Find The Right Church, Part 1
Many people ask me, “How do I find the right church?” How would you go about finding a church where God wanted you to worship?
Luke 21:1-7 is really all we need to look at. If that was all we had, it would be enough. It says in Verse 1, “As he looked up…”The first thing we need to do is look up toward heaven and see the heavenly temple that is there, and then begin to compare it with what we see before us.
Luke 21:1- As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.
When you look up at something, you can see what’s behind it, and though it might be a little fuzzy or a little hazy, you still know what’s there — like seeing the mountains in the background. When someone begins to look for a church and discover where God wants them to be, the first place they set their eyes is upon the heavenly temple, upon what God has in mind. Then, they begin to look at what is in the foreground and what is taking place there.
Luke 21:1-2- As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
The footnotes usually say they were not worth much more than a fraction of a penny. In Verse 3, Jesus said:
Luke 21:3-4- “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
The disciples, of course, in their grand wisdom and understanding perceived this and took it in real well.
Luke 21:5-Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God.
They didn’t notice the widow. There is nothing there to attract them to her. And, let’s remember something clearly. I Corinthians 3:16 says that we are the temple of the Living God. When you begin to measure churches, don’t look at a building. Don’t look at their activities or what they stand for. Look at one individual after another individual after another individual. The real church of Jesus Christ is two people being full of the Spirit and being able to fellowship together.
Matthew 18:20- For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.
That’s where the church begins, and a church is measured person by person. As you begin to walk through the church and measure where each person is at, and if you begin to discover that there’s something there that doesn’t come from God, then they are not really of God. The disciples weren’t able to see what Jesus saw. All they could see was how beautiful the temple was. They noticed the gifts that people had given. They saw the brightness, but they didn’t see the beauty of the widow. Now, the disciples didn’t say, “Hey, look! Jesus just noticed that old widow. Let’s run over and go to her seminar. We should sit down and learn what she has to teach us.” They weren’t excited about that kind of church. They wanted to see all of the gifts, all of the things that sparkled and shined. People measure churches by activities, things they can do, what they stand for, all of the bright flashy shows and programs. They don’t look at the simple widow and ask if she is of God. Who wants to align themselves with someone like the widow who doesn’t have much clothing? Out of her poverty she gives all that she has and it is just a fraction of a penny. Do you want to walk over to her and say, “This is my church and this is where I worship. I belong to her and I care nothing about the other churches. In fact, I wish that they were torn down.” That is the attitude of the heart of Jesus Christ. Look at what he goes on to say in Verse 6:
Luke 21:6- As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.
“That’s what you have your eyes on. That’s what you think is so holy and pure. Yet what you think is of me and is so attractive will be thrown down, and there won’t be one thing left standing that says this is of God, that this is the Lord’s temple.” But, what will be remembered? What is in the mind of Christ? What does heaven seek but the poor widow who has nothing. You see, the measurement of whether a church or an individual loves God or not, is for you to be able to walk out and say, “They put in every single thing they had. Out of their poverty, humility and brokenness, they laid it all before Jesus Christ.” But, our eyes aren’t usually attracted to that and that is not usually what we are drawn to. It does not matter what pleases the flesh or our eyes. What mattered was when we sat down next to the lowly widow and knew we were closer to God than we are with all the hallelujahs and all the speaking in tongues that goes on.
Luke 21:7- “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”
Why are they still concerned? They are concerned because the temple will be destroyed and torn down. They still don’t understand that it is the widow who is close to God. It’s the person who puts in everything that they have who belongs to the Lord. That is the temple of the Living God. People will still discuss for hours on end, in seminar after seminar when certain events in the Lord are going to happen. Think about all the seminars you can attend; how to get ready and what the signs of the end times are; how evil the new age is; how bad the world is; how everything is going to collapse; the economy is going to fail and how disastrous this will be; and how we can survive all of this. “When will these things take place?” we say. But we don’t say, “Enlighten us about the widow and show us our hearts in relationship to her.” We don’t say, “I need to worship with that kind of person.” What difference does it make when it’s torn down? God isn’t going to remember one stone upon another, but He will remember the widow. He will remember the hearts that have come before him to surrender everything without fanfare, and without all kinds of programs and projects. He remembers hearts that simply worship and humbly give away everything. Luke 21 shows us everything a person needs to decide where God wants them to worship. Nothing more is really needed.
