The Scripture Keeping Church

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The third mark of a healthy church is a church filled with people who believe in and obey the Bible.

2 Timothy(1), Acts(12), John(82) (Part of the 8 Marks Of The Church(8) series)
by Marc Webb(45) on January 30, 2022 (Sunday Morning(241))

Accountability(3), Discipleship(6), God's Word(9)

MARK 3: THE SCRIPTURE KEEPING CHURCH

This morning we are continuing our sermon series on the 8 Marks of the Church. So far we have looked at the Spirit-filled Church and the Son-confessing Church. This morning we will be looking at the Scripture-keeping Church. Each week we have started with a myth about the church. The first two myths have been perpetuated by people who want to take the power away from the Holy Spirit and who want to reduce Jesus to just another good person or as C. S. Lewis put it to make Jesus out to be a “liar or a lunatic.” Our myth this morning is perpetuated by people who want you to believe that the Bible, the Word of God, is just another book. This is because they don’t want to live under its authority or ultimately under God’s authority. These myths about the church are misguided, dangerous or both which is why we need to be on guard in the church and be reminded of the truth.

The myth or urban legend I am going to recount to you this morning is from the 1970’s. It is the death of Life cereal spokesperson Mikey. Some of you might remember him. This new cereal was being introduced that was supposed to be “good for you.” These two brothers aren’t going to try it so they put it in front of their younger brother, Mikey. Mikey is the kid who hates everything so they believe there’s no way he will like it. But of course he does to their shock. The following comes from an August 19, 2021 article by Jake Rossen about the origins of urban legends. “In the 1970’s Mikey, the star of the Life cereal commercials was a big hit. At some point, word spread that Mikey had succumbed to a dangerous combination of soda and the effervescent candy Pop Rocks. The rumor grew so widespread that in 1979 the mother of child actor John Gilchrist, who played Mikey, got a condolence call from a stranger. The story likely stemmed from schoolyard discussions about Pop Rocks, which were fizzy carbonated candy, and how eating them seemed dangerous. It wasn’t, but the story was so widely believed that it seriously damaged sales of the candy. General Foods, which owned Pop Rocks, even begged John Gilchrist’s parents to let him film a commercial letting people know he was still alive, but they refused. The grisly story continued for years and all the negative publicity forced General Foods to discontinue Pop Rocks soon after. They have made a comeback, however, in case you’d like to test this theory out for yourself.” This myth was misguided but it’s interesting in showing how rumors spread and can cause harm. This morning’s myth about the church falls under the dangerous category. The myth we will talk about and study today is that “You can believe what you want about the Bible and be a healthy church.”

This is a dangerous myth because if you can put doubt in someone’s mind about even the smallest thing in God’s Word, you can cause people to not believe the bigger doctrinal truths found in there as well. This undermines not only God’s authority, but the deity of Christ, his work on the cross, sin, salvation and so much more. God’s Word points us to our creator who loved us and sent his son, Jesus, to die on a cross for our sins. It tells us how we are to live on this earth and how we can have eternal life. If you don’t believe the Bible is truth you will not believe that what Jesus came to earth to do is true and that he is the way, the truth and the life, and now your salvation is in jeopardy. It is definitely b slippery slope. Before we begin to dive into our scripture this morning, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we look into your Word this morning, open our hearts and minds to your Holy Spirit. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear your truth and help us to use your Word as a light for our path as we navigate our lives in this world we live in. Amen.

