Last week, the Broncos and Panthers played in the Super Bowl, arguably the greatest spectacle in sports. So, imagine if you will that someone comes up to you on the day of the game and tells you they have four Super Bowl tickets to tonight’s game they want to give you. A private plane is waiting at the nearby airport to take you to Santa Clara. A limo will be waiting at the airport, stocked with food. All expenses of the trip will be covered (tickets, the plane, food, souvenirs, etc.) And the plane will bring you back home tonight.
Now again, if you are not a football fan, this example may not excite you, but play along for just a minute. So, fan, what would be your reaction?
Well, I think your reaction might depend on who said it.
What if it was someone you knew to be a notorious liar?
What if it was me? You might think, well Andy doesn’t lie, but does he have the resources to make that happen? (BTW – the answer is no!)
What if it was someone who you didn’t know, but knew they had the resources to make it happen?
See what we know about someone, or at least what we think we know about someone, is important in helping us to decide if we can trust the promises they make. For instance, this year is an election year and we will hear many promises being made by many candidates. We hear many slogans. But because of previous politicians (or even the current set) who may have broken their promises, we become skeptical. The real problem then is that we often allow our skepticism of others to be projected towards Jesus.
So, the question we must ask is: Can we trust Jesus?
As we continue this series about our need to Engage! our focus today is on our Vision. But it isn’t just about our vision as a church, it is God’s vision FOR this church. So we begin by considering not what this church is, but by looking at The question: What Can We Be?
Please note the question is not what will we be? It is what can we be. What we do become, or will be, is up to how we respond to the opportunities God puts in our path. But what we can be is beyond measure. We can always be more than we are. And we should always aspire to be more than we are.
Why? Because we have a Magnificent Savior. A Savior we can trust. As we reflect back on our central passage for this series, let's again look at Matthew 16.
In verse 13, we are given the setting, Caesarea Philippi. Jesus had just performed many miracles as recorded in Matthew 14 and 15. He had fed 5000, walked on the water, healed the sick (many in fact), and then fed 4000 more. Then Jesus is approached by the religious leaders of the day who ask for Jesus to show a sign from heaven that He was legit. Seriously?!?
So, he takes His disciples away and asks them what people are saying about Him? The general public give Him high praise. They call Him John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. This would be very good company. But Jesus is great. And thus, He probes His disciples for more. And Peter makes the Great Confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus blesses Peter stating the God revealed this truth to him. And then Jesus gives one of the most important, as well as profound, promises in all of Scripture. The first part of that promise is five words I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH will be the focus each week for the next few weeks. Then we will look at the word GATES and KEYS. So today, the focus is on the word "I."
Jesus has asked who others say He is. Jesus asks His disciples who they think He is. Again, and I will say this a lot over this series, because we need this firmly ingrained in OUR heads, the answer should be different because they know Him best. Likewise those of us who call ourselves Christians should know Jesus better than those who don’t.
Like, Peter, we should confess who He is. But we must also profess what He has done and what He is doing. Christianity has a long history behind it. And God has chosen to partner with us to not only keep it moving in the present, but to extend our work into the future as well. But our work is for the master builder. It is Jesus who has promised to build His church. And He does so through us.
The Promise Maker
So? Can Jesus make that statement? Like the person who offers you an all-expenses paid trip to the Super Bowl, can we trust the person behind the promise. Is Jesus a liar? Is Jesus like me, and says what is well-meaning, but simply doesn’t have the means to do it? Or is Jesus telling the truth and has the full authority to carry out His plan – beginning nearly 2000 years ago when He made such a bold promise, and continuing today.
To determine Jesus' authority, let us look at three instances where the word I is used by God, as the Son.
Exodus 3.14: God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I am has sent me to you.'"
Looking back to Exodus 3.2, it says it was THE angel of the Lord who was in the bush. Based on this passage, and so many others in the Old Testament, this angel was not AN angel, but was the pre-incarnate Son of God. So, God spoke to Moses from the bush. But it was God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, that said it. And history shows that the Israelites did indeed leave Egypt.
