For today and last Lord’s day, we've been looking at the subject, How to Destroy Grace Church, because I’ve been so very much aware of Satan’s tremendous attack. Now, we said four and a half years ago that were some marks of an effective church. And we have found that those very marks that we established as the direction of our church are the very areas where Satan attacks us.
The first one we mentioned to you was the plurality of Godly leaders and Satan attacks us at that area. In fact, we were talking the other day, that every time we come to this part of the year when we are selecting new elders and we are reassigning responsibilities of the board, it seems as though there's always a major event that happens to create some kind of a chaos as Satan tries to worm his way into the process of appointing the Godly men to leave the church.
We saw, also, that Satan has attacked us in the area of our standard of holiness. There is this constant attack to lower the standard of acceptable behavior, to water down the virtues that the Bible calls for in terms of our behavior in life.
Thirdly, we saw that Satan attacks us in the area of our spiritual objectives and goals by making us become lazy and indolent and self-satisfied and settled, and thinking everything is the way it ought to be. And we become kind of smug and content and we forget that this is a war and this is a race. And it isn't won and it hasn’t been run, and we still must push through.
And then, this morning, we named three other areas where Satan attacks us, and that is we are committed to a strong emphasis on discipleship and we see Satan attacking in that area, trying to disrupt the discipleship process by – by creating a spectator mentality. Or by people assuming that a friendship is – is a discipleship fulfillment, or by us just never passing on the legacy of faith that God has granted to us, but becoming, as we said this morning, spiritual cul de sacs where everything just comes to an end.
A fifth principle for an effective church is an active ministry in people, and we've seen how Satan endeavors to – to end that to make sure Christians don’t use their spiritual gifts to minister to one another.
And then finally, sixthly, this morning, we looked at the – the idea that Satan attacks us in the area of our love for one another. And we summed it up this morning by saying that Grace Church can be destroyed. There’s no question about that. It can be destroyed, readily so, by a lack of Godly leaders, a failure to keep a standard of holiness, a lock of spiritual growth for which we strive, failure to disciple one another to Christ’s likeness, failure to minister our gifts, failure to love one another in a caring, forgiving and intense way.
And we come to a seventh point now, and I'm going to run through the final ones rather rapidly. Number seven, Satan can destroy us if we concentrate too much on ourselves and our people and our program, and we fail to penetrate the community. When we talked about this four and a half years ago, we said that if the church is to be effective it must penetrate its community. We must penetrate this community for Christ.
With all of our preoccupation with loving one another, with all of our concern about ministering spiritual gifts, with all of the tremendous effort that we make towards discipleship, with all of our spiritual goals and plans and striving, with all of the concern about a high level of holiness, with all of the direction that we give towards seeing Godly men lead this congregation, if all of that leads us to become self-centered and ingrown, it can destroy us.
We must turn out. We must reach out. We cannot inbreed and produce anything other than deformity. And so there must be a penetration of this community for Christ. And we have shared so many, many times the need for this. There must be evangelism. I told you this morning that in order to be a discipler, you must beget. There must be evangelism. And I thank God, over the last three or four years particularly, God has touched our hearts in the area of evangelism and people have been won to Christ.
I'm kind of curious. How many of you have been won to Christ in the last year? Put your hand up if you’ve come to Christ in the last year. Put your hand up. That’s great. God bless you. Maybe 100 or 150 people or so. I don’t know. Maybe more. I thank God for that. But that’s not a drop in the bucket, is it. I kind of think that for every one of us who knows Jesus Christ, there ought to be somebody else who just came to know Jesus Christ. There ought to be such a commitment.
You know the church can penetrate a community in a lot of ways. And it isn't just by going down the block, you know, and buttonholing people and saying, “Brother, you're on your way to hell.” I remember when I was learning how to preach in Bible College and they would drive me up and drop me on the bus depot and say, “All right, preach. We'll be back in an hour. And I would stand in the Greyhound Bus Depot and I would first of all say, “Lord, you’ve got to help me ‘cause this is really dumb.
All these transients and people roaming around the bus station and all this diesel fuel, all this noise and racket and people banging in and out of doors. And here I am, all of the age of 18 years old, preaching. People are saying, “So young to have lost his mind. Poor kid.” That’s where it all started for me. There are a lot of ways to penetrate the community and they don’t have to be like that. Finally, after a couple of weeks they dropped me off, and then I – I'd just go around and talk to individuals and try to share Christ with them. And I found that to be much more fruitful.
Now, we did have some successful street meetings. And we finally decided, if they're going to make us do that, we're going to get some music, and get a guy that can play an accordion and get somebody that can sing, and get a little PA system and go down on a street corner and do it the way it ought to be done and do it the – the best we can. But there are a lot of other ways.
Do you know that according to a survey that was done in the United States some years ago, the number one reason people go to a church is the looks of the grounds? Did you know that? You want to know why we mow the lawn? You want to know why we try to make facilities that look nice and have some flowers and enhance the community?
Listen, if you’d have lived in this neighborhood some years ago, this entire property right here was leaves and chicken coops. Old, dilapidated, beat up chicken coops. We used to use those chicken coops for our Sunday school classes. We used every other one because every intermittent one was occupied by an old wino, an old bum, and we didn’t want to throw him out. And it was difficult to win them to the Lord because they were never sober. It was a mess.
And Grace Community Church changed the face of this community, so that sometimes I read real estate ads in the newspapers that say “Near Grace Church.” There are lots of ways to penetrate the community. I remember that when Joe Doria and his wife, Ursula, came here to Grace Church, and we had a discussion about their family and all. And I asked them, “What was it that brought you here and what was it that ultimately brought you to Christ?” And they said, “It was the looks of the grounds that attracted us.”
