The Church: In Service to Humanity

The Church: In Service to Humanity

Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:14-15
Date: 11/24/2012  Lesson: 8
"'We should remember that the church, enfeebled and defective though it be, is the only object on earth on which Christ bestows His supreme regard.' - Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 2, p. 396"

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Welcome to Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist church. It's a sunny day here in Sacramento, California - I'm not sure what the weather's like where you are. Some of you have been having horrible weather. You are in our thoughts and prayers here in California. It's that time in our program where if you tune in every week you know what we do - we sing - and then we open up God's word and we study together and today is no exception but we have a special group with us - as you can see behind me - that are going to be providing our on-air music and we're so excited to have the bakersfield hillcrest seventh day adventist church men's chorus with us.

They're actually participating in a men's chorus festival in Sacramento this weekend and so we are blessed to have them as part of our program here at central today. They are going to be singing two songs for us - 'grace' and 'great is thy faithfulness' - and those of you who have favorite Christmas requests we're not singing our regular hymns, obviously, today but go ahead and send in your favorite Christmas requests from the hymnal and we will be actually starting to sing those in a couple weeks. Go to our website at 'saccentral.org', click on the 'contact us' link and send them in. The conductor for the men's group is judy hudson and the pianist is shirleen sergeant and 'grace', 'great is thy faithfulness'. Thank you - thank you so much bakersfield hillcrest seventh day adventist men's chorus - that was just beautiful.

Let's bow our heads for prayer. Father in Heaven, you truly are faithful. You are good and you are true. Thank you so much for everything that you do for us and we don't even deserve it. We are here today breathing - we are alive because of your goodness and your faithfulness to us.

Father, may our lives not just be vapors that come and go because that is what we are - you give us our breath - but father, may - while we're on this earth, while we have breath may we do something useful with our lives - maybe be used by you to reach this world so that we can share your goodness and your faithfulness with those that don't know you. Fill our hearts and our minds as we open up your word and we study together at this time. Thank you so much for Pastor Doug and his ministry here at central - and, of course, it's also blessing millions of people around the world. Be with him as he brings us our lesson study. In Jesus' name, amen.

At this time our lesson study is going to be brought to us by Pastor Doug Batchelor. He is our senior pastor here at Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist church. Good morning. Thank you debbie and thank you to the men's choir - that was beautiful. It just set the tone very nicely for our study today.

We appreciate that. Welcome to our local class. Do I need to introduce myself? I've been gone for three weeks and just some things that were scheduled and some that weren't but I'm glad to be back again and be able to study the Word of God with you. And I want to welcome our extended class - we have both friends that tune in each week and some of you who are part of the online membership of Sacramento central around the world and we're glad that we can be getting together again to study the word. We're going to get to our lesson in just a moment - and the lesson today is #8 - dealing with the subject of God's church and we have a free offer we'd like to make available and the offer is 'the search for the true church' - 'the search for the true church' - that is offer #134 - call the number, please, on your screen - 866-study-more - that translates into -788-3966 - and we'll send this to you for free - it's just to help enhance your study of our lesson today.

We're continuing in our study guide 'growing in Christ' and kind of going through some of the foundational teachings of the church and today we're going to be dealing with lesson #8 - more specifically, 'the church in service to humanity'. And we have a memory verse and the memory verse is from Timothy 3, verses 14 and 15 - Timothy 3:14 and 15. I'd invite you to go ahead and say it with me if you can find that and you can read it right out of your quarterly - it's in the new king James version - are you ready? "These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Now, as we delve into the study of God's church, it's probably appropriate for us to just talk a little bit about why do we go to church? Who needs a church? You know, we have a lot of discussion these days about people being churchless Christians. 'I'm a Christian but I don't go to a church.' Or maybe you've heard someone say, 'you know, I'm really very spiritual but I'm not part of any organization.' That usually is a cop-out for someone who is saying, 'yeah, I think of myself as being spiritual but I'm not part of any organized church.' The only thing left then, of course is a disorganized church. But God did have his people be part of a cohesive body here on earth.

