Archive for the ‘Matthew 16’ Category

Matthew 16:27-28 – DON’T MAKE ME COME DOWN THERE … TOO LATE!

Too Late!

Too Late!

As the first seal is broken an ant trails its way through the polished ridges of the page, across the clear lines of the image; detecting only the light and dark and acute movement of the unrolling scroll, it’s feelers detecting the chemicals of the glue and coloured wax, the air currents and vibrations. It is brushed away as the manuscript is unrolled from side to side across the huge table.

As each section is exposed, another seal is broken, separating each particular aspect of a continuous and meticulously illustrated manuscript. At first, only very limited depictions from the images are understood with any clarity, just ant-like impressions of the page and variations of the artist’s subjects. How is each event depicted on the scroll related? It only makes sense when the last seal is broken. Suddenly, each individual page is revealed to be part of the whole. Undeterred the ant returns to the first page feeling its way along the edge before venturing out across the coloured intricacies of the lines and eventually making its way to a particularly luminous section of the scroll where it stops. At the very end everything is explained, … but not yet to one so small, so limited in understanding, so tiny in the scheme of things.

In Matthew 16:26-28 (NLT) Jesus says to His disciples “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with His angels in the glory of His Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.”

The picture of Matthew 16:28 has proved to be a quandary for many. What does Jesus mean when He says He will judge the world and that “SOME STANDING HERE RIGHT NOW WILL NOT DIE before they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28 NLT) The first part about Him coming to judge the world is clear and foreboding, but it doesn’t seem to connect with this last part? What does He mean when He says they “will not die” before it happens? Is He talking about two different events? Coming to judge in the future but coming in His Kingdom now? When did this happen? Has it happened? One thing is sure; it is related to the soul, losing it or keeping it.

We need to get beyond an ant’s eye view to understand the scroll as it is unrolled in the life of Jesus. When He speaks about “Coming in His Kingdom” He speaks about His rule and reign as the King of kings which is relentlessly approaching; a Kingdom which prophets have painted in countless words since ages past. His Kingdom has always been coming and is already here (Luke 17:21) but its expression is not as openly and personally manifest as it will be in the future (Luke 17:22-24).

Peter has already received the keys to such a kingdom as He hears the voice of God rather than the voices of the world around him. His acknowledgement that Christ is the Son of the Living God is tantamount to coming under His authority as the King of kings. Nothing will withstand such a Kingdom. Not the gates of hell. Not death itself. (Matthew 16:13-19).

This kingdom is revealed in the images on the pages of the scroll in a thousand ways, masterfully illustrated, unrolling the mysteries of His reign. We see it in the face of a leper healed, in the hope of a woman who touches the hem of His robe, in the feeding of 5000, in the gracious influence of His teaching, but mostly in the sparks of belief that set hearts on fire for God. It is confronting at the Cross for a thief and Roman soldier, victorious at the Resurrection for a woman at the tomb, empowering for Peter at Pentecost and all-consuming for a world facing His coming judgment. The Kingdom of God is present here and now in the world, but not of this world, and yet it is coming to the world, big time.

When Jesus speaks about the coming kingdom in Matthew 16:28 it is a picture found on that particularly luminous fragment of the scroll in Matthew 17:1-3; His Kingdom would come to a few who were standing there who did not comprehend what was happening yet some of them would personally experience a glimpse of His glory, magnificently revealed in shards of brilliant light at His Transfiguration. They would not be consumed by it as would be expected at such an event. 

The Transfiguration was a foretaste of heaven’s reign; a downpayment of what is to come, an ant’s eye view of something bigger than we could ever imagine, and most of all an invitation for us to come under the authority of Jesus and be saved. Not because an angry Father is saying “Don’t make me come down there!” but because a loving Saviour is saying “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV) “Come to Me … find life … and unfailing love” (Isaiah 55:3 NLT). 

