Greetings to each one of you this holy Sabbath day. I want to make just a few introductory remarks about something that is not what I would like to study with you this morning because it is the time of year when there is tremendous opportunity. Let me first say, so that there is no misunderstanding, that Seventh-day Adventists do not believe and Seventh-day Adventists never have believed that Christmas is a holy day or has anything to do with the Christian religion. December 25 has pagan origins and it was the birth date of the sun god and you can find that in any standard ancient history book. We do not regard this as the time when Christ was born, but. . . do you remember what Paul said one time? "To the Jews I was as a Jew. To those that were not under the law not as not under the law to God." Why was he acting that way? He said, "So that I might save some."
Because this is a time of year when the Christian world thinks of the birth of Christ and it has become a custom as a result of their reflection upon the wise men who first brought gifts to the Christ, to give gifts to the Lord and to give gifts to each other as tokens of remembrance at this time of year. And because that is a tradition or a custom, now listen, you are not violating your Christian faith one iota to take advantage of what people are thinking about this time year. You are not violating your faith to do that. This is a time of year above almost any other time of year if when you have a friend, a neighbor, a relative, who does not know Jesus and does not know the faith that you profess, are you aware of the fact that this is the easiest time of the year to give somebody a gift and they will accept it when they might not accept it in July or January or March, but they will accept it right now? Do you think that is an opportunity? It is a tremendous opportunity.
When my wife and I were living in Southern California, about this time of the year one year, my wife made some little candies and we wrapped up that candy and we put a book called Steps to Christ with those candies and went around visiting our neighbors and they all took it. I do not know whether they read it, but they accepted it and they were glad to receive it and they took it as a token that we wanted to be neighborly and friendly. You can do something like that with your neighbors. They will accept it. They might not accept it a month from now, but they will accept it right now. So remember, you are not denying your faith at all to take advantage of opportunity.
If you know somebody, if you have a neighbor or a friend or a relative who does not know what you know about Jesus, take advantage of the opportunity. Wrap them up a nice book that will help them to learn about Jesus and how to be saved and give it to them. They will accept it right now, they might not accept it next month, but they will accept it now. So take advantage of opportunity.
Would not it be interesting to find out, in the Kingdom of Heaven, that somebody that maybe would not have accepted a gift from you at any other time of the year, because you took advantage of opportunity and gave them a gift during this holiday season, that they were saved? Do you suppose there will be anybody in the kingdom of heaven because of those kinds of things? Oh, yes, there will! No, we do not say that Christmas is a holy day. We know where it came from, but we believe in taking advantage of opportunity.
I want to talk to you and study a subject and also this evening if I have the opportunity to develop it further. I have never preached about this subject before or studied it, but it is a subject that has been on my mind, more and more of late. I call this subject, very simply, very straight-forwardly, "The Church That Has No Pastor". Do you know any churches that have no pastors?
Last night I was talking to Jerry Timmons on the telephone. Now, Jerry Timmons is one of the elders in Winfield. Jerry originally came to a prophecy seminar, was not it the one in 1987, and he became a Seventh-day Adventist. Jerry is a dear friend of mine, in fact, we give Bible studies together. So I called him last night and we were talking on the telephone. They have no pastor there today at the Winfield church. We are very interested in this church in Winfield and we want to help them in every way we can. We want to uphold their hands in every way we can. We go down and visit them. I go down and preach and Mike goes down to preach but Mike's in Portland, Oregon today so he could not go. Several of you here have gone down there at different times, too and we want to help them in every way that we can. But let us face it, we do not have a pastor in Winfield every Sabbath. We do not have one today.
Friends, that is just one church. When I talk about the church that has no pastor, I want you to realize what we are really talking about. You are aware of the fact that the majority of Christian churches in the world today among God's faithful people; the majority of churches do not have a regular pastor. Are you aware of that? The majority have no pastor. This situation is not going to get better in the sense that there is going to be more and more pastors. It is going to get worse and actually, that is good news. Because there are going to be more churches developing so fast around the world that there are not going to be enough pastors.
