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The Signs of a Healthy Church

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					                The Signs of a Healthy Church

                       Matthew 12:22-37

I. Introduction

   A. Now

      (1) How many of you have ever contracted the flu? Your
          head aches, your body aches, and even your hair hurts.
          Your throat gets sore, and you can't swallow. Your
          sinuses are so swollen that your face feels like it is
          going to pop. You just can't wait to get to the doctor
          and hopefully receive so help for your condition. Your
          body is just not in good shape. You're not healthy
          (Personal Observation).
      (2) So, obviously, there are some signs of an unhealthy
          body, but most of us would agree that there are also
          signs of a healthy body—a normal blood pressure, a
          normal body temperature, and normal chemical levels
          as well, just to name a few.
      (3) The question is however, are there signs that a church is
          healthy?

   B. Then

      (1) Well, in Matthew 12:22-37, we find the answer to that
          question.
      (2) In this passage, the hypocritical Pharisees accuse Jesus
          of being demon-possessed, but Jesus quickly points out
          the fallacy of their claims, indicating that they in fact
          have sinned against the Holy Spirit.
      (3) But in this correction of the Pharisees, the church
          discovers some signs of a healthy church.

   C. Always


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       (1) In revealing those signs to his listeners, Jesus
           emphasized the point that division destroys while
           obedience produces.
       (2) How can we avoid destruction, become more obedient,
           and produce the way that we should?
       (3) I want to share three actions with you that will answer
           that question—first, seek unity.

   D. Read Matthew 12:22-29.

II. Seek Unity.

   A. Exposition

       (1) The man brought to Jesus was suffering from blindness
           and muteness, but the wording in the Greek indicates
           that these two disorders were being caused by his
           demon-possession (v. 22; EBC, CD-ROM).
       (2) Jesus supernaturally healed the man, leading to the
           astonishment of the crowd, who asked skeptically about
           Jesus and his messiah-ship (v. 23; NAC, 201).
       (3) The Pharisees responded by accusing Jesus of getting
           his power from Beelzebul (v. 24).

          (a) Beelzebul literally means "lord of the flies," but the
              Jewish leaders used the term to sarcastically refer to
              the "lord of the temple" or god of the people of
              Ekron in 2 Kings 1:2 (GNFM, 111).
          (b) So, what they were saying was that Jesus was
              getting his power from the prince of demons, Satan
              (Ibid.).

       (4) Jesus countered them first with logic, indicating that
           any internal conflict within a country, town, or family
           eventually tears the entity in question apart (vv. 25-26;
           Ibid.; NAC, 202).


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       (a) Demon-possession promoted the cause of Satan,
           and it would be destructive then to Satan if he was
           casting out his allies (NAC, 202).

   (5) Jesus also challenged their practices by pointing out
       that the Pharisees and their followers had also been
       casting out demons (v. 27).

       (a) Obviously, if Jesus was getting his power to
           perform a similar practice from Satan, it stood to
           reason that their power came from the same source
           (Ibid.).

   (6) Jesus then used a short parable (v. 29) to explain the
       purpose for the exorcism.

       (a) The "strong man" represented Satan, and for Jesus
           to heal this man spiritually, physically, and
           emotionally, then the "strong man" had to be "tied"
           up (Ibid., 203).
       (b) Since Satan would not do this to himself, Jesus must
           be acting through a power with more authority than
           Satan, which of course meant God.

B. Illustration

   (1) This response from Jesus is logical, for a body divided
       against itself will ultimately fall. Our human bodies are
       great examples of this truth. God has made us a finely
       tuned musical instrument so to speak. Each of us is like
       a harp with a thousand strings, and when each part of
       our bodies is performing properly, then harmonious
       music is the result. But this instrument known as our
       body is exceedingly liable to go wrong. The least thing
       spoils its tune like a virus, bacterial infection, injury,
       etc. (Pulpit Helps, "Blended for Harmony," Religion,
       Church).

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   C. Application

       (1) This idea is also true for the body of Christ, the church
           (Pulpit Helps).
       (2) As the members of his body, we are diverse in our
           make-up and abilities, but at the same time, duty bound
           to blend our differences to produce harmony (Ibid.).
       (3) This harmonious sound will attract others to our doors
           as opposed to repelling them (Ibid.).
       (4) Most of us would not listen or be drawn to a symphony
           orchestra that was playing off tune, and likewise, the
           lost are drawn to a supposed community of believers
           that typically are defined by sounds of grumbling,
           griping, and quarreling (Ibid.).
       (5) Therefore, we cannot allow petty differences, personal
           preferences, or traditions to cause strife within the
           church as we actively seek to minister to those outside
           our walls.
       (6) We must be willing to make whatever personal
           sacrifices necessary in order to maintain the forward,
           progressive direction of our church.
       (7) And yet, unity is only one sign of a healthy church, for
           a healthy church will also display obedience.

   D. Read Matthew 12:30-32.

III. Display Obedience.

   A. Exposition

       (1) Jesus made it very clear that there is no room for
           neutrality, for either one is for him or against him (v.
           30; NAC, 203).
       (2) When the Pharisees attributed the power of Jesus to
           Satan, they were charged by Jesus with blasphemy (v.
           31).