Usually when somebody goes in to measure a church they measure it by the richness of the church. Of course they will ask if the church is rich spiritually? You know, that’s a right question if you are looking for the right answer. Notice that the widow in her poverty gives everything. Is that what we are looking for?
Revelation 2:8-9- To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
“I know all the things that you go through. I know that when I look at you and worship with you, I see that you are poor and that you are afflicted, yet you are rich.
Revelation 2:9- I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
I know those who claim to be a Christian, but are in the synagogue of Satan. I know those who claim to be my people, who claim to be Jews, but they actually belong to Satan. They are Satan worshippers.” Don’t think for a moment that they wore the pentagram or did human sacrifices. They were just a bauble in God’s sight. Why? Because the temple was adorned. Everything was beautiful. It was all in its place. It was rich, but they were poor and afflicted before God. What are we looking for and who do we really belong to? How would we spot the church where we are supposed to go?
In Matthew 15:10, Jesus is beginning to teach the disciples and show them what they need to do in order to discover how to worship before God.
Matthew 15:10- Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.”
Don’t just listen. Don’t just take in things and think you have learned, but understand what I’m going to tell you.
Matthew 15:11- What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him “unclean,” but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him “unclean.”
Again, the disciples, in all of their wisdom and all of their grand teaching they are right there next to Jesus Christ they say in Verse 12:
Matthew 15:12- Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
What are they concerned about? They are concerned about the fact that Jesus Christ is offending the Pharisees, teachers, and people who know the word of God. He is offending the temple.
Matthew 15:13-14 Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides.
You have to be prepared to leave behind anything that does not belong to the Father. And, I don’t care if they look like Pharisees or they are your best Christian friend. I don’t care how long you have known them or how many miracles were worked at their church. If it is not of the Father, we must be prepared to leave them. Don’t think for a moment that you can tie yourself to them and stand strong, because Jesus says, “If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Both! Not just one person. So many people deceive themselves and say, “Well, I know our church isn’t where it needs to be, and I know we have a lot that we need to repent of,” though they never get down to specifics or demand that anybody do it. It is just a discussion. They think somehow they can linger in that group and survive falling into a pit. Jesus promises promises that both will fall into a pit. You have to be prepared to leave anybody who is a Pharisee. Though they be religious and all put together, though it somehow would shine of God’s word, if it isn’t of His Spirit, if it isn’t a plant that God has placed in the ground, you have to leave them. There is no halfway compromise.
#1 The first thing we need to do in order to discover where God wants us to worship is to bow humbly before God. Look at Proverbs, 3:5. It sounds pretty simplistic. It sounds like what you’d hear anybody say, “Well, yeahI do need to be humbled before God, of course.” But, how few people really live it out by the power of the Spirit?
Proverbs 3:5- Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
This is a grand passage! There is music about this passage. People quote it all the time. But, how do we gain the kind of wisdom that comes from the Lord? How does somebody get to a place where they can actually honestly hear the Spirit say, “This is where you need to worship and this is where I want you to be”? Why is it that two hundred people can all say, “Oh, we need to humbly trust God.” Yet, you walk away and say, “Where is that humility to show it really is of God? It really does shine as something from heaven.” When was the last time we walked away awed by the brokenness and the humility that only God can bring within people’s lives? Why is it that so many people are taken in by so many different things if we are all truly humbly dying before God? Somebody must be a liar! Since God has promised to protect those who humbly bow before him, then it must be man who is a liar.
Proverbs 1:23- If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.
