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Acts 20:28-32 HOW TO SAVE YOUR CHURCH
Intro: Whether we realize it or not, our churches are under attack this evening. You see, the devil and the world hate what is happening here and they will stop at nothing to destroy this place of worship. How many times have we heard of some church or the other that was going through some time of great crisis? A few years back, there was a church in Canton, NC in which a fistfight broke out over someone sitting in another person’s pew. I heard of one church in the mountains that literally split over the color of the song books. The side who lost the vote took chainsaws and sawed the little one room church in two and carried their side away. What a testimony to the glory of God!
While we hear of these things and we say, “How foolish!” Never think for a minute that something similar can’t happen right here. Some of you my have felt like nothing that terrible can happen in our church, but do not deceive yourselves. This church, Gilead church and any other church that has human members is a time bomb that can blow up in your face at any moment. After all, we are nothing more than just a collection of old sinners who have been saved by grace. We are indwelt by the Spirit of God and He brings peace, but we each possess a sinful nature and he will always bring fighting and division.
Now, I don’t know about you all, but I do not want that for our church and I am sure that you all do not want that here. All I am saying is that at any moment, a word can be said out of turn and taken the wrong way, a deed committed and misunderstood by some, some action may be taken the wrong way and trouble can and will rear its ugly head. I guess you could say that I am attempting to do a little preventative maintenance this evening.
You see, our churches can be one of two places. They can be places where the Spirit of God manifests Himself in power and where there is unity and love among the brethren, or they can be places of strife, conflict and division. God can bless he first church, He can do nothing for the second variety, unless they are willing to change.
While I want you to know that trouble is always a possibility, it does not have to happen, ever! While it is always possible that problems will come, there is nothing written in stone that says they have to. In fact, they won’t unless we, the members who make up the church, allow them to.
This is Paul’s intention in preaching these words of warning to the church at Ephesus. He wants them to know that trouble can be avoided and that the church can dwell in unity and blessing if they are willing to listen to what he has to say to them.
In the great Apostles words, we can find some truths that will help our churches as we strive to serve the Lord. This evening I would like to address the thought, How To Save Your Church.
First I would like to speak about:
I. V. 28 THE VALUE OF THE CHURCH
A. Its Inception - According to this verse, the church was purchased by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, Rev. 1:5. Ill. The awful price Jesus paid for the church. He was crucified and He shed His blood so that the church could be bought from he slavery of sin and redeemed to Almighty God. He paid the price of laying down His life so that the church could be born.
(Ill. His blood hasn’t lost any power this evening. He is still saving all who will come to Him by faith and who will receive Him into their hearts and lives. Ill. Rom. 10:13; Acts 16:31; John 3:16.)
B. Its Impact - Since the day of Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit in the upper room, the church has been used of the Lord to change individuals, families and whole societies. The true church has always stood for righteousness, holy living and godliness. The church has always been an instrument for change in the world. Because of the church, people’s lives have been changed, families and communities have been strengthened and the message of Jesus Christ has been given feet in the world.
C. Its Importance - What makes the church so important this evening? It is God’s arm in the world! The church of Jesus Christ is THE only organism in existence that God has designed, called and blessed to be the vehicle through which He will work in this world. The church is important because it is the only boat afloat!
(Ill. There are numerous para-church ministries out there today, but any group that doesn’t operate under the umbrella of the local church, any group, regardless of their influence or their outreach, that does not promote the local church is not operating for the Lord! That is a bold statement, but I’ll stand by it!)
(Ill. I say the church is important because our families need it, our communities need it, the lost around us need it, and the world as a whole needs it. The church is her righteousness is absolutely essential to our world - Ill. Matt. 5:13.)
(Ill. Many Christians live as though the church were unimportant! Haphazard attendance by those who claim to love Jesus is a blight on the name of the church! If those who are saved do not demonstrate the importance of being faithful to the House of the Lord, then why should we expect sinners to darken the doors? (Ill. If I were lost, I would be more impressed by an empty parking lot on Wednesday night that I would be by a full one on Sunday morning!)
