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The Essential Church - Matthew 16:13-20

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Many voices today are decrying the church, rejecting its message and doubting its relevance. And yet, according to its founder, Jesus Christ, the church is essential. COVID-19 has only served to accentuate the voices on both sides of the argument about the church’s importance, so we find ourselves on a timely subject. As we consider the nature and purpose of the church in this message from our 20/20 series, let’s be committed to being the people of God as the New Testament presents them to be.

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The Essential Church
Matthew 16:13-20
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Many voices today are decrying the church, rejecting its message and doubting its relevance. And yet, according to its founder, Jesus Christ, the church is essential. COVID-19 has only served to accentuate the voices on both sides of the argument about the church’s importance, so we find ourselves on a timely subject. As we consider the nature and purpose of the church in this message from our 20/20 series, let’s be committed to being the people of God as the New Testament presents them to be.
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20/20: Seeing Truth Clearly

20/20: Seeing Truth Clearly

Over 175 million people in the United States need some sort of vision correction. From glasses to contacts and corneal reshaping to corrective surgery, there's no question that seeing clearly improves people's quality of life. But what about our spiritual vision? With so many religious, philosophical, and ideological lenses to look through, how do we find the right lens? In this series, Skip Heitzig brings the core doctrines of Christian faith into clear focus. These are the truths that define who God is, who we are, and the choices that every person has to make.

Outline

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  1. It’s Essential Because of Its Designation

  2. It’s Essential Because of Its Foundation

  3. It’s Essential Because of Its Possession

  4. It’s Essential Because of Its Preservation

Study Guide

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Connect Group Recap Notes: December 13, 2020
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "The Essential Church"
Text: Matthew 16:13-20

Path

Many voices today are decrying the church, rejecting its message and doubting its relevance. And yet, according to its founder, Jesus Christ, the church is essential. COVID-19 has only served to accentuate the voices on both sides of the argument about the church's importance, so we find ourselves on a timely subject. Pastor Skip considers the nature and purpose of the church in this message, reminding Christians to be committed to being the people of God as the New Testament presents them to be.
  1. It's Essential Because of Its Designation
  2. It's Essential Because of Its Foundation
  3. It's Essential Because of Its Possession
  4. It's Essential Because of Its Preservation
Points

It's Essential Because of Its Designation
  • With COVID-19 shutdowns, many "nonessential" businesses are suffering, including the people behind those businesses. Depression, substance abuse, spousal abuse, and suicide are on the rise.
  • In God's economy, all people are essential.
  • Since the church is made up of people, the church is essential. Therefore, the church's message and purpose are essential: the gospel is essential and salvation is essential (see 1 Timothy 3:15).
  • One of the COVID-19 vaccines is touted as being around 95 percent effective. But sin is 100 percent effective. All people have it, and only Christ is the cure.
  • So the church is crucial; it's God's means of giving the cure.
  • The word church is used over 110 times in the New Testament. It's not a club or an online community; it's a fellowship of believers meeting to learn, commune, pray, and minister (see Acts 2:42).
  • The Greek word is ekklésia, meaning an assembly. The church is a gathering of people with a common goal: Christ.
  • The word church indicates:
    • That we're different from society. God calls His people out from the rest of society for His purpose.
    • Why we gather. We gather around—and for—Jesus Christ.
  • What does gathering do for us?
  • It fuels our faith. When we hear truth alongside other believers, we're encouraged and affirmed.
    • It enhances our humanity. God created us for community.
    • It provides accountability (see Proverbs 18:1).
    • It fosters service. Christians serve other people.
It's Essential Because of Its Foundation
  • The church's foundation is Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 3:11).
  • Christians are the visible representation of Jesus in the world.
  • This is why you can go to church (a building) and yet not be the church (the people).
  • If Jesus is your foundation, He's your life; you are built on Him and want to do as He asks, including gathering together.
It's Essential Because of Its Possession
  • Note to whom the church belongs: not a board or pastor, but Jesus. The church is His; He died for it and has built it.
  • The church doesn't belong to the government either. It's God's organism, a living group of people.
  • In America, there's a strong separation of church and state for a reason: to keep the government out of the church's business.
  • The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
  • A Christian is to be a good citizen until being a good citizen means being a bad Christian.
It's Essential Because of Its Preservation
  • As Jesus stated, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against [my church]" (Matthew 16:18, ESV).
  • The gateswerepart of an ancient city's protection, built as a passageway in the stone walls. They were the first place enemies would attack.
  • Gates were also a place of authority and power; the city gate was like city hall.
  • Jesus referred to the "gates of Hades"; Hades was a place of the dead—the grave. This means even the power of death and Satan will not prevail against the church.
  • In other words, if you open up hell's gates and unleash all the wicked forces on the church; if you persecute, torture, and kill believers; and if you burn their buildings and create chaos, the church will still prevail.
  • How will COVID affect your faith? Will you allow it to compromise Jesus' commands?
  • Isolation mitigates risk, but what are you willing to risk for spiritual and emotional health?
  • Faith rarely grows in isolation; this is one of the reasons Jesus started the church in the first place.
  • Make it to church—in-person or online, indoors or outdoors. Make it a priority, because it's not just about Jesus and you; it's about Jesus and us.
Practice

