As we do every year for his birthday, Peter John and I traveled to
the Bay Area last August to see the Oakland A’s battle the Cleveland
Indians. Quite honestly, however, although taking in a ballgame has
become a tradition for Peter and me, I’m not sure I’m ever going
again. You see, I have some big problems with big-league baseball.
Every time I go to the coliseum, I’m asked for money. And none of
the people sitting next to me introduced themselves. The manager never
paid a call on me, never welcomed me to the coliseum, and didn’t even
know my name. And then there’s all those hypocrites in the stands,
like the ladies polishing their nails and talking about what everyone
was wearing. Behind me were some fanatics who were worse than the
hypocrites. Every time Jose Canseco got on base, they stood up and
cheered and looked silly. And the umpires? Some of their calls were
ridiculous. I’m sure I know more about baseball than they do. As for
Peter, I don’t want to force him to go to major-league baseball games
any more. I’ll let him decide for himself when he’s older.
someone said that, we would think he was crazy. Those reasons are all
bogus. And yet, why is it that no one protests when those same
objections are raised concerning church? Those are the exact reasons
people give for not going to church: too fanatical; too hypocritical;
too much talk about money; the pastor didn’t call on me; the people
weren’t friendly; I’ll let my own kids decide eventually.
Our generation, it seems, has rejected church. In fact, I remember
seeing a bumper sticker in the 60’s which sort of summed up our
generational mentality: ‘Jesus Yes. Church No.’ And a lot of people
are in that place. ‘Yeah, I’m into Jesus, but I’m not into the Church.
I’m here to say that I am really into the Church. You might
think, ‘Well of course you are. You’re a pastor.’ But let me tell you
— I am not into the Church because I’m a pastor. I am a pastor because
I am into the Church.
The passage before us in Matthew 16 is very important for it is the
first time Jesus Christ uses the word ‘church’. There is a principle
of hermeneutics called the Principle of First Mention, which says: You
will usually find key foundational understandings about a subject in
the first place it is mentioned. Thus, when Jesus first mentions it in Matthew 16, we find
four reasons why
the Church is essential.
Jesus takes pride in His Church.
. . . upon this rock I will build my church . . . Matthew 16:18
The language is important. It speaks of a possessiveness, of an
intimacy with us. Jesus didn’t say, ‘I will build a Church’, or ‘I’ll
put up with the Church.’ He said, ‘I will build My Church.’ Jesus is
proud of His people.
For both he that sanctifieth [Jesus] and they who are sanctified
[us] are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them
brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the
midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. Hebrews 2:11-12
The writer of Hebrews declares Jesus is proud of us. Not ashamed of
us, He sings praise to the Father right along with us in the midst of
the congregation. Why isn’t He ashamed of us? Because He sees us in our
When Jesus first called Peter, He said, ‘I call you Petros, ‘Small Rock’, because I’m going to change you from one who is
unsteady to someone who’s solid, stable, useful.’
Jesus sees us potentially. Jesus doesn’t see us
with our present flaws, but in our potential usefulness.
Jesus sees us prophetically. Because we are already in heaven, seated with
Christ, He sees us as already perfect.
Jesus sees us
positionally. Jesus sees us robed in His righteousness, washed with
His blood. Our sins, failures, and shortcomings are completely out of
His sight and gone from His memory.
So He looks at us potentially,
prophetically, and positionally and sees us as perfect. Incredible!
This past week the Lord has dealt very deeply in my own heart along
these lines, telling me to look not on the outward appearance, but on
the heart — the way He looks at me.
I have discovered I have a
tendency to judge people according to their actions, but to judge
myself according to my intentions. And the Lord spoke to my heart,
saying, ‘Jon, your world would be a whole lot sweeter if you reversed
that. Judge yourself by what you do, but judge others by what they
Wouldn’t it be radical if we looked at people that way? At
their intentions rather than their actions? That’s the way Jesus looks
at His Church. He says, ‘I see your hearts, and I’m proud of you.’