You gain wisdom by being rebuked. Look at the lives of the disciples before Pentecost. What was happening? One rebuke after another. One failure after another failure. This happened so that they could be taught to receive and have the thoughts of God poured out to them. In order to stand before the temple and say, “When will the temple be torn down,” only to hear Jesus, and remember that He looked up toward heaven and saw the widow, “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my thoughts.”
Proverbs 1:24- But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
It says that God will mock. We all should come before God with deeper and deeper humility, to be led straight. How often we look around and say, “How could those people be so deceived?” Yet, how do we know we’re not? God says if you had responded to “my rebuke.” We have to be able to say to one another, “This is when the Lord rebuked me and this is how He keeps correcting me.”
Proverbs 1:28- Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not Find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,
Wisdom is gained by being rebuked by the Lord. It says:
Proverbs 1:31- They will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.
You have to be prepared for Jesus to come to you and say, “Leave them, they are blind guides.” We have to come to Jesus in all of our wisdom and say, “Lord, don’t You know that offends certain people,” only to hear the Spirit turn to us and say, “Leave them, they are blind guides” and offend them even more. We have to be willing to go up to the widow who put in everything and say, “She is my sister. This is the church where I worship,” and play the fool.
Proverbs 2:7- He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.
Understand that if somebody is taken in by what is commonly called a “cult,” it is because there was something in his or her flesh that wanted the cult. God promises us that if we come before Him, if we listen, and we are humble before Him, He will protect us. He will shield us from all men and their deceitful scheming.
Proverbs 2:8- …for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.
What is that saying? As you get before the Lord and ask, “Lord, where do I need to worship and who do I need to be in fellowship with?” God will begin to guard and protect our steps. He will show you where you need to be, if we are faithful, if we listen to His rebuke, and if we are indeed really His people. Circle it and underline verse 9:
Proverbs 2:9- Then you will understand what is and fair every good path.
It’s clear, you never understood it before. Unless we respond to what the Lord is trying to work, we will not understand the good path that God has promised us. We will not be assured of His protection and His guidance.
Proverbs 2:10- For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
You will be able to say, “This is the way of the Lord. I recognize that this is from God and it pleases my soul to have it.” If we are taken in by programs and projects, if we are manipulated, it is because we refuse to let God deal with our sinful nature. God is so weary of all kinds of programs. “These are the ten things to watch out for in a cult,” not one of them will purify your heart so that you may be protected. Where is the Holy Spirit in all this? What are we, just doll puppets where people can come in and brain wash us apart from God? If we are taken in, if we are not protected, if our course is not guarded, it is because we have not sought God.
Proverbs 2:11-12- Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse…
If we want to be saved from men that are perverse and wicked in their scheming, and don’t know the truth, the solution isn’t to read all kinds of books about their false teaching. The solution is to purify our hearts. Don’t we understand that? Satan would love for us to hate one heresy, but we would only be taken in by something else. It doesn’t matter what the lie is. If we are to be protected, if we are to be a people who belong to God and to be in the place where we need to be, the only solution is for our own hearts to be purified. We are the temple of the living God. We are the church. Every single individual is the church of God. And the question you have to ask is, what is in the temple. Are there idols? Is there pleasing of the flesh? Is there toleration of untruth? Is there stubbornness?
Proverbs 2:12-13- Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, From men whose words are perverse Who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways,
I’m not paranoid about men and their deceitful scheming. I’m not concerned about all their doctrines, theologies, or programs. I am not worried about my kids being taken in by all of the things that supposedly program their minds. My goodness, God either lives in them or He doesn’t. He either lives in me or He doesn’t. He either protects me and purifies me or He doesn’t. We must indeed bow humbly before God if we ever hope to escape from men and their perverse speech.
Proverbs 2:14-…who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.
There are very few people who know they are deceived. I haven’t met anybody yet who says, “I know I’m deceived, but that’s where I want to be.” Men are devious in what they do, but what allows us to be taken in, what causes us to stand at the temple and look only at the bright stones? All the gifts that have been given to God are because we refuse to look at the widow and understand the cross of Jesus Christ.