Connect Up: Why is the church necessary to God's people? What are the church's main purposes? Use Acts 2:42-47 as a guide. How is each aspect of what this passage talks about—doctrine, prayer, fellowship, Communion, and evangelism—essential to our faith?

Connect In: What has the church meant to you? How has the church been a place of solace and service, providing solutions to life's problems? What do you expect from going to church? What are the benefits of meeting in person?

Connect Out: How would you answer a critic of church attendance? Respond to each of these positions, finding a Bible verse to support your answer:
  • "I'm a Christian, but I don't need the church. I can worship God wherever I want."
  • "Organized religion has only helped promote racism, slavery, and violence."
  • "Church is a crutch, acting as a drug or false security. Like Karl Marx said, 'Religion is the opium of the people.'"

Transcript

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The Essential Church - Matthew 16:13-20 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

God isn't really something to worship.

He's just waiting to destroy all of us.

I guess there's a God out there somewhere. I hope there is a God.

God isn't really something you worship.

God is everywhere.

Good morning. It's so good to see you here this morning. Would you turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 16. Matthew Chapter 16. We have been doing a series we call 20/20 Seeing Truth Clearly. We've been looking at different aspects of doctrine in the scripture teaching about God, His character, His nature, the Person and work of Jesus, the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. What it means to be saved. We looked at Angels and their work among us. We looked at demons and Satan last time.

And now beginning today and the next couple of weeks, we're going to look at the church. Theologians would call ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church, the importance of the church. And this is a message I'm calling today the essential church

One of the questions that our society has been asking for 10 months now is what is essential? Who is essential? What businesses, what activities do we deem as essential activities and essential businesses. And I've noticed that it changes from region to region, state to state, and month to month. So when this whole thing started, and we were allowed to have drive in church, other places were not. For example, in Kentucky the governor there prohibited drive-in church services but allowed drive-through liquor sales, because after all, that is essential. In California churches are not deemed as essential. They are deemed as nonessential. But the entertainment industry making movies, et cetera, is now deemed as essential. Some states will call liquor stores, tobacco manufacturers, cannabis dispensaries, and even strip clubs as essential.

I read an article from the BBC this week that in Paris chocolate shops have been regarded as essential. And some of you go, I get that. But he said when the lockdown started he was on the Champs-Elysees, that main drag in Paris, and he said everything was completely shuttered except chocolate shops called essential. And while the world is being locked down, and all the non-essential people are prohibited from going around and moving around, they are suffering. Mental health is failing, depression is on the rise, substance abuse is on the rise, spousal abuse is on the rise, child abuse is on the rise, and I cannot tell you about how many suicides I have heard about or conducted funerals for here at the church.

Studies done since March, so that's 10 months now, reveal that most adults in the United States report significant and negative impact on mental health, including difficulty in sleeping, problems eating, an increase in the use of alcohol, increase in substance abuse. I heard this week something that I said, that can't be true, that has to be a false statement. But I after hearing it decided I would research it and discovered it indeed to be true. So I wanted to preface it before I tell it to you, because it almost sounds unbelievable. In Japan there have been more suicides in one month than all COVID deaths in that country in 2020 through the year. More suicides in one month.