Our first point this morning is the Scripture Keeping Church and the Teaching of Jesus, found in John 14:21, 23-24. This is what God’s Word says, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

I want to take a minute and remind you of what God’s Word says about itself. God’s Word is truth, it is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword. God’s Word is a lamp and a light. It is God-breathed and eternal. It is successful in that it will accomplish God’s purposes no matter what, it will not come back void. God’s Word is able to save our souls and can keep us from sin. It cleanses us and will keep our way pure. God’s Word is inerrant and infallible. That is God’s Word. Just because someone doesn’t believe these things about the Bible, doesn’t mean it is anything less than these things. It is still God’s perfect Word given to us to show us what he is like, to show us how to live life on this earth in obedience to him and to point us to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. But we have a problem and it’s not a new problem. The problem is that people take the parts of the Bible they disagree with and say it’s ok to not believe this or that all the while still calling themselves Christians and claiming to be in a relationship with Jesus. There are non-negotiable doctrines in God’s Word that must be believed in order to call yourself a Christian. It wouldn’t make sense otherwise. But there are also non-doctrinal things in the Bible that on the face of it you might say “it’s no big deal if I don’t believe this or that.” Believing whatever we want about the Bible is dangerous for numerous reasons concerning our faith and once we decide to not believe one thing here or there it will be easy to not believe more and more as time goes on.

In our scripture Jesus said that those who “has” and “keeps” his commands is the one who loves him. Where do we find the commands of Jesus? In God’s Word. To “have” the commands of Jesus means to make them your own, to take them into your heart, mind and soul. To “keep” his commands means to obey them. It means to live them out in our daily lives. It is more than just having a head knowledge of God’s Word. It goes deeper than that. It should go down to our hearts and to our very souls. To use a sports metaphor: we need to eat, sleep and breath God’s Word. Every ounce of our being, every single second of every day, should be in obedience to every word in the Bible. We can’t pick and choose what we want to believe or not believe. The mark of true love, the mark of a true Christian and the mark of a healthy church is obedience to the entirety of God’s Word. If we love Jesus we will prove it by keeping his Word. Not just keeping it the way we want to keep it, not just believing the parts we want to believe, but believing it as the inerrant, infallible Word of God, not adding to or subtracting from it. The person who believes in the Word of God this way will be loved by the Father and the Father and the Son will make their permanent abode or dwelling in them. If we believe the Word of God in these ways we will experience the immediate presence of God.

Jesus follows up with telling us one of the reasons it’s dangerous to believe what you want about God’s Word. Those who do not believe in and obey God’s Word prove that they do not love Jesus. Our love for God and Jesus is shown through our obedience to his commands and teachings found in the Bible. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t consider ourselves a Christian and pick and choose what we want to believe about the Bible. We can’t be a healthy church and believe what we want about the Bible. The marks of a healthy church is believing what the Bible says and showing our love for Jesus and the Father by being obedient to everything it says. It is important that we mention both Jesus and the Father because the words found in the Bible are not only Jesus’ words but the Father’s as well. There is no higher authority. But isn’t it interesting that we want to be the highest authority so we only believe what we want about the Word of God and change it to fit what we believe.

 

Our second point is the Scripture Keeping Church and the Teaching of The Early Church found in Acts 2:42. This is what God’s Word says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” This verse tells about another mark of a healthy church. A healthy Church in the first century and today is marked by the Apostle’s teaching. Acts chapter 2 tells us of the story of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit came as tongues of fire and rested on the disciples, filling them and allowing them to speak in tongues. Peter then stands up and links the OT texts with the ministry of Jesus and Acts 2:41 says that three thousand were converted that day. This was the power of Jesus’ teaching passed down through the disciples to the people. This was the apostle’s teaching which was everything Jesus told his disciples while he was on the earth. God told Jesus, Jesus told his disciples and they told the rest of the world. The apostles’ teaching was authoritative because it was the teaching of the Lord communicated through them. This teaching would take the written form of the NT scriptures that we have today. The Christian Church is most readily recognizable in those churches which have continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching from the First Century until present day and that includes Idaville Church.

 

Barclay says, “It was a learning church. The word teaching or doctrine in verse 42 is not passive it is active. The phrase means they persisted in listening to the apostles as they taught.” Christianity is not a static relationship but an active relationship in pursuit of God and Jesus more and more each day. It is not being content with sitting idly by but learning from and obeying God’s Word daily. We can’t know God’s Word without reading and studying it, we can’t obey God Word without reading and studying it and we can’t believe God’s Word without reading and studying it. The mark of a healthy church is knowing God’s Word, obeying God’s Word and believing God’s Word entirely from cover to cover.

