Church is really messy.
SEPTEMBER 27, 2021
Steve Brown: Church is really messy. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
Matthew Porter: Being adopted into the family of God is not about doing more or trying harder. It’s about being welcomed by God because of his radical grace free from the penalties of sin and never alone in your suffering that grace is what he life is all about.
Steve Brown: Thank you Matthew. Hope you had a great week-end. Hope you got a lot of relaxation and fun in. And I hope your pastor’s sermon was as good as my pastor’s sermon. If you’re just joining us, we’re spending a considerable amount of time in the book of Acts, in the New Testament. Written by Luke, the same person who wrote the gospel according to Luke. He’s a physician and it shows as you go through both of the books that he wrote. We’re going to be looking at the sixth chapter of Acts. And we’re going to talk about church and how messy it can be. And some of the things you can do to make it better. Let me read the text to you, then we’ll pray. Then we’ll get down. This is what Luke says.
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and full of wisdom, whom we may appoint this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid hands upon them. And the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Let’s pray, and then we’ll study. Father, we come into your presence, always surprised that we’re here. That’s because we believe a lie is that some people told us, they told us we had to be good. They told us that we had to be pure and obedient and memorize Scripture and pray. And then you would let us in. And Father, we tried and it didn’t work. We were about to leave when you told us, child welcome. And we came running and we’re never going to leave. Father, we’re so thankful that you’re good all the time. We’re faithful that your love never changes. We’re faithful that you’re in charge of our lives and always with a generous and gentle hand. And we worship you. Father, you know everybody who’s listening to this broadcast right now and you know the hard places and the soft places, the tears and the laughter. You are God, the God of all of it. And the place where we reside, resting in your goodness and your sovereignty. And then Father, as always, we pray for the one who teaches, that you would forgive him his sins because they are many. We would see Jesus and him only. And we pray in Jesus name. Amen. You know, there are a lot of reasons that I believe that the Bible is revealed propositional truth and stories that are absolutely true. I could spend months teaching on the inspiration and authority of Scripture. But one of the main reasons that I believe the Bible is true in general and the book of Acts is true in particular, is that the truth is spoken even when it hurts. I mean, if I was going to write a church history and a lot of people have done that, I would only talk about the heroes and the faithfulness and the perseverance and the martyrs and the good people who made it all happen. And, I think I’ve told you before that I read a small book two or three years ago called A Short History of Christianity. I can’t remember who wrote it, but it was a great little book. It was two or 300 pages. And if you were to go into my study here at Key Life, you would know that I have bookshelves filled with histories of the Christian church, multi volumes, many volumes, but in one place, one time, the author of A Short History of Christianity, put it all in one place. And I winced, when I saw that we do not have a wonderful heritage of wonderful people doing wonderful things. I mean, if you’re in the business of apologetics, don’t spend too much time defending the church. Yeah. I know, we feed more hungry than the pagans do. In 10 years, every second of every, we build more schools and hospitals, we, you know, we do some things right. And that’s good. But dear friend, we do some things kind of, kind of not right. Augustine, there’s an old, and it messed up a great sermon illustration for me in this little book, A Short History of the Christian Faith or of Christianity. I always loved telling the story of the time when Augustin or Augustine, depending on how you say it. But Augustine had become a Christian and he had some real problems sexually before that happened. And he ran into his former mistress, and she, and he turned and started walking away and she shouted Augustine, Augustine, it is I, it is I. And he shouted back over his shoulder, but it’s not me. Isn’t that a great illustration? It’s just more to it than that. I found out that she wasn’t looking for sex. She was looking for food. I mean, Augustine had fathered a son. And she wanted him to do what a responsible man would do, if he father’s a son and he was running in the other direction. Well, that’s kind of true of the church when you begin to study it. And what I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, is that one of the reasons I’m sure the Scripture is true is because it tells the truth, even when it’s hard truth. I mean, this whole thing started with a con game. It really did. And one of our forefathers, one of the real heroes of the faith lied about his wife and said that she was his sister, so she could sleep with the king. We’ve got prostitutes and scoundrels everywhere, and then there’s David, you begin to see it. And then you begin to see Jeremiah who was a coward. He’s called the weeping prophet. And that’s not because he weeped over souls or wept over souls. It’s because, he was scared. That’s what it was about. And you can go on and on and on. And our text, the one I read to you earlier is a good example of that. It’s about a mess in the church, should have left that out. We need heroes. We don’t want church division being lifted up as the standard. We want church unity to be lifted up as the standard. And yet Luke, when he writes the story of the church, he tells the truth, the good and the bad. Later on when we get to Acts 15 and that probably will be in a couple of hundred years. We’re going to see another example of that, when Paul and Barnabas, best friends, maybe even students together, under Gamaliel the teaching rabbi. I mean, good friends couldn’t work together anymore, they had to go in different ways. There was a tremendous fight between them. And if I had known Luke, I would have said, Luke, you could have left that out. We really didn’t know, need to know that, but we really do need to know that, don’t we? I don’t know about you, but let me give you some good advice and you may not like it. If you have biographies of famous Christians in your library and they don’t tell you the truth about the dark side of the famous Christians, then burn those books. I mean, if they don’t tell you about the months of depression that Spurgeon went through, don’t read a book about Spurgeon. If they don’t tell you about what C.S. Lewis went through, when Joy his wife died. And the pain and the difficulty and the doubts, then throw that book about C.S. Lewis away because, because that’s the way God works. When he lifts up somebody before us, he’s lifting up Jesus, not that person. He’s saying, if God can use Abraham, he can use you. If God can use C.S. Lewis and Spurgeon, he can use you. If he can use Mother Teresa in her depression, he can use you. And you think about that. Amen.
Matthew Porter: Thanks Steve. That was Steve Brown continuing to guide us through the book of Acts. Our text today was Acts 6:1-7 and we’ll get deeper into that starting tomorrow. Sure hope you’ll join us again then. Are you old enough to remember the late nineties, specifically 1998, the movie Titanic was a massive hit and boy bands suddenly became a thing again. If you do recall it, then you might also remember this name, Ken Starr. Yes, of the Ken Starr report fame. So, what has he done since then? Well, he speaks, he writes books and very recently he joined us on Steve Brown Etc to discuss religious liberty, legal insights, and yes, even the Clinton scandal. It was such a good show that we put the whole thing on a CD and we would be happy to send it to you, for free. So, just call 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail Steve@keylife.org and ask for that CD. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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