Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Church Has Many Critics But No Rivals

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 20, 2011

Matthew 16:13-18, “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.””

1 Peter 2:1-10, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “ Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

Someone has said that the Church has many critics, but no rivals. That’s an interesting statement, don’t you think? Why would this unknown someone say this? And, what did he mean by this rather astute observation?

The Church has many critics… Going back all the way to the Day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, and – for that matter – going all the way back to the days of the Old Testament men and women of faith. Beloved, the fact of the matter is, that God’s people, those who faith in Him is genuine, and whose relationship to Him is certain, God’s people, Old Testament and New, have always been the object of opposition, derision, criticism and even persecution. Why? Because sinful men and women and children, given over as they are to their ‘master’, the Devil, wicked people HATE God and anyone and anything that has anything to do with God! Yes, no surprise here, for the Church has many, many critics – and God said His people would! In our country, who are the critics? They are such as the secular media, the educational establishment, the strident voices - screaming for freedom of choice, alternative lifestyles, moral relativity - and even sometimes the next door neighbors. All of whom are lashing out, subtly and, in some cases, not so subtly, against God by attacking His people. Yes, the Church has many critics: that’s the first half of this perceptive comment. But, listen – there’s a second half to that insight from our anonymous friend, and that half is this: the Church has no rivals!

What exactly does this unknown observer mean by this portion of what he said?

The Church has no rivals. Here’s what I believe this discerning commentator is trying to communicate by that statement: there is only ONE, count it with me, not 10, not 5, not 3, not 2, but ONE true Church! Check it out with me, will you? There is only ONE true Church, how do we know that? Matthew 7:13-27 – Remember the text with which Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount, only one true Church. Are you a part of it? Lot’s of people, I mean lots of people, the great majority of people, will think they are a part of the true church, but won’t be! But aren’t! And why won’t they be? I mean, the road they are traveling, it’s a mile wide and as cram-packed as Central Expressway at 7 O’clock in the morning on Monday through Friday. I mean, the gate they are passing through, isn’t it the gateway to heaven? Isn’t it? I mean, everybody, or so it would seem, is using that gate to try to get in! Oh, but listen, my friends, just because EVERYBODY is going a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the right way! And, just because the great majority of people have chosen one gate, doesn’t mean it leads to eternal life! Matthew 7:13-14 – Would you read it with me, please?

Matthew 7:13-14, ““Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

The true Church - I’m talking about the few who refuse to get caught up in the HERD mentality! The true Church, I mean the tiny minority God says are actually His, they are the ones who select the way that really does lead to life, the straight gate and the narrow, restrictive, exclusive way! The Church, the true Church, has no rivals…
There really is only ONE true Church, are you a part of it? Am I? Matthew 7:15 – Beloved, if you’re only looking at things - external – if we’re concentrating merely on the outward appearance of things, we might be led to believe that God’s flock – in fact – is quite large! But listen, what did Jesus say? How did He warn His true sheep? Matthew 7:15 – “Beware of false prophets, beware of phony professors. Oh, they’ll look the part for sure! Just look at their clothes! They’re dressed in 100% wool, just like the sheep! In fact, they even sound like the sheep! “Lord, Lord, did we not cast out demons in Your name? Did we not perform many miracles in Your name? But Jesus says, “Beware of them” my friends! “Beware!”

They are not the true Church! No! Inwardly they are wolves, ferocious wolves out to decimate the flock! They are the useless thistles, the ugly, awful thorn bushes that produce no good fruit at all! Yes, they are the foolish builders, who rebelliously – yes, I said rebelliously – think they can do WITHOUT Lordship, without the obedience to Jesus Christ that He commands and requires!

The Church, criticized, attacked, maligned, that’s what the enemies of God are all about. Yet, what did Jesus say He is all about? Go back to Matthew 16:18 with me. I love this verse, don’t you? Matthew 16:18, Jesus declared to Peter, and the rest of His disciples: “I will build My church, and even the very gates of HELL shall not prevail against it!” The Church, the true people of God, how did Peter describe them in 1 Peter 2:7? Are they the un-believing, those who reject Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone? No! No! And, verse 8, are they the disobedient, those who wrongly think that they can continue with their ungodly lifestyles after they have made the good confession and were baptized? Take a look at chapter one, verses 14-15. Once again, the answer is ‘no!’ Rather, the Church, the true people of God, is made up of those who have been genuinely born again. And, it consists of those who have repents, truly repented of their sins, and – with God’s help – are seeking to lay those sins and sinful habit patterns aside, once and for all! The true Church, the ones Peter calls ‘living stones’ in verse 5, these are the ones God is building, Jesus Christ is building into a spiritual house, and fashioning into a holy priesthood, that will regularly offer up spiritual sacrifices that are well-pleasing to God!

