Summary: Discover the three essentials of Jesus’ Church
We’ve spent almost two months worth of Sundays looking at what our church believes. What we believe determines how we behave. There was a time when people believed the earth was flat. They didn’t dare to travel too far for fear that they will fall off the edge of the earth.
What you believe about the Bible, about God and about yourself determines the limitations you place on the Bible, on God and on yourself. If your beliefs are wrong, you will live in the prison of your false belief, now and throughout eternity. If your beliefs are right, you will experience power for living, friendship with God and peace with yourself.
We continue in our study of "What We Believe" by looking as what we believe about the church. If we believe that church is one hour each week at a location within driving distance from your home, you will live one way. If you believe what Jesus says about the church, you will live an entirely different life.
Sometime ago Time Magazine ran an article that reported on the benefits of religion and the church, and some of the observations included:
1. Heart-surgery patients who draw comfort from their religious faith have a significantly higher survival rate than those who do not.
2. The blood pressure of people who attend church is 5 mm lower than that of those who do not.
3. People with religious faith who attend church regularly experience less depression than nonreligious people.
4. Suicide is four times higher among non-churchgoers than churchgoers.
What might be the reason behind these correlations? What is it about the church that offers such healing? God? Purpose and meaning in life? Psychological support? Support from a loving church family?
This morning, we’ll look at the origin of the Christian Church with an emphasis on the make-up of the church, the miracle of the church and the mission of the church. Next week and the week after, we’ll look at the motivations, the ministries and the mechanics of the church.
The text for this morning is Matthew 16:13-20. The Mandarin Fellowship studied this portion of the Bible a little more than a week ago. I was taking notes in that study, so some of this will sound familiar to you. But don’t go to sleep. You’re going to be tested on this after the worship service.
What I read for us is the first mention of the Christian Church by the Founder, Jesus Christ. What we have today, in terms of components, governance, methodology and architecture of the church have developed over the last 2000 years, some in response to God’s further guidance and some in response to the influences of the culture. Unless we understand the basics of church, we can confuse the essentials with the non-essentials because of the many variations of church.
The first essential of the church is the make-up of the church. Verses 13-16.
What makes up the church? Is church a group of people who come to a church building to sit, sing and listen to a Pastor teach the Bible on Sundays? If we don’t have a church building to meet in, is it still church? If we don’t have a pastor to teach the Bible, is it still church? If we meet on Monday instead of Sunday, is it still church?
When Jesus asks about His identity, He was laying the foundation for the church. For many, being a part of a synagogue or church meant listening to the teachings of the prophets, but Jesus wants us to know that the Christian Church is built on the foundation of trust in Jesus as the Son of God, who came to save mankind from the consequences of sin.
At the Mandarin Fellowship, Joseph asked us the questions, "Who do you say that Jesus is?" One person answered that Jesus must be God. This person pointed out that unlike Buddha or Mohammed, Jesus did not have the schooling or life experience to give him the amazing wisdom and authority in his teaching. Therefore, He must be God.
Jesus would say, "That’s not good enough to be a part of My Church. Even demons believe that I am God."
When Peter said that Jesus was the Christ, he was saying, "Jesus, You are the One that God sent to deliver us." What Peter didn’t know, and what most of us don’t know, is that we do not so much need to be delivered from external forces, but we need to be delivered from our sin, the condition in us that causes us to distrust God and to live life without regard for God and His ways.
The word, "church" simply means "called out ones." God calls us out of our sin and into His salvation. Jesus’ church does not divide between race, gender, earning capacity or education. The church unites all who are saved by God through Jesus Christ.