A lamb does not do very well if it's not part of a flock and a flock doesn't do very well if it's not overseen by a shepherd. Sheep are kind of domesticated animals, aren't they? And we need to be part of a body in the same way. Someone once said that 'you can be a Christian without attending church if you can be a bee without a hive, if you an be a soldier without an army, if you can be a salesman without customers, if you can be a politician who is a hermit, and if you can be a football player without a team. Just by virtue of it's word, the church is an assembly and for you to say 'I'm part of the church but I'm not part of the assembly' is a contradiction and maybe this is a good time for us to read that verse in Hebrews , verses 24 and 25 - Hebrews :24 and 25, "and let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some" - some were doing it even back in Paul's day - "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another" - that means to urge by strong, stirring argument; to admonish; to advise; to appeal - that we might exhort one another, appeal, urge. Exhort one another for what? That we don't forsake the assembling together.

"And so much the more" not only should we do it because it's always been the right thing, but "so much the more as you see the day approaching" - what day is that? Approaching? The Bible talks about that day - the great day of the Lord - approaching. the Lord's coming. It's all the more important for us to get together. When Jesus comes should the church be getting together less or more? Even more. There should be more consistency about our having this cohesiveness.

Now, while we're talking about the subject of the church, I want to start right out by dealing with section 1 - 'the nature of the church' - and in a moment I'll be asking for you to help me read a few verses. Just let me do a check - we have a microphone - we've got one there and I've got one there. Okay, I just wanted to do a little location check here. The word 'church' that we use really is not found in the original greek. This is one of the places where the King James version probably is not accurate.

The accurate version for the word church - I'm talking about the english Bible now - could have been found in the bishop's Bible or the geneva Bible but king James didn't care much for the geneva Bible because it had a lot of notes in it that talked about the hierarchy of the church being corrupt because this is when the protestant church had formed - they had - large Numbers of them had flocked out of the catholic church and the church - the ecclesiastical idea of the hierarchy of the church - the laity didn't like it. So when they wrote the geneva Bible they talked about 'the congregation' - 'the assembly' - and that really is the accurate translation for the word 'ecclesia'. It means 'the called out ones' - people who were called out to a gathering were the church. In other words, you're called out to gather for some specific purpose. The word that we use for church actually comes from, well, a german word.

It - well it begins with a greek word 'kyriakos' or 'kyriakon' and that's where you get the scottish word 'kirk' - I don't know if any of you remember 'come to the kirk in the wildwood'? The english word we use 'church' comes from the word 'kirk' which is drawn from the word 'kyriakos', which it means 'that which pertains to the Lord.' That's a perfectly nice word and there's nothing wrong with that, but that's not the word you're reading for 'church' in the new testament. I don't believe it even is found in the new and the old testament and so, the word that we use for church really should be - almost everywhere in the Bible you see the word 'church' you could drop in the word 'congregation' or 'assembly'. Now, that's just something for you to think about. It's interesting, king James gave 15 articles to the translators of the King James Bible and he gave them a lot of liberty, but two of those 15 articles that he gave, article 1 and article 3 - said, 'the ordinary Bible read in the church, commonly called the bishop's Bible, to be followed as little altered of the truth as the original will permit.' In other words, he wanted them to use the word 'church' as opposed to 'congregation'. Kings think they're the head of the church and they're a little bit afraid of congregationalism.

They, you know, today the church of england - the queen is actually the head of the church and then they've got the archbishop of canterbury. And then article 3 said, 'the old ecclesiastical words to be kept vis the word 'church' not to be translated 'congregation'.' Now did you get that? King James specifically told the translators 'I'm giving you a lot of liberty, but one thing - do not translate the word 'church' as 'congregation'. And so they said, 'okay your majesty.' And so this is one weakness in the King James version - it's a great Bible - it's the one I use but the word 'church' is not accurately translated, it should really be - who here speaks spanish? Come on, some of you speak spanish. Church is 'eglasia', right? The spanish have it right - ecclesia - the called out ones. Eglasia - you see, that's how the word should be.

But english, it got a little bit corrupted in a lot of our Bibles there. But we know what the word means so that's probably more background that you wanted. Alright. Now, the church, you've got a couple of different ways that the church appears. You've got in homes, you've got in cities, and you've got the universal church.