Pastor Ross

Advertisements

Matthew 16:24-26 – WHEN SELF-ESTEEM MET SELF-DENIAL

When Self-esteem met Self-denial. Image created by Ross Cochrane and Morguefile

When Self-esteem met Self-denial. Image created by Ross Cochrane and Morguefile

Recently a firm of reputable psychologists were looking to hire another partner and Selfishness applied. The interview went well and his résumé was impressive; in fact very convincing. Selfishness pointed out that his best-selling book “Be Selfish, Be Happy” is in great demand of late because everyone needs a “healthy selfishness” to drive them through life with passionate enthusiasm. His picture on the front cover didn’t look at all like him. It seems that the camera of psychological pursuit, when faced with the stark realities of our humanness, develops it’s images with Photoshop to arrive at the image it wants, inverting the colours and disguising the blurs at times. All the partners were so fascinated by his credentials, however, that they decided to try him out in the firm for a probationary period.

Self-esteem, Self-worth, Self-respect, Self-care and Self-nurturing, Partners in Psychology, have all worked well together for some time. They spark off each other in animated conversation and are able to laugh at themselves. They all belong to the same cycling club because they all believe that to show true care to others involves staying healthy themselves. They continually upgrade their own credentials and each has a Personal Development Plan (PDP) to motivate them in their successful business. The plaque on the waiting room door is from the Bible. It reads “Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.” (Matthew 19:19 NLT).

At the time of his dismissal, Selfishness was continually placing his own wishes above the well-being of both the clients and the firm. When confronted by Self-Respect he made it clear that he did not need her advice. He went to his office muttering under his breath about never needing anyone. But he had to admit that Self-Respect had almost changed his mind. She startled him with her intelligence and beauty and he secretly hungered for her company more and more. His infatuation with her grew so much that he thought he would never be himself again.

Selfishness was asked to leave the firm. He foolishly made sexual advances to Self-Respect and it was discovered that he was having affairs with two of his clients, Self-interest and Egotism. The partners soon saw the shallowness of his ways. The cold manipulation of Selfishness takes rather than gives. The partners were not convinced that he was as healthy as he had declared. Selfishness decided to form his own company running one man shows and seminars.

Fortunately the partners soon hired a man who Jesus had recommended all along – “Self-denial”. Self-denial is not as popular as Selfishness, but he was trained by Integrity. As a committed Christian the first thing Self-denial did was to place a plaque above his desk which reads. Jesus says “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:24-28 NLT)

Although Self-denial is related to Self-love, there is no conflict of interest. He is often confused with Self-doubt because he seems so serious and your first impression of him may be that he is Negative because he was chosen above Selfishness, but once you get to know him you soon discover he lives life to the full. He has learned the value of thinking long-term. He chooses the interests of God above his own interests in order to show love to others and in turn to himself. He is healthy and athletic and inevitably wins races against Self-interest.

Self-denial has developed a wonderful mentoring role with Self-esteem, the daughter of Truth. He inspires her to see herself as God sees her, both in terms of her negative and positive behaviours. Self-esteem was mixing with Recognition, Social-acceptability, Status, and Appreciation, but inevitably found such friendships so fragile that they were easily lost. Self-denial says that we do not find Self-esteem from others or from ourselves but from God. Seeking after God enables us to find a true appraisal of ourselves, and to grow in maturity. It is not dependent on what others think about us.

Self-denial works closely with Self-evaluation, a consultant for the team; a valuable member who recognizes his own strengths and weaknesses, whereas Self denial encourages us to co-operate with God, and live beyond ourselves. Another favourite saying of Self-denial is Proverbs 3:5-7 (NLT) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil” 

What does Self-denial mean? Self-denial invites us to make an active commitment to turn away from Selfishness and Status-seeking and to make a deliberate, voluntary choice to follow Christ with a determined and unwavering resolve, no matter what the cost (Matthew 16:21). 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:21-24 – THE COST OF SAYING GOODBYE

The Cost of Saying Goodbye

The Cost of Saying Goodbye

I move close to his right ear. “Gidday Dad. It’s Ross. I know you are going through a tough time. We love you. You have had a stroke and we are here to pray for you.” My father-in-law breathes out a rasping “Thanks”. … then, all too soon, at 84, he is gone.