The second reason people go to church is the ease of parking. But that’s only the beginning. The third reason they go to church is when they see something’s happening there. The fourth reason they go to church is the nursery, and the fifth reason is the friendliness of the people. And the sixth reason is the pastor.
I'll never forget a Jewish lady was down at the synagogue trying to get counseling for a broken marriage. And she hadn’t paid her dues, and so they said, “We can't counsel you to pay your – till you pay your dues.” And she got very upset and she came to Grace Church. And she walked in the family center – we were still preaching over there – and she listened and she watched and she looked, and within a week she received Jesus Christ. And she said to me one day, she said, “I never heard a word you said. I just kept looking around at these incredibly friendly, happy people. And I said, ‘I don’t know what they’ve got, but I want it.’” There's a lot of ways to penetrate a community.
In fact, I think it’s very, very true that the corporate testimony and love and excitement, the corporate testimony that we give as a church in the community is an attractive thing that initiates contact for Jesus Christ. And I believe that this tremendous great group of people is a living testimony to the vitality of life in Christ that this community has to face.
We penetrate this community by our presence here. And when we leave this place and inundate Jo-Jo’s or Mike’s Pizza or Bob’s Big Boy or – I don’t know where you go. Wherever it is, it says something to this community. The early church, it says in Acts 2, went everywhere “praising God” – in fellowship, in love, breaking bread and – “having favor with all the people. And the Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved.”
You show me a broken, a weak, an unhappy, ineffective, nonexciting, not-growing church and I'll show you a church that has no impact in the community for Christ. None. And when somebody from that church tries to communicate Christ to somebody, it’s hard to believe it because they can't see that it’s that exciting. I love it when Grace Community Church creates the largest traffic jams in the San Fernando Valley. It ought to be that way.
That early church was an issue. They were so excited, they literally filled the temple. And you read Acts 2, Acts 4, Acts 5, they were so excited they would fill the temple and they would be praising God and they would be praying and they would be studying the apostles’ doctrine and they would be fellowshipping and they would go from house to house breaking bread and they would be having a wonderful time. And the whole of the city was in awe of them, and finally came to them and said, “You have filled all Jerusalem with your doctrine.”
I thank God that this church has penetrated the community. And we have to keep doing that. I like it when somebody from the news media calls me and says, “You know, we want to know what’s going on over there.” I like it when the ERA marches in the patio. I like it when – when the newspapers say that “They're saying something different over there.” Now, I'm not just trying to make trouble, but we are trying to call people to the attention of the Word of God.
The early church went through the world shattering the world. And when the world reacted in persecution and scattered them, in the 8th chapter of Acts, they went everywhere preaching Christ. And all it did was scatter them into the gentile world and marvelous things began to happen.
Beloved, we have been through the study of the Beatitudes in the book of Matthew. And if we ever lived that Beatitude character, if we ever really begin to live the way the Beatitudes tell us to live – and you ought to keep that tape series somewhere very near so you can listen to it about once a month. If we ever lived the way the Beatitudes tell us to live – the result is in Matthew 5:13 and following – we will become salt and what? And light in the world. And men will see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.
Does your life give opportunity to witness for Christ? Does your life create a platform in which the testimony of Christ is believable? I believe that every one of us, as we go into the community – the way we live and jobs and the way we do business in the stores and the restaurants in the city of Los Angeles or wherever we live – wherever we go, we are laying down a platform that either makes our testimony or somebody else’s testimony believable or not believable.
And somebody stands up and says, “Well, I want to tell you about Jesus Christ.” And the answer comes back, “Oh, I used to know some Christians. Let me tell you what they did to me.” That’s the end of your testimony. The credibility is laid by the lives of God's people and then we have a platform from which to speak, don’t we? And then, even though all of us may not do the speaking, if we've lived the Godly lives we share in the drawing of the net because we have been part of laying down that believable platform.
You know, Jesus said, “Go into the highways and byways and compel them to come. It isn't just influence. It isn't just that we are to influence the world. We are to proclaim to the world. We are to preach Christ to the world. We are to reach out to the world. Let me just take you on a running tour, starting in the 13th chapter of Acts, for a moment, very, very briefly. And I want you to get a feeling for how the early church penetrated the world. In Acts 13:44, it says “the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.” Now, that’s what we want to see. We want to make an influence in the city as was made in the 13th chapter of Acts.
Look at the 14th chapter. “And it came to pass” – verse 1 – “in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.” Chapter 16 verse 4, “And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.”
Chapter 17 verse 2: “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures” – in Thessalonica – “opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.” Again, the advance, the evangelism of the church.
Down in verse 11, they came to Beria, and “They were more noble than those in Thessalonica, and they received the word with all readiness of mind, and they searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” Chapter 18 verse 28: For he mightily” – speaking of Apollos here – “convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” Publicly.
You know, in our artificial world where everything is pretaped, preaching in the Church of Jesus Christ is a public presentation of the gospel that’s live as it happened, confronting the world. Sometimes, people will say to me, “You know, so and so’s here today. You want to kind of be careful.” Because he’s so and so or she’s so and so. And, you know, I think about that for a few seconds. And then I say, “Well, I'm going to go ahead and preach what I'm going to preach anyway, and just thank God for the privilege because that’s the calling. Publicly to show that Jesus is Christ,
We come into the 19th chapter of Acts and nothing changes. The great preaching goes on. “And many” – verse 18 – “that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds.” And they burned their magical books. And verse 20, I love it. This could sum up the book of Acts. “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” You know, I believe the Word of God can prevail. In fact, and it may seem strange, I think there's a – there's almost a desperation in our society where people are finally saying, “Is there anything we can believe?” And I think we, with the Word of God, can step into that vacuum.
