30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
March 26, 2000
Speaker: Richie Thetford
Good morning, we are so happy that you have taken this time to listen to a message from God so as to determine "What Is Truth?" Hello, I'm Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, thanking you personally for taking the necessary time from your busy schedule to listen this morning as we examine the truth of God's word. The fact that you have tuned in this morning tells me that you have an attitude of wanting to further examine the Bible. This morning we are going to be considering the question "What Church Should I Attend?" There are so many different churches in the world today that invite you to come and join them in worship. Day after day we hear advertisements on television and radio to "attend the church of your choice." But what is the right church, the church that we can read about in the Bible? As we discuss this subject this morning, I want to encourage you once again to get out your Bible and be prepared to turn to the passages that we look at this morning. In John 4:1 it says: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." That is what I want you to do this morning. Make sure that what I am saying concerning the church can be backed up by the Bible, the word of God. It will not do either one of us any good whatsoever to do those things which are not authorized by God. It is so important that we understand in order to be accepted by God that we must DO His will and that applies to attending the right church. Jesus said: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). The question "What Church Should I Attend?" is a very important question for all of us. How we answer that question, and where we attend will have much to do with our eternal destiny. We will see this morning that only those that are in Christ's church can be saved. Are you in His church? I once noted an article on the question of "how to select a family doctor." It occurred to me, while reading this discussion, that men are likewise confronted with the problem of selecting a religious organization. There a number of religious groups constantly working to enlist or enroll persons upon their roll books, and they will go about doing this in just about any way that is legal.
Perhaps you have contemplated the importance of having a church connection, but have not as yet become a member of any religious group. Or, you may be one who is not satisfied with the church you have chosen. Hence, we would like to study with you for a few moments this morning the urgent need of answering the question "What Church Should I Attend? And also finding out how one should go about choosing a church.
When I speak of the church, I am talking about people; those who are children of God. The word "church" means "the called out." Called out of darkness of the world (sin), and into His marvelous light. Those in the "church" are children of God, striving to practice righteousness. I am not talking about a building, nor an organization, but only of those who are saved by the blood of Christ; those who gather together to worship and serve Jehovah, our God. That is what the church is. But this word "church" is grossly misused and applied today in our society. Usually when people speak of the church they are talking about a meeting place. For instance someone might say "Hey, where's your church at? Because that statement has been said so many times we have come to realize what the individual is asking is "where is the location of your building?" But to answer the question correctly I would say "I'm not sure." Why? Because I realize that the church are the "called out." That means the church is the people. So when one asks of me "where's your church?" I would have to know where all the people are at that time. The Bible, in 1 Corinthians 11:18, says "....when you come together as a church...", meaning that there is a place where the people, the church, "the called" attend. When pointing out a church building structure we sometimes say "there's the church." In reality, that is not the church. It is a church meeting place, or a church building, but it is really not "the church." Of necessity there must be a place where the church assembles and that is why we have buildings.
There are some things which should not govern your selection of "what church should I attend?". In deciding where you will worship God, certain things should not be a part of the criteria used to make such a determination.
FIRST, one should not select a church because it is the most convenient. Many feel that there is no difference in religious bodies and thus it is best to attend services at the church nearest one's place of residence. This may well serve as a factor in selecting a store from which to purchase your groceries, but it is hardly a logical -- or Scriptural reason for choosing a church. One must act, in religion, out of conviction and not from convenience. The group meeting near you may indeed be teaching the truth; or it may not be. Thus, you should investigate what is being taught and determine if this teaching agrees with what the Bible teaches before making a decision. That is why it says in 1 John 4:1: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." You must make sure that the church near you is scriptural and the only way to find that out is to compare its teachings with the Bible - "test the spirits."
SECOND, one should not select a church because it has the largest membership. Often we hear someone boast concerning the largeness of his church saying, "So many millions could not be wrong." But, my friend, the number of persons who believe a thing does not determine whether it is true or false; an error multiplied by a million is still error. Whereas, quite to the contrary, the Bible leads us to understand that the minority (not the majority) is on the side of truth. Jesus declared, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14). Does the language of Christ cause you to conclude that the action of the masses will furnish a safe guide? Indeed not! One should not accept a church because of its huge membership. Size has nothing to do with the serious business of determining who is right with Jehovah, yet many, many people find it easier to go along with the masses instead of taking the time to find the truth. Jesus said: "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32). I encourage you this morning to find what is truth.
