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Sunday, June 8, 2014 pm                    Basics Index

 

BACK TO BASICS – 2014
The Church - Supplement

Dangers Facing the Church

 

This month we have begun studying what the Bible teaches about the Lord’s church.  It is imperative that we understand what the church is.  While the church universal is fine and impenetrable, the truth is within local congregations there are great dangers we face.  Tonight I want to revisit a subject we have addressed in times past – dangers facing the Lord’s church.   Let us remind ourselves of some things we need to be aware of as we strive to keep the church pure.

In the Bible, Christians and local congregations faced all sorts of problems.  Much of the New  Testament is written to address some of the problems they experienced.  At times their problems were external, but at other times they were internal.  BOTH types of problems need to be addressed.  Today is certainly no different.  We are facing many dangers that we need to beware of.  So let’s talk about a few of them.

 I.                    Dangers without

a.        Persecutions – we live in a free country.  According to the laws of this country, we are SUPPOSED to be able to worship God without fear of governmental repercussions.  In recent years, it has become evident that our religious and moral freedoms are no longer guaranteed.
Laws are being passed which are going to force us to accept immoral conduct as natural or face consequences.  Persecutions are coming!  And our government has demonstrated that it does not care about your moral convictions.
When the Bible was written, the church was already facing persecutions.  Many of Paul’s letters were written to brethren who were suffering at the hands of godless rulers.  Some of his letters were written while he was being persecuted.
We are told in 2 Timothy 3:12 that all who desire to live godly will suffer persecutions.   
Philippians 1:27–28, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.
The point is that there is a real possibility that we will face real persecutions if we stand for truth in the future.  It is a danger we ought to prepare for.   Persecutions are no excuse to quit serving God.

b.       World views – it is estimated that about 2/3 of the world’s population does not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  There are varying world views that are being taught in our schools, our media and everywhere.  Because of the availability of information and social interaction over the internet, virtually everyone is exposed to numerous world views.
From atheism (no god), to naturalism (god in nature), to pantheism (God is everything), deism (God is “hands off”) and even polytheism (many gods) we are being inundates with all sorts of false religious teachings.  
These are a danger to the church because they lead to attitudes of intolerance (toward those who demand truth and moral objectivity; I often describe “the intolerance of the preachers of tolerance”), increased difficulties in teaching others the truth, immorality often associated with religions where man has created God in his image and so many other concerns.   There is also the teachings and attempts to influence us and our youth with these ideas which will creep INTO the church if they are not addressed.
BUT, again, as the Lord’s church in this community, we still have a responsibility to hold fast to the truth.  1 Timothy 3:15 tells us that the church is “the pillar and ground of truth”. 
We must continue to hold fast to sound doctrine and not be in any way influenced by the world.
We are told in 1 Thess. 5:21-22 to “test all things; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.
Ephesians 5:11 says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

c.        Another external danger is the lure of the world.  It is a sad reality, but there are many who begin following Jesus who find themselves drawn back into the world.   They turn their back on God and their brethren – and in many cases they never come back. 
The world is also attracting many of our youth who have not been properly grounded (and in some cases even those who have).  They never really develop a desire for serving God and follow after the fleeting riches this world has to offer.
1 John 2:15-17 warns us to not love the world or the things in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life.  They draw men away.
Satan seeks to draw us away from the truth – 1 Peter. 5:8 warns us that he walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
Jesus described the hearts of some as falling on stony ground which has no root and at the first sign of trouble withers away (Luke 8:13)

d.       External dangers are a major concern that simply requires us to resolve that we are going to stand for what is right regardless of what man does to us.  The challenge with such dangers is that we often cannot directly control them.  We just have to prepare for them. 

 

 II.                  Dangers within

a.        In Southern California we are always concerned about earthquakes and the devastation they can cause.  IT has been clearly demonstrated that we have no control over earthquakes.  All we can do is be as prepared as possible to deal with them. 
But how many homeowners are concerned about termites? It has been said (at least by the termite exterminators) that they can do more damage than fire and the problem is that we don’t see them until it is too late, UNLESS we look for them.
While external dangers to the church are very real and a source of concerns, perhaps the greater dangers are those within the Lord’s body.  These are dangers that we have some control over and can prevent.  They are also doing great damage.

b.       Weak preaching – we continually emphasize this, so it only needs mentioning here.  It is a real truth that there are many churches that do not want strong and sound preaching.  They do not want to hear about their sins and the sins of their families.  They don’t want to hear about ungodly relationships that need to be addressed, sinful practices that need to be stopped or avoided, or the exposing of false teachers – both without the body and within her. 
Weak preaching comes in many different forms –
 1) unbalanced preaching – avoiding specific subjects (usually the ones needed); 
 2) indirect preaching – rather than identifying specific sins and false teachers some deal in generalities;
 3) “positive preaching” – eliminating the negative.  A modern philosophy is to ignore bad behavior and emphasize the good.  The HOPE is that with “positive reinforcement” individuals will chose to give up bad behavior on their own.  There are many problems with this – both physically and spiritually. 
Paul warned Timothy that the time would come when men would have itching ears and heap up for themselves teachers (2 Tim. 4:2-4) that would tell them what they want. 