They went everywhere shattering the kingdom of Satan. In Acts chapter 20 in verse 21, Paul says that he was “testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” And he has been so faithful to do it that in verse 26 he says, “I testify to you this day that I am pure from the blood of all men.” I have discharged my divine calling and responsibility.
And he went everywhere. At the end of the letter to the Philippians, he says,” The saints greet you, chiefly they of Caesar's household,” which means that even when he was a prisoner, when he was chained to a Roman soldier, he was busy leading people to Christ. The problem was not Paul being chained to the soldier. The real problem was the poor soldier that had to be chained to Paul.
I thank God for the people that are involved in EE. I thank God for the people that are out there compelling people to come to Christ. But at the same time, I have a great burden in my heart that we just constantly fill this auditorium with us. I love all of you; I'm so glad you come. And, frankly, I don’t know what we'd do with the others if they did come. But I think the Lord could take care of juggling the statistics.
I just feel that we need to be setting our hearts and minds to reaching people for Christ. One of the things that we really want to do is to open up the possibility of doing that somewhere. I don’t know what the future holds. We have this building designed to put in a balcony. We can get another thousand seats in here and have two services on Sunday night. If we need, one on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We don’t know. But we want to provide the opportunity for you to bring people so that they can hear the preaching of the Word of God.
We want you to become fishers of men that reach out to touch the lost for Christ. This, I believe to be such a high calling. Some months ago, when I preached on Matthew chapter 4, I read you this little parable. I want to remind you of it because this can happen to us, friends. Grace Church can become such a great place to be that we just let it exist for its own sake and we forget who’s out there. And this parallel illustrates it better than anything I’ve ever read. You might remember it as I read it, but it’s a good reminder.
“On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut and there was only one boat. But the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea and with no thought for themselves went out every day and night, tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little lifesaving station, so it became famous.
“Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New lifeboats were bought and new lifesaving crews were trained. And the little lifesaving station grew. Some of the members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped, and they felt a little more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those who were saved from drowning in the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots and the emergency beds and put better furniture in the large building.
“Now, the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members and they decorated it beautifully, furnished it exquisitely because they used it as a sort of a club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do the work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in the club’s decoration and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club met.
“About this time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. And they were dirty and sick and some of them had black skin and some of them had yellow skin. And the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where the victims of the shipwreck could be cleaned up before they came inside.
“At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the lifesaving activity because it was unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted on lifesaving operations as the primary purpose and pointed out they were still called a lifesaving station. But they were voted down and told if they wanted to save the lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast, which they did.
“And as the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that occurred in the old and it evolved into a club. And yet, another lifesaving station was founded and history continued to repeat itself. And if you visit the coast today, you find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters and most of the people drown.” Pretty vivid, isn't it?
The church that ceases to be a lifesaving station becomes a club. Satan pushes us that way. Churches today in America are filled with entertainment, entertainment. Frankly, I realize that they have to entertain the people to bring – to bring them back because the preaching drove them away in many cases. But churches in America are engaged in entertainment. Churches are content with just getting members. They wait around until another church splits, and then when they get a new load, they think they're growing.
We're not committed to that. The temptation is to avoid winning the world while becoming like the world. The church of Pergamos, Revelation chapter 2, began to compromise with the world. And it was so involved in becoming like the world, it never had any message to confront the world. People say, “Well, we just have to accept the homosexuals and we need to accept the women’s liberation and we have to accept all of these things that are happening in our society and we just have to take it easy. I'm certainly anxious to be loving about it.” And so, eventually, you just have no message left.
I'm always criticized for taking a firm biblical position on marriage and divorce, a firm biblical position on the family, homosexuality, morality, a biblical view of salvation, a biblical view of evangelism, a biblical view of true ecumenism and not the false church that keeps coming together. And people say that “they're criticizing us for that.” But we have to offer an alternative to the world.
Now, some people think that the answer is TV, that if we really want to reach the world we've got to get on TV. Well, you know, television is just like radio. It has, I think, helped a lot where Christ is truly presented. But that’s a fantasy, folks, not a reality. You understand? That’s a fantasy. That’s just a – that’s where we can – we can just create a hiding place for people.
The electronic church inevitably comes through as a – as an expression of cultural religion. It apes the values and the glimmer and the trappings of the very system that the world has developed. It’s slick, it’s entertainment oriented, it’s very lowkey on content and it’s totally non confrontive in many cases. It has compromising music and the whole thing.
Martin Marty said “Late Saturday night Mr. and Mrs. Invisible Religion get their jollies from the ruffled shirt of pink-tuxedoed men and high-coiffured, low-neckline celebrity women who talk about themselves in the guise of born-again autobiography. Sunday morning the watchers get their jollies as Holy Ghost entertainers caress microphones among spurting fountains.
“Are they to turn off the very set and then make their way down the block to a congregation of real believers, sinners, off-key choirs” – sorry about that, Clayton – “sweaty and homely people ... people they don’t like but are supposed to love, ordinary pastors who preach grace along with calls to discipleship, pleas for stewardship that don’t come well-oiled?” Why “never.” Why should they put up with that?
“Since the ‘electronic church,’” he says, “you remind me, at least ‘preaches Christ’ and thus may do some good, let it be. Let its members pay for it. But let the church catch on to what is going on and go its own way undistracted by the offers of cheap grace or the language of the cross without the bearing of the cross.”
