Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jesus Gives Vision to His Leaders (Structure)

In my last post I said we would look into what I meant by; If there are followers, there must be a leader. If there is a leader, there must be a cause. If there is a cause, there must be a leader. If there is a leader, there must be followers. So, without further delay... Read On!

1. If there are Followers there must be a Leader

a) Jesus came to "Seek and save the Lost". He had a clear mission with an obvious vision for the souls of people.

b) If you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, then you are a "Christian". Christian simply means, "Christ-follower" or "Follower of the Messiah". Therefore, Christ must be the Leader.

c) Christians, or Followers, make up the Church, not brick, glass and stone. Church means, "Called out ones" or "Assembled ones for a common cause". Christians, then, are simply Following their Leader!

2. If there is a Leader there must be a Cause

a) If Jesus is the Leader and His mission was to seek and save the lost and has commissioned His Followers to build the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, then the Cause is to build Christ's Church, to make more Christians, to assemble more people or, to lay more stones on the Foundation. Laying more stones on the Foundation perpetuates the Cause!

b) Jesus Gave Peter the Key(s) to the Kingdom. The Key(s) is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and believing in Him leads to Everlasting Life. Christians follow Jesus because they believe that He saved them from eternal separation from God... or 'death' for short. The Church, the Called Out Ones, the Followers of the Messiah now have purpose for existence!

c) The Church's purpose, then, is to proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God so that others will be saved and therefore become more stones laid on the Foundation! The more bricks laid on the Foundation, the more help there is to accomplish the Cause! What is the Cause? To proclaim that Jesus is the... you get the picture!

3. If there is a Cause there must be a Leader

a) As Jesus spelled out to Peter in Matthew 16 and in John 21, the church belongs to Him, it is His property, He is the final say and ultimate authority; He is the leader. But, Jesus knew He must ascend to His Heavenly Kingdom, therefore, leaving His Followers to grow His Kingdom on Earth.

b) Jesus knew that without a leader, people will quickly delve into chaos. It would only stand to reason that since Jesus' Cause is for people to come to know Him and for those who believe to proclaim that Truth, then it makes perfect and logical sense that Jesus chose to manage His Church with people. Peter was the first to proclaim the foundation of Truth that Jesus Is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and shortly thereafter became the Leader of the Church after Jesus ascended into Heaven.

c) But... Peter was just the first among many millions of people to make that same proclamation. For over two thousand years, Jesus has raised up Leaders by giving them individual vision (see the last post) of how to accomplish the Cause. He calls all Believers to the Cause, but some He gives more clarity which leads to more responsibility which, in turn leads to more authority. In our next post, I will breakdown who receives more authority which leads to more responsibility which is based on more clarity of a vision to accomplish the Cause.

4. If there is a Leader there must be Followers

a) The Leader can not accomplish much of his vision without help. Followers work together to accomplish the Cause by developing the Leaders vision. Some Followers are equipped to work soully within the framework of the Leaders vision for that part of the Kingdom, some on the other hand, start to develop a vision of their own while helping the Leader accomplish his vision for accomplishing the Cause.

b) In that case,the Leader helps the Follower develop a clear vision for accomplishing the Cause in a different way or in a different place or with different people. Don''t forget, the Cause is the same, the only thing that changes is the way in which the Cause is accomplished. One more thing... different does not mean WRONG, it only means different!

c) The Follower then becomes a Leader with Followers of his own with a vision of how to accomplish the Cause by getting more Christians to place more stones on the foundation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God! Starting to see a pattern here??

Next Up: Jesus Gives Vision To His Church (Corporate)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jesus Gives Vision to His People (Individual)

When I was a little kid, a long, long time ago... I just knew I was going to grow up and be the next Big Time Wrestling Champeeeen of the World! I remember watching some scufflin' with Papaw Lawson every time we visited his house near Detroit, MI. I can still see The Sheik, Bobo Brazil, Dick the Bruiser and Andre' the Giant tearing the snot out of each other. Once, a huge refrigerator box from my Mamaw's new Kenmore received a world class beating that ended in a knock-out by way of a flying drop kick! I still have a bruise on my left hip to prove it! Yeah, what a dream!

As I grew older, however, the idea of being the next Rick Flare kinda' faded away. At some point in my late teens, I began to search for a more realistic meaning to my life. I thought I had found it in my marriage, then in my chosen career, then in my children, but nothing really seemed to give me that deep satisfaction of doing or being what I was supposed to do or be. About that time, people around me started praying for me and invited me to visit a men's event where I finally found the purpose for my life. I had rediscovered Jesus! The same person I had grown up hearing about because my dad was a pastor, but hadn't believed that He was anything more than a bigger-than-life persona stoked by the church instead of the media. But once I understood that He was real and did what He said He would for me, I decided to learn all I could about Him and what He wanted from me and for me.

