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Why I Love the Church?

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I Love the Church

I make that statement because I believe it. I really do love the church. In fact, I am a pastor today because I love the church.
I grew up in a ministry family. We were literally in church every time the doors opened. I grew up going to Sunday School in the morning and Training Union on Sunday evenings, with Royal Ambassadors and church suppers on Wednesday night before prayer meeting.
I have served the church in some capacity for the last 38 years. That’s why I love volunteer service in the church.
How many of you here today are volunteers in some ministry of this church? [stand] Our church literally could not function without volunteer service. Thank you all for the many different ways that you serve this church.
This week, I am not preaching on a sermon that Jesus gave, but a conversation that He had with His disciples. Specifically this conversation was with the Apostle Peter...
Matthew 16:13–18 NASB95
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
[pray]
Father God, we come before You today lifting Your name on high. You are Who we praise and Who we desire Lord. Father, we ask that you would forgive us today for the ways that we practice church imperfectly… for ways that we fail to live up to your expectations for Your people. We submit our ways to You God and we aim to walk in the proper path that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior set before us. Father, I ask that you would grant me clarity of mind, precision of speech, and a heart for your people as I bring your message today. Amen
I say that “I love the church,” because I believe in it! Even though the church isn’t perfect. I have not found a perfect church yet.
I also love the church, because I believe in Jesus and Jesus founded the church. That’s what we were just reading about in the book of Matthew. This event documented Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. When Peter made this simple statement, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he was really making a bold claim. Peter may have been surprised at the words coming from his mouth.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever had a moment of clarity and said something so profound that you may not have even fully realized or understood the impact of what you were saying?
Peter did just that. He was proclaiming that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the deliverer of Israel, and that He was the very Son of God! This claim made publicly would eventually have him crucified.
Matthew 16:18 NASB95
18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
This passage is called Peter’s Confession of Christ, and it is an important passage just for this statement alone, but greater still this passage records the foundation of the church. Jesus founded the church. He believed in the church. And, ultimately, He died for the church. The very same church that you and I are a part of today.

The Church is in Difficult Days

However, the church has fallen on difficult times these days, hasn’t it?
We are beginning to see a general disdain for and a volatile attitude toward the church in the public marketplace.
There are activist movements at work in the USA today to discredit, disrupt, and destroy the church:
The tax exempt status of the church is in jeopardy as a growing public voice begins to call this tax benefit into question. I don’t know of many churches that could survive such a move toward taxation.
The LBGT movement is beginning to set their eyes on churches in their attempt to change our way of doing things through lawsuits and legislation.
We are seeing reports that 2/3’s of youth that grow up in the church drift away for some period of time after they leave home and begin independent life as adults. They even have a name for this group that has left the church, “Dones.”
Many churches struggle to survive financially since giving among younger generations is down compared to previous generations. Also as congregations age, churches across the country are failing to develop a new generation of disciples to support the church through giving, volunteer service, and active participation in the church.
Difficult days indeed.
I believe that many of these attacks on the church are a result of two things...
The church is not living up to its mandate and is actually existing in a state that is contrary to the teachings of God’s Word through Jesus Christ and the apostles. We can see this echoed in the Book of the Revelation as John describes the messages given to the seven churches.
The world culture is growing much more secular as we progress toward the return of Jesus Christ. Many of those who attend church today run around looking for the perfect church. They are looking for an experience that gives them warm feelings inside rather than an encounter with the living God.
But we must stick to our calling and depend upon Jesus Christ as our Shepherd and head of the local church. That was my decision as a youth. I determined what I believed and I chose to actively engage in the church.
Colossians 1:18 states clearly that Jesus is the head of the church...
Colossians 1:18 NASB95
18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Just as the head leads the body, Jesus still leads the church today. We know that as the head of the church, Jesus is perfect. But the body is not! Why is that? Because the body of the church is you and me. We are just sinners saved by Grace, are we not? While we have Christ in us, we are mere human flesh, which is often controlled by sin and selfishness.
I have never found a perfect church. Have you? The church won’t be perfect until Jesus comes back to us to claim his place and set things straight.
John tells us in 1 John 3:2 that “we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
It won’t be until that moment—the moment that we see Jesus—that the church will become perfect in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Christians often forget that we are representatives of Christ here on earth until He returns to us. We the Church are the only Christ that people will ever see. We are His hands, His feet, His arms, His legs. We are His body. WE are the church!
But often times we get caught up in our own feelings and our own ambitions. There are times that we put ourselves before the needs of the church and the needs of others. Because that is the message that we hear in the world today.
But scripture tells us to…
Philippians 2:3–4 NASB95
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
THIS is what the church should look like, rather than arguments and condemnation and tearing down others.
The original word for “church” in the original Greek is ekklesia, which, in simple terms, means a congregation or assembly, but at a deeper level means “called out ones.”
Called Out Ones - The church is made up of those whom Jesus has called out of death into life. Out of blindness into sight. Out of lostness into foundness! That’s the Church! People who have been called out of the world into Christ. That’s the Church.
The problem isn’t with the Church. The Problem is what we have done to the Church. Many, many churches have lost Jesus’ purpose and mission and intention for what His Body was and is supposed to be. Many of these “dones” have left the church because they have been wounded by a church that has overstepped its authority. OR they have found churches that weaken the word of God by teaching a watered down Gospel.
It’s like the teenager who suddenly decides to clean up his room. His mother walks in and says, “Who are you and what have you done with my son?”
I’ve often thought that someday when Jesus comes to receive His Church He might first say, “ Who are you and what have you done with my Church?”
This morning I want to take you right back to the beginning. To the source. To what Jesus had to say about the Church when He founded it.

