into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature. Make disciples out of them. Baptize them. Teach them all things whatsoever I have commanded you. We’ve got a tremendous task yet undone.
Well, I guess I said more about that then I had expected. How does Satan attack us? Number one, to get us to abandon a plurality of godly leaders. Number two, to get us to lower the standard of holiness. And number three, to get us so content that we forget the goals that we must run toward. Listen, I just have committed myself to the Lord in the last couple of days that I’m going to run faster, if I can. I’m going to work harder, I’m going to study better and I’m going to preach with more conviction than ever because I have a tremendous sense that the job is not done.
You know, I’ve been saying this – people kind of laugh – I’ve been saying this every year. I feel like we’re on the launching pad. We never seem to get quite off. The job is not done. And yet, isn’t it wonderful what God has done? Aren’t you thrilled? It is a joy to be a part of Grace Church, I trust, for you. You know, I hear about churches that have 15,000 or 20,000 members and they have attendance of 2500. I couldn’t handle that. I’d say, “Where are those 8.000 people every week who belong?”
I’d rather have 3,000 members who are here and have another 7,000 people that are beginning to come that we can reach. We have a great challenge. But Satan wants us to be smug, settled, confident, comfortable, success oriented. We’ve arrived, we’ve done it. Grace is where it’s at. You know, we used to have a little T-shirt that said that. And you could just sort of sit down in your little group in your little thing and you forget the goal.
You know what I get excited about? When I see a long-time Grace member whose been a member for years and years, who joins the EE team and goes out and bangs on doors to win people to Christ. Or a long-time person who has been around for a long time who is out there sharing Jesus Christ, who is teaching a Bible study, who is attending a Bible study, who is teaching a Fundamentals of the Faith class, who has got his or her arms around some dear person who needs them, somebody who is constantly stepping out of that comfortable little element to be where they’re just desperately needed.
Somebody said to me the other night, “You know, are you going to have another discipleship group?” And I said, “You know, I am, but you don’t need me anymore.” There are others who may. And you have to just keep stepping along. And some people you leave behind, don’t you? Because you’ve done all you can do and you move on. Beloved, will you pray with me about these things? They’re really on my heart.
We don’t want Satan to hit us in the area of our leadership, our righteousness, or our perspective. The job isn’t done, the goal is still to win the lost and build the saints and we must be at it. That’s what they said about the – the student revival in England that became the Methodist Church. One of them men said, “The reason they succeed is they are all at it and they are always at it.” Let’s pray.
While your heads bowed for just a moment, there’s a great joy in my heart to share these things with you, even though it’s not a normal study as we’ve been doing in Daniel. I feel like I’m talking to the people I love and I feel like a – like a family meeting is going on. And it’s good and it’s wholesome and it’s healthy. But, of course, the fear is that we would forget. I – I want you to remember these things and the best way to do it is to jot them down and make them a matter of prayer, make them a matter of prayer.
One of the staff members said to me tonight – he said, “If” – he said, “I had plans for today, I was going to go somewhere but in response to your message I decided that the thing I ought to do is stay home and pray.” That’s the – that’s the right response. I hope you’ll do that. I have other things and I’m going to share them next Sunday. But I really believe we’re on the threshold of the greatest experience that Grace Church has ever known.
I’m telling you, I get so excited about the things that are coming to pass. I get so thrilled about what’s on the horizon. I just say to myself, you know, if every one of these people here on a Sunday night went out and brought one other person, just one other person who came to know Christ, or who already being a Christian began to be nurtured and fed and matured, we could reproduce at such a rate that we could touch thousands and thousands of lives in 1980. Do you bring people with you? Do you still see the goal? Or have you lost all of that? Have you lost the perspective?
Father, we come to You tonight, asking that You would indeed touch our hearts. We thank You for this church. I thank You for it. Oh, Lord, what a joyous place this is, how deeply we’re grateful. How much love we share with precious people that make up this family. How enriched we are, for here we have been taught, here we have been nurtured, here we have been thrilled and blessed, here we have given of ourselves to each other.
Oh, this is special to us, Lord. But may we never become indifferent. May we know that as hard as we work, so does the enemy work to corrupt the leaders, to lower the standards, to get us off the goal. Help us to abandon ourselves to your purposes and your goals till Jesus comes. We pray in His name. Amen.
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