First of all, let's look at how the church appears in the home. You could be a home and be a church. And let me see, we'll get a microphone - someone look up for me - I think we gave out some Scriptures - 1 Corinthians 16:9 - who has that to start with? Corinthians 16:9 - did someone get that? Were you given any Scriptures you volunteered to read? Take a look at yours - Corinthians 16:9. You've got that mike? We don't have anybody else, we'll take you. Not that you're supposed to be, you know, the bottom of the barrel or anything.

Alright, we'll get to you in just a second. I want to read some others. 'The church in the home' - Romans 16:5, "likewise, greet the church that is in their house." The early church, did they have buildings the way you see we do now? No? They pretty much gathered in homes and the gathering - the ones who were called out to follow Christ would assemble - wherever they assembled was a church - whether it was in a field, it was a church. If it was in a home it was a church. Let me give you another one.

Acts 12, verse 5, "Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church." And you also read in acts 12:12, "so, when he had considered this, he came to the house of mary...where many were gathered together praying." So it tells us that many who were gathered together praying in the house of mary - the mother of John Mark - that it calls them 'the church'. I thought they were in a house. So the church wasn't a building. We're so office that say 'where is your church?' What address will you give them? You'll give them the congregations meeting place address, won't you? You typically don't give them your home address unless that's where they meet. Alright, please go ahead with 1 Corinthians 16:9.

1 Corinthians 16:9, "for a great and effective door has opened to me." Oh, I gave you the wrong verse - 16:19 - read 16:19 - I'm sorry. Okay, 1 Corinthians 16:19, "the churches of asia greet you. Aquila and priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house." Where was the church? In aquila and priscilla's house. And so, in the early ages of the church, they were meeting in homes and that was the church. And you know what? It wasn't such a bad plan.

They grew, but they grew so quickly that the average person's house just wasn't big enough and so they started getting meeting places - and the other thing is sometimes a family would travel and all of a sudden the church was shut down because mom and dad went somewhere. So they started finding more neutral meeting places that were dedicated to this and that really followed the pattern that the jews had during the days of Jesus. Now, all around Israel they had synagogues. And the word 'synagogue' and 'church' are really the same thing. You'll read in Revelation about the synagogue of satan and it doesn't mean that there is some evil Jewish group, the word 'synagogue' simply means 'church' - the gathering place - the assembly.

And so, all around Israel they had the temple for the great convocations, they had a temple in Jerusalem but otherwise they had synagogues scattered where they met on the Sabbath. What was Jesus' custom? Sabbath day - go to the synagogue, read the Scriptures - so gradually the churches became more affluent and they could afford their own places of worship. Then you've got the church in cities. Corinthians 12 - now I'll give somebody acts 9:31 - who has that? We've got a hand back here. Acts 9:31 and I'll be reading Corinthians 1, verse 2.

This is the first chapter of Corinthians, verse 2, "to the church of God which is at corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our lord, both theirs and ours:" the church in corinth, it was a big city - it grew very quickly. You read 1 Corinthians - Corinthians, you can see that they had a little more organization to their group. They even had a little confusion because the church in corinth was composed of people from many different cultures that spoke a number of different languages and that's why there's so much said about tongues in the letters to the Corinthians - Corinthians in particular. And so, now it was really a church not just in a home but it was a church in a city. People from around the city came to the meeting place that they had and it must have been a little larger based on what Paul says in those letters.

Read for us, please, acts 9:31. Acts 9:31, "then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied." Alright, now he's talking about churches that are in many places - these are in the cities - and they were growing. Now beyond that then, you've got something that you would think of as the universal church. When you say the word 'church' you're not talking about any particular church in a person's home or any particular church that might be in a town, now you're talking about the church as a whole.

For instance, when Jesus said, 'the gates of hades would not prevail against the church.' Was he thinking about some hometown somewhere, or some city or the church at large? Speaking about the church at large. When you read in Revelation chapter 12 about this woman who is standing on the moon and she's clothed with the sun and she's got twelve stars above her head, who does that woman symbolize? The church, correct. The bride of Christ. Is she the church in any one home or one town or is it just kind of the universal picture of who she is? God's movement in the world, right? So, if you look in 1 Corinthians :13 - oh, somebody look up for me 2 Timothy 2:9 - just to get you ready. Who's got 2 Timothy 2:9? Did we give that out? :19 - 2 Timothy 2:19.

