Your session will end in  seconds due to inactivity. Click here to continue using this web page.

Non-Negotiables of the Church: Honoring God's Word

Selected Scriptures September 01, 1996 90-112

Non-Negtotiables of the Church: Honoring God's Word

We continue this morning to look at the anatomy of the church in a little series we began last Sunday by way of bringing everybody up to date on the character and nature and definition of the church. The church is unique in the world. The only organism, the only institution that our Lord is building. It is His own unique possession purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ for all eternity to the glory of God and the praise of His Son. The church stands in contrast to everything in a fallen world. Its design, its life, its character, its tasks, its activities, its duties, responsibilities and privileges are all clearly outlined in the Scripture.

Every Christian should understand the church because the church is the assembly of believers. And yet today there is a severe identity crisis around the world with regard to the church. Everywhere I go in the world people are seemingly confused about what the church is.

Now in the New Testament the church is described in a number of metaphors or analogies. The church is called a family, a kingdom, a flock. It is likened to a plant or a vine, a building, a temple. But most notably the church is defined by the Apostle Paul as the body of Christ. Borrowing the very clear and graphic analogy of how a body responds to its head, the Apostle Paul says that the church is a body of common life with interrelated responsibilities connected to the head who is Jesus Christ.

And so, we're looking at the body of Christ under this title the anatomy of the church. It may be extrapolating a little bit from the simplicity of the body concept and looking at it a little more in depth. In our time, as I said, churches are in great confusion about their identity, they're in great confusion about their function, their activities, their priorities. There is a severe identity crisis. And it appears as though there doesn't seem to be any commonly agreed upon standard, doesn't seem to be any baseline for what a church is. Churches are reinventing themselves, redefining their identities and patterns of activity as if there were no particularly clear mandate in Scripture.

Well that's not the case. There is a clear mandate and while Grace Community Church is not what it should be, we are far from what we should be, far from what we could be for the glory of God, we are at least not confused about what we ought to be. Getting there for us is the issue. We're very clear about where the getting is taking us. And that is a sad situation in most cases. How in the world can a church achieve God's purpose if they don't know what it is? It's as simple as how are you going to hit the target if you don't know what the target is? I thank God that we're not in an identity crisis here. We're not spending time and energy trying to figure out what the church should be, we know that. It is clearly revealed in Scripture. We're spending our time and energy trying to become what we know we ought to be. How difficult must it be to try to become something you don't even understand. Looking at the church, understanding it as its defined biblically and pursuing that goal in the power of the Spirit of God is a manageable task, not even understanding what the church is to be becomes hopelessly difficult. And so, always we want to reaffirm what the church is to be.

And there are many of you who come to Grace Community Church and you see what we do and you experience it and you participate and you have measure of satisfaction with all of it, but you may not know why we do what we do. And you need to know that. As was pointed out last Sunday by a raising of hands, probably nearly half of you are here only within the last five years and don't have the benefit of all these twenty-five plus years of teaching. It may be somewhat new to you and we don't always go back over the things that have set the foundation for the church and thus this brief little series for a few Sundays here in August and September.

And a good way to approach an understanding of the church is to look at it in the format that we're doing that on the subject of the anatomy of the church. As we look at the church as the body of Christ and look a little more deeply into what that might mean in terms of practical realities, we're going to be able to reset the foundation. It's crucial to me that everybody understand what the church should be so that we know what track we're in, where we're going and can hold each other responsible for the fulfillment of what is clearly a biblical design and pattern.

One of the great satisfactions in my own life through the years of ministry here at Grace Church is the satisfaction of knowing that we've always followed the Scripture in defining the life of the church, both collectively and individually. We've always followed the Scripture as to what it is that God wants us to be and to do. And it's crucial that we all understand that. And so we're going back and just kind of readdressing or summarizing the most pertinent matters regarding life in the church and very importantly at this time when the church is being offered all kinds of unbiblical patterns to follow. How urgent is the issue that we get back to the Word of God. We're shaping our thoughts around the Bible and around the idea of the church as a body, the anatomy of the church.