Jesus prevails through His Church.
. . . and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew
For many years, a lot of us thought that the Church was a refuge, a
fortress where we could hole up until the Lord came back. The gates of
hell would not prevail against us if we huddled together within the
Church singing, ‘Hold The Fort Til The Lord Comes’. But that’s not
what Jesus meant.
Gates don’t prevail in and of themselves. I mean,
how many of you have ever been attacked by a gate? No. Jesus is
saying, ‘The gates of hell will not hold back My Church. I am going to
prevail through My Church. I will storm the gates of hell, where
people have been held in bondage, where there has been darkness,
discouragement, disease and death. I will prevail through My Church.’
When Jesus wants to touch someone in love or talk to someone about
salvation, He storms the gates of hell through us, His Church.
Jesus protects by His Church.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and
whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and
whatsoever thou shalt lose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew
Dr. Kenneth Wuest gives this proper translation: ‘Whatever shalt be
loosed on earth shalt be loosed even as it is in heaven.’ Jesus
protects by His Church, giving her the keys of His Kingdom.
look at Tammy’s keychain, you will see the same identical keys I have
on my keychain. I’m her bridegroom. She’s my bride. And she has the
same keys I do. Why? Because we share authority. We rule together over
our Volkswagen fleet and our house. We are one.
So too, Jesus Christ,
the Head, has given His bride, the Church, the keys to His Kingdom.
What does this mean? In Matthew 18 and John 20, this same concept is
reiterated. Matthew 18 deals with relationships, while John 20 deals
with the forgiveness and the retaining of sin. What Jesus is saying
is, ‘I’m giving authority to the church, to bring together or to
loosen, even as it is happening in heaven.’
If people within the
Church are having problems with one another, they are to work them out
individually. But if they can’t, it’s a matter for the Church to deal
with corporately. It’s not that we make those decrees ourselves; but
through the Word by the Spirit, the Church can speak with authority,
unlocking God’s truth and revealing God’s heart.
You see, those who
say, ‘I don’t need Church. I’ll just do my own thing. I’ve got my own
ideas about the Gospel and about worship,’ are vulnerable to anyone
who comes along saying, ‘Let’s go to Guyana, or to Waco, and we’ll
start a whole new movement. Who cares about Church history? Who cares
about theology? Who cares about collegiality? We’ll do our own thing.’
That’s what happened with Jim Jones/David Koresh. Hundreds were
killed because they strayed from the protection which comes from the
Church, the authority of binding and loosing. And thus, there was
death. Any Christian who ignores the Church will become vulnerable to
needless bruises and wounds. The question arises: ‘Why have so many
people in our generation rejected the Church?’ I suggest one reason:
Jesus is the priority of His Church.
Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? Matthew 16:13
Jesus had come to Caesarea Philippi, 25 miles north of the Sea of
Galilee. At Caesarea Philippi, where the waters of the Jordan begin,
there is a massive rock face — sort of like a miniature El Capitan.
It’s one of the prettiest spots I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
There, Jesus gathered His boys and asked this question: ‘Whom do men
say I am?’ His disciples then repeated the theories concerning Him
that were floating around Israel . . . ‘Some say You’re John the
John the Baptist came on the scene, saying, ‘Repent! The
Kingdom of God is at hand. You soldiers, quit oppressing the people.
You tax collectors, quit extorting from the people. You fathers, be
good to your children. Get it together. Repent.’ When Jesus appeared,
He began His ministry with the same words: Repent, for the Kingdom of
heaven is at hand. So, reasoned some, because of His moral teaching
and call to repentance, Jesus must be John the Baptist, returned from
Others said, ‘No. He’s Elijah, returned from heaven. Haven’t
you seen the miracles He’s done? The lepers are cleansed. The blind
see. The lame walk. Miracles happen. He must be Elijah.’