(Ill. Easy to Baptists to show up for the 3 F’s - Funerals, Feasts and Fights.)
(Ill. One fellow was asked why he didn’t go to church more often that he did. He replied that every time he went they threw something at him. When he was a baby, they threw water. When he got married, they threw rice. The other fellow replied, “Yes, and if you don’t get in their pretty soon, the next time you go, they’ll be throwing dirt at you!”)
(Ill. Lackluster performance on behalf of Christians says that we place less value on the church than we do on worldly pursuits. Many see no need to arrive on time. Others see no need to arrive prepared to perform their duties before the Lord. Why, if you treated your secular employment like you treat the House of God, then you’d be out of a job in no time flat! Yet the church and the work that goes on here is far more important and deserves far greater preparation and dedication than any job or recreational pursuit! A lack of joy in our work for Jesus as we gather out to His house sends the wrong message to a watching world.)
(May I remind you that those few hours that you will spend down at the Lord’s House are the most important thing you will do all week long!)
I. The Value Of The Church
II. V. 29-30 THE VIOLENCE AGAINST THE CHURCH
(Ill. While the church is so absolutely vital to our world, there are forces about that would love nothing better than to see the church defeated and destroyed. Most of those forces are external, but some, sad to say, are internal. Notice the 2 main areas where attacks upon the church originate.)
A. V. 29 There Are Enemies Around Us - (Ill. Paul speaks of wolves which will come in and try to devour the flock.)
(Ill. The analogy of the wolf is fitting, because like wolves, those who prey on the church are:
1. Pack Animals - They rarely work alone, but feel safer, and can do far more damage when operating in numbers.
2. Typically Operate In The Dark - These beasts are terribly afraid of the light as it exposes their errors. (Ill. That is why the wolves in the church will kick against old-fashioned, Bible preaching! They don’t like it and don’t want it. But, you folks ought to thank God that you have a man here who is not afraid to stand on the Book and preach it gun barrel straight! I’ll say more about the man of God in a few minutes!)
3. They Attack The Young, The Weak And The Sickly - The wolves typically go after those who cannot easily defend themselves against their attacks.
(Ill. If you were the devil, who would you attack? Someone who is faithful to church, who is prayed up, who is studied up on a steady diet of the Word of God, who is filled with the Spirit? Or, would you go after that one who was spiritually weak, who doesn’t pray as he should, who misses more church than he attends, who doesn’t read his Bible as he should? You would, of course, pick the weakest target you could find. But wait! Even though that one may be weak, they still represent a foothold in the congregation! You folks who are weak in your walk with Jesus and who are prone to wander need to beware, you are prime targets for attacks from the world, the flesh and the devil! Perhaps it would do us good to read Ephesians 4:27. This verse teaches us that we are to give the devil no “place” in our lives. The word “place” comes from the Greek word “topos.” We get our word topography from it. It literally means “ground.” This verse is telling us that we are not to give the devil so much as a toe hold in our congregation. Not the smallest sliver of ground from which he can launch an attack against the church. Ill. 2 Cor. 2:11 speaks of Satan gaining an “advantage” against us. This literally refers to a beachhead. If we allow the devil to gain a beachhead in our lives, he can use that small patch of real estate to launch attacks against the church, the family and the community. We must give him no ground!)
4. They Never Attack Face To Face - They always attack from the blind side. When you let your guard down, that is the moment when the enemies of the church will attack.
(Ill. Satan in the Garden of Eden - Gen. 3. He disguised himself before he attacked Eve. He didn’t face her as himself, he knew that he would have been recognized. He disguised himself as the snake he is! By the way, his tactics haven’t changed! He is still invading the church through trickery and deceit.)
(Ill. Years later, Paul’s prediction came true in Ephesus. The church was infiltrated by its enemies and it fell from greatness. It could happen in your church and mine if we do not watch!)
