Find The Right Church, Part 2
We will continue to talk about how to find the right church. The people of Jeremiah will be surprised at what he says.
Jeremiah 2:20- Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, “I will not serve you!” Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute.
People think that Jeremiah is basically out of his mind.
Jeremiah 2:21-I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?
In Jeremiah it shows how the people became corrupt in their worship of God.
Jeremiah 2:22- “Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign Lord.
The people had a sense of guilt and shame. They knew that they were not in a right relationship with God, and so they sought to clean their lives up. If Jeremiah were to go out to them and ask, “Are you trying to deal with sins in your life?” they would have turned to Jeremiah and probably in all honesty and sincerity said, “Yes, indeed we are trying to deal with things.” They knew the words. They had the worship down. They would have been shocked to discover that when God looked at them, he would have said, “Your guilt is always before me. You are not clean. You are prostitutes. You lay down under every spreading tree and give yourselves to the idols of this world.” They said, “How can you say I am defiled? I have not run after the Baals. We’re not idolaters. We worship the Living God. We deal with our sin. Look we have soda and an abundance of soap. We clean ourselves up. What are you talking about, God? We don’t lay down as prostitutes under every tree.” They would have thought Jeremiah was just being judgmental and super-critical because they turned to God all the time and said, “Look, Lord! We are not defiled. We haven’t run after the Baals.” But, God says in Verse 23:
Jeremiah 2:23-24- See how you behaved in the valley; consider what you have done. You are a swift she-camel running here and there… A wild donkey accustomed to the desert.
Long ago when we threw off the obedience that came from having a first love for God, we drifted further and further away from him, losing sight of the fact that what we were really doing was falling away. We become accustomed to the desert and we find an oasis in the desert. We think that is all there is, so we begin to talk about finding the right church. We bring up the fact that we need to have everything in common and we need to love one another. Most people say, “Well, our church does that. I totally agree with what you are saying, in fact, our pastor just preached this last Sunday.” Yet they had forgotten and were so accustomed to the desert that they didn’t know what it was to have the living Holy Spirit do the work. They turned and said;
Jeremiah 2:24- How can you say, “I’m not defiled? I have not run after the Baals.” You are … a wild donkey accustomed to the desert,
In other words what you consider to be home, where you belong, your place.
Jeremiah 2:23-24- Sniffing the wind in her craving in her heat who can restrain her? Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves; at mating time they will find her.
That is why the church takes in so much of everything and is taken in by fancy preaching. That’s why we are accustomed to saying the words “Holy Spirit,” “God,” “Love,” and “Peace,” and yet we are nothing more than Baal-worshippers accustomed to the desert. But, God pleads:
Jeremiah 2:25- Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry.
God hopes when we are out in the desert we will finally begin to know what it really means to follow God, realizing there is a difference between the Spirit putting the words into our life and us just mimicking those words. He hopes we will turn and come to our senses. He says, “Don’t run until you just don’t have any energy or strength left. Don’t continue out there in the heat of the desert until you just drop and there is just nothing left.”
Jeremiah 2:25- But, you said it’s no use, “I love foreign gods” and I must go after them.
We say it in our actions. We say it in our voice. People say it all the time when you are pleading with them to repent. “It is no use. It is what I have to go after. It is what gives me a good feeling and makes me feel close to God.”
Jeremiah 2:26- As a thief is disgraced when he is caught, so the house of Israel is disgraced, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets…
Jeremiah doesn’t leave anybody out of the picture, does he? They thought he was out of his mind! They turned and said, “Jeremiah, we have not followed the Baals. We are clean. We wash ourselves all of the time. How can you say the king and the officials, the priests and the prophets, and everybody else is unclean, but you?” In an unrighteous indignation they put Jeremiah down.
Jeremiah 2:27- They say to wood, “You are my father,”; And to stone, “You gave me birth.”
Again, Jeremiah declares the truth of their heart but not necessarily the truth of exactly what they do. The people said, “We don’t bow down to Baal. We don’t have a wooden statue in our home.” God says:
Jeremiah 2:27- They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; …yet when they are in trouble, they say ‘Come and save us!’
We have seen it lots of times. People are presented with the gospel and they think, “Well, this is not quite what we want.” So they leave the gospel call and begin to have trouble in their lives and guess who they call?
