Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Engage! - The Opportunity

We have arrived at the end of this series – a series designed to re-orient our thinking towards what Jesus meant when He said I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH. Over the course of the weeks, each letter was covered with the general thought for each captured below.

I – Jesus and He can be trusted because of the other promises that He has fulfilled throughout history.

WILL – It is His will or our will. Only one is in control at any time. Do we submit to Him?

BUILD – Jesus purchased His materials (us) by His blood? Let Him build with whomever is available!

MY – It is not our church, it is His. He has been, is, and will continue to build until He returns.

CHURCH – Jesus didn’t mean a building, He meant a people. Are you one of them?

Last week, having completed the focus on each of those five words, last week, the attention shifted to the importance of the location, Caesarea Philippi, where He said these five words. It was noted that another promise was also given – that the gates of hell (located there as well) – would not prevail. This week, we turn to one further promise – to give His disciples the keys to the kingdom, that is, to bind and loose things in heaven.

So, based upon Jesus’ promise to build His church, and the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail, and now a promise of the keys being given, let me ask an important question. What should we do? Well, first let me tell you what we shouldn’t do. We shouldn’t try to ride a dead horse. This is what many people, and most churches try to do, but it won’t work. Why? The horse is dead. (For the various ways churches try to make the dead horse ride again, do a google search on How to ride a dead horse).

A New and Living Way

Then on what should we focus? The easy answer is: focus on what Jesus wants. The hard part of the answer is staying true to that statement! Why? Because we are human. This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, a day that we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It is referred to as the Triumphal entry. Jesus was celebrated as a king parading into town, and the people thought His triumph would mean overthrowing Rome. That was their thoughts…their hopes. But Jesus had a greater purpose and a greater triumph in mind. His true triumph would come one week later when He had defeated the grave and thus taken away the sting of death.

The opportunity Jesus had in mind was new. It was not just working harder to make the old better. Jesus knew it would take something completely new. In fact, He called it the New Covenant. The Old way was replaced. Jesus way, unlike the thoughts we often have, wasn’t about being good, it was about God’s grace. It wasn’t about trying harder, it was about training smarter. It was about forgetting what they thought they knew, and embracing Someone worth truly knowing.

The problem is that we, as humans, like to cling to the past. So the Pharisees and Sadducees rejected Jesus. They were concerned about holding on to their power, their prestige, their position above the people. And it is easier for people to allow that because that’s how it had been for a decades, if not the last couple of centuries. The people didn’t like the horse anymore, and it had stopped moving some time before, but they were still trying to ride it. Jesus effectively says, No…I have (am) a better way. The writer of Hebrews says it this way, the new and living way (Hebrews 10.20).

So, what exactly is this 3rd promise of Jesus in this passage, and how does it relate to us? Well, let’s just break this promise down into four components. We have already considered the Jesus portion throughout this series, so we will focus on what He does, who it is done to, what is made available, and what it effects.

Four Parts of a Promise

1. Jesus promises to give...

I don’t want to spend much time here because this has partially been covered under the weeks relating to the I and the Will but it is important to consider two very important truths behind Jesus promise to give something.

  • He has what He offers to give.
  • He has the authority to give it away.

For the sake of simplicity, I will provide just one reference which fits both truths. In Matthew 28, just before Jesus ascends into heaven, He says, All authority has been given to me. With this statement, He then commissions the disciples to do His work. So, Jesus has the authority, and He can offer it to whom He pleases.

2. Jesus promises to give you...

Now this you might seem to be a little stickier. Jesus is obviously talking to the people before Him in the moment He makes this declaration. Specifically, here, the word you is the second person, singular pronoun (soi). Thus, Jesus is talking to one person. So, this promise is not meant for us, or even for the other disciples, it is meant for Peter. This fact, by the way, is why the Roman Catholic Church prescribes each of these promises to be fulfilled in Peter, not the truth of Peter’s statement – You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

However, we must remember that while Jesus only used the word church (or eklessia) three times (see the post about the church), His promises in both passages can be linked together to show that His promise in Matthew 16, is for everyone. What do I mean? In Matthew 18, Jesus is again speaking, but now to more than just His disciples. He is speaking to others around Him (see verses 1 and 2). Then, in verse 18, Jesus says, “I say to you (this you is plural – hymin), if two of you bind (plural, desete) or two of you loose (lusete), it will be done in heaven (paraphrased). This is the exact promise that was made – regarding binding and loosing in Chapter 16, but now it is meant for more than Peter, but to anyone who is present.

