The Importance of the Local Church: Part II
FINDING A LOCAL CHURCH
Deuteronomy 12:1-8 These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth. Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God. But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee. Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.
We know the setting here: the children of Israel have been delivered out of Egyptian bondage and are now on their pilgrimage to the promised land. Now remember,the Bible teaches that their experience in the natural mirrors our experience in the spirit. In other words, there are many lessons to be learned by carefully considering the O.T. record of Israel’s history.
1 Cor. 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
In our text, Moses,instructed by God, gives Israel a specific charge. They were to possess the land. They were commanded to destroy every relic of idolatry. Mixturewas never to be tolerated and they were warned to settle for nothing less than pure worship. And finally, in a reference to the O.T. tabernacle, God commands them…
Deut. 12:5 But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come…
Notice, they are alerted to a specific place, a divinely chosen place, a place that they were obligated to seek after, find, and then willingly come to. Now, I believe this verse speaks, albeit figuratively, to all born-again believers. Once we’ve been redeemed from sinand the world through the gospel, we may have to destroy a thousand pagan altars, or sort through the groves, the pillars, and the false images commonly found in today’s church world…Nevertheless,our obligation is clear, we must seek after, find, and come to that God-ordained local church He desires to plant us in.
1 Cor. 12:18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
Anything less,and we fall short of His perfect will. Like many today, Israelignoring these commands wandered in the wilderness until their death. I often ask men…
“Can you say, without a doubt, that you are in the local church where God wants you?”
“Do you have assurance that you have found a spiritual home?”
Rarely have I met anyone who survives while willfully violating this principle, as the local church is the place of blessing…
Psalm 133:3 …for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
The great influence of the local churchin the life of the believer is undeniable: God has ordained it as a channel of grace. But for the very reason we must be a part of a N.T. local church, we also, must not be a part of anything less. There is only one thing worse than not being a part of a local church, that is being yoked with what is merely called a local church. As we learned in our last message: it is better to be in an atmosphere of spiritual encouragement than to be alone. However, it is better to be alonethan to be in an atmosphere of mixture, compromise, and apostasy.
“If you refuse to limit your message, you will be required to limit your fellowship.” An Unknown Wise Pastor
As the children of Israel, we must discern between the pagan and the pure and thereby seek, find, and come to God’s chosen place.My standard counsel: write down, visit, let the peace of God rule in your heart, lay all other considerations aside.
Matthew 6:33-34 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
I believe the following questions must be asked when seeking after God’s ordained place for us.
CAN I SUPPORT THE VISION
Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
In other words: Is the vision Biblical? Is the message,methods, and modes of the ministry according to God’s Word? Does the Word of God receive the preeminence, is it truly the standard whereby all things are judged and measured? Is the direction and vision of the local church in accordance with the vision of the N.T.? Many people make the grave mistake of thinking they, by virtue of their convictions, will change the direction of a given ministry. The truth is, more time than not, instead of bringing revival you will be leavened yourself or get sifted.
Galatians 5:9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Remember, the literal meaning of the church is, “Those who are called out“. God has always called a people out of a people, to bring together a consecrated and unified vessel for Himself. If you cannot support the vision, the best thing to do is separate and look for a place you can.
CAN I SUBMIT TO THE LEADERSHIP?
Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Do I have enough respect for the leadership to allow them to correct me? The relationship between the believer and the local church is not casual but covenant. To truly realize God’s will we must not merely attend the local church meetings, we must be committed to the body and we must be submitted to the God-ordained authority. I define this submission to authorityas a relationship possessing enough power to cause me to reconsider what I deem right.
Indeed, those who understand Biblical order, dare not lightly cast aside an exhortation or warning from spiritual authority. However, such relationships demand deep trust which can only be fostered when we can, first hand, observe authority living the Word of God…
1 Thes. 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you…
IN GENERAL, IS BIBLICAL DISCIPLESHIP EVIDENT?