Jeremiah 2:28- Where then are the gods you made for yourselves, let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah.
A church is on every corner. A different program, project and preaching of the Word is on every street corner. Every town has a different concept. Every church has a different goal and plan. Every town in Judah had a different god. Indeed, Jeremiah will say that each of you make your own words to be the oracle of the Lord. We will soon see exactly what constitutes the preaching that comes from God.
What do we look for in a church? Let’s review:
- You get to bow humbly before God.
- Don’t look at a church and see if it feels right or wrong. You must know why.
- Don’t worship where you choose.
- Don’t worship the way you like.
- Ask what kind of church you are.
- They must have a living sound doctrine a living doctrine.
- The cross must be central.
- There must be love.
We started with it, and yet we want to build on it a little bit more. Number eight says there must be love there, but what kind of love? Would the people in Jeremiah’s time say, “We don’t love. We don’t know how to love.” No, they would have boasted to Jeremiah that they love one another. They would have boasted that they love and understand the ways of God.
John 13:34- A new command I give you: Love one another.
That’s where most people stop. The definition of love is not my definition. No matter how many different towns with their different definitions of love there may be, the only definition for love that we are to look at is Jesus Christ’s. He says:
John 13:34- As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
It is a direct command. He says you MUST do this. It’s not the kind of love you choose. It is not the social kind of love, not a mush kind of love, but a love exactly like Jesus Christ has for the disciples. We are to have the same love for one another. How little understanding there is of that kind of love. Now, these points are all sermons in themselves and we aren’t going to have time to build upon each one of these. But, it must be a love that comes from the Spirit. In Colossians 1:7-8 Paul talks about the people receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ and he notes something special about their love.
Colossians 1:7-8- You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
There are few churches that you walk into recognizing that each person is loving you by the Holy Spirit. Oh, they love me enough to put a little lapel or sticker on me that says ‘visitor.’ They love me enough to shake my hand, but I don’t walk away believing that they love me in the Spirit. I don’t sense there is something different from the way my grandmother loved me. There is something much different in the way the world greets and loves one another, not just in terms of actions, but rather in the quality behind it. True love is something you can’t fake or put on. A lot of people can greet me and hug me. Proverbs says enemies do that. But, is it a spirit of love where we sense the fragrance of Christ? Do we feel that is what a person is filled up with? A love in the Spirit. Do we know what that means? If I asked you to write me a paper right now on what it means to love in the Spirit, would you be able to do it? Would you be able to contrast the times when you’ve loved out of the Spirit and when you have loved in the Spirit? What is the difference between the two of them?
“Long ago,” Jeremiah said, “We threw off the bond and said we will not follow.” But, you see, the kind of love that God is looking for is a love in the Spirit, the kind of love Jesus had for us. That is totally the opposite of the love of manwhich is deeper, purer, and more holy than anything man can ever produce. You can’t copy it. I can’t give you ten steps to love. All I can tell you is to love in the Spirit. Now, how are you going to do that? Go humbly before God and ask Him for that kind of love. Only He can work it in you. Do we go into churches and walk out saying, “The kind of love they have only God can produce.” In Colossians 1:28, we are given examples of the love of Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:28- We proclaim him,
That is the first and only thing that has to be held up,not projects, goals, plans, numbers or games, or anything else. We proclaim Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:28- … admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
The right church is one that seeks to present you perfect in Jesus Christ. You may not like it or want it at first, but that is the right place.
Colossians 1:29- To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
When we talk about a love in the Spirit, Colossians 1:8, and we look at Colossians 1:29, each of us must be able to say, “I am laboring and struggling by the grace of God and by His power to present you perfect in Jesus Christ. I don’t seek to offer you my opinion. I don’t seek to offer you a mush love. I don’t seek to do anything but present you perfect in Jesus Christ. And, I sense His power working in me making me holy, cleansing and seeking to present you perfect.” Do we really sense the power of God moving us to have that kind of fellowship? Then, we can turn and say with all honesty, “God works powerfully within me to make you perfect. I struggle, I labor, I hurt with all His energy, not my energy. It’s not my strength, my wisdom, my love, or anything of me, but just Him laboring through me.” That’s what it means to love in the Spirit. And, so when Jesus says in John 13:34, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” that’s what he means. Paul tells us in Colossians 1:29 the only way you are going to be able to do that is by the grace and strength of God. You must have a love independent of yourself. You must be full of a wisdom which does not come from you if you are to present others perfect in Jesus Christ. No wonder Paul says, “We proclaim Him.” We see only Him. I don’t want you to conform to me or what I have in mind. You don’t want that either. When we fellowship, admonishing and teaching one another we should plead and beg before God that it is only Jesus that we present to each other.