There are many right today where they are meeting in homes or in kitchens or in unheated buildings because they have no place else to meet. There are some churches today who are meeting in secret because of religious persecution and most of these churches do not have a pastor. Some of these churches have very small memberships.
By the way, how many people do you have to have to form a church? Have you ever thought that through? According to Matthew 18 you have to have two. You need two people to have a church. In the book, Upward Look, 315, Ellen White wrote an interesting statement about the church. It says, "God has a church. It is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations, it is the people who love God and keep His commandments. 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' Matthew 18:20. Where Christ is, even among the humble few, this is Christ's church. For the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabits eternity can alone constitute a church. Where two or three are present who love and obey the commandments of God, Jesus there presides. Let it be in the desolate place of the earth, in the wilderness, in the city, enclosed in prison walls. . ."
Are there people going to church today in prison? "The glory of God has penetrated the prison walls, flooding with glorious beams of heavenly light the darkest dungeon. His saints may suffer, but their sufferings will, like the apostles of old, spread their faith and win souls to Christ and glorify His holy name. The bitterest opposition expressed by those who hate God's great moral standard of righteousness, should not and will not shake the steadfast soul who trusts fully in God." Ibid.
So, more and more there are going to be more churches without pastors. Many people think that this is a great calamity, especially people who have gone to large churches and every week, every Sabbath or Sunday, they have had somebody to preach to them. They are used to going and sitting in a pew and listening to the choir and organ and piano, listening to the speakers and sermons and they think, "My, if we had no pastor what would we do?" However, this is really, even if you consider it a calamity, not nearly the worst calamity you could have. Do you know what a worse calamity that having no pastor would be? Much worse. Infinitely worse. It would be if you had an apostate pastor. This would be much worse than not even having a pastor to have an apostate pastor. So, do not get to feeling too sorry for churches that have no pastor. They are not nearly in as bad a shape as they could be. They could be in a lot worse condition. They could have an apostate pastor.
We are living in times, friend, that you and I should be able to recognize an apostate pastor. If you sit and listen to an apostate pastor, you are in danger of losing your own soul. Are you aware of how dangerous it is? It is very dangerous to listen to an apostate pastor. You would be better off to get rid of your pastor and have no pastor, than have an apostate pastor. Every Christian today needs to understand what the Bible says about apostate pastors, because the Bible has a lot to say about it.
Let us just read a few texts. First of all we could look through Jeremiah and Ezekiel and through the New Testament, we do not have time to read them all. Let us look at Jeremiah 6:13, 14, it says, "Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness and from the prophets even to the priests, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of my people slightly saying 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace."
Now, if you read through the Bible, this is just one passage, Paul refers to it again in 1 Thessalonians 5, according to the Bible, one of the primary characteristics of .apostate pastors is that they preach a peace and safety message. That is one of the primary characteristics of apostate pastors. They make everybody feel good because they preach a peace and safety message.
Now, if you preach a peace and safety message, and the Lord says there is no peace, what are you doing? Now think this through. If you believe that there is going to be peace and security, what is the natural human tendency? To relax and feel secure. Now think this through. What was it that got our people at Pearl Harbor? Complacency! They felt secure, but they were not secure. If you feel secure when there is no peace; was there peace or was it war? It was wartime, but they did not know it. If you believe that there is peace, when actually there is no peace and you are in the middle of a war, what is going to happen to you? You see you have a false sense of security, but it is not going to keep you from getting destroyed.
My wife is a public health nurse. In California she got acquainted with a family who had two sons and both of those two sons were on the battleship "Arizona". In 1976 about this same time of year, my wife and I went out to Honolulu, Hawaii, and we got on a boat and went out to the memorial and they had right there a great big marble stone and on the face of that stone were engraved all the names of the men that died on that ship and we looked down on that list and found the two names, the names of those two brothers. They died that morning. That family lost every son they had. That ship went down, and bang, that was it. If you feel secure and you feel like you have peace and safety when there really is not, you are going to lose out. You will lose your life; lose your soul. So a first characteristic of an apostate pastor is that they preach peace and safety.