Now as we talk about the anatomy of the church I suggested to you there would be four features that we would look at, drawing our analogy out a little bit. We'll look at the skeleton, the internal systems, the muscles and the flesh. And carrying out that body analogy, the skeleton is the framework that gives it shape and form. I pointed out last time that all organs and muscles and tissue is connected to the bone structure which gives the body its form and its ability to function. If you remove the skeleton, you'd have nothing but a heap. And so it is that we start with the framework, the skeleton, the basic foundational truths, the non-negotiable fundamentals of the church--we're calling that the skeleton. Then we'll move to the internal systems which will be attitudes, spiritual attitudes that we bring to the life of the church. Then we'll move to the muscles which will be activities, the things we are to be engaged in. And finally to the flesh which is the form or the visible demonstration of what we really are.

But let's go back to the skeleton this morning and I want to talk about the skeleton just briefly by way of review, and then I want to introduce the next in the very important foundational and framework, realities in the church. But to borrow from last week, let's go back to Matthew 6, for a moment, and start where we started last time with a concept that I think gives us a very important perspective. Matthew 6:9 and 10, and Jesus here is teaching us how to pray and He says, "Pray then in this way...Matthew 6:9...here's how I want you to pray. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Now that is a very, very important and far-reaching pattern of prayer.

Jesus says, I want you to pray that what goes on in heaven will go on on earth. God's name is hallowed in heaven. His kingdom is in heaven. His will is done in heaven. You pray that all that comes down to earth. And I remind you of what I said last time that the only place that can happen is in the church. It can only happen among the redeemed. It can only happen among those who are a part of God's kingdom who are committed to God's will who are the worshipers of God. The church is the only place where this prayer can become a reality. The church is the only earthly expression of heaven. In the church heaven comes down. That's why the Bible says in Philippians 3:20, "We are actually citizens of heaven and in this world aliens and strangers." As Hebrews 11 says, "This is not our country, we look for a better country, a heavenly one, a holy one." That's why Colossians 3:2 says, "We are to set our affections on things above and not on things on the earth." We are an other worldly people. We are a heavenly people. Our citizenship is there, our blessings are there, our Father is there, our King is there, our name is there, our fellow saints are there, our inheritance is there, our home is there...heaven is our place and we give this world a taste of what heaven is like. We bring elements of heavenly reality to earth.

And so as I pointed out to you last time, the church cannot be a place where unbelievers are comfortable. It cannot be a place where they feel at home, or where they are made to feel familiar. It should be a place the likes of which they have never experience, a place, an experience with which they cannot connect or make a comparison. It should be foreign, alien and without any worldly counterpart.

The idea of the church is not to make it as much like the world as possible but to make it so much like heaven that it is not like anything in the world. The question we ask then is if the church is to be heaven on earth, if we're to bring heaven down, what is going on in heaven that should go on here? If we're going to be heaven on earth then we've got to be doing what heaven does. And several realities answer that question.

First of all, the main occupation of heaven is the worship of God. The main occupation of heaven is the worship of God. Before anything else is to be considered, we begin with the recognition that heaven is the place where God dwells on His throne and where He is worshiped. The main occupation eternally in heaven is that God is receiving glory and honor and praise and worship continually, with unbroken devotion, unhindered dedication, unlimited expression. This is the primary occupation of all the beings in heaven...angels and the spirits of just men who have gone to glory. As we remember from John 4, we've been saved to worship, and that's what we'll do forever and ever. And we read in Revelation chapter 4 and Revelation chapter 5 how that when you get a glimpse into heaven, worship is the main occupation. God's majesty, God's sovereignty, God's glory is the supreme concentration of those in heaven and it must be the supreme concentration of heaven on earth in the church. So, that all that we do in the church is God-centered...the preaching, the praying, the singing, the reading of Scripture all draws us toward God and His greatness and His majesty and His sovereignty and His glory and His power and His wisdom and His might and His judgment, His justice, His mercy and His grace and His loving kindness. All of sanctification as well as all of salvation is built on a God-centered perspective. It is when we know God that we understand salvation. It is when we know God that we understand sanctification. And when God is exalted and God is honored in everything, when God is praised and adored then you have heaven on earth.