The Church – what do you know, about the Church? How acquainted are you with what this Book says about the true people of God? Beloved, you need to know, you need to really grasp the fact that - along with the Christian family, God’s first, and I believe, primary divinely-ordained institution – the Church has a key role to play in God’s plan for the ages. Yet, it seems to me that, going back al the way to the time of the apostles, and certainly, all the way up to today, there is so much MIS-understanding, so little CORRECT insight into the WHO and WHAT and WHY? behind the Church! In the time that remains this morning, I’d like to do something about that! With God’s help, I’d like to do something to change that!

The Church, to know, to understand, right up front, for us to gain insight into this incredibly important entity, we must begin to grasp just what this one, 6-letter word means – the Church.

When Jesus said, “I will build my church” – when the apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Ephesus and Philippi and Corinth and Rome, what did they mean when they used that term the ‘church’? Mark this one down my friends, the Church, that single, 6-letter word comes from a New Testament word that literally means and refers to those who have been called BY God, out of the world, out of sin, out of rebellion against God and allegiance to Satan, to Himself, to ownership by and obedience to God Himself! How many of you realized that before hearing it just now? The Church, the reason it is the true, people of God is because God has had, and does have everything to do with it! He is the One who has called it into existence. He is the One who has brought it together in and through His dear Son. And, He is the One who will keep it together through out all eternity! To say it as Jesus said it, the Church is HIS church! It belongs to Him! He is it’s Head! Not some preacher or pope or elder or lady group’s chairwoman – no! The Church is HIS body! He is it’s head. And, yes, He is it’s Loving Husband, whose’ incomparably great sacrificial love sanctifies, and purifies, and even glorifies the Church, she belongs to Him! She is His bride, not the world’s, so Christian, stop flirting with the world! She is, you are, His bride! Not some sports team, some actress, some musician, some American idol; so Christian, stop adulterating yourself at their ‘altars’! Yes, the Church, the true one, the un-rivaled one, is His! Can we get our minds around that one, beloved? Will we surrender our hearts’ throne to that one? Will we?

The Church, the called out ones, it belongs to God. It is the sole possession of Jesus Christ! But, how do we know that? On what basis can we say that? Go back to 1 Peter with me, will you? 1 Peter 1:23-25.

In 1 Peter 2:2, Peter refers to the Church, to Christians as “newborn babies”. Now, here’s the $64,000 question for you. How did these newborn babies come to be alive in the first place? Who conceived them? How were they given birth?

1 Peter 1:23-25 – The Church, it belongs to God, the called-out ones, the newborn ones, they belong to God – how do we know that? 1 Peter 1:23-25 – It is God’s Word that has conceived and given birth to them!

My Loved Ones, the Church belongs to God. If it is the true Church, the unrivaled Church, Christ’s church – how do we know that? 1 Peter 1:18-19 – Who put up the ‘money’ to fund it, to buy it? Beloved, do you realize that there would BE no church, no church at all for critics to attack, no group of called out ones for the enemies of God to slander, if Jesus Christ HAD NOT first endured the abuse - verbal and other wise – of the Cross! 1 Peter 1:18-19 – The church is His, it is His – why? Because He bought and paid for it with His own, precious life’s blood! The Church, yes, it is the company of the redeemed! We are God’s blood-bought people! But, listen, we didn’t get that way, by the way of our wallet. “You were NOT redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold, [or American dollars] – no! But, by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot!“

The Church is God’s church, the Church belongs to Christ! He is the Living Stone, rejected indeed by men – by the wolves, by the thorn bushes, the walkers on the wide road marked destruction. But, He also is the One God has chosen to be the cornerstone, the foundation stone for that grand New Testament temple He has determined to construct out of all who believe and obey Him! The question is – do you belong to Him? Newborn babes, those who truly have been begotten by the Word of God have a longing, a hunger, a thirst for the sincere milk of the Word, do you? And, true trees, they don’t merely profess allegiance to Christ – “Lord, Lord!” – no! They produce the good fruits of righteousness that prove it! What kind of fruit is your life producing?

The Church, God’s called out ones, His chosen ones, His elect! My loved ones, as your preacher, my job is to comfort the afflicted, for sure! But, listen – just as for sure, just as important in god’s view of things is my job to AFFLICT the comfortable! To afflict the comfortable!

The Church, where do you stand, with respect to that God-ordained entity? Are you one of its critics? Yes, right here, inside these 4-walls, are some who look the part, some who wear their 3 piece suits, and flowing skirts made out of the finest wool. But, inwardly they are wolves, ferocious wolves! Are you one of them? Am I? Jesus Christ, the Church’s head and Husband says, “Repent! Repent! And bring forth the good fruits that are in keeping with repentance! Repent!”

The Church, indeed, it has many critics, but NO rivals! Beloved, do you know what that means? It means simply this: if you want to go to heaven, if you want to enter into life, eternal life, you must be a part of God’s Church! You must be purchased by Christ’s blood, connected to and submissive to Christ as your Head, and built on Christ as your foundation. You must!

No comments: