The Church Will Thrive

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The Church Will Thrive

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 2nd August, 2020

Good morning everyone.  Wherever you are watching – we are really glad to have you join us.  I hope this mornings message is a great encouragement to you.

I was sitting in the men’s prayer meeting on Wednesday morning, quietly listening – and basically asking the same question of God that I am always asking…

Father, what are you saying to us right now?  What is going on with things?  

The world is turning upside down.  Many Church buildings, including our own,  are empty on Sunday mornings.  Cities, States and countries are in lockdown.  Borders are closed.

The health system and the government are operating on steroids over Covid-19 and all the economic fallout.

But what are You saying?

And I felt like He answered me straight away and said – the church is not only going to survive this pandemic – it is going to thrive.

This is on top of what I believe He has already been doing in me – and that is, leading me more and more to a place of surrender and trust.

The bottom line for me has always been the words of Jesus:

Matt 16:18 (NKJV),  “…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” 

On what rock?

Two verses earlier – Peter said,  (Matt 16:16) “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

On the solid rock, foundation and revelation of Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of the Living God – the church will be built – and nothing – not even the Gates of Hades – will halt the building and expansion of Christ’s Church.

I hope that’s really good news for you – because I’m ecstatic about it.

If Jesus Himself is going to build His church – then you can be sure it’s not going to be some wimpy, floundering, defeated and dying thing that has to apologise for its very existence.

I’m going to be speaking directly against that lie this morning.

The church has already survived decades and decades of persecution, wars, pestilence, division, splits, reformations, recessions, depressions, dark ages…. 

I don’t think there’s anything that hasn’t been thrown at the Christian church ever since it began…

The gates of Hades has tried its utmost to overthrow and defeat the church – but it cannot – and it will not.

The gates of hades refers to the gates of hell – or the gates of death – or the powers of hell…

And as much as the powers of hell have tried to pull the church into its deathly clutches – it has never succeeded.

And in fact – at the times of greatest persecution and distress, the church has actually thrived and experienced revival and renewal.

The underground church in China and other anti-Christ nations is testimony to the resilience of the church – the power of God that always has the victory.

As I was sitting there in the prayer meeting on Wednesday – I thought – this is the church right here!  

As I looked around, I thought, this group of men is just one small part of the church – Seacoast Church – declaring God’s promises – exalting God in all His goodness – interceding for individuals – for government leaders – for church leaders – for Australia…

Other parts of the church were also coming together during the week to pray – to gather around the Word – and instead of resignation and defeat, all I can hear is excitement, joy and expectancy.

We remain strong and resilient as a church – even through this time – because we were already strong and resilient as the body as we met together corporately.  

We haven’t all drifted off to somewhere in obscurity – because we already had a foundation as a strong family.  And loving, caring, committed families hold together, especially through the difficult times.

Philippians 4:12-13 (Passion),  Paul says:  “I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.”

I love that!  I love the language of the bible.  It’s so full of faith and hope and victory.

We can apply those words to what is happening in our lives right now.

We know what it’s like to have complete freedom to gather and worship together – to fellowship together without any constraints.  

But now we know now what it is to be the church under very restrictive circumstances.

But this is what we have been equipped for – this is what our faith is all about.

Whether it’s lack or abundance – restrictions or freedom – large gatherings or small ones – we have a strength that comes from Christ’s explosive power – which infuses us to conquer every difficulty.

I think we need to get even more infused with that explosive power – that dunamis power that came upon the disciples and the church at Pentecost.

I think most of us already know, the Greek word dunamis is where we get our English word dynamite from – and also the word dynamic.

So the Passion translation is right in saying we are infused wth explosive power.

We need to be infused also with the powerful truth that the church has been positioned and called forth for such a time as this.

We are not going to see that this season of life is about Covid-19 exalting itself.

Christ and His church will be exalted.  The church will arise in the midst of these trying and challenging times – more alive, more vibrant, more dynamic and full of power.

I’m not talking about the church remaining the same.  It will be better.  It will be greater and stronger.  

I’m starting to sound like Donald Trump…. Which is a worry!  I never thought that would happen.

But unlike Donald Trump – I am not talking about making America great again…

This is not about zealous patriotism!  It’s about the kingdom of God coming to earth as it is in heaven!  And it will be primarily through being expressed and revealed through Christ’s Church.

I thought it was really interesting when I looked at the meaning of the word dunamis – in Strong’s Concordance – on of the most reputable theological references – and it says it is:

  1. inherent power, power residing in a thing (that’s you and I) by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth 
  2. power for performing miracles 
  3. moral power and excellence of soul 
  4. the power and influence which belong to riches and wealth 
  5. power and resources arising from numbers – (I thought that was really interesting…. There’s no getting away from the fact that we are much better together…)
  6. power consisting in or resting upon armies, forces, hosts

This is the power that we as the church inherently have – and it was unleashed 2,000 years ago at Pentecost!   It’s the overcoming power to rise up in victory under any circumstances.

Now having said all that – we cannot deny that there is a sifting going on.  

Everything that can be shaken is being shaken.

People and churches are having to stand up and be accountable.

Does my life personally need examining?  Do I need to reassess my priorities – what I do with my time.  Is my life fruitful?  

Is it fruitful with the things that really matter?  Are my values and deep beliefs reflected in how I actually live my life?

The same applies to the church.  As leaders we have to ask ourselves – is the church faithful to God’s Word – to Christ’s heart for His Church?  

Or are we caught up in traditions and religious practices rather than being the vibrant, dynamic agent for the gospel, and agent for change that we are called to be?

Some will reflect on these kinds of questions and fall short.   But it’s an opportunity to change.

And let’s not wait until the virus is over….  Why shouldn’t the church begin to reveal its strength and light right in the midst of the pandemic?

It’s happening to a certain extent in the increased online presence that the church has.  But I also see many people regaining a genuine appreciation for what it means to be part of the body of Christ.

God is still moving…. I’ve personally made some really special God connections during this time with people I may not have otherwise met.

If we are not seeking God’s heart in all of this, then something is missing.

He has promised to lead us.  Jesus will show us the way forward for His Church.

I think we can receive Isaiah’s prophetic word in Isaiah 58 as a word to us right now.

Isaiah 58: 11-12 (Passion),  “Yahweh will always guide you where to go and what to do.

    He will fill you with refreshment

    even when you are in a dry, difficult place.

    He will continually restore strength to you,

    so you will flourish like a well-watered garden

    and like an ever-flowing, trustworthy spring of blessing.

12   Your people will rebuild long-deserted ruins,

    building anew on foundations laid long before you.

    You will be known as Repairers of the Cities

    and Restorers of Communities.”

What an awesome word for now.  Surely we are in a dry and difficult place.

But those who allow God to guide them, which He promises to do, will flourish.  That’s a very close word to the one He gave me in the prayer meeting – that we would thrive.

We will build anew on the foundations of the past…

The foundations of the church remain – they never change.  

But the expression of the building will be new…. And we will be known as a people who restore communities.  

I love those two verses from Isaiah nearly as much as I do the scripture that speaks about the Seacoast.   It all ties together…. Have another look at Zephaniah 2:6-7 which speaks prophetically of the Seacoast, if you want to check that out.

Paul had a glimpse into the future of the church – and how it would fit in the world.

In Ephesians 3 he touches on the mystery of Christ and the gospel, as well as the amazing grace of God that extends to the Gentiles – just as I was preaching on last week.

The Gentiles – that’s all of us who are not Jewish – have had salvation extended to us as God’s gift.

But then he focuses on the church as a whole…

Eph 3:10,  (NKJV),  “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,”

What a call!  God’s manifold wisdom…. That means His multi-faceted wisdom, is to be made known by the Church.  

We need to see ourselves as Christ sees us.   We have the most amazing role to play in bringing truth and revelation to our world.  And it is primarily through changing the spiritual atmosphere and dynamics that influence what happens in the natural world we are part of.

Principalities and powers speaks of the spiritual realm.

That’s why our prayer meetings and intercessory prayer groups are so vital.  What we declare into the heavens – changes things.

