Sermon Manuscript . . .
Are You Unique?
What kind of church are you a part of? FBC distinctives–2019
Every day we face choices about preferences. Do you prefer In ‘N Out or 5 Guys? Chipotle or Rubios? Panda or PF Changs? Ford or Chevy, Toyota or Honda? Boxers or briefs or boxer briefs (don’t answer that)? Coke or Pepsi, Smart Water or Costco water? Kohls or Target? Puffin Rock or Chuggington? In the US, in southern California–we are inundated with preferences.
Today many in So Cal think the same way about the Church–do I attend the church that has drama in their services, sings only hymns, uses only an organ or uses woman preachers? Do I go to the church where the sermons are comedy routines, congregations are made up of only singles and they use smoke machines, theatrical backgrounds and colored motion lights in every service?
Yet those who take the Bible seriously also struggle with what church to belong to. I like the preaching at this one, but the music is too loud. I like the programs this church has, but the teaching is weak. The doctrine is solid, but the fellowship is stiff and preaching is super boring. I like the commitment to truth, but the leadership structure is dictatorial. It seems like the people know Christ, but they all seem pretty shallow. The pastor is nice, but no one serves in the church.
A theologically liberal church says sinners are welcome here and you don’t need to change a thing. A moralistic church says sinners are not welcome here unless you first do something to change and clean yourself up. But Jesus says sinners are welcome here and I will change your heart to love the things that I love.
Today, before we begin 2 Peter next week, I want to expose biblical principles in a shotgun approach, in order to describe a few of FBC’s distinctives. Again, if you’re new, this may be your last Sunday–I hope not, but you should know what we have become and what we are striving to be as a local church. You may be a part of the family, but you weren’t here in the early years when we struggled through and resolved these issues. Maybe today will cause you to re-evaluate.
Many of you will affirm these principles, and hopefully will be challenged by the Holy Spirit to new depths of obedience to God’s Word as a church family. I want to show you God’s Word on the local church and Christian lifestyle. Heed the warning of Paul Washer–he says, “Do not look for the church nearest to your house. Look for the church closest to the Bible.” Is FBC the kind of church Jesus designed and desires? Notice . . .
#1 The uniqueness of a LOCAL church seeking Christ’s headship
What kind of church is Christ pleased with? It would be a place where Christians love Christ’s design and purpose for the Church. The first question . . .
First Do you LOVE the Church?
Christ died for it. Christ designed it. Christ is manifested through it. The Church is Christ’s plan until He physically returns. The Church is His only plan. The Church is His best plan and all other plans are inferior. No other organization can accomplish God’s purposes for His people as fully as the Church. They might do one thing well, but they will never do what the Church can do.
Sadly, some felt they had the right to reinvent the Church to be a platform to only reach the lost, or a social environment to enjoy each other, or an entertainment environment to feel good. But God designed His Church in the New Testament to bring Him glory. Read Ephesians 3:20 to 21, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
To bring Him glory, a church will focus on His Son–on everyone either coming to Christ or becoming like Christ, under an eldership which seeks the headship of Christ in all things and obedience to Christ’s original design for his Church found in His Word. Be alert to this truth–a true church does not want something new but something very old. They don’t want to be new and novel–they want to be old and biblical. Which means the church is not a place you attend, it is a body you belong to. It is not a building, but a body–not an organization, but an organism.
Romans 12:4 and 5, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” A local church is made up of people who are linked to each other–bound to each other, tied up with one another, interconnected one to another. We are a family of families, a flock with the best Shepherd, a body with the perfect Head.
Biblically and theologically, you cannot love the Groom without loving His bride. Do you love the Church? You might attend here, but not function as a genuine part of this local church–are you functioning together in an interconnected way? This may help–have you made the local church your identity group? Many have. Do your children see and understand your belongingness, your interconnectedness to this local church? Have your students made the church their identity group because you have encouraged it and demonstrated it? The church is to be your family. You are a part, a member, a participant, a functioning organ in this body.