John 8.58: Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
Jesus is talking to the Jews who thought Jesus had a demon. These Jews considered Abraham great, yet understood that he had died. Jesus makes the comment that no one who keeps His word will ever die, speaking spiritually. So the Jews get angry, especially when Jesus said that Abraham saw "his day" (which would have been about 2000 years prior). Jesus responded by saying He was alive before Abraham, and they tried to stone Him for blasphemy. Why? Because Jesus used the words I AM, just as He had with Moses. He was claiming His divinity before them. Then, the very next set of verses, record the healing of a blind man Jesus that causes the religious leaders to get worked up (imagine that!). The problem was these Jewish leaders could not accept that Jesus was not only above Abraham (in the previous verses), but also above Moses (subsequent verses).
Revelation 22.7,12,20: "I am coming soon."
Granted, Jesus says a bit more than this in each case, but these words are the recurring statement at the very end of Revelation, indeed, at the very end of Scripture. It is not said just once, but three times. It is certain though it has not yet happened. But it is a promise of what, and specifically Who, is to come. But again, for us, the focus is on the word I.
In these three instances, Jesus makes three statements about Himself. The first tells of His promise to take a seemingly insignificant people who were serving as slaves to now serve God and be a light to the nations for the glory of God. Secondly, Jesus is challenging the thoughts of the day and finding an opportunity to bring light to a man who had never seen and would now testify on behalf of God before those who placed themselves in authority. Why? John 9.3 says so that God’s might (His power) could be seen in the world. And third, we have a statement which is yet to happen. But if everything that God has designed to happen so far has happened, shouldn’t we trust that Jesus will come, when the Father says it is time? Galatians 4.4 says God sent His Son at the perfect time the first time, will He not do so again the second time?
Can We Trust Jesus?
So, can we trust Jesus? With what we have heard thus far, we might say probably. But let me add one more element. Most people make promises to others for a) the benefit of the other person, then b) for themselves. What I mean is that by the promise being fulfilled, we look good. You have heard, and likely said, “Well, I kept my promise.” But Jesus doesn’t care about Himself in the same way. His promises are for others benefit, but for the Father’s glory. Let me show you what I mean:
Jesus made several other promises, but let me give you three with which many people are familiar:
"I go to prepare a place for you." (John 14.2)
"I will be with you always." (Matthew 28.20)
"I will send the Comforter/Helper." (John 14.16)
These three promises are all about us - a place for us, being with us, comfort to us. But who gets the glory? As I noted above, in John 9.3, the man was healed so that God's power would be known among the people. Matthew 5.13-16 (the verses for our vision statement) provide further evidence of Jesus serving for the glory of the Father. Jesus tells us to be salt and to be light. Why? So that He can get the glory? No. So that the Father in heaven might be glorified.
Jesus, as the Son always deflects glory to the Father. The Spirit always deflects glory to the Son. This is not natural for humans. We like to receive recognition, praise, honor, and even glory. But God! Jesus asks for things for the Father. Jesus commands us to serve for the benefit of the Father. It is the Father who is glorified when we are salt and light, and it is others who receive the blessings. Jesus gets nothing, and yet He gave everything!
That very reason is why you and I should be able to trust Jesus. He gave everything for you and me, yet He wants all of the glory to go to the Father. He is not selfish. This is why I have a problem with a song like Above All. I know the song means well, but when Jesus hung on the cross, I may have been on His mind, but He wasn’t thinking of me, He was thinking of His Father – above all.
A Grand Vision
So, how does this relate to a vision statement? Again, our church's vision is based upon Matthew 5.13-16. As I said last week, a vision for the church that we can accomplish on our own is worth little now, and even less from an eternal perspective. We must involve God in the vision because if we fulfill it, then others will see our good works and give glory to the Father. Our vision, To Be a Large Church in a Small Town, is not something we can become apart from God.
Our vision must be larger than ourselves. Why? It isn't for us. Our vision isn’t about Andy. It isn’t about Fairfax Baptist Church. It is about Jesus. And yet, He says, the Father is the One who is to receive the glory. So, is our purpose great? Yes. Because our Jesus is great. Because our God is great!
