Last week we tried to take a few minutes and evaluate things today in the assembly we’re at and we saw there were some strengths, some things to thank God for and also some things to be concerned about.
And then we spent the rest of the time dealing with a question that I distilled down from many questions that are asked and it went something like this: Why does the breaking of bread seem gloomy or dead sometimes? And we suggested that sometimes maybe it is, and our hearts need to be revived and warmed up toward the LORD. But maybe sometimes it’s a misperception of the person who asked the question, and there’s a need to understand the nature of worship and how it’s produced. And we spent some time studying some of the problems. Problems of the mind … the ignorance about worship. Problems of the heart … we’re not dealing with sin in our lives, or we’re not coming prepared. Problems of our restless flesh coming out of a role that presents a high-powered, fast-paced life and trying to compare time in the Lord’s presence with that.
And so we suggested that while we’re not saying that our approach to worship is perfect, we have a lot to be thankful for. And maybe what we need to do is to make sure our own individual hearts are really in tune with the Lord, and we’ll have a good time when we come together and bow before the Lord quietly and worship Him. And really come to appreciate that the worship meeting is NOT dead … it’s REVERENT … and there’s a great difference. There should be.
Now, this morning we’re going to take our next question, and that has to do with praise. If you’ll turn back your Bibles to the Old Testament, I’d like to read another passage, 2 Chronicles 7, and perhaps we can comment on this passage a little later in this message. 2 Chronicles 7, reading from verse 1 … now I should tell you that the scene here picks up where David has provided for the materials, and his son Solomon has successfully completed the building of the Temple. Solomon has prayed that great prayer of dedication in chapter 6, and we pick up after Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple to God … 2 Chronicles 7:1…
1 Now when Solomon had made an end of praying,
the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices;
and the glory of the LORD filled the house.
2 And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD,
because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house.
3 And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down,
and the glory of the LORD upon the house,
they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement,
and praised the LORD, saying,
For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.
4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD.
5 And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen,
and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep:
so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.
6 And the priests waited on their offices:
the Levites also with instruments of music of the LORD,
which David the king had made to praise the LORD,
because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry;
and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.
Let’s read also down in verse 8 …
8 Also at the same time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him,
a very great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt.9 And in the eighth day they made a solemn assembly:
for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days.
10 And on the three and twentieth day of the seventh month he sent the people away into their tents,
glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the LORD had showed
unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people.
11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD, and the king’s house:
and all that came into Solomon’s heart to make in the house of the LORD,
and in his own house, he prosperously effected[or, worked].
Let’s just look up to the Lord in prayer.
Father, we give thanks once again for a quiet hour to study Thy scriptures together and we ask for Thy help to open our hearts. Lord, may it be a profitable time we pray. And we ask that as our lives go on in the things of God, we might be found often and intelligent in our worship and in our thanksgiving and praise. We ask it for the Lord Jesus’ sake. Amen.
POINT 6: PRACTICAL APPLICATION (continued)
FAQ 2: Why isn’t there a PRAISE time in the assembly?
The second question is, as I’ve said, distilled down from questions I’ve heard over the years, and if we put it all together, it goes something like this : Why is there not more praise in the assembly, some place that I can bring my unsaved friends to? Now, you may not have heard that question in those words, but I can tell you I’ve heard it in different words, many times, with those two parts.
When I hear questions like that, I like to try to interpret what the speaker has in mind. And I’m just going to suggest some thoughts about that question.
“Why is there not more praise in the assembly?” Well, sometimes the person may really be saying, “Our assembly falls below the standard that I am using to measure it.” Now when you say, “Why is there not more of something?”, you’ll have to ask yourself, “Well, what is the standard?” And that is a good question. What standard are you using to measure the church where you fellowship, and in our case, this church?
Second part is … maybe the person is saying, “Unsaved friends and loved ones that we have get saved when we bring them to church, don’t they?” And we also have to ask what scriptures say about that one.
So let’s take those in 2 parts and see if the Lord will give us some light on that subject this morning.
FAQ 2.1: Is there enough praise in the assembly?
First of all, what about “Is there enough praise in the assembly?”