I think radio and television is a great way to reach people as long as you have something to say when you're on there and you don’t compromise yourself so that your message is meaningless. But on the other hand, it isn't the real church, is it? And it doesn’t really reach out a hand and put it around a broken heart. And I never could – could get too excited about mailing in my prayer request and having some guy tell me he’s going in pray tower – a praying tower to lay his hands on all 17,000 of them. Doesn’t really do a whole lot for me. If I want to have somebody pray, I want to have somebody that breathes and somebody that doesn’t have to pray for 17,000 other people’s requests.
The great evangelistic agency in the world today is the church of Jesus Christ. It is the local church. If God wanted to reach this community, the best plan is to have is to put a whole lot of Christians right in the middle of it and say, “Go get them.” Because we're real people and we're going to touch them where they live. God help us to do that.
I praise God for our evangelism training, for our people who go out and share Christ. I just get so excited at baptism and services when people come to Christ, and they tell me they – they were led to Christ by the guy who works to them or a little lady at the office or some neighbor or somebody who came to the door. Oh, beloved, we ought to double this church every six months.
Listen. I believe Satan attacks us in this area, makes us lazy. Get us so messed up with our kids just trying to get here that we could never bother to bring anybody with us. Or make sure everything is such a mess in the morning that we just can hardly get organized ourselves to be here. Or to get our lives so full of other things that we can't give ourselves to investing in the life of someone who doesn’t know Christ. And I have just as much a struggle with this as you do. I think Satan attacks us in that way. He’d love us to get all ingrown and all theologically fatheaded and lose our love for the lost. God help me if I can sit on a hillside and look over the city of Los Angeles and weep as Jesus wept.
I believe Satan is attacking us in another way, the eighth area. I believe he wants us to forsake our devotion to the family. I believe he wants to forsake – us to forsake our devotion to the family. One of our pastors came to me tonight in our prayer time as we were praying before we came in. He said, “John, I don’t know how you handle this kind of a thing, but I can't handle it in my heart at all.” He said, “I'm going through it right now with three or four of the couples in our class whose marriage is on the rocks, whose families are falling apart.
A man came to me this morning and said, “I want to introduce you to my friend. His life is all falling apart. After 20 years of marriage, his whole family’s coming apart. He can't control his children. It’s a real disaster.” In our Monday night meeting, we had to speak of a couple in our church that decided that they didn’t want to be married anymore. And they went their own way and there was terrible sin involved and still is.
I'm telling you, people, I have never seen in my life anything like the attack on the family today. You know something. Just the morals of the young people in our society are so unspeakable, and it’s a drowning that they're undergoing through the records and the movies and the television. Television is nothing but what you could call soft pornography. It is a drowning in the stuff. And I'm telling you, from the music that I hear coming out of the world, you could take about 95 percent of those records and smash them and do everybody a favor. And sometimes, the worst words come in the nicest package.
Subtly, families are being devastated. Divorce – you know, here we are in the church. Here we teach the Word of God. Here are people who have heard the series on the family and have studied the Bible, and they just walk away. We find – we marry couples, and three or four months later, we find out they have separated and somebody’s run off with somebody else. Just constantly going on. I’ve never seen anything like it, never.
The family is being attacked in so many, many areas. I just jotted down a few. First, the heterosexual nature of the family is being attacked. I can't believe what's going on in the name of homosexual rights. Homosexuals don’t have any rights because they are sinful. Does being a vile sinner give you certain rights. And we have rights for murderers and thieves and robbers and everybody else. How did that get to be a minority? That’s not a minority. That’s a sin.
Homosexual rights? That’s an attack on the solidarity of the heterosexual family; does that ever bring chaos. Homosexual teachers, homosexual parents, and now, homosexuals adopting children. Homosexuals being part of the judgeships and high-ranking positions in our own state. All this does is attack the heterosexual nature of the family.
The headship of the man is being attacked, isn't it? Sure. I mean this is – this is more than ever in our lifetime. The headship of the man is being attacked. I mean the women’s lib movement is just beginning. We think it’s bad. We haven't really seen anything. The Bible teaches the headship of the man. Not because he’s better but because it’s necessary to have a leader and a follower.
The submission of the woman is being attacked. Women are being forced out of the home. You just watch the commercials on television, and you just watch how many of them show the liberated woman. I – I watched one not long ago where both of them were having a difficult time getting to work on time in the morning until they came up with some new product. And have you seen the one, you know, about the woman, and she can do this and she can do that, and she can do this and go out and earn $50,000 a year to boot. And she can get the breakfast and she can dress the kids and dit da dit, you know.
Fact of the matter is that isn't true. The Bible says “a woman is to be a keeper at home.” When I said that here at Grace Church, I thought the sky fell in. When I said that woman ought not to work, but they ought to go home and take care of the family, you’d have thought I'd set down in outer space. All I was doing was quoting from Titus.
And then we're finding an attack on the submission of children and now, we're into this big deal about children’s rights. And then there's an attack on the right to – to punish your children or to chasten your children or to spank your children. I would predict within the next few years that right would be removed by federal law as it has been in Sweden.
They're questioning whether we have the right to teach our children moral values or spiritual truths or to give them a preference in religion. And then, maybe something that’s so fearful you can't hardly speak of it without agony. The family is being attacked even at the right of children to be born. I suppose of the ones we know about, there have been between six and seven million abortions. That’s murder pure and simple. Murder. That’s what the Bible says.
And now, you can even take a special test to find out the sex of your child. And if you prefer a male and it’s a female, you can have it aborted. That’s no different than the Romans. When a child was born, if it was a male the thumb went up. If it was a female the thumb went down and they drowned it. Children don’t even have the right to be born. What a conundrum that the very children who are supposed to have so many rights don’t even have the right to be born.
The family is under attack. We've never had so much divorce. We've never had so much adultery. I’ve never seen so much separation. I’ve never seen so much hanky panky in marriages where people can't decide whether they stay together or they go home to mother, and back and forth and back and forth. I’ve heard the craziest things. “The Lord told me to leave my husband.”
