The Biblical Church
What do you think is important in a church home?
Many people think differently about why they chose a particular church as their home church. Some go to a particular church because they have been committed to that church for a long time. Others select a church based on their social network. Others are looking for a place that makes them feel good.
I had an interesting experience in church this morning. I was speaking with a couple who were visiting Truth Fellowship Live for the first time. The wife told me she had been looking for a church that taught the Word of God from the pulpit. She also told me she had been looking for a church that taught the Bible and a church that actually asked people to open their Bibles.
Then she told me something surprising. She had been looking for a Bible teaching church for four years. I asked her how they found TFL. She said that they found us on the internet. Wow! I was so encouraged that this couple was diligent in seeking a church that was all-out committed to teaching the Word of God and that they found TFL.
I tell this story because the Church in the United States is changing. Where the church used to stand on the sound doctrine of the Bible, the Church of today is more interested in bigger buildings and bringing in larger and larger congregations.
That is not the goal of TFL. Yes, we are encouraged when we attract new people, but only so much as God is bringing them to us. At TFL, we try to keep things simple. We preach and teach the Word. We pray. We share the gospel. We fellowship.
I have spent the past seven weeks looking at Christ’s last words to the seven representative churches. Now I would like to attempt to summarize what, in Jesus’ perspective, churches do wrong and what they do right. Then we will look at Christ’s final exhortation to the churches as they apply to us today.
Where Churches Go Wrong
Churches seem to go wrong in five areas. We see these in churches today throughout the United States.
Churches are more and more forsaking their first love.
Many churches today forsaken the love they at one time displayed for the Lord Jesus Christ and the love they had for His Word. These churches have grown complacent and they have become cold to the basic doctrine that had at one time been their hallmark. They have lost their fervor.
We often see this attribute in churches today. After a church is started, within one or two generations, the reason for being a church changes from being directed by the love of Christ to providing programs and succumbing to social pressures.
There is a war going on. It is the world against God. The unbelief and sin of the world (1 John 5:5) is infiltrating the church. No church is immune to this take-over of Christianity. Sin and evil are as rampant in the Church of today as they are in the world around us.
The sin within the church is failing to testify about Christ to people. The function of the lamp is to be a light. If we (at TFL) do not remain true to Christ, then He will snuff out the light of our church as He has to so many other churches.
Churches are more and more holding to false doctrines.
The culture of the world is completely infiltrating the church in the United States at an alarming rate. We no longer care about the spiritual condition of those seeking to join our churches. Thus, we have marginal Christians rising within the ranks of the Church and they are determining the direction and actions within the church.
As a result, false doctrines are entering the church. Those doctrines that were taken for granted for centuries are now being challenged. The world is doing everything it can to destroy the fundamental building blocks within the Church—the family. What is worse is that many in the church are supporting the false doctrines and idols of the world.
In addition, we have allowed a large discrepancy to develop between “professional Christians” and “regular Christians.” The Bible makes no such distinction. Thus, many who are in “full-time Christian ministry” become puffed up and they raise themselves up above the people they are to serve. As a result, leaders in the many churches follow their human wisdom rather than applying the wisdom of the Bible.
Human wisdom will ultimately lead to the fall of the church. At TFL, we must be diligent to always search the Scriptures to provide guidance for our church.
Churches are tolerating that which should not be tolerated.
In 1973, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion. Since then some 57 million babies have been murdered. This past week, the same court began debating the requirement for states to redefine marriage.
Over time, the church has become tolerant of abortion. Even many Evangelical churches in America have already endorsed same-sex marriage. These two issues alone have shown the fall of the church. God has been very patient with our country; but know this, the time is coming for God to judge our nation. Both of these issues are strongly opposed in the Bible.
The false doctrines that infiltrated the church of the Dark Ages have not gone away; in fact, false doctrines have proliferated in the Church of today. Paul warned us in his letters to maintain sound doctrine. We have become lax in this pursuit. We openly allow false doctrines to enter our churches. We fail to test our doctrines against the true measure of God’s Word.
We need to hold fast to the Word of God. We need to use it as a test to make certain we are remaining true to God. There is nothing wrong with questioning what happens in our church. You should not blindly accept what is taught. We should all be like the Bereans— “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11).
Churches are presenting themselves as being alive, but they are dead.
Many churches have a reputation for being alive. They put forth all the indicators of being alive, but many people within the church lack spiritual faith. They attend the church on Sunday, but their Christianity does not drive their personal lives.
