Jesus Conquers Through His Church

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 (NKJV)

Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. If you are like me, then you usually think about this as Jesus protecting His church. When we think of it like this, the picture is that of all the powers of hell attacking the Church and Jesus protecting the church so that it isn’t defeated. We think about Jesus’ great prayer in John 17 where He said that He had not lost any of the disciples that the Father had given Him (Jn 17:12). Jesus had protected them from Satan’s attacks during their ministry and time with Jesus.

Then you take this same picture to the book of Acts and you see the young Church come under some heavy fire. As the church in Acts grew, the persecution against the church grew. The persecution grew to the point that believers were losing everything for their faith in Christ. Some even lost their lives because of their faith in Christ. Despite the persecution, Jesus protected the Church. Then you take this view to the Church since the book of Acts and you find that throughout history various groups and governments have tried to exterminate the Church. Despite their best efforts to destroy the Church, Jesus protected it and it continues today.

While this is very comforting and it certainly is true, I feel it is an incomplete picture of what is meant here. While few of us have ever fought in a war, we have probably all seen war movies. So let me ask you a question. Are gates offensive or defensive? Do people carry gates into battle and use them to assault the enemy? Or do people use gates to defend themselves from the attacks of the enemy? Gates are defensive.

The picture here doesn’t seem to be that of the church being defended against the attacks of the devil. The picture here isn’t that of the poor pitiful church just hunkering down trying to mind its own business and the mean ole devil keeps attacking it so Jesus has to protect it. The picture isn’t that of the Church being in a defensive position but in an offensive one. The Church is the one doing the attacking. The Church is doing an all out assault on the strongholds of hell and it is winning. Jesus will build His Church and as He does the gates of hell cannot stop it.

Think about Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. He was never in a defensive posture. He was always in an offensive one. This seen in the many times the demons bowed before Him when the saw Him. This is seen when Jesus sent the disciples out to preach the Gospel and when they came back said He saw Satan falling from Heaven (Luke 10:17-19).

Think about the Church in the book of Acts. They were never in a defensive posture. They were always on the attack. Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost and 3,000 were saved (Acts 2). They were in the grips of the enemy, blinded to truth about Jesus until Peter preached the message about Jesus. Then they repented of their sins, believed in Jesus and they were saved. At that point, they had been snatched from the grips of the enemy.

Even when the Church was persecuted and was forced to flee from Jerusalem, they were on the attack. The Bible says that they went everywhere preaching about Jesus (Acts 8:1-4).  As they went from Jerusalem preaching the message about Jesus, people repented of their sins, believed in Jesus and they were saved. They went throughout the known world attacking the devils strongholds and freeing those that he was holding hostage.

Don’t buy the idea that the Church of Jesus Christ is a poor pitiful organization that is trying to mind its business, live its life and is mercilessly attacked by the devil but thankfully Jesus protects it. The Church is neither poor nor pitiful. It is the most powerful force in the world because Jesus Christ Himself works through His Church. The Church is also not trying to mind its own business and live its own life. The Church is on a mission to make disciples of all nations. This will never be popular and there will always be people who oppose it. Yet Jesus will work through His Church and He will conquer through His Church. It may not always seem like it but in the end Jesus wins and His Church gets to be a part of that.

Are You Suffering From Memory Loss?

In the LORD I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”?  For look! The wicked bend their bow, They make ready their arrow on the string, That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.  If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?  The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD’S throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.” Psalm 11:1-4 (NKJV)

The modern church has a problem with memory loss. There are, in my opinion, two areas that this is most obvious. We have forgotten Church history. I see this memory loss in our response to the current culture we live in. In the culture we currently live in righteousness is seen as odd and wickedness is seen as normal. We see this in the discussions on gay marriage, abortion, corrupt politics and the growing hostility toward the Christian faith. As these things continue to become more and more accepted, the question is often asked how can, or how will, the church continue to exist in a world where righteousness is odd, wickedness is seen as normal and there is serious opposition to our faith. This question completely forgets  the world church was born into.

Think about the world at the time the church was birthed in Acts 2. The religious leaders in Jerusalem had recently murdered the founder of the Church by convincing the Romans to crucify Him. This was done in part to put a stop to the movement He was starting. These same leaders had an extreme dislike toward this new movement and started persecuting them almost immediately. The persecution initially focused on the leaders but when that didn’t stop them, they took the hurt to the people. The persecution was so fierce that Christians were forced to leave Jerusalem in fear of their lives.

These believers shared the Gospel in the new places that they went. The Greek/Roman world they took the Gospel to was wretchedly wicked. Sexual immorality was rampant and totally accepted. In fact, in many places there were male and female temple prostitutes and the sexual immorality that flowed out of that was seen as an act of worship to the various idols. Abortion was fairly common and allowed in this culture.  The government at this time had near absolute power. Caesar was seen as a god, and emperor worship was mandatory. The Caesar’s would eventually take an antagonistic view of the Christian faith and heavily persecute them. Christians were burned alive, fed to the lions for sport, and tortured in an effort to make them deny Jesus.

That is the world that the church was born into. So in answer to the question, how can, or how will, the church continue to exist in world where righteousness is odd, wickedness is seen as normal and there is serious opposition to our faith, the answer is that the church today will relearn to do now what the church did then. We  must realize that the church not only survived in that environment but it thrived. The world’s opposition to the church will not stop or hinder the church. The modern church has forgotten this.

Secondly, we have forgotten who we are. The modern church seems to respond to these sorts of issues with anger or fearful handwringing. That is a very different response than how the early church responded. Why is our response so different from theirs? We have forgotten what empowered and inspired the early church. We’ve forgotten who we are in Christ. For the early church, their identity in Christ is what gave them the courage and strength to continue in faithful service and devotion to Jesus in the face of such severe opposition to their faith.

Thirdly, we have forgotten who we serve. Our God is in Heaven and does whatever He pleases. Our Savior disarmed the principalities and powers, and made a spectacle in His triumph over them. Our great God has given us tremendous promises about His power at work in us, through us, and for us as we seek to accomplish His will on the earth. The early church depended on God, not political power, for their victory.

These areas of memory loss hinder us from being the Church Triumphant that Jesus intends for us to be. This week I plan to blog about some truths that will refresh our memory and enable us to be Church we are meant to be.

Sunday Sermon: I Can Pray Boldly

Once we stop taking Scripture at face value, we begin to trust more in what people can do in the natural world, than in what God can do through prayer. If prayer has become routine for you. If you’ve lost confidence in the power of prayer to make a difference, I have good news for you. There is more! . Speaker: Stacy J Ross. Joshua 10:6-14. Series: There Is More.

Click Here: I Can Pray Boldly

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