I Will Build My Church
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 18, Jun 2015
Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:18-19
‘And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’
Today, the world does not have a high opinion of the church for the most part. A local newspaper ran this article: “We are pleased to announce that the cyclone which blew away the Methodist church last Friday did no real damage to the town.” Isn’t it so sad? The church is supposed to be relevant and impactful and responsible for the prevention of destruction on a city but instead, it is the only property destroyed by the Typhoon. I remember that in the latest earthquake that affected New Zealand, a few years back, the first property to be destroyed is the church. The church has become irrevelant and without impact. The scary part is many Christians don’t view the church much better. You can consider yourself a regular church goer even when you miss church once a month. It is said that Europe is the only continent where the church is growing more slowly than the population. France has twice as many Muslims as Protestants. There are more spiritist healers in Paris than medical doctors, priests and pastors combined. I read a very sad article that informed us that the Christian population in America has declined drastically by more than 7 percent over the past decade. The Bible teaches us that the church is to be a triumphant power on Earth, not even the gates of Hell will destroy it; only apathy, unbelief, and disobedience can hurt it!
Many conservative scholars believe that in Matthew 16:18 it means that Jesus is now building His church on Himself. Jesus said ‘I will build My church.’ Jesus is the builder of the church. I preach this sermon to remind myself that I am not the one building this church. I don’t build it on my own program, activities, own ideas of what the church should be and what should be the direction of the church. Jesus did not say the Pastor will build the church. I give you an illustration. Some churches is built on finances. Some churches are driven by finances. The question on the forefront of everyone’s mind in a finance-driven church is “How much will it cost?” Nothing else ever seems quite as important. Finances are foremost. The most heated debate in a finance-driven church is always over the budget. While good stewardship and cash flow are essential for a healthy church, finances must never be the controlling issue. The greater issue is: “What does God want us to do?” We do not exist to make a profit. The bottom line in the church is not: “How much did we save?” but “Who was saved?” I’ve noticed that many churches are driven by faith in their early years and driven by finances in later years.
Another illustration: The early church was not market driven. It did not make Christianity particularly user-friendly. Converts had to go through extensive, lengthy catechesis and examination before they were accepted for baptism. In the ultimate barrier to new member assimilation, those who did become Christians faced the death penalty. Nevertheless, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the church grew like wildfire
1. The church is built on God’s direction
In the Old Testament kings believed that God gave them direction in dreams. If they wanted to know what they were supposed to do in their administration, they would try to receive a direct word from God in their dreams. If they weren’t getting any messages in their dreams while lying in their own beds, then they would sleep in the Temple, where they believed it would work better. This is the origin of the time-honoured tradition of sleeping in church. Today people sleep in church because they are bored by the sermon but in olden days, Kings sleep in church because they couldn’t get any messages and direction in their own bed and so they literally sleep in the temple to receive messages from God. I believe likewise God gives direction to the Pastors of the church in dreams or visions. If we have a hard time getting messages, directions for the church, than maybe we should come to the church and literally sleep overnight to receive directions for the church.
Everyone is interested in building the church, growing the church. Uh, let me rephrase that. Everyone who is already in the church and active and involved in the church is interested in building and growing the church. People on the outside, as well as those with only a loose connection to the church–they don’t give a rip. But those of us at least who are here regularly in church, we care about the church being built up and growing. Nobody wants to see the church fail or decline or decrease in numbers.
What can we do to build the church? There are many who would come forward to give answers to that question. The general consensus is: Get rid of the old–that’s often the first thing that has to go. Old music, old liturgy, old crosses, old people–well, except we still need the old people’s money, so we’ll give them a little old-fashioned service at 8:00 a.m. or late Saturday afternoon. And we need to replace the old with the new–praise bands, contemporary worship, auditorium seating, state-of-the-art sound system, and a theatre-like stage. Plus an electronic, message-scrawling sign outside.