Even the World Health Organization has admitted that lockdowns are detrimental to the mental health of a society. It has now been estimated, and I have the article. I've had it for a couple of weeks now. It is estimated that 130 million people could starve to death worldwide because of the lockdowns. It's killing them. I know it's a tragedy if when anybody dies, for any reason and certainly with COVID, that is always a concern, 1.6 million deaths worldwide because of that disease. But 130 million people they say could starve to death because of lockdowns. Think of it. There's are so many cultures that are at poverty level. They don't have the ability to just stay home and collect an income. They have to go out that day and work or they will not eat that night. So to lock them down we are killing them.

So back to the question, who is essential? Short answer. You are. You are essential to God individually and you are essential to this culture and this world in general. The church is essential. The message we preach is essential. The gospel is essential. Salvation is essential. Jesus Christ and His people are essential. Paul wrote to Timothy, 1 Timothy Chapter 3 verse 15, and he talked about the church, a great description of it. He said, "--the Church of the living God, the pillar and the ground of the truth." The pillar and the ground of the truth.

Now I know everybody is excited about the vaccine that is coming, and its efficacy rate, it really is unprecedented, because most vaccines have an efficiency rate of some 30%, some 40%, some as high as 70%. But to say it's been tested, and this vaccine for COVID will be 90% to 95% effective. You should also know that COVID, as deadly as it is, you have a 99.98 chance of surviving it. And now a vaccine will be 90% to 95% effective in getting rid of it. That's the hope.

There is a virus far worse than COVID-19, and that's what makes the church essential. It's called sin. That's the virus. It is 100% fatal unless there is a change in a person's life. It kills everyone who does not deal with it at the cross. But there is a vaccine for it. And the vaccine for the sin virus is not 90% effective, it's not 95% effective. It's 100% effective. The blood of Jesus Christ, God's son cleanses us from all sin. Whenever we speak of what is essential, you have to ask, well, who are you talking about? Because we deal with what is essential to us. When it comes to the church we have to deal with what is essential to God. Is the church essential? To Christ it is.

Can you imagine if we were having a wedding right now, and the groom came, and the guests came, and the preacher came, but the bride didn't come? We can't really have a wedding can we without the bride? And so let's say we're about to get started, and we've been fidgeting around for 15 minutes, and I finally go, "where's the bride?" And somebody shouts out, "She's not coming. She's not essential." Well, I've got to tell you to the groom she's essential. There's no marriage without her. Do you know we're called the bride of Christ? You are essential to Christ. Do you know that Jesus describes you, the church, as a love gift from the Father to Him? He said in John 17 in that beautiful prayer, "I have manifested Your name to all those You have given Me. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and I have manifested Your name to them." You're a love gift from the Father to the Son. I think you're pretty essential to Jesus Christ.

So we reconsider here in Matthew 16 the essential church. And I'm beginning here because of the fact that it's the first mention of the very word church in the entire New Testament. It comes from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ. But also because today we happen to find ourselves as the church in society in a very similar position to the early church in the Roman Empire. They were despised in the Roman Empire. They were maligned in the Roman Empire. They were called intellectually incompetent during that time. Much of that same rhetoric can be heard today. So what I want to do in Matthew 16 is look in particular at one verse, that is verse 18, but I'm going to read a few verses for context and then show you four reasons why the church is essential.

Let's begin in Matthew 16 verse 13, "When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" So they answered, some say-- they said some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. "He said to them, but who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ." That's Messiah, you're the Messiah, the Son of the living God. "Jesus answered and said to him, blessed are you, Simon, Bar-Jonah," Jonah, that is son of Jonas, "for flesh and blood does not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven." whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven. Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ."

