Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 28:19’

1 Samuel 8:1-9
Israel Requests a King

Last night I finished one of the books I have to read for my next semester (my third semester) in my doctoral program. I am not the fastest reader in the world so I began reading the first of 10 books I have to read before the end of the third week in February on Monday night. This first book was probably the shortest (and smallest) of the books I have to read. It was entitled Autopsy of a Deceased Church. In this short 100-page book, Thomas Rainer had done research on the deaths of 14 different churches and from that research developed the common themes of why churches decline and die. To add to what Rainer states in his book I found that in a recent sermon, Pastor James McDonald from Walking in the Word Ministries revealed these shocking numbers about Christianity in America:

• Of the 250,000 Protestant churches in America, 200,000 are either stagnant (with no growth) or declining. That is 80% of the churches in America and maybe the one you attend, if you attend at all.

• 4,000 churches close their doors every single year.

• There is less than half of the number of churches today than there were only 100 years ago.

• 3,500 people leave the church every single day.

• Since 1950, there are 1/3 fewer churches in the U.S.

Thomas Rainer bolsters the above statistics by saying that only 10% of churches in America are truly healthy, 40% of churches are showing signs of sickness, 40% of churches are sick and dying, and 10% of churches are about to die. The main troubles of sick and/or dying churches, according to Rainer? His research of these 14 churches, these “autopsies” of churches that died, revealed some interesting facts. They became increasingly inward focused over the years. They became resistant to change. Their budgets became less and less focused on outreach and more and more focused on programs to serve the needs of the people within the church. They became more like the old Janet Jackson song from 1986, “What Have You Done for ME Lately?” As funds dwindled due to the slow decline of membership, the first things that were cut was the very thing that they needed to be spending their money on – reaching out into their communities. They became fearful of the world around them and had defeatist attitudes about reaching their town with evangelistic efforts. And most of all, they quit praying fervently in a corporate fashion. Sure, they would pray before church meals and during services but there was no longer is passion corporately to pray for the lost and for ways to reach them. There was little if any discipleship. Church became about traditions and resistance to change. Church became a social club. Often these churches that died, clamored for more people and often switched pastors often when that did not happen. However, pastors who came in and wanted to make sweeping changes to “stop the bleeding” were often rebuffed because people did not ultimately want to give up leadership to new people, did not want to give up traditions. Did not want “that kind” of change. They wanted to continue doing what they were doing but get a different result.

They lost sight of what the church was for. The church is not for them. The church is there for the lost, to draw them unto Christ, and then to develop them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We must be obedient in this effort as a church or your church, my church, any church will die. What does this have to do with today’s passage where Israel is clamoring to have a king? Everything as we will see. Let us read the passage, 1 Samuel 8:1-9, once again together:

8 As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. 2 Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. 3 But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4 Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. 5 “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

6 Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. 7 “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. 8 Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. 9 Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

In this passage, we see that the people clamored for a king, thinking that a new system of government would bring about a change in the nation. However, their basic problem was disobedience to God. Their other problems would only continue under the new form of administration. What they needed was a unified faith in God not a unified form of governance. Had the Israelites submitted to God’s leadership, they would have thrived beyond their expectations (see Deuteronomy 28:1). Our obedience to God’s commands as his newest expression of “His people”, the church, is crucial to our ability to thrive as instruments of God.

Jesus commanded his church to go. Jesus commanded his church to make disciples of all peoples. Jesus commanded them to baptize people in the name of the three expressions of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Jesus commanded us to teach them everything that He taught us. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is what we are here for – nothing else. We are not here to build buildings with our names on them. We are not here to use church to build a power base. We are not here for me to have a professional network so that I make all the right contacts “because we go to the same church”. We are not here to have a place to entertain our kids. We are not here to be babysitters for your kids. We are not here to have our names on pews, windows, or classrooms. We are not here to make ourselves feel good. Even in modern church, we are not here to have the cool church. We are not here to have field trips for our teenagers. We are not here to have the most expensive lighting and sound system in town. We are not here to have the loudest band and the band with the most albums out there on Christian radio. Sure, we can have those things but they cannot be the things that we are here. They must be byproducts of a church that is obedient to its calling from Jesus Christ.