#2: Do not, I repeat, do not look for a church that feels right or feels wrong. You must be able to say why the church is right or why it is wrong. Yet, how many times have you heard people say, “Well, I don’t know, I just don’t feel comfortable there.” Or, “You know, I just feel really good when I’m there.” What do feelings have to do with anything? Since when did your feelings become the guidance in the God that you follow? If those feelings are aligned with scriptures, then rejoice. You must be able to say in no uncertain terms, “This is why God wants me here. This is what is right, and this is what is wrong.” You must be able to say it with scripture, with conviction and by the Spirit. There is none of this general vague kind of feeling, “Well, this is where I’m at, and I kind of like it and I kind of don’t. I don’t really know.” You KNOW if God tells you where you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to be doing. Anything else is not of the Spirit of God.
Revelation 2:1-2- To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of whom who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds,
The Spirit of Jesus Christ is saying, “I know what you are about.” Think about it. People go into the prayer closet. They pray, “God show us where we need to be,” and yet they will leave a body, they will leave a fellowship and not be able to tell you why? “Well, I just don’t feel comfortable.” Or, “I feel good over here.” What do you mean you feel good here or there? That’s not the Spirit of God. Notice what Jesus says in the following 3 verses:
Revelation 2:9- I know your afflictions.
Revelation 2:13- I know where you live.
Revelation 3:1- I know your deeds.
Therefore what is the Spirit of God? It is conviction. It is soundness. It is saying, “I know…” If we have wisdom from the Lord to know where we need to worship or why we don’t worship at a certain church, we are able to say, “I know!” Otherwise, what happens? We go in, we find something that pleases the flesh and we say, “Boy, this feels good!” Look for a church where you don’t feel comfortable.
When you stand with Jesus and say, “Jesus, look at this temple! Isn’t this great?” Jesus would say, “Yeah, that widow is nice.”
We must be able to say, “I know… I know… I know…”
What makes us think we are hearing from God? Where is our discernment? So many times people say, “Why is that church wrong?” And, I can give them ten reasons why it is wrong or why a group is right. We have to be able to say with scripture or we are not being led by God at all we are just merely floating around on a sea of our emotions whatever feels comfortable to us.
#3 The third thing you have to do is, you can’t worship where you choose. You can’t worship because it is a convenient location. You can’t worship somewhere because they have nice parking. That may sound like a joke, but in the Yellow Pages there are those people who advertise that they have nice and convenient parking. You can’t worship because there is a nice drive through the mountains and there is such a lovely view and it is close to the restaurants when church is over. We are talking about honestly getting before God and picking up the cross and saying, “God, where do you choose that I go to?”
Deuteronomy 12:5- But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go;
“It’s not up to you. It is not your decision. It is not where his presence is at. You must go where he sends you.” There! Verse 6 says:
Deuteronomy 12:6- …there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.
Now, look at Verse 8 because this is the passage most people live:
Deuteronomy 12:8- You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit.
Why are there are so many programs and projects and entertainment out there? Because everybody is doing exactly what they want to do and as they see fit in the Lord for it to be done. There is not that humble bowing before God to say, “God, where have you chosen that I go? Where is the place where the sacrifice is acceptable to you?” I mean, if I sit down and say we are all going to have a retreat and go up to the mountains, up near the ski lodges and all that, everybody is excited except we are going to Hayes, Kansas, and that’s where God wants us to be. No one gets too thrilled about that. Okay, see how easy we are drawn to where we want to go? When was the last time you saw anybody announce a seminar in Hayes, Kansas, or lovely Topeka? Why? Because we pick and choose where we want to go and somehow we think we are closer to God with the trees than we are with the sagebrush. Verse 11 says:
Deuteronomy 12:11- Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. And there rejoice before the Lord your God, you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns, who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please.