What Did Jesus Say About the Church?

Now let me set the stage for what Jesus said about the church. Matthew tells us that Jesus was with his disciples in Caesarea Philippi and he asks them, “Who do men say that I am?”
Caesarea Phillipi was about 120 miles from Jerusalem in the northern part of Palestine. The area had a strong identity with many different religions including Baal worship, shrines to the Greek god, Pan, and Herod had built a temple there to honour Augustus Caesar, the Roman emperor.
So it was right here in the midst of all this pantheistic culture that we see Jesus bring up the issue of His identity.
In modern language, Jesus is asking the disciples “What’s the word out on the street? Who do people think that I am?”
So Peter responds with three things He has heard:

Who do men say that I am?

A Great Preacher - Some say you are John the Baptist. ...But John was killed by Herod. So many confused people thought that Jesus might be John raised from the dead.
A Great Person - Some say you are Elijah. ...But Jesus worked very differently from the way that Elijah did.
A Great Prophet - Some say you are Jeremiah, or some othe prophet. Jeremiah was another well known prophet, whose heart broke at the sight of decay in the nation of Israel. And certainly some saw similarities in Jesus, who was also known as the Man of Sorrows.
Principle: A public survey will never reveal Christ, the Messiah.
It is not important what other people say about Jesus. In fact, Jesus was really introducing the subject for the purpose of learning what the disciples themselves thought and believed about His identity.
Peter’s confession was exactly what Jesus was looking for.
There is no doubt that a proper confession of Jesus’ identity is central and basic to salvation.
Romans 10:9–10 NASB95
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

Who do YOU say that I am?

Finally Jesus asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” [ding ding ding ding ding]
The Bible doesn't say it, but I can't help but thinking that Peter might have been surprised at the words that came out of his mouth.
Peter is saying here that Jesus is the Messiah, the long expected redeemer of Israel.
Jesus’ immediate response was, “That’s right Peter, but you didn’t figure this out by yourself. My Father who is in heaven revealed it to you.”
Here is the one thing that you need to know about the theology of revelation (not the book, the act of revelation).
Truth: Only God can reveal truth about Himself.
We cannot discover or disclose any truth about God without His first revealing Himself to us. We cannot get to it by studying really hard. Not through the study of philosophy, science, astronomy, religions of the world… NOTHING! We can only get to the truth of God if He chooses to reveal Himself to each of us individually.
This is what Jesus was saying to Peter. “God revealed this truth to you.”
Jesus is telling us about the Church that He is establishing. He tells us three very important things about it: It has a founder, it has a foundation and it has a future.

