The King’s Plan for the Nations

Steve Viars March 20, 2016 Matthew 16:

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Acts 1:6 - So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

Acts 1:7-8 - He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

“The real question to ask is not, ‘Is this practice good?’ but ‘Is this practice appropriate for us—does it fit with our ideology and ambitions?’” (Jim Collins, Good to Great, p. 215)

4 principles about the project Jesus has promised to build

I. Everyone Must Decide Who They Believe Jesus Is

“This passage represents the climax of Jesus’ teaching ministry. It was, in effect, the apostles’ final examination, consisting of but one question, the ultimate question that every human being must face: Who is Jesus Christ? A person’s answer is of the most monumental importance, because on it hinges his eternal destiny. It is a question that no one can escape or avoid. Every soul, as it were, will be pinned against the wall of eternity and forced to answer that question. For some two and a half years Jesus had been moving to this moment-teaching and reteaching, affirming and reaffirming, demonstrating and redemonstrating, building and rebuilding the truth of who He was in order to establish it completely and securely in the minds and hearts of the Twelve.” (John MacArthur, Commentary on Matthew, p. 17)

A. Some refuse to believe because Christ’s message doesn’t fit their agenda – vv. 1-12

B. Others come close but still fall short – v. 14

Matthew 16:14 - And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

C. Jesus is the promised Messiah, the very Son of the Living God, the rightful Lord, King, and Savior of the nations – v. 16

Matthew 16:16 - Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

D. Our hope – that the Father is revealing this to those around us and around His world

­Matthew 16:17 - And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

Zechariah 4:6 - …Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

II. Christ Has Promised to Build His Church

A. Don’t forget – He was a carpenter, and a son of a carpenter

Matthew 13:55 - Is not this the carpenter’s son?

Mark 6:3 - Is not this the carpenter…

B. When Jesus promises something, you can be assured that it will happen

Acts 2:41-47 - So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

III. Churches that are Faithful to God’s Word Will Have Influence

Matthew 16:19 - I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

A. God’s people will continue to be built up on the foundation of the apostle’s teaching

Ephesians 2:19-22 - So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

B. This is why God’s Word is so central to the life of the church

Acts 20:32 - And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Jude 20 - But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit…

IV. A Church’s Existence and Effectiveness is Grounded in Christ’s Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Matthew 16:21-23 - From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

John 10:10 - The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

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How many of you would say this morning that you like watching people who know how to build things? Maybe there's a construction project on your way to work and you enjoy just seeing the progress that team is making every day. Maybe you hired somebody to renovate something at your house and you just marvel at the way they have the ability to make those joints fit together properly and just the ability to take a blueprint and turn it into a reality. I think many of us would say that. We like being around people who know how to build things. Maybe one of the reasons that's true is because quite a few of us would also say at least when it comes to construction projects, "That's not me. That's not me. I like watching other people who have a skill that I just don't possess."

When I was going through seminary, Kris and I had some good friends in New Jersey named Harry and Carol. They were lifelong New Jersey residents, thick accents. Now, I was working as an assistant pastor in Trenton while I was also simultaneously finishing up my final degree at Westminster in Philadelphia. Harry was just beginning his work as an accountant. We just became very good friends during those years. Harry and Carol just bought a house. We were still living in an apartment, but Harry and Carol just bought a house. A lot of times on the weekends and the evenings we would attempt some project on his house, including the day that we decided to build him a storage shed.

I'm not talking about building it from scratch. Nothing complicated like that. It was a kit that came from like a Home Depot type place. All the lumber is already pre-cut. It's already labeled. The roof trusses were already assembled. It was a big jigsaw puzzle. We just had to put it together. What could go wrong with that? Did I mention that I was a seminary student and he was an accountant? I think we had a couple of other guys with us who had college degrees and desk jobs. How hard could this be? It wasn't long before we felt we were right in the middle of a Three Stooges episode. If you don't know what that even means, you're probably better off. Some of you do. Guys are banging their thumbs with hammers.