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       (a) Blasphemy is not a direct verbal attack on God, or
           cursing God, and cannot be committed in ignorance
           (GNFM, 112).
       (b) Blasphemy is when someone receives direct
           revelation from God, but they reject or do not
           accept that revelation (Ibid.).

   (3) This sin is condemned as unforgivable by Jesus, for if
       the Pharisees rejected the Holy Spirit of God found in
       Jesus, then there was no one left who could forgive
       them of their sins and provide salvation (NAC, 204).
   (4) The Pharisees perceived that the ministry of Jesus was
       powered by the Spirit of God, but for whatever
       reason—jealousy, spite, arrogance—they accredited the
       work to Satan and rejected Jesus (v. 32).

B. Illustration

   (1) Just like the Pharisees, people in our culture are
       rejecting Jesus, the only source of salvation, for various
       reasons as well. Some years ago, I had the privilege of
       viewing the Titanic exhibit at the Pyramid in Memphis.
       While viewing the various artifacts that had been
       recaptured from the depths of the Atlantic, I was struck
       by the fact that those "things" actually belonged to real
       people. At the same time, I was inspired as I listened
       through the headphones that were a part of the exhibit
       to the stories of heroism that occurred amidst the chaos
       that night. Many individuals refused to take seats on
       the life boats, opting instead to give their seats to others
       or to remain with their spouses. As you may recall,
       over 1,500 perished due to the lack of lifeboats on the
       "unsinkable" ship. Now, if there had been enough life
       boats, how would we view the refusal to board and be
       spared then? (Personal Observation).

C. Application

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      (1) We would think someone was crazy if they selected to
          die when a completely provided plan of safety was in
          place.
      (2) Isn't the rejection of Christ and eternal salvation that he
          offers a similar situation, but far more serious?
      (3) The same standard applies to the church, for remember,
          we are talking about a healthy church.
      (4) A healthy church, just like the Pharisees, cannot be
          neutral about where we stand.
      (5) Therefore, if we have accepted Christ as our Savior,
          then we must accept his standard for living found in his
          Holy Word.
      (6) To have his Word and not be faithful to it is the
          equivalent of the Pharisees having truth in their midst
          and not accepting it.
      (7) A healthy church is one that displays obedience to the
          commands of God, for that is the evidence that we in
          fact have accepted Christ.
      (8) By being obedient, then we can accomplish the outward
          sign of our conversion, which is the production of godly
          actions—produce results.

   D. Read Matthew 12:33-37.

IV. Produce Results.

   A. Exposition

      (1) Jesus used the analogy of a "tree" and its "fruit" as
          evidence that the criticisms of the Pharisees reflected
          their evil hearts (v. 33; GNFM, 112).
      (2) He then drove the point home by calling them a "brood
          of vipers" revealing that he believed his accusers where
          in deed bad fruit from a bad tree (v. 34; NAC, 205).
      (3) The overflow of our heart, our true identity, will be
          witnessed by what comes out of our mouths (vv. 34-35;
          EBC, CD-ROM).

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   (4) Those who are evil in their hearts will not escape
       "judgment," and in fact, God will judge even the
       "careless" words that are spoken by all "people" (v. 36;
       NAC, 205).
   (5) The only words that we can speak as God's children in
       order to be "acquitted" is that we have received Christ
       as our Savior leading us to understand the importance
       of what is said (v. 37; EBC, CD-ROM).

B. Illustration

   (1) Have you ever squeezed too much toothpaste onto your
       toothbrush? Then, did you try to squeeze it back into
       the tube? That reminds me of he old proverb, "Three
       things once released will not return again: an
       opportunity neglected, an arrow released from its bow,
       and a word spoken in haste." Now, we can add the
       fourth, toothpaste squeezed from a tube. We could
       spend the next six months drawing lessons from this
       familiar proverb, for sometimes in our efforts to say
       exactly the right thing at the right time, we speak words
       in haste. Many times, I have wished to be able to recall
       some words that I released. Those are the words that I
       released without weighing how each could and would
       be interpreted by the receiver. Perhaps the old preacher
       was right when he said, "God has given us two ears and
       one mouth—that ought to tell us something" (Pulpit
       Helps, "Squeezing Toothpaste," General, Works).

C. Application

   (1) Jesus made it very clear—a good tree will produce
       good results.
   (2) A healthy church then is one that is constantly
       producing acts that would please God.
   (3) Many times those acts are represented by the words that
       escape our lips.

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      (4) Each time a member of our church opens up his or her
          mouth, fruit is being produced. The vital question is:
          "What type?"
      (5) When we speak, we must make sure that we are free
          from any form of obscene language, gossip, or slander.
      (6) We must make sure that our words are not negative or
          critical, but are only those things that are for the
          building up and encouragement of the church.
      (7) When we speak, if the words are positive and
          encouraging, then we have some evidence that our
          church is on the road to good health.

V. Conclusion

   A. Summary

      (1) Through this passage, we find that a healthy church is
          unified, obedient, and productive.
      (2) For Jesus taught that division destroys while
          obedience produces.




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