James 4:8 said, "Draw near to God." That is an essential component of spiritual life, is the drawing near to God. And that's not some kind of foggy, ethereal, mystical emotion, what that does mean is come to a better, richer, deeper, fuller understanding of who your God is and draw your life into the fullness of His presence through worship and obedience.

The church then meets to worship God. To remove that is to take great liberty with God's design for the church on earth. We are a worshiping community.

Secondly, the second great occupation of heaven next to the worship of God and equal to it is the exaltation of Jesus Christ--the exaltation of Jesus Christ. We must be engaged in the praise of the Lord Jesus. We sang this morning, "Fairest Lord Jesus." Jerry sang a few more verses of it in that wonderful hymn that expresses our love and devotion to the beautiful Savior. Jerry sang about the cross, we exalt Christ here. We make no apology for that. We lift Him up, we honor Him, we glorify Him, we praise Him, we extol His virtue. We believe that if He is lifted up He will draw all men to Himself. Certainly that is a prophecy with regard to His cross, but it also is a spiritual reality that He having been lifted up on the cross provides then a redemption for all who look to the lifted Christ. And so, we will honor Christ. Like the Apostle Paul, we make no apology to preach Christ and Him crucified, to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ. We are engaged in the praise of Christ. That's why we come together. That's true of our own personal lives. We're not so concerned with fixing all the little issues of life, solving all the little troubles, we're not so concerned with elevating our comfort zone with dealing with all of the disappointments of life when we gather together, we are much more concerned with exalting God and worshiping Christ. And we find that when we're lost in wonder, love and praise, it's amazing how the trivialities and even the major issues find their proper perspective.

And then thirdly, and still reviewing, we said that there's one other great reality about heaven and that is the presence of holiness...the presence of holiness. Heaven is by definition a holy place. It is the perfectly holy abode of God where there is no sin and no error and no weakness. And when we bring heaven down, then we must pursue holiness. If this is to be heaven on earth, then we have to deal with sin, we have to confront sin. Sin has to be brought under conviction, it has to be brought to the test of the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It has to be exposed, it has to be dealt with. This could never be a place for sinners to find comfort. This has to be a place where sinners are miserable and we want sinners to be so miserable that they long for forgiveness. We cannot be a place that tolerates sin under the aegis of some kind of sentimental love. We have to be a place that won't tolerate sin because we are called to be a holy fellowship. And so we deal with sin, we confront sin, we preach against sin. We go through church discipline and in so doing we have the promise that what you've done on earth is being done in heaven and that the Father is involved and that the Son has come down and is moving in our midst. Never is a church more like heaven than when it is preoccupied with holiness. The lack of church discipline across the world in churches has leavened the church with iniquity and dishonored the Lord who taught us so clearly how to deal with sin.

Now there are two more ways in which heaven comes down in the church, two more features, realities, that form the skeleton and the framework of the church. Let me give you the fourth one this morning and we'll finish up with the last one tonight.

Number four, we bring heaven down not only by worshiping God, exalting Christ, pursuing holiness, but by honoring God's Word...but by honoring God's Word. People ask me often..."Why is it that you spend all your time going through the Bible? Why is it that you preach long expository messages? Is that what you always do in your church?" etc., etc. "Doesn't that get in the way of worship?" "Isn't it somewhat irrelevant," I've read that through the years, I read a dissertation, a man wrote a Ph.D. paper on me and said MacArthur is biblical he's just not relevant. "Why do you spend all your time in the Word of God?"