And the content has to change, too. Not so much of that sin and grace stuff. No more “poor miserable sinner.” “Forgiveness of sins”? That’s not what people want to hear. And don’t talk so much about Jesus dying on the cross. I mean, what a downer! Oh, we’ve still got to mention Jesus, of course. Our praise choruses will say how much we love the Lord, and he’s really awesome, and “Lord, we just want to praise you!” But let’s not get too much more specific than that. Although people do want specifics when it comes to how to live their lives. That’s what the message, the teaching (don’t use the word “sermon”), needs to be about: Us. Me. Tell me what I need to be doing in order to be successful and victorious in my life. Life-coaching that makes people feel good about themselves and feel like they’re being spiritual–that’s what people in our culture want, and if the church wants to grow, then that’s what we’ve got to give them. Oh, and programs, too. Don’t forget the programs. Lots of them. Keep the people busy. Mother’s Day Out. Yoga class. Youth groups earning points to go to Disney World. Lots and lots of programs. Isn’t this is what is happening to the churches in the city. It must be relevant, people friendly. Don’t make it churchy.
I believe Jesus has given us the answer concerning the church.
“I will build My church.” Here we have the first mention of the church in the Bible. It did not exist in the OT. So far as we know, our Lord only mentioned the church twice. Both times are found in the Gospel of Matthew. In chapter 16 we find his most extensive statement about the church. The church, still future when Jesus spoke these words, was formed on the Day of Pentecost and is composed of all true believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile. A distinct society known as the body and bride of Christ, it has a unique heavenly calling and destiny. And Jesus is the one who will give the directions of the church you are in.
2. The church is built on God’s great plan
The church is essentially God’s great plan. The church is not ‘Plan B’, in the mind of God. The church is not merely instituted after the Jewish rejection of Christ but rather it is prophesied in the entire Old Testament. In the last days all nations would flow to the house of God (Isaiah 2:2-3). The Gentiles would seek the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10). Many nations would be sprinkled with the blood of the Messiah (Isaiah 52:15). Many nations would be joined to the Lord in that day (Zechariah 2:11). The Name of the Lord would be great among the Gentiles (Malachi 1:11). In His Name the Gentiles would trust (Matthew 12:21)
And the church has never been destroyed or put out of existence since Christ built it and divinely organized it by the Holy Spirit. The earth is to be shaken (Isaiah 2:19-21). The nation of Israel is to be shaken (Ezekiel 38:19-20). The heavens and the nations are to be shaken (Haggai 2:6-7). Everything that can be shaken will be shaken (Hebrews 12:26-29). But the church cannot be shaken! The gates of hell cannot prevail against it, because JESUS IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH!
“The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” may be understood in two ways. First the gates of Hades are pictured in an unsuccessful offensive against the church—the church will survive all attacks upon it. Or the church itself may be pictured as taking the offensive and coming off the victor. In either case, the powers of death will be defeated by the translation of living believers and by the resurrection of the dead in Christ.
The emperor Diocletian set up a stone pillar on which was inscribed these words: “For Having Exterminated the Name Christian from the Earth.” If he could see that monument today, how embarrassed he would be! Another Roman leader made a coffin, symbolizing his intention “to bury the Galilean” by killing His followers. He soon learned that he could not “put the Master in it.” He finally surrendered his heart to the Saviour, realizing that the corporate body of Christ and its living Head, the Lord Jesus, cannot be destroyed by the onslaught of mortal men
16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” does not mean that Peter was given authority to admit men to heaven. This has to do with the kingdom of heaven on earth—the sphere containing all who profess allegiance to the King, all who claim to be Christians. Keys speak of access or entrance. The keys which open the door to the sphere of profession are suggested in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19)—discipling, baptizing, and teaching. (Baptism is not necessary for salvation but is the initiatory rite by which men publicly profess allegiance to the King.) Peter first used the keys on the Day of Pentecost. They were not given to him exclusively, but as a representative of all the disciples.
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” This and a companion passage in John 20:23 are sometimes used to teach that Peter and his supposed successors were given the authority to forgive sins. We know that this cannot be so; only God can forgive sins.
