The Church of Jesus Christ is Still Very Much Alive (24 Feb 2008)

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Special Guest

Mandisa Hundley

Special Music

Joyful, Joyful
Blest be the Tie that Binds
Spivey Hall Children’s Choir – Psalm 150
Spivey Hall Children’s Choir – Ching-a-Ring Chaw
Spivey Hall Children’s Choir – Al Shlosha D’Varim”

Solo/ Anthem
Let Thy Holy Spirit
Mandisa Hundley- God Speaking
Clap Your Hands

The Message

Message by: Robert A. Schuller

I got a long sermon title today but it won’t be that long a sermon. The title is “The Church of Jesus Christ is Still Very Much Alive.” And we’re two thousand years old. That’s phenomenal. You know, I want to ask some questions. Who coined up the idea of a church? Why? What was its mission and purpose? Another question: why should you go to church every Sunday? Why don’t you just worship at home? You need to come? These are important questions, they’re sincere questions and they’re not put before you to admonish or scold you but to just become informed. Why the church is still very much alive today. Who coined the word? St. Peter? No. But it was he who heard the word first. Jesus listened to Peter and said “Who are you, who do people say I am?” And he said, “Thou art the Son of the living God.” And then Jesus said, “This is My church,” first time. The confession of faith in Christ the Son of God, that’s His church. So Jesus coined the word church and He said it first to the apostles, specifically to Peter because Peter had professed and confessed the faith that if the church holds to that faith, the Lord Christ, the Son of the Living God, then the church will hear Jesus say ‘that’s My church. Gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ That’s My church.
Let’s take a look at how the church got started. Obviously, it did not happen during the lifetime of Jesus. It happened after His death and resurrection. Yes, a form of it appeared in His early years when He went out preaching from the hillside in the country and crowds came to Him. But after His death and resurrection, that’s when the believers got together. They had to get together to encourage each other. They were a small faith. Their leader had been publicly executed on a cross in public. How could they stick together? Wow.

Justin Martyr was one of the early prophets of the church and lived during those years that follow the resurrection of Jesus. And going through one of my history books, I was reading Justin Martyr. He describes the new faith, the new Christian worship. It pretty much followed in a way what the Jewish people had been doing every week on Saturday, the Sabbath, when they went to their houses of worship called synagogues. And all of the first believers of the faith in Christianity were all Jewish people. Their memories were all of attending the synagogue services. So it comes from that. And then the synagogue services, the scriptures would be read. Yes, the Old Testament, starting with the Pentateuch which are the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses. They would come together; they would read from the scriptures. Here’s what Justin Martyr said, “they gather every week, the President gives a discourse, gives admonition and encouragement to imitate what the Bible calls us to do. And after all this we rise and have common prayer. And we give gifts. The wealthy and the willing give their generous contributions. And others come and make contributions. And we give to orphans; we lose prisoners, strangers and all who are unwant.” Amazing.

Enormous persecution is happening. People are being persecuted by the pagan emperor in Rome, among those who perished in the early church, was Simeon, the leader of the church of Jerusalem, and the brother of Jesus. He was crucified. In and around Rome multitudes of Christians were arrested, put to death in the most cruel ways. Crucified. Public exhibitions of their crucifixion or tied in the skins of animals and thrown into the arena to be worked over to death by dogs, ripping off appendages of the body. Thrown to the wild beasts or it was not uncommon for entertainment to be tied to stakes in Nero’s gardens. Women stood firm in their faith in Christ. Those aren’t myths. They died for the faith. The faith could have died out if it hadn’t been for them. The church of Jesus Christ is alive because people who started the movement and kept on with it and offered their lives as sacrifices to the freedom to speak their faith. Fantastic.

Then what is the church today? It’s become a sacred place in a secular world. Here, a church is an oasis in a troublesome and conflicting culture. You can see very dramatically these past days and these past weeks, yes this year, how personality is shaped by philosophy. And the philosophy of Mandisa, look at her faith, look at her eyes, look at her sparkle. Look at her ethics, look at her morality, look at her wonderful, positive spirit. She’s fantastic! She’s a beauty. There is a difference. Wake up world! Embrace the church! Go back to it. Take your children there. Look what it does for people, for my guest, for most of you if not all of you sitting down here. The church of Jesus Christ was planned by Jesus Christ as an institution that would meet every week and shoot out the positive emotions that you can laugh and you can cry happy tears and you can pray positive prayers. All of this is the kind of worship service they had right away at 100 AD. Amazing.