Once again, verse 18 is what I'm going to principally be looking at with you, and I'm going to give you those four reasons. Reason number one, the church is essential because of its designation. Notice the term, the word itself, "I will build My church." He didn't say I'm going to build My club, or I'm going to build My base of followers, or I'm going to build My online community, or My YouTube channel. I'm going to build My church. A term that is used 110 times in the New Testament. This is the first mention of it. Church. Now most people hear the word church, and it brings a distinctively religious connotation. They think of a building in a community. That's the church. That's where we go. It's a place. Or to others, it's an institution. In my mind, I think of frowning men in robes with collars. That's how a lot of people think of the church, a building or an institution. Somebody said it's the place you go when you are hatched, matched, and dispatched. When you're born, you go to church. When you get married, you go to church. When you die they have a service at church. And for some people that sums up their relationship to church.

Did you know that the original term "church" has no religious nuance whatsoever? Rather, it was a secular term, even a governmental term. The Greek word is the word, ekklesia. And that word for church, ekklesia simply means an assembly, regularly scheduled assembly of citizens, Greek citizens. That was the church. When the citizens gathered together for a purpose that was called an ekklesia, a church. Later, it came to specifically mean a legislative body of citizens like a jury. They would adjudicate a court case. When they would gather together to hear the case, that was also called a church. So the main idea of church is a gathering of people who assemble with a common goal.

Now did you know that the term shows up in the Old Testament, though not translated as church in English, it does show up. And there's a few places it does I want to give you one noteworthy place that is Deuteronomy Chapter 4 verse 10. God is instructing Moses to speak to His people, the children of Israel. And He says this, "Gather the people to Me that I may let them hear My words, so that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they live upon the earth." The word used, "gather" the people, is the word church ekklisia dzo gather them together. So the basic idea then in the Old Testament and the New Testament is God's people gathered together. God's people gathered together. Now when I speak of church, I'm speaking of that church. I'm speaking of people who are really saved people, not people who just go to church, but people who are the church, because they are converted people, saved people.

But the fact that Jesus chose to use this term ekklesia church indicates a couple of things. Number one, it indicates that we are different from the rest of society. This is Jesus building a brand new community, a new society. That's the church. In fact, the word itself, I told you that word ekklesia comes from two words stuck together. The two words are this ekk which means out from, and the other word kaleto which means to call. So literally the words put together mean to call out from. A church is a new society called out from the society at large to be God's people. So it indicates that we are different from our society. This isn't just a group that meets with a common interest. This is a group that meets for God's purpose. It's a holy convocation, a holy assembly.

Also, it indicates that we gather. The very meaning of the word is people gathered together, so the fact that Jesus chose this term anticipates that we would be gathering together. By the way that's been happening for 2,000 years since the Resurrection. For 2000 years since the Resurrection, Christians all over the world have decided to gather together, principally on Sunday, the Lord's day, to celebrate His Resurrection. We gather. And people go, oh, why do we have to gather? One man asked his wife that? It was a Sunday morning, his wife had gotten dressed for church, she had her purse, she had her coat on. She was about to go out the door, and she noticed her husband is still in his bathrobe and his. Pj's, and she says, you better get dressed, we're going to church. He goes, I'm not going to church. She goes you're not going to church? Give me one reason why you're not going to church. He goes I'll give you three reasons why I'm not going to church. So he said, reason number one, the church is cold and uncaring. Number two, nobody there likes me. And number three, I just don't feel like it. Those are my three reasons. She goes well I'm going to give you three reasons why you should go. Number one, the church is warm and friendly. Number two, there's a few people there who like you. And number three, you are the pastor, sweetheart, so you better get dressed and come.

We have for months been able to use technology, and I'm glad that we have it, and we continue to use it. Technology definitely has its benefits. You can get on your phone and talk to people on the other side of the world. You can Facetime a person on the other side of the world. You can have Zoom meetings. I've had a lot of those lately. You can listen to online sermons. All of that is great, yet, the New Testament calls us to gather together. Now I know this is very, very, very controversial. If you don't think it's controversial, just look at some of my social media comments. You're killing people. No we're actually meeting according to state regulations. But the idea that the church would even gather together during this season. First of all, I want to say we care about your physical health, and we'll take every precaution including distancing, and using all sorts of things to rub on our hands, and tell people to wash their hands and watch percentages. At the same time, we think that you are adults, and you're able to make your own choices about your life and your health, and you don't want to place your family in jeopardy or anybody else, and we leave that decision to you.