Premarital sex. Just to give you some indication of the agony of this, the album we did on the family is the biggest response of anything we have ever done in the history of our tape ministry by far because people are so desperate in this area. Frankly, people, when the family goes, society goes. Is that true? True. And we are watching the erosion of American society.
And I'll tell you another thing. If the families in the church start breaking up, the church will disintegrate. It is predicated on God's design for the family. And we're going to boldly fight for the right of the family to be biblical. And they may have to haul me away, kicking and screaming on that point, but I'm not going to bend on it. I think the man ought to be the head of the house and the woman ought to be submissive, and the man ought to take care of provision and the woman ought to go home and take care of the kids. And that’s the priority. And I believe that God has designed the children to be submission to their parents.
And I believe that God has designed heterosexuality to be the basic physical characteristic of marriage and life, sexually, in this world, and I think that’s the way it is and I'll not compromise that. And, of course, it may come to the place where in our own church if we weren't willing to stop speaking against homosexuality, we won't have a right to exist under the laws of our state as a corporation. But that’s okay. We don’t need to be a corporation to be a church.
I believe our staff is concerned about this, more, perhaps, than any other one thing in a day-to-day basis. And that's what we pray so much about. It’s a heartache, people, to see the attack on the family. Will you make a covenant with you and your wife? Will you renew the vow of “the wife of your youth,” as Malachi said it, and reaffirm the standard of your family?
Another way to destroy Grace Church, in addition to these, is to make us substitutes – watch this one – form for reality, and forsake a willingness to change and innovate. Now, this is kind of a touchy thing. I just want to hit on it briefly. Four and a half years ago, I told you that the mark of an effective church was a willingness to change. The seven last words of the church are “We've never done it that way before.” Whenever you get the form set in concrete, you're in real trouble.
I mean if there wasn’t a Sunday morning service, would you still be a Christian? Maybe that’s the bottom line. We become so identified with forms. And unless we are willing to change, unless we have a reality, not a form, we miss it. And we can have our evangelical forms just as much as anybody else. I talked to a lady at new years and she said, “Do you have a” – or Christmas Eve. She said, “Do you have a Christmas Eve candlelight communion?” I said, “No.” She said, “We do in our church.”
She named the church. It’s not a church; it’s a stone quarry. There's no life there. It’s deader than a doornail and has been for 40 years. Last time I heard about it, somebody slipped vodka in the junior high dance. That’s not a church. Pastor doesn’t believe in the Bible or the deity of Jesus Christ, as far as I know, at least in the past, or is questionable. She says, “Well, we have that.” I said, “You do.” She says, “Yes, we've always had that.” I said, “Do you go?” She says, “Oh, no. No, not many people go but we always have it.” Fortunately, they don’t go.
So many people worship the form and don’t even know the reality. Some people would literally collapse if there were no Sunday morning service. You know I'd be – I'll be honest with you. I've been raised in a church, really. I mean I have like – growing up in a church, I have – I have the largest Quarterly collection you’ve ever seen. I’ve got a Quarterly from every year of my life in Sunday school.
I had – by the time I was 15, I had about eight zipper bibles they kept giving me every time I graduated. I had little stars and turkeys stuck all over my head all through my youth. Actually to find new areas because I was getting scarred where they kept sticking me. I had stuff pinned all over my clothes ruin most of the coats my mother bought me from memorizing verses or whatever.
And I'll tell you the way it is for me now. Sunday, whether I like it or not, has become a routine, that if – if I can't get to a Sunday night service somewhere, I get withdrawals. I have a real problem with it. So I understand that mentality. It’s so easy to substitute a form for reality. The institutional church so easily canonizes its forms. That’s exactly what the church in Sardis did in Revelation chapter 3 verse 1. It had forms. It had a name. It had works. But it was dead. No life.
You know the buildings and the services in a church can become a structural pope. And your Christianity can have its beginning and its ending when you enter that situation. Spurgeon said, “Suppose there were no church buildings, no chapels, no sermons and no assemblies for worship, would you be a Christian?” A good question.
Now, I don’t know what the future has. But you better have something real enough to change if the change has to come, right? We may have to have another service on Saturday night. We may have to do a lot of things to change. We don’t know. We don’t know what God has for us in the future. But we have to have a reality that doesn’t depend on forms. And if you can't make a change in the form, then you have made what is changeable into something that is changeless, and you’ve missed it.
Let me illustrate it to you. Turn to Matthew 15 verse 1. “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?’” Oh, I love that. That is so revealing. Why do your disciples break the rules of tradition? Now, where did tradition come from? They invented it. It wasn’t from God. It was the tradition of the elders. “For they don’t wash their hands when they eat.” Now, they weren't talking about just washing up so they didn’t contaminate the food. They were talking about ceremonial washing that the Jews had invented.
Why don’t they do that? Don’t they know that’s the tradition. Jesus said, “Well, why do you transgress the commandment of God with your tradition?” Oh, what an answer. Why do you break the commandment of God with your tradition? And immediately, they would have said, “Oh, what are you saying?” And then He said to them, “For God said Honor your father and mother. And he that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.” God's law said you better take care of your mother and father. “But you say, whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, it is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother. Thus ye made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.”
Now, what did they do? The commandment of God said take care of your mother and father. So old mother and old father would come poking along and they would say, “You know we're all out of resources. We have some real needs.” And those who were playing pious games in the tradition of the elders would say, “Oh, you know, we would love to meet your needs. But you see all of this money is corban. It is a gift and we have vowed it to God. That’s our tradition and so it’s not available to you unless you want to lay a claim to something given to God. Boy, what intimidation, huh?
