Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Will Build My Church!, Part 4

Now that we have seen where the word church is first mentioned in the Scripture and how Jesus defined this new program, let’s fast forward about a year from Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16. The disciples are not in Caesarea Philippi but in Jerusalem. Jesus is no longer with them but He has died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended to the Father. Before He left His disciples, He told them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit who will indwell them (Acts 1:8).

In Acts 2, we find some 120 men and women waiting in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit comes. Luke tells us that “there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind…and there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them” (Acts 2:2-3).

After the Holy Spirit filled each individual, they became witnesses for Jesus Christ in Jerusalem as described in Acts 1:8: “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses….”

This new movement spilled out in the streets of Jerusalem and the disciples began sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. We find an exemplary model of their witness in Peter’s message in Acts 2:14ff. Peter, who just a few months prior had denied Christ, now stands before the Jewish people and proclaims the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

After Peter delivers his first sermon, Luke tells us that 3000 souls were saved (Acts 1:41). What’s happening? Jesus is building His church as He predicted in Matthew 16. I find this fascinating! 3000 people were saved and added to the body of Christ! No committees, no programs, no ministries, no youth groups, no church building, no church constitution or bylaws, no board of leaders, no lead pastor, no Awana program, no Sunday school. Nothing but the message of Jesus Christ!

Just as Jesus said: “I will build My Church!”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Will Build My Church!, Part 3

Jesus replied, “…upon this rock [Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah] I will build My church” Matthew 16:18.

The last word of Jesus’ statement is church. This is the first time the word church is mentioned in the Bible. The Greek word for church is ekklesia which is a compound word from ek, which means “out, from,” and kaleo, which means “to call.” Putting the two elements together, the word refers to those who have been “called out” from the world.

In other words, the church is a distinct, unique body of people who have been called out for a specific purpose. What is it about North Hills Baptist that sets us apart from everything else? What makes us unique? I believe the answer is found in Exodus 33.

In Exodus 33, Moses has realized the difficulty of leading people with all their flaws. The people have rebelled, complained, and fallen into near mutiny against their leader. Though Moses understood his mission, he was not willing to continue on unless there was one assurance: God’s presence!

“Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me… Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight… And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:12-17).

What should set the church apart from everything else: God’s presence with us! It matters not the size of our church or the look of the building or the charisma of its leaders or the money in the bank or our ministries. Our success will be found in whether our God is with us! This is the only thing that counts and will make us unique—that “His going is with us.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Will Build My Church!, Part 2

Several weeks ago we examined Peter’s confession of Christ in Matthew 16. When Jesus questioned His disciples about the community’s perspective of Himself, they responded that the people saw Jesus as nothing more than a great teacher or prophet.

But it is Peter’s confession that changed the entire conversation. Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus commended Peter on his confession and explained how a new program would be built on that confession: the church!

“…upon this rock [this confession of Jesus as the Messiah] I will build My church” Matthew 16:18.

We looked at the first two words of Jesus statement last time. Let’s look at the two more. The third word is build. The building of the church is a process which will take place over time. Christ is still building His church until He comes again for the saints. The church is an organism as much as it is an organization. The church has leadership, committees, strategies, and ministries. But more importantly, it is an organism. It breathes, pulsates, and moves. It is fluid and dynamic. It grows and changes in response to the power of the Holy Spirit.

The fourth word is My. This first person possessive pronoun asserts ownership and authority. There are several analogies in the Bible to describe Jesus’ position in the church. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He is the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6). He is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22, 23). The church originated with Christ and belongs to Him. Not to anyone else!

Let us keep Christ at the center of everything we do!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Will Build My Church!

What is the church? The word is first mentioned in Matthew 16. Interestingly, it was not Peter or any of the other apostles who used the word. It was Jesus!

In the context of Matthew 16, Jesus takes his disciples into the Gentile area of Caesarea Philippi. Once arriving in the area, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13).

Here we find Peter’s great confession of our Lord. He says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” There were many times where Peter blew it, but at this moment, he nailed it!

Jesus blesses Peter’s confession and explains how His program which will be built on Peter’s confession. In other words, Jesus says, “Peter, you nailed it with your confession about Me. I am the Messiah and I will do a work through you that you could never fathom. On your statement, “I am the Christ, the Son of the living God,” I will build My church and no demon in hell will stop it. Against all odds, it will prevail! No enemy will destroy it, no circumstance will deter it, and no person will change it. What I have established will take place.”

This is truly awesome! The church is the Lord’s program. Notice several nuggets from Jesus’ words: “I will build my church.” First, the first person pronoun I. Jesus is the author and originator of the church. It was His idea and program. The church is not built on a leader, committee, or a pastor. The church will go on regardless who is standing behind the pulpit. Praise God!

The second word is will. The word will looks to the future. At the time that Jesus spoke these words, He had not completed His mission: death on the cross. The church was still a future phase that would be established on the death of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection.

We will look at two more words next week.