Two friends were coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. He grabbed one of the friends by the hand and pulled him aside.
The Pastor said to him, "You need to join the Army of the Lord!"
The person replied, "I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor."
Pastor questioned, "How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?"
He whispered back, "I'm in the secret service.”
A cute little joke, but the truth is, there is no such thing as the secret service when it comes to your relationship with God and the church.
Last week we learned three important aspects of the church. They are why the church exists.
1. The church exists for the glorification of God.
2. The church exists for the edification of the saints.
3. The church exists to evangelize the world.
We also learned that if we love God we should love His church. The more we love the church the more willing we are to give ourselves to the purpose of the church.
There are many people in our world who just do not understand the church. That is why today I am going to give you a brief history lesson of the church and point out some essential facts regarding the church.
Before I get into that, how many of you saw the reports about the atheist church?
They are singing songs, clapping hands, praising acts of giving and community work – all the things present in a Church have now found an official home in so-called ‘atheist mega-churches’, a quirky idea spreading like wildfire across the Western world.
They are wanting what the body of Christ has but they are missing one very important ingredient! God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit!
open our eyes so we can see Your truth.
Open our ears so w can hear Your voice.
Open our mind so we can understand Your Word.
And open our heart so we may receive all that You want me to receive. AMEN
The church as we know it began 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the disciples and some of their friends were gathered together in Jerusalem in an upper room.
It was on the Day of Pentecost and it was the day that God gave His Holy Spirit to His people.
This was the beginning of the church.
Shortly after the Holy Spirit was given to the 120 gathered in Jerusalem, the Apostle Peter addressed a skeptical crowd and about 3000 people accepted Jesus as God’s Son and Savior.
From that point on the church continued to increase expeditiously. The message of the Gospel spread throughout the Roman empire. It began to impact men and women from every walk of life.
The church continued to grow in villages, towns, and cities. The leaders of these churches taught the Gospel truth of Jesus Christ resurrected from the grave. They talked the talk and they walked the walk. They even continued on with the threat of death and martyrdom.
And when they died for their faith, someone else would pick up mantle and lead their congregation.
This was the start of the church and it was a bloody start. Many believers gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel message. And yet the church carried on.
This persecution carried on for three to four centuries until Christianity became the official religion of the world.
That happened when the Roman leader Constantine accepted Christ in 312 AD.
The church began to take on the marks of an organization. The leaders of the church increased their roles of authority and began to insert themselves as the voice of the church.
The leaders during those times would often use manipulation and intimidation of others and sadly the church began to lose its way.
Between the years of 500 AD and 1000 AD the zeal and excitement of the church waned away. These were called the Dark Ages.
It was during this time that the church replaced the divine power of God with the corrupt power of human authority. God’s truth that was meant for all was controlled by only a few.
The church was lifeless because the Truth of God was not being taught.
In the 14th Century a reformation took place and lasted through the 16th century. A group of straight thinking, tough minded Bible believing men emerged. They were called the reformers.
These men stood against the power block of the official church and they broke with tradition of the church and began to share the Biblical truths with all men and women throughout Europe and England and eventually into the new world, the United States.
During the reformation two major doctrines were stressed. The doctrine of salvation and the doctrine of the church. The two go hand in hand.
The reason they hand in hand is because salvation is how God builds the church. Evangelizing the lost, bringing them to salvation is how the church continues and expands.
This brief history shows how the church has grown and continued to survive over the years.
When we look into the Word of God we find that the church is not mentioned by Jesus until he is well into his public ministry on the earth. We find the first mention of the church in Matthew 16:13-20.
This is the who am I portion of Scripture when Jesus is asking the disciples who the people think He is and who do they think He is.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-16 NIV
Only one of the men answered Jesus with this answer. A man who is often criticized for his weaknesses and failures. Jesus answers Simon Peter with a two-fold response. He gives a blessing and a promise. There are two parts to the promise.