And the Lord says that’s no divine principle. In your stupid, self-righteous, pious, phony, supposed gift to God, you're really saying, “I'm not interested in meeting your needs.” And you're breaking a commandment of God with your tradition. Verse 7, “You hypocrites.” And then in verse 9, He sums it up. “For in vain they worship me” – Why? – “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Listen, people. We better always know the difference between what is divine and what is human. And forms are human. You can't make something sacred out of this form. This is just accommodating our society and our culture and our time and our needs. I remember some time ago when some of the men came to me and said, “You know what we need in our church? We need to reorganize the whole church.” And I kind of swallowed. “We need to reorganize the whole church?” “Yup. God's not going bless unless we reorganize this whole church.”
So I thought about it a second. I said, “You know what you'd have if you reorganized the whole church? You’d have all the people who are committed still committed, all the people who are serving still serving, all the people who are loving still loving, all the people who are worshiping, still worshipping, all the people who are evangelizing still evangelizing and all the people who aren't doing anything still not doing anything, only in a different form. That’s all.” Because the form doesn’t do a thing on the inside.
Now, conversely, people will say, “Well, you know, the problem with Grace Church is it’s in a building.” And they’ve actually said that to me. “It’s in a building. Should never have this building.” What does that have to do with it. And people have said, “Well, if it was just in a home, that would be a key.” My respond to that – my response to that is, “You go ahead and buy a home. We'll all come over.” What are you saying?
There's nothing sacred about the form. There's nothing sacred about this form and there's nothing sacred and there's nothing sacred about another form. That is not the issue. We have a building because we had to put a wall around a bunch of people who wanted to sit down and worship the Lord. Don’t ever get trapped in the forms. That’s – that's a deception. You don’t change anything by changing the form. That’s like saying, “You know, if we really want to win the war with the devil, what we need to do is change the color of our uniforms.” That isn't going to do anything, change the color of your uniforms.
Satan wants people to substitute form for reality and become blind to what really matters. Beloved, I don’t know what the future has for us. But I hope what you have is real and that you're not preoccupied with the forms. They come and go and they're different all over the world. I’ve sat with Christians outside under a tree and worshipped. I’ve sat with them in a little humble, simple home. I’ve sat on splintered benches in a little church in Brazil. I’ve been with Christians in the streets in South America.
I’ve been a lot of places in a lot of different situations with a lot a different Christians, and I never found that the shape of the building or the size of the building or the angle of the pew, or whether I was in a house or a church or a barn never had a whole lot to do with what was going on in my heart. You have to keep that in mind.
And then, again, another age-old ploy of Satan against God's people – and I want you to stay with me ‘cause I'm coming to the climax and I want you to hear it – is for Satan to cause us to abandon living by faith. That’s number ten. I told you four and a half years ago that if we were to see God bless this church we would have to live by faith. We would have to stretch our faith.
It wasn’t long after that that we began the project of building this building. And we determined that we wouldn’t start one thing, digging a hole or anything – and I mean there was a big hole there once. We're sitting in it now. We wouldn’t start doing that. We figured this place would cost us, with the office building, $1.5 million, this auditorium would cost $850,000.00 completely furnished, and that’s what it – that’s what it cost. And so we determined that for $850,000.00, we could build this building and then, we could have an office wing for $750,000.00 so we could have 25-or-so offices so we could minister to people and – and all of the other things that go on.
And we determined that before we did anything we would have $750,000.00, and then we believed God for the remainder of it. And I want you to know, if you’ve forgotten, that the very first Sunday we ever met in this building, the money came in to make the final payment, and that was totally paid for the day we walked in this building. This auditorium was paid for. We believed God for it. We stretched people’s faith.
You know, Israel got the grasshopper complex. You remember that? They went into the land; they came out and said “They're giants and we're grasshoppers. We're going to get crushed if we go in there.” They didn’t live by faith, except for Joshua and Caleb. And they said, “Let’s go. God's on our side. They can't possibly resist us.” And we have to have that.
I remember a few years ago when a – I worked on the missions committee. I think it was the second year I was here. And I said, “You know, we need more missionaries.” And some dear person said to me, “We don’t have any more money.” I said, “Well, we don’t need any more money ‘cause we don’t have anybody to give it to. Why would the Lord give us a whole lot of more money if we didn’t have anywhere to put it? So why don’t we get some missionaries and then ask God to give us the money for them.” “Oh,” they said. “Oh, let’s – let’s see about this.”
So they said, “Maybe you could find a couple of good missionaries.” So I went out and examined what’s available and found a couple of missionaries. And you know what? The Lord brought in some money. And then we began to see that God provides for the things He’s a part of. And if you pray and seek His face and His will and we begin to do what He calls us to do, that God makes provision for that. And we've never found that that’s been a problem.
Money is never a problem. When we believe that God is in something and step out by faith, it’s glorious to see Him fulfill it, isn't it? That’s the only way. Look, I – I know there are churches that say, “Well, we're not going to do anything until we have every red cent. We're living by sight.” Congratulations. We walk by faith and not by sight. Now, that doesn’t mean presumption. There are a lot of places where a pastor said “We're going to live by faith,” and they’ve led the whole congregation off the end of the pier.
But that’s not what we're talking about. We're talking about where there is a resolution based upon the God we step out in faith believing God. There has to be a stretching of faith, people. I guess I – I ask myself again and again, this question. “What am I believing God for that only God can do, so that when He does it He gets all the glory?” Do you – you live at all like that? I mean are you believing God for something that only He could do, so that when He does it you can praise His Name.