One guy is trying to pick up a board and turns around and whacks the other guy on the back of the head. That kind of thing. The pieces. They weren't fitting together the way they were supposed to. It was hard to make it square. We really didn't have the time of course to make it level on the foundation and all that sort of thing. We got the roof trusses up and we decided to take a break up on his porch. While we're sitting there we hear a creak. Then, one roof truss knocks into the next roof truss, the next roof truss. Just like a series of dominoes. By the time we got down there all we had left was a pile of twisted lumber on the ground. That's why when we have different crews working here at our church on various construction projects over the years I'm just amazed.

I'm amazed at how their foundations are level. They're able to make those walls square and plumb. Never one time have all their trusses fallen down while they were taking a break. It's just fun watching people who know how to build things. This morning I want to talk to you about a building project being accomplished by a man who was a carpenter, even the son of a carpenter. His building project has the ability to change the world. With that in mind, open your Bible please to Matthew, chapter 16. If you don't have a Bible with you, just pull out that one from under the chair in front of you and turn to page 13 of the back section, the New Testament. That'll bring you to Matthew, chapter 16 this morning.

Matthew, chapter 16 or page 13 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. Our church's theme this year is loving our world. It's a great theme. How does God want us to relate to the people and to the people groups all around us? We think the answer is loving our world. The past several weeks we've been in the gospel of Matthew focusing on Jesus and the nations, how even in a book that was clearly written to a Jewish audience. That's true of Matthew, the emphasizing reasons they ought to believe that Christ was their promised Messiah and rightful King. Still, there's plenty of references to how the life, the teaching, the death, the burial, the resurrection of Christ impacted the other nations as well.

Jesus and the nations. By the time we get to our chapter this morning, Matthew 16, we've received the terrible news of the official rejection of Jesus by the Jewish leaders of the day. That happened back in chapter 12 where they committed what scripture refers to as the unpardonable sin, meaning the religious leaders of the day ascribed the works of Christ to the devil. Instead of allowing His miracles to affirm His deity, they refuse to repent and believe. They said that, "He wasn't acting on the authority of His Father, God. Instead, it was His father, the devil." After they commit the unpardonable sin in Matthew, chapter 12, interestingly the very next chapter, Matthew 13 has a series of seven parables. All of them with a common theme of delay.

It's not that there will ever be a place for the nation of Israel in God's plan and program. We say that because God has made all sorts of unconditional promises to them in the Old Testament that is yet to be fulfilled. Also, there's several critical paths just in the New Testament that tell us that someday God will fulfill His plan and program with His chosen nation, but right now in this age they have been set aside because of their unbelief. The natural question would be this. What's the plan? I ask that from the perspective of human beings. None of this would have surprised the Lord, but from our perspective, from Matthew's perspective now, if the nation of Israel had been satisfied because of their unbelief, what is God's plan in the day and age in which we live?

Then, correspondingly, is there any place for people from all the nations? That's what we're talking about this morning from Matthew, chapter 16. We're talking about the King's plan for the nations. In the verses before us, those questions are very clearly and very powerfully and very practically answered. I'm in Matthew 16 beginning in verse 1. "The Pharisees and Sadducees came up and testing Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven, but He replied to them, 'When it is evening, you say it will be fair weather for the sky is red and in the morning, there will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah and He left them and went away.

The disciples ... This is fascinating, came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread." Seriously? "Jesus said to them, 'Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.' They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, 'He said that because we didn't bring any bread,' but Jesus answered. Jesus aware of this said, 'You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets full you picked up, or the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large basket-fulls you picked up? How is it that you don't understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'

Then, they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching." That's the point, "Of the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi," notice that because remember the unpardonable sin of chapter 12, the parables about delay in chapter 13. Now, we're coming to Caesarea Philippi, a place that is known of having jagged cliffs where the persons in that city have placed all sorts of dead gods, idols that they worshiped. When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples," now follow the logic. "'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' They said, 'Some say John the Baptist. Others say Elijah. Still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' Then, he said to them, 'Who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

Jesus said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. Notice that you're blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal that to you, but My Father who is in heaven and I also say to you that you are Peter, a little stone, and upon this rock this confession you just made I will ... ' What? 'I will build My church. There's my plan and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.'" Then, he says this interestingly. "'I give you apostles the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.' Then, He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. From that time, Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and He must suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and scribes and must be killed."