And if you are not, I guarantee you, your students will find a different identity group. The church should be the place where they find their closest friends in relationship and the world is the place they have friends they seek to reach. Do you genuinely love His Church? The core of FBC loves Christ’s Church and this local church.
Second Are you committed to the PRIORITY of Expositional Preaching?
Lots of churches open the Bible on Sunday. They teach topical series or practical helps for your everyday life, sprinkled with verses (make it say what they want). Or they discover one truth and preach a passage, while ignoring the remaining truth. Paul warns in 2 Corinthians 4:2 of people in churches adulterating the Word of God. Yet in order for you to actually hear God’s Word, it needs to be understood in its original setting, time, culture and language. You must hear the Bible explained in its context, seeking only the author’s full and intended meaning.
When Paul commands Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2, “preach the word“–he is expecting Timothy to preach expositionally, to teach what God meant by what God said through the original author at the time of writing to the audience written to. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:2 to 4).
The main diet of a healthy church is to hear God’s Word, word by word, verse by verse, through the books of the Bible–Mark, Philippians, 2 Timothy, Malachi and 2 Peter. People who are not interested in holy living will avoid being exposed to sound doctrine. Teaching theology like assurance and topics found in God’s Word is legitimate, as long as you are hearing the Bible in its context. But preaching must not be entertainment–it must not tickle ears, not make you feel good, or be a platform for personal ideas or some sort of pastoral vision. The true Church must teach the truth, skipping nothing, avoiding nothing, but expositing every word and giving you sound, healthy doctrine. To call FBC your home, you must be committed to hearing expositional Bible teaching.
Third Do you embrace biblical LEADERSHIP?
Almost 95% of churches that teach the Bible are led by a senior pastor. Leadership teams are made up of wealthy businessmen led by a CEO-pastor and their churches are often trying to follow the US government’s form of checks and balances. And often, the leadership follow Roberts Rules of Order to make decisions. What is frightening is, you will not find any of that in the New Testament. Where in the New Testament do you find a church led by a single pastor? Answer–nowhere.
Everywhere in the New Testament the church is led by a plurality of elders. Notice the plural elders, “I exhort the elders among you, 2shepherd the flock of God among you, Speaking to the elders” (1 Peter 5:1 and 2). Acts 20:28, “Shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Paul says in Titus 1:5, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would … appoint elders in every city as I directed you.”
Elders, also called overseers, do the work of shepherding, which is the word pastor. Every time the New Testament lists the word pastor in English, it is the Greek word for shepherds. Elders do the shepherding, the pastoring, together. Nowhere is a single pastor of a church ever listed. FBC does not have a single pastor who does all the teaching, leading and shepherding. We have a team of elders who seek the one will of Christ, our Head, and share the load of shepherding with each other, with the many shepherds and disciplers of this church. As elders, we defer to each other’s strengths, submit to each other’s exhortations, lead together in unanimity and seek only the true leadership of Christ for this church.
The church is to be led by a plurality of elders who together in unanimity lead the church under Christ, teaching the doctrine and establishing direction of the church. They must be qualified in character, function as shepherds, be in harmony with the doctrine and direction of the church, be able to lead via their strengths and defer according to their weaknesses and shepherd the church like a father does his family.
At FBC I don’t run the show–I am not in charge. You may come from a church where there is one main pastor, but that is not FBC. You may be used to having the ear of the pastor–well at FBC, you will have to personally know about 80 men to actually have the ear of our church. Count up our community group, ministry leaders, deacons and elders and its around 80 men. God is a plurality and FBC is a plurality. I don’t know everything that’s going on and I don’t make all the decisions. Every single Sunday I say, “I don’t know–you had better go talk to Andrew or Nigel or John or Robert–not me.” I genuinely do not know. We seek the leadership of a great Savior through the unanimous leadership as elders together. We don’t have one pastor, one elder, one leader, except for Christ.
We are big on family. We don’t organize free lunches to attract people to our church, but provide lunches to allow our family to fellowship with each other. We hate politics, love openness and don’t keep secrets–except for the battles people struggle with. We seek to overcommunicate to our members, staff and congregation. And our elders seek to remain available to all. To call FBC your home, you function under a team of leaders.