I'm a little dyslexic - we've got two hands here, who has that verse? Alright, go ahead - back here - and we'll get you ready for that. I'm going to read Corinthians 12:13. "For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether jews or greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one spirit." So when it's talking about that one body there, isn't that the church? We're all part of that - God wants us to be one. Are we ready? Go ahead - we're not quite - not quite ready yet, I guess, hang on. Let me read Revelation 18:4, "and I heard another voice from heaven saying, 'come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.

" Well, I want to - I want to take some time and delve into that. We're going to go ahead. Let's go ahead and read - I think they're ready now. Timothy 2:19. "Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: 'the Lord knows those who are his,' and, 'let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

'" Alright, now as we're talking about the church - to be part of Christ's church you just need your name on the church books, right? Get baptized or voted in by profession of faith, have them enter your name on the rolls and voila! You are part of the church. Not necessarily because you've got a church organization on earth where you've got, you know, the church books - that doesn't necessarily mean your name is written in the book of life. And so then, at the same time, there may be people out there that God looks upon as his people that you and I don't know about. You know, one of the things that Jesus, John the baptist, and even the apostles made pretty clear - Jesus said, 'many will come from the east and the west and sit down in the Kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob while the children of the Kingdom - natural children - are in outer darkness. So, people who thought they were on the books they weren't really his children.

And Jesus said to the religious leaders that were tormenting him and persecuting him, they said, 'we've got Abraham as our father.' And Jesus said, 'no, Abraham's not your father. You are of your father the devil.' That's not very good strategy to get reelected to say something like that to the church leaders. But not all of them were that way, I mean, nicodemus, Joseph of arimathea - they were leaders, but they were Jesus' sheep. There were others who just wanted to kill Jesus even though they were on the books, right? And then you've got other people - it says there were certain greeks who came to andrew - they said, 'we want to see Jesus.' And andrew brought the message to the Lord. They weren't jews by blood.

Same principle stands for the church today. You've got some who might be on the rolls of our church or another and they think, 'oh, I'm part of 'the' church.' But they've never surrendered their hearts. So God has a different book and they may not be in that book and I've got to be very careful how I say this, the Lord has a lot of people that are not a part of my particular denomination right now - in fact, I think before Jesus comes back there's going to be a great shaking and when that great shaking occurs, we might be going in that great shaking right now, and we're having minor seismic activity, but it could get worse. And we may find that a lot of those who have claimed to be part of God's church are going to get shaken out and a lot of people - matter of fact, even more people - who are not in right now but they - they love the Lord, their hearts are open, God knows them - they're going to get shaken in. Jesus said in John 10:16, "and other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and" - he says - "I have sheep.

" - They're his sheep - "not yet of this fold; them also I must bring and there will be" - before the Lord comes back - "one fold and one shepherd." Does the Lord want us to be one? Didn't we just read 'we are one spirit baptized into one body - one lord, one faith, one baptism'? the Lord wants this unity, this oneness, and that's why it's very interesting when you read in Revelation 18:4 - I already read it to you - before Babylon is destroyed God says, 'come out of her my people.' God has his people that are maybe surrounded by the wrong organization and they're going to hear his voice and they're going to come out and there's going to be one fold and one shepherd. So when you say the word 'church' - we've got our denomination and I'd be happy to have anyone join my denomination - but I know that God has other people that are in many denominations and they're - during this shaking time - I think the issues of truth are going to become prominent. I think it's going to be very widely proclaimed with great power and everyone's going to need to make a decision on one side or the other and these sheep of his that he's got in Babylon, they're going to hear his voice and come out, right? That's part of the second angel's message. And so - and, by the way, if you look in Deuteronomy 14, verse 2, it talks about a called out people. The children of Israel, they've got a history of coming out.