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:17-20 NIV
The blessing is found in what Jesus called Simon Peter. He called him a rock but the rock that Jesus was going to build on was not Simon Peter.
Jesus uses two similar words here, petros for Peter and petra for the foundation of the church which is Jesus. This is the truth that Peter had just confessed. Simon Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
This is where the promise is found. Jesus says that the church will be built upon the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
He said, “I will build my church.”
The church is not the work of anyone person. It is not the church because Simon Peter preached a good sermon on the day of Pentecost.
The church is the church because Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which it is built. He is the one who designed the church, He is the one who originated it, and He is the head of the church.
To build something means to develop something by a definite process. That is what has been happening ever since the Day of Pentecost when the church began and it will continue until Christ returns.
The Greek word for church that is used in this portion of Scripture is ekklesia. It comes from two words; ek which means out from among and klesia which means to call.
If we were to read this from the original text it would say, “I will build My called-out ones.”
This is really an awesome thought here. Jesus is selecting, choosing, calling out and drawing people closer to Himself.
That means that each of us here today have been called out. We are all from different places, with different faces, and different skin tones and yet we are all called out.
We are chosen and we are a part of the church.
If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you are a part of His Church, you are a part of the family of God.
But wait, there is more to the promise! There is a bonus. Jesus gives us more of a promise here.
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19
We know that the kingdom of heaven is both now and in the future. It is now in the fact that Jesus has risen from the grave and through the church is advancing and growing the kingdom of God. It is future in the fact that one day every knee will bow and ever tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.
"The keys" of the kingdom are the abilities to open and explain the Gospel truths, and a mission and commission from Christ to make use of them.
What do keys do?
Keys unlock things and the person or persons holding the keys possess the authority of the One who gave the keys.
Jesus then continues, “…and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven…”
Some have said that this verse gives men the power or authority to change what God has said in the Bible. That is simply not true, no man can change what God has said and He is the only one who can forgive mankind of their sins.
What this means is the true ministers of God have been given the authority to bind only that which is in agreement with God’s laws.
This in no way is giving us the power to forgive sin, only God can and do that.
What it does give us is God’s power and authority over the wicked forces in the universe that are unleashed from hell.
Without these keys and the authority that comes with them, the church would be hindered.
Because we have been given the keys, nothing, not even the gates of hell can hold back the church. This is the promise of God for the church.
Just as Jesus shared with the Apostle Peter and the others disciples this blessing and promises, there is for us today a blessing and promises within the church.
As we discussed last week, if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior then you are a part of the church.
The blessing and promises rest in the fact that you are not alone.
First, God promised that He would never leave or forsake us. If we put Him in the center of our lives He will walk through everything with us. He is always there.
Second, the church is an ever-enlarging body of believers with a universal scope and a continuing process of growth that should according to God’s Word; love, support and serve each other as we place God in the center of our lives.
Being a part of the church and not giving up on it means that you are identifying with other like minded individuals who purpose to put God in the center of their lives and who value to follow Christ as they walk through life.
Remember what the church is, the church is people who are called out from the rest of the world.
Called to be different.
Called to be a family, sons and daughters of the living God.
Called to make a difference in this world.
Called to glorify God in all that we do.
Called to share His good news.
The Apostle Peter must have recalled the Lord’s words to him on that day when he penned the words of 1 Peter 2:9-10.
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 NKJV
Just as Peter was chosen so we are chosen, called out with Christ as our Lord as a people who are separated from the world as royal which means we are Christ like to be a holy nation which is what Israel was supposed to be.
We are the church. We are God’s special people and we have been purchased for a price and we are treasured above everything else.
And because of all this we are to bring forth His praises because He has called not unto darkness but rather into His marvelous and perfect light.
Bring forth his praises means we are glorifying God. We should glorify Him in everything we do. At work, at play, at rest, at school, at church, as we edify each other and as we evangelize the world.
This is God’s Body Building Program and I hope you are happy to be a part of it.