Fourth Will you pursue the FUNCTION of the genuine saint?
The pastors are not to do all the counseling, shepherding, discipling or ministry. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:11 and 12, “He gave some as … pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” At a biblical church, those gifted as pastor teachers equip the saints in order for the sainst–that’s you, to do the work of the ministry . . . a lay-run church.
If you stay at FBC, you will be asked, “Where are you serving?” That’s a biblical expectation–why? Not only because serving is your divine assignment and what you’re being equipped for, but also because Jesus is a servant. The greatest are the servants–the norm is to serve. And you are every week being equipped to serve. In a healthy church, all the saints serve.
Fifth Will you obey the command to DISCIPLE?
A healthy church will passionately desire to both impact its local community and will seek to send others to establish churches in order to impact foreign communities for Christ. Churches and Christians do this by making disicples, pursuing the Great Commission. Matthew 28:19 and 20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Going is, as you go through life, proclaim the Gospel. Baptizing is, publicly confessing Christ’s death and resurrection through immersion, embracing His teachings and becoming an intimate part of His people, the Church. And teaching others to obey all Christ commanded is teaching, training, maturing in the Word to become like Christ. Biblically, discipleship is the non-optional commitment of every local church and every Christian here to be about the process of making disciples.
The goal of discipleship is for the disciple to make disciples. You build relationships for the purpose of the Gospel and growth. There is no New Testament word for parenting, only discipleship–making disciples is parenting. Parents make disciples of Christ of their children and your children must see you are here on earth to make disciples not only of them, but of others. They must see the great continuity of what you are doing with them is also what Christ expects you to be doing on planet earth with everyone. At FBC we make disciples.
Sixth Are you ready to commit to a local Church via MEMBERSHIP?
We live in an area and at a time where believers resist, even mock, membership. It is true–once you are born again, you are automatically a member of a Church. But it is also true, every New Testament local church knew who was a part of their churches. Every believer functioned as one heart and one mind with the doctrine and direction of each local church. And also true that not everyone could teach or shepherd in each New Testament church.
Even though the Bible doesn’t contain an explicit command to formally join a local church, the foundation for membership is found in the New Testament teaching on church government, church discipline, and mutual edification. The Early Church counted its members at 3,000, widows were put on lists, those who fulfilled a strict criteria were supported, and churches communicated to each other about members in good standing.
Membership is a part of the everyday life of those in the local church. First Corinthians 12:12 and 13, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
I never ceased to be amazed at how believers will easily join gyms, clubs, groups, banks, organizations, teams and troops–all of which will burn and are not eternal. Yet the one group which you were reborn to be intertwined and interconnected to, so many believers refuse to join. They won’t commit to a local church. You don’t have to be a member to serve at FBC–but you can’t teach, shepherd, disciple or train others unless you are, for obvious doctrinal and practical reasons. By being a member here, like the Early Church, you are saying I am one heart and one mind with the doctrine and direction of our church, under an eldership.
Seventh Will you embrace the many ways the church IDENTIFIES with Christ?
The first great command of every born again Christian is baptism. Baptism means immersion–not sprinkle, not dab nor wet the baby. The immersion of a believer is identifying with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Baptism is the first step of obedience for a Christian. Baptism is a main way you publicly confess Christ. First Corinthians 1:14, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” The Early Church practiced baptism.
They also practiced communion that’s the ongoing command for every born again Christian to obey in order to remember the death of Christ on their behalf–to examine their own hearts and to preserve the unity of the local church. First Corinthians 11:24 and 25, “When He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ ”
At FBC, we practice communion almost every week, because we believe the Scriptures give more evidence for weekly than occasional. This is not a doctrine, but a preference. Every four to six months, we partake differently–but we believe it is healthy for every believer to come under the cross of Christ every single week.
Church discipline is the process of seeking the repentance of those believers who are willfully, intentionally sinning, to restore them to fellowship. Church discipline is also used to protect the purity of the church from a willful false teacher. Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” Titus 3:10, “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning.” Romans 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.”
