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Summary: THE CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH IS TO FULFILL THE GREAT COMMISSION IN THE MOST COMPASSIONATE WAY POSSIBLE. THIS SERMON LOOKS AT SOME ISSUES THE CHURCH FACES IN ACCOMPLISHING THIS

THE CHALLENGE OF THE CHURCH

MATTHEW 16:13-20

INTRODUCTION:

TELL THE JOKES ABOUT LITTLE HARRY AND PETER, TWO CHILDREN WHERE ONE IS INTRODUCING THE OTHER TO HIS CHURCH:

1. ONE JOKE IS ABOUT HOW LONG THE MINISTER SPEAKS

2. THE HONOUR ROLL AT THE BACK OF THE CHURCH

NOW I REALIZE THAT THESE ARE OLD JOKES AND THAT YOU MAY HAVE HEARD THEM BEFORE, BUT IT DOES POSE AN INTERESTING SITUATION FOR US. THAT SITUATION IS THAT BECAUSE WE UNDERSTAND SOME OF THE THINGS OF THE CHURCH, WE EXPECT PEOPLE WHO DON’T GO TO CHURCH TO UNDERSTAND THE SAME PRACTICES AND TERMINOLOGY. THIS IS NOT THE CASE IN OUR WORLD TODAY.

WE LIVE IN A WORLD TODAY THAT IS RAPIDLY BECOMING ANTI-CHRISTIAN OR WORSE WITH NO OPINION ABOUT CHRISTIANITY AT ALL. THE ESSENTIAL CHALLENGE FOR THE CHURCH THEN, IS TO BECOME RELEVANT TO A WORLD THAT DOESN’T SEE IT’S NECESSITY. WHILE WE CANNOT COMPROMISE OUR PRINCIPLES AND BELIEFS, TO BE ABLE TO REACH OUT TO PEOPLE IN SUCH A WAY, THAT THEY WILL SEE THE PRESENCE OF A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD IN THEIR LIVES, AS AN ESSENTIAL COMPONANT TO LIVING.

IN ORDER TO DO THIS, WE MUST LOOK AT THE CHURCH OF THE 21ST CENTURY AND DETERMINE IF WE ARE MEETING THE GOAL OF RELEVANCY. WHILE WE COULD LOOK AT SEVERAL PASSAGES THAT SPEAK ABOUT THE CHURCH, I BELIEVE THAT THIS PASSAGE FOCUSES IN ON THAT VERY QUESTION.

BIBLICAL BACKGROUND:

THE BACKGROUND FOR THIS PASSAGE IS QUITE CLEAR. JESUS IS IN THE MIDST OF HIS TEACHING MINISTRY, JUST BEGINNING TO TEACH THE DISCIPLES ABOUT HIS DEATH, AND THE NEED FOR THEIR FAITH TO REMAIN STRONG.

HE CALLS HIS DISCIPLES TOGETHER AND ASKS THEM TWO VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS, A GENERAL QUESTION ABOUT WHO DO PEOPLE BELIEVE HIM TO BE, AND A MORE PERSONAL QUESTION AS TO WHO THE DISCIPLES THOUGHT HIM TO BE.

ON THE SURFACE YOU MAY THINK THAT THESE QUESTIONS WOULD BE A NO-BRAINER TO ANSWER. THEY THINK YOU’RE JESUS AND SO DO WE. BUT THE QUESTION IS NOT ABOUT THE INDENTIY OF THE PERSON JESUS. IT IS ABOUT THE IDENTIY OF THE FOUNDATION OF FAITH. IF THE DISCIPLES DIDN’T BELIEVE THAT HE WAS THE CHRIST, THEN WOULD THEY BE ABLE TO LEAD ANYONE ELSE TO BELIEVE?

WE ARE FACED WITH THAT SAME QUESTION IN VARIOUS WAYS IN OUR MODERN WORLD. WE ARE BEGINNING A SEASON OF THE YEAR, THAT LEADS US INTO THAT VERY QUESTION. MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO DIFFICULTY BELIEVING THAT JESUS WAS BORN. HISTORICAL RECORDS PROVE THAT AS A FACT. THE WORLD ON DECEMBER 25TH WILL CELEBRATE JESUS’ BIRTH. NEWS STORIES WILL PROCLAIM IT, SPECIAL PROGRAMS AND MOVIES WILL DRAMATIZE THE EVENTS. THERE WILL BE NO TROUBLE BELIEVING THAT JESUS WAS BORN.

BUT DO PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST? HOW DO WE ANSWER JESUS’ FIRST QUESTION, “WHO DO PEOPLE SAY THAT THE SON OF MAN IS?” TO SAY HE IS JESUS IS ONE THING, TO SAY HE IS THE CHRIST IS ANOTHER, FOR THIS IS TO SAY HE’S THE MESSIAH, AND NOT ALL ARE READY TO DO THAT.

THAT IS WHY JESUS ASKED PETER THE SECOND QUESTION, “WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?”

JESUS WAS LOOKING FOR WHAT THE LEADER BELIEVED, WHAT THE LEADER STOOD FOR. THIS IS WHAT THE WORLD IS LOOKING FOR TODAY. IT WANTS TO KNOW WHAT THE CHURCH STANDS FOR TODAY. IF THE CHURCH BACKS UP ITS STAND WITH ACTION, THEN IT’S REPUTATION WILL BE SOLID, AND IT WILL GROW.

LET’S LOOK FOR A FEW MOMENTS AT THE CHURCH THAT JESUS WANTS TO SEE GROW.

POINT ONE: IT IS A CHURCH THAT IS SEEKING TO BE RELEVANT

JESUS’ FIRST QUESTION IN VERSE 13 POINTS US TO THAT. HE ASKS THE DISCIPLES WHO DO PEOPLE SAY THAT I AM? HE STARTS WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD, NOT AMONGST HIS GROUP. IF WE WERE TO ASK THE SAME QUESTION NOW, WE TOO WOULD GET A VARIETY OF ANSWERS.

YOU SEE IF WE CAN ANSWER THIS QUESTION, THEN WE HAVE ESTABLISHED A FEW FACTS:

1. WE ARE OUT AMONG THE PEOPLE

2. WE ARE HEARING WHAT THEY ARE DESIRING AND SEARCHING FOR. WHEN THE PEOPLE ANSWE4RED SOME SAY JOHN THE BAPTIST, ARE THEY NOT ALSO TELLING WHAT THEY ARE DESIRING.

3. IT GIVES THE CHURCH A STARTING PLACE TO BUILD MINISTRIES TO MEET THE PEOPLES NEEDS AND TO DISCONTINUE MINISTRIES THAT NO LONGER SERVE A PURPOSE. REMEMBER WHILE THE MESSAGE OF THE CHURCH CAN NEVER CHANGE, HOW IT PRESENTS THE MESSAGE ALWAYS CHANGES.

POINT TWO: IT IS A PERSONAL CHURCH

JESUS’ SECOND QUESTION IS A PERSONAL QUESTION, “WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?” HE IS NOT ASKING THIS OF THE DISCIPLES, ALTHOUGH ALL THE DISCIPLES PROBABLY HEARD IT. HE IS ASKING IT OF ONE.

YOU AND I NEED FACE THE CHALLENGE OF SELF-EVALUTATION IN THE CHURCH THAT GOD WILL BLESS. WE MUST CONSTANTLY SELF-EVALUATE OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, TO MAKE SURE THAT SPIRITUALLY WE ARE IN GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST.

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