There are two ways of understanding the verse. First, it may mean that the apostles had power to bind and to loose that we do not have today. For example, Peter bound their sins on Ananias and Sapphira so that they were punished with instant death (Acts 5:1–10), while Paul loosed the disciplined man in Corinth from the consequences of his sin because the man had repented (2 Cor. 2:10). Or the verse may mean that whatever the apostles bound or loosed on earth must have already been bound or loosed in heaven. Thus Ryrie says, “Heaven, not the apostles, initiates all binding and loosing, while the apostles announce these things.” The only way in which the verse is true today is in a declarative sense. When a sinner truly repents of his sins and receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, a Christian can declare that person’s sins to be forgiven. When a sinner rejects the Savior, a Christian worker can declare his sins to be retained. William Kelly writes, “Whenever the Church acts in the name of the Lord and really does His will, the stamp of God is upon their deeds.”
3. The church is built on God’s blueprint
We must build the church according to God’s BLUEPRINT if we want to have His BLESSING and see the church thrive. If contractor builds a house for someone, he sticks to the blueprint, which is the will of the purchaser. If we want to build a church, we need to stick to the blueprint (Bible), which is the will of the purchaser (God). Otherwise, we are not really building a church! We need to discover God’s blueprint for building His church! What is God’s blueprint for the church? There are three.
Firstly PRINCIPLE #1: DO AND TEACH (Acts 1:1)
Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
Jesus’ ministry was all about DOING and TEACHING. The one refers to His miracle-working power, while the other refers to His doctrine. Jesus did not work miracles just for miracles’ sake, but He used them to teach doctrine (i.e. healed blind man and taught “I am the light of the world,” fed 5000 and taught “I am the bread of life”, healed the sick and taught ‘I am Jehovah Rapha’). Thus we are doing right. We go to the community and perform (do) his miracle working power and also teach His doctrine. The church must both do and teach if we want the church to thrive. Observe the churches all over the world and notice that the church that goes out to DO (minister, heal, perform good works) and TEACH (share the Word of God) and I show you a church that will never die.
PRINCIPLE #2: WITNESS AND WAIT (Acts 1:7-8)
Acts 1:7-8 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
God has two words for time: CHRONOS, which means “time governed by the clock” (QUANTITY time) and KAIROS, which means “time measured by special moments” (QUALITY TIME).
The key is that you have to take advantage of KAIROS time at the moment it happens, or you lose it forever.
Galatians 6:9 (NKJV) And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
When the disciples asked when Jesus was going to “restore the kingdom” (send revival), He told them that it was not for them to distinguish between the “times” (CHRONOS) and the “seasons” (KAIROS), because only God controls times of supernatural visitation!
Only God has power (EXOUSIA = AUTHORITY) over the results of our prayer, our worship, and our work. But He has given us power (DUNAMIS = ABILITY) to be witnesses.
The key to revival is for the church to exercise its ABILITY until God exercises His AUTHORITY.
We must WITNESS and WAIT!
PRINCIPLE #3: RISE ABOVE AND GO BEYOND (Acts 1:25)
Acts 1:25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
Sometimes we mistakenly think that the early church was somehow more “spiritual” than we are today. But the book of Acts tells us plainly that they had problems and setbacks too.
Outside of the crucifixion of Jesus, probably no other situation was harder for the disciples to deal with than the fall of Judas. He had been ordained to be an Apostle, ordained to preach the Gospel, and given power over devils and disease. And yet he backslid and betrayed the Lord into the hands of the Sanhedrin. What a setback for the church!
But we do not see the disciples giving up or getting discouraged! Instead, they resolutely rise above their heartache and move beyond a terrible trial to embrace their future in God.
There will always be Judas within the church. We must not moan, and whine and get discouraged and stayed in that conditions for years without end. We have to rise above and choose someone to replace the Judas and we will experience the Pentecost. In the seemingly failure and the hurt that comes upon the first church, it rise above and go beyond and the church exploded.
With God, FAILURE IS NEVER FATAL! God never wastes a hurt!
To the enemy that wants to destroy a church, Micah 7:8 says, ‘Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.’
Let’s rise above our past, our problems and our perplexities, and go beyond to a place that we have never been before!