The numbing shock of his funeral is now over and his memory leaves ineffaceable marks, raw but beautiful on our hearts. So soon, and now the morning saps strength from my lovely wife as she is confronted with her loss afresh in the waking moments.

This morning I read Matthew 16:21 (NLT) “From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead.”  

I am reminded that God is intimately acquainted with our grief; the gravity of death and sorrow. Jesus has spoken of his death before. Now in the light of Peter’s confession; “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”, He says it more plainly. No more parables, pictures and symbols, just simple, direct words that cut to the core and whisper grief into the air. Peter’s confession of faith marks a tipping point in history that now inexorably hurtles Jesus towards the horror of the Cross. Everything within us opposes such utterances of loss. The cost of commitment on our hearts is too deep, even in the light of the resurrection.

So it is not surprising in Matthew 16:22 (NLT) when “Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to reprimand Him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,”He says. “This will never happen to You!” 

It is not an unusual response of the human heart, but it is not accurate and not at all helpful. Rebellion and denial rise up in us when faced with the death of those we love. Peter has just been commended by Jesus for hearing from God. He is given the Keys to the Kingdom but in a wave of grief he now seeks to lock the doors of heaven’s will from the earth. The rock becomes a stumbling stone.

“Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Get away from Me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to Me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23 NLT). No longer is he blessed as one who has heard from God, but rebuked as one who he has spoken blasphemy in denying the reality and inevitability of the Cross.

Peter is desperately urging Jesus to bypass the Cross. How tempting for Christ to compromise rather than be committed. Jesus had heard such temptation in a wilderness 3 years earlier and recognised the voice of Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan it seems also sees things from a human perspective. God’s perspective was for Jesus to suffer and die for our sins, not avoid the Cross for a crown? To be an adversary to the Cross is to be an adversary to God. The way to God is through surrender not through selfish presumption. To war against Satan is to take up the Cross, not refuse it. “… Jesus says to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24 NLT). 

In a hospital room Jesus is not distant even though we don’t want to think about suffering or death. He insists that things must flow from heavens point of view not ours. We may not always understand the “Why’s” but we are called to hear God’s voice and trust in Him.

When death is thrust upon us there is no choice but to accept it, but when death is planned and deliberate and willed by God Himself through all eternity, we stand in awefilled disbelief. Yet 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT) says “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit. “

Jesus does not burden us with more than we can endure or with anything that He has not borne Himself. The joy and hope of spending eternity with Christ encourages us to bear the barren heartache of seeing someone we love die. We prefer another way but there is no other door but death to lead those with faith in Christ to the Father’s throne. There is no other invitation so important as the one Christ gives to turn from our selfish ways, take up the Cross and follow Him.

Reluctantly at the service we release into the hands of God Colin Malcolm Shedden, Dad, Pa, Great Pa, a man after God’s own heart. David Brainwood plays so beautifully the hymns of faith as we recoil at the cost of grief. His father Rev. Ernest Brainwood the evangelist, long ago, led Colin to the Cross. Now the music of the Son echoes in the corridors of heaven to accompany Colin safely home.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:20 – COUNTING IN A NEW YEAR

Counting in a New Year

Counting in a New Year

In Luke 2:10-11 (NLT) an angel appears to shepherds and says “Don’t be afraid … “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The SAVIOUR—yes, the MESSIAH, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, …!”

These men are the Shepherds who look after the unblemished sheep sacrificed at the Temple in Jerusalem morning and evening. They are aware of what the angel is talking about – the Messiah is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The angel is declaring in effect that Jesus is the culmination of over one hundred prophetic expectations written ages before His birth, all very clear, referring to the Messiah; the Anointed One, the Deliverer, Prophet, Priest, Ruler and Judge. Jesus fulfils these predictions entirely. Uncanny! Unsettling! … especially to the Romans and the Religious leaders.

To the High Priests the message of Jesus as the Messiah (the antidote to certain judgment; the only vessel of salvation), is a toxic prescription. Before His influence goes viral, they decide to kill Him. They’ll ridicule, abuse and bring Jesus to trial as One who blasphemed God. A contaminating message demands extreme countermeasures. Too many countries are still applying such methods. But although Jesus accepts a borrowed manger, He refuses a borrowed grave and rises from the dead.

In Western countries Christianity is quashed in more acceptable ways; the news covers a story about some weirdo with a placards about the end of the world and creepy people with low IQ’s on the extreme fringe of a religious cult or with a mental illness. Jesus is not linked with my scientist friend who has a strong faith in Christ, or a business person or even a Prime Minister, and certainly not with the average person. The message is too toxic.

The message the angels brought has been a little distorted in today’s world. I wonder what they think of us as we react to John Lennon saying he is more popular than Christ but neglect to mention Jesus at Christmas to celebrate His birth (“Have a happy holiday” but not a “merry Christmas”). What do they think of a world where “In God we trust” is written on money, but not in people’s hearts? God bless America but not on His terms. In Australia – prayers in Parliament but not Christ in the classroom. Swear on the Bible in the courtroom but use Christ’s Name as a swearword in the street. Prayerword becomes swearword. Too toxic!

Is Jesus now the silent guest at every table because He makes conversation awkward? Is He the skeleton in the human closet; the One we never mention? Unpalatable to the general public. If only He would remain quiet and not rise from the dead. To a religious atheist; one of the High Priests of humanism, He is still public enemy number one. Judas wasn’t all that impressed with Jesus as the Messiah, either.

The great commission is a shock to our sensibilities. Suddenly Jesus gives us permission to “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” The Good News is that Jesus is the only One who saves us from sin and judgment. The Messiah has come. 

The prophecies are super accurate as each historical event becomes a reckoning and we count off the seconds towards another celebration of a new year. The Messiah is to be a descendent of David; TICK! Born in Bethlehem; TICK! Born of a virgin; He is God with us. TICK! He is a teacher with great authority who will be rejected. TICK! He is to open the eyes of the blind, heal the sick, and raise the dead. TICK! He is to be despised and rejected by His own people, charged falsely, denied justice, and condemned to a violent death. TICK! He is to rise from the dead, ascend to the right hand of God, and be given power and authority. TICK! The predictions line up at a minute to midnight on history’s clock as the seconds count down to when His enemies will be judged and He establishes His own spiritual kingdom, which shall never end … TICK, TICK, TICK

Christmas says that the truth about Jesus makes sense and it is a message that relentlessly refuses to be quashed; “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31 (NLT). Good news that will bring great joy …” Wonderful message for a world where there is still no room in the Inn! The invitation is to make room. Let the back stable, complete with animal trough to which He has been relegated, be transformed; let your heart become His throne room. The Saviour was born that you would find new birth in Him! TICK! “Happy New Year!”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:20 – HOW TO START A CONVERSATION WITH JESUS

Conversation - Photo and Image by Ross Cochrane

Conversation – Photo and Image by Ross Cochrane

Walking into the building that morning (some years ago) a couple we did not know greeted us, engaging with us in conversation easily. How pleasing to go away on holidays and return to be welcomed warmly as guests by perfect strangers. They were quite surprised when I spoke to the crowd that morning. They had no idea that I was the Pastor of the Church they had attended for the last month. It was probably better that way. Sometimes a title can be an impediment.

ICEBREAKERS AND INTRODUCTIONS

Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus! How do you start a conversation with Jesus? If you were Jesus what would you say? The normal icebreakers are not going to work ….

“Hello, I’m Mark and I’m a mechanic?” 

“Hi, I’m Jesus, I’m the Messiah, Saviour of the world, the Way, Truth and Life, Deliverer, King of kings and Lord of lords, Son of God, and Light of the world.” 

(Awkward silence) “I see… well, nice meeting You.” 

Perhaps it’s better to let Jesus initiate the conversation. How does Jesus make a memorable first impression? Where do you begin when you are the Saviour of the world and Your purpose for coming is to form genuine trust relationships with others? How can you hope for initial rapport to be created? At least Jesus knows one thing to avoid in starting a conversation…

TITLES AND LABELS

I have read all kinds of reasons why Jesus “sternly warns the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20 NLT). It’s not that He is unsure of Himself. He’s not shy or embarrassed about who He is. Some say His disciples have a false understanding and He needs more time to teach them what the word Messiah really means. Others say He wants them to wait until the Holy Spirit comes to empower them before sharing who He is. Still others say that it would cause a riot to tell people that He is the Messiah and Jesus wants to avoid confrontation or an uprising. These reasons seem complicated and unnecessary.