Jesus says in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” If you love someone, you will pursue them and
seek to plead with them–for example, not to commit adultery or leave their spouse. FBC practices baptism by immersion, regular communion, and church discipline to remember Christ and glorify His holy character. It’s who we are. But how does FBC live differently than others in some measure?
#2 The uniqueness of Christian living in LOVE and holiness
What is missing in too many churches is healthy relationships with Christ and healthy relationships with one another. At FBC, we work hard to remain healthy–and some of the things we do are simple. There is not time for all of them, but just some are . . .
First Will you take the Lord SERIOUSLY but not take yourself seriously?
A healthy church will not have ingrown eyeballs, thinking only of themselves
A healthy church will hate pride and love humility and service
A healthy church will not be manipulated by professional victims, the always wounded, nor the constantly needy. We don’t live for ourselves, but live for Christ. Second Corinthians 5:15, “He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” No victims, no always wounded, or constantly needy here. We love the wounded and needy here–we do. Come be healed–for six months, but not forever. Then get out of the hospital bed.
The path to heath is to worship the Lord and service to Him. A big part of that is to have a correct view of ourselves. Galatians 6:3 really helps, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” We don’t think much of ourselves, but we think everything of Christ and His Word.
Second Will you seek to OBEY Christ in all things?
Christ is Lord, making you and I His slaves. All true Christians obey Christ via His Word. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” The Lord is pointed in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” First John 2:4 hammers it home, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
Healthy churches are filled with obedient Christians–obedient to God’s Word. If the Bible commands it, we follow it. Of course, only Christians have the ability, and only Christians who are filled with the Spirit can actually accomplish obedience. One of the clearest indicators of a genuine born again believer is faithful, yet imperfect, obedience to God’s Word.
We live in a time, if you claim to be a Christian, no one will challenge your claim, even if you are massively disobedient–but not here. As John MacArthur writes, “Even the most conservative churches are teeming with people who, claiming to be born again, live like pagans. Contemporary Christians have been conditioned never to question anyone’s salvation. If a person declares he has trusted Christ as Savior, no one challenges his testimony, regardless of how inconsistent his lifestyle may be with God’s Word.
Spanking is frowned upon in our culture and commanded in Scripture. Obeying the government is optional today, especially if your party is not in office–but the Bible commands obedience, honor and prayer, even when Caesar was a homosexual. Loving believers is one of the most important commands, yet how many churches do you know that are filled with Christians willing to sacrifice for the best of others?
We Christians know we can’t obey in our strength, but we live in a Christian culture today where basic obedience–like faithful church attendance, giving, serving, loving others, discipling, pursuing purity, wanting to honor God with our words, purchases and relationships–is either overlooked or optional. But not at FBC. Not harshly, but because we love Christ, we want to obey Him. Obedience is not legalism, its love. Romans 6:17 says, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart.” Obedience is not only for the mature, but obedience is for every genuine believer.
Third Will you hold your FREEDOMS with quiet fear and grace toward others?
What do you do if you think everyone should homeschool, not drink wine, have your kids be vaccinated, only give birth while scuba diving, never play cards or go to a movie? The Bible is clear in Romans 14 and 15 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 9, where New Testament believers
were struggling with diet, drink and certain days. In the Word of God, when there is an issue the Scripture doesn’t directly address, we call them preferences–sometimes called freedoms. What’s the Bible teach?
1) Accept each other, even though others have different preferences than you
2) Do not teach others your preference is best and their preference is bad. Don’t press others that your preference is right and their preference is wrong. At FBC, we don’t allow preferences to divide us by making preferences into principles.