 

I like what Weirsbe says, “The three thousand converts needed instruction in the Word and fellowship with God’s people if they were going to grow and become effective witnesses. The early church did more than make converts; they also made disciples.” They were in line with the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20 which says, “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. (there it is) And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Our mission statement – Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples – embodies this. This is what Idaville Church is about. This is our DNA. If we are going to be a healthy church we must make disciples who also make disciples and this is done through teaching what the Bible says and teaching obedience to everything the Bible says.

 

Our third point this morning is the Scripture Keeping Church and the Teaching of The Apostles. We will see this in the teaching of Paul the Apostle found in 2 Timothy 3:16. This is what God’s Word says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.What does it mean that scripture is “God-breathed?” It means that the power of God’s Word to change a person’s heart and bring about obedience to its teachings is because the Bible originates with God. God is the final authority on all things and because of that the Bible is true and dependable. The doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture is vitally important to the Christian faith. Satan has been attacking it since the beginning. Is it any surprise that people try to prove that God did not create the heavens and the earth as Genesis 1:1 says? Or that people question and disregard the commands and teachings of Jesus in the Bible? The world does not want to accept that God has complete and final authority over every aspect of their lives. The Holy Spirit used men like Moses, David, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Peter and Paul to write the word of God. God prepared them for that task. This supernatural influence on the writers guaranteed that what they wrote down was accurate and trustworthy.

 

Paul goes on to tell us that this God-breathed, inspiration is profitable or useful for four things. The first is for teaching or instruction. When we teach the Word of God we are instructing others about what it says and how it can be applied to our lives. The Word of God is our guidebook for life and our code of conduct for the Christian life. If something happens in your life or you have a question about life you can be assured that you can find the answers in the Bible. It can instruct you in your daily lives if you allow it to. The second and third are “rebuking” and “correcting.” This is the disciplinary authority of Scripture given to us and the church. God’s Word commands us not only about church discipline but is also our guidebook in implementing church discipline. Because the Bible is God-breathed inspiration and because it reveals the truth it exercises authority over those who disobey it and sin against it. “Rebuking” is pointing out sin and confronting disobedience. “Correcting” is the gracious, loving yet firm way we are to guide an individual back into obedience. We definitely don’t do this well in the church today. I think we have forgotten the concept of reconciliation that the Bible talks about. Neither side is gracious, loving or repentant and that makes it difficult for reconciliation to take place in the church.

 

The fourth thing God’s Word is useful for is “training in righteousness.” God’s Word shows us how to conduct our lives, how to be holy, and how to mature in our faith becoming more like Christ. I like how our churches themes of unity, holiness and love for one another fit so well here. It’s because they are biblical. Jesus commands his people to be unified, holy and loving towards one another. Weirsbe sums up these four useful things about God’s Word, in this way: “They are profitable for doctrine (or teaching) which is “what is right”, for reproof (or rebuking) which is “what is not right”, for correction which is “how to get right” and for instruction (or training) in righteousness which is “how to stay right”. A Christian who studies the Bible and applies what he learns will grow in holiness and avoid many pitfalls in this world.” If we, at Idaville Church, are going to be a church that believes the truth about the Bible that means we will use God’s Word in our lives and in our church in these four ways.

 

Lastly, we also see this mark through the picture or metaphor of the Pillar and Buttress of Truth found in 1 Timothy 3:14-15. This is what God’s Word says, “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” Pillars and buttresses are elements of architectural genius, used to uphold the most meaningful and valuable structures. Without these features certain buildings would not be able to hold their weight and would fall over. In a similar way, the Bible is the genius of God, because it upholds the truth about Him and His Gospel. I truly believe that if the Bible was not the God-breathed inspiration that Jesus, the early church and the apostle’s claimed it to be then we would not be sitting here 2000 years later still believing, teaching and obeying it like we are. The Bible would have passed away centuries ago as would have our faith.