2 Corinthians 13:11 says we are to aim for perfection. That is first thing you should sense when you walk into a church. You should be able say, “These people aim for perfection.” Yet, what is the gospel call most of the time? “Nobody is perfect.” I’ve heard from the pulpit a million times before, “Nobody’s perfect in this world.” Where did Paul say that? It may be true that nobody will be perfect because we will not be like Him until we see Him. But I am talking about the attitude that tolerates compromise. Instead, Paul says, “Aim for perfection.” Paul says in Colossians, “I will present you perfect in Christ Jesus.” If you don’t want to be presented perfect, you will not want this kind of love.
Let’s see this perfection in work. People always say, “Love me more.” “Why are you not more loving?”
I Corinthians 13:4- Love is patient, love is kind.
Okay, let’s look at kindness. Let’s go to Psalm 141:5. I want each of you to think in your heart about the brother or sister next to you, and I want you to say to God, “God, I want that brother or sister to be more kind to me this week. I want them to be a hundred times more kind to me than they have ever been in their life with me.” I want you to plead before the Holy Throne of God, asking, “God, make us a kind church.”
Psalm 141:5- Let a righteous man strike me it is a kindness;
Oh, love is patient and love is kind, but by whose definition do we define kindness? You see, the most unloving brother or sister I know is one who does not admonish or seek to present me perfect in Jesus Christ. These people are the most cruel, hating kind of Christians that I know. Most people would just as soon let me go to hell than open their mouth and present me perfect in Jesus Christ. That is exactly what the Psalmist is saying. A false brother would just as soon justify the sin in his own life and thereby take everybody else to hell with him rather than deal with his sins and present anyone else perfect in Jesus Christ. However, a man who loves God and cares about others, desiring perfection in Jesus Christ for himself, will show kindness to everybody else.
Psalm 141:5- Let a righteous man strike me it is a kindness;
And, let’s look at this kindness.
Psalm 141:5- Let him rebuke me it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.
Then, look at what he says:
Psalm 141:5- Yet my prayer is ever against the deeds of the evildoers;
Is that the type of kindness that we are used to? Is that the type of kindness you spot when looking for a church or judging whether that’s where you need to belong or not? Is this the kind of Jesus we like to see who comes into the temple, overturns tables, and says, “That was kindness!” Is this the kind of Paul that we like, who opposes Peter to his face in front of everybody rebuking him because he fell into hypocrisy? Is this the kind of love that we really have in mind? This is the kind of love that Jesus wants to work, and only His Spirit can work it. Now don’t be a fool, just living this in your own effort and start hitting everybody.
Psalm 141:5- Let a righteous man strike meit is a kindness;
But only to those who want to be presented perfect in Jesus. I don’t want anybody saying this is just in the Old Testament. In Matthew 16:17 we see all of this brought together in Jesus Christ because Jesus is love. Love does whatever is best for the other person and that is what you need to see in a church and the body, not just having everything in common.
Matthew 16:17- Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”
He encourages Peter, doesn’t he? He says, “Peter, you have been enlightened by God.” Peter goes, “Yeah!” He is built up. He has strength in God. Jesus speaks the truth.
Matthew 16:18- “…And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
He speaks of Peter’s life.
Then, he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. What has been revealed to them is privileged information. Nobody else is to receive it or to have it. They are not even to proclaim this yet.
Matthew 16:21- From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Here is Peter being so encouraged by Jesus. This is the type of kindness that certainly is of God, but it can easily become, “puffing one another up” when it is done without the Spirit of God.
Matthew 16:22- Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Now look at the kindness of Jesus Christ, and what He speaks to Peter:
Matthew 16:23- Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Both of these are love. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” If the Spirit of God tells me to commend you for receiving something spiritual and doing something good in God, I will do that. Then, if I need to, hopefully I’m dead enough to myself that I can turn to you and say, “Get behind me Satan,” and rebuke you. That is sharp! How much sharper a rebuke can you possibly get? Love is patient, love is kind. Is this our definition? Is this our love in the Spirit? Is this what we want? Is this what we plead for and ask God to produce? Brothers who love with this kind of love show no favoritism. They only do what’s best for the other person to perfect them in Jesus Christ.