I'll tell you one reason, very simple, is because I've been commanded to do so but beyond that, and we'll leave that one for tonight, beyond that it is because honoring the Word of God fulfills the church's commission to bring heaven down. In Psalm 138 verse 2 God says, "I've exalted My Word above...or in some translations...equal to My name." The point that He's making there is there is no knowing Him apart from His Word. There is no way to know God apart from the Scripture. You could know about God from the created order and from reason and from moral law and conscience. You could know there was a God but you cannot know that God apart from the revelation of that God in Scripture. Heaven comes down in the Bible because in the Bible God speaks.

If we were in heaven now we would be gathered around the throne worshiping with the angels and the glorified saints. We would be there in heaven exalting Jesus Christ and exalting the Son and celebrating the absolute pure perfection of the place. And at the same time we would be exposed to the fullness of the disclosure of the glory of God in all His wonder, in all His majesty, in all His perfection. You see that in Ezekiel chapter 1. Ezekiel has a glimpse of God in the glorious, shining, spinning, fiery, bejeweled wheels of the amazing light that comes out of His glorious presence, is emblematic of the revelation of God. You see a similar situation in Isaiah 6 where God is revealed to Isaiah as high and lifted up, sovereign, majestic and holy. You see God again in Revelation 4 and 5 in the wonder of His throne, the majesty and beauty of His jeweled throne and the beauty of the Shekinah light shining through and all the majesty of that description again is a disclosure of God.

But that's not the only disclosure of God in the Bible. Everything that tells you anything about Him is a revelation of God. And when the church looks at the Word of God and sees the revelation of God, you're bringing heaven down. My goal in preaching the Word of God to you is to set the Lord before you, is to set the Lord before you, is to let you see Him. Every passage unfolds truth about Him.

In the church then, that's why we live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. That's why we are committed to the preaching and teaching of the Word of God because it is God's self-disclosure, it is God's revelation. We don't take away anything from it, we don't add anything to it, we just teach the Word of God. And when the Word speaks, the King of heaven speaks and He speaks about Himself and heaven comes down.

The psalmist said in Psalm 56:4, "In God whose word I praise, in God I put my trust." I put my trust in the God revealed in the Word. If I'm going to put my life in His hand, I want to know Him. And the way I know Him is through His Word. And if I'm going to put my life in His hand, I want to know His will. And the way I know His will is in His Word. If I'm going to put my destiny in His hand, I want to know that destiny and the way I know it is revealed in His Word.

No wonder Job said he loved the Word of God more than his necessary food. No wonder Jeremiah said the Word was in him, the joy and rejoicing of his heart. Jesus prayed to the Father, "Sanctify them by Thy truth, Thy Word is truth." It is the Word that is able to make you wise to salvation. It is the Word that is able to sanctify you. It is the Word that can cause you to grow as 1 Peter 2 says. The Word is everything.

Look over at 1 Timothy chapter 3 and verse 15, a very important definition of the church is given in this verse. Toward the end of verse 15, 1 Timothy 3, it says this, "The church of the living God," and then it defines it as, "the pillar and support of the truth." The church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. Obviously Timothy when receiving this letter was in the city of Ephesus. In that city there was a great temple to Artemis or Diana of the Ephesians. There were some formidable things about that temple. One fact is that it had 127 pillars, those pillars were at their heart solid marble, but the marble was overlaid in gold and the gold was studded with precious jewels...127 great massive, marble, gold-covered, bejeweled pillars held up the massive stone edifice of the temple of Diana, a temple to Satan, seducing spirits, doctrines of demons, deception. And Paul has that image in his mind and looks at the church and thinks of the church in contrast to this great edifice with great foundation and pillar holding up lies and deception, the church holds up the truth...it holds up the truth. If there should be anything true about the church, it should be it's where you hear the Word of the living God.

