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Monday, January 10, 2022

The Beautiful Rock

Today, we begin a new message series about the Beautiful Church.

The Church was established by Jesus to be Christ’s physical presence on earth.  Let that sink in for just a minute…

We who follow Jesus as Lord—you and I together, along with all faithful believers around the world—are the Church, the physical presence of Jesus on the earth.

That should be a jaw dropping revelation if you’ve not known it before.  What a tremendous honor and privilege.  And also, what a tremendous responsibility.  The Church is a beautiful and powerful thing.

Many in our times say, "I love Jesus, but not the Church."  How can you love Jesus and not love the Church when the Church is Jesus physical presence on the earth?

The Church has gotten a bad reputation over the years.  Many are disillusioned with the Church.  Part of this is the Church’s own fault.  We have not always lived up to our high calling.  However, the Church has also been the victim of a scornful campaign to destroy Her good name.  The Enemy of God is working hard to convince the world the Church, is and always has been, nothing but trouble that has held back progress and fomented tremendous evil on society.

I hope this series will dispel the popular myth that our world would be better off without the Church.  I want to reveal the many blessings Christ brought our world through the Church—blessings we take for granted that could not exist without the work of Christ’s Church over the centuries. 

If you attend a church regularly, you may love the Church and maybe you don’t have a negative view of the Church.  But, even if you love the Church, you’ve been inundated by society’s scorn for the Church.
If you never attend church, it may be because you were told the lie that Church and organized religion is the reason for all of society’s ills.  I hope to dispel the misconceptions about the Church through this series and invite people to join the Church in playing the beautiful song Jesus wrote for us.  I hope every Christian who who reads these messages will learn to take our responsibility to represent Christ more serious.

If you are reading to this message today, please keep an opened mind.  Follow along over the next few weeks and consider all the tremendous good  that only Christ’s Church could have accomplished in our world over the last 2,000 years.  I hope to convince you that many of the blessings you cherish most in our world today only exist because of Jesus and the work of His Church over the last two millenia.

The Beautiful Tune 
This series was inspired by a great book by John Dickson titled, Bullies and Saint.  I commend the book to you.  In his book, Dickson uses an illustration to show how Jesus wrote a beautiful “song” of love that has had lasting resonance.  Unfortunately, Jesus’ followers have not always played the tune well. 

Click here to watch a short video of this illustration.

This is a great example of the history of the Christian church.  Jesus was born 2,000 years ago.  He showed the world the incredible, unconditional love of God.  He redeemed the world by dying on the cross and the power of God raised Him from the grave.  When we surrender to God and follow Jesus, He adds us to His Church and calls us to share His love and salvation with the whole world.  It is the most beautiful “song” ever written.

But, we are still fallible people.  You don’t pick up an instrument and play it perfectly on the first day.
You have to practice and get better and you have to learn the tune well.  Christians also have to practice and practice and practice and learn the tune of Christ in order to play it well.  There are bound to be sour notes along the way.  Furthermore, there are often in the Church wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing
who do not truly represent Jesus at all, but only wish to use His Church as a means to advance their own selfish agendas.

So let us start by establishing the foundation of Christ’s True Church. We find that foundation in Matthew 16:13-19.

Matthew 16:13-19
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

The Beautiful Rock of Faith
This text shows the true foundation of the Church.
Our foundation is faith in Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus was not just a prophet or a teacher or a good man who came to bring change.  Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God who came to save the world from sin.  Our Sin is thinking we can live however we want apart from God.  Jesus has the power and right to save us because He is the Son of the Living God.  He is Lord of all.

In order to truly be part of Christ’s Church, you must accept and build your life upon the understanding that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  If Jesus is the Messiah, the Lord, the Son of God,
He has the right to your complete and total submission and allegiance.  In Matthew 10:38, Jesus said “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”  And in Luke 14:33, Jesus said,  “You cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

True followers of Jesus recognize that Jesus is absolute Lord of all.  The Truth is, we don’t own anything.  It all belongs to God.  Our very soul belongs to God.  It is a lie we tell ourselves that we are independent and free.  We are not.  All that we are and all that we have belong to God and are to be used for His purposes.  When we cling to our own selfish desires and ambitions, we cannot play Jesus’ beautiful tune the way it was meant to be played.  We will play a sour note every time we cling to our own way.

We see these sour notes throughout history whenever people in the Church used the name of Christ for their own selfish reasons.  Each time so-called Christians do this it gives the Devil and his supporters in the world another bullet to fire at Christ’s True Church.  “Look,”  cries the Devil, “at the way these Christians act!  Look how their religion destroys the world!”  And there is a world full of people glad to nod their heads in scornful agreement.

It is true that evil has sometimes been done in the name of Jesus over the centuries.  People in the Church have not always loved like Jesus or followed His way, truth, and life.  Much evil and hurt result when people drift from Christ.

But don’t judge Jesus or His Church by the worst actions of broken people who are not doing what Jesus taught us do.  Rather, look and see the beautiful tune Jesus wrote for His Church and how it redeems our world when played correctly.

As Christians, it is essential that we stand faithfully upon the Rock of Peter’s statement that Jesus “is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!”  This is more than words; it must be lived out as actions.  We can’t hold this view only when it serves our purposes—when we want forgiveness and restoration, or when we are in desperate need of healing or help.

If Jesus is Lord, He is Lord all of the time.
He’s Lord when no one is watching.
He’s Lord when we have nothing and when we have plenty!
He’s Lord when we want to follow Him because it feels good.
He is also Lord when He tells us to take up a cross and give up our lives for Him,
And when He says, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
And when He says, forgive those who do you wrong,
and then forgive them again and again and again and again…

This is what it means to be the Church Jesus calls us to be, to be Jesus’ physical presence in the world.
What did Jesus do?  He died for us on the cross--even for His enemies!
What do you think Jesus wants His Church to do?
We must die on a cross for His sake, even for our enemies, trusting He will lift us up in ressurection!

When we stand faithfully upon this Rock, we are an incredible blessing to the world. 
When we step off the Rock into the sinking sands of selfishness and unfaithfulness,
we become an evil tool in the hand of the Devil that brings death and destruction upon the earth,
and people point their accusing fingers and shout,
“The Church and religion are the cause of all the world’s problems.”

So I want to call you to action.
If you are a Christian reading this, I implore you:
Stand firmly upon the Rock of faith that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
These are not just words. 
This is a principle that changes your identity and everything about the way you live.
It is imperative that you represent Jesus well.

If you are reading this and you are not a Christian or if you are one of those skeptical of the Church,
I call upon you to investigate the truth of these messages over the next few weeks with an opened mind.
Don’t just accept the popular myth the world teaches that the Church is only and always corrupt and holding the world back or causing harm.  Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you set aside your presumptions and look at the facts from 2,000 years of history, I believe you will see and maybe you will even want to join with us in our mission to save the world.

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