Now, when we are talking about peace and safety we are not talking about the military, we are talking about spiritual peace and safety. What is the spiritual peace and safety message that is coming today? Once saved always saved is one. This ship is going through, just stay in the church, make a profession of faith, put your trust in Jesus, believe and everything will be all right. Just relax. It is a peace and safety message. Now we do not have the time to go through all the ramifications of this, this morning, but it is all over. Surely you recognize it. It is all over today. You read to people from Revelation about the mark of the beast and they say they do not need to worry about that because they will be raptured away before that time.
Now the book of Revelation was not written to atheists, it was written to God's servants. You read the very first verse. The book of Revelation was written to God's servants, and if none of God's servants are going to be here when the mark of the beast is here, why did God write all those chapters? If it does not apply, why were they written? But people do not pay any attention because they have been taught over and over again going to church every week. Apostate pastors have taught them a peace and safety message so they just relax and they have a false sense of security. Let me tell you, that false sense of security will not save you. Those boys, the sons of that family, the night before on December 6, they thought everything was all right, but 24 hours later they were dead. A peace and safety message causes people to have a false sense of security.
If you are listening to a peace and safety message you are listening to an apostate pastor and you need to know where it is coming from. It will destroy you if you listen to it. You had better get out of that place. If you cannot fire the pastor, you better just get out of the church and go somewhere else because if you do not you and your children will be lost. So do not feel too sorry for the churches that do not have any pastors. They are not in nearly as bad a situation as thousands of churches that have a pastor that is lulling the people to sleep with a peace and safety message.
What is going to happen to these pastors? Part of the peace and safety message is the idea, now listen, have you heard anybody say you cannot keep the Law of God perfectly? Have you ever heard anybody say that? "Well, if you cannot keep the Law of God perfectly, then God will not require it of you and you can be saved just by believing in Jesus, so you do not have to worry." Have you heard that philosophy? It is all over the Christian world today.
Now, what is going to happen to people that preach this? This is from the book Great Controversy, 655, 656. This is what is going to happen one of these days at midnight. God is going to reveal His power. He is going to deliver His saints who have been condemned to die by an international Sunday law pact. This is what is going to happen then. It says, "The people see that they have been deluded. They accuse one another of having led them to destruction; but all unite in heaping their bitterest condemnation upon the ministers. Unfaithful pastors have prophesied smooth things; . . ."
There you have it, what did they do? What did the apostate pastors preach? Smooth things. That is peace and safety. Do not worry, just believe in Jesus and everything will be all right. That is a peace and safety message friend, that is not according to the New Testament. "they have led their hearers to make void the law of God and to persecute those who would keep it holy." Ibid.
Now think this through, first you teach people that they cannot keep the law of God, but do not worry because you do not need to, just keep your sins confessed. Now, if people believe that way and they really believe that way, what do they do when they find another group of Christians that say you must keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus if you are going to have everlasting life? What does it do? It shakes them up! Because they have been taught that they can go ahead and sin and just keep sinning and confessing and sinning and confessing and they will be saved. Then they meet a Christian who has read the New Testament and who has read Revelation 14 and they say "Oh no, friend, if you want to enter into the holy city you must keep God's commandments." That is what Revelation says all the way through, that is what the New Testament teaches. When a person who has been taught this peace and safety message meets somebody that knows what the New Testament says they get shook up. They go back and talk to their pastor and to their fellow church members about it and all their fellow church members have been taught this same lie, that you can sin and confess, sin and confess, sin and confess until Jesus comes.
