Text – Matthew
My unofficial title this weekend, is why do church? Church attendance and membership has declined in the west. Large inner city church buildings are being sold. They are being converted into office buildings and gyms.
It is a sign of what is happening spiritually, under the surface. There are two factors here: one is the rise of the “nones” — people who claim no religious affiliation; Another is the rising number of SBNR’s — people who claim to be spiritual but not religious.
What is happening?
We face significant challenges. I’m going to talk about some of the things that I believe are factor.
1) Many people see church as irrelevant to spiritual growth in the Christian life
2) People see other groups with similar personal, but nonreligious experiences as more relevant to their life than the church;
3) People have been hurt by church; Some more than others; Abusive leaders or hypocrisy
4) Fullness of bread— we have so much stuff that we do not have a hunger for God; A lot of times the physical comforts we enjoy distract us from spiritual needs
What it all boils down to, is church is not as important to people as it was. People define their spiritual lives on their own, without seeing the need for the local church.
This evening I plan to do an overview of the book of Matthew. I want to look at Jesus. Who is Jesus, why did He come?
The gospel of Matthew reveals Jesus Christ as the Son of God authorized by God to institute a new people of God, the Church. he is the heir of the promises made to David and Abraham.
Matthew 3:1-12 John the Baptist proclaims Jesus as the founder of God’s people. He discounted mere physical lineage from Abraham saying the axe is already laid to the root of the tree. He says that One is coming, Someone who would have the authority to reconfigure the People of God.
Jesus is the promised light to those that dwell in darkness. He began to preach repentance as the kingdom of Heaven at hand.
John 1:14; Mark 1:15
Jesus describes who is chosen by God or who belong to God: entrance requirements of the kingdom of God.
He also sets new ethical and moral standards for the people of God. He brings a higher level of life.
He defines how people are to approach Him and with what motives.
Then He gives the criteria for faithfulness and the final judgement.
Jesus chooses and sends out 12 apostles with power to cast out demons, heal diseases and other instructions.
Matthew 11 John was in prison and was feeling discouraged. Jesus tells Him that He is the one who was to come. Jesus contrasts Himself and John with the fickleness of the people.
Jesus then pronounces woes on the cities that did not receive the message of John.
Then He invites people to come to Him.
Jesus claims to be the Lord of the Sabbath.
Jesus defines the kingdom of heaven through parables.
The disciples affirm that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one. He is the one anointed as king by God. The confession of Peter that Jesus is the Christ is the rock on which the Church of Jesus Christ is built. Jesus will be Lord of the Church.
Christ’s authority was delegated to Peter as well as the other apostles. The Church was given power over the bondage and defenses of death and hell. Acts 2:27; Jesus was in hades (the place of the dead) but the Father did not leave Him there.
“I will give you the keys”. Peter has possession of authority in the kingdom. This authority was delegated to the apostles. The Church is able to lock or unlock things that are impenetrable for anything else on earth.
Where people really want to get things done they usually use armies or tools of coercion. God gives these things to carnal rulers. And yet, there’s a whole story going on under the surface. God wants the keys given to the church to be used in our lives.
The church can bring together what is apart or take apart what is together.
Jesus directs his apostles to deal with sin in the church. He gives them a process of addressing them:
First, go alone; next with a brother; and then with the church.
It is those gathered in Jesus’ name who have the authority to say who is in the church.
Jesus rides into Jerusalem to fulfill prophecy of the coming king. Jesus is identified as the Son of David and claims authority over the temple as “my house”.
Jesus identifies Himself with God as a recipient of praise. Then Jesus tells the parable of the keeper of the vineyard. He quotes the Psalm: “the stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner”.
Jesus condemns the religious leaders, pronouncing God’s judgement on false leaders and defines true spirituality.
True teachers humbly serve others. True promises are not based on technicalities. true religion emphasizes weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. True purity is to be clean on the inside. True teachers accept current prophets.
Jesus identifies Himself as the One who tried to use Jerusalem as a blessing to the earth and proclaims its desolation. He is now claiming the authority to define the new people of God.
Jesus speaks about persecutions and the end of the age. He warns of false Christs, and predicts a great falling away, or apostasy. He tells what will happen to the sun, moon, and stars.
He gives object lessons and warnings to His people. “Learn a lesson from the fig tree”.
Jesus tells the story of the wise and foolish virgins, warning us to watch.
Jesus then defines the parameters of the judgement.
The death and resurrection of Jesus.
“Make disciples of all nations.” God’s people are those who follow Jesus. There is a rite of entrance. The Church has the authority to give its approval to the sealing of the faith of the convert in baptism. The Church has the authority to proclaim the teachings of Christ.
Jesus promises that He will be with us to the end of the world.
There is authority; There are things to do; And He will be with us, His Church.
I am amazed at this man Jesus Christ. Who is this Saviour? How high are His claims on our lives? At what level do His words and His teachings penetrate our hearts?
We have the privilege of belonging to Jesus Christ.
In summary, Jesus redefined who the people of God are. Rather than ethical Israel, it is all who repent and follow His commands.
Jesus set the conditions for the kingdom— entrance requirements, definitions, and conditions. Jesus authorized his followers to maintain this new people, the Church, making them responsible to discern who belongs to the people of God.
We should approach this with fear and trembling.
Jesus commands his followers to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel, teaching and baptizing those who follow him.
Jesus promised He would be with His church as they do these things.
What do we do next? We have an amazing picture. Jesus has made amazing claims.
I want to tell you, I don’t actually know where to go with these things. I think the only safe way to go about this, is to do it with the church, to be with God’s people, commit ourselves to the process, and ask Him for His guidance.
What I would like to do here is ask a few questions. You can mull these over.
What are the implications of Matthew’s vision of Church? How is personal salvation is related to the Church ? How do we follow Christ in this day and age?