Some time ago Otis Chandler called up and said he would like to have lunch with me...very gracious gentleman who is the owner of the Los Angeles Times and a number of other newspapers across America and quite a number of network affiliate television stations, a very outstanding man, a graduate of Stanford, an Olympic athlete, a marvelous individual from the Chandler family, well known in our city. He said, "I would like to have lunch with you and spend some time talking to you."

So we did. And he said to me, he said, "I want to ask you a question." He said, "I want to know why it is that with all the influence you have of radio and large church and all the opportunities you have, why it is that you don't give your opinion on the political and social and economic issues of our time."

And I just kind of smiled and I said, "Otis, do you really need another opinion about anything?"

"You want another letter to the editor? You want another column in the editorial section? You want another guy's opinion?" I said, "Let me tell you something about me. If you understand this about me, you'll understand me. I have been convinced long ago that my opinions have absolutely no significance. I've been convinced of that by many people. And I've also been convinced in my own mind and heart that no matter how noble my opinions might be, they couldn't possibly be as important as God's opinion. So if you don't mind, I've committed my life to giving God's opinion, not mine."

And when you come here, you will hear that because that's what I believe the church is to do in the world. That's why we train men in the Master's Seminary to handle the Word of God because that's what they must do. If they're going to be faithful to what the church is, the church is where you go to hear God speak, to hear the Word of God. And that's my great joy, that's my passion, that's what I love. And there's nothing I love more than to come here and to give the Word of God to a people who receive it and apply it. People sometimes say to me, "You know, you preach all the time, you go, you go, you preach, you preach, what drives you?"

Well first of all, there's a certain amount of responsibility I have before God like preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season, that kind. But I'm also drawn to that because I know the impact that it has and I love to see the fruit of that. It's exhilarating, it's thrilling.

As I was telling you, when I was in South Africa to preach to the people down there, when I came home from there a couple of years ago exuberant, alive, almost electric, just capturing every word with real...to borrow an old word...verve. Going to New Zealand, getting the same kind of responses. I preached in the Maori Church and in other groups, just watching them just grab everything and just kind of...with a joy in their heart respond sometimes even verbally, sometimes applauding, just a real energy to receive the Word of God. That's a very compelling kind of thing because you know what it can do in their life.

I was thinking too, telling the students at the college, it's very different than preaching in London. The English are very stiff, very stiff, much more than even the Irish...very stiff. I was in London a couple of years ago at Central Hall which is a big building, auditorium building built by the Methodists across from Westminster Abbey right in the middle of London and it was a conference with 900 English clergy, highly educated English clergy. And the typical English people are very reserved and very stiff and very staid. I mean, I don't expect wild outbursts but a little response now and then is nice.

Anyway, so we were in this conference. We had Eric Alexander, Dick Lucas from St. Helen's Bishopgate in London, myself and a gentlemen, outstanding man from Sydney, Australia. And we were to preach to these 900 ministers all week long. Well, 900 highly trained English clergy, you know, you don't go in there unprepared. You know, these guys had great material and I knew it would be a great week of great preaching. And the first day we sat in this stuffy old musty place on the floor on these hard wooden chairs and I never felt a thing cause the preaching was so great. But the first man to preach was from Sydney, he preached a great exposition of several passages, by the way, out of 2 Corinthians...masterfully done with great, great insight, great spiritual sense, powerful stuff, captivating the essence of the heart of the servant of God. And I was really moved and I cherished every moment and no one moved the whole time, just no one moved. And the pulpit's like here and there's a table here and there's a guy sitting there who is the moderator and he just sits there the whole time it's going on, occasionally glances at the speaker.

Well, he finished after an exhausting 55 minutes of pouring his heart out and when you're done they told you sit down by the moderator. So he finished and he sat down. I thought..."Wow, boy, that was great." And a man walked up, came to the microphone and said, "Tea is served." And I was expecting, "Thank you, brother, wow," you know, "that was rich, that was great, what a blessing," not "tea is served." I thought, "This is a tough crowd." Cause that was great...that was great preaching.