Oh, beloved, let’s live by faith. Don’t ever lose the adventure. Don’t ever give up the risk. Let’s not get protective. Let’s not want to sit on everything. Let’s invest it in eternity and the glorious adventure of saying, “God, we see this is Your will. And knowing that You alone can provide the resource, we move out in faith waiting to see.” I'll never forget the day we moved in here and we knew that – that it was paid. That is an unforgettable time of joy. The thrill still lingers in my heart and the glory of the Lord.
I remember when – I think that was the first time that I ever sang “To God be the Glory,” and I never have sung it with the same feeling that I sang it that day because it was to Him. And I remember when we first started and a young couple came into my office and he said, “We saved up $1,000.00 to start our marriage. But because we know that this is God's will to build this auditorium, here it is.” And he dumped it on the desk.
I remember a man said – wrote me a little note that came along the row, and it just said, “Go check in front of your office door.” And I went in front of my office door and there was a paper sack from a market and it was a Safeway bag, and I thought, “Well, somebody left me some apples.” And I reached down to pick them up and I couldn’t get it off the ground. It was absolutely filled with silver bars. It was all of his life savings, reduced to silver and given to the Lord. And he didn’t even want anybody to know who it was. I still don’t know who.
God always provides. One of the handicapped people in our church has recently sent $3,000.00 – a handicapped person – to purchase the van for the Grace handicapped people. That’s the kind of thing that fills your heart, isn't it? That’s the adventure of faith, of saying, “We believe our handicapped people need a little van and we're going to believe God for it because He’s laid it on our heart.” And, little by little, God just keeps providing.
Clayton said the other day – he said, “You know I feel we need some new microphones.” And I don’t know anything about that. Just as long as this one works, I'm happy. But he said, “We need some new microphones, you know.” And he said, “I just kind of shared that and went in my office – today, was it? And there was $1,000.00 piled up on his desk. He doesn’t even know where it came from, I guess, believing the Lord would supply him his need.
God has done this all through the years, people, and we'll not cease to live by faith. That’s part of the adventure. Make a corollary to that and an 11th point, and then two final ones. Bear with me. The 11th one that I believe Satan is attacking is the spirit of sacrifice, a spirit of sacrifice. Satan wants us to distrust God. Satan wants us to pull back. He wants us to live in fear. He wants us to never step out in faith. And he wants to kill us by robbing us of the spirit of sacrifice.
He’d love you not to give the way you ought to give in the church because he’s afraid you won't have enough to pay the bills. He’d love for you never to live by faith, but always living by sight and figure everything out so you make sure. And then you just don’t have enough for the Lord. He’d love you to live that way, Satan would. And Satan would love you to abandon the spirit of sacrifice.
Oh, listen. Grace Church has always been known as a church that sacrificed. I hope that’s true in your life. Somebody told me the other day that the average giving for a person in Grace Church per week is $6.00. Kind of sad, isn't it, in a way? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe you're giving it somewhere else or maybe the Lord isn't asking you to give it any more than that because we don’t have something for you to give toward. We soon will when the school begins and the new building begins.
But, you know, I wonder if you know the meaning of sacrifice. I wonder if you really do. If we ever lose the spirit of sacrifice, there's a death blow. You know, Laodicea. Hauntingly does the Lord say to Laodicea, “You're rich and you are increased with goods. And I will spew you out of my mouth.” Beloved, when you lose the spirit of sacrifice, the fire is gone, the zeal is melted away. Oh, don’t let Satan kill this church by the fatal disease of selfishness.
David said, “I will not give the Lord that which cost me nothing.” I think about our radio program. All around the country, people asking us to come on. We can't because, at this point, God hasn’t provided the funds. We would like to be able to have land to build a school somewhere else but we just don’t have the resource for that. I wonder if we really know the meaning of sacrifice. There are people in your life, people around you who have very little. Are you meeting their needs?
The other night, I watched the news program, 20/20. And it showed people who lived in America in substandard housing where they cannot be protected from the elements. Cardboard houses and houses with collapsed roofs and houses where there's no heating at all. And these people are dying because of the elements, most of them very old people. And so the government has started some kind of a program to help them, only the program is a total disaster. The money is all consumed in bureaucracy and technicality, and the people continue to die. And I kept saying to myself, “Why is the government doing that? Where is the church? Where are we?”
Why aren't Christians in line adopting children, taking in foster children, orphans? Why aren't we carrying the load of the needy. Where are we when the widows and the single parents and the people who are ill need us? When did we ever get off giving that stuff to the government? What about your life? Are you sacrificial and you're investing with God of time and money?
I'm not talking about gimmicks. I – I just have no place for gimmicks for giving. We're not going to give away buttons, badges, bricks or anything else. We're not going to put your foot on a plaque on the wall. We're not going to put your hands in the concrete. We're not going to give you a big plaque that says, “I just lost my reward.” We're not going to do that. What we are going to do is just ask you, between the Lord, to continue to be sacrificial.
And God bless you. Many of you have been sacrificial. But there is God's work to be done across this world, across this world. And there are many widows giving their mite and there are many who have much who give much. But all of us need to sacrifice. Like the Macedonians, 2 Corinthians 8, “Out of their deep poverty they gave abundantly.” Satan hits us in this area. We live in an affluent society. We get mad when we face the fact that we won't get any gas to fill our belch-fire 8s, you know, that consume fuel down the highway. And I look in some driveways, and when you got teenage kids or whatever, there’s a fleet. And we worry about that.
And we're so – our perspective is – is so lost in so many cases. You see, it isn't what you have. Oh, if God's blessed you with cars and a house and land, wonderful. It’s what you do with what you have, whether you're selfless about it and sacrificial. I know Satan wants to hit us in these areas. Now, let me remind you of them, and then I'm going to close with two things.