Matthew 16:24- Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Remember, the cross has to be central. What did Peter miss but the cross? What caused him to try and pull Jesus away from God’s will but the cross? That’s what needs to be rebuked in one another with all of the ferocity that Holy Spirit can produce anything that keeps us from the cross. Indeed, we must have love, but what kind of love? Only the kind that Jesus shows.
9. You can’t worship where other people want you to worship.
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Luke 18:35
Luke 18:38-39- He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Others will say, “Don’t be too humble. Don’t shout too hard. Don’t worship there.” Worship where God calls you to worship. Don’t worship where other people want you to worship. They were trying to tell him to be quiet and shut his mouth, that they were the ones leading the way. But do you know what he wanted above everything else? He didn’t want their approval. He didn’t care what they thought. He only wanted the presence of Jesus. That is also what we must desire. We have to be willing to go wherever the presence of Jesus is. Don’t go to a church that feeds your flesh and makes you feel comfortable with what you are familiar with or used to, but go to where the presence of God is found!
In Matthew 3:1 Look where they were holding a church service.
Matthew 3:1- In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea…
Do you want to get to Jesus? Do you want to find the right church? Then you must to go to the desert. You really do! I don’t care if it is the most exciting, most alive, most project-oriented church you can find, you personally must go to the desert. You must go to the hot desert where there is no shade and where scorpions live. There is no food or water around and it is not a very pleasurable place to be. There’s no shade. You must go hear a man like John the Baptist. That applies to everyone who claims to lay hold of God. We don’t go where people tell us to go, where it is convenient, exciting, and comfortable. We go to the desert. How is this so?
Luke 7:29- All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.
They went to the desert. It was just them and the rough word of the Lord piercing the heart and breaking them. If you want to find the right church and not be taken in by people, then you must go to the desert. You’ve got to stand before a man like John the Baptist. He wasn’t in the temples. He wasn’t in Jerusalem. John’s church wasn’t held where it was comfortable and he didn’t have incense. It was out there in the desert. John the Baptist didn’t just step on toes, he stepped on the whole body.
Luke 7:30- But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.
Why couldn’t the Pharisees accept what Jesus was saying? Because they would not accept the baptism of John, which is the beginning of getting to Jesus. To understand the grace of the cross you’ve got to hear John the Baptist. To understand how much you need the cross, down the road three years later, you’ve got to hear John the Baptist. Is that the kind of message that we want? Can we see why people don’t find the right church? They won’t accept the beginning place; they want to skip the message of John the Baptist. They want to stay with the Pharisees in Jerusalem. In Matthew 11:7 Jesus says the same thing about John and He tells us that we must go to the desert. We’ve got to make ourselves want John the Baptist. He’s not a lovable guy! In Matthew,
Matthew 11:7- As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see?”
It’s a little dry out there, isn’t it? Think about the first church of John the Baptist. There were no fancy programs and no padded pews. You didn’t walk in and find that everything was all in order in a nice little folder and you knew what hymns you were going to sing. You didn’t have a preacher shaking your hand saying, “It’s good to see you here today, and I hope you come back next week.” I mean, he was rough and kind of crude. This guy ate grasshoppers. That was the kind of church meal he had. You go to the first church of John the Baptist out in the desert where all the sand is, and the kids are whining and complaining, to hear him tell you how bad you are! What did you go out to the desert to see? Only those who have gone out in the desert to hear John the Baptist tell the rest of us what Jesus has to say. Not only that, they understand what Jesus is going to say!
11:7- “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” Matthew
You didn’t go out there to see somebody tossed back and forth by popular opinion or preaching in such a way that you know he is just entertaining you into hell.
Matthew 11:8-10 – If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.
Hey, John the Baptist first comes to all of us. He prepares us to receive Jesus but he is out in the desert. Jesus tries desperately to strip all the activities and things away from us in our hearts so that nothing gives us joy except His presence alone. Jesus tries to remove all of the soft words that men say to us just to make us feel good and to make them feel good. He tries to make us so dry, barren, and hopeless that we sit there knowing that the only thing that can refresh us is the presence of God. He tries to quiet the church. He tries to get us out to a place where we are not comfortable. The desert goes against our flesh in order that we might truly see the depth of our sin before God and therefore receive the baptism that cleanses and the holiness that only God can work. Who will prepare the way before you to get things ready for Jesus? That is why John’s message is “Make a straight path for the Lord.”