Well, again, we have to say, “Maybe there isn’t.” And that’s always a safe answer: “Maybe there isn’t.” Maybe we are a little deficient in our praise for the Lord. We have to be open to that.
I’m going to suggest some things next that we can do to encourage that matter if there isn’t.
But also, we need to be open to the fact that maybe your expectations are influenced more by POPULAR CHRISTIANITY than by scripture. And you’ll have to be open to that. I have to be open to that. Maybe our expectations, when we say, “Why isn’t there MORE praise in the assembly?” … maybe our expectations are being influenced by popular Christianity … what’s done in the world today.
And I suggest this is a good time to take a look in the Word of God, because, you know, no matter how many people you ask, everybody has his own opinion. You bring the charismatic person in here, and say, “What do you think?” “Oh, you know, you don’t have near enough praise. You’re w-a-y too weak.” You bring someone from the school, and you say, “What do you find?” “You have too much of this new music.”
Well, what does God’s word have to say? I looked up the word PRAISE in the concordance, and I found that it occurred 33 times in the New Testament. Now we’re concerned with the passages that deal with the church, obviously. So, after you take that out of the 33 … the times where it appears in the gospels, the times where it occurs in the future (i.e. the Revelation, and after the Lord comes), if you take out its usage to describe people (where people are praised or commended for their good deeds), if you take out the Old Testament quotes… you’ll find that in the Acts and the Epistles, the word PRAISE is used 7 times with reference to PRAISING THE LORD.
Now of those 7 times, most of them are just a general statement of praise. E.g. we read earlier in Ephesians 1 To the praise of the glory of His grace … that’s a statement of just general praise to God. But I find a couple of times where PRAISE is ascribed to the individual person.
PRAISE to GOD as INDIVIDUALS
Let’s think for a moment of our PRAISE to God as individuals. Think of that great verse in Hebrews 13 … last chapter in Hebrews … verse 15 I think it is … it says, By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God CONTINUALLY … that’s you and me, … CONTINUALLY … NOT just on Sunday.
This matter of PRAISE in the individual life is very important when we consider PRAISE in the assembly, isn’t it? Because assembly praise is only going to be as strong as the individual praisers who are present.
Let me read for you what David, who was a man well-acquainted with PRAISE, has to say. Listen to this (Psalm 28:7): The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. See the connection? I trust in Him, He helps me, THEREFORE will I PRAISE Him. David understood that PRAISE is a response of the individual heart to God’s help. God has blessed me. God has helped me. Therefore, will I PRAISE Him.
Let’s turn to Luke 1 … you know that Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, spoke out a great song of praise to God at the time of the birth of her Child before His birth … Luke 1:46 … and here’s how that psalm of praise begins:
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
And so on. And she PRAISEs God.
One thing that’s important to notice about this little passage is the verb tenses that are used in these two verses. Verse 46 is in the PRESENT TENSE. Mary says, My soul doth magnify the Lord. “Right now, my soul is magnifying the Lord.” That’s PRAISE. My soul magnifies the Lord right now. Verse 47, My spirit hath rejoiced (PAST TENSE) in God my Saviour. Past Tense. So, what is Mary really saying then before she praises God? She’s saying, “I’m going to praise and exalt and adore the Lord from my soul BECAUSE my spirit has already been in His presence.”
What is the lesson here for us as Christians? Well, you know, if we’re praising God or worshipping God, and it’s from our soul, but our spirit is not involved, even an unsaved person can do that. I don’t think it’s pleasing to God. We have to be very careful that the flesh doesn’t just want to display itself and act up in the church in the presence of God.
And we learn a lesson here from Mary’s words, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” And you, when you praise God, you could say, “My soul magnifies the Lord, I praise the Lord”, but then this question, “Where is my spirit in all this?” The Holy Spirit moves in the reborn spirit of the child of God. Where is the Holy Spirit? Well, Mary says, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.” So spiritually I’m in tune with God, spiritually I’m in harmony with Him, now my soul may PRAISE God.
You see the difference? How important that is? If you leave out the part of “my spirit being in harmony with God”, we’re walking in the flesh. If we can paraphrase the words of the Lord Jesus in John 4 They that worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth … let’s say it this way, “they that praise God must praise Him in spirit and in truth.”