Hebrews - you know what the word 'hebrew' means? As near as they can tell, when you look back, it's someone who crossed over and it's speaking about Abraham when God called Abraham out of mesopotamia and he crossed over the euphrates. And then the children of Israel got themselves mired down in Egypt - quite literally - and the Lord called them out of Egypt. And then they misbehaved - they got carried off to Babylon and he called them out of Babylon. And then they were scattered around the roman empire and, not too long ago, Israel as a nation was called out kind of back to Israel. But, more specifically, God's people - a remnant has been called out several times.

And so, they've got this history - in Deuteronomy 14:2, "for you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth." Now, did he choose the Israelites because they had more sophisticated dna than anyone else? Did he do it because they were a more muscular build? Nothing derogatory, but I've never heard of a Jewish basketball team, but I'm sure there is one. They're not really renown for that. Why did he call them? He called them to make an example of them - how he could take a nation of slaves and make them his holy people. They really reached the pinnacle of their purpose during the time of Solomon when they were a strong nation full of mighty men - they had a strong army, they had strong morals, they had great wisdom, and they were of great wealth, and they were proclaiming to all the other nations about jehovah. That's why the queen of sheba and all the other Kings came to Solomon - to hear about their God.

That was his plan for Israel. It's as close as they ever came - during the time of Solomon. It would have been better if he hadn't had so many wives, but that was the idea that they were to be a nation that people would come to - a nation of Kings and priests. Peter, quoting Moses - he says in 1 Peter 2, verse 9, "you are a chosen nation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation," - I'm sorry, "you're a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people." 'The church is the object upon earth on which God bestows, in a special sense, his supreme regard.' That's a quote from the book 'Acts of the Apostles.' the Lord looks upon the church as his bride - his greatest love. And so, he's called them in a special way - called them out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Now, we're going to go to section 2 here 'the nature of the church part 2'. Someone look up for me 1 Corinthians 12:27. And talking about the body here - who has that? We've got a hand over here? Okay, first - while we get focused here for you - I'm going to read Romans 12, verse 5 - Romans 12:5. "So we being many are one body in Christ, individually members of one another." So this is something unique about the Bible - we really aren't a church until we are part of a body and we're all different members of that body. I think we're ready for that.

Let's go ahead and do Corinthians 12:27. Now, you are the body of Christ and members individually." Alright, we are all individually different parts - the word 'members' there doesn't mean like members of the church, it means like, your finger is a member of the body, your nose is a member of the body, your toes are a member, your head - anything that is part of your body is called - you wouldn't want to lose one of your members of your body, right? That means that you've lost a digit or something - an arm. And so, in the same way, we are members of the body of Christ. Is Jesus still in the world today? Well, he ascended to heaven physically but he's still in the world today through his body through us. So you and I are the body of Christ.

That's why the Bible says not only physically is your body the temple of God, the church collectively is the temple of God and whoever defiles that temple, him will God destroy. So we, together, make up the temple of God. We are the hands and the feet, the eyes and ears of the Lord in the world. We are to be sharing what Jesus is like together as a group. When people see us they should see Christ.

As we work together in the world. We are to be the salt of the earth. We are to be the light of the world. And so, Christianity is to have that kind of influence in the world. And if you read in acts chapter , he wants us to be connected.

He wants us to be joined. Acts 2:41 - this is during - following Peter's sermon at pentecost. "Then those who gladly received His Word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers." And then you also read in acts 2:47, "praising God" - this is the same chapter, just a few verses later - "praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

" Now, don't miss the connection - 'added to the church' - 'being saved.' There is a step. It tells us about 3,000 souls were baptized and added to them. A few verses down 'added to the church' is what the 'them' is they were added to being saved. Being part of Christ's body, you know, Jesus said in Mark chapter , whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Baptism is the ceremony by which we are really married to Christ.

We are part of his body and when a person was baptized they were written in as a member - they actually recorded - how do you think they knew there were 3,000? They registered those who were in the church and those who were not. Now people talk about Numbers - 'Numbers don't matter' - oh yes they do. A good shepherd, does he count the sheep? I mean, how else in that parable, when a shepherd has a hundred sheep at the end of the day one is missing? You've got to count if you want to tell the difference between a hundred and ninety-nine. And so, every member mattered and they were accountable to each other and they watched over each other and it meant something to be a member of the church. Now, everybody should feel welcome in a Christian church, I mean, you don't grow if people don't feel welcome and let's face it, we all know churches that are sort of like a clique - and they don't really exist to evangelize the world, they kind of exist for their own entertainment - it's like a social club.