It is a commandment. It is a warning. It should cause every elder, every leader, and every teacher to stop and to pray and ask, “God, are you sure this is where we’re supposed to go? Are you sure we’re supposed to have this retreat and this project and this special speaker? God, are you sure this is where we are supposed to be?” Instead, we make our plans, we plan our direction, we get our committees together, and then we come and say, “God, please bless what we are doing.” When the commandment is there, there is a yield sign that says stop and consider and ask Him, “Is this just doing what we want to do? Is this what is pleasing in Your sight? Or, is this acceptable in my sight?”
Deuteronomy 12:14- Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.
We don’t worship on our time schedule. We pray and we ask God, “What time do we meet on Sunday?” or whatever day you have in mind. Every Sunday we should be asking, “Lord, what’s your will?” In this body the plans can change in the last 15 minutes. In everything that you do, you don’t do it your way or in your timing. Return to God.
#4 You don’t worship the Lord the way you like. There is a difference between being moved by the Spirit and trying to move the Spirit. Most churches try to move the Spirit. They get together, and they have their praise and worship. Doesn’t it strike you kind of strange or weird that every time you go to church there is always singing and rejoicing? It is the same pattern over and over again, but it is always the happy mode. I begin to wonder if there is any dealing with God’s people? Even if you look at the Israelites, the first “church,” they weren’t constantly happy. How is it that people in churches today are happier than other people in scripture who followed God? There is nothing wrong with rejoicing and praising God, but when that becomes a source of worship, our churches become nothing more than being at a football game where there is a constant puff-up and excitement. You see the same movements through the stadium as you see through the podium.
Deuteronomy 12:1-4- These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live in the land. Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship the Lord your God in their way.
Can you tell the difference between worship services and a Bronco game? How many churches have fall festival substitutes for Halloween? We can’t stand to just do nothing. We have to have a substitution. We didn’t destroy the Asherah pole, we cleaned it up. We didn’t smash the sacred stone. Where are the churches that are having youth get together on Halloween night to fast and to pray? How many churches in this town are going to have haunted houses or places to go? That is just one example of a thousand different ways that the stones have been polished, and the Asherah poles have been cleaned up. They haven’t been smashed. They haven’t been destroyed. They haven’t been crushed. The church takes the world and cleans it up and brings it in. When you pick out a church, go in with a purpose in mind, and that is to smash everything of the world’s. There should be a contrast between the way God’s people worship and the way the world does its thing. If there is not a contrast, what does that say? We haven’t even begun to live up to what God calls us to do.
Exodus 32:1-3- When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him. Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron.
I am always amazed at the willing sacrifice here. If you please people’s flesh, if you give them what they want, they will sacrifice anything. No campaign, no struggle.
Exodus 32:4-He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
And, we go, “Oh, what a shame. They are committing idolatry. Too bad for those people.” And yet, look at the very next line. Whose name is this idolatry committed in? How is the idolatry justified?
Exodus 32:5- When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival for the Lord.“
All had been done in the name of Jesus Christ. We hire preachers to justify what we want to do. They talk of the cross, humility and of brokenness, but you know there is a golden calf behind that altar. You can see it if you look. A couple of years ago we were in a church, and he was talking about the cross of Jesus Christ and the need to deny yourself. All of the words were right. But then he said, “Next Sunday there won’t be church because there is a football game the end of the season.” There is always an altar. But, what did they announce?
Exodus 32:5-Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.
Don’t think for a moment they are going to say, “We’re Satan-worshippers.”
Exodus 32:6- So, the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings.
Look at that! What do they do? They get up early in the morning to worship God. Hey, these folks are eager to be at church, aren’t they? Everything about their flesh wants to be there! But, nobody is running to greet the old widow, are they? Nobody is going, “This woman is my church. This is where I fellowship. This is the beauty of Jesus Christ.” Oh, they get up early in the morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and present fellowship offerings to God. “Oh God, you are our God!”
Exodus 32:6-7- Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then, the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.