THIRD, one should not select a church because one likes the preacher. Who would select his mechanic solely on the ground of his like ability? Though this may enter into the selection, one would want assurance that the mechanic could properly repair his automobile. A preacher may have a sparkling personality with great persuasive power, but that same preacher may be in error. He may be like Apollos concerning whom we read in the Scriptures: "Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately." (Acts 18:24-26).
Apollos was an eloquent man capable of not only convincing the intellect, but of moving the emotions as well. He had a certain knowledge of the Scriptures; but it was imperfect. Thus, it became necessary for Aquilla and Priscilla to teach him the way of the Lord more perfectly. May you ever remember that your preacher may be in error and hence ought not to be followed blindly. I encourage you not to put your eternal destiny in the hands of some man. A good preacher can help you get to heaven IF he is teaching you the truth. If you want to go to heaven, find the scriptural church with a preacher that is preaching the truth, backing up what he says with book, chapter, and verse.
I do not ask you or any man to follow me or to accept anything I say because I say it. However, if what I teach is taught in the Scriptures then your loyalty to God's truth will cause you to submit to it, not because I preached it, but because it is the truth. So, please examine what you are being taught and be sure that it is founded upon the truth of God's Word. Accept nothing just because some man said it.
FOURTH, one should not select a church solely on the recommendation of one's parents, or the husband or the wife. You may select a doctor based largely on the advice of parents. But the religion of the Bible is a personal matter. The apostle Paul states, "So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12). In 2 Corinthians 5:10 it says: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Each one must therefore determine for himself or herself if a religious body is Scriptural and pleasing unto God. This is not to say that we show disrespect to our parents or spouses. Indeed, consider what mother and father believes, what husband or wife believes. But, be sure when you reach your own conclusions that you have made your decision based upon what God's Word says rather than what parents or spouse believe. If they believe and practice the truth, that is good. One can thus be united with them in service to God. But, if they differ with the revealed truth of God's Word, then may you have the courage to do what God commands of you. Then, you do your best to teach them the right way. I realize that this is not an easy thing to do. For one to be able to serve God and His truth above our parent's wishes is very difficult. If you find yourself in this situation I want to encourage you to read a passage in the Bible designed to teach you the importance of following Christ first and foremost. Read Matthew 10:32-39. Here in this passage Jesus encourages all men to first do His will above mom and dad, brothers and sisters. I'm afraid that the "traditions of men" will cost many people their soul at the judgment day. Make up your mind now to do what is right so that your children can have confidence in you and themselves knowing that they are practicing the truth.
Let us now turn our attention to principles which should guide in the selecting of a church. In selecting a doctor, for instance, there is no infallible rule. But, when choosing what church we will become members of, we have an infallible guide to turn to, to determine which one is right. That guide is the Bible. It clearly lays down the characteristics of the Lord's church. Thus, in selecting a place to worship God we need to find a group with these Bible characteristics:
FIRST, one should find a church whose only head is Christ Jesus. Paul states, "And he is the head of the body, the church...." (Colossians 1:18). Friends you can not read in the Bible where the headship of the church was ever given to any man or group of men. Religious groups who have exalted men, conferences, synods and conventions to do the work of the law-making for a church cannot suit men who desire to select a church governed solely by Christ, its head. Members of the church of Christ recognize the authority of Christ and His word only. We have no other guide. All that is taught and practiced is based upon a "thus saith the Lord." which we can learn from the pages of our inspired Bible. The Bible is God's law. We should let God govern and dictate the makeup of the church and how we are to worship Him.