James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
The question that must be asked is a popular one, but few ask it in the proper context: Is the church growing? All things that are alive consequently grow, but not necessarily is size. Just because a church has large numbers means very little. In fact, in this apostate age, it could be a sure indicator of compromise. Nonetheless, though numerical growth maybe meaningless, spiritual growth is an irrefutable sign of life. Are men being challenged, corrected, and convicted? Is sin,subtle or otherwise, being confronted? Are the leaders and elders, and particularly the pastor willing to teach and address practical issues with the truth of the Scriptures?
1 Tim. 3:2 A bishop then must…apt to teach
And may we remember, “teaching”, as it were, is more than formal expository instruction from the Word. We must ask the questions…
“If I were to persist in error could I be assured that my pastor/spiritual authority would confront me?”
“Would someone be willing to reprove me?”
“Are men and women being conformed to the image of Christ?”
“It was claimed for Augustus Caesar that he found Rome a city of wood, and left it a city of marble. The pastor who succeeds in changing his people from a prayerless to a prayerful people, has done a greater work than did Augustus in changing a city from wood to marble. And after all, this is the prime work of the preacher…the preacher is not sent to merely induce men to join the church, nor merely to get them to do better. It is to get them to pray, to trust God, and to keep God ever before their eyes, that they may not sin against Him.” -E.M.Bounds
WILL I BE ENCOURAGED OR OPPOSED IN OBEYING MY BIBLE AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST?
1 Cor. 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.
This is an absolute: The Holy Ghostwill never persecute or otherwise oppose the Lordship of Christ. Yet, all over America, men are part of local churches that are fighting them in their pursuit of Christ. What a spiritual tragedy. If they attempt to practice the Great Commission they are told they will do more harm than good. If they voice their hatred against sin they are accused of being mean-spirited, holier than thou, critical, and judgmental. The authority of their homes are regularly challenged from the pulpit, in the Sunday school, or the nursery. Pastors, youth pastors, and super-spiritual, renegade, Jezebel types are constantly casting a shadow of doubt on the Biblical structure of marital/family authority.
Hence, though it is sad, in considering the spiritual value of a local church, we must unfortunately ask whether obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ will be promoted or fought.
CAN I CONFIDENTLY INVITE SAINT OR SINNER TO THE CORPORATE MEETINGS?
Romans 14:13 …that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
Will there be obvious things in doctrine or practice that I would not want to be asked to explain? Sadly, the average church in America has less order and only a slightly higher moral code than the common street gang. Hence, if we find ourselves ashamed at both the instruction and the practice of the local assembly, we should reconsider if that’s where God would have us.
CAN I, WITH MY FAMILY, FREELY AND SAFELY FELLOWSHIP WITH THE CONGREGATION?
2 Cor. 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
Is there a N.T. standard of regeneration in the local church, or have they succumb to the easy-believism of our day?
Ezekiel 44:7 In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.
We are to avoid and shun those who profess Christ but who live unholy.
1 Cor. 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
Yet, people willingly enter into covenant relationships with churches filled with hypocrites and they do this to their own peril. In this hour Biblical church discipline is considered harsh, unloving, and unchristlike, but could anything be more loving? Is there Biblical separation, or do we see influences of worldliness?
“If I were to give you a watchword, it would be ‘NO COMPROMISE,’ fight or no fight, discussion or no discussion. Principle is better than unity, and the ultimate end of principle will be oneness.” John G. Lake
CAN I, IN GOOD CONSCIENCE, GIVE OF MY SUBSTANCE AND SUPPORT THE MINISTRY FINANCIALLY?
Luke 16:10-11 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
This, of course, entails the good stewardship of our giving. Amazingly, I’ve known of men who are afraid to give of their finances to places they attend church. Now, it stands to reason that if we cannot surrender our money to a ministry we surely cannot expose our spirit. Who can deny this logical conclusion?
This is a legitimate question: Do we feel that our giving will be utilized to the glory of God? If not, the ministry fails at this point.
In closing then, let us be careful to seek, find, and forever be committed to abiding in that place thatGod has placed His name.