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Summary: Every church will face problems. How can we overcome them? Let’s look into the Word of God and see.

Problem Solving in the Savior’s Church

Acts 15:1-12

Sermon by Rick Crandall

McClendon Baptist Church - June 6, 2007

*George Mallone told about a well-known psychologist who spoke at a pastor’s conference, and he decided to try a little experiment. Every time he introduced himself to a preacher, he said, "I’m sorry to hear about the problem in your church."

-Nearly half of the pastors responded, "It was there before I came."

-The other half said, "It’s getting better.”

*One and only one pastor responded, "What problem?"

-The speaker later played golf with that pastor, and after that the speaker said, “He lied about his golf score too.” (1)

*Every church will face problems. How can we overcome them? Let’s look into the Word of God and see.

1. First, we must beware of misguided convictions. This was the big problem in vs. 1-5. Some of the Pharisees had trusted in the Lord, but they were tenaciously hanging on to Old Testament rituals. They were zealous for the Lord, but they were zealous in a misguided way.

*The Lord knows that we all need more passion for God. But the problem is that some of the most passionate people are passionately wrong. Some of the most passionate people are also some of the most misguided people. Muslim fanatics are proving that every day.

*We must beware of misguided convictions, like the legalism we see in vs. 5, when the believing Pharisees said: “It is necessary to circumcise [the Gentiles], and command them to keep the law of Moses." They did not understand that we live in a new day, the day of grace, and that we are under the New Testament, sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ. It is no longer necessary for us to keep ritualistic Old Testament laws.

*Of course this does not mean that anything goes. Anyone who takes a look at the teachings of Jesus Christ will quickly see that He calls us to a much higher standard of living than under the Old Testament. For example, in Matt 5:43-45, Jesus said:

43. You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

44. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

45. that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

*The Lord calls us to the highest standards of love and holiness, but we are free from the law, so we must beware of misguided convictions. For them it was circumcision. Man is always looking for something to do to be saved, some kind of action to take, some kind of ritual to perform. It’s a kind of idolatry that takes something symbolic and turns it into a literal requirement for salvation.

*We have seen this happen with the two ordinances that the Lord gave to the church: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both ordinances have been falsely identified as requirements for salvation. Our Church of Christ, Pentecostal and Catholic friends teach that you cannot be saved unless you are baptized, baptized by them, according to the formula they have adopted.

-And Catholics teach transubstantiation of the Lord’s Supper: The belief that the bread and wine are literally transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. And that the Lord is literally sacrificed over and over again literally thousands of times every day around the world.

*We must beware of legalism. Maybe this is one reason why the Lord only gave us two ordinances. But the biggest problem in the American church today is not legalism. It’s liberalism, the mind-set that likes to pick and choose when it comes to Biblical doctrine. It’s the view that puts man as judge over the Word of God, rather than letting the Word of God shape our morals and values.

*Well in our church we don’t have a problem with legalism or liberalism. For us the problem is more likely to be traditionalism. Tradition is generally good. But traditionalism can be a big problem.

*Jaroslav Pelikan was one of the world’s leading scholars in the history of Christianity. He authored more than 30 books, and wrote these words explaining the difference between tradition and traditionalism:

-“Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.

-Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering we are where and when we are and that it is we who have to decide.

-Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.” (2)

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