But let me tell you why we gather. We gather together, first of all, because it fuels our faith. It fuels our faith. You know we were shut down for months. We reopened, gaining momentum, then they asked if we'd shut down again. So we shut down again, and then we were allowed to reopen and we reopened again. I had people on that Wednesday night come up to me going thank you for opening. I've taken church for granted. I realize I need the church. I need people. It fuels our faith when you hear truth alongside somebody else hearing the same truth or singing the same song. There's a level of encouragement and affirmation you cannot get alone. There's a psychological impetus when you gather together that affirms and fuels your faith, much more so than if you individually curate what you want to hear when you want to hear it on your Facebook page.

This is why Hebrews 10:25, "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." So number one, it fuels our faith. I want to give you a second reason why we gather. We gather, not only because it fuels our faith, but it enhances our humanity. Human beings were not meant to be in isolation. We were built by our creator to interact with other human beings. And you starve people of that, you are going to have detrimental results. That's one of the first principles of the Bible Genesis Chapter 2. It is not good that man should be alone. You know what happens when they are alone? It's called failure to thrive. Failure to thrive is a medical term. They talk about babies dying from failure to thrive. But now they're talking about adult failure to thrive. And I was reading an NBC article this week about the toll that this has taken in the most vulnerable area of our population, which is the very elderly. Convalescent homes who not only are facing life from a fragile physical condition and afraid of this virus, but having now to be isolated even from their family. The article said, because of this isolation, there is a rise in patience who are dying from failure to thrive. Dying from it. They become quiet, disengaged, and withdrawn. The isolation accelerates the aging process. So because they can't have family with them, they die quicker. It's tragic.

70 times, 7-0 times the Bible uses, the New Testament uses the phrase one another, one another. And one another is a kind of a phrase that requires people have proximity to one another. It's hard to do things with one another on a Zoom call. Now I just want to address this, because I got asked this way before this mess called COVID-19. I got asked this for years. Can I be a Christian without going to church? Well, the answer is technically, yes, because you're not saved by going to church. You're saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. But to ask that question, can I be a Christian without going to church? It's like can I be a football player without a team? Can I be a bee without a hive? Can I be a drummer without a band? Yeah, but maybe you'll annoy everybody. So can I be a Christian without getting together with other Christians. Well, yeah, because you're not saved by that but why would you ever think you'd want to do that? So it fuels our faith. It enhances our humanity.

Another reason we gather is it provides accountability. It provides accountability. When you are with somebody else and say something or hear something, and you can look at body language and discuss, or dissent, or clarify, that's helpful. When you're alone, you can't do that. Now some people will say, well, I don't need the church. I'm not into organized religion. That's usually a cop out. It's a way of saying, I don't want accountability to anyone for anything. I just want to do my own thing. And that's dangerous. Proverbs 18 verse 1, "A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment." Some people prefer isolation, so they don't have to be accountable to anyone. So it fuels our faith, it enhances our humanity, and it provides accountability.

Another reason we gather, it enables service. It fosters service. When COVID began our staff immediately did a pivot, because a lot of the tasks now we weren't doing, so we just decided, let's pour into the community. Let's find people who are vulnerable, who are isolated, who need supplies, and let's get that to them. Now to do that and to go out into the community, means you're putting your own health at risk. But it has to be done. And we have been able to give out $700,000 worth of items to people in the community since COVID began. Including meals, including things from the drugstore, snack packs, et cetera. But you got to get close to people to help.

This week I got a phone call from a friend of mine who's a pastor, and he called me on the phone and said, I got COVID. I said what do you mean you got COVID? I got COVID-19. I said, well, how'd you get it? He goes, I was in Los Angeles and I was giving food to the poorest people in the community, and I got it. And I said, OK, so do you regret doing it? He goes, nope. I'd do it again if I need to. He said, that's part of the risk, right, you put yourself at risk. But he said, yeah, but I'm just waiting. All the people are going to climb on my case and say, I told you, you shouldn't do that. But he said you know what, Skip? You cannot distribute food through a Zoom, call. You've got to get out there. And that's placing yourself at risk, but that's one of the reasons we're called to gather. So it's essential because of his designation church. You are the church.