B. V. 30 There Are Enemies Among Us
(Ill. Paul warned the Ephesians that there would arise people from within their own number who would try to destroy the Lord’s church.)
(Ill. Things haven’t changed! When Satan finds that he cannot mount an attack from the outside, he will look for someone on the inside through which he can devastate and destroy the church.)
(Ill. A pastor came home one day to the sound of arguing coming from the bedroom. He quickly climbed the stairs and entered his little daughter’s room and found her arguing with her friends. “What’s going on in here?”, he asked. His five year old daughter looked up at him and smiled as she said, “It’s OK Daddy, We’re just playing church!” That scene would be truly funny if it weren’t true! Because, sadly, this is common practice in many churches!)
(Ill. Many fail to realize that when the church allows itself to be divided over petty issues that it loses face with the community and with the lost all around. But, what do we do when little issues arise in the life of the church? How do we handle conflict when it rears it ugly head? Well, the bible gives us some pretty clear answers to these concerns.
1. We are to do everything in live - 1 Cor. 13:1-3; Matt. 22:39.
2. We are to have a forgiving spirit - Matt. 18:21-35; Luke 17:3-4; Eph. 4:32. (Ill. It doesn’t matter if your brother ever makes it right with you! You are to forgive him and not give the devil place in your fellowship!) (Ill. Matt. 5:23-24)
3. We are to place the needs of others ahead of our own needs -
Phil. 2:4; Rom. 12:10.(Ill. Not like Diotrophes - 3 John 9-10. Whenever there is division and strife in the church there is always a Diotrophes in the midst. This is someone who is willing to sacrifice unity, blessing, and the power and presence of God just to get his/her on way. Diotrophes is always placing his agenda ahead of the Lord’s!)
(Ill. The Bible is plain when it tells us how we are to deal with a brother who has gone bad - Rom. 16:17; 2 Thes. 3:6; 2 Thes. 3:14-15. We are to watch out for them, avoid them, but at the same time we are to pray for them that they will get right with God and be restored. That may seem harsh to some, but which is more important? Somebodies petty, little agenda or the presence and power of God? Call me crazy, but I’d rather have Jesus and His marvelous presence than to see anyone person get their way and see the church forfeit the power of God!)
(Ill. May I remind everyone under the sound of my voice that our battle is with the devil and not with each other? Ill. The difference between thoroughbred horses and donkeys when it comes to facing their enemies.)
(Ill. While the church is attacked from without and from within, we will survive the outward attacks far more readily than we will the inward ones. When the house is divided, it will not stand - Matt. 12:25. Ill. 1 Cor. 1:10 - Divisions = “Schisma” This word literally means to cleave and carries with it the idea of butchery. When there is division among the members of the Lord’s church, there is a butchery of the Lamb of God taking place!)
(Ill. I challenge you to always be on guard for trouble at the house of God. Verse 28 is a call to be watchful. Both of self and of others! When trouble and division rears its ugly head in your midst, take whatever steps are necessary, regardless of how extreme they are, to see that it is stopped in its tracks.)
(Ill. I would like to say a word about the preacher in all of this. More often than not, when attacks come, they will be directed against the Pastor. It may complaints about his preaching, his personality, his failure to visit, or any of 10 billion other things. When attacks manifest themselves against the man of God, I challenge to not to abandon him. Many like the preacher when things are good, but let a battle come and it becomes every men for himself. If you really love God and if the man of God is a man of the Book, then you stand beside him and fight the battle shoulder to shoulder, for in the end, right will prevail and if you stand with the man God had chosen to lead this church you will be on the victorious side, regardless of how the battle goes! What am I saying? Be good to your preacher! Love him, pray for him, take care of his needs, check on him and his family, encourage him, be his friend. Never try to make him your hired boy. Let him be God’s man and respect him for the message he preaches and for the sacrifices he makes on your behalf. Never allow an attack against the preacher go unanswered. All I am saying is that you need to remember to love, respect and appreciate God’s man. You’ve got an old-fashioned preacher, an that is a rare thing these days. Be thankful for him, support him, love him and take care of him and the Lord will bless your church. I guarantee it!)