See, this is the only way the church is going to be built and "Be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him." Bad idea, saying, "God forbid it, Lord!" Another bad idea. "'This shall never happen to you,'" but He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's.'" We're talking about the King's plan for the nations. Now, it's not hard to find the answer that Jesus gave to the question we posed. Right? In the form of this promise He gives to the disciples at Caesarea Philippi. You saw it. "I'm going to build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."

That is one of the reasons why around here we believe in the centrality of the local church. In other words, we believe that God is mediating His plan and program through the establishment and development of local churches in this age. In other words, building people. This isn't about institution. It's not about buildings. Building people by building the church or building people and in so doing, building the church. That explains a lot of the things we do around here with great passion. At the same time, it explains a lot of the things that frankly don't get our attention, don't get our resources because they're not connected with the mission of the church, this entity that Jesus promised to build.

As soon as you say that you believe God is mediating His plan and His program in and through the local church, that helps us focus our energies. You realize that? That helps us focus our attention. Now, I suppose somebody could say back to me, "Well, but the Bible's a big book. Are we sure we want to put this much emphasis on a concept simply because it's promised here?" That's a very fair question and here's the answer. This is really just the beginning of the conversation. In fact, we're not sure all that the disciples would have understood when Jesus said that for the first time in Matthew 16. He said, "I'm going to build my ecclesia." Ec-, preposition "out of" or to call. "I'm going to build my called out group of people." We're not exactly sure what the disciples would have understood that to mean on that particular day.

That's open for debate, but what becomes very, very clear is how that promise becomes so central to the rest of the New Testament story of redemption, how Jesus builds His church. He fulfills His promise. For example, just fast forward a little bit to after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ just prior to His ascension. What's Jesus still talking about? Not this. The disciples asked, "Lord, is it at this time that you're restoring the kingdom to Israel?" Seriously? That's after the resurrection. A bit troubling for sure because it seems to indicate that they still want Christ to be their political deliverer. They don't ask him anything about the church He promised to build. They don't ask Him anything about the place of the nations, the people that they're supposed to be a blessing to as children of the Abrahamic covenant.

They just ask about what are they getting out of this? Jesus's answer on that day is a very interesting mixture of both grace and rebuke. When He says this, "It's not for you to know times or epics which the Father has fixed by His own authority. Don't be worrying about that, but you will receive future times. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you should be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth." In other words, "You're asking the wrong question. Don't you remember what I promised you? A few months ago in Caesarea Philippi that promise is about to come true." If you know your Bible, how long did the disciples have to wait for that particular promise to begin to be fulfilled?

If we're just before the ascension, 40 days after the resurrection, how many days before the church is born? The answer is approximately 10 on the day of Pentecost where Acts 2 tells us the marvelous story of the birth of the church. The beginning of the fulfillment of this marvelous promise of the Messiah, the church made up of men and women from many different ... What? Nations. So much so that the Holy Spirit allows the apostles to speak in tongues, to speak in known languages of other nations that they had never studied, screaming a twofold message that won a judgement on unbelieving Israel where now the truth of God is being proclaimed in other languages because of their unbelief, because of their rejection of their Messiah and simultaneously a message of grace and mercy for the nations where people from every tongue and tribe are invited to repent and believe and believe and find new life in Christ.

On that first day, 3,000 people responded to the offer. That's called Jesus keeping His promise to do what? To build His church, His plan for the nations. Start marching your way through the Book of Acts. I'm trying to demonstrate the totality of this emphasis of Jesus building His church. You march away through the Book of Acts and what do you find? More and more men and women being added to the church. At the beginning of the first great missionary journeys where Paul and his associates are going around doing what? Proclaiming the gospel and then organizing those men and women into ecclesias, called out group of men and women who believe in Christ as their Messiah. Then, you go through the Book of Acts.