A second reason, it is essential because of its foundation. Now I take you back to the scripture. In verse 18, "I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church." For 1500 years, there was confusion on this text until the Protestant Reformation because one of the translations of the name Peter is rock, people have assumed for years that Jesus was saying, I'm going to build My future church upon this man named Peter who will be the papacy. It's Peter. Let me just say, if the church is built on Peter, we're all in deep trouble. And I think Peter would be the first to agree. Certainly Paul would agree, because Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3 verse 13, "Fore no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Now let me clear up the text. Jesus said you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church. He's not saying I'm going to build My church on you. Listen to it in the Greek language. I say to you, you are petros, a tiny little pebble. And upon this petra, different word altogether, massive stone I will build My church. You're a pebble, I'm not going to build it on you. Upon this massive rock I will build My church. What is He referring to? Not Peter, but what Peter has just said. Peter has just said, I know who You are. You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. I'm going to build My church on that confession Peter, that monumental, firm foundation that Jesus is Lord. That's what He builds the church on, not on the man Peter, but on the truth that Peter articulated that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

So the foundation is Christ, and if the foundation of the church is Christ, that means that we are the physical representation of Jesus on the Earth. As Paul said, the body of Christ, but this is why you can go to church, but not necessarily be the church. Some people think, well, I'm a Christian because I go to church. No, you go to church because you are the church. And you are a true authentic believer that rests completely in the finished work of Christ. So that leads me to ask, is that true of you? Do you lean, do you rest completely on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Is he your foundation? Are you building your life on Him and Him alone? So it's essential because of its designation, and it's essential because of its foundation.

Let me give you a third reason it's essential. It is essential because of its possession. Now I'm not using the term this way-- it's not something we possess, it's something He possesses. And I want you to see that. You are Peter and on this rock I will build-- now notice the personal pronoun-- My church. This is Jesus talking. It's My church. Jesus says, it's My church. I will build My church. Notice to whom it belongs. It doesn't belong to a pastor. It doesn't belong to a board of directors. It doesn't belong to a group of elders, or a board of deacons or bishops. It belongs to Jesus Christ. Jesus built it, Jesus owns it. He is the architect. He is the title holder. It is not Skip's church. It is not your church. It's not even our church. It's His church.

Paul spoke to the elders of the church at Ephesus, and he said in Acts Chapter 20, "be sure that you feed and shepherd God's flock. His church purchased with His blood over whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. Do you realize that the highest price ever paid in history has been for the church, the blood of Christ. You ask is the church essential? Go by what it cost God. He purchased it with His own blood. So it's Jesus church. It's not Skip's church. It's not your church. It's not our church. It doesn't belong to us. It belongs to Him. I just want to underscore this by saying it doesn't belong to the government either. It doesn't.

Now if we were in England, we couldn't say that, because the Anglican church is run by the state, run by the government. And there are countries in the world where the state runs the church, but not in this country. And one of the reasons we rebelled from England and came here and did this experiment in democracy was because our forefathers wisely wanted to separate church from the state. You've heard that term, the separation of church and state. By the way, I hear it a lot, and it is usually misunderstood. And people try to throw that term around, separation of church and state, they try to make it mean let's keep religion out of the public square. Let's keep religious people out of politics. That is not the intention. The intention is let's keep the government out of the church's business. That's why that idea came into being. And that is why our Constitution has the First Amendment which says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise Thereof." That's our country. That's our country.