I. The Value Of The Church
II. The Violence Against The Church
III. V. 31-32 THE VICTORY OF THE CHURCH
(I thank the Lord that we can enjoy the victory this evening. Your church and mine do not have to become grim statistics. These verses teach us exactly where the victory lies. We will find our victory in 2 main areas.)
A. In Dependence Upon God
(Ill. Remember His promise in Matt. 16:18? The church is His responsibility, not ours! If we will walk in love, practice forgiveness, obey Him in all things and glorify Him in the church, then He will see to that this church survives the battles and remains a blessing in the world.)
(Ill. The primary thrust of this section is that Jesus Christ, and not us, must be the centerpiece of everything done in the church - Col. 1:18. In all thing, above all things and before all things, Jesus Christ, His will, His glory and His Person must be first and foremost. It isn’t about the preacher, it isn’t about the deacons, it isn’t about the who gave the land for the church, it isn’t about who did this, or who gave the other. It is all about Jesus. As long as He remains the apple of the church’s eye, then there will be victory. You see, church must become far more than “my need, my enjoyment, edification and my spiritual satisfaction.” Church must Jesus, just Jesus. He said that when 2 or 3 were gathered together in His name, that He would be in the midst, Matt. 18:20. Therefore, let us recognize His presence and give Him the preeminence He demands and deserves. True victory for the church will only be found in Jesus and in Him alone!)
B. In A Deepening Relationship With God
1. Prayer - Our prayer lives must be rich and regular. We need to bath our churches and their ministries in prayer. I know our church has experienced through the prevailing prayer of her members touching God than from any other thing we could name. Oh, God has done it all, but He has moved in response to the cry of His children - James 5:16. God wants His people to be a people of prayer.
2. In The Word Of God - The Bible is our source of strength in the day of battle. There are many who have been lead into error and into sin and false doctrine simply because they are not grounded in the Word of God. They have failed to feed on this blessed holy Book and as a result, they are weak and anemic, they are easily lead astray and they are prime targets for the attack of the devil. There is a great need for believers to be grounded in the Word of God. Not the opinions of preachers, or the ideas of men, but the pure, unfiltered, unaltered word of the living God - 2 Tim. 2:15.)
(Ill. What is sad is the fact that anyone of us is only one step away from being the spark the devil uses to blow the church apart. Anyone in this building who refuses to walk in humble submission before the Lord is capable of being used by the enemy to destroy this fellowship. Don’t let it be you! Search your heart and see if there is the beginning of that spirit of divisiveness that can do so much harm. May I remind you that the closer you get to Jesus, the less likely it is that you will be the center of trouble?)
Conc: Ill. Navalgate. This story would be so silly if it were tragically true! Divisions of this nature happen all to often and because of our ignorance, the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ is slandered among the lost world. Folk, the church is far too vital and important for us to allow anything to destroy the Lord’s work here. I challenge you to make your way to these altars, to renew your commitment to the lord and to His church, to vow that before you will allow yourself to be used of the devil as an instrument of destruction, that you will make things right with God and with your fellow Christian.
I challenge the lost one who may be here to stop allowing everything in the world to stand between you and Jesus. Come to Jesus tonight and be saved.
I challenge everyone here tonight to take whatever stand is necessary to guarantee the continued victory of this great church. Maybe some of you need to come to this Pastor and put your arm around his neck and apologize for not backing him like you should have. Maybe you need to come and just offer him a word of encouragement. Maybe there is a rift between you and another brother and you want to make that right tonight. Why not go to them right now and get it settled? Do you want revival? If so, then there will be a price to pay. Will you pay it? Will you do what the Lord is moving on your heart to do right now?
You know how, now will you take the necessary steps to save your church?