 

Timothy would have understood Paul’s architectural metaphor. He would only have had to look as far as the Temple of Diana in Ephesus (picture) which had 127 pillars. A buttress suggests a strong foundation that would keep a structure from falling over or being swept away.

 

The foundation of the church is Jesus Christ and the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. The pillar aspect of the church relates primarily to displaying the truth of God’s Word so that all can see it. It reminds us of a statue up on a pedestal. We are to put Jesus on display in our lives so that people are pointed to Jesus and not away from Him nor to ourselves. So a question for you this morning: “when people look at you, who do they see? Do they see Jesus? Or do they see something or someone else? Being the foundation of the truth means that the church protects the truth and makes sure it doesn’t fall. When we as a church turn away from the truth by not believing in and obeying God’s Word we compromise our ministry and mission and Satan gains a foothold against us and in the world. When we don’t obey the truths and commands of God’s Word the world calls Christians “hypocrites” and the Great Commission to pursue, grow and multiply disciples is stymied.

 

We must make a stand against sin and apostasy. Apostasy is the act of refusing to continue to follow, obey, or recognize a religious faith. Where have we heard that before? Every month or so we are hearing of another person who no longer calls themselves a Christian, who no longer believes the truth found in God’s Word and is not obeying those truths anymore. I for one am glad that the truth of God’s Word is not diminished just because people decide to not follow it, obey it or recognize it as truth. We as Christians and as the church, need to believe in and obey the Word of God because by doing so we uphold the truth about God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what the world needs to hear, know and accept and that is what we are commanded to proclaim and live out. We must proclaim and live out the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God. That is a mark of a healthy church and that’s what I want Idaville Church to be and I hope you do too.

 

How does this apply to us? How will we know if this mark of The Church marks Idaville Church? First, we will want to hear the Bible being preached and taught. Romans 10:17 says, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Do you come excited on a Sunday morning to hear God’s Word taught in Sunday school and during worship? Next, we will want to read the Bible. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Do you spend time daily in God’s Word and then obediently live it out? In the Spiritual Life Journal, there is a “read the Bible in a year” guide. I would encourage you to pick one up if you haven’t (you can find them in the foyer where you pick up your bulletin) and use it to start reading through God’s Word. Next, we will want to study the Bible. Acts 17:11 says, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Do you study God’s Word for yourself? You need to. Please do not take Pastor Stuart’s or my word or your Sunday school teacher’s word for everything you hear. If there is something we say that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t come from scripture come talk to us, ask us about it. I would welcome that. I would welcome to study the scriptures with each one of you.

 

Next, we will want to memorize the Bible. Psalm 119:9-11 says, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” In the Spiritual Life Journal, you will also find our monthly memory verses that we recite each Sunday. I would encourage you to memorize those scriptures along with us. Next, we will want to meditate on the Bible. Psalm 1:2-3 says, “but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” Reading, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word are important ways we can know God’s Word which brings us to the next one which we will want to obey the Bible. 1 John 5:3 says, In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” When we eat, drink and sleep God’s Word we fall in love with God’s Word and with God and Jesus and we will want to obey God’s Word. Finally, we will want to emphasize Jesus as the hero of the Bible. John 5:39 says, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” One of the main reasons we can’t diminish the Bible is because when we do it diminishes Jesus and that is something we just can’t do.