So, as far as the individual praises of God’s people, let’s just say this: God is interested that we be a PRAISing people.
PRAISE to GOD COLLECTIVELY
But I did find one verse out of those seven that applies to the assembly collectively. And I’d like to ask you to turn here to Acts 2:47. And we need to notice the context of this particular verse. Acts 2:47. It says, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. The early church was praising God and having favor with other people. Now what’s the context of the verse?
Well, Peter had preached a great sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Thousands were pricked in their hearts and were saved. We read in verse 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. This is what the early Christians did then. Teaching. Fellowship. Breaking of bread. And prayer. Now in verse 47 they were praising God.
So, I think it’s safe to say then that the PRAISE that we read of here is not what you would call a “PRAISE Meeting” because the activities of the church are mentioned in verse 42, it was a RESPONSE of the people because God was at work.
Not only that. If you look at verse 46, it says And they, continuing daily with one accord … there was a UNITY and HARMONY among the people of God. And I want to suggest again that PRAISE is going to suffer if there is no harmony among God’s people. That means that if you have a quarrel with a brother or sister, and you don’t deal with it, but you come here and hold on to it, the PRAISE of God’s assembly is going to be affected. They’re not going to be able to PRAISE God the way they would if there was a real unity of heart among the Christians.
Not only that, but if you notice at the end of verse 46, And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, There was a fellowship going on. They didn’t just come for meetings. They even ate some meals together. Now I know you folks in Cheshire enjoy that. I remember years ago we used to have suppers for all kinds of reasons, sometimes we have suppers without any reason. We just want to get together to have a good time.
And in the early church apparently they ate their meals together, and notice after that last word heart, there’s a comma, and so it goes right on. [They] did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart [comma] praising God. So the PRAISE for God then was taking place in the church presumably in connection with the fellowship of God’s people. Isn’t that interesting?
So let’s put it all together and say this: as far as this passage goes, as it describes the early Church, apparently the praise of the early Church was not so much on meeting (i.e. you don’t read of a PRAISE Meeting), you read of PRAISE as the RESULT of the UNITY of the believers, of the FELLOWSHIP that they had together, it was clearly the RESPONSE of the hearts, the joy of the Christians at seeing God at work.
THE QUESTION SHOULD BE…
So I think we ought to stop right here and ask a question. Whether we’re talking about individual praise or assembly praise, I think a prior question is, IS THE LORD AT WORK? That’s the real question. You know, if the Lord is not at work, it’s very hard to drum up artificial praise. I don’t know about you, but when I get into a situation when people are trying to manufacture PRAISE, it’s very uncomfortable. I expect the Lord feels uncomfortable too. In fact, if you don’t think He does, read Isaiah 1 some time, and there He’ll tell you He does.
But when God’s people are praising because they are responding to the goodness of God, where they see Him actually alive at work, I think that’s a delight to the saints and a delight to the heart of God. So I think a prior question then is: IS GOD AT WORK? And you say, “But He’s always at work.” Yes, but am I seeing it and enjoying it? And if not, why not?
Is there sin in my life? Is He quenched in the assembly? These are questions we need to deal with if we’re going to talk about PRAISE.
AN ILLUSTRATION OF PRAISE AMONG THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Let’s go back, just for a moment, to 2 Chronicles 7 … that passage we read, and using that as an illustration of PRAISE among the people of God. Let’s take a quick look and then we’ll hurry on to the second part of our question.
2 Chronicles 7. We find here that after Solomon prays, the fire comes down and consumes the sacrifice; the people see the glory of the Lord… we read in verse 3, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground. This is WORSHIP! Man taking his rightful place before God. He’s giving God His right place. God is awesome and holy. And I take my right place, I’m glad to bow.
We’ve said in the past message that the heart that will not bow, should not praise. I think that’s a good principle.
But they bowed to the ground, and they worshipped, AND they praised the LORD for His goodness. And then the king offered sacrifices in verse 5, and we find in verse 6, the priest standing up to praise, and the people of Israel standing up at this great praise that was taking place. But did you notice something?