Furthermore, most people claim Jesus’ promise that where “two or more are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” Well, that statement is in this same passage. And while that promise of His presence is still in the context of binding and loosing, the truth is that if that statement is true of us today, then how can we say that Matthew 18.18 is only true of the early disciples? And thus, how can the promises of Matthew 16.18-20 not include us as well?

So this you, may have been originally Peter only – in context. But Jesus’ words make it clear that He is talking about each of His followers – for all time.

3. Jesus promises to give you the keys...

Keys are not a foreign concept to us in any way. And Jesus is using the term in a way that we would understand. Keys are used to lock and unlock. The locks could be on a home, or a car, or a fence, and chain, etc. But Jesus says something amazing here.

He is giving you, me, us the keys to God’s Kingdom. Think about that. If you went to the governor’s mansion, do you think you would be allowed on the property after hours? What about the White House? Of course not. But this isn’t just an invitation to the throne room of God, but for His entire kingdom. And not just as a day-pass, but for all of eternity.

Now truly, keys represent authority. A person who has keys to your house has the authority to enter your house without breaking and entering. And that is ultimately what Jesus is saying. I give you this kind of authority as it relates to...well, that is the next point.

4. Jesus promises to give you the keys to the Kingdom.

Remember, Jesus has just mentioned the idea of church for the first time.  He mentioned the word Kingdom often – over 100 times in Matthew alone. But here, we see the two together, and we see the importance of the Church – it is the chosen tool of God to do the work of the Kingdom. That is an astounding thought.

But many people think the Kingdom must be worthless because church is boring. On the other hand, many will consider the idea of “going to heaven” as fire insurance because they don’t like the alternative of hell. This idea relates to a hope that Jesus can keep them from the bad.

But that is not what Jesus says. He says He gives these Kingdom keys to His followers, those that acknowledge the truth of Peter’s statement – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus giving you the keys is not about avoiding the bad. It is about gaining access to EVERYTHING that is good. It is a part of Jesus promise in:
  • John 10.10, to give life abundantly. 
  • James 1.17, that every good and perfect gift is from above.
  • Ephesians 3.20-21, that God has more for us than we can possibly fathom – and it begins with the fact that others we don’t deem worthy of the Kingdom will not only be there, but are doing His work, with the same keys that have been offered to you and I.

Jesus’ plan is not just to fix what does not work. He is not interested in riding a dead horse, or even a sick one. Jesus wants to use what works, He want us to move forward and engage whatever future God has for you, your church and for all of His people. We remember, respect, and learn from the past. But just as we do not do our best driving looking out of a rear-view mirror (focusing on what is behind), we must be a people who go forward looking out a large wind-shield.

Redeeming the Time

Ultimately, what we are to do is to redeem the time. Paul writes that the days are evil. And thus we must walk as wise, not as unwise (Ephesians 5.15-16). We all have a certain amount of time. What are you choosing to do with yours? I know the first inkling is often to forgo certain challenges because the challenges will be met with opposition. But are we not glad that Jesus didn’t forgo His greatest challenge? For if He had, we would not be here today, nor could we have any hope for tomorrow.

And the truth is that overcoming the opposition is what brings the greatest joy. Again, the writer of Hebrews states this plainly that our Lord endured the cross because He knew the joy which awaited on the other side (Heb 12.2). Paul writes that the afflictions he faced were nothing compared to the glory he would one day experience (2 Corinthians 4.17).

Yes, opportunities will meet opposition. And that opposition will seek to limit what we can do. But those limitations should drive us to prayer, because the hearer of our prayers is the One who is truly unlimited, unbound, and unhindered in any way when we allow Him to work in and through us. But again, the truth is that the gates of hades cannot prevail against Him, but we often limit what He will do because of our lack of faith. It may be human to experience a lack of faith, or to experience some hesitancy because of fear. But GOD!