 

Our desire as a body of believers and as leaders of Idaville Church is to have a church filled with people who believe in and obey the Bible completely. Again, it is exciting to see that from the surveys you filled out from Restor Renewal Ministries, that 3 of the 5 questions from the Scripture-keeping section were in the top 10 of the least difficult for us as a church and another one was in the top 15 of the least difficult. Let me read those four questions to you. The least difficult of the Scripture-keeping questions was “I believe the leaders in our church look to the Bible as the highest authority in our church, and lead our church in ways that are consistent with the truth revealed in it.” The next least difficult was “I consistently hear things from Scripture in Sunday sermons and other teaching venues that I desire to apply to my daily life.” They were four and five of ten respectively. The tenth least difficult was “our church regularly encourages me to read and study the Bible on my own and with other Christians.” And the fourteenth least difficult was “the people in our church have the highest view of Scripture, and believe it to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God.” These are the things we believe and embrace as a church and as a body of believers. Now the last question in that section scored as the fifteenth most difficult for us as a church. That question was “our church encourages and provides opportunities for accountability in living out the things we are learning together as a church through scripture.” So this tells us that the people of Idaville Church are interested in being held accountable to living out the things we are learning together as a church through scripture. That’s awesome. There are some ways that already happens: participating in Sunday school and or a small group are ways that you can be held accountable to living out what you are learning. When you are in Sunday school and or a small group and participating there is an accountability that naturally happens. Another way is to find another Christian and become an accountability partner with them. These all take intentionality. You must be intentional about being in and participating in Sunday school and or a small group. You must be intentional about finding another Christian to become an accountability partner with. Intentionality is important because without it, it will probably never happen.

 

At our dream retreat at the end of last year we set some quarterly goals that have to do with the things we are talking today. The first is we would like to see a 10% increase in the number of people attending Sunday school and or discipleship groups. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card: To be intentional about joining and participating in a Sunday school class or discipleship group. There are still three weeks left of our Genesis study on Wednesday evenings that you can participate in. And we are getting ready to start a Men’s Discipleship group in February and hopefully a Women’s/Girl’s Discipleship group by the Spring. These are great opportunities to be intentional about being accountable to living out the things we are learning together as a church through scripture. If you are interested in learning more about Sunday school or the different discipleship opportunities we currently have or that are coming up, just make a note on your communication card, and I will contact you.

 

The second is we want to see a 10% increase in the pursuit of holiness through salvations, baptisms and accountability. Another opportunity for accountability is by participating in the commitments found in the Spiritual Life Journal. I earlier highlighted the “read through the Bible in a year” plan and the “monthly memory verses” found in there. I would love to be an accountability partner with everyone here. It would be a two-way street as I want to be held accountable as well. Also, this accountability is about encouragement not judgment. In 2021, there were seven or eight people in our congregation that I was in an accountability relationship with. If you would like to talk to one of them about their experience just let me know and I will put you in contact with them. Also, it doesn’t have to be with me. You can be in an accountability relationship with another Christian. It doesn’t even have to be with someone from Idaville Church. But we would at least love to know that you are in one because we feel that it is important as we continue to pursue holiness as a church body. That brings us to the second next step: to be held accountable to one or mor of the commitments found in the Spiritual Life Journal. If you would like to learn more about being in an accountability relationship, just make a note to that effect on your communication card and I will get in contact with you.

 

As I close this morning I want to highlight one of core values that you see on the front of your bulletin which is “we live, model and share the importance of being biblically grounded.” If we are going to be biblically grounded as a Church, as a body of believers, we need to know, obey and believe God’s Word and the only way we can accomplish this is by reading and studying God’s Word for ourselves and with other believers. That brings us to the last next step which is “to know, obey and believe God’s Word by reading and studying it myself and with other believers.” These marks of a healthy church and the next steps take intentionality and I pray that you will allow the Holy Spirit to guide you as you prayerfully consider them.

 

As the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Lord God, we thank you for your holy, inspired and God-breathed Word given to us. Let us not neglect its reading, its studying, its memorizing etc. Help us to grow more each day in knowledge and obedience to it. Do not let us believe what we want about it but through reading and study help us to understand and believe exactly what you intended it to say. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  ​​ ​​ ​​​​