Then came Eric Alexander and, I mean, it's hard to improve on him. And he did a message on Isaiah 6 and he literally rung out of Isaiah 6 everything that was conceivable. I mean, it was a masterpiece. And at one point he had tears coming down his cheeks as he preached on the holiness of God and the brokenness of the prophet in that chapter and he was moved with great compassion. It was a powerful, it was the greatest thing I've ever heard on Isaiah 6. And he finished and he sat down and this same guy came up, "Tea is served." And I was getting real nervous because I was next, you know, and I didn't think I had the clout to break the chain, you know.

So, after lunch I had to come back and preach in the afternoon and I got up and just poured out my heart and I preached that time on Psalm 19, on exalting the Word of God. And just put everything I had into it for an hour and sat down, you know, just kind of spent when you do that. And the same guy walked up, he says, "Tea is served." That was it. The whole day no one said "thank you" to anybody, no one acknowledge whether it was good, bad, or indifferent.

But when I sat down at this table here, in that brief time, this little table had a skirt around it, the moderator kept looking forward like this...but underneath the little cloth around the table he slid his hand over and patted me three times on the leg in such a way that nobody knew he did it. So that night Christopher Catherwood(?) who is the grandson of Martyn Lloyd- Jones said, "I want to take you to the Oxford Cambridge Club which is like 500 years old, you can't go there unless you're a graduate of Oxford or Cambridge, or unless one of them takes you there. And he graduated from both so he took me in. You go in there and he says, "You know, over at that table Winston Churchill planned World War II," and things like that. You know, it's an amazing place. And, "This is a silent room, don't say anything, nobody has spoken there in 350 years, you don't want to break it," you know, things like that. There's big overstuffed brown chairs and bookshelves that go to the ceiling and ladders that slide, you know, it's that kind of place. So we sat down. I said, "Christopher, look, I just have to ask you a question." I said, "These guys are preaching great stuff, tremendous and nobody moves and nobody says thank you, nobody says anything. Isn't somebody going to say thank you?"

He said, "Owh, it's not done!" (English accent)

I said, "Well it aught to be!" (Again, English accent) (Laughter/applause)

Humph...I guess you can get to the place...oh I said to him, by the way, I said, "Christopher, what does it mean when the moderator pats you three times on the leg."

He says, "Did he do that?"

I said, "Yes."

He said, "Owh, it's huge."

Hmmm, well I suppose there's a place for all different kinds of responses but I worry a little bit about people who...who look at Scripture as a disinterested critic, analyzing it instead of applying it. I love to preach the Word of God to people whose hearts are greatly moved by it, powerfully moved by it, who don't just sit in judgment on it.

This last summer when I was up in Scotland, Eric Alexander took me to St. Andrews, that city is known for golf to most people, but the truth of the matter is the third oldest university in the world is there next, to Cambridge and Oxford. And he took me in, as I told you he let me stand in John Knox's pulpit where John Knox preached and gave birth to the Reformation in Scotland and there four young men were burned at the stake and there's a martyr's memorial 100 yards from the first tee commemorating the death of those four young students at St. Andrews University, four young students who died there because of their faith in the gospel, burned at the stake. Right across the street from where they were burned their initials are in the cobblestones and a little brass plaque is on a metal fence, right across the street is a college across from St. Salvador's(?) chapel where John Knox's pulpit exists, there's a college called St. Mary's College in the University of St. Andrews. St. Mary's College was where preachers of the gospel were trained during the Reformation. St. Mary's College was where men went to learn the Word of God and to preach against the monolithic error of Roman Catholicism and bring the Protestant Reformation faith to its great flame. St. Mary's College has produced ministers through the years and it's just about the width of this section away from where they burned at the stake, the entrance to the little college patio. In that college many have been trained in theology through the years. Samuel Rutherford's grave is not far away and there's just so much history of great men who held the truth so high.