3) Keep your preferences to yourself. Nobody needs to know whether you drink or that you avoid drink because it tastes like turtle spit. That’s not what’s important. Even over the practice of circumcision, listen to what God says is important. First Corinthians 7:19, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” Galatians 6:15, “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
Externals are never more important than internals. Yes today, Christians divide against each other and have even destroyed churches over drinking (not drunkenness–that’s sin), music style, schooling children, parenting priorities, the Easter Bunny, Satan Clause, clothing, tattoos, hair length, make-up, dresses, pants, even hair-cuts. As soon as you prioritize externals, you’re divisive. When you focus on internals, you unify. Our preferences do not matter–do not make them matter. Preferences are not God’s Word, therefore they cannot save and they cannot sanctify. They will not save your kids and they will not make you holy.
I could add, will you be vocal about God’s design for marriage, male and female? Will you live by truth and grace, prioritize training men, support church planting, never mess with God’s sheep, be captivated with Heaven now, pursue man to man and woman to woman ministry and more?
A Which distinctive today really TROUBLES you?
Which one scratches where you itch? Which one makes you think? Which one makes you most uncomfortable? Which one has stepped on your air hose? Find out why. Don’t head for the door, drop to the floor–in prayer. Don’t talk to your buddy, dig into study. When you find yourself in conflict with what I say–no problem. But when you find yourself in conflict with God’s Word, that is God loving you. That is the Lord trying to get your attention–and it means . . .
1 you do not know Christ, but are in fact a make-believer, or . . .
2 you have some growing to do–which may actually be difficult
You need the Word and prayer, but many times additional means of grace–the Church, God’s people, personal discipleship, personal counseling. Ignoring a conflict with the Lord is like ignoring your doctor when he informs you of your certain death, unless you act now.
B Faithfully attending church is not an OPTION
Something is terribly wrong with those who are occasional attenders. They may know their Bibles, they may confess great love for Christ, they may have sweet families and a passion for the lost–but they are not obedient to the will of Christ. Hebrews 10:24 and 25, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Even some of the faithful are drifting into unfaithfulness with church attendance–forgetting that your spiritual life is linked to your faithfulness to the local church. As a Christian, you’re now an organ of the body, who’ll not survive outside the body.
C Stop living by opinion and get equipped to live by TRUTH
You are in a great place to get equipped. There are women’s classes, community groups, shepherding ministries, Men of the Word is coming, the Training Center–all designed to equip you to grow deep into God’s Word and never anyone’s idea or opinion.
D Focus on how Christ is seen in our unity and UNIQUENESS
God designed us to all be different body parts, but all those different parts form the one local church body. Each of us are gifted to put Christ on display in a unique way, but as we do together in unity, we demonstrate a clearer, greater picture of Christ. The key to enjoying believers who are really different than you is to celebrate the way they put Christ on display that you can’t. In our unity, we point to the oneness of God, and in our uniqueness we exalt the three persons of God.
E Rejoice in what God has done, trust Christ for the FUTURE
I have traveled a lot, and preached in many different churches. And I want to thank you for being a church which loves Christ and His Word. You love expositional preaching, training men, equipping the saints, and Christ’s Church. Thank you for being a church who is all about Christ’s work here and abroad. Thank you for wanting His will over your will, His Word over your ideas.
I want you to know I am never offended when you tell me we have a deep bench. Recently I was warned that I shouldn’t go away, cause you all like the other pastors who preach here. I could not be happier. This is what I have worked so hard to accomplish–a deep, Christ-loving, Bible-obeying, discipling and training church, not based on me but on Christ, His Word, God’s leaders.
Jean and I look back and are thankful for some of the deep hurts of the past, prior to FBC, which changed us and made us more of what we should be for Christ. We are also thankful those same hurts protected our boys. I’m thankful for 30 years of preaching. I am so thankful I had 30 years to refine training center year one and five years in Arizona to develop the 3-year training center process. It seems all of my life was in preparation to minister here.
I am not reaching for the bench, I am not dreaming about picking up shells or playing with my grandkids in Hawaii permanently. For a season, yes–forever, no. I have been offered other positions–but not one of them could take me away from you. The elders know what to do if I die. They also know what to do when I start to drool. But if you’re willing, I would love to invest my life, the Spirit’s gifts, into preaching and training and offering a measure of leadership and vision to this church family while I still have the capacity to do so. I know our elders feel the same. Let’s pray.