Summary: Principles to insure that we are indeed a church that belongs to Jesus.
A. I love the old story told of the man who was shipwrecked on a beautiful, deserted South Pacific island.
1. Years later, he was discovered by a passing a navy ship.
2. Upon their arrival at the shore they were met by the shipwreck survivor. He said, “I’m so glad you’re here! I’ve been alone on this island for more than five years!”
3. The captain replied, “If you’re all alone on the island why do I see THREE huts.”
4. The survivor said, “Oh. We’ll, I live in one, and go to church in another.”
5. And what about the THIRD hut?” asked the captain.
6. “Oh,” said the survivor, “That’s the church I USED to go to.”
B. Let’s begin this morning with some fundamental questions that all of us need to be able to answer.
1. Why do you go to the church that you attend?
2. Who are we as a church among the many hundreds of kinds of churches in the landscape of Christianity?
3. Are we trying to be just another of the many kinds of churches with just a little different flavor?
4. Are we the “Burger King” of churches while others are “McDonalds” or “Wendy’s” - all of us just being hamburger joints with different names?
5. Or are there significant and fundamental differences that set us apart that need to be understood and championed?
6. And the ultimate question is does it matter to God? Does God care about the differences among Christian churches?
7. Is God’s attitude: “Variety is the spice of life?” “Anything Goes.” “Whatever.” “To each his own!”
C. Let me state as concisely as I can who I am trying to be as a Christian, and what I understand we are trying to be as a church: We are simply trying to be Christians who belong to the church that we read about in the NT.
1. Our goal is to be the people who owe allegiance to one Lord and to His instruction only, and who show that allegiance by calling ourselves by his name - Christian. We are Christ’s followers.
2. We want to be members of the church that He established.
3. The church that Christ established was just as He wanted it.
4. Christ was the founder of the church and it was purchased by his blood (Mt 16:18).
5. Christ was and is the foundation and the head of the church (1 Co 3:11; Eph 1:22,23)
6. The NT contains the instructions God wanted the church to have with regard to worship, organization, conduct and mission.
7. By following those instructions only, we are Christ’s church.
D. Unfortunately, many churches over the centuries have departed from the NT teachings about everything from sexual ethics to leadership organization.
1. This should not surprise us since the Apostle Paul warned Timothy and us that this would occur: “For a time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Tm 4:3-4)
2. History records the many departures from the NT principles and patterns that have occurred over the years.
3. I firmly believe, but cannot historically prove, that there have always been simple, NT Christians somewhere, throughout all times.
a. Although they had to meet in secrecy, and did not have the benefit of easy access to the Scriptures, they remained faithful to the simple, uncomplicated doctrines of Christ.
4. With the invention of the printing press, and its ability to produce mass copies of the scriptures in the common language, people began to read their Bibles and realize how far their churches had drifted from the original church of the NT.
5. Leaders arose during that period calling for reformation of the church. Others called for restoration of the original church.
E. We stand here today, as a result of God’s work among the restorers of NT Christianity.
1. Listen to the words of Alexander Campbell, a man involved in the restoration movement in the 1800’s here in our country. He was often accused of founding a new religious system, but here was his reply: “We have no system of our own, or of others, to substitute in lieu of the reigning systems. We only aim at substituting the NT in lieu of every creed in existence, whether Mohammedan, Pagan, Jewish, or Presbyterian. We wish to call Christians to consider that Jesus Christ has made them kings and priests to God. We neither advocate Calvinism, Arminianism, Trinitarianism, Unitarianism, Deism nor Sectarianism, but New Testamentism.”
2. Here are the words of J.Z. Tyler in 1882 as he explained our purpose, “Were you to ask of me one word which would most exactly present the central purpose of the peculiar plea presented by the disciples, I would give you the deeply significant and comprehensive word “Restoration”: For it was their purpose, as they declared in the beginning, and as, without variation they have continued to declare to the present, to restore to the world in faith, in spirit, and in practice, the religion of Christ and his apostles as found on the pages of the NT…They clearly saw, and from the beginning distinctly recognized, that in order to do this, they must ignore and pass back beyond all ecclesiastical councils, with their creeds and confessions, their speculations and controversies, since the days of the apostles, and take up the work just as these inspired men left it.”