They were eating and drinking like the world does. They have the same heart and same attitude. The only difference is it is more wicked because it is done in the name of Jesus Christ. I get so tired of people saying, “Oh, it is biblical. We are doing it in the name of Jesus.” Where is the purity that rings out? How come I see a golden calf in all of that? Oh yes, you have your fellowship offerings; I can’t deny that. You have your burnt offerings, and everything seems to be in its proper place, but what is this golden calf doing right here in the middle of everything? Why is self still alive? Why is self on the throne, though you talk about denying self? Why is it that I smell the incense of a golden calf? You can’t go to a church that feels good or right or wrong. We can’t worship in the way that we want. We must be sure that all things are pure.
#5 You need to ask yourself what kind of church you are.
Proverbs 4:23- Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.
From your heart flows your very life, what you are attracted to, what brings you pleasure, what holds darkness or light, as well as the teachings that you like. From our heart flows whether we have the crucified life or not. For where your treasure is, there your heart is also. What kind of church are you? Before you ever set out to go examine churches, examine your own church your own heart.
1 Corinthians 3:16-18- Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.
We are back to the widow, aren’t we? We are back to becoming a fool in the eyes of this world. We’re standing there again with Jesus at the temple saying, “This widow is my church in all of her poverty and all of her affliction.” Do you know why she sacrifices everything for God? I don’t care about the stones. I don’t care about the trumpet calls. I don’t care about the goose-bump feelings I get. I don’t care about all of the spiritual gifts that are poured out. This widow is my sister! We turn with fire, and we turn with indignation. We say with Jesus, “Leave them, they are blind guides. All they care about is the temple and the outward adornment.” You can always say that if your heart is pure. We must ask ourselves what kind of church are we? Am I the church of Ephesus that has forsaken its first love? Ask somebody else if you don’t know. Jesus said to the churches, “I know… I know…” If you don’t know from God, then ask somebody. Are you the church of Smyrna that will be put in prison and tested? Or the church of Pergamum? Jesus rebuked them because they tolerated men like Balaam and the Nicolatians. They tolerated the prosperity teachers. Or are you the church of Thyatira where Jesus said, “I know your deeds but you tolerate that woman Jezebel! Are we the church of Sardis where we have a reputation of being alive, but we are dead? Are we the church of Philadelphia? Do we keep the word of the Lord and do we hold on to it? Are we just lukewarm? Who are we? Why is it we don’t ever turn to God and say, “God, who am I?” Why is it that when examining churches we are always examining everything else, but we never start with ourselves first and realize that we are the temple of the living God? Listen, if you are lukewarm, if you are dead, what are you doing out looking for anything? You won’t be able to discern a single thing. You would be attracted to lukewarm churches. You might even be into idolatry. You may not be even close to the right place. Where your heart is, is what you can be drawn to, period. But, God said, “If you respond to my rebuke, I will pour out wisdom and understanding.” What does Jesus say to all of the churches? “Respond to my rebuke. I rebuke those whom I love.” We want to find where God wants us to worship and we want to be in a place that is pure and clean and start at your own temple.
#6 They must have a living doctrine. Look at 3 John, Verse 3. Now, you know there is a different doctrine and living doctrine. We want a doctrine in which the Spirit works and moves and purifies and calls us to be alive.
3 John 3-4- It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
I have no greater joy than to hear you walk in the truth. Don’t just examine it. You don’t just take it inside you. You live it! It is yours. You possess it. It lives within you. When you walk into a church, you must sense that there is truth living there by the power of the Spirit. When you look at your own heart, you should feel overwhelmed by the living Word that dwells.
1 Timothy 6:20-Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.
There’s a great deal of knowledge out there with all kinds of seminars and teachings. It is godless chatter! Pull out all of man’s wisdom, and all of his extra words, and all of his gimmicks and all of his projects, and by the time you are done there isn’t much of God’s word left. Listen to the sermon. It begins with one little scripture. Then, there’s one little story after another story, after a joke, after some other entertainment, and then they ask for money and it’s all done. It’s all just a bunch of air! And, that is stating it kindly. It is nothing but godless chatter and you walk away really with nothing. You are not struck with the word of God and feeling overloaded and overwhelmed, because you ate too much of the word of the living God. Turn away from people who have godless chatter. They say it is all the knowledge of God, yet it is full of all kinds of man’s wisdom and all kinds of things. Otherwise, you will turn away from the faith.
Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it.” It is up to you:
Colossians 2:8- See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy.
Watch out that no one comes along with a teaching that’s hollow. There is nothing real to it! It is deceptive. Don’t think for a moment that they are going to stand up and announce, “Hey, this is a false teaching, guys! You know, I’m really captive to sin in my own life and I really don’t have a full heart for God. What I’m going to lay before you is just deceptive kinds of teachings that draw you guys in.” Another thing people ask me is if I’m a cult leader. I might as well say, “Yes. I know you wouldn’t believe me if I told you no anyway.” False teachers don’t stand up and announce themselves, but you measure by whether their teaching depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. The foundation of it is not Jesus Christ. It does not depend on him and it is not centered in him. It is not totally Jesus Christ. Rather it has human tradition and the basic principles of this world. The self-esteem. The psychology. The inner healing. The worldly concepts. The entertainment. All of the things that go on are just taking people captive. Programs that pump up people to go out and do things. See to it that no one takes you captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy.
#7 The cross must be central. You know, unless somebody really humbly seeks God, they are not going to understand any of this.
Philippians 3:1- 7Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.
What are you doing? You are judging churches, or temples of God.
Philippians 3:17-…Take note of others, brothers, who live according to the pattern we gave you.
Go in and examine, and say, “That person really lives the gospel and I must take note of who they are. That person over there follows Jesus Christ and knows what it is to pick up the cross. That person over there really knows what it is to experience the hand of God in their life.”
Philippians 3:18- For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
It is not the statement of this passage that is important. It is the first part that is important. The most important phrase in this passage is, “again, even with tears.” How close the cross of Jesus Christ was in Paul’s life. How real that cross was, and how it contrasted between every one who claimed to be a brother but really wasn’t and those who really were true brothers. When was the last time you saw a brother or sister plead with you in tears saying, “Take note of those who follow the cross of Jesus Christ. Everything they have to say has to do with the cross.” I don’t mean it is just one compartment or part of their teaching or that it is some small area of their doctrine. I mean it is THE essential thing! What the cross means is a sermon in itself, but he says it with tears. Can we say it with tears? Does the cross so burn in our hearts? Do we say it has life, it crucifies, and it gives such comfort? It rebukes. Tell people, “This is what the cross is about,” and say it with tears. How dare we run around saying we have this sermon or we can decide our way! We can’t even say with Paul what the truth is. We can’t even turn to other people and say, “I’m telling you with tears and with anguish of heart take note of those who follow the cross of Jesus Christ.” Look at the indignation in Verse 19. Look at the judgment about these people. He knows the life of Jesus. He says their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. They stand at the pulpit and boast about all of the things they have done and all of the meals they gave out, or the things they have conquered. Their glory is their shame. One day they will stand before the Holy Son of God and will give their list of everything they did. It will be the thing that puts them to shame. They will turn to Jesus and say, “Look at the temple with all of these beautiful sacrifices and all of these grand works that we did.” And, they are going to find out that it is their shame. It’s the widow who will stand up and say, “I just gave two pennies.”
Where is the fire and the zeal, if you are going to judge where to worship. The people are going to ask, “Where do I go to worship?” If we would just be a people that would say “Live the cross of Jesus Christ, I’m pleading with you in tears.” All the rest of that falls in line.
Philippians 3:20- But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers…
Look at what he says!