In verse 9 … Solomon made a SOLEMN assembly. Solomon declared a SOLEMN assembly. What does the word SOLEMN mean to you? I don’t like to think of it as a low show, or a sad or a gloomy time. When I think of something as SOLEMN, I think of something as perhaps MAJESTIC, GRIPPING, IMPORTANT. It was a solemn time. And we read in verse 10 that he sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry for the goodness of the LORD. Isn’t it interesting that GLADNESS and MERRINESS OF HEART is not inconsistent with a SOLEMN time!? In fact, I was interested this morning at the Lord’s Supper, a brother read for us from Psalm 92, and it says, “It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises to His name” and still in the same sentence,
3 Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.
Here you have the same thing. I will praise the Lord with a SOLEMN sound.
So, brothers and sisters, I think we need to take a second look at the idea that “if anything is reverent or solemn, it isn’t praise”. If you’re using scripture as your guideline, you won’t find that. If you’re using popular Christianity as your guideline, what can I say?
One other thing we notice from this passage in 2 Chronicles 7, when all is finished, we read that the Lord blessed Solomon’s work, and his own house prospered. Let me draw a conclusion here: you want the Lord to prosper your house and your family? Devote yourselves to making sure that God is worshipped and praised among His people. That means making sure that God’s people are knit together in love, and that God is at work, and people can see God at work, and if you give yourself to building God’s house, I want to tell you, He will prosper your house. That’s a principle you can count on.
Now one of the big problems among Christians today is that they don’t have time to beautify God’s house because they’re so busy in their own house. You put God’s house first and beautify it and God will build your house. That’s what He did with Solomon.
Well, I would like to suggest 4 applications of what we’ve looked at so far this morning and then we’ll take the second part of our question. Here are 4 things that I will just challenge you to think about.
The best way to stimulate praise in the assembly is to have a praising people. The best way to stimulate praise in the assembly is to make sure the assembly is composed of praising people.
You know, some people blame the assembly for their own lack of joy. Did you ever notice that? Some people blame your church for their own lack of joy. You go to their home. They never praise the Lord at home. God never gets a word of praise all week long.
But then they criticize the assembly. They want to come to the meeting and have an experience. “You know, we all have a wonderful experience, and that will pump us up. Give us something to run on all week long.” That’s not what the assembly is for, folks.
The assembly is a place to come where we can express the praise to God that we have enjoyed all week long. So that’s something for us to keep in mind.
Secondly, we must provide an environment for praise in the church.
What do I mean by environment? Well, we need to continually ask: Where’s the opportunity to praise God in all this? Where’s the opportunity to praise God?
Well, let’s take Cheshire Bible Chapel for a moment. I don’t fellowship here regularly but I visit here. From my little perspective I can see that there’s opportunity here in the assembly to praise God. Maybe not as much as there should be, or as some of you might like. But that can be certainly changed as God leads. But let’s think about: When do we praise God here in the assembly?
During the breaking of bread, I notice that there are dozens of hymns in the book that we use that contain the word PRAISE. The problem is not that there are no PRAISE songs. The problem is that some of us have reoriented our minds with the equation: “If it’s new, it’s praise. If it’s old, it’s not.” Well, that’s a problem. I want you to ask the question: Is God praised better by new songs or by old ones? I think that Christians should enjoy them BOTH! There are great new praise songs. There are also many older ones that have stood the test of time. So there is opportunity in the breaking of bread where we PRAISE.
By the way, men, let me encourage you, that if you’re giving out a hymn that is a PRAISE, more of a praise hymn, and there are plenty of them in there, why not encourage the folks “Let’s stand up and sing this!” or “Let’s keep the tempo up. Let’s not drag.” Nothing worse than to have a praise song d-r-a-g-g-e-d along like a funeral dirge. That’s discouraging. Some hymns are worship hymns and they can be sung reverently, slowly in meditation. Some songs are more praise songs. And for those, we need to make sure that we don’t drag them and fall asleep in the hymn.