c.        Worldliness - we addressed this a little in external dangers, but it is also a danger (perhaps even greater) within the church. 
Worldliness means that we love the world more than we ought to.  Materialism is the love of things – a form of worldliness.
If we are not careful, worldliness will creep into the church.   Materialism will affect the decisions of some brethren who have not overcome the world and its lust.  
 - There are brethren who think more of their building and material amenities than they do of their spiritual well-being.  The church at Laodicea (Rev. 3: 14-18) and the church at Sardis (Rev. 3:1-4) were both rebuked over worldly concerns.    
 - There are brethren who seek to be more appealing to the world and their worldliness affects their decisions.   Some are more concerned about how a decision will affect them materially than how it will affect their relationship with God
 - Wordiness also affects the moral fiber of a congregation.  Increasingly, we are finding churches that are more tolerant toward worldly behaviors – gambling, immodesty, unscriptural marriages, lust, social drinking, entertainment, etc.   They diminish accountability and the need for total transformation.
We are warned to keep the church pure – 1 Cor. 5:6 warns that leaven will affect the whole body.
Ephesians 5:25-27 describes how Christ died for a glorious and pure church.  
Continually, as Christians we are reminded to be “other worldly” – Philippians 3:20 reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven.
James 4:4 tells us that friendship with the world is enmity with God.
1 Peter 2:11 tells us to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.
Romans 12:1-2 tells us as Christians to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed.  IF the church is to be pure and overcome worldliness, it depends upon us as its members overcoming worldliness.

d.       Turning worship into entertainment (confusing excitement with edification) – this is actually a form of worldliness.  Again, this is something we have emphasized as well. 
Let us suffice to say that when we assemble it is NOT about us – it is about God!  John 4:24 – we worship HIM in “Spirit and in truth.”   We must conduct ourselves “with reverence and godly fear” -

e.       Biting and devouring one another – Gal. 5:13-15
We must continually be vigilant to maintain godly attitudes toward one another as brethren.   
A big danger in many congregations is brethren simply failing to act like brethren toward each other. 
Philippians 2:1-4 calls for a unity to exist between brethren.  It is a STRONG unity that will bind us together. 
WE are told to be kindly affectionate toward “one another” (Rom. 12:10); be of the same mind toward “one another” (Rom. 12:16);  to love “one another” (Rom. 13:8); not to unjustly judge “one another” (Rom. 14:13); to serve “one another” (Gal. 5:13); Bear “one another’s” burdens (Gal. 6:2); be kind and forgive “one another” (Eph. 4:32), etc.
I am fearful that many to appreciate the importance of the church and their brethren.  In our increasingly hostile and ungodly world – we need each other!  As the saying goes, “NOW, more than ever”.    Yet sometimes, we find our brethren as easy “targets” so we criticize them, talk about them (gossip), treat them hatefully, avoid them, argue with them over insignificant things, take advantage of them, etc.    Such attitudes will kill the spirit of a congregation.
IT will also help to keep others away.  People don’t want to be around a group of cantankerous and hateful people. 

f.         Ignorance – Judah was rebuked by Isaiah because of their ignorance  - “Therefore my people have gone into captivity, Because they have no knowledge; Their honorable men are famished, And their multitude dried up with thirst.” (Isaiah 5:13)   
Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of Knowledge” (Hosea 4:6)
It was also a concern in the New Testament – false teachers were to be exposed (Titus 1:11, Acts 20:28-30), brethren are called upon to “give a defense” (1 Peter 3:15); Eph. 4:15-16 speaks of those being tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine.  Peter concluded his second letter by saying, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Many brethren (and churches) are drifting away from God and the truth – because they are not spending enough time WITH the truth.  We don’t read and study our Bibles like we used to.  One reason is because there is so much more competing for our time.  There are many who get a substantial amount of their Biblical learning from Hollywood and other worldly sources. 
Ignorance will kill the TRUE church. 
1) It makes us susceptible to error – if we are ignorant, we might easily be swayed away from truth.
2) It weakens our opportunities to teach others
 3) It stunts your spiritual growth – as knowledge and wisdom are a part of maturing as a Christian. 
NOTE: As parents we think about this in our homes.  And we need to be concerned about our youth.    The home is where learning is going to begin.  IT is where Timothy got his start (2 Tim. 3:15).  We have also noted on numerous occasions that a part of Israel’s law was passing it on to the next generation (Deut. 6:6-8).  Their failure to obey this command led to their apostasy (cf. Judges 2:10)

g.        Indifference – another danger is complacency.  Because we live in a society where we can freely worship God, it becomes very easy to take that for granted.  We sometime get into a spiritual rut. 
We are again reminded of the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:15-17.  They became lukewarm because of their indifference. 
As Christians, we find that we are expected to care.  We care about the souls of the lost.  WE care about our brethren.  We care about the future of the church.   It is actually built into the love that is to be in our lives (agape). 
Philippians 1:9, Paul speaking to these brethren who were doing well, but he said, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,
 1 Thess. 4:9-10, while commending the church in Thessalonica for its love, he urges them, “that you increase more and more.

h.       Weariness – this is akin to indifference, but a little different.  As time wears on, if we are not careful, it becomes easy to become discouraged and tired.  It becomes easy to want to back off and relax. 
We cannot do that and be pleasing to God.
Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  See also 2 Thess. 3:13. 
Hebrews 10:36 – the writer said, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”
1 Cor. 15:58 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.

 

Certainly there are many dangers that we face as the Lord’s church.  Let us guard against these and any other dangers that might be present.  Resolve that we are noting going to let Satan win in our lives or claim our brethren.   Our eternity depends upon it, as does the future of the Lord’s church.