THE CHURCH: A COLONY OF HEAVEN
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Romans 12:1-8 Matthew 16:13-20 August 27, 2017
There is a television program where they choose an old house that is a bit run down and they fix it up and renovate it and it looks so much better. Then there is a program where they take old cars and they are nothing but a bucket of rust and they fix them up and they look brand new like the Frog Follies cars. As I watch those programs I ask myself, how can we do that with people? How can we take somebody who is run down and messed up and fix them up and help them to have a new and better future?
This is the central message of the New Testament. God has a plan for this planet earth. It is a fix up plan for human beings.
Several years ago my wife and I were able to travel through Europe and visited seven countries. My favorite place was Rome, Italy. We went down in the catacombs which werean underground hiding place and living place for Christians during times of persecution. Many stories come from that time in history but one that really caught my attention was the rescue of little babies.
Fathers in Rome at that time had complete authority over their family. When a baby was born, the father could actually decide whether to keep the baby or to kill the baby. Often if it was a little boy, he would choose to keep it, but if it was a little girl he would choose to throw that baby away. He would take the baby to the garbage dump and leave it there.
Now the Christians that lived in the catacombs would get up early before dawn and would go to the garbage dump and would look here and there for babies that may have been abandoned overnight. They would then bring that baby home with them and care for that baby and teach that baby about the love of Christ.
Now the big questions is: how do you get people to move from throwing away babies to being rescuers of babies? Is it possible for people to change? Is it possible for a person to take on a whole new set of values and begin to think compassionately?
The New Testament says “Yes, yes, yes!” It is possible and that is why God sent his only Son into this world. God is the one that can fix human beings. Matthew 19:26 says: Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Our text today tells us how God is going to fix the human race. Jesus asked his disciples “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter was the first to make the necessary confession of faith. He said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus then told them that this was not revealed to them by other people. Only God can open your eyes to see this.
Jesus then points to Peter and says with people like you I will build my church and my church will storm the gates of hell and those gates shall not prevail against it. I will change people’s lives and these will make up my church and nothing will stop the church of Jesus Christ.
Jesus then said, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven” and that has to be one of the greatest promises of God’s Word. The power of heaven and the peace of heaven will be yours.
God’s way of fixing people is through the Gospel Message that is preached and taught by the church and that powerful message changes people’s lives from the inside out. God alone can renovate and salvage our messed up lives. He alone can help us move to adopt family values and human life values.
In the Romans text we see how He is going to use the church. People are going to have a life of worship. Roman s 12:1 says” I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
The people that sincerely worship Christ will not be conformed to the world. The people in the catacombs were different. They had a completely different set of values. They valued human life.
Those making up the church will have different leadership abilities and those abilities will be used to keep the church strong and healthy. People will change as they worship and pray and study and minister to others.
Here is how God will change people and keep them on the right path. II Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here. Can people change? Yes! Yes! Yes! Just confess Jesus Christ as your Messiah and Lord. Then worship with your whole heart with God’s people.
12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect.
12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,
12:5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
12:6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith;
12:7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;
12:8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
16:14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
16:15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
16:16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
16:17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
16:20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.