Chuck Allen // @achuckallen // firstname.lastname@example.org
Church – That’s a loaded term – CHURCH!
To some of you, it has warm remembrances of your childhood. For some of you it’s a bad memory of a time you were hurt or wounded or even forgotten by the church. For others, it’s not a part of your history and might not be a part of your present.
But when we utter the term – CHURCH – it brings up a host of varied thoughts or opinions. Many of them, not so good.
In Matthew 16, Jesus has entered in the region of Caesarea Philippi and He asks a few questions that should have significant effect on Sugar Hill Church…That’s right, Jesus’ discussions with His disciples should have a huge bearing on the kind of church / the kind of people we are to be TODAY!
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” 15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
There it is – the question that should cause us to stop and ask – Who do people say Jesus is? You know, I’ve never run into anybody that didn’t think highly of Jesus. I’ve never heard anyone have a contrary opinion of Jesus. Other faiths recognize Him as a prophet, or teacher, or at worse…a very good man that we should emulate in kindness and service. But what are people around you saying about Jesus? Here’s another question – Are you saying anything about Jesus?
But then Jesus asks His disciples “Who do you say that I am”? Now that’s another question altogether. It’s easy to say what everybody else says, or to believe what everybody else believes…but Jesus turns to His guys and separates what “everybody else thinks” from what THEY THINK!
I’m sure when Peter blurts out his answer the guys must’ve been thinking – there he goes again – Ready – Fire – Aim! That’s Peter – Always the loose cannon. But Peter chooses to answer with great clarity about who Jesus is to him – look in verse SLIDE 4 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Ding-Ding-Ding-Ding – Bold move Peter!
Peter sets the course for the church today. Peter answers the question that we are to be answering day by day by day – who do you say Jesus is? You see, Peter didn’t answer based on what he had been taught in a class.
He didn’t have a fool-proof process of how to be a super-christian in 6 easy steps. He didn’t have hipster music or a pair of Toms! He didn’t have lights and conferences. Dude, he didn’t have Frances Chan videos or a Chris Tomlin Album.
Peter had the one thing we seem to be missing – He had a heart full of Jesus, the Living God – The Messiah, The Savior of the world – The Redeemer, Counselor, Might God – He had Jesus!
If we are to be the church Jesus has intended us to be, we will have to answer this question – Who do you say Jesus is? If you want to know what this church is all about – It’s all about assisting people in knowing that they know that they know Jesus as the Messiah, The Son of the Living God. In knowing the Good Shepherd that is your Strong Tower, Your Savior – Your King!
Anything less and we are a country club – Anything more and we are Pharisaical hypocrites! Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of The Living God!
So Peter passes the test, and Jesus replies in verse SLIDE 5 17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.
18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
Wait – What? Simon Peter is blessed? He didn’t learn this in a deeper life discipleship course? He didn’t read every Max Lucado book or listen to Andy Stanley’s podcast, or even have 104.7 The Fish?
He encountered and experienced the Living God – He knew his life had been radically changed and Jesus is now saying – Dude – You are blessed! You’ve heard from God. You couldn’t have learned these things from any other human!
Now, watch this – Jesus expresses what I long for our church to experience – Jesus is saying that Peter…whom He calls The Rock…not as in “Can You Smell What The Rock is Cookin”, but as in pebble…Peter you are a pebble and this bigger rock…My Church is going to be filled with pebbles like you! Let’s build this thing! Straight Outta Caesarea Philippi!
So, immediately, we need to ask ourselves – Who do I say Jesus is? If you haven’t experienced the power and the presence and the peace found in Jesus alone…maybe we should start there!
But Jesus takes it to a whole notha level! He goes on to say that He is building His church on the pebble…starting with Peter and now on to us and He says and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. In many of your translations it reads and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Now folks – Gates are not offensive weapons! You’ve never seen a movie where anybody went to a rumble with a gate! The problem is that many of us keep walking into the gates as undercover christians and we are staying under cover.
Jesus says – here are the keys – keys lock and unlock things…You know, my dad had a pickup truck that he loved. It was a nice truck – nothing really special, but dad kept that truck in tip top condition. He and mom left me as a 16 year old as they went out of town and dad left me the keys to his truck.
But he also left some conditions to use the truck. You know – SLIDE 7 I think many of us want the keys to heaven, we just don’t like the conditions they come with.
“Peter, I am going to build My church with little pebbles like you and I’m giving you the keys to the Kingdom of God – to Heaven – now Peter, here are the conditions – don’t stop hearing from and loving your ongoing experience with God.”
Keys – they open things here on earth, as they do in Heaven. Sound familiar? On earth as it is in Heaven – Jesus wants to give you the keys to Heaven…not just for you, but for the thousands of people you come in contact with.
Jesus defines Heaven in so many wonderful ways – one of them is by giving us a picture of mansions that we will have in Heaven…He speaks of streets of gold…all of which allows our human hearts and minds to “see” into His grand plan and catch a glimpse of His glory and His grace and His power!
It’s not about mansions – the keys don’t unlock mansions, they unlock the power of God in Jesus Christ. Mansions are a picture of security and removal of oppression to a people beaten down with slavery and oppression…and we still are. The keys He offers us are found in getting our heart right as Peter did.
He was far from perfect, but he got Jesus right – The Messiah, The Son of the Living God! And Jesus is still building His church –
I’ve walked away from church before – but never because of Jesus. I’ve been hurt and I’ve done my fair share of hurting in the church – but not because of Jesus. It’s always because of the Jesus we portray in our lives – day by day by day…
You see, when Jesus builds His church…it’s never about MY church – it’s all about Jesus and HIS church…then and only then are the keys being used for His gain – His glory and His fame. The keys that Jesus hands to you and me – they are keys that are to open our lives to peace, joy fulfillment, love, contentment – but the conditions are clear, as they were with Peter – Get Jesus Right and you can start living on Earth as you do in Heaven!
So, church…what do you say? Are we a church that can answer that question as Peter did? When Jesus asks us – not as a collective whole, but as individuals, that He died for, that He rose from the dead for – And folks that He is longing to give the keys to the Kingdom to…Jesus – You are MY Messiah – You are My Savior – You are The Son of the Living God…Crucified, Risen and Coming Again!
That my friend, is the key to this life and the keys to the Kingdom – Jesus – Nothing more and nothing less…On Earth – NOW – As it is in Heaven – FOREVER. Religion tells us that we will be judged and rewarded for our good works – But God tells us that Jesus took the punishment for our sins and that knowing and living with Jesus Himself is our greatest reward!
Even so, come Lord Jesus…Use the keys to Your Kingdom to unlock our hearts and free us from religion and rituals and traditions and oppression. From addictions and loneliness. From heartache and sorrow. From critical, mean spirits to gracious servants of God. Even so…come Lord Jesus, The Messiah, The Son of the Living God!
Today – how will you answer that question? Who do you say Jesus is?