Recently, I have been considering what it means to find and follow Jesus into the great and glorious mission that He has called us to. As I prepare to launch a new, exciting and dynamic Church in Casselberry, I have been studying the first words that Jesus uttered about the Church when He began this movement that continues to change the world, 2000 years after its beginning.
This scripture is found in Matthew 16 and I believe it tells us four things that we need to know if we want to be a vital and vibrant part of the church’s continual advancement.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, H asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”[c]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,[d] the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John,[e] 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’),[f] and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell[g] will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid[h] on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit[i] on earth will be permitted in heaven.” – Matthew 16:13-19
Know God (vs16)
Jesus initiates the conversation by asking who people are saying He is, but I am not sure that Jesus was primarily concerned about what others thought of Him. He wanted to know who His disciples thought He was. In fact, if Jesus were physically in a room with us today, I think he’d want to ask us the same question. Who do we say He is? It’s THE most important question. Get it right and we will ultimately gain everything. Get it wrong and we will ultimately lose everything.
Bold, brash Peter – perhaps by luck rather than logic – gets it right. Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord, the anointed one. And at this moment He comes to know Jesus in a whole new level. The penny drops and things change. While Peter had been with Jesus for a while, it was this realization that solidified the commitment between Jesus and Peter. And Peter’s life forever changed because of who he knew Jesus to be.
All mission starts with us knowing God. Do you know Him? Unless you know Him, you can’t follow Him, and if you don’t follow Him whatever mission you are on will be less than it could be. The Apostle Paul, the pioneer of what it meant to mission said that he considered every other great achievement in his life a loss compared to knowing Jesus. We should as well.
Know God’s Voice (vs17)
As Jesus acknowledges that Peter has got the question right, He goes on to reveal the source of from where Peter got the right answer. It wasn’t that he’d heard it through the grapevine, or that he had intellectually put the pieces together. He got it right because God Himself had revealed it to him. In other words, God had spoken and Peter had listened.
The next crucial step in knowing our mission is to know God’s voice. We spend too much of our time trying to figure out what we want when our energies should be spent in following what God wants. His plan is always better for us. I have wasted way too much of my life trying to make things happen in my strength and will. But things never really take off in the mission until we are following God’s voice.
Jesus said it this way, “My sheep know my voice, and they follow me” (John 10:27). He’s the shepherd, the man with the plan, and our job is to follow.
Know the power of His Church! (vs18)
If we really want to make a difference, it’s crucial we understand the power of the local Church. All missions must tie back into the Church because it is only the Church that can bring the sustainable, holistic change necessary and the Church is God’s primary plan to change the world.
Jesus looks Peter squarely in the eyes – fully knowing all Peter’s failings and failures – and said to Him. “Peter – you are a rock. And on this rock, I will build my Church.” Despite all the well-publicized failures through the ages, the Church still remains as the bastion of trust, the dispenser of love, and the vessel of hope for our world.
And Jesus says about this Church, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. By this, the instruction is not that the Church should hunker down and protect itself against the darkness of the world, but that the church should assertively move into areas of darkness and shine Jesus’ blazing light. The gates of hell do not prevail because the church stands strong against them, they do not prevail because the church assertively and loving dispels the darkness. We cannot separate our ecclesiology (the church) from our missiology (our purpose).
Know what to do with what’s been entrusted to you! (Vs. 18/19)
Note that once Peter has known Jesus, known his voice, invited to know the power of the Church, he then is entrusted with a great responsibility. Jesus says, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you allow on earth will be allowed in heaven”.
As Jesus ushers these words he is giving us as believers an incredible responsibility. It’s a responsibility that we have to take very seriously. We have to steward it well and give our best energy and effort to making sure that we are as faithful and responsible as we can with what God has given to us.
So often we carry lightly the responsibility of our faith and its call to make a difference. We fail to realize that there is much resting on what we do. In order to steward well our responsibility, we have to know what to do with what God has entrusted to us.
God has an incredible plan for your life. It’s bigger and better and bolder and brighter than you could imagine. But in order to fulfill that mission, you have to know God, his voice, the power of His church and how you are going to handle what He has entrusted to you. Know your mission!