What do you have next in the Bible? Epistles, which are what? Specific letters written to specific local churches or groups of churches. Then, you have a couple of pastoral Epistles in your Bible. What would that be? Specific truth written to specific leaders in local churches. Even you would get to the end of the Bible to a place like Revelation. Before you find truth about the end times, what do you find first? Seven specific letters written to ... Anybody want to guess? Yeah. Seven specific literal churches. The point is the message of the New Testament is that God is mediating His plan and program in and through the establishment of and development of local churches building people and building churches.

Now, if you're relatively new around here, you might say, "Oh, you know what? That explains a lot of the things I see going on around here and the things that we're trying to do around the world, and it also explains a lot of the things that I don't see happening. It comes down to this driving doctrinal emphasis of the centrality of the local church." Exactly. In other words, we want to participate in the project Jesus is building. True that. If you understand what I'm talking about this morning, your life will reflect the truth of that statement. We want to participate in the project that Jesus is building. In other words, find out what the Lord is doing and then put your shoulder to the plough.

I have the privilege of teaching one of the last courses to our third year seminary students just prior to their graduation this summer. It's a course on church leadership and administration. One of the books that we're studying right now it's a secular book by Jim Collins, Good to Great, along with the sequel, Built to Last. One of the points that Collins makes in these books is swim in your own current even if you swim against the tide. He summarizes that particular section with this thought. The real question to ask is not is this practice good? See, churches could do all sorts of good things, I suppose. It's not to ask is this practice good? Is this practice appropriate for us? Does it fit with our ideology? Does it fit with our ambitions? Where do we get those? We get them from the word of God.

I would suggest to you that Matthew 16 can really help us right there. In the time we have remaining, let's think about four principles from this text. Four principles about the project that Jesus has promised to build. The first one is this. Everybody has to decide who they believe Jesus is.

I. Everyone Must Decide Who They Believe Jesus Is

Isn't that where the discussion begins? John MacArthur said of this text, "This passage represents the climax of Jesus's teaching ministry. It was in effect the apostles' final examination consisting of but one question, the ultimate question that every human being must face." Would that include you, by the way? Would that include me? Every human being must face who is Jesus Christ? A person's answer is of most monumental importance because on it hinges his eternal destiny. Do you believe that? I do.

It's a question that no one can escape or avoid. Every soul as it were will be pinned against the wall of eternity and forced to answer that question. For some two and a half years Jesus has been moving to this moment, teaching and re-teaching and affirming and reaffirming, demonstrating and re-demonstrating, building and rebuilding the truth of who he was in order to establish it completely and securely in the minds and the hearts of the 12. See, everybody has to decide who they believe Jesus is. Now, think about what we saw at the beginning of the text. Matthew makes it clear that some refuse to believe. Why? Christ's message doesn't fit their agenda. Christ and John the Baptist had been in conflict with these religious leaders from the very beginning because their agenda is to herald their own righteousness because of their birthright and adherence to their man-made laws.

They don't need anything from anyone. When John the Baptist insisted that instead they have to repent and acknowledge their need of a savior, they refused to believe that. Then, Jesus teaches on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, chapter 5 through 7 that His kingdom is occupied by people who mourn over their sin, not who brag about their self-righteousness. That message did not fit their agenda. They rejected it. In other words, they made a decision about who they believed Jesus is. By the way, you can believe whatever you want. This is America. You can believe whatever you want about that, but that doesn't make your belief right, just like it didn't make their belief right. I'm certain there will be men and women who hear this message today.

I'm glad you're here. I really am, but who are in a very similar position spiritually to those in the first part of this text who essentially have concluded if Jesus can be made to agree with all their notions or affirm the path they're already on, that they'll invite Him to join them in a system in accomplishing what they've already set out to achieve themselves, but if trusting Christ as Lord and Savior requires repentance, if it requires an acknowledgement of spiritual need and a willingness to turn from sin to forgiveness and new life that's available only through His shed blood, that is the price that some independent Americans are unwilling to pay which means then you have to either invent your own Jesus.