And if someone else shows up they kind of look down their noses and think, 'what are you doing sitting in my pew?' And - 'that's my seat.' - But that's not usually a very evangelistic church. A real church, they've got a mission to add people. Everybody's welcome to come in. But if you're going to vote on officers in the church, if you're going to vote on policy and big decisions in the church, you really should be a member. And before you're a member you want to have a covenant to agree with the foundational teachings of Jesus.

Now does a person need to know everything before they're baptized? Anyone here know everything? I mean, do you need to know everything about the Bible? Probably most of you, if I asked you, could not quote to me the fundamentals - it used to be and there's now 28. I won't put you on the spot but I think I'm right. Some of you couldn't quote all Ten Commandments. I hope that's not true here but my experience as a pastor is that you kind of get like 8 out of 10, maybe 9 and you go, 'oh, no, just wait, if I took my time.' Which is unfortunate. But there's some basics you should be able to say yes to and be clear on and when a person, for instance in our church, is going to get baptized, we've got or 13 baptismal vows that cover the fundamentals - like, the Bible is the Word of God, and it is the rule of faith and practice for every Christian that we believe there is one God that is composed in the persons of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit - these three individual distinct persons, and that you believe in the soon coming of Christ, that you believe in the mission of the church, that you believe that Jesus is our intercessor in heaven, you understand salvation by grace through faith and there's a number of very important pillars for Christian faith that are in your baptismal certificate.

If you've got a newer certificate you're going to have all 27 itemized in there but on the back there's a summary of the 13 vows. Before a person really becomes a member of the body, they should be in harmony with these things. There's still room for disagreement. I know within our church, even a number of good members in good standing - you start talking about the 144,000 and the seven trumpets and Daniel chapter 11 and who was the King of the north - I mean you're going to get all kinds of different answers - how old was adam - how long was he in the garden before sin? And you're going to probably get a lot of different opinions on that and some of these things are not essential truths. But on things like 'should we keep the Ten Commandments?' We ought to be all together on that.

Not to be saved but by faith. On things like, 'was the world created in six literal days?' Well, seven if you add the Sabbath - I think we ought to be together on things like that otherwise, well a person starts doubting the literacy of the first eleven chapters of the Bible and then you start to pick and choose - you say, 'well, you know, Solomon didn't really mean what he said when he said, 'the living know they'll die but the dead don't know anything.' He was depressed.' I actually saw a Bible commentary that said, 'you can't - Solomon - it sounds like this is what it means but he was just depressed that day.' And I thought, 'is that how you interpret Scripture?' That's actually in a Bible commentary in a Bible - 'it doesn't really mean what it says, he was depressed.' And so if people start questioning the teachings of God then you begin to fragment as a people. There ought to be foundational truths that we are rock solid united on, amen? So no matter where you go in the world, if you're part of the seventh day adventist church, there's going to be a cohesiveness in our beliefs. And if a person says, 'you know, I no longer believe one of the baptismal vows.' Instead of staying in the church and trying to convince everybody that they ought to change their mind, that's really unethical. If you came in because you claim to believe - when you no longer believe you ought to have the integrity to say, 'you know, I conscientiously can not remain a member of this church anymore because I no longer believe the document that I ascribed to when I joined.

' That's not what's happening now. A lot of people stay in and they try to undermine the faith of everybody else. Like wolves in sheep's clothing. And if we don't take decisive action when that happens - you know, pastors are considered unloving and church boards unloving when they say, 'you know, this person really doesn't believe one of the baptismal vows anymore.' And after you've studied with them and labored with them if they say, 'you know, I just don't.' They should be taken off the books. Because otherwise it just undermines - and then, you know, the other thing, let's face it - how many of you know churches that will have 400 on the books but 150 on Sabbath morning? Now, you know, some people are older and they're shut in but the reason that a lot of these churches have phantom Numbers on the books is because no one ever wants to deal with the truth that there are a lot of people who just aren't members anymore.