I. JESUS, THE FOUNDER OF THE CHURCH

We can see in verse 18 that Jesus clearly says “I will build my church.”
When we talk about churches and pastors and elders, we sometimes say that “the pastor under-shepherd of the church.” What we mean by this is that the church does not belong to the pastor or the deacons or the people who gave money. You don’t buy shares in the church to give you prestige and power.
The church belongs to Jesus. Pastors just have the job of working alongside Jesus and under His leadership in the local church.
Think about the wonder of Jesus as the founder of the Church. The wonder is that He was both fully human and fully Divine. He was God in the flesh.... GOD in the FLESH! Who of us really understands that? But it is what the Bible says. That’s what Jesus is talking about when He refers to himself as both the Son of Man and the Son of God
We’ll never understand this fully on this side of heaven. If we could understand it, it would strip off the mystery for us, destroying its majesty and it would reduce God down to the level of our limited human minds.
Jesus was not only a man of God but the God/man.
Jesus was not only the human Son of Man, he was divine Son of God.
Jesus was so human that He could be born in a stable but also He was so Divine that angels came to announce His birth.
Jesus was so human that He could get tired and lay down in a boat while crossing the Sea of Galilee yet He was so Divine that He could speak to the storm and hush the wind and the waves.
Jesus was so human He could go to a mountain to pray at night yet so divine that He spoke those very mountains into existence.
Jesus was so human that He could weep at the tomb of His friend Lazarus but so Divine that He could say “Come Forth’ in order to raise Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus was so human that he could die on a cross and yet so divine that three days later He conquered death and rose again.
This Jesus is the one who founded the Church. Fully Human and fully Divine and He said He would build His Church. Jesus never said He would do something that He didn’t do. I believe that Jesus is doing exactly what He said He would do. He’s building his church even now! That’s why we still see people coming to know Jesus as Savior today.
Some ask “Why is Jesus taking so long to return?” I say it is because He is still drawing people to His side. He is still building His church. The Bible makes it clear that the end will not come until all the world has had a chance to turn to Jesus. And this is still happening today.
Jesus will build and grow His Church wherever He finds fertile soil in which to grow it:
Wherever He finds people who will cling to Him, confess Him, trust Him, follow Him and obey Him, He will build His Church.
Wherever He finds people who will look unselfishly to the needs of others and not just themselves, He will build His Church.
When He finds a people who are willing to battle against all the ineffective religious traditions of today, He will build His Church.
When you think about it Jesus did outlandish things for His day. He did things that shocked the religious establishment of His Day. He went to dinner in the homes of outcasts. When asked why, he said it isn’t the well who need a physician, but the sick. Because Jesus was willing to color outside of the lines and go against the traditions of men. He reached those sinners, prostitutes, tax-collectors, adulterers with the life-changing message of the Gospel.

Why aren’t we willing to do the same?

Do you know where Jesus is building His church today in America?
He’s building it in places where people have stopped being concerned with what the religious establishment thinks about them and they are focusing on obeying Christ and doing whatever it takes to reach people with the Good News of Salvation.
Jesus didn’t intend to be the founder of a community of respectable people. He intended to establish a hospital where He, the Great physician, can do His saving and restoring and healing work!
People complain that the church is full of broken people. I say “Good!” Because the church is where broken people will get well. The only path to healing and restoration is through the work of Jesus Christ. And when we are being the church, we welcome broken and hurting people into our presence.
I believe in the church because Jesus is the Hope of the world and the church is His Body! We are His Body!
Jesus is not only the founder of the church, he is...