Now one of two things has to happen. When you meet up with the truth, either you have to yield to the truth or if you decide to keep believing the lie that you just go on sinning and confessing, you have got to get those people out of the way that keep troubling your conscience. So the end effect, if you do not yield to the truth, is that you want to destroy the people that are bothering you. They say you are just distributing hate literature. You are bothering me. Now here is what is going to happen. "Unfaithful pastors have prophesied smooth things; they have led their hearers to make void the law of God and to persecute those who would keep it holy. Now, in their despair, these teachers confess before the world their work of deception. The multitudes are filled with fury. 'We are lost!' they cry, 'and you are the cause of our ruin;' and they turn upon the false shepherds. The very ones that once admired them most will pronounce the most dreadful curses upon them. The very hands that once crowned them with laurels will be raised for their destruction. The swords which were to slay God's people are now employed to destroy their enemies. Everywhere there is strife and bloodshed." Ibid.
When I was a boy, we read those statements and people said, "That is talking about Sunday-keeping pastors that teach people not to keep the Sabbath and not to keep the Law of God." But now, we have people that call themselves Seventh-day Adventists and they are teaching people that you cannot keep the Law of God.
I want to read to you what the Spirit of Prophecy says about them. I am reading this from The 1888 Materials, but you can find it in the book Testimonies to Ministers, 409, 410. This is a prophecy. It was prophetic then, it is happening now. She said, "Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan."
Now listen, if you are sitting in a church and you are hearing apostasy preached, you better get out of there. Otherwise you are going to be deceived and lose your soul. We are talking about something, friends, that is very, very serious. I cannot overstate how serious this is. It has to do with understanding how the human mind works. Let me tell you something, if you have studied psychology you should already know this, if you tell somebody something for long enough, they will believe it. It does not matter whether it is the truth or a lie. If you tell somebody something and they listen to it enough times, they will believe it. That is the way the human mind works.
If you go to a church and you listen to apostasy being preached and you say, "I am strong, I am going here to do missionary work and I am going to try and save some of these people." Let me tell you, if you are voluntarily putting yourself under the influence of somebody who is teaching a peace and safety message, you will lose your soul. You are committing the sin of presumption and God will not work a miracle to save you! Do not kid yourself! There are going to be millions of people who will come to the Lord in the day of judgment, who have sat in churches and listened to this smooth preaching and followed along with it and they will be lost. It is impossible for me to overstate how important this is, what we are talking about and how serious it is. We are dealing not with life and death, we are dealing with eternal life and death.
"Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands kindled from the hellish torch of Satan. If doubts and unbelief are cherished, the faithful ministers will be removed from the people who think they know so much. 'If thou hadst known,' said Christ, 'even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.' " Ibid.
So, if you are listening to false doctrines being preached that are not according to the New Testament, if you stay listening to that, you will eventually believe it. Even if you do not believe it now. You might say, "My pastor is wrong." Listen, if you know your pastor is wrong and you keep coming and you sit and listen to that error, the time will come when you will believe it. That is the way the human mind is.
Hitler understood that. What do you think propaganda is all about? You keep telling people on the radio and television, keep hammering it home and hammering it home; what is brainwashing all about? What did the Communists do with our soldiers when they had them in prisons? They put on these loud speakers and they just sent them a message over and over again, bang, bang, bang. Day and night. What happened? We have confessions from some of these soldiers, from some of these prison concentration camps that contain all kinds of things against the United States and how they are so glad now that they were out of that place because now they have freedom and here they are in jail! How do they believe all that nonsense? They kept listening and they did not resist. They eventually believed a lie. Read your own Bible in 2 Thessalonians; people will believe a lie. If you do not accept and follow all the truth, eventually you will believe a lie and be deceived and be lost. It is very clear in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2.