This is all too common problem within the church of today. People attend church, but they don’t have personal devotional time with God during the week. They profess their Christianity, yet they seldom pray unless they are in a group and their prayer is expected. Many in the church never go beyond the milk of the gospel to dig into the solid food of God’s word (Heb 5:12-14).
Churches have programs and many people get involved in those programs, but these programs by themselves does not make a church alive. Churches become alive only when the people put the Word of God into practice within their lives. We at TFL must apply the Word of God to our lives and then live knowing that we are being obedient to the Word.
Churches are becoming apostate.
The church of today in our country is becoming largely apostate. Apostate means to stand away from…that is, it is a falling away, a withdrawal, or a defection. In the New Testament, it is used to express abandonment of the faith. Apostasy is departing from the truth that one professes to have. It does not mean that they ever really held to the truth. Seldom do apostates actually possess the truth; rather, they have departed from the truth they professed to have because of their affiliation with a particular church.
We must be careful not to fall under the deceptive teaching of the apostates. They have already infiltrated the church. We must be determined to go to a church that teaches the sound doctrines of the Bible. This is best done by doing a consistent study of the word of God.
At TFL, we are committed to working through the Bible and teaching the Bible. If you go to a church that uses the Bible only as a springboard for the Pastor to teach what is on his mind, then you are in the wrong church. At Truth Fellowship Live, we do not apologize for teaching the sound doctrine of the Bible.
Areas churches need to do well
Jesus presents seven strengths of churches in His seven letters to the churches.
- Jesus expects churches to be committed to doing the work for which He called them—the work that has been prepared for them to do. The work of the church is done by individuals within the church (see Eph 2:8-10).
- Jesus expects churches to persevere—to endure hardships and the suffering of persecution. We should not be surprised that the world hates us and will go out the way to persecute Christians. Jesus said,”If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)
- Jesus expects churches to remain true to Him. These perilous times are upon us…we seem in every way to be in the last days. We must protect ourselves from the movement of the church into the world. At TFL, we must remain true to the word. We must uphold sound doctrine. In Paul’s instruction to Timothy, he says:
But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:13–17)
Our position at TFL is that we will stand against false doctrine. We will expose evil men and imposters. We will continue in the Holy Scriptures. We will teach the Word of God so that each of us is thoroughly equipped for every good work.
- Jesus expects the church to keep the faith. Even under persecution and attack by those who hate Christianity, we should be diligent to keep Christ’s word and to defend the faith. Even under persecution and attack, we must not deny His name. Paul said it well, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) We must patiently endure—persevere. We know the end of the story. We will, regardless of how the world responds to us, appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). All He expects from us is that we live according to His word and we do what He has prepared for us to do.
- Jesus expects those in the church to exhibit spiritual growth. Jesus expects all who know Him to follow Him. This requires that all who have trusted in Christ to become a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). This takes time and it takes work. Our goal needs to be that we become all that Christ created us to be.
- Jesus expects the church to keep the Word of God. We must be diligent to stay true to God’s Word and to defend the truth. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (2 Pet 3:15-16)
- Jesus expects the church to be intolerant of wicked men. Our challenge is to remain true to the Lord Jesus and keep Him as our first love. We should not be active in the church-growth movement. We should not be about adopting new philosophies (the Emerging/Emergent Church movement). We should not be about offering programs for the only purpose of attracting people to our church. We need to be about the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul emphasizes throughout his letters to the churches that we must seek after and maintain sound doctrine (2 Cor 5:13; 1 Tim 1:10; 2 Tim 1:7, 13; 4:3; Titus 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2, and 8). Our doctrine, our minds, our words, our faith, and our speech must be in accord with the Bible. We must not lose our first love. We must remain true to the Bible. We must be a light of the truth of the Bible to the world even when the world is persecuting us for our position.
Christ’s exhortation to the Church
Jesus had a very similar message of exhortation to the seven churches. If the church was going in the wrong direction, it needs to repent and go back to the first principles of being a church. That involved commitment to Christ and the sound doctrine of the Bible.
If a church was following Christ, they were to hold on to what they had. They needed to be faithful even to the point of death.
I believe this is where the rubber meets the road. Persecution of the Christian Church will systematically increase in the coming months and years. At TFL, we are maintaining sound doctrine. We are teaching and preaching the Word of God. When persecution escalates, we must be willing to stand firm in Christ.
One of my key life-verses is found in 1 Corinthians 15:58. It says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Are you willing to take a stand with Jesus, even if it means undergoing extreme persecution? The time is coming when you will need to make your stand or go the way of the world.