We must go. We must focus our money and our people on sharing the gospel in their day to day lives. We must urge them to see the urgency of what is at stake – the eternal destination of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, extended families, all those in our individual spheres of influence. We must remind our people that their a members of a priestly order. They are ministers themselves. They can touch more people themselves than our pastors can ever dream of reaching by themselves. We are the church. Let us go. Let us get out there and share the gospel. Let us share the gospel not in just how we act and carry ourselves but actually sharing the gospel. Let us teach our people to think with a kingdom mindset – to think of every situation as an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We must “Go” if we are “to make disciples. We must go if we are to baptize. We must go if we are to teach. We cannot do any of the last three subcommands of the Great Commission if we are not obedient in the going.

When we quit going, we start dying. When we are disobedient in the going, we quit thriving and a church begins its slow death march to the closing of the doors of a church. Just as Israel clamored for a king, thinking a change would make them thrive again, we often clamor for change as our churches decline. However, just as Israel did not change its ways and continued in its disobedience to the Lord and it began its slow death march toward the end of what we knew as ancient Israel, we too as churches cannot expect renewal unless we are obedient to the commands of the Lord. We must change our ways or more churches will close. We must move away from church becoming self-serving. We must never forget the passion for the lost. We must not lose our love for the going. We must not lose our love for baptizing and teaching. We must not lose our love for making disciples.

The commands are simple. That is what we are here for. That is what we must be obedient toward. Nothing else. It’s all very simple. It is about going. It is about making disciples. It is about baptizing. It is about teaching. If your church or my church becomes about anything other than being obedient to this commands, then, we too like many other churches every year and like the nation of ancient Israel, we will die. God does not bless disobedience. He blesses obedience. Everything we do as a church must be measured by whether it represents:

1. Going
2. Baptizing
3. Teaching
4. Making Disciples

Everything. Everything must be measured by our obedience to these four simple commands. Anything else is not worthy of doing. Anything else is disobedience.

Amen and Amen.

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Luke 19:45-48 — The business of the temple had begun to overshadow the work and purpose of the Temple. What Luke does not go into a great deal of detail about is the fact that corruption had descended upon the priesthood. According to Bobby Stultz in his sermon, “Jesus Clears The Temple”,

“God placed the priests in charge of the sacrifice and they determined if the animal or bird or grain that was brought was worthy. Over time there had been corruption in the priesthood and a bargain had been struck with local businessmen. These businessmen would set up in the outer courts and sell ‘qualified and acceptable’ animals, birds or grain to those coming to worship. It had gotten so bad that even when someone brought the best from their flock, it would not be good enough and they were told that they had to buy from the men in the Temple courtyard. Because they had the monopoly on the trade, the prices began to rise and it became a huge burden on those coming to sacrifice”

The merchants had set themselves up in what was known as the “Court of the Gentiles”. It was the area of the temple where God-fearing Gentiles could come to worship at the temple. They could not pass into the Court of Women (the next concentric square of the temple) which was reserved for Jewish women only. They could go no further than their court. The temple itself (the next innermost concentric square) was reserved for male Jews. And of course the innermost part of the Temple was the Holy of Holies where the presence of God was located and could only be entered by high ranking members of the priesthood at specified times. The merchants had become so prevalent in the Court of the Gentiles that it was almost impossible for any Gentile to worship. With the flurry of business activity, people milling around, trying to buy animals and exchange money, making deals, etc., the Gentile Court was like trying to worship in the middle of a busy highway. The business of the Jewish religion had begun to overshadow the real purpose of the temple. Jesus was righteously angry over this. He exclaims, “My Temple will be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Luke goes on to say that Jesus then began teaching in the temple daily. Because of his disruption of the “economy of the temple” for uttering that the Temple was His and seeing the immense popular of Jesus could upset the tense detente they had with their Roman occupiers, the leaders of commerce and the religious elite began plotting ways to get rid of this Jesus. There are a couple of things that we must take away from this scene.