The simplest explanation is that Jesus is not interested in titles but in genuine interactions; in starting up a conversation with us where we can get to know Him without any frills. He wants us to come to a knowledge of the truth by meeting us where we are and allowing us to be open with Him. Jesus doesn’t have to try to impress us and He’s not trying to impose Himself on us.

INTEREST AND HUMILITY

Philippians 2:3-5 (NLT) gives great advice in starting a conversation. It says “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. … take an interest in others, too. … have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had … Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God…” (Philippians 2:3-5 NLT) Christmas and the Cross remind us about the humility of Christ as He relates to us.

OPENNESS AND TRUST

So when Jesus “sternly warns the disciples not to tell anyone that He is the Messiah” (Matthew 16:20 NLT) it seems to me that He invites us to come to understand who He is, as Peter did (Matthew 16:13-19), through personal relationship and openness to God, not simply because of a label giving Him status.

Normally you can’t expect miracles to take place in your first interactions with someone new … except when you start a conversation with Jesus.

“So Jesus, I’ve heard a little bit about You. Some people say You are the prophetic voice of our time?” 

“But who do you say that I am?”

Great way to begin! But be warned – starting a conversation with Jesus could end up being a life-changing encounter. I know the traditional rule is that you never start a conversation with people you don’t know well with talk about religion, politics, money, relationships, family problems, health problems, or sex. The risk of offensiveness is way too high. Jesus however will inevitably address all these issues in our lives and more. He’s not afraid to get to the heart of a conversation about troubled lives, estranged relationships, and even sin and death. But far from being awkward, His initial invitation allows us to get to know Him personally and to keep in touch … for eternity. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:19 – Part 2 – HOW TO UNLOCK THE DOORS TO UNLIMITED RESOURCES

Key to Truth (Photo and image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and PhotoForge) Key in bottom corner - Cross = Love

Key to Truth (Photo and image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and PhotoForge) Key in bottom corner – Cross = Love

The morning looks sleepily into the mirror, wipes away the mist so the boats on the other side of the Bay are vaguely visible, stretches it’s shadowy arms across the beach and offers me a cup of coffee as I prepare to face the day. Holidays. Glorious holidays! Bateman’s Bay and an apartment on the beach. Beautiful.

They looked so insignificant when we received them from the owner, but her keys supplied us with the authority of her house and to the view from the full length windows leading onto the beach, of beautiful rock features nearby stretching out into the water; the resources of heavens bounty.

Matthew 16:19 (NLT) says “And I will give you (Peter) the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” 

Jesus, owner of heaven and earth, speaks of the Keys of the Kingdom. Keys to open doors of faith? Yes. But there is a wider vista. “…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 KJV). Jesus said “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old” (Matthew 13:51-52 NLT).

2. KEYS TO OPEN UP TRUTH

Jesus gives Peter the authority of a homeowner with a storeroom full of treasures. Only an entrusted servant can hold the keys to a house bearing the treasures of God’s purposes on earth. What an incredible honour to be entrusted with such keys. It is a sign of authority to bring “new gems of truth as well as old” from the room of His riches.

Peter was the first man who had the insight of heaven concerning the New Covenant, a new gem of truth. Jesus said “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because My Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being” (Matthew 16:17 NLT).

The keys committed to Peter are not the keys of earth, but the keys of heaven. Peter demonstrates that new treasures of truth from the storeroom of God’s kingdom can be shared. Peter is to transcribe heaven’s perspective on earth; the legacy of love, to reveal it’s gems to us. He is used by God to unlock the doors through inspired teachings, some of which are included in the New Testament. Peter becomes a scribe instructed by the authority of heaven.