‘No. He’s Jeremiah. ‘Haven’t you seen the care He shows to the lost,
how they move His heart, how He weeps over them? He must be Jeremiah,
the Weeping Prophet who cared so tenderly for the lost sheep of
‘No,’ others said. ‘He must be That Prophet,’ referring to
the prophet promised in Deuteronomy 18:15, who would come and fully
explain the Law of Moses. Scripture records that the people marveled
at the gracious words of Jesus saying, ‘No man speaks like this man.’
Truly, the common people heard Him gladly. Surely He must be ‘That
As I look around the country and the
world, I see churches built upon one of those four misconceptions . .
. There are those who say, ‘We’re going to build our church on John
the Baptist. That’s who Jesus is. We’ll call it First Moral Majority
Church. We’ll tell our community to repent. We’ll picket 7-11. We’ll
write our congressman. We’ll organize and let our voice be heard in
the community. We’ll tell people to get it together morally. And we’ll
meet together to activate believers, to mobilize Christians, to get
Others say, ‘No, no, no. Our church is going to be built
upon Elijah. That’s who Jesus is. We’ll call our church Miracle
Center. It will be filled with miracles, signs, and wonders. People
will see the glory and power of God fall at every single meeting. It’s
going to be heavy!’
Others say, ‘No, no, no. Our Church is going to be
built upon Jeremiah. That’s who Jesus is. We’ll call our church The
Evangelical Expression. We’ll have a million-dollar mission budget.
We’ll offer classes in door-to-door evangelism. We’ll spread
throughout the community, expand throughout the world globally, and
we’ll reach the world evangelistically. Like Jeremiah, we’ll weep over
‘No, no, no,’ others say. ‘Our church is going to be built
upon That Prophet. We’ll have three-hour marathon Bible studies
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. We’ll have seminars and
syllabi. We’ll become hermeneutically flawless, exegetically
excellent. We’ll offer Hebrew, Greek, Chaldean, and Aramaic. We’ll
parse each verb. We’ll know each doctrine thoroughly. We’ll become a
great teaching center.’
Look at our text. Jesus responded to none of
these suggestions. It was only when Peter said, ‘Thou art the Christ —
the Christos, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Son of the living
God,’ that Jesus said, ‘Upon this rock I’ll build My Church.’ The
Church which is not a platform for ministry or political activity or
intellectual curiosity — the Church which simply says, ‘We want to
know Jesus personally’ — is the Church Jesus will build.
say, ‘Jesus, You’re not simply a motivator for us politically; a
teacher to us intellectually; a power for us miraculously; nor a
program for us in mission ministry. You’re Everything. You’re all
there is. We just want to know You. We want to love You. We want to
walk with You and learn about You and become more like You,’ Jesus
will build His Church upon their confession. And when a group of
people come together and say, ‘Jesus we love You. We’re impressed with
You. We want to learn of You and walk with You,’ guess what happens?
The community around such a group begins to change.
A sheriff in
Jackson County who is not a believer wrote me saying that as far as he
is concerned, the Fellowship is the best thing that ever happened to
curb the drug problem here in the Applegate Valley because so many of
the top drug producers in the valley have become converts. Are we
marching against marijuana? Are we politically active? No. It’s just
that wherever Jesus is, the surroundings will be influenced very
Where Jesus builds His Church, there will be signs and
wonders. Power will be experienced — not with fanfare, nor for itself
— but in a supernaturally natural way. Where Jesus is the Christos,
loved and honored, there will be evangelism — not because of a need to
be a part of some program for ego-gratification, but rather because
people will want to share what they have discovered in Christ. They
will be in love with Him and will find themselves talking about Him —
taking every opportunity to share the One Who means so much to them.
The person who is rock-solid in this life and on into eternity will be
the one who says, ‘Jesus, it’s You personally. Not ministry. Not
study. Not anything but You. I appreciate You, I love You, and I’m
committing myself to You. Jesus, You’re everything to me.’ That’s my
prayer for us. That’s my prayer for you. In Jesus’ Name.