Listen to this statement from Early Writings, 124, 125. "I was shown the necessity of those who believe that we are having the last message of mercy, being separate from those who are daily imbibing new errors. I saw that neither young nor old should attend their meetings; for it is wrong to thus encourage them while they teach error that is a deadly poison to the soul and teach for doctrines the commandments of men. The influence of such gatherings is not good. If God has delivered us from such darkness and error, we should stand fast in the liberty wherewith He has set us free and rejoice in the truth. God is displeased with us when we go to listen to error, without being obliged to go; for unless He sends us to those meetings where error is forced home to the people by the power of the will, He will not keep us. The angels cease their watchful care over us, and we are left to the buffeting of the enemy, to be darkened and weakened by him and the power of his evil angels; and the light around us becomes contaminated with the darkness.
"I saw that we have no time to throw away in listening to fables. Our minds should not be thus diverted, but should be occupied with the present truth, and seeking wisdom that we may obtain a more thorough knowledge of our position, that with meekness we may be able to give a reason of our hope from the Scriptures. While false doctrines and dangerous errors are pressed upon the mind, it cannot be dwelling upon the truth which is to fit and prepare the house of Israel to stand in the day of the Lord."
That was quoted from Early Writings, 124, 125. That is a couple of pages that would do us all well to study and think through. Well, do not feel so sorry for churches that do not have a pastor. They are not in nearly as bad a situation as churches that have an apostate pastor, of which there are thousands.
But still the question remains in people's minds and this is keeping many people around the world from starting home churches which they should have started long ago. But they have not started them because they are afraid and do not know how to start them without a pastor. Yet in the New Testament there were many churches that had no pastor. Before the end there are going to be many thousands more churches that have no pastor. So, we need to look at this subject of the church that has no pastor. We are going to look at the divine counsel for a church that has no pastor. We are going to look at how to organize it, we are going to look at how to have a Sabbath School and how to have a church service and how to have a prayer meeting when you have no pastor. We are going to look at what we should preach and study about.
Suppose I am in a place and I am not a preacher and I have never been trained in theology and here is a church and I am responsible for it and to help these people, what am I going to do? What am I going to study with them from the Scriptures? Did you know the Lord has given us exact counsel of what to do and study in church so that we can know exactly what to do in those situations? God knew all about the thousands of churches there would be that would have no pastor. So, we are going to study the divine counsel. What are we to do in church when there is no pastor? What should we preach about, what should we study about?
In Ellen White's time, by the way, there were many Seventh-day Adventist churches that had no pastor. Let me read to you a couple of interesting accounts where Ellen White was present in some of these places and when she was present sometimes there was a pastor or minister with her, but these were churches that had no regular pastor. Here is one from the Review and Herald, October 14, 1884. Here is a small home church that Ellen White is talking about and just from this paragraph you can get a good idea on what to do in a home church, or in a small church without any pastor. What do you do when you come together for a divine service? It says, "On the Sabbath the few friends here assembled in Edson's parlor. . ." So they were in the parlor of a home. "for a Sabbath-school."
That is the first service you want to have on Sabbath morning if you have a church without a pastor, you want to have Sabbath School. This evening, if the Lord wills, I will outline why Sabbath School is the way it is; what we do in Sabbath School and what we do in church and what we do in prayer meetings and why. There is a biblical basis for every single thing that we do. We did not make it up. So they assembled for Sabbath School and it says, "There are four families, twelve persons in all who usually meet for worship." Ibid. So how many members were in this church? Twelve. So, there were lots of members. You only have to have two, but they had twelve. Four families who usually meet for worship. "Edson conducts a Sabbath school when he is at home. After Sabbath school. . ." Ibid.
Now notice what they have for church service. They did not have preaching because they did not have a pastor, they did not have a preacher. Notice what they did, they did one of two things. We are going to explain these things tonight and what it means. We are going to show you an example of one right now. "After Sabbath school they either have a Bible reading or a prayer and social meeting." Ibid. They did one of two things after Sabbath school, they had no pastor, they either had a Bible reading or they had prayer and a social meeting. I am going to explain tonight what that is. Everybody knew what that was in her day, but people today do not know so we will explain it. That is what they did.