When we declare the purposes of God and live according to God’s truth, we are also bearers of the keys. The Spirit of Truth enables our decisions on earth to correspond with the decisions of heaven. “Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19 NLT). Our discernment of good and evil is no longer based on law but on relationship with Jesus, the Messiah, Son of the Living God. He gives us a moral compass and standard for living which cuts across all other standards. When God’s Word declares it, it is no longer in dispute.

The invitation is to find God’s truth and live it out, to help others understand God’s purposes, to interpret His will in everyday living, to allow God to be our counsellor, our teacher, to be loosed by a law of love to serve God, not bound by our culture or whatever is most popular. 

We have authority through our relationship with Christ to be loosed from any captivity of our past, or slavery of our wills in the present, or any despotic imposition that would cause our hearts and minds to miss the mark in the future. 

The invitation is to trust in Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Once and for all the key slides into the deadbolt across the corrugations of metal and is turned. Can you hear the soft click of metal as it aligns itself with perfect precision? Can you feel the bolt slide smoothly until the door is released? The storeroom of truth is opened to those who accept the keys. 

They look so insignificant when we receive them from the owner, but His keys supply us with the authority of His house and to the view from the full length windows leading into His purposes, and the magnificent expanses of His truth available to us from His Word; the resources of heavens bounty. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:19 – Part 1 – HOW TO UN-IMMOBILIZE THE IGNITION OF YOUR FAITH 

Key of Life - Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Key of Life – Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Such a small and frustrating device! How can my day be determined by something so insignificant? Yet when it has no life, I am stranded! I discovered this yesterday, and also that the shop over the road does not stock the tiny battery that would give power to UN-isolate the ignition of my car and get me to work on time.

The idea is that this device I am holding, by isolating the ignition, will protect my car from being stolen. No-one has stolen my car so far, so it must work. But not even my key can start my own car when this immobilizing monster holds me to ransom!

Theoretically, in my hands I have the power I need to engage the engine, but of course, theoretical power won’t start my car any more than a flat battery will – not today – not ever! The authority of my keys are useless without a battery tinier than my little fingernail. Mustard seed batteries.

In Matthew 16:19 Jesus has a set of KEYS and He says He will hand them over to Peter. Jesus has all the power of God at His disposal to give the bearer of these keys the authority of highest heaven to unlock and lock, open or close, bind or loose, forbid or permit heaven’s power to change earth.

Matthew 16:19 (NLT) says “And I will give you (Peter) the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” 

What is Jesus talking about here when He speaks of the Keys of the Kingdom? Why would He give them to Peter? Acts 2:14-41 partly answers these questions.

1. KEYS TO OPEN THE DOORS OF FAITH

Peter opens “the door of faith” at Pentecost and the life of eternity rushes through the veins of the Church. Shocking, shameless freedom surges like a tidal flow into its soul. For a while it is left drowning in the wake only to come up from the depths with a sudden intake of breath and every fibre of its being responding with surprise and delight. The Church is born.

Keys of the kingdom of Heaven, activated by the power of the Spirit, give us the opportunity to respond in faith to Christ and what He has done for us. In this way Peter opens the gates of heaven to 3000 people on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). 

The key slides into the deadbolt across the corrugations of metal and is turned. I can hear the soft click of metal as it aligns itself with perfect precision and feel the bolt slide smoothly until the door is released. These gates, says Warren Wiersbe, “have been opened to those who believe ever since.” 

The doors of heaven are unlocked! Correspondingly, the gates of hell have not been able to withstand the onslaught of God’s kingdom advancing and setting prisoners free. Those who are condemned already can now be pardoned. Escape from hell and entrance to heaven doesn’t occur at the pearly gates when I die, but at faith’s gates when I believe in Christ.

I had been BOUND in my sin, battery flat and no authority or power to do anything about it. Condemned! When I trusted in Christ I was LOOSED from my sin and ran through the open door toward freedom in Him. What incredible opportunities and possibilities have been unlocked in my life by the power and authority of these keys! 