SECOND, one should determine if a church wears a Scriptural name, both as individual members and as a collective body, before becoming a member of that particular church. The New Testament reveals that the early followers of Christ were known simply as Christians. "And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (Acts 11:26). The apostle Peter states, "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter." (1 Peter 4:15, 16). One cannot glorify God by wearing some other name than this according to this positive command. Unfortunately, the masses are not content to be called simply Christians. They want to be a certain kind of Christian. But Christ's people wear only His name. There are no denominational handles attached; they are Christians only and only Christians. What are you called religiously? Are you simply a Christian as outlined in the Bible, or are you called some man made name such as Lutheran, Baptist, Mormon, Catholic, Episcopalian, Jehovah's Witness, Methodist, and on and on. I challenge you to find any of these names in the Bible. You can't. Why? Because they are not Christ sanctioned named. Man has made and developed these names. In Galatians 3:27 it says: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."Did you hear that, "put on Christ." When one becomes a Christian they become one by putting on Christ. One does not become a Lutheran by putting on Christ. One does not become a Catholic by putting on Christ. Also one does not become a Christian by putting on Lutheran doctrine. One does not become a Christian by putting on Catholic doctrine. Friends, please let the Bible speak to you in what you are to be and become. If you put on Christ, you become a Christian. So which church should you seek to be a member of? It would seem to me that it would be Christ's church, not some denomination.
When Paul referred to a number of congregations of Christians he said, "The churches of Christ salute you" (Romans 16:16). We who bring this program to you regularly are content with the same designation. Are you?
THIRD, in selecting a church one must learn if its worship is Scriptural. Jesus said, "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Obviously the manner of worship is equally as important as the God to whom it is directed. Christ instructs men to worship God, but likewise points out the necessity of worshiping Him in a certain way. The same Bible that regulates the person to whom our worship should be directed, also regulates the manner thereof. If the one may be disregarded, so may the other. You should give serious consideration to the worship of the church with whom you may chose to worship.
In the New Testament we learn that the early Christians partook of the Lord's supper each first day of each week. Acts 20:7, states, "And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread....." What an exalted honor and privilege to be able to commune with our Lord upon the first day of the week as His death, burial and resurrection is remembered through His Supper. When looking for a church, one needs to find a group which follows this example of the early Christians of partaking of the Lord's Supper each Sunday. Now you might find a church which may partake of the Lord's Supper once a month, twice a year, or once a year. But that is not what we read in the Bible. The disciples came to gather weekly to remember the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. Find the church that is practicing New Testament Christianity, not a man made doctrine.
The early church sang praises unto God as they were instructed. Ephesians 5:19, says, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." There is no example, nor reference to any mechanical instruments of music being used in their worship. We spoke on this subject about 6 months ago, pointing out that the Bible does not include mechanical instruments in the worship to Jehovah. So, when selecting a church, you should look for one that recognizes the authority of God's Word concerning the kind of music used in the worship of our God. If you find mechanical instruments of music being used in the church you are considering, you might ask for book, chapter and verse that authorizes them. If you ask, you may receive some Bible references for mechanical instruments --- but they will all be from the Old Testament. Every good and honest Bible student knows that we are not under the old law today. Ask for a New Testament book, chapter, and verse that authorizes mechanical music. Friends, you won't get one.
FOURTH, in selecting a church you need to find a group which offers to sinners the same plan of salvation which was taught in the first century under the preaching of heaven guided men. What did those early inspired preachers say to sinful men? To those who cried out, "What must we do?," Peter responded,"Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." When Philip preached to the eunuch, we hear the eunuch inquiring, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" The preacher responded, "If you believe with all your heart you may." The chariot was then stopped and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. That is found in Acts chapter 8. From these two examples, and we could multiply this by many. We learn that in the first century sinners heard the gospel of Christ proclaimed, they believed what they heard, they repented of their sins, and upon the confession of their faith, they were baptized (immersed) into Christ Jesus for the remission of their sins. A church that does not preach and practice this same plan of salvation cannot be the one a person should select; that is, not if you desire to be governed by the Scriptures. If you want to be saved, if you want to go to heaven you must find the church that teaches Bible salvation. Man made salvation is on every street corner. Search for the church that offers Christ's plan of salvation. Isn't your soul worth the examination that is needed to ensure eternal salvation with our Lord?
Ladies and gentlemen, there is in your area just the kind of church for which men who love truth are seeking. I believe that I belong to a church that meets all of these scriptural requirements. You have our cordial invitation to examine what we teach and practice. We would be more than happy to hear from you. If you would like a copy of this manuscript or of this cassette, please let us know by writing to the Clarksville church of Christ, 407 W. Hwy 131, Clarksville, Indiana, 47129, or you may call us at 944-2305.
This is Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"