Some people do the legal pad religion thing. Jesus is whoever I say He is or just walk away from the entire message because of its tendency to offend modern sensibilities. Some people do that. Some churches do that. Now, think about layer in verse 14 because others come close. They're not like the Sadducees and the Pharisees, but they still fall short. When Jesus said, "Who are other people saying I am?" They said, "Well, some say you're John the Baptist. Others Elijah. Some Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Time doesn't allow us to unpack each one of those answers, but the emphasis on all three is this. "Some people think you're not the Messiah. You're a good guy. You're the precursor to the Messiah.

You've got a good thing going on. People speak highly of you, but just not that highly." There too we may have people with us today and that would be where you're coming from. Jesus is a good teacher, you might think, or Jesus was a moral leader or Jesus was a good example. Friend, I need to love you enough as a pastor to tell you that falls short of the biblical standard we're seeing in this text. Jesus is not building His church on morality. He's building His church on redemption which is why it's so amazing and why it's so delightful that Peter got it right. Jesus is the promised Messiah, the very son of the living God, the rightful Lord, King and Savior of the nations. He said, "You're the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Now, connect all of these dots that we've been talking about in contrast to the religious leaders who officially rejected you in Matthew, chapter 12 in contrast to the dead gods being worshiped by the people in the city to which you've brought us, in contrast to the Pharisees and the Sadducees of the early part of this text or in contrast to those who think you're just John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah. A fine fellow, but just a forerunner of the Messiah. Peter says, "I believe you're the Christ. I believe you're the promised Messiah. I believe you're the perfect Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world and I have accepted you as my Savior and my Lord.

Friends, it's impossible for a true church to be built apart from a clear proclamation of the biblical gospel. That's why, by the way, I'm so glad for the men and women who have been practicing for our Passion Play. Now, we're about to go into a week of tremendous sacrifice. What are they doing? They want to be sure that the gospel is clearly and powerfully proclaimed through as many people from this town as will come to the Long Center to hear it. What are they thinking? Here's the answer. They want to be carpenter's assistants. They believe that Jesus is building His church and not just in the past. We're not talking about some God who is in a museum under formaldehyde. We're talking about the Son of the what? The living God.

We're not talking about something that God used to do. We're talking about something that God is doing right here, right now building His church. Those dear people they want to give whatever is necessary to participate in the joy of Jesus building His church. By the way, some of those people who are serving in the Passion Play, we've been doing drama musicals at Easter time for 27 straight years. Even before that, this church did cantatas, but we started doing drama musicals and eventually the Passion Play 27 years ago. Do you realize we have men and women in this church who have participated every year for the last 27? Why? They love being part of Jesus building His church. They love seeing men and women come to Christ.

They want to be part of that. By the way, I love being part around people who measure faithfulness like that. Not people who count faithfulness in terms of weeks or months or years, but who count faithfulness in terms of decades. Somebody wrote an article that I saw this week. It said, "Stop treating your church like your high school girlfriend." Amen, amen and amen. If you really believe that Christ is building your church, it's a privilege and an honor to participate in that. These dear folks who are serving in our Passion Play I hope you'll pat them on the back for their service for Christ. I hope you'll plan to pray for them this week. They would say with the Apostle Paul, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel. It's the power of God for salvation. I want to be part of that to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

Now, if you would say, "Oh, people aren't, aren't responding to this message of Jesus being the Christ and the Son of the living God anymore. Really? Really?" Remember what our hope is here that the Father is revealing this to those around us and around His world. Jesus said, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." What that means is if anything good happens this week at the Passion Play or through any other individual or corporate ministry, we would all say what? "It's not by might. It's not by power, but by my Spirit," says the Lord. "Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my, my Father who is in heaven." This happens on a fairly regular basis around here in our counseling ministry that's available to folks in our community.