Ellen White says, "This is as it should be. . ." So were they doing it right? They were doing it right. "The family altar should be established in every home and if in any locality there are more than two or three of like precious faith, they should meet together." Ibid. Did you get that? You do not say, well, I do not have a pastor or my pastor is preaching heresy, so I am just going to stay home and not go to church. Oh, no you do not, not if you are a Christian, not if you are a New Testament Christian. What does it say in Hebrews 10:25, "Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is but so much the more as you see the day approaching." Is the day approaching?
Do we need to meet together for worship? We have more need now that we had before. Listen, friends, I am telling you this because, I am not bragging on myself when I say this, but I am a pastor and I have been a pastor now for some years and I have watched this happen over and over again, people who do not meet together and worship, their faith and love grows cold. Now we do not have time to develop that, just remember that the Bible says not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together, Hebrews 10:25. If you go directly contrary to Bible counsel you are guilty of the sin of presumption and God is not going to work a miracle to keep the result from happening. It just will not happen. Just like jumping off a building and saying, "Lord, please make the law of gravity not work now so I will not get hurt." It is not going to happen.
God says not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together. If you are in a situation where you cannot meet with your church because your pastor is an apostate, what does Ellen White say? She says, if there are two or three or more meet together and worship. Do not just stay and say I will just read my Bible and study and pray. That is not what divine counsel says. It says meet together. The Bible talks about this. We already mentioned Hebrews 10:25, now notice what it says in the Old Testament in Malachi, chapter 3. It says in verse 16, "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another and the Lord listened and heard them so a Book of Remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name." What does it say happens? The people that feared the Lord, they met together and they talked about spiritual things and God saw it and He wrote it down in a book.
Did you know that God writes down in His book which people meet together and worship Him today and which people do not? God writes it down in a book, it is in a book. We must never think that because we have an apostate pastor and we cannot go to this church, that we just stay home and just do not go to church. Oh no, you have church in your home. Or you go to somebody else's home and have church. You have a worship service. Now, we will explain tonight what a worship service is. Part of the worship service is studying the Bible like we are doing right now. We have been given exact counsel about what to study in church. We will list it tonight.
I will just mention one this morning. You noticed here in this paragraph she said that they either have a Bible reading or prayer and a social meeting. Now what is a Bible reading? A Bible reading is when nobody is up here to preach. You get up and you study the Bible together and it is something that anyone that can read can do. In fact, people that cannot read can do it if they can ask questions to people who can read. You do not have to be a preacher to have a Bible reading in your church. If you have a church and do not have any pastor, have a Bible reading during the Sabbath worship service. Well, somebody says what should we study? We will go over that tonight. Ellen White lists the things to study. There is so much to study. There is so much to study, why, anyone of you, if you are here tonight, when we get through and I show you what Ellen White says we can study in church, you will find out that there is enough material that every single one of you can have a Bible study with a home church from now on, as long as you live, and never study the same thing twice; you have got plenty of material. That is not the problem. However, I will give you a problem.
We have been told that every time we come to worship there are certain things that we should study. And that, for any preacher who has a sensitive conscience, that is something that weighs on your mind. Am I covering all the bases that God wants me to cover every time I meet with God's people to worship? For instance, we are not to worship together without making an appeal for people who are sinners to forsake their sins and follow Christ. Did you know that? We have been given divine counsel on that. We are not just to get together and just study anything we think about from the Bible, we are to ask the question, what must I do to be saved? What must you do to be saved?
When you go out from here, will you be in a saved condition? Have you made a full surrender to the Lord? We have also been told that in every discourse, every time we meet together to study in God's house for our worship service, in every sermon, every discourse, every time we have a Bible study there is one subject that we are never to leave out, it is always to be included. In fact, there is more than one subject that Ellen White lists that should always be included, but I am only going to mention one. This is never to be left out when you come together and worship. She calls it by two names, she refers to it in one place as practical religion and in another place she calls it practical godliness. She said we are never to leave that out, we are always to study about that every time we come to worship. Do you know what it is? What is practical godliness? Well, what is practical religion?