I was just a week and a half ago talking with a gentleman who graduated many years ago from St. Mary's and told me of the noble Christian men who taught him the Word of God when he was a student there. And Eric Alexander walked me through St. Mary's College and said, "John, the notable thing about St. Mary's College is that today there is not one man here who believes the Bible is the Word of God, not one on this faculty." Just arms-length from where men died for the gospel. It's a sad thing when people turn from the Word of God. It doesn't happen fast, it's gradual. We're going to talk about that tonight, how that process starts and where it leads. When you lose the passion and the fire and the fervor and the love for the Word that should dominate the church and you start to substitute other things for whatever reason, you begin to sell out and it ends up like that where you can walk from the theological college where you don't believe the Bible, across to the pub on the other side of the street and step on the initials of a Reformation martyr with indifference.

But the Word of God is the pillar that holds up everything, certainly the church. And so we preach the Word of God. That's what we do, that's what we'll always do because that brings God down and let's Him speak. You can't ascend into heaven, but God comes to us in His Word, doesn't He? And I am here simply to bring that to you. That Word which in Psalm 19, turn to it for a moment, we are told is so sufficient. Psalm 19, that very chapter on which I preached that first day in London says in verse 7, "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, or clear, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The judgments of the Lord are true, they are righteous all together." Three verses, six lines...six lines that are parallel. They each have a title for Scripture, a characteristic for Scripture and an effect of Scripture. Six titles for Scripture.

It is called the law, the testimony, the precepts, the commandment, the fear, the judgments. That just looks at the Bible from different facets. It is the law of God, that is it is His requirement for man's conduct. It is the testimony of the Lord, that is it His self-disclosure, tells us about Himself. It is the precepts of the Lord, principles, doctrines, truths. It is the commandment of the Lord, it is binding, mandates with authority. The Bible is the fear of the Lord. What does that mean? Well the fear of the Lord simply is another way of saying it's the manual on worshiping Him, honoring Him, exalting Him. And then finally the Scripture is called the judgments of the Lord, it is the adjudications of the judge of all the earth. It is His divine verdicts on man, his life and his destiny.

So, when you look at the Bible it is all of that. It is law, testimony, precepts, commandment, fear and judgments. So you have six titles for Scripture. In each case of the Lord the covenant name of Yahweh is given so there's no question about who the author is.

Then you have six characteristics of Scripture. It is perfect, sure, right, clear, clean true...all six of those running down those three verses. Scripture is perfect, that means comprehensive. It is sure, that means reliable, trustworthy. It is right, that means it establishes the right path to walk in. It is clear, that means it makes the dark things clear. It is clean, that means it is pure. As the Old Testament says, like metal tested seven times, silver tested seven times in a furnace, it is true. Scripture is comprehensively perfect, it is reliable, sure, it sets the right path. It produces clarity on otherwise dark subjects. It is absolutely clean and without flaw and it is utterly and completely true.

Now what can this perfect, sure, right, clear, clean, true Word do? Verse 7, "Restore the soul." Soul is inner man. It can totally transform the whole inner man. It can make simple people wise. It brings joy to the heart. It brings enlightenment to the eyes. It endures forever. What does that mean? It brings a relevant source for every generation in every culture in every time. And finally, in verse 9, they are righteous all together. They produce comprehensive righteousness. What can the Scripture do in your life? It can totally transform your whole inner person, it can take you from simple mindedness to utter wisdom and skill in all areas of living, it can bring joy to your heart, it can enlighten your eyes about the dark things, it produces a relevant source for every issue of life and it produces comprehensive righteousness...that's what the Word of God does.

