Dr. E. Dale Locke
Sermon Series: Bridging the Great Divides
Week 4: The Church and the World Divide
- Some divides are very hard to span. Pastor Dale told about a divide with a former neighbor that he never really could overcome, though he wanted to. Have you ever experienced a divide like that?
- A divide often starts small, but it can easily grow to the point where it feels insurmountable. But often, all it takes to bridge a divide is for one person to be willing to reach out and start with one very small step. This idea is illustrated by the real bridge that James Roebling and Charles Ellet, Jr. built over the Niagara River Gorge. This bridge started with a kite string, and then they gradually increased the strength until they had cable, and then eventually they built a bridge that was strong enough to hold a train. What divide in your life requires a simple willingness from you to begin small and seek to span that divide?
- This weekend, Pastor Dale spoke about the divide between the Church and the world. Share with the group, what you have noticed about this divide in our culture today. Why is there a divide between the Church and the world?
- Read Matthew 16:13-20, which is the first time that Jesus ever used the word “church”:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 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. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
- What thoughts or questions come to your mind as you read this passage?
- Caesarea Philippi was a city that was very influential on the culture of that time. There were a lot of different religious ideas all coming together in this city. Why do you think Jesus chose this place to have this important conversation with His disciples?
- Jesus asked his disciples what people were saying about Him. Then He made it personal to each one of them. This is still the most important question that every individual needs to answer for themselves personally. How would you answer His question? Who do you think Jesus is? Do you think Jesus is a good man, a great moral teacher, someone who thought He was God – but wasn’t; or do you believe that He was actually God in human flesh? Be honest in your answer, and tell why you believe what you believe.
- Jesus indicated that Peter didn’t get this answer just on his own. God had helped him come to that awareness. Even today, for a person to come to believe that Jesus is God, it requires help from God. Share with the group how God’s Spirit has helped you move toward belief.
- Jesus said He was going to build His Church. The word Church in Greek is ekklesia, by which Jesus meant “the people of God”. Jesus said He would build His Church on the foundation of all people who confess Jesus as their God. If you have done that, this is you! Church is not just a place we go to. We ourselves are the church! What are the implications of that?
- Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven to His followers – to ordinary people, like us. What does that communicate to you about the Church?
- Read Matthew 22:34b-40: …the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
- Jesus indicates here what really matters to God. What two things are most important to God? Based on this, what does God want His Church to do?
- If a person really loves God, what will their life look like?
- The early church spread quickly and went from a handful of people to the billions of people that it is today primarily because outsiders were impressed by how Christians loved people. When Christ-followers are known for their love, the divide between the Church and the world is bridged. Tell some contemporary examples of how you’ve seen Christians demonstrate God’s love for people in their actions and attitudes.