We feel like somehow, just by having their names on the books, there's some redemptive value. No there's not - not if there out there living in the world - come on, is that right? We're superstitious. We think just by keeping their names on the books - actually, the most redemptive thing you can do is send them a letter and say, 'you know, we have to deal with your membership. You're not practicing the faith and if you don't anticipate coming back and taking a stand for these things you pledged to, then you really should have your name taken off the books.' And it might get their attention and redeem them. But by doing nothing you're not helping them.

This is just something that I think is sad because we advertise how many members we have in the church but are they all really - but is that many really active Christians? Are they in the church or are they phantom names that are on the books that you don't know where they are? Come on, say 'amen'. It's not just our church, this is something that's prevalent in a lot of denominations. I think part of good church stewardship is looking after the people that are on the books. My wife's been after me - bless her heart - she's going through every single name in central's directory - she's calling them all up, she's finding out where they are. If they're not coming locally she's saying 'you need to transfer where you're attending.

' If you've haven't been lately she's inviting them back. A lot of you have gotten phone calls from Karen because this is important. If you're going to be a member then we need to watch out for each other, right? That's what cain said, 'I'm not my brother's keeper.' You know, 'once they join the church then it's their problem. Take care of themselves.' No, we should watch out for each other. Matthew 28, verses 18 to 20, "and Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations," - now don't just baptize them, make disciples - teaching, in other words - "baptizing them in the name of The Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching" - notice there's teaching before baptism and there's ongoing teaching after baptism - "teaching" - teaching what? - "Teaching them to observe" - not just to hear but to follow - "all things that I have commanded you;" - not some things but all things. The church should be teaching all things that Jesus taught - "and lo I am with you" - talk about the presence of the Lord - "even to the end of the age." We have this mission to go - to tell the whole world. We've got a mandate to go everywhere. All right, read for us please Luke 9, verses 1 and 2. "Then he called his twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.

He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick." You know, he's given us a mission to heal as well as to preach. And you notice both in Matthew and what we read here in Luke, it says he gave them authority. That word is also implying he gave them power. Now we haven't seen some of that power lately, but I don't think it's because God has withdrawn his promise. I think that the power is still available for us to go and to preach and to teach.

One verse that makes this pretty clear is you look in Mark 16 - again, the great commission - Mark's version - is a little more colorful. It says, "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." That sounds like you're preaching to dogs and cats and fish but he's just saying 'everybody should hear the gospel. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;" - we saw that in the book of acts - "they will take up serpents and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick , and they will recover." Now, most of these things you see in the book of acts. Do we see the disciples casting out devils in the book of acts? Do we see in the book of acts where Paul was bitten by a venomous serpent and he took up his hand and the serpent was hanging on him but it didn't hurt him? Do we see in the book of acts where they were healing the sick and even raising the dead? You know the one thing you don't see is where there was an attempted poisoning.

Now, this does not mean that you and I are to go out there and prove we have the Holy Spirit and gather rattlesnakes and pick them up. Some churches - not too many - Kentucky - I think there's still one or two churches that do that. Those churches never grow very big - that's kind of self-evident. But that's simply talk - when Jesus said you'll take up serpents, what does a serpent represent in biblical language? The Bible talks about our treading on serpents and treading on the adder and the lion. Those are symbols of the devil and it means that you'll be able to take on the enemy and you'll be victorious.

And it says you'll lay hands on the sick and recover and that's something we still practice - anointing and laying on hands for the sick. Now, in the few minutes we have left, under the section 'unity of the church' - very important - John 17, verse 21 - this is a very important statement - this is the intercessory prayer of Jesus that he declared just before he went to heaven. He's speaking to The Father and he said, "that they all may be one, as you, father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they might be one just as we are one." Wow, that's a tall order. I mean, talk about perfect oneness.