Now if I was bringing a message like this in England or anywhere else, it might look a little different, but it doesn't. That's the law of this country. And in countries where the state is controlling the church, in such countries the edicts and mandates of fallible men and women take precedence over God's holy scripture, unfortunately. When the state is the head of the church, the integrity of the figure of the gospel can be easily compromised. I've always loved what Ronald Reagan said. He said, "The most terrifying words in the English language are, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

Now we know what the Christian's responsibility and relationship to civil government is. We've studied that. It's pretty clear. We are to honor, give honor to whom honor is due, tribute to whom tribute is due. Pay our taxes, honor those who are over us, respect the force, et cetera, et cetera. And we do that in compliance with Romans 13 and first Peter, et cetera. But also in the New Testament you have people like John and Peter, the Apostles of the Lord who were given a mandate from the government, and they finally came to a place in Jerusalem where they said you know what, we must obey God rather than men. Now we haven't had to do that, but I'm willing to do that.

And I guess I'd sum up the whole relationship to the government by saying this. A Christian is to be a good citizen until being a good citizen means being a bad Christian. And if being a good citizen and complying with any regulation means I have to forsake what the Bible says I do, then I will not do that and neither should you. And maybe that means I'd end up in jail. OK, I've lived a good life. I've never had a jail ministry. Maybe this is my portal into that new life the Lord has for me.

But the church is essential because of its designation, because of its foundation, because of its possession, and finally, the church is essential because of its preservation. I love this part. "You are Peter, upon this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Just let those words seep into your soul. The gates of Hades will not prevail against it. There's a lot of chatter out there and a lot of articles being written about the Church in this culture right now. And the question that is being asked, I've read articles this week on it, is will the church survive? And in particular, the article that I read a few of them were called, will the church survive COVID-19?

One of the articles that I read got my attention was in the Atlantic Monthly, if you're familiar with that magazine, you know the most articles in the Atlantic Monthly are quite long, voluminous, circumlocutory. They just like listening to themselves it seems like. So I read the article and it was fascinating. They asked will the church survive? And they cited all the challenges during COVID-19 of churches having to shut down and go live stream. Many were not equipped to do live stream, they weren't prepared to do it. So it has caused enormous challenges. And then the article cited the church in different parts of the world throughout history. And they talked about Russia. The church in Russia was stamped out by the regime. And because the grounds were it's the opiate of the people, opiate of the masses, this is way back when. In European countries in more recent times, church attendance has been so low, especially in countries where it is state-run churches, and the attendance has been dwindling and COVID has just wiped it out, wiped out church attendance.

So the fear is in these articles, and in the one I read in particular, is that many people who were not really that engaged anyway in church before COVID, will completely disengage after COVID. That's the fear. And it's a legitimate fear, and I would actually even say that's true. Recent research has found that around half of US adults who attended church before COVID-19 are unlikely to return to church even if public health officials deem it safe. Did you get that? So even when they say it's OK, now, you can come out of the woods. The sky isn't falling. You're going to make it. Get back to work, get back to life, that half of US adults who went to church before are going to say, I'm done. I'm not coming back.

Now that's a little ominous, so will the church survive? We need to ask that question to the Jesus who said, here's my idea I'm going to build a church. So let's ask him, hey, Jesus, will your church survive COVID-19?

Oh, yeah.

OK, so I'm not asking you but I appreciate that. He gave us His answer. Ready? The gates of hell will not prevail against it. That's His answer. Let me explain the text just briefly. In ancient times, cities were built with walls and gates. Walls to protect, gates to gain entrance, and for people to leave. And so when enemies wanted to attack a city, they would often attack the gates first. But the gate in ancient times is also the place of power, the place of authority. That's where elders met, that's where judges met, that's where cases were heard. So the gates of Hades, Hades is another word for the grave or the place of the dead. Some translations say hell, gates of hell. So the idea of that is the power of death and hell or the power of death and Satan. So you might translate it this way. You can open up hell's gates and unleash all the wicked forces on the church. You can persecute it, you can torture believers, you can kill believers. It's been going on for 2000 years. You can burn their buildings down, but guess what? The church will prevail. It is indestructible. It's not going anywhere.

And really, the best place to look is, well, let's go back to that day when this man hung on a cross. And there we are at Golgotha, and we're looking up, and we're remembering that this is the guy who said, I'm going to build My church. And now he's dying. And some of us would look at that, and we'd go it's over. Church is over. Whatever plans He had to build a church is over. Are you kidding? It's just beginning. It's just beginning. And it is going to be followed by a Resurrection and 2,000 years now of history that has been stunning. So I have a better question than will the church survive COVID-19? Ready? Here's the question. Will your faith survive COVID-19? Will your faith survive COVID-19?