Now if I am a pastor and I look out at you as a congregation and I ask the question...what do I want to accomplish in your life? It's simple to answer, here's what I want to accomplish in your life if God could use me, I would like to see God totally transform your whole person. I'd like to see you totally transformed into the image of Christ. I would like to see you taken from naive, simple minded, non-discriminating, lack of judgment to skill in every area of living, true wisdom. I would like to see you have a full and lasting joy. I would like to see you have such enlightenment that you can understand the great mysteries that the unregenerate can't comprehend. I would like to put in your hand a relevant source for every issue. And I would like to see you become comprehensively righteous. If those are my desires, what is my tool? The Word of God...the Word of God. And that's why we do what we do because we understand its effect. That's why we hear the words of Paul in Colossians 3:16, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." That's what effects everything in your life.

And so, you hear the Word. And in good Thessalonian fashion you examine it carefully. And what is true you cling to. It's the Word of God that assaults every deception. Go to 2 Corinthians 10 and we'll look at that just briefly, we've studied it recently. Paul says, "The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly," verse 4. They're not human. We can't fight this great spiritual battle with human weapons, human ingenuity, human cleverness, human wisdom, but divinely powerful, mighty unto God. If we want to fight a spiritual war we've got to go to heaven and pull our weapons down. We have to pull the weapons down because the enemy is so formidable. We're trying to destroy fortresses, verse 4 says. We're trying to smash fortresses.

Every time I read things and hear things on this spiritual warfare I feel so concerned because I hear these people saying spiritual warfare is chasing demons, chasing demons. No, it's not. It's not chasing...in the first place, you can't cast demons out, Christ could, the Apostles could, but we can't. Chasing demons isn't the issue, that's not the way to fight the spiritual war. It's not a war fought on that level, let the holy angels worry about the demons in the dimension that they exist. Let Michael take care of whoever he needs to take care of, as in the book of Daniel. Let...let the angelic warfare be what it is. We have to fight on another level. And if we're going to pull down fortresses, what is that going to do...what does that mean and how are we going to do it?

Verse 5, "We have to destroy speculations." What do you mean there? Logismos, ideas, idealogies, concepts, philosophies, religions...that's what it means. Our enemy, the direct attack that we make on our enemy is against the ideologies, the false religions, the false philosophies, that's what we assault. Another way to say it in verse 5 is, "Every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God." Anything unbiblical. Spiritual warfare is not fought by chasing demons. Spiritual warfare is fought by smashing error and error is smashed with only one set of weapons. What is it? Truths...the only thing that brings down error is truth.

How do we destroy idealogies, logismos? How do we destroy speculations, concepts, religions, every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and how do we take all those captive to the obedience of Christ? Only one way and that is through the preaching and teaching and witnessing of the truth. If we want to smash the fortresses, we have to bring the big guns and the big guns come from the Word of the living God.

As a church then, we are utterly committed to being the pillar and support of the truth. That's what we do. I will follow the mandate of 2 Timothy 4:2, "Preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season." "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth." And we'll say more about that tonight.

The church is heaven come down. That means the worship of God, the exaltation of Christ, the presence of holiness and the honoring of the Word. That's what we do. And there's one more to come, but some more to say on point four tonight. Let's pray.

Father, thank You again for the clarity with which Your Word speaks to our hearts. We who know the truth are thrilled to know it and yet at the same time bear a weight of responsibility knowing that to whom much is given much is required. Lord, help us to be faithful to pursue that truth in all its application and all its expression in our lives. We thank You, Lord, that You've protected this church from the identity crisis in which so many others have engaged, that we're not lost in a fog trying to figure out who we are. We know who You want us to be and we're just pursuing it. Lord, energize us with Your truth and Your Spirit that we might be that church which brings glory to Your name. Thank You for every precious soul here, work Your work in every heart and may this collective perspective become very individual. May we realize that the issue comes down to...am I worshiping God, am I exalting Christ, am I pursuing holiness, am I honoring the Word? And when we're all doing that, then and only then would You be pleased. Continue, Father, to work in us. We thank You so much for all Your work. What a privilege to be Your children to bear Your name. We give You glory in Christ's glorious name. Amen.