There is nothing like an open door to stir your curiosity as to what adventures may lie beyond it’s threshold. Before you stands such a door. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:16-18 – WHEN RUINS COME TO LIFE

Cornerstone - Image by Ross Cochrane

Cornerstone – Image by Ross Cochrane

I regret not taking one of the bricks that day. My overwhelming sense of loss wanted to restore the scattered remnants of lost history. Somewhere deep inside was a sob for a dog and butterflies in spring, scented bushes and silkworms, an old copper full of hot water for the bath, a clothesline and a rusting corrugated iron toolshed, but most of all for the old cottage that held such memories in context. They were all cleared away the next time I came, as if it had all meant nothing, and an apartment block stood in the place of my childhood home. It was time for my life to be built on surer things, for my identity to be found upon a more stable foundation. Time for dreams to mature into destiny.

It is as if my life was one of the lost stones, scattered across the earth, not knowing my purpose in the scheme of things, until Christ began looking through the rubble.

It is the declaration Peter makes about who Jesus is (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”) upon which Christ begins to construct His Church. But it is also the declaration Jesus makes of who Peter is (“…you are Peter, which means ‘rock’”), upon which He will build. Peter found his own identity that day in words that have reverberated from the pages of the Bible ever since. “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” (Matthew 16:16-18).

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NLT) says “Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself. We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through Him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by His Spirit.” 

Peter the Apostle, squaring his life to Christ, was a stone in the foundations of the Church at Pentecost. Peter’s teaching and preaching of the Truth of God’s Word and the miraculous signs and wonders that followed his ministry were building blocks. In Acts 2:42-43 (NLT) it says “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.” Peter was an instrument through whom Christ was revealing His truth, and building His Church.

Years passed and somewhere in the scattered ruins of a world gone wrong Christ reached down to touch a peculiar shaped stone from some forgotten, bulldozed cottage. That day He chose me and I found my identity in Him. All followers of Christ are picked from the broken bricks of abandoned sites and mosaic-like arranged to fit; chosen in Christ to reflect something of the architectural beauty of His life; a magnificent expression of faith. Peter himself declares this in 1 Peter 2:5-8 (NLT) when he says “… you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple …” 

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:9-17 (NLT) echoes these thoughts “… You are God’s building.   Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful.   For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ … Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?   God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

The invitation is for our lives to be built on surer things; for our identity to be found upon a more stable foundation; for dreams to mature into destiny; for scattered ruins to be restored in Christ, touched with eternity, infused with His life and divine intention, a magnificent expression of faith. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 16:13-20 – THE ROCK WITH A HEARTBEAT

ROCK WITH A HEARTBEAT - Image created by Ross Cochrane

ROCK WITH A HEARTBEAT – Image created by Ross Cochrane

My Dad’s nickname for me was Rock. I don’t know why. Rocky Balboa? Rocks in my head? Rock-n-Roll? Rock of Gibraltar? Alcatraz? Just a term of affection? Perhaps it was because I collected interesting looking rocks, old keys and other objects of interest and put them in my desk drawer? It weighed a ton. I didn’t like the name Rock much, but it was his name for me and I had to live with it. 

If Jesus had said to me, like once He said to Peter, “You are Peter (which means Rock) and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven” I would have been more interested and my curiosity for old keys might have taken on a new dimension (Matthew 16:18-19).

What did Jesus mean that His Church would be built on this rock, set up in a hostile environment to prevail against the gates of hell?

Jesus is normally spoken of as the cornerstone, the rock of ages, the stone that the builders rejected, but not in Matthew 16:18. Here, He is the BUILDER. Jesus, son of a carpenter, still wants to build something incredibly creative and innovative but now from people’s lives. Peter calls Him the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Life is found in His Name. Reliable, strong, dependable, solid, yet with the heartbeat of God. Living stones.

Peter is the GATEKEEPER and he is given the KEYS of the Kingdom of Heaven. He is able to lock or open the door in terms of heaven’s authority on earth. Keys are a symbol of that authority. Peter will go on to release heaven’s authority on earth through his teaching about who Christ is, especially on the day of Pentecost. He is also used to write some of the divinely inspired scriptures called the New Testament and exercise the authority of heaven through his gift of healing. Jesus says his name means stone (Petros) but the structure upon which Christ will build is a large solid shelf of rock (Petra). A stone is only a tiny reflection of such a rock.