But God!

If we are going to be a large church in a small town, that must be our motto: But God.

  • We must redeem the time.  “But I don’t have the time.” – But God, can give it.
  • We must make the most of our opportunities.  “But I can’t contribute much.”  But God, made you.
  • We must reach to the unreachable.  “But I don’t agree with them.” – But God, loves them.
  • We must learn to live beyond ourselves. – “But I like my comfort.” – But God, died 4 you.

Whatever our excuse, we must remember it is just that. An excuse. And when we stand before our maker one day, and He asks what we have done with all He has given us, we won’t be able to say (in a whiny voice), “But God!”

The truth, as Ronnie Floyd has said, is that “God can do more in a moment, than we can do in a lifetime.” But He wants to do it with you, in you, through you, and through us collectively. Why? I don’t know. I promise you God can do more without me than He can with me. I know I get in His way sometimes. But the fact is, He chooses to use me. Furthermore, I know He has. But He has chosen to use each one who heard this message, or is reading it now. His choice is to use us both individually, and collectively.

But we must seize the opportunities that He brings our way. You have probably heard the phrase Carpe Diem. Well, how about Carpe Occasionum – seize the occasion (or opportunity). That may sound ambitions, but remember, Jesus promised to give the keys to the kingdom. So, what will you do with them?


And that is why our JOURNEY letter for today is... Y – You The choice is up to you. Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to that question is the most critical response to any and all questions. You may choose to serve, but do you choose Him? Will you follow His leading – wherever that may be? How do you respond?


So, what about our next steps?

Once again, our next steps continue to build on our previous steps in this series. We need to be ready to see what opportunities God brings our way. And we need to be ready to respond. How do we do that?

  • Remove the obstacles. What obstacles in our lives keep us from giving ourselves to God?
  • Create a MAP Team. Develop opportunities and see them through to completion/evaluation!
  • Pray for faithfulness to God’s leadership. We ask Him to lead, and we respond by obeying.
  • Commit to one another. We must be united to truly be all that God intends.
  • Find an on ramp. We must find opportunities to grow by merging in with others who serve.
  • Be the church Jesus intended. We must learn to live together by the truth of His gospel.
  • Love. Love God. Love others. Love one another.  Leading others to learn and live by His gospel as well.

“Follow me.” This was Jesus command. Jesus knew if we followed Him, then everything else would take care of itself. But following requires movement. And following has the sense that you are going ahead – or even forward. That does not mean you might not backtrack at times, but overall, forward progress should be made. And it is impossible to make progress by riding a dead horse. It is also most likely that you will make better progress using the windshield rather than the rear-view mirror. Again, we keep the past in sight; it can help us, but it is not our guide. Jesus is. And Jesus is as much future as He is past. But think about the idea of opposition for a moment. The wind-shield does just that. It shields us from the opposition – the wind. But it also shields us from the bugs, and the rain, and the snow, etc. But though it is designed to protect us, to shield us from those elements, if it gets dirty we can’t see to move forward.

So, in the words of Jesus, with regard to the person of Jesus, we are to “Follow Me.” But we must keep our view clear to know where we are going. We must seek first His Kingdom (for which we have the keys) and His righteousness (which He gave to us through His death and resurrection) and trust that He will provide everything else.

A Better Future?

In the first post of this series, I concluded with the following hypothetical questions. It seems pertinent to conclude the series with the same questions. What if, for the next 13 months – when the next series (which will focus on the life of Jesus and how He responded to various opportunities) , we as individuals worked to hold one another accountable to seek God, and the opportunities that He presents us, with an earnestness that we have not had before? We may not know exactly what our response will bring. If we respond like Jesus wants us to imagine the answers to the questions like:
  • What might this county look like in April 2017? 
  • What might this town look like? 
  • What might this church look like?
  • What might your family look like?
  • What might you look like?

We may not know the answers now, but as we make this JOURNEY together, we will be led by a TOUR GUIDE that does know the answer to these questions and so many more. It is a JOURNEY that has been set before us. It is our JOURNEY that we must take together. Are you with me?

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