We're very, very thankful for that. I had the privilege this week of being with a woman who decided to make this exact same declaration that Peter did. She decided to admit her need and place her faith and trust in Christ to say that, "I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God." That happened right here on Monday night which means God is still drawing men and women to Himself. He's still building His church. I wish you could have seen the tears streaming down her face and streaming down her boyfriend's face. I would just ask everybody here are you sure there's been a definite time in your life where you admitted your need and you placed your faith and trust in Christ as Savior and Lord?

I'm asking you have you arrived at a biblically informed answer to the question, who is Jesus? If not, we would invite you to choose to repent and believe in Him today. God is still building His church. Now, on that basis, what does the passage tell us next?

II. Christ Has Promised to Build His Church

Again, it's a promise. Christ has promised to do that on that rock. "On that confession you just made, Peter, I'm going to build my church. I'm going to build it." When people come to see us in counseling, they're generally not coming to report that things are going really well. Instead, it's to talk about a friendship or a marriage or a job or a family that's just been destroyed. The opposite of being built. Destroyed. Torn down. You understand that's what our adversary loves to do. You realize that? He wants to destroy.

Not build. He wants to destroy your life. He wants to destroy your reputation. He wants to destroy your health, to destroy your family. By the way, some of his chief tools are human pride. That's destructive. Unbelief. They have selfishness and an uncontrolled tongue. For men and women who will humbly admit their sin and repent and turn around and trust Christ, the Son of the living God, the one who deserves to be their Lord and Savior, this passage promises that individual be blessed. "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona and will be built." Please don't forget this. Jesus was a carpenter. He was a son of a carpenter. He knows the smell of sawdust. Do you realize that? He knows the joyful feeling at the end of the day when you can look at what God allowed your hands to construct.

I just want to point out to all of us how amazing it is that at this crucial juncture in the history of Revelation that the metaphor that Jesus chose to use was from the world of construction. "I'm going to build. I'm going to build my church." Remember this also. When Jesus promises something it's going to happen. People are going to be built. In fact, think about what happened in the early church in Acts 2. "So then, those who had received His word were baptized and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching." Why? Jesus was building them and to fellowship. How? Jesus was building them to the breaking of bread and to prayer. "Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe."

That's what happens when you're part of Jesus's building project. "Signs were taking place through the apostles. All those who had believed were together." There was a famine at that time and "Had all things in common. They had begun selling their property and their possessions. They were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." Jesus is building them. He's changing their lives. "Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple and breaking bread from house to house." You sense the building project? You can almost smell the sawdust. You can almost hear the skill saw going across the board and breaking bread from house to house. "They were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people."

This is a great project. "The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." That's called a pretty good day of building. By the way, please don't think about this corporately. We're not talking about buildings. We're not talking about facilities here. We're not talking about institutions. We're talking about people. It's a difference between using people to build a church or using a church to build people. We believe in the later for sure. You can picture in the early church men and women are coming because the weight and the penalty of their sin has torn them down, or the challenges of living in a sin cursed world have torn them down. Then, the gospel is proclaimed and they trusted Christ.

Their sin has been forgiven. The righteousness of Christ has been placed on their account. That means according to this text even the gates of Hades. It's a powerful metaphor. Death itself. The gates of Hades cannot overpower it because broken down people are being built up by the skillful carpenter, the Lord Jesus Christ. I got a funny text from Jeff Gray yesterday. Jeff, one of our dear members who had seven bypasses Friday. I didn't even know you could have seven bypasses. I didn't know there was seven things to bypass, but he had that. Thank the Lord for the medical care in this town. Had seven bypasses on Friday. He sends me a text yesterday that says, "I'm alive." That was it.

Praise God for that. You realize that would have been true even if he had not survived the surgery because of the power of the shed blood of the master builder. We just started a new counseling training class on Mondays. We not only have a counseling center for our community, but we also provide training for Christian leaders who want to duplicate that in their town and in their church. One of the delightful things happening right now is that we have several friends from churches downtown led by African American leaders. They're in our training program. One of the pastors from one of those churches just happened to be in the counseling cases past Monday night when this woman placed her faith and trust in Christ.