After the breaking of bread I notice that you have a delightful time where the brother stands up and gives thanks to God. I’ve heard it week after week. “I’d like to thank the Lord for this. I’d like to praise God for this. I’d like to thank the Christians for this.” Meals and visits and help and all the rest. That’s praise, folks. Doesn’t get any better than now. God loves to hear that. And as a visitor I can tell you I love to hear it too.
At 11 o’clock during the meeting, you’ve sung some of the hymns out of the hymn book but you also have some of the newer praise songs here that you’re learning and it’s certainly delightful. Do a great job with that. So, I just want to encourage you to keep up your emphasis on learning how to praise God, but don’t throw out the old too, because the Lord enjoys those. Believe me, He does.
In your small groups, I guess there’s plenty of time there to praise God. Those of you who are small group leaders, ask yourself the question, Where is the opportunity for the people in our little group to give some praise to God? Make sure you do that once in a while.
I’d like to challenge you to consider testimony as an important encouragement for PRAISE.
Testimony. What do I mean by testimony? Well, that’s great. How long has it been since you’ve heard people that you fellowship with here in the assembly tell how God saved them? To give your testimony, this is how God saved me, and I have lots to PRAISE Him for. That’s a good thing.
But it’s not just when I’ve got saved, it’s what He did for me this week! And I feel sorry for any Christian who goes all week and doesn’t see anything to praise God about. Now that’s sad. It is. It’s nice that if you’re a Christian to see God work in your life all week long.
I must tell you that Monday night, we’re at a course. And after the study, a couple of ladies, who were brand new to the group, were asking about a class we’re considering offering here which is for beginners. And I sat down with them, and they were sitting here, and they said, “So when are we going to have this class?” And I said, “Well, one thing we need is a place to hold it.” And I turned to one of the Christians who fellowships, and I said, “What about using your home for that?” And she said, “Yea, I’m all for it.” Amen.
Just got the words out of my mouth, and a fellow came. And he’s never been here before as far as I know for the studies. Sat down, only saved two days, and he said, “You know, I own a restaurant. I’m closed early Monday. We have a nice dining room. You want to use it?” And here these 2 visitors could see the Lord at work right on the spot. That’s something to PRAISE the LORD about.
You know, things like that happen all week long in my life, and some of your lives. Where’s our forum to tell the saints, “Look at the great things that God has done!”? Some of you are not even smiling. Isn’t that exciting … that God answers prayer and helps us … that quickly!?? Well, at least the ladies were impressed anyway.
All right. Consider testimony time. And by the way, I know you have a prayer meeting. And I know it’s great when you come to prayer meeting and say God did this and that for me. That’s wonderful. But also testimonies should not just be limited to the prayer meeting.
My fourth suggestion is be careful of making other people and other churches the norm.
God has made each individual of a local church just like each individual person an individual. And when we hear people say, “I go to a praising church.” My response is, “I’m so glad you do.” But I’m not going to take your church and say, “Why isn’t ours like yours?” There are a couple of reasons for that.
First of all, I’ve been to some churches that are called “praising churches”. And some I thank God for them and they have learnt lessons that we have yet to learn. We can learn things from them. Thank God they’re there. B
But you know, I’ve been to some, and I want to tell you that what you really see is a big display of fleshly emotion. And I want to say, lovingly, that if you’re waiting for that to come into the assembly, I hope it NEVER comes here. Never! Because I don’t think that God is impressed by some of that.
So I think we have to be very very careful then not to be using popular Christianity or the comments of people around us as our standard. Let’s go back to the word of God and let’s realistically look at it and see that God is interested that INDIVIDUALS be people of praise, that the assembly be an environment where He can be praised, but that praise is not something we’re going to manufacture artificially. Praise is a response of my heart and your heart. We’re so glad. Why? Because God is at work and He has done great things and we want to thank Him.
FAQ 2.2: Is the church a place to bring unsaved friends to?
Well, as you remember, that question had a second part. The person asks, Why is there not more praise in the assembly, some place that I can bring my unsaved friends to? Here again, I think we’re getting a question that is shaped more by what may go on inside Christendom, than what we find in Scripture.