Matthew 11:11- “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
There is no greater church you can go to than the church of John the Baptist. But what does John have to offer? On the boulder behind him is there a plaque that shows attendance? Did he have an attendance roster recording all of the people he had baptized? Does he have a nice suit on and is everything pleasant? Does he smile and greet everybody? Look at what Jesus says in verse 12:
Matthew 11:13- From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
Forceful men lay hold of it. You’ve got to get out there and listen to John the Baptist. It does not agree with our flesh or make us comfortable. It reveals our hearts for who we really are. We have got to force ourselves to stay there and lay hold of it. These are the only people that lay hold of the kingdom of God. Let us be a people who go to the desert to find the gospel.
10. Find a church that hates money. You may not find too many places left to go. In Luke 16:13 it says the church hates and despises money. Anything less than that is totally and absolutely unacceptable. No compromise, no smoothing it over, no saying “Well, they don’t love money first.” They either hate it and despise it or they love money, period. If they are Christians you will walk away and say, “They are a people who know how to hate and despise money.”
Luke 16:13- No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
It is not like I walk away from that and say, “Well, gee whiz, if God asked me to give up everything, I would,” or “I really love God first. The money is way down on the list somewhere.” It cannot be on the list! You either love God and hate money, or you love money and hate God. There is no middle ground. When you look at a church’s ministry see what they preach about money. Are they a people who will leave you with an undying impression that they hate, despise, spit upon, and detest money?
Luke 16:14- The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and sneering at Jesus.
Don’t think that this is a popular message! Don’t believe somehow the religious community is going to embrace this whole concept of hating money. They sneer at it. After all, they don’t go to the extreme. They say, “We’ve got to have money to live on. I mean, how can we do any of the politics that we do if we didn’t have money?” I don’t know. You might get to feed a multitude of people on a loaf of bread. But the point is, the people don’t demonstrate that they really hate money. That is why you become utterly indignant!
Churches try to claim they have everything in common without hating or despising money. How can you have everything in common unless you hate the things that people own? How can you even begin? They think you have got to have all of the entertainment, activities and the numbers to keep people in church! Why? Because the Holy Spirit really is not enough. We’ve got to give our children something to do, otherwise they’ll go to the world. What does that say? Better to let them go to the world than for the church to become a self-pleasing, self-gratifying haunt of demons. You are either going to come into church and love God, or leave and go to the world. There is just no middle ground. I’m not going to bring the world in here to keep you. They are literally standing up before everybody and saying, “God just simply is not enough. He does not give us enough joy and enough pleasure. He allows us to have all these things.” You know all of the whitewash! These are the “terrible times” that scripture talks about in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Notice it doesn’t even talk about earthquakes or famines as terrible, but rather that men will be lovers of pleasure and lovers of money rather than lovers of God. And yet, what is the world on guard against? Earthquakes and the coming crash.
11. Look for a simple preacher who preaches simply. When are people going to wake up and get tired of stories? Tired of being entertained? Tired of smooth and eloquent preaching? In I Corinthians 2:1 Paul says:
1 Corinthians 2:1- When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
“I did not.” Listen to him. That is his boast! “I did not come to you with eloquence or superior holy wisdom!”
1 Corinthians 2:2- For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Again, think about that for a moment. There is nothing inherently wrong with a Ph.D. or a man being educated, but when he steps up to the pulpit and begins to preach the gospel, he has resolved himself only to know Jesus Christ and him crucified! What in the world does that mean? How many of those preachers can really expound upon that and tell you what it means? They will give you a nice little story about it.
1 Corinthians 2:3- I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.
Look at the man who appeared to preach before you. Paul, a man who raises the dead, a man whom a snake bites and it doesn’t bother him. He stands shaking before these people in weakness and fear. He is trembling at the pulpit because he is afraid. When was the last time you heard it advertised on the radio that way? “Come see our speaker, So-and-So, who is terrified to come to the pulpit? Or, he is a powerful man of God and God has moved mightily in his life. He will also inspire you to great heights in the heavenly realms.”
