What Makes a Church a Church: Instruction
WHAT MAKES A CHURCH A CHURCH
Fourth Sunday in a series of sermons on What Makes a Church a Church: Ministry; Worship; Fellowship; & this morning, Instruction.
On January 1, 1992, the Chicago Tribune reported the death of thirty church-goers in the remote town of El Charquillo in the San Luis Potosi desert, about 300 miles north of Mexico City, Mexico. The victims included the preacher and his family. The unfortunate congregants suffocated from toxic fumes emitted by a butane gas lamp which lit the tiny building. Three men survived this tragedy because they had left earlier when they had felt ill. Others may have escaped as well, but were told by the preacher not to leave. People were choking, coughing, vomiting, and fainting. In response the preacher told them that these were not bad feelings, but was the drawing nigh of God---Christ was manifesting himself to the congregation.
This “message of death” pictures the fate of those who listen with trust to false teachers. In a way, the message kind of makes sense --- in a way. But, when judged against the whole of the Word of God, there is reason to question, there is reason to doubt. The Holy Spirit must be our teacher.
The apostle Paul addressed this issue in his first letter to Timothy. Listen to his wise counsel in 1 Timothy 4:1-11. Will you stand for the reading of the Scripture this morning (& I encourage you to follow along. If you need to use the pew Bible, the passage is on page 1245.
1 TIMOTHY 4:1-11
I have intentionally put instruction last in this series for a couple of reasons. First, we tend to prefer studying Scripture rather than acting upon the concept.
· It’s a whole lot easier to discuss where the Sermon on the Mount actually took place than it is to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
· It’s less difficult to discuss the existence of a gate in Jerusalem that was called the eye of a needle where a camel had to get down on all 4s w/out a saddle on to get through … than it is to live a simple, unencumbered life. (By the way … there is no such gate)
· It’s less demanding to be hearers of the word … than it is to be doers of the word, … isn’t it?
We Christians know far more about the Bible than we practice!
I once attended a Sunday School class & heard the teacher quote the verse where Jesus says, “Love the Lord w/ all your heart, soul, mind, & strength (Mark) (Matt. Leaves out strength) & then suggest that Jesus didn’t really mean “ALL” because, after all, that’s impossible …
· Did Jesus say something that He didn’t mean?
· Are we supposed to live less than 24/7 for Jesus?
· Are we completely sold out to Jesus?
· Is he 100% master?
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.”
-------C. S. Lewis
A second reason that I have placed instruction last in this series is that it is crucial for every disciple. We must train ourselves to be godly! Our ministries, our worship, our fellowship, all that we do falls into question if it is not grounded in the truths of Scripture.
Willow Creek Community Church > Drama, Dance, Band, Movie Clips, anything that will capture the attention of people who can’t learn by just listening > for this reason they’ve been branded heretical or called gospel light…
“We believe that anointed teaching is the catalyst for transformation in individuals’ lives and in the church.”
The only way that we can be sure that what we say & do is God honoring … is to be instructed in the word of God!
Four Guiding Principles for Solid Biblical Instruction:
1. Know what the Bible really says
The Bible does not say, “God helps those who help themselves.”
Don’t rely on what someone else tells you the Bible says --- read it for yourself!
2. Consider the full counsel of Scripture.
Read a verse in it’s context
· What does the whole chapter say?
· Does this verse agree w/ the rest of the Bible?
· What was going on in those days? (His eyes were glued to the black board!)
3. Recognize the difference between the Holy Spirit and Satan.
When Patti & I got married
Don’t ask God to have the sun rise in the east … or the west
4. Confirm your understanding with other believers.
It’s just possible that you could have it wrong.
If it just doesn’t feel right to you … ask another Christian.
Be careful in who you pick.
The story we’re called to tell and live and die by is one of risk confronted, death embraced. What’s more, Jesus calls us to walk the narrow way, take up a cross with him, daily. It’s terribly risky business. Ask that bright company of martyrs that quite recklessly parted with goods, security, and life itself, preferring to be faithful in death rather than safe in life.
-------William H. Willimon