I believe we have to make a commitment to a plurality of Godly leaders; a high standard of holiness; spiritual objectives; mature discipling; an active ministering people; an intense, loving, caring spirit; an aggressive, confrontive evangelism; a devotion to the family; a willingness to change the forms; a stretching confident faith, and a spirit of sacrifice.
But none of those things will ever come to pass unless there are two other things. And here Satan attacks. First, a primary emphasis on worshipping God. Did you get that? Beloved, we cannot lose that. There must be a primary emphasis on worshiping God. We must be a church committed to the glory of God. When we come together on the Lord’s day, our hearts should be filled with praise. We should be worshipping and adoring His blessed name. We should be offering Him prayer and praise continually.
We are not a church just stuck on evangelism and naming the name of Christ. We are not a church just looking for gifts of the Spirit and ecstatic experiences. We are church devoted to the fullness of the Godhead in its Trinity. We are devoted to worshipping, praising, glorifying, confessing God. You know, I go back to the truths of glorifying God that I preached some years back and say that those in my life are the most important truths I ever learned. When I learned what it was to glorify God, when I did what David said, set the Lord always before me, my whole life fell into place.
We cannot cease to be a worshipping church. We can never become a church like so many where the main emphasis is its program or the main emphasis is its theology or the main emphasis is its preacher or the main emphasis is its music or the main emphasis is its facility. The main emphasis here is our God, and ever and always it must be so. You know what? Because if the main emphasis is anything less than that, you'll compromise.
If the main emphasis is your program, then whatever works, you'll do. If the main emphasis is your preacher, then whatever he preaches – whatever he preaches is okay. The main emphasis must be the glory of God. And that leaves room for no compromise at all.
And then, finally, Satan hits us hard here. But we will not step back. Satan attacks us in the area of strong Bible preaching and teaching. People, everything else hangs on this. Worshipping God embodies the concept of prayer and praise. But that has to take a second place to teaching because you don’t know how to pray, you don’t know how to praise unless you know God. True? And the great final thing to which we must be committed as a church is the absolute truth of the Word of God.
We will not abandon the absolute heartbeat of the church, which is to preach the Word to be “instant in season and out of season,” because that is the divine mandate. I told you a few weeks ago that my little boy said to me, “Are you going to retire, Daddy?” And I'll never retire. Retire from preaching? I'll probably be playing a tape at my funeral. I don’t know anything else and I don’t care to know anything else either than to preach and teach the Word of God.
And listen. I cherish the Godly men that Christ has given this church who teach His Word and you should cherish them too. Do you forget? Do you forget what a richness there is in this church in the teaching of the Word of God? Don’t ever forget that. Some of us ought to go away for a while just so we'd know what we have when we have to face the fact that it isn't there.
We will not allow any subtle effort to water down the pulpit. We will not substitute human opinion. We will not make this a place where we just dialogue about ditties in our society. We will unhesitatingly and uncompromisingly preach the Word of God. This is the absolute. The Word is what puts it all together.
If God has ever done anything at this church, it isn't me and it isn't you. It’s this, isn't it? His Word. If you're still attached to me or any other human teacher and you haven't made the transition to see that we're only instruments of the Word, then you haven't grown as far as we’d like you to grow. Make that transfer to His Word. That’s the source.
I have a simple calling in life. I don’t know how to run a church. I don’t know how to run a big organization. I don’t know how to operate public relations and publicity. Only thing I know is that in Acts chapter 6 in verse 4, there was given a mandate and it was this. To give myself “continually to prayer, and the ministry of the word.” And that’s all I know. But I have seen that if I'm committed to that, the other Godly men here are committed to that, look what happens. We will never diminish the centrality of the preaching of the Word of God.
I’ve had other preachers say to me – I got a letter from one well-known one in this area, and he said, “MacArthur, your problem is you worship the Bible instead of Christ.” Well, I don’t worship the Bible but I sure love it a lot. I sure love it a lot because it is the thing that gives me Christ. And so, we will not hesitate to teach it and to believe it.
I close with this. Never before, as I said, have I felt the power of Satan so strongly. I've felt so much pressure in my life, people, I can't express to you that I can – I sometimes say to myself, “How will I ever prepare my message? I don’t have time.” And Satan crowds in on me. And I look – I say “I've got to do Daniel” or “I’ve got to do Matthew.” And, you know, I tell you everything I know on Sunday, and I start from zero on Monday.
And I start digging and I see things come into my life and how am I going to make it. How am I going to make it? And I have to go maybe long and read at night and put it all together. And, finally, the last minute on Saturday, it finally all comes together. And, you know, more times than not, people, I don’t know what it’s going to be like until I say it. I’ve just poured it all into my heart. And I see more and more. You say, “Well, I figured it. The more I study, the easier it’ll get.”
But now, it seems like you have to fight tooth and nail to get the time for the Word. And I want you to – to know that I'm going to stay in there and fight ‘cause it’s what I have to do. It’s what I have to do because that’s what God's called me to do. Satan has attacked us in all these areas. But you want to know something. God is greater than Satan. Amen! And I close with this great Word from our Lord. “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Let’s pray.
Father, I thank You for these dear people. Oh, God, You’ve called us in this series of messages to a reaffirmation of the things we know to be true. Now, Lord, help us to go out and live them. God, thank You for this great church, this dear, blessed, beloved church that feeds my soul and my life.
Thank You for all that it is to all of us. And may we know, Lord, that it is only as strong as its weakest member. And so, may our lives come into harmony with Your Word and Your will and Your way that – that we may represent Jesus Christ in the world. Build Your church, Lord, using us as frail instruments of clay to Your glory. In Christ’s name. Amen.
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