He didn't say that they might be one like a, you know, this sports team - they're united, they've got great morale - or this army - or one like the synergy of this company or, you know, he could have said that they might be one like a school of fish or a flock of birds. I mean, there's all kinds of analogies Jesus could have talked about oneness but he said, that they might be one like us meaning The Father and The Son. There is no more powerful analogy of oneness than the oneness that exists in God. The oneness between The Father son and spirit - they are perfectly, inseparably welded together and united in their mission of saving humanity. That's the kind of unity God wants in the church.

Do we see that in the world today? Did the devil hear Jesus say, 'all men will know you are my disciples by your love for one another? And if people know that we're Christians by our love for one another then the opposite would be true that if the devil could fragment and divide us it would look like we're not his disciples. Has the devil been working, you think, to fragment the church? Yeah, I think so. Is the Lord going to do something to unite his people before Jesus comes back or is the Lord coming back for a fragmented church. What do you think it is that's going to unite us? Well, I heard a couple of - first of all, it's love - that love is going to come, I believe, through the Spirit. I believe that it's ultimately going to be that we may have trials - someone said 'persecution' - it might be some time of trouble that is really - and talk about shaking the church - you know a lot of people are part of the church because they think, for whatever reason, it's true or it's interesting and 'yeah, I might believe it' but are you ready to die for it? Do you believe the message so much - you know in the early days the church took off and grew and they loved each other so much because it was against the law - they had to meet underground.

They could be killed for their faith. Joining the church was serious business. I know an evangelist that had an evangelistic meeting and one woman that came to the meeting knew it was the truth, had a very difficult marriage - difficult husband - told her husband about the meetings and he said 'stop going.' She kept going - she believed it was true - finally at the call for baptism she decided to get baptized the husband said 'if you get baptized and join that church I'm going to kill you.' And, you know, I'd like to tell you this story ended differently, but the day after she was baptized he killed her. Now, I don't know how that evangelist felt about that but should people stop accepting Christ? You know how many Christians died for their faith through history? You would hope it would not be your spouse, but didn't Jesus say that the days are coming when husband will betray wife; wife, husband, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, children, parents and a man's foes will be they of his own house? Makes you shudder to think about it. But do we need to have the kind of faith where the one that we love the most is going to be the Lord and that we'd be willing to die rather than not be part of his body? Are we that serious about being members of his church? When we're that serious, we're going to love each other.

There's going to be a unity. There's going to be a bond that links us together because it's going to require a sacrifice. And speaking of sacrifice, the church began with great sacrifice. Not only in the new testament when people sold their houses and lands and laid them down at the feet of the apostles so they could distribute and spread the message. Our church - the seventh day adventist church began with great sacrifice.

It's going to end with great sacrifice too. Sacrifice of lives and sacrifice of our possessions and of our hearts and that's the only way you're going to see that kind of unity and so I'm just praying that God's people will have that experience with the Lord where nothing is more important to us than Jesus. All right, unity of the church, a couple more things. Corinthians 13:11 - just about out of time - "finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete.

Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the love of God and peace will be with you." Corinthians 10 - I'm sorry, Corinthians 1, verse 10, "now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." There's a lot of challenges in that corinthian church. How is that going to happen? If we're all reading the same book? You know, one reason, I think, there's so much division in the church? People are reading a lot of extraneous outside stuff that is different from the Bible and getting all these bizarre ideas and even within the evangelical bookstore you're going to find all kinds of different ideas about Christianity and how to pray and what the church represents. But if we're getting our message from the Word of God then we're going to be united. The closer we come to Christ the closer we're all going to come to each other, amen? Alright, well, time's just about up. I want to remind those who may have joined us a little later, we do have a free offer and it's called 'search for the true church'.

Maybe you were wondering 'is there a true church out there?' We'd like to help you find out for free. Call the number on your screen it's 866-study-more - 866-788-3966 and we'll send this to you for free. God bless you until we have our next opportunity to study the Word of God together again. Impact your world. The Amazing Facts center of evangelism is the first and original Bible training school operating for over ten years.

You'll receive practical training in personal and public evangelism. Learn how to give dynamic public presentations, give compelling Christ-centered Bible studies and all while gaining a personal, deeper understanding of God. Learn from Doug Batchelor and other world-class evangelists. To enroll today visit afcoe.org or call (530) 422-7994.

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