It can happen in our every day conversations.  What we speak out carries the power of God.  Your words change atmospheres – they carry spiritual weight and power- dynamite power!

Eph 3:20-21 (NKJV),  “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

I’m right there when people speak about the church looking different as we come through this season – but let’s keep these foundational truths before us always.

The power that works in us, will bring glory to God – in the church – by Christ Jesus – to all generations.

It wasn’t just for a time at the beginning of the church age.  Nowhere does it say that the power of Pentecost was taken away.

Now is the time for us to ponder on these things – to realign ourselves as the church with the Word of God.  Because this is who we are!

We as a people may be restricted in physically connecting – but nothing will stop the church from becoming this force of explosive power which is Christ in us, the hope of glory.

What exactly that looks like is yet to be seen.  But we do know the church will thrive and flourish and do exceedingly abundantly above any plan or opinion or vision that we could think of.

The world might not be watching the church too intently at the moment – but you can rest assured that the devil and his co-horts are frantically keeping an eye on what the church is doing.  

Because they know their time is short – and they know that their greatest threat is the church of Jesus Christ.

I read an article this week that really stirred my heart about these things – and it said that we are not the church in the coronavirus age – we might be enduring a pandemic – but we do so as the church in the church age!

This is our time – not the coronavirus time!

Christ will build His church – and she is destined to be magnificent – a Bride like no other.

And the relationships we have with one another – that have been established over a long time – where we’ve walked with one another through incredibly glorious times of celebration – but also devastatingly difficult and sometimes traumatic ones – this is what holds us together.

Yes, some particular church groups may not survive.  Some individuals will reestablish themselves on a different path.  Each one of us is ultimately accountable to God for the steps we take – and no one is judge over another.

But if these last four and a half months have revealed anything to Venese and I as Pastors of Seacoast Church – it is that we as a church family have for the most part held strongly together.

Why is that important?  Because we need each other.  That dunamis power that I have been talking about – according to Strong’s concordance – it relates to power and resources arising from numbers – and a power that rests upon armies, forces and hosts.

One might put a thousand to flight – but two will put ten thousand to flight.

In the words – there is a powerful multiplying effect as we stand together as an army and as a mighty force.

Let that be expressed in your prayer life.  Let it be expressed as you join with others in your home.   Let it be expressed through powerful words of encouragement to one another – upholding one another – standing with one another as you face life’s challenges.

It’s amazing what affect a simple text message or phone call can make.

We have just had a beautiful wedding here at Seacoast.  But it was all made possible because church members brought their different gifts and abilities to the table.

The flowers, the cake, the photos, the celebrant, the catering, the sound, the multi-media, even – dare I say it – the barista!  The church created a wonderful celebration for a couple that is loved and valued as part of the family.

It was incredible to watch every one doing their part – and it happened whilst our regular church services aren’t even operating.  Nothing will hold the church back from expressing her servant heart.

You may not have been part of that – but you can be the church in so many other ways – reaching out to someone in need – making a phone call – praying – gathering a small group of people in your home…

If anything, that would be my greatest desire to see happen right now.

If you could find a way to host up to ten or so people once a week – or once a fortnight – or even as a special once off event – that I believe would be one of the most powerful ways of nurturing our community called Seacoast – especially while we aren’t meeting as a group together.

Let me know if you need help with that.

I hope this word today has inspired you to see yourself with fresh eyes.

We might be seeing sickness and even death all around the world right now – but in the church, we will see renewal.

Lean into the dynamic power of God within you – and ask Him to lead you into your place in His body right now.    

Without the church and it’s message of hope and salvation – this world would be in a dreadful and hopeless state.

But God!

Let’s pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are the great Shepherd of the flock – of the church that is built and established in Your Son – Jesus Christ!

Stir up the gifts and dreams and visions within us as we realign ourselves with You and Your Word.

Your church will thrive and it will flourish. 

And we are called here for such a time as this.

Do what only You can do is us and through us by Your mighty dunamis power.

We give ourselves to renewal and well-watered garden to the ever-flowing, trustworthy spring of blessing as Your Word washes over us.

In Jesus name.

Amen.


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