Summary: Christianity in general and our churches in particular are being pounded from without and within into facades of irrelevancy. . .
THE INDESTRUCTIBLE FORTRESS
Rev. Todd G. Leupold, Lifepointe Fellowship, Hutto, TX 6/26/11 AM
INTRO: A DEFINING CHALLENGE
Through twenty years of active and broad ministry, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what is happening in the American Church overall. Perhaps, Lifepointe has some similar experiences, fears, questions and struggles.
Whether or not we recognize it, we live in a time and place of tremendous and unavoidable war. As Christians, we are under attack from innumerable enemies. We are in hiding, wounded, scarred, and in some cases immobilized by battle stress and fatigue. Some of us may even be in denial. ALL of us, however, can easily see and feel the terrible carnage – shattered dreams, unfulfilled hopes, exposed weakness, heroes who have become zeros, sheep who have turned out to be wolves, failed and fallen leaders, cowardice, apathy and timidness under the assault of rejection, mocking and isolation. I,myself, have painfully experienced it all.
Christianity in general and our churches in particular are being pounded from without and within into facades of irrelevancy. We have buildings, but not shelter. We have numbers, but not strength. We have vast technology, but no voice. We impress, but we do not impact. We talk of heaven, but are molded by the world. We proclaim an image of Christ, but are conformed to our culture. And, still, the war is just getting started. Our Enemies are yet gathering and building their arsenal.
In this sin-corrupted world that is progressively spiraling ever further into decay and decadence, it seems we spend most of our time defending and repairing. This can be terribly frustrating and exhausting. Yet, for those who believe, there IS “good news of great joy”:
There is a Church that is indestructible! It's not Lifepointe Fellowship, although perhaps it could be - at least in part.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 16:13-18
Focusing on verse 18, I pray we may better understand Five Essential Truths about our hope and security in this dangerous world:
(1) A Fortress: “My Church”
This is the first mention in the NT of the word 'church' (ecclesia). But how are we to understand this?
We need to notice what Jesus simply, clearly does and does not declare as the subject of this astounding promise. Jesus does not say your, our, the, or a church; but His Church. Similarly, he does not say churches (plural) but church (singular).
Further, notice that He does not refer to the Temple, a Tabernacle or any other material building. Rather, He establishes the ecclesia – a formal gathering and uniting of people as a singular, purposeful group.
Therefore, Jesus' astounding declaration and promise is not to each or any individual, visible, or physical local church on earth. Rather, He is speaking here of the 'invisible' capital 'C' Church that is the company of all true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ – converted and holy people by His sacrifice and grace.
All such people at Lifepointe Fellowship are a part of this Church, but this Church is not Lifepointe Fellowship.
This fortress is not one built of stones, brick, wood or metal. It is instead a fortress comprised of the 'living stones' of God's redeemed people.
(2) A Master Builder: “I will build” - Jesus Christ
This Fortress is not anything that is or could be built by human hands or minds. It is built by a Perfect Architect who has no limits to His abilities or accomplishment. While He graciously includes many others in the process, it is Jesus alone who designs, superintends, perfects and completes this Fortress.
Because He is the Great Master Builder, this Fortress is built in perfect wisdom. Everything is done at precisely the right time and in the right way; God's and not those of men and women. Further, He exercises perfect skill. There is no 'living stone' (person), no matter how rough, chipped, or flawed, that Jesus cannot shape and seamlessly use.
Our buildings, even our local churches, may (despite our best intentions and efforts) prove to include gaps, leaks, defects, and stones that don't quite fit. They may (physically or otherwise) shake, crumble, and buckle under the onslaughts of time, storms, attack or even misuse. We may discover that what seemed best for one time proves otherwise in another. Eventually, all flaws will be exposed. Constant maintenance and repair are inevitable facts of life.
But NOT so the Church that Christ, the Master Builder, is constructing!
(3) A Perfect Foundation: “Upon this rock”
Most important in any construction, is the foundation. No matter how perfectly all else is built, if the foundation is not perfect the structure will eventually suffer and fall. This is no less true of that which Christ builds, as He Himself attests.
What, then, is this 'rock' that He has chosen for His foundation?