If you have been a Christian for even just a few months, you have probably heard or read Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." That verse was written to people who knew who God was. They were given that promise because they had a lot of questions about their then current situation. God had major plans for them as a whole and for them as individuals, but unless they believed that He was in charge and in control, they would never experience the legacy He had in mind just for them. You see, God was going to bless those people with the legacy of saving the entire human race through their bloodline. He promised that they would make a difference in the world.

The Apostle Peter was given vision for his life in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus told Peter that he would be a leader of a group of people that would also change the world! But... Peter would never have known what that legacy would be if he hadn't first acknowledged that Jesus was, in fact the Christ, the Son of the living God! So check it out, point #1 is this: Jesus has a purpose and a plan for every individual, but that purpose and plan will never be realized until that individual proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. No one will ever receive a vision of God's ultimate plan until they ask Jesus into their life.

Point #2: Jesus gives vision to every Believer, but the vision is always for the expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Many people are talented and have so much to offer humanity, but true fulfillment comes from knowing that you are doing what God created you to do. As discussed in an earlier post, God uses people to grow His Kingdom, so the vision He gives is always with that in mind. The vision may not be all that clear when you first ask Jesus into you life, but study, prayer and experience, God will sharpen that vision. If you don't think God has placed in you anything useful to expanding His Kingdom, then continue to ask Him for clarity. He has promised to give you a hope and a future, but that hope and future is fulfilled through Kingdom expansion. Proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of the Living God is just the first step in understanding your unique contribution. Look at it this way, being the next Big Time Champion could be used by God as long as more Bricks are being laid on the Foundation because of the proclamation of the Champion that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God! Otherwise it's just self promotion and selfish ambition and those are awful weak foundations to lay anything on.

Peter didn't quite understand what Jesus had commissioned him to do at first. He thought he was supposed to protect Jesus from harm. Not until Jesus approached Peter after His Resurrection, did he fully understand his vision as leader and care taker of the people who would later become the New Testament church. You can read that very interesting dialogue between Jesus and Peter here. So, point #3 is: Jesus always equips His vision. Once the vision is received and understanding begins to dawn, maturity follows. Just like Peter, so many of us run ahead of the vision that God has given. We tend to make decisions and plans based on an unclear picture of a future outcome. We need to slow down and "work out our salvation". We need to ask Jesus for clarity and sit tight, following, helping lay more bricks on the Foundation, doing what the Bible tells us to do until we have enough training, understanding and faith to step out and work the unique vision Jesus has given just you.

Once again, the three points to Jesus Giving Vision to His People are:
1. Jesus has a vision for every single person, but that vision will never be fully understood until they confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
2. Jesus gives vision to every Believer, but that vision is always for Kingdom Expansion.
3. Jesus equips every Believer to accomplish His vision, but understanding comes through prayer, experience and faith.

Next up... Jesus Gives Vision to His Leaders

Friday, July 25, 2008

Matthew 16:13-21: Introduction

In my last post, we discussed that Jesus is in the business of saving lost people. We also discovered that the Foundation of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth is the Truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Pointing out that the Apostle Peter was the first stone, or brick, that was laid on that Foundation and from that time until now, millions and millions of stones have been laid on the same Foundation, makes the case for how Jesus intended to grow His Church.

Today, I want to start a series of four posts explaining how Jesus gives vision to His church with the intention of making His Kingdom on Earth bigger and bigger. Please keep this one main point in mind, the people who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God are the stones that Jesus is using to build His Kingdom on Earth with. The more stones that are placed on the Foundation of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth means that more stones, or people, gain entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven in Heaven!

But before we dig into point #1, let's make a couple of things clear. First, the word church means much, much more than a building with a steeple on top. It is actually the English word we use for the Greek words ecclesia & kuriakon. Ecclesia means assembled ones; it also has a sense of assembling the proclaimers, the called out, or the followers. Don't forget that the word Christian refers to the people who have proclaimed that Jesus is who He says He is and did what He said He would do, but it means Christ-Follower, or Follower of the Messiah. Kuriakon quite simply means the Lord's house. So, we must understand that when Jesus commissioned Peter to build His church, He wasn't talking about a building, He was talking about Christians coming together proclaiming that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and that that proclamation will convince people to become stones (Believers) on the Foundation of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth which means, in turn, that more people will be in Heaven after their days on earth have ended.

