No Time for Confused Identity!
"Hey, Bob - stand next to me!"
He was looking straight at me, but I turned around and looked for Bob.
"Who are you talking to?"
"You - isn't that your name: Bob Hu?"
Then he explained, the other day on the bus, someone asked, "Where's Bob?" and since there were two Bob's on the cross country team, I asked, "Bob, who?" Well, Dan assumed that was my name: Bob Hu. We had a good laugh!
Ever had a case of mistaken identity? My wife had that problem - but it wasn't funny. Apparently, there was another Brenda Lee that lived in Roswell and they had racked up quite a late service charge at Hastings (remember that store?). She kept telling them - "That's not me!" They didn't believe her.
Your Attention Please ...
Jesus had a similar situation. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” he asked in Matthew 16:13. Now, Jesus knew the thoughts of people, so he was really asking for the sake of his disciples. One of them said, “Some say John the Baptist come back to life ..." another chimed in, "or they think you're Elijah ..." and someone else: " ... or one of the prophets.”
Mmm-hmm ... I imagine Jesus nodding his head.
Then he asks the question.
And it's a question that is simple but whose answer has consequences - cosmically huge consequences. I mean, I wish I could think of some better superlatives, but there aren't any. But the answer to this question has made kings and kingdoms rise of fall. The answer has either caused the greatest crises or given the most comfort. The answer is so simple a child can understand it, but learned theologians could debate it ad infinitum. What's the question?
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
I can imagine silence at first. I think they all knew - but even speaking the words meant a fundamental stake would be forever placed. So they were careful. But we can thank Peter for stepping forward first:
“You are the Messiah - the Anointed One, the Chosen One, the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
I can imagine Jesus grinning, taking Peter by the shoulders and happily saying, “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."
Now, three important things happened: First, Simon got his name changed - from Shimon (which means "to hear or be heard") to Petros or Peter, "the Rock" (Sorry, Dwayne, but you're the one that's cooked compared to Peter!). Now this is a powerful event: when God changed a person's name, a fundamental shift has happened. Jesus is beginning to confer to his disciples - collectively now called "The Church". Lastly, Jesus prophesied that his church, would be unstoppable.
We're an Ekklesia, not a Kirche
Let's go back to that word "church", one more time. You see, Jesus did not use the word "church", he said ekklasia. What is an ekklasia? It literally means "called out ones", a gathering of people united by common identity and purpose. We use the word "church" (from the German word kirche) because it came into fashion historically over the centuries. But in doing so, something sad happened: It became more associated with a building or institution instead of a group gathered for a purpose.
But make not mistake about it: When Jesus prophesied that His ekklesia would be impossible stop, he didn't mean a building or an institution. He mean the movement of the people. Two thousand years later, one out of every third human is a follower of Jesus Christ. You cannot go anywhere in the world without Jesus or his people having had some kind of powerful influence (for better or worse - unfortunately).
But even still, His ekklesia forgets why were ekklesia'd: it's not merely for a weekly service, for Bible study, or ministry ... those are not bad things - those are great things. But that's not his purpose. The world is very confused about the "good works" that we do - and not the MAIN work we do as the ekklasia.
The ekklesia is called to fulfill his Mission: to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching those disciples to obey him. His ekklesia is the only one sanctioned, equipped, infilled, blessed, and authorized to do that.
If not us, who? If not now, when? If not here, where?
If you're doing something else besides that, you may be going to church ... but you're not being the ekklasia.
Think back to what he promised Peter and all of us: "I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it."
Our destiny is to trample the works of Satan, not be entangled by his lies and deceit. Our effect is to overcome the world, not be overcome by it. Our purpose is to be his ambassadors, not become mired in the "civilian affairs" of this world.
If you call yourself a disciple, I'm going to challenge you to do a reality check: do some accounting with your time, talent, and resources. Think pie chart. What percentage of God's time, talent, and resources have you stewarded to the enriching, implantation, and growth of His purpose that he gave to us, His ekklesia? Are you happy with that? Are you confident that God is pleased?
Because Jesus gave another promise: "“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done." (Rev. 22:12) Will we be ready?