Generally, when that happens I could have a stock response. I generally take some time and just try to be sure that person understands what just happened. After they pray and trust Christ as Savior and Lord, I'll say something like, "You know what? On the one hand, it's not like you're going to go home and everything is new. So, you won't go home and somebody took all your clothes to the cleaners. That's not the way this works. It's not like somebody deposited $10,000 in your checking account. That's not what's about to happen, but on the other hand, hundreds of things according to the word of God just happened to you." I love talking about this part. "The angels in heaven are rejoicing right now. I believe that there's a party going on in heaven right now. If you tap the angels on the shoulders if they have shoulders and ask them, 'Hey, what are you all dancing about and having a party? Who ordered pizza? What ... what's this all about?'"

They would say, "Well, well, didn't you hear that so and so in Lafayette, Indiana just placed her faith and trust in Christ?" I said to that person because I believe it every bit as much as I believe I'm looking at you, even the people I'm looking at Faith West. I believe that angels rejoice when a person places their faith and trust in Christ. Then, we talked to this dear woman about the promise that when you make that decision you're forgiven. "Your sin is cast as far as the east is from the west and at that very same moment this is so very important. The righteousness of Christ is placed on your account. It doesn't matter about your past. It doesn't matter about your sin. It doesn't matter about your failure. When God looks at you now, he's not looking at you through your good, bad or your ugly.

He's looking at you solely through the imputed righteousness of His Son. That's true of you right now." Then, I said and this is a bit morbid, but I often say it and I said it Monday night. I said, "Now, listen. Let's say that the five of us, me, the two trainees, this couple, what if we jumped in a car and celebrated this decision by driving down to Dairy Queen. God forbid we were hit by a car and we were all ushered into eternity?" I said, "Now, it's not like me and this pastor over here that we would go to heaven on bus number one, but you would have to wait for like bus number three because you just became a Christian." I said, "We'd all be on the same bus." This African American friend of mine said, "In the same seat."

Do you understand why he would have said that? Do you understand how powerfully true that is in the same seat? Then, I just asked him to pray and celebrate this woman's decision. I wish you could have heard that prayer. There were Kleenex flying around that room. What was that? That was Jesus keeping His promise that He would build His church. Now, what else can we learn about this? It's odd, but it's right there in the text. "Churches that are faithful to God's word they'll have influence."

III. Churches that are Faithful to God’s Word Will Have Influence

Where do we get that? Jesus said, "I'm going to give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." I realize that's been misused in all sorts of ways. Our understanding of that is God's people will continue to be built up on the foundation of the apostles' teaching.

Jesus also told these disciples that after He died the Holy Spirit and after he was resurrected, the Holy Spirit would come upon them and they would be guided in all truth. In other words, they would be able to produce for us, write down for us the Bible which we know to be inspired, breathed out by God. Therefore, powerful and sufficient. What does that mean? That means that there will always be a written record of exactly how a person becomes a Christian and a written record of exactly how men and women after they trust Christ are built up practically in the faith. That's why we would read a passage of scripture like this. "So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens. You're fellow citizens with the saints and you're ... " of what? "God's household having been ... " There's our metaphor. "Built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone."

We just sang about that. Now, listen. "In whom the whole building," us, the churches, "Being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." Local churches can have powerful influence around the world. This is why God's word is so central to the life of the church. Jesus is building lives and building His church on the truth of His sufficient word, which is why we would read Paul saying this to the Ephesian elders in this crucial text in Acts 20. "Now, I commend you to God." Here it is. "The word of His grace which is able to ... " What does the word do? "I'll build my church and build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified."

Hey, I think we have enough on the table for me to ask you a few pastoral questions. Would that be okay? I've also already asked you if you know for sure that you're on your way to heaven, but Christian friend, are you allowing Christ to build you through the truth of His word? Are you? Let's get to the very issue of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Yes, Jesus is a builder. Yes, Jesus is a restorer, but you have to do your part. True that, which is why we would read in places like Jude 20. "But you, beloved, building yourselves up." I wonder if there are people who will hear this message today. One of the takeaways will be I'm not near as strong and built up spiritually as I should be, not because the resources weren't there, but because I did not choose to make myself available to them.