There was a lady that I can’t identify by name. I can call her Jean. She went to church regularly. She had a husband, children. And then she was shocked when she found out her husband was unfaithful and then he left her for a young and pretty girl. It almost killed her. They were active members of another church. She couldn’t go back to that church. She was too ashamed. And they were negative. They were teaching if you got a divorce you were going to hell period. Totally non Biblical. But she’d heard about this church and she couldn’t stand not going to church every week. She was used to that so she came out here one Sunday, sat at the top row in the top balcony where she could be safe, nobody would sit around her or even close to her, to recognize her. And she came back the next week, and then she ran into people she didn’t know, but they came to her and they smiled and they shook her hand and said hi, welcome to church. God loves you and so do I. What a different message! Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, the healing power of Jesus Christ which we have designed to be in everything we do in this worship service. We don’t design things that will condemn you or belittle you or shame you or put you down, we build you up in the name of Jesus. One Sunday she felt this message and it got into her. Well, the healing power came and then she joined this church.

Why do we come together to church? Once a week, we need it. Every week to have our faith built up, to have our silent prayers of repentance heard and forgiven, and to have Christ come in. We have the message of this church, we’re here to take cynics and make them seekers. To take the seekers and make them believers. To take the believers and make them builders. It’s working.

I remember probably the most dramatic time in the history of this church and I had been here only I think a year and a half or two and one of my elders now deceased, heard the door bell ring, went to the door bell and there was a young man selling Fuller brushes. They got talking and you going to sell brushes all your life he said? And he said no I’m going to be a minister. Going to be a minister? Yes, he said I graduated from seminary. Oh? Well then why aren’t you a minister? He said I can’t get a job. Oh? He said nobody will hire me. My elder said you know we have a new church; Dr. Schuller’s the only pastor there. He needs a lot of help. You should come and work for us, and he said yeah I’d love to. First of all, it was inappropriate, the various stages you go through before you assume the right power to hire somebody to be a minister at that level. So he reported his quote gift end quote at the next board meeting. And I cringed because the seminary he was going to and had graduated from at that time, no longer, that time was very negative. In fact, professor’s said Schuller’s going to hell. He never preaches about the cross.

And so this young minister was hired as a co pastor, he took it that it was God’s calling for him to straighten me out. Yeah. And to straighten the congregation. The things he said about me from the pulpit, without my being there were quite humiliating. I prayed about it, I didn’t ask him to leave, but I prayed that God would take care of it in His own way. A week later, he got a call to his own church. Senior pastor. So God punished him. That’s a joke.

Anyway, he left. But he had his own congregation going. They were still there and they were angry and so they threatened to split the church and they did. And in a dramatic time, about a third of them just walked out. It was very humiliating. Wow. All was an answer to prayer because when I said God, what am I going to do? I listened and I heard loud in the brain and ideas do have different volume. Even if they don’t produce sound, the volume is in their impact. And their life oh what am I going to do with a church? I had a 40-year goal. I had a dream of building a great church. And I cried. And into my brain came the line, a loud line, “I” I recognized that it’s Jesus. “I will build my church! It’s not yours anymore, Schuller. It’s Mine. I’ll handle it” and He did. When I heard the word “I will build My church,” you know what I did? I got out of my chair in my study, I looked at it and said Jesus please take over! Sit in that chair and the next consistory meeting as I said, I didn’t sit in the chair, it was empty. And there were whispers. I will build My church. And He found you and brought you here. He found you and you and you and you. I needed you like you’ll never know! Why am I thankful for the people who join this church? Cause I went to the edge of hell to hang in here for over 50 years. And God helped me through it and God almost always uses people without asking them. He used you and today I can say to you, I look ahead at the years at how God is finding the right people for the right slots, and I’m so thrilled that He’s giving them the passion that He has. My son, this is not our church. It’s Christ’ church. And He’s blessing it, keeping it alive.

We’ve got the message. If they come here, we will turn the cynics into seekers. We’ll turn the seekers into believers. And we’ll turn the believers into achievers! And that’s the whole gospel.

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