Is the church really the place for your unsaved friends? Now, some of you have asked me questions about that recently. So I’d like to address my remarks carefully with you this morning. I’d like to suggest that there are TWO mistakes that are often made on that subject.
Now listen carefully because these are going to sound like a contradiction and you’re going to say right off, “That’s a contradiction!”
There are 2 mistakes that are sometimes made, and I think it’ll be good to say a word about each of them.
The first one is: Church is the place for unsaved people.
The second one is: Don’t bring unsaved people to church.
I think those are BOTH MISTAKES! Let me try to explain one by one.
First of all, “church is a place for lost people”. Well you know, the Lord Jesus told Peter, “Feed My sheep.” And it’s an old saying: If you want more sheep, feed the ones you have. There were those assemblies that were more than 100, possibly 200 Christians when I was a young boy that are gone, sold, closed, out of business today. And I’m not all that old. What happened?
Well, you know, they were so busy addressing that if there be one lost person here this morning …, that they never fed the flock and the work died. Read Acts 2:42 some time … teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. Let me ask the question: Which one of those 4 things is for lost people? Answer: None of them. Not one.
Some people today have this kind of reasoning: The Bible says the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit, so we’ll design our church services to be more appealing to him. That’s a problem, folks. That is a problem.
All the sermons in the book of Acts … check it out. If you’re a Bible student, check it out on your own. Don’t take my word for it. All those sermons preached in the book of Acts were preached IN THE WORLD, N-O-T in the church. They were preached to lost people. That’s why they spoke about the gospel and the resurrection of Jesus, they were preached in the world to lost people.
So if you want to read sermons to the church, what would you read? Well, we have them all. There are many of them. It’s called the Epistles: Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, … Read them, every one and you’ll never find Paul say there should be one lost person in the church. He addresses them continually as saints.
The local church is the place according to Scripture to equip the saints (Ephesians 4:12) and to send them out with a message to win the lost world for Christ. So, from that point of view, the church is NOT the place for lost people. That is to say the church is the gathering of God’s family to be equipped to take the gospel out to win your neighbors, and your friends and mine.
Listen. There is somebody in your life here this morning. Some relative, friend (at school or at work), some neighbor that no other person in this church can reach but you. No one else has an ear for that person, but only you. That’s a solemn thought. You can’t say to me, What about my neighbor? You know them. They know you. You have an ear with them. That’s the Great Commission: Go into ALL THE WORLD and preach the gospel to every creature. That’s what our Lord said.
So, from that point of view, church is NOT the place for lost people. It’s the family of God meeting together.
But then the other mistake: Don’t bring unsaved people to church. That may sound like a contradiction. But it’s NOT. BRING UNSAVED PEOPLE TO CHURCH. There’s nothing wrong if they want to come. Bring in anyone who wants to come to church, any time they want to come. By all means, bring them. But tell them in advance what they’re going to see is the family of God at work.
You know, I like the thought of a man who is poor and hungry and starving. Maybe he is wearing rags and he has not had a good square meal in weeks. And he’s coming down the street. He’s homeless, and he’s destitute and he climbs up on the porch of someone’s house and he looks in the window, and they’ve got a great big feast. The table is loaded. And they’re all eating and drinking. And there’s a big turkey with all the fixings. There’s fire in the fire-place. Maybe singing. Rejoicing. And he looks in there and he’s thinking, What I wouldn’t do to get in there? What I wouldn’t do to get in there?
And someone opens and asks him, Can I help you? No, I’m just looking. Just being a spectator on what looks awfully good to me. You know, it’s a good thing if people who don’t know the Lord come to church and they see us … what? … not aiming our guns at THEM … if they see us enjoying the word of God in teaching. Enjoying the fellowship of saints in sharing. Enjoying the worship of the Lord in breaking bread. Enjoying the prayer by which we tell our heavenly Father what our needs and problems are and He answers us. If they’re spectators of what we have they should say, Well, I’d like to get in on that.
Now if you think I’ve just painted a picture that’s a little far-fetched, I encourage to turn in your Bible … let’s do this for our last scripture … to Acts 5. There’s a little paragraph that is very interesting because I think it says pretty much the same thing that I’m trying to communicate with you. In Acts 5:1-11 we read about the unfortunate deaths of Ananias and Sapphira as they tried to lie to God. Verse 11 says, And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Verses 12-16 give us a little paragraph to describe what was going on in the church at that day. Let’s look at it.