And our God can do amazing things through us. It is as Brian Houston recently tweeted, "Vision is an eye toward the future with a heart for the journey and faith in the God of the impossible."
It is our vision, and our trust in God that will give birth to ideas on how we live out our purpose. But ideas cease when we begin to put limitations on God. Do you have perceived limitations on God? Do you believe God can do, and still does, His work today? Do you believe the potential of this church could be greater than its past? Jesus said, I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH! Do you believe that? He has been at it for nearly 2000 years. He put this church in this place almost 132 years ago. But is He done building this church? I don’t think so. But He asks us to get busy? He asks us to ENGAGE! We must know what it is that He has called us to do. Then we must do it. Stephen Covey says for someone to be effective, that person must organize and execute around priorities. What is true for the person, is true for the church.
A Magnificent Savior
That is why we are doing this series. Over these next weeks, we will continue to look at Matthew 16 and related verses as we unpack not just our vision, but our mission (goals), strategy, and steps. I would suggest that we should each have our own vision, mission, strategy, and steps, and then we see how that fits the collective. And all of this is related to the opportunities that God has for us as individuals and for us as His church.
But as we seek to determine how these possibilities fit, and which priorities we should plan to organize and execute, we must not settle for what is good. For too often, good gets in the way of great. And our Savior was more than good, He was, and is, magnificent Savior.
We must do what we have been called to do. Knowing who we are and what we have been, what we are doing, and what we will do. But what has been done must be done differently now. As William Carey once proclaimed, we should, “Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.”
Yet, we are often more concerned with turning faith into a matter of belief. Faith certainly includes belief, but as one of the earliest Christians, Ignatius, rightly claimed, “Christianity consists not merely to persuade people with ideas but in inviting them to share in the greatness of Christ.”
I want to be known for more than ideas. I want to be known for action. And I want to be known for not just talking about Christ, but for helping people to experience Him. I want people to see God’s glory manifest in, and around their lives. I want that to be me. I want that to be us. I want others to look at the ministry of Fairfax Baptist Church and say, "Wow. Look what they are doing! God is doing an amazing work there!" Isn’t that exactly what Jesus described in Matthew 5.16?
And that is why our JOURNEY letter for today is: J - Jesus. Jesus is our Magnificent Savior. He is the "I" that makes everything we have talked about today possible. Today is about understanding our vision is a God-given vision. This is about what He wants to do. This is about what Jesus is building. This is not about us at all, other than Jesus has asked us to play our part. And I know it is possible because Jesus promised to build His church. Thus this church can be great, because He is great. We can be great because Jesus makes us great. Not for our own pride, and not for our own glory, but for God’s.
So, what is/are our next steps? Well, our next steps are going to build on what we started last week.
We need to be ready to see what opportunities God brings our way. And we need to be ready to respond. We do that by removing the obstacles. Last week, we said the obstacle usually includes ourselves. Well, this week we see that is because we often settle for the good, or even the ok, and don’t push for the great. We do that because we have failed to connect with Jesus' teachings about the greatness of God and that everything we do can bring glory to God? Again, I don’t want to give God something that is ok! I want to give Him the best. My best! He gave me a MAGNIFICENT SAVIOR, and I want to return to Him something magnificent as well.
So, our next step today is the announcement of a new leadership team for our church. The team will be called The MAP Team, which fits well with the idea of a JOURNEY. MAP is an acrostic for Ministry Action Plan. We are scrapping the Vision Team, which did generate some ideas. But we need more than ideas, we need action. This new team will be led by various coordinators (called Guides) that will help determine if certain opportunities fit the vision, mission, and strategy of the church, and work with others to determine the necessary steps to execute the strategy, to fulfill the mission, so we can reach our vision To Become a Large Church in a Small Town.
As this team gets its start in the coming weeks, let each of us prepare ourselves for what God is preparing for us. May each of us be ready to respond to the opportunities that come our way. And may each of us desire to do great things for God. But it can only happen if we are ready to Engage!