Second, we must never forget that Jesus' Vision for His church is a Global, Worldwide Vision that all should come to know Him. If we, the Church, the Called out ones, the Followers of the Messiah are doing our job, then there has to be a way to organize all the building that is being done. Since Jesus is in the business of people, it only stands to reason that He will use people to manage His Kingdom. Look at it this way, we who are Christians are followers and if there are followers, there must be a leader, if there is a leader, there must be a cause, if there is a cause, there must be a leader and if there is a leader, there must be followers. I'm going to unpack that last sentence in the future, but for now, read through Matthew 16:13-20.

The next three post will break down how Jesus manages His Kingdom by giving Vision:

1. Jesus Gives Vision to His People (Individually)
2. Jesus Gives Vision to His Leaders (Structurally)
3. Jesus Gives Vision to His Church (Corporately)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On This Rock

Jesus had one main objective; to seek and save the lost. You can argue all you want about other things that He did, but when He says in Luk 19:10 "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost", there really doesn't seem to be any other purpose for His existence. Argue with me if you want, but I'm kind of a "cool-aid drinker" on this one!

With that being said, let's look at what Jesus said in Matthew 16:13-18, "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

These words have been interpreted in a whole bunch of different ways, but there are really only three possibilities that make sense in contexts to Luke 19 or anything else in the Scriptures for that matter.
1) Jesus is calling Peter the rock on which the Church will be built. That would seem to contradict what Peter himself said in 1 Peter 2 (see earlier post). Although Peter was the first to preach the Gospel of Christ to the Jews (Acts 2) and to the Samaritans (Acts 8) and to the Gentiles (Acts 10) nowhere in Scripture do we see that Jesus commissioned Peter to empower anyone posthumously with the authority equal to Scripture. We must give him some major props for being the first New Testament Pastor/Leader, but if he acknowledges that Jesus is the Rock, the Cornerstone, the Living Stone, then who are we to put Peter in that place of honor?
2) Jesus is making a game out of the words used as a nick name for Peter and the authority of Himself. This one makes a little more since to me. I can almost see Jesus saying, "Yes, you are Peter a rock, strong, firm and brash, but I am the Big Rock, the Foundation for all things to come!", while He points both of His thumbs toward His own chest. Sometimes we don't give Jesus enough credit for being light-hearted. We seem to always put Him in the "serious teacher" mode. You have to make some assumptions in the original language to make that imagery stick, though. The punctuation used in this sentence doesn't give us any real clues as to how Jesus said it. Don't get me wrong, Jesus is the Rock, the Foundation of Truth and the Church, Scripture proves that thought, but did Jesus really compare Peter to Himself?
3) Jesus is acknowledging that the statement Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God", is the Foundation of the future Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. This makes perfect sense to me, but you would, again, have to assume some things based on the punctuation of the original language.

The Catholic Church takes the first interpretation to an extreme, and the Protestant Church seems to combine interpretations 2 & 3. But consider for a moment, that Jesus could have been talking about all three. Stick with me on this... To take away any leadership authority from Peter would be putting all of the Bible into question. He most certainly was the first to proclaim the truth that Jesus was the Messiah, Son of the Living God and he was the first to be affirmed of a future ministry and then later was the first to be confirmed as the leader of the new church. The Catholics make some pretty sweeping assumptions that cannot be backed in Scripture, and as a result, the Protestant Church takes a different approach by making Peter out to be a loud outspoken often times blundering imbecile, but we should not take away anything from what the Bible says about Peter and his leadership. On the other hand, it is absolutely true that Peter was just one stone of millions and millions that have proclaimed that Jesus is, in fact, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We must look closely at the book of Hebrews in order to understand that all Believers, all Christ-Followers, are priest and have a holy obligation to proclaim what Peter was the first to proclaim.

So, for me, it would seem that the Rock, the Foundation on which Jesus has built, is building and is going to build His Church on is the truth that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and that Peter was the first of many Christians to proclaim that truth in order to lay more stones, more Christians, more Followers of the Messiah, on that Foundation. Just imagine how huge the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth truly is because of the work Peter did and continues to be done by all true Followers Of The Christ, The Son Of The Living God! It seems to me, that Jesus is still in the business of saving people when they proclaim that Ancient Truth and become one more stone piled onto the Living Foundation making His Kingdom that much bigger!

A Living Stone and a Holy People

1 Peter 2:1-8 (ESV)

2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”

8 and

“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.