Philippians 4:1-…you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
How do you stand firm? How do you find the church where you need to be? Easy! You have to be able to turn to somebody else and take him by the collar and say, “Follow those who pick up the cross of Jesus Christ.” You have to weep at people’s feet and say, “That’s what the truth is about. That is the measurement of all doctrine, whether it is alive or whether it is dead.” Is the cost of Jesus Christ being counted daily? Have they surrendered all? Are they the widow putting everything at Jesus’ feet? Don’t we understand that anything less than that is idolatry? You walk out sensing that everyone is consumed with the living God, and that is who they love. It is overwhelming. It is not sermons on crosses, but people on crosses.
#8 The other thing we need to look for is love.
John 13:34- “A new command I give you: Love one another.
Read the rest of it and pay attention carefully to what Jesus says.
John 13:34- …As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
It’s not mush love. “As I have loved you. Exactly as I walked. Exactly as I laid down my life. Exactly as I rebuked and loved, and cared. I lost my whole life!”
John 13:35- By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
The only way people will know that we really belong to Him is by showing the kind of love Jesus Christ had. And yet, most people’s measurement of love is a nice handshake on Sunday morning or getting a little flower for their lapel. Or having all of the visitors stand up. I’m conducting a survey right now on the computer bulletin board. It asks the question: How spiritual is your church? One of the questions is, “Do you have everything in common according to Acts?” People answer, “Yes.” Then, toward the end of the survey, I say, “Do you greet one another with a holy kiss?” “No.” It is like the one reveals the other. I mean, they really think they have everything in common! Acts 4:32 gives us the beginning place of what it means to love one another not the finished product, not our pot of gold. This is kindergarten. It is first grade. It is day-care center, folks.
Acts 4:32- All of the believers were one in heart and mind.
This is after Pentecost. This is the cross of Jesus Christ, and it is the only way that it comes about.
Acts 4:32- No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
If you are looking for a church, this is the beginning measurement. Please understand, it is not the goal. It is not the finished product. It is where you start. You need to be able to walk into the church and say they have everything in common. They are one in heart and in mind.
Acts 2:44-46- All of the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…
Let me give you one crucial measurement of whether a church is alive or whether it is dead. Are there more people in attendance on Wednesday night than on Sunday night? Are there more people on Sunday morning than there are on Wednesday night or Sunday night? Worthless! What does scripture say?
Acts 2:46- Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
These people wanted to be together. It was their joy. What did Paul say to the Philippians? “My joy, my crown, my brother.” Who tears people apart from their joy and their crown? Where your treasure is, your heart is. How can you say that I’m your joy and your treasure in Jesus Christ and not want to be with me? How can churches say they are spiritual and full of God, when you go on Wednesday night and it is half full, or you go Sunday night and it is a third full? Where is the fire and the zeal? Their God is their stomach. Their glory is their shame. Their minds are on earthly things.
John 13:34- As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Did Jesus forsake all and give all? The answer is yes. In the bad times, that is where it starts. You don’t say, “Well, in ten more years they will be in a place to surrender everything with one another.” Who is to blame? The Spirit is going to work that kind of life. How did they greet one another with a handshake or with a holy kiss? Do they say to one another, “You are my joy and my crown”? Do they plead with one another? Do they say to each other, “Follow those who follow the cross”? Does it burn in their hearts? Does it come from their eyes? Do they cry with tears?
Let’s go ahead and pray.
Father, give us your light. Give us soft hearts that we will respond, Father, to your rebukes and your correction. That Father, we may have knowledge so your wisdom and your heart, might enter our hearts and give us life. Oh God, light a fire within us that burns a holy flame, Father, that is alive. The sacrifice in you, Father, that doesn’t worship when and where we want to in our timing and how it is convenient. If it fits in our schedule and does not interfere with anything or anyone else, Father. Give us hearts that burn, Father, to call the widow our sister and to say that she is our church. Let us lay hold of her, Father, and to consider it the grandest sermon to be in the presence of. Father, where the eyes of Jesus are, that is where our hearts need to be. Dear Father, we have our eyes upon the temple and how it pleases the flesh, and entertains us. O Lord, give us Your fire and give us Your heart. We plead this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.