Peter has just made the strong confession; “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Our words about who Christ is are the foundational superstructure of solid rock on which the organic architecture and landscape of the Church are built. For those who know Christ, such words are our motto; our rallying cry; our declaration of faith, our foundation rock shelf. Peter’s name reflects his confession of Christ. I’m warming up to Dad’s nickname.

Many today still make the same definitive, unequivocal declaration of who Christ is that Peter made so long ago. The Church refers to followers of Christ; explorers of the extraordinary; adventurers into mysteries. Literally it means “Called out ones” (Ekklesia). Called out for the greatest purpose on earth.

The declaration of Christ is that the gates of hell (Hades, death) that have held you back from giving your life to Christ will be battered down as you acknowledge Christ as the Son of the Living God and allow Him to breathe life into your soul. Like Peter, you become a living stone, a stepping stone of life, called out to be placed upon the foundation of the life-giving Christ and used to build the masterpiece of God, His prevailing Church. 

This organic, sculptural, architectural creation called His Church is Christ’s magnum opus, and somewhere among the millions of living stones that He has collected to form such a masterwork as this is me! How amazing is that! Perhaps my Dad was right, afterall. 

Pastor Ross

If this post has resonated with you please pass it forward.

Matthew 16:13-19 – S.W.A.T – PARABLE

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail! - Picture created by Ross Cochrane

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail! – Picture created by Ross Cochrane

Standing on a precipitous rock, at least a thousand feet above the valley, He could see the smouldering fires of the fortress, the towering spires rising above the early morning mist and warning of the malice within it’s walls. Captain Joshua Davidson could almost smell the evil stench emanating from this edifice built in the pit of hell and from this vantage point He could just make out the top of the massive gates. Somewhere, beyond those walls, inside the wandering corridors and immense chambers they would be waiting. Nothing would delay Him or distract Him from this high risk operation. He had everything necessary; specialised equipment, tactics and utmost precision but most of all the sure expectation of success.

Joshua Davidson was born to lead a team such as this. Known as the Builder He had first conceived the idea of forming a specially trained and equipped unit when the need arose to manage critical situations involving hostages. The commander in chief, His Father, had approved the idea, and He formed a small select group of volunteer officers. His SWAT unit (Spiritual Warfare Assault Team) initially consisted of 12 men. Their mandate: “To set the captives free!” (Luke 4:18). They were given special status and benefits, and attended specialist training sessions. Blessed with highly-developed resources (Ephesians 1:3) and totally committed to their Leader, these men were willing to obey without question and risk their lives in this rescue mission. Their motto and catch cry; the Rock solid foundational statement by which they lived: “We serve Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Their code-name was Ekklesia”; the Church; called out ones (Matthew 16:18).

Once prisoners themselves and now trained for hostage rescue, His team secured the ropes and rapelled down the rock face in silence towards their target. They were exposed at first but moved fast and avoided coming under fire from the heavily armed forces on the parapets. Soon the mist and darkness below provided them with the cover they needed to arrange their equipment with practised precision.

Within seconds and in unison the SWAT team moved relentlessly and silently towards the armoured and barred gates. To breach the doors quickly, Peter, a specialist Gatekeeper, used an explosive charge and a small hand held battering ram with percussive shocks called the Key. The lock and hinges were totally demolished and the gates fell inwards. They could not prevail against such force (Matthew 16:18).

The rest of the team moved in quickly as the alarms screamed their warnings. They used their ballistic shields in the dark corridors to provide cover and deflect possible terrorist gunfire. Each one wore body armour and night vision optics. Using a motion detector Captain Davidson was able to determine the exact position of hostages and although some of them refused to come, those who were willing to trust their rescuer were extracted to safety where a helicopter winched them to the cover and refuge of the Rock.

The rescue has resounded off the walls of history’s pages ever since; “… upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:17-18 NLT).

Romans 8:1-2 says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.   And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has set you free from the power of sin that leads to death.” 

Pastor Ross

SWAT team prepared

SWAT team prepared (Photo credit: OregonDOT)