II. JESUS, THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH

The Church also has a foundation upon which Jesus is building.
Look back at verse 15… [don’t read]
Matthew 16:15–17 NASB95
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Jesus asked “who do you say that I am?” Peter responded to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then in vs. 18 Jesus made a statement that has become one of the most misunderstood and misused statements in the entire Bible.
Matthew 16:18–20 NASB95
18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
Jesus said, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it."
Some have mistakenly used verse 18 to teach that Jesus was establishing Peter as the head of the church, placing him as the first Pope of the Catholic church. They are looking specifically at verse 18 where Jesus uses Simon’s nickname “Peter” and then follows it saying “upon this rock I will build My church.”
There are some huge problems with that line of teaching:
The church is not built upon the foundation of a man. (How shaky would that foundation be? Just look at Peter and all the mistakes he made. How could something like the church be founded upon a man?)
The Roman Catholic church was not even established until about seven centuries after Christ’s death on the cross. So Peter never could have been installed as the first Pope of the Catholic Church.
The real problem with this line of teaching is that Jesus was really saying something completely different. Look at verse 18 again. It says, “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church.”
Matthew 16:18 NASB95
18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
That sounds pretty straightforward. Doesn’t it? After all, Peter means rock in Greek.
Simon’s Hebrew name, his given name, is “Simon.” But his friends, when speaking Greek, called him “Petros.” When they were speaking Aramaic, they called him “Cephas.” Both words carry the same meaning, “rock.”
So basically Simon’s friends call him “Rocky.” But we’ve adapted the name “Peter” from the Greek instead of “Rocky” in the English version of the Bible. Go figure.
The Greek word Πέτρος [petros] is used for an ordinary rock like you might find lying around somewhere on the ground. However, when Jesus says “upon this rock” he uses the word πέτρᾳ [petra]. This is a completely different word that sounds quite similar. Petra is generally used to indicate a much larger rock, like bedrock or a large boulder, or even an outcropping of rock on the side of a cliff.
This word petra indicates the kind of stone that might be used as a foundation stone, or cornerstone for a large building rather than some random rock or pebble lying on the side of the road.
Incidentally, Jesus described himself as “the cornerstone,” referring back to Psalm 118:22 [also important Isaiah 28:16-17]. This is quoted in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
So what’s really happening here in verse 18 is that Jesus is making a play on words. He’s saying “Simon, you may be a chip off the old block. Your friends may call you ‘Rocky’ but I am going to build my church upon the true foundation—something much greater.”
Jesus is saying “I am going to build my church upon myself, Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the true and living Son of God, the cornerstone.”
We don’t catch that nuance in any of our English Bible translations. We have to go directly back to the original Greek to truly catch what Jesus is saying here.
Furthermore Jesus is actually implying that the church will be built upon the confession of Christ as the Son of the Living God. THIS is the Gospel, that Christ is saying that the church will be built upon.
Peter had stumbled upon a truth that Jesus wanted to emphasize.
Truth: The church is built upon the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, the foundation stone.

What is this Gospel?

If you are new to church, you may be looking around thinking to yourself, “What is this Gospel?”
It is simply this: Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who came to die for our sins and release us from the bondage of sin that we might have a personal relationship with God.
If you have been looking for that personal relationship with God, you may have it freely by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
If you hear this message and accept it, and choose to believe it, and declare that Jesus is your Lord, then YOU WILL BE SAVED. The Gospel is that simple.
Should you choose to take that step, then right here today you will be living proof that Jesus is still building His church upon the confession of Christ as the Living Son of God.

Conclusion

Today you have the opportunity to make that choice for Jesus and make the same confession of faith that Peter made with Jesus.
This decision for Christ may be the most important decision of your life.
Who do you say Christ is?
What will you do with this information that you have learned today?
Today we are talking about the gospel. We are talking about what Jesus wanted for his church. We are talking about what Jesus wanted for you!
If you have heard the message of Jesus Christ before and have rejected his offer of eternal life, you are here today because the living and active Son of God is looking for you. He wants you to listen to this message.
The truth is that you do not have to be perfect to come to Jesus. None of us was perfect and we are still not perfect. We are in the process.
Jesus wants you to come to him as you are, shattered and ready for a new life with him.
I stand here as a representative of Jesus Christ, the living Son of God, and I invite you to make a decision that will change your life forever ... if you allow it.
Close your eyes for a moment ... Everyone here, stay still and close your eyes.
I'm not going to ask you to walk here before God and everyone. I just want you quietly in your seat to open your heart and do business directly with Jesus.
Are you calling today?
If so, then open your heart to Him and simply say these words:
Jesus, I believe in you.
Jesus, please forgive my sins.
Jesus, will you save me?
Jesus, I am committed to you and I am in your care.
I call you my Lord and Savior.
Amen ... keep your eyes closed for a moment more
If you just repeated that simple sentence after me, then congratulations. Now you are part of the great and glorious church of Jesus that he is building. I call you brother, sister, friend.
Raise your hand and let me know if you just pray that prayer.
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