You say, "Well, what do you mean by that?" Let me just try to be as clear as I can. Starved, weak people have no one to blame but themselves if the reason for their spiritual condition is the refusal to come to the table. Jesus is ready to build you up, but He doesn't do that by force feeding you. Also, what about this? What about the issue of participating in God building His church? Right now, a lot of us. Where are your kids right now? Some dear Christian servant is watching them and teaching them and proclaiming the word of God to them. Why do we have so many faithful children's ministry workers? It's because they view themselves as carpenter's assistants. Right now, they're teaching the word to little ones.

Listen. Do you understand we're living in a culture that's doing everything it can to tear down our kids and in some cases doing a pretty effective job? There are men and women. Hundreds of them who say, "I want to be a carpenter's assistant. I know that Jesus wants to build up and I want to be part of that team not because I was scolded into it, but because I consider it to be an incredible privilege. I want to find out what Jesus is up to and I want to get my shoulder on that plough." I don't have time to talk about all of this. This picture was sent to me this week from one of our friends in Mexico. I was just in that room a couple of months ago and it wasn't even dry walled yet. Now, they've got it finished and they're doing ... You see his name right there? That's Leo, one of the leaders in that church.

He's about to start our Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling degree in a couple of weeks. You know what he's doing? Building the church. He's participating in what God has promised to do. Can I make this general for just a minute? I know I'm overtime, but I haven't been in the pulpit for a couple of weeks. I'll be shorter next week. Listen, think about overall this concept of building. Some people are just builders. They're builders in their family. They're constantly encouraging people in the faith. They're builders at work. They're builders in their neighborhood. They're builders in their church. They're just encouragers. Some people aren't. Some people have adopted the position of professional critic.

They're just constantly tearing down. They're constantly tearing down the other people in their families. They're constantly tearing down people in work. They could tell you all the reasons Purdue lost last week constantly tearing, tearing, tearing, tearing. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of that yap of yours." Be the person who loves to build, not the person who loves to tear down. Let's conclude with this. It's very, very important. A church's existence and effectiveness is grounded in the gospel.

IV. A Church’s Existence and Effectiveness is Grounded in Christ’s Death, Burial, and Resurrection

See, that's why as soon as Jesus said he was going to build His church that's why He began talking about how He had to be killed and then raised on the third day. That's why Peter was so wrong.

The only way a church could possibly be built is through the shed blood of Christ. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. Jesus said, "I came that they might have life and have it abundantly." Hey, aren't you glad that Jesus is building His church? Aren't you glad that He invites you to be part of that adventure? Last weekend I was with my wife, Kris, and doing something typically romantic by my standards. We were buying a new hedge trimmer. Guys, keep that in mind because Valentine's Day will be back around on the calendar. Just follow the chief romantic here. Anyway, we're buying a hedge trimmer. I knew the guy who was there. He started talking to me about just how things are going at the church. I was just talking to him about many of the ways that God is blessing. Here's what he said. He said, "You know what?" Here's how he summarized it. He said, "It's fun to win, isn't it?"

That's what he said. Of course, there's no winning going on around here of human origin, but God is blessing in a lot of ways. That guy's right. It's fun. It's fun to win if you're participating as an assistant to the master carpenter. Now, let's stand together for prayer, shall we? Father, thank you for this crucial place in your word and I thank you for the church. I thank you for the men and women who have worked hard to cooperate in building this church and churches all around the world. Lord, we don't confuse that with a building. We don't confuse that with structure. Thank you that you build people. Lord, thank you for the men and women you're drawing to yourself. Thank you for the plan that we don't yet know, but can rejoice in this coming week. Lord, thank you that you allow us to be part of the accomplishment of this plan. We pray that we would embrace that wholeheartedly in Christ's name. Amen.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video