1 Corinthians 2:3- “I came to you in weakness and in fear with much trembling.”
Not much to look at! We are back to the desert, aren’t we?
1 Corinthians 2:4- My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
Paul says, “I demonstrated to you that it wasn’t me that gained this wisdom. It wasn’t my intellect or my training. I didn’t get it by going to Bible school. It was a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. And, the same wisdom I have, you can have.”
The cross is still preached, but there is no power in it anymore. That is why I said, you can explain to somebody, “Jesus says you have to deny yourself, pick up the cross and follow Him. You have to hate your own life.” Often people reply, “Yeah, you know, we had a sermon just last week on carrying your cross.” They agree with the words, but there’s no power behind what they say.
1 Corinthians 1:17- For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Think about it. A man can stand up and can talk about the cross. He can talk about fellowship. He can talk about loving one another. He can talk about purity, holiness, and righteousness, yet there is no power in what he is saying. You leave in awe; you leave inspired; you leave strengthened; you leave anything but holy, because there is no power in the cross that he’s preaching. Two men can stand at the pulpit and say, “Crucify self.” One will throw you to your knees, and the other will mean nothing. The minute we begin to use human wisdom, the minute we begin to entertain, the minute a church begins to do all those things, the cross no longer has power.
You know, there are some churches where you don’t even have to bring your Bible. Or, if you bring it, the pastor only quotes one passage and then he is telling stories. 2 Timothy 4:2 tells a preacher what to preach.
2 Timothy 4:2- Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.
Men no longer preach the Word. They entertain with the Word, they justify their positions with the Word, but they don’t preach the Word. They preach with human wisdom and not the cross that really brings life.
2 Timothy 4:3- …For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Myths are things that men make up. Stay away from preachers that are complicated, entertaining, or who come with human wisdom and eloquence. Find a simple preacher whose preaches simply. He may have a Ph.D., he may not. But, you find someplace where the pastor is speaking by the power of the Spirit. No other kind of church matters.
12. Finally, pay no attention to your own words. If you expect to find the right church, then you pay absolutely no attention to what you say. In all of the years that I have been a Christian, I can’t ever remember telling somebody that I really love God. I have been talking to somebody about the scripture, and they turn and say to me, “Well, I really love God, too.” Yet I didn’t say the words. I just show that I really love him by my actions. We are born again with a zeal to love God that people have to have, we don’t have to turn to people and say, “Well, I really love God.” It ought to be well demonstrated.
Matthew 26:33- Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
People say it all the time, don’t they? “I really love God. I’m really seeking the truth. I really hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
Don’t listen to your own words! Don’t play the part of a fool. Ask God. Here is Jesus, the Son of God, trying to tell Peter exactly what he is going to do, and Peter is calling him a liar to His face! We need to get before God and humble ourselves, and ask him, “God, who am I? Do I really belong to You? Am I looking for the right church? Am I a person that honestly hungers and thirsts for and craves righteousness, O Lord?” If Jesus turns to us and says, “No, you will deny me in three days,” do not turn and say, “No, Lord, I will die for you.” If somebody comes to us with a correction, rebuke or something we need to change today in our life, let us not say, “But, I really love God. I will never fall away.”
Matthew 26:33- Peter replied, Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.
What a grand blessing it is when we sit down to eat with Jesus, and He tells us exactly who we are.
Matthew 26:34- “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
When people set out to find the right church, the first mistake they make is listening to their own words, and not to the words of the Lord.
Matthew 26:35- And all of the other disciples said the same.
Do not ever listen to your own words. You keep your eyes on Jesus, and you ask Him.
Father, as we do prepare to take the Lord’s Supper, give us Your Spirit of wisdom, Father, that we might not bring ourselves under judgment, that we might taste the life that is hidden in Jesus. O Father, we pray that You give us life. We pray, Father, that people are searching after you. That You guide them and direct them wherever they need to be. That You bring together, Father, those who love You with an undying love, an uncompromising kind of love. Father, we praise You for the grace and the mercy You have given us. We stand in awe, Father, of how much You do love us and call us to change. And so, Father, we prepare ourselves a drink of grace, to eat of the bread that gives life so we really might leave here more righteous than when we came in. Give us obedient hearts, O Lord. And, give us love for one another, that our joy might be full. We pray 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.