First, we should never let the business of the church become more important than the purpose of the church. One of the dangers of the new wave of contemporary church is often the merchandising of the latest thing. You see all throughout modern churches. T-Shirts. Books by the latest coolest author. Selling coffee from third world countries. If Jesus walked into the atriums, lobbies, or narthaxes of modern new wave churches, what would He say. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that these things in and of themselves can be bad or that we should do away with them. It is a matter of what the priority of our hearts are. If the merchandising of the NewSpring, the LifeSong, the FourPoint or any of the other cool modern churches becomes more important than the message then we are in trouble. If the flashing lights, videos, and sermon bumpers become more important than the message then Jesus would be righteously angry at us. If the logo of the church becomes the most important decision that a pastor of a church plant makes, then, we have lost sight of what we are doing. If church planting consultants advice becomes more important than the Word of God then we have lost sight of what we are doing here. We would then be no different than the priesthood and business merchants in this scene that we stand back and condemn. They had rooted out the purpose of the temple. We can root out the purpose of the church if we care more about the glitz and the glamor than the Word of God. I wonder sometimes when I attend church conferences where the lobbies are full of “Christian vendors” what Jesus would think.

Let us never forget why we have a church in the first place. It is to teach the Word of God. It is to spread the gospel. It is to pass on the message of God’s redemptive plan through Jesus Christ. It is to show Christ’s love to the community around us. It is to reflect His grace to a dying world. Let us not get so caught up in the new wave of Christianity’s glitz and going to conferences and seminars, and buying the next coolest book by the next coolest megachurch pastor, and buying the coolest merchandise that shouts to the world that you are a new wave Christian that we forget giving glory to God, and spreading the gospel message to the world around us. Let us not let the business of the new wave of Christianity overshadow what we are trying to revitalize – giving glory to God, and showing the love of Christ to a dying world. Let us not crowd out true worship of our Father in heaven with the business of cool Christianity just as the merchants in the temple had crowded out Gentile worship.

The second thing that we see here that Jesus cleared the temple so the Gentiles could worship again. His message is clear in doing this. The Jewish religious elite had become so focused on themselves that their own enrichment that they forgot that the message of God was for the Gentiles as well. That was the purpose of the court of the Gentiles – to allow them to worship God, too. The cause of the new wave of Christianity today is the fact that traditional churches had failed to reach outside the walls of their churches. They refused to service the searching souls out there. The lost souls that entered their midst were made to feel like strangers and interlopers. Jesus is clear here. God’s love is for all mankind. The Jews had come to see themselves as the isolated keepers of God’s Word. God intended them to be the bearer of God’s Word to the world not the broker of who is acceptable and who is not. Traditional churches cannot complain about the megachurch movement. The new wave church movement is taking the message to the world in ways that traditional church have failed. Traditional church had gotten so wrapped up in policies and political positions on subject matter that they forgot their first love. Traditional churches had become country clubs where political connections were to be made. If Jesus entered a traditional church today, what would He say.

The final thing that we see is that the success of Jesus’ teaching at the temple was the fact that it was inclusionary and it was simple. The rap against traditional churches today are that they are exclusionary much like the Jewish religious system of Jesus’ day. The rap against new wave church today is that the delivery method, and the merchandising of the message has become more important than the message itself. I think if we just get back to two things that Jesus taught us to do whether you are a big brick and mortar church with a huge complex of buildings or a new wave church that meets in a high-tech auditorium, whether your church has been around for 150 years or 15 months, Jesus would walk in our midst and say well done. He taught two things that we must do. He taught us Luke 10:27 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love others as you love yourself. He taught us Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” That is simple. The message has always been simple.

We do not need doctoral degrees or masters degrees to know this. We do not need the next greatest book by the next greatest megachurch pastor to know this. We don’t need the merchandising to know this. We do not denominational policies and procedures to know this. We do not need denominational position papers on a political issue to know this. It is simple. Worship God. Put God first. Love others the way God loved us. Spread the message of His love for us. Anything else is just fluff. Anything else is just merchandising. Anything else is just denominational leaders trying to justify their existence. Anything else is crowding out the simple message of the cross. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life. Let us pray that if Jesus walked into our church that He would say well done good and faithful servants.