12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people;
There was POWER.
13 And of the rest durst [dared] no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
What does that mean? The rest? Well, the rest of the people of Jerusalem, the unbelievers, didn’t dare join the Christians. They see the Christians in the Temple having a meeting, and somebody says. “What are they doing?” “Oh, they are Christians. Go on there and mix with them.” “Not so fast. Did you hear what happened to Ananias and Sapphira? Those people have a holy God, and you don’t want to go and mix with them unless you’re really sincere.”
Of the rest dared no man join himself to them, but the people magnified them. What’s the result? Verse 14.
14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.
I don’t read here that the separation between the believers and the world hurt them one little bit. It DIDN’T. It says multitudes were added to the Lord. Why? Because those who were of the Lord went about their business, they were busy in teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. They had a real Christian communion going on. And the world says, Don’t get along with them unless you mean business. And, of course, people were constantly crossing that line and coming over and coming to know the Lord.
How do we translate that into our own day? It’s just as I said. Church is a great place to bring people who have questions, who are seeking the Lord. Let me read a quaint little remark out of a commentary. This is quite old, but I think it still makes the point. He’s commenting on what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in the early church in that day. He said,
The dealings with Ananias and Sapphira made the whole community feel that here’s a people among whom sin could not be tolerated. It was a safe place for a man who needed holy companionship to help him in the effort to live a holy life. A place in which he might expect every false step to be promptly corrected and through which he might confidently hope he might make his pilgrimage to a better world. People who wish to make a compromise with sin, and who join the church merely because they’re afraid to live without some appearance of religion will always avoid such a church. But those who are in earnest about the desire to save their souls and do good, seek just such a church as their spiritual home.
Well, Acts 5:12 and following, shows us that in the early church the Christians were going about their business. The world didn’t dare get involved with them. But when somebody really had a desire to know the Lord, that would be motivation strong enough.
So I say again, the church is not a place for unsaved people, i.e. it is not a place designed for them. It is the family of God meeting together. If you have people who are interested in spiritual things and maybe questions about the Lord, by all means bring them! By all means! But tell them before they come, they’re going to be looking in and listening in on the activities of a family. And we’d love to have them be part of the family.
You know, years ago, right in this very assembly, an elderly woman came up to me after I had spoken on this passage. And she said something to me I’ll never forget. She said, You know, I was always trained that if you met someone in the world, the way you would talk to them is to say, “Oh, if only you’d come to church with me”. She said, I have to confess, for 80 years that’s been my witness. She said, Based on what you said this morning, that’s not really a biblical witness – “if you’d only come to church with me”.
Folks, I want to challenge you. When you witness, when you’re concerned about witnessing, who or what are you talking about? That’s a very important question. We’re NOT here to talk about our church to people. That’s NOT your witness. You’re NOT called to talk about your church. You’re called to talk about your Savior. “I’d like to tell you, friend, of Someone who has changed my life.” That’s a witness.
If they’d like to come to church, that’s fine. We’d like to see them here. But don’t try to get them out to here so that we can preach at them. If you’re saved, you know the Lord. Tell them what He means to YOU personally. That’s YOUR witness. And we’ll reinforce that when they come. You see the difference?
So, in conclusion then this morning, I think I can just say, Young believers are always going to be asking this kind of questions. Why isn’t there more praise in the assembly, some place I can bring my unsaved friends to? And it’s our responsibility to help them grow to understand the answers. That’s our responsibility.
Father, we thank Thee for giving us this time together. We thank Thee for helping us through Thy Spirit to see these lovely passages in the scripture. And we are very humbled when we think how far short we come to what we would like to be. We thank Thee for the Spirit of God Who never gives up on us, always works with us, and encourages us, to become just a little bit better at expressing the worship and adoration, expressing the joy and the praise that we have for our God. Help us, we pray, to be about the business to which Thou hast called us. We thank Thee in the Lord Jesus’ Name. Amen.