The Real Church!
It never ceases to amaze me how many things are completely backward from what I think they are or should be. We want to stay awake when we need to go to sleep, and we want to sleep when we need to wake up. We work to buy houses and cars that we then mortgage so we have to work more.
We feed and care for kids so they’ll later be able to feed and care for us. And what’s the deal with food? We love the stuff that will kill us, and the stuff that is really good for us makes us wish we were dead!
Life is tough. We work really hard to achieve rest. We war to have peace. We toil so we won’t have to worry. And as Christians, we have to die to live. I find this same paradox in the Church. We’ve done so many things for so long as part of Church life, our generation no longer has any clear or unified idea of what the Church is. We’ve gone to a building so long to meet; we’ve started confusing the building for the Church. We’ve sang three songs and heard 3-bullet messages for so long we confuse songs and sermons for the Church. We’ve taught self-help so much that we now often think the Church exists to meet our needs.
What is the Church? More importantly, what isn’t the Church? Maybe most importantly, why should you care – what does it really have to do with you and me and our daily lives? This and subsequent articles will explore the biblical foundation of Church and examine our process for living as the Church.
The first mention of "Church" in Scripture is out of Jesus’ own mouth. He’s walking with His disciples and asks them who people say He is. Simon Peter (always impetuous), jumps to the forefront to answer, "Some say you’re Elijah, others say John the Baptist come back from the dead. Others say one of the prophets." It’s amazing to me how people are guessing (and gossiping) about who JC is. It’s like they’ve evaluated all the available data – compiled a file of all the stories, miracles, and teachings of Jesus – and determined who they would like to think He is.
They are really answering the question, "How does this Jesus person fit within my world-view, my paradigm? How am I most comfortable compartmentalizing Him?" It harkens back to Adam and Eve who chose to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It wasn’t the "Tree of Evil". It was the tree of independent direction, of personal discernment, and of self-reliance. It was the "Chernobyl Tree" not because it empowered evil, but because it was a choice to be self-directed instead of relying on God as their Source. Independence and self-sufficiency over God dependence and trust. Similarly, Simon Peter described how everyone had decided for themselves who Jesus was. Interestingly, like Adam and Eve, their self-deducing choices were all wrong.
Jesus, ironically, doesn’t respond to these ideas. He’s got a different agenda, "What about you? Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15)
There it is: the ultimate question of all time, for every person who will ever live. What about you? Who do you say Jesus is? Simon (we’ll soon know him as Peter) had the answer: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." To the Jews, this was a HUGE statement.
"Christ" means "anointed", but to add a specific article "the" meant that Jesus was the Anointed. That means the One promised in the Garden would crush the head of Satan. It’s the One promised to Abraham would fulfill his blessing to all nations. It’s the One promised to sit on David’s throne forever. He is the One through Jeremiah promised to write the Word on our hearts and minds so we have direct relationship with God without an intercessor. The Anointed is the fulfillment of the Law, the fulfillment of all of the Old Covenant, of every promise and hope of their every pro forefathers. He’s the Big Kahuna!
You may say, "Okay, that’s cool. But what does that have to do with the Church?"
Everything! Look how Jesus responds to Simon’s pronouncement of who Jesus is: "Blessed are you Simon… this was not revealed by man, but by my Father in heaven." Did you catch it? Simon Peter received a revelation from God, which means he was willing to receive it. Which means he wanted to know who Jesus really was instead of wanting Jesus to be who he wanted him to be. In other words, Simon didn’t just get a telegram of truth on the ID of JC. He chose to yield to the Truth, so God revealed the Truth.
And the Truth is the real Jesus.
And Jesus continues, "…I tell you that you are Peter [greek "petros" – a little stone or pebble] and upon this rock [greek "petra" – boulder or large rock as in for a foundation] I will build My Church…" Wow. Simon – you’re now a little stone. Just a chip of the ol’ block. You’re going to be in small what the Church is built on in large. What’s does all this mean? What is the larger Truth Jesus points to upon which the Truth will be built? Let’s build it point by point:
1. Jesus is the Anointed One; fulfiller of all God has for us
2. Peter received and appropriated Christ’s identity as the Truth
3. Jesus will build His Church on this Truth and this methodology – that we receive from God the true identity of Christ.
Did I say, "Wow"? I meant it. Jesus is going to build His Church. He is going to do it, not you and I. And what He builds is His, not ours. That’s big.
But even bigger is the Truth upon which He’ll build, that He is the fulfillment of all God has promised, all God offers, and all God calls us to.
What does this mean for you and me as we reinvestigate Church? First, are you living your life solely as a recipient of God’s provision, revelation, and sovereignty, or are you, like I often find myself doing, living to get God in your own box, for your own purposes, or for an endorsement of your life and lifestyle? As we are willing to receive the Truth and blessing of God as He wants it for us – no matter what the implications on our life, our agenda, or our self-perceptions, He gives graciously of that Truth and blessing. It may not often be what you’d like to imagine it to be, but it’s real.
Second, everything that is necessary for us to experience God’s plan, everything necessary for us to experience participation in His glory, everything that He requires of those who will reveal Him through our relationship with Him and each other is graciously not necessary of us. It’s necessary, fur sure, but Jesus is building His Church. You and I are not allowed to lay claim to adding anything to His finished work.
That may seem unbelievable at first, but Peter himself, toward the end of his life, put it this way: "Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us out of His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises so that through Him you may participate in the divine nature…" (2 Peter 1: 2-4)
Your relationship with Jesus makes you a recipient of grace and peace and everything we need for life ad godliness. He makes you a recipient of the fulfillment of every promise of God. He causes you to participate in His own divine nature. He is building His Church. You and I are the living stone with which He’s building. And He is building us up on the Truth of who He is, in us, for us, and through us.
My friends, it may just be that Church is not exactly what we’ve come to know it to be. I believe it is so much more.
This article and video are the first in a series and were provided by Mike Daniels of The SA Stone. You can visit their website by clicking here. Stay tuned for the next article in the coming days!