Let me read to you a statement which might help you to understand what it is. This is Testimonies, vol. 3, 237, "As did our Saviour in His teachings to see the necessity of religious principle and righteousness in every day life." Practical godliness has to do with the way I live every day, at home, on the job, wherever I am. How am I living, what am I thinking, what am I feeling, how am I speaking, how am I acting? Is it in harmony with the character of Christ? That is practical godliness. That is practical religion. We are never to meet together to worship without studying that subject.
Now that is not a problem, because you cannot read much from the Bible without getting into that subject. Now suppose we were meeting today to worship and we were in a church and we have no pastor and so you are responsible for the church service, you are responsible to help the people in this church for church service, and you say well I cannot preach. Listen, can you talk? Can you read? If you can talk and you can read, you can have a Bible study and that is all that is necessary. In fact, I could read to you, Ellen White told our preachers we are doing too much preaching. She said you would be better off, (she was talking to preachers, people that were used to preaching and knew how to prepare sermons and study theology) she said you are preaching too much. It would be better for you, if when you went to church you just had a Bible class.
Suppose we had a Bible class for about ten minutes on the subject of practical godliness. Are there any passages of Scripture that come to your mind? What was the greatest sermon ever preached? The "Sermon on the Mount." Have you ever read through that sermon in Matthew 5-7 to see what is the subject? Do you know what the subject is? The whole sermon is about practical godliness, the whole sermon. That is what the whole thing is about. You do not find anything in there about prophecy and all those theoretical doctrinal things; it is just practical godliness. So you could just go into Matthew 5, 6, and 7. By the way, could that sermon help us in our homes and our home churches and places where there were no pastors if we got together at church and studied that sermon? Oh, that would be a wonderful way to spend several Sabbaths by having Bible studies on the "Sermon on the Mount."
Turn in your Bible to Matthew 5, see how practical it is. I was studying about this yesterday; I could never study this chapter without doing a lot of heart searching. Notice what it says in verse 44. This has to do with practical godliness. This could be one of your Scripture texts. (By the way, a lot of preachers have to preach sermons that they do not have a lot of time to prepare and they do not have time to time it and say how long it will be. My brother Marshall and I were talking about this and he said, well I have found out if you are a Bible preacher, if you ask questions and you have the Bible texts to answer the questions in a sermon, you have time to go through about twelve to fifteen texts at the most.) So you just put that down, if you are in a home church and you do not have any preacher and you have to prepare a Bible study, you do not need a hundred texts. Ten to fifteen is all you need on the subject.
This could be one right here--Matthew 5:44. "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." Is that practical? Very practical. Does it have to do with godliness? it certainly does. If you do this, Jesus says in the next verses "then you will be my Father's children." You will be a godly people and be my Father's children. The teachings of Jesus are just crammed full of lessons on practical godliness. I was thinking I had so many things down here on practical godliness we could spend till 1:00 P.M.
How about what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 25:31-46. That is about when He comes in the clouds of heaven and He is going to separate the righteous from the wicked as the sheep from the goats and what is the whole issue about that determines whether you are saved or lost. What is the whole issue about? It is all over practical godliness. That is the whole issue. That is the issue that determines whether you are saved or lost. Read it yourself. Matthew 25:31-46, that could be one of your texts if you are going to have a Bible study on practical godliness.
By the way, you could have a Bible study on practical godliness every Sabbath for a year and you would never run out of material. You would have more and more and more, the more you started studying it the more it would start opening up to your mind and you would have more and more material. Here is an interesting passage on practical godliness. Practical godliness is not something that happens in an instant, it is something that takes time.
