Friday, August 9, 2013

Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit--Andy Stanley

Closing Session--

One day Jesus is way north of the city of Jerusalem.  They're walking into the city (renamed Cesarea) and Jesus asks them, "Who do people say I am?"  They answered that some said he was reincarnation of John the Baptist.  "But who do YOU say I am."  Peter said, "I think you're the Christ, the Son of the Living God."  Jesus tells him that answer was given to you from above and then tells him, "Upon this rock I will build my congregation, my assembly, and death won't stop it."

I don't know what they were thinking about this.  At the moment it must not have seemed very significant.

It's so unfortunate that the word 'church' showed up in our New Testament because the German word 'church' means a place but Jesus was talking about a gathering, a movement.

When Tyndale was translating the original text into English and came to the word 'ecclesia' he first translated it as 'congregation'--an assembly.  If we put all  Christians into their own groups, the only thing that is common ground is what Jesus predicted--"I am the Christ, the Son of the Living God and I will build a people around that."

Before you walk out the door to church, think about the fact that you are going to fulfill a prophecy made 2000 years ago.  Do you know how astonishing it is that the Church survived?  Jesus said, "ALL authority has been given to me, go therefore into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you and I will be with you to the end of the age."  And then He left.

How did this happen?  Simple.  When Jesus made His promise, He said He would build a gallery of people in His name, and they would have in common that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God.

Imagine standing there in the holy land (the armpit of the Roman Empire where no one wanted to go) and hearing Jesus tell them to go to ALL nations.  How did it happen?  Because Jesus made a promise and you can believe or disbelieve but Jesus will continue to build His church.  And no one's death will stop it--not even His own.

They then go out into the city and pour into the streets and begin to preach.  Peter's first sermon is one that we stopped preaching.  The first message was, "You killed Him.  God brought Him back to life.  Say you're sorry."   It was not about salvation by faith or about miracles.  It was about what they saw.  They were witnesses of the resurrection and they said, "You crucified Him."  That is some bold preaching and it should have been the end.

The central teaching of the Church was "we believe something happened" NOT "we believe something is true."  The resurrection was central.

Then things began to bog down.  (Andy's interpretation) -- Persecution broke out and they went just far enough not to be persecuted.  And the movement stopped moving and the gathering wasn't growing.  They were huddling in Judea.  God may have said, "I think you need a leader.  I think you need to find someone courageous, someone who's fearless, someone who can gather momentum.  And while you're looking I think you should find a Pharisee and tell him if he does a good job I'll let him write 1/2 the New Testament.  Saul of Tarsus?  That's the kind of guy you should have picked in the beginning.  I'm telling you--he's our guy."

Saul becomes the champion of the Church.  When Jesus said He was going to build His church, He built it. Jesus is willing to interrupt lives to build His Church and nothing, nothing, nothing will stand in the way.

Paul ends up back in Jerusalem.  Paul tells them, "You take Jerusalem and I'll take everything else."  And Paul begins to travel around the world building the local Church.  Everywhere he goes he is writing letters and 2000 years later we're still trying to figure out what he said.

Eventually Paul goes back to Jerusalem and reminds those who fear for his life that they serve a resurrected savior.  James the brother of Jesus might be the strongest reason to believe Jesus is the savior.  What would it take for you to convince your brother you are the savior?

As Paul was about to be killed, did he wonder if the Church would last?  Did he wonder if he wasted his life?

Andy tells story of taking his children to visit Jerusalem and Rome and at the Roman Coliseum at the Emperor's Gate you can see a cross on the wall.  When you think no one sees and cares, there is a cross.

Think of Paul being walked to be beheaded, what if you could tell him that centuries later people would want to know where he was buried?  There will be nothing there to commemorate Nero but everybody will want to know about Paul and Peter.  There will one day be crosses to commemorate Jesus' resurrection.  In the future, people will name their children Paul and Peter and name their dogs Nero and Caesar.  Someday there will be a coliseum and for four centuries it will be an arena of death and violence but one day it will be dedicated to the martyrs who died for the name of Jesus.  One day there will be no Roman Empire but the Church will be in every country of the world just like your Savior predicted.

When Jesus said He is going to build His Church, He meant it.  And you can never do anything more significant with your life.

"So my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.  Because you KNOW that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  There's a cross that hangs over the Emperor's Gate in the Roman Coliseum because Jesus said "I will build My Church."

He meant it.

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