Storeroom Sermons of David Chadwell

A Significant Crisis

Among the common struggles we experience is our struggle for identity. That struggle begins very early in our lives. When we are quite young, our identity is commonly formed by our perception of our Mom and Dad. When we are a child at home before starting to school, we commonly exaggerate and embellish the images of our parents to fill our own needs for significance.

Then we begin our long journey through school. Constantly, we are trying to determine who we are. Do I determine my identity in terms of what I have? In terms of what I wear? In terms of who are my friends? In terms of what activity I am a part of? In terms of my skills (what I can do?) In terms of my interests?

In high school we get a degree in peer pressure. In college we get a graduate degree in peer pressure. If we are not very careful, in careers or jobs, peer pressure can determine what we buy, our priorities, and what we do. It takes a wise person to distinguish between peer pressure and personal interests.

Not only do we struggle with a sense of identity as a person, but we also struggle with a sense of identity in our institutions. That is ONE (just one) of the reasons some people do not like change within an institution. Being a part of the institution contributes to the person's sense of identity. When change occurs that affects the institution in what the person regards as significant, they feel threatened.

Today, the church tends to be an "institution" in most of our thinking. We speak of "membership" in the concept of being an acknowledged member of a particular organization. The "membership" is determined by people who say a person is "in" or "out." Our common concept of membership often is in conflict with Acts 2:47 and the Lord adding to their number daily those being saved.

Christians tend to get more upset by the way worship is done than how people behave in their daily lives. "Where does the prayer come? Is there too much or too little prayer? Who leads the prayers? How many songs should we have? When should we sing? How old are the songs? Who leads the songs? Should songs be on a screen or in a book? Who can preach? What are the acceptable subjects? How often should he preach on a subject? Are his sermons too long or too short? When should we have communion? Who can serve it? How should it be done?" Thus, if the right things are done in the right way at the right time by the right people within the right time frame, it is a good worship and therefore a good congregation with good elders and a good preacher. The institution is good. If it is institutionally correct, the church is sound, the truth is taught, and our personal identity is intact. We have done "Church of Christ" things in "Church of Christ" ways and my identity is intact because I have declared, "I am Church of Christ." If I regard the institution as sound, then I can know I am sound because I am a member in a sound church. How does that concept fit with the fact that the congregation in Sardis was dying, desperately needing to repent, but they had a few worthy people who had not soiled their white garments (Revelation 3:1-4)? Worthy Christians in an "unsound congregation"? How can that be?

  1. The first thing I want to call to your attention is the fact that their evangelistic lessons focused on Jesus the Christ as Savior.
    1. First, direct your attention to the lessons in Acts and note how often people are called to the Savior.
      1. In Acts 2 Peter spoke to a Jewish audience after Jesus died and was resurrected.
        1. In verses 22-24, Peter focused his lesson on Jesus:
          Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
        2. After Peter used proofs that his Jewish audience understood, he said in verse 36:
          Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

      2. In Acts 3 when Peter and John went to the temple to pray and healed the lame man, Peter utilized his opportunity to teach by focusing their attention on Jesus:
        Acts 3:12-16, But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.
      3. When Peter and John were arrested for their miracle and for teaching about Jesus, a part of their explanation to the court included this:
        Acts 4:8-12 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

      4. When all the apostles were arrested by the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, consider Gameliel's advice to the counsel and the apostles' reaction.
        Acts 5:38-42, So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

    2. The same was true when the message was spoken to the gentiles.
      1. Consider part of Peter's message to Cornelius and those he assembled.
        Acts 10:34-43, Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

      2. Consider Paul's message to the Jewish synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia with gentiles in attendance.
        Acts 13:32-39, And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You.’ As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

        Acts 13:44-49, The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’” When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.

  2. Throughout Acts the church is spoken of as the ekklesia, "the called out," God's people who have been called out of an idolatrous world to enter Jesus Christ.
    1. Consider the fact that the church was a saved people.
      1. It experienced "great fear" (Acts 5:11).
      2. It could be persecuted (Acts 8:1).
      3. It could experience havoc (Acts 8:3).
      4. It could experience rest (Acts 9:31).
      5. It had ears (Acts 11:32).
      6. It could be mistreated or vexed (Acts 12:1).
      7. It could pray fervently (Acts 12:5).
      8. It could be gathered (Acts 14:27).
      9. It could bring people on their way (Acts 15:3) and receive them (Acts 15:4).
      10. It could be confirmed (Acts 15:41).
      11. It could be fed (Acts 20:28).
    2. Paul writings confirmed that the church was people who entered Christ.
      1. Most of his letters were addressed to the church at a specific place, even if it was as troubled as the church of Corinth.
      2. It was not to be "offended" (1 Corinthians 10:32).
      3. It could be persecuted (Galatians 1:13).
      4. It could be nourished and cherished (Ephesians 5:29).
      5. It can be saluted (Colossians 4:15) and hear a reading (Colossians 4:46).

  3. My point is not that Jesus and his church can be or should be separated; my point is that we should not reverse the roles served by Jesus and the church, thus making the church something it was not in the New Testament.
    1. Jesus is the Savior.
      1. He and he alone can extend salvation.
        As Peter said in Acts 4:8-12, Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
      2. It is his blood that cleanses us of our sins and his resurrection that gives us the expectation of life after we die.
    2. The church is those who are saved by the Savior.
      1. It does not have the power or the mission of saving.
      2. The church is the saved who are excited about what they have found, received in their Savior, Jesus.
    3. People are not converted to the church, but to Jesus.
      1. They are converted to the Savior to be part of the saved.
      2. They are not converted to be Saviors but to call people to the Savior.
      3. They allow Jesus to change their behavior so they can give glory to God, be Jesus' disciples, and live as a contrast to godless lives in this world.

Then what is the crisis? It is the crises produced when we preach the church as an institution instead of people, when we deliberately create the impression that the church saves rather than Jesus, and when we assume people know Jesus. The result of this crisis is that people feel "spiritually safe" if they are a part of "the right" institution and exhibit very little faith in Jesus, or desire to change their behavior, or desire to involve their time and lives in God. This crisis commonly exists when people want "to belong" rather than serve. Rather than living lives of faith, we are convinced that all we have to do is conform to the demands of the institution.


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