Look at 2 Peter, chapter 1. Here is a passage you could read in a Bible study on practical godliness. It says, starting in verse 5, "But also for this very reason giving all diligence add to your faith, virtue to virtue, knowledge, to knowledge, self-control to self-control, perseverance, to perseverance, godliness to godliness, brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness, love."
He goes on to say that if you do this, you are going to be saved, you are going to have salvation. He mentions godliness right there; this is called Peter's ladder. It is very practical. The top rung of the ladder is love. Do you know what love is? To understand what practical godliness is means to understand what God's love is like and to partake of that love in my life. 1 Corinthians 13 tries to explain to you what it is like. Could you do a Bible study on 1 Corinthians 13 for a church service so that people will understand what practical godliness is? Oh, yes, you could.
The Bible is just full of illustrations and stories and examples on this subject and we should study this every time when we worship together. We should be studying practical godliness, not just theory, not just doctrine, but practical things. This, my friends, is what will determine, at the end, whether or not you are saved. Did you receive a change of heart that had an actual affect in your life?
Well, if the Lord wills, this evening, I will show you how you can organize a church and specify what the Lord has told us to study on Sabbath morning; how to have a Sabbath school. Friends, do you have a vision of what God wants you to see and do? I wonder if there are any people right here that God is getting you ready to start a church somewhere? You know, friends, Christians are not to just congregate in one place and build a bigger church and a bigger church and bigger church. That is not the purpose of the Christian religion. The Christians are to scatter out and build more and more and more smaller churches. If we ever forget that, we are doomed to destruction.
A church that starts centering on itself fails to grow and starts to die. Our message is to reach the whole world and we should never be ashamed if we are a part of a two member church or a four member or a six member church that is getting started. A part of every church is the plan of evangelism; to evangelize the people in that community.
Friends, are you experiencing practical godliness in your life like we have been reading about in Matthew 5 and 2 Peter 1? Is that part of your experience? Or has your religious experience just been a profession and that is all there is to it? You know, profession is not worth anything unless you have the character that backs it up. Jesus wants to give you that character, He wants to give you the strength to do what is right, to think what is right, to feel what is right, to be transformed in character.
If you understand this subject of practical godliness, then God can use you to start churches anywhere in the world that He might send you. In the day of judgment, when everything is over, and you look at the record, how many churches will this church have started? How many? Well, we will find out someday. But I would like it to be many, wouldn't you? If we are going to help people all over the world to start churches, we must be doing the same thing we are helping others to do. The gospel is aggressive. God wants to use you to reach others that right now are lost in sin.
Everyone of us here can look back into the past and can remember a time when if somebody had not brought to us the precious truth about Jesus and His soon coming, what would have happened to us? We would have been left in the dark. There are still some people out there, friends. They are not going to drive one hundred or maybe not even fifty miles to go to a church. If we are going to save them somebody is going to have to start some churches closer to where they are. I want to be one of those used by God to find these people and help them to be saved. How about you? Every larger church, like this one, is to be used of God to help start other churches all around. Do not worry about if they do not have pastors. If they have people who understand what practical godliness is, God will be able to use them to help others be saved.
Do you want to be used by the Lord to help finish His work in the world? There is a world out there and everyone of you can have a great reward if we cooperate with Jesus in saving the lost. Part of that cooperation involves starting many home churches around the country. Are there home churches that still need to be started in Kansas? Let me tell you, friends, I could show you places in Kansas where, if you live right now, you would have to drive many miles to be in a historic Seventh-day Adventist church. Many miles. Do you think that God would like that situation to be changed? He would.
You do not have to have buildings and hundreds of thousands of dollars and preachers and salaries and all those things to do it. You have to understand practical godliness. You have be experiencing sanctification yourself and understand what the Bible teaches and then share your faith with somebody else. You can start a home church. If you have two, you can start one. We will see more how that works tonight. Do you want to be used by God to finish the work in Kansas, as well as everywhere else? Let us kneel down and pray that the Lord will use us to do this.