With all due respect to our online community, and I do respect them. And we do serve that, and we will continue to do that. But frankly, people are getting used to getting up, and just wearing their Pj's all day long, and sitting on a couch, and turning on the TV, and watching church. I've had people say, you know, I kind of got up one day and thought, I don't want to get my kids ready. I can just sit on the couch with my popcorn and watch church. I understand that. I get that. I do. And some people are waiting for this vaccine they're all excited about this vaccine 95% effective. Yeah. OK, let me throw a little wrench into that thinking. What if the virus mutates the wrong way? Oh, I haven't thought of that. OK, and/or what if in two, three years a different virus comes? Than what?

Yes, isolation mitigates risk. It's why we do it. We isolate because of the risk, but what are you willing to risk for your spiritual health? What are you willing to risk for your mental health? What are you willing to risk for your emotional health? Listen, last time I checked, life is about risk. You get up in the morning, that's risky. Man, you could walk through the garage, not see where you're going, and hit your head on a bicycle, and get a subdural hematoma. That's what happened to me. Now do I say, I will never walk in a garage again? No, I'll just look where I'm going next time. So bottom line, principle faith rarely grows in isolation. Faith rarely grows in isolation. It's one of the reasons Jesus started His church in the first place.

So as I close, let me just say make it to church, whether it's online or in person, whether it's sitting outside or inside. And if you're going to be online, great. But don't just sit there with the popcorn and watch, stand up and sing the songs. Better yet, invite people over even if you're 10, 20, 30 feet apart or whatever it takes, but be in some kind of proximity to share the experience with others in a watch party and make it to church. Make it a priority to go to church, because it's not just about you and Jesus. See, that's the fallacy in the American church. You know everything is about us, my personal Instagram, my personal feed. I curate what I want to see, who I want to see, when I want to see it. And we're used to it's all about me, it's not.

In the church, the question isn't it's not about you and Jesus. You know we talk, I have a personal relationship with Christ. What a lot of people mean by that is my own private relationship with Christ. No you do not. No you do not. It's not about Jesus in you, it's about Jesus and us. It's a new community. How did Jesus teach us to pray? Did he say, and when you pray, say my Father who art in heaven? Our Father who art in heaven, give us this day, our daily bread, forgive us our trespasses, it's done collectively. It's done with the community in mind. This is the Church of the living God, the pillar in the ground of truth. And we need each other, and we are essential to God. We are essential to the Lord Jesus Christ as His bride. We are essential to each other's spiritual health, and we are essential in this organized way to the world at large. Church is essential.

Father, thank you that that is Your word. You called us Your bride. You said, Lord Jesus that we were a gift from the Father to You. It's humbling to think that we would be a gift that You treasure, loved deeply, You spared no expense to purchase us. And so your plan for us in this day and age is crucial, crucial that we understand, crucial that we fulfill, and we get no greater joy than knowing that we are doing Your bidding, Your will. Come hell or high water, and even if the gates of hell are unleashed, they will not prevail. It's great to go forward knowing that the victory is ours, and we know it at the beginning and during the battle. Help us, Lord. Give us courage, give us strength. Help us to love that we can be very considerate toward the vulnerable figuring out ways to love those who are, because of this, having to be isolated. Ways to bring encouragement, ways to show love, ways to give things that are needed to them. Then also to March forward to encourage one another to love one another. In Jesus' name, Amen. Let's all stand.

We hope you enjoyed this special service from Calvary Church. We'd love to know how this message impacted you. Email us at MyStory@CalvaryNM.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at CalvaryNM.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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6/14/2020
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Seeing Truth Clearly
2 Timothy 4:1-8
Skip Heitzig
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Hiram Johnson said, "The first casualty in war is truth." God’s people have been in a cosmic battle since the fall. Satan’s first allegation against truth was in Genesis 3:1: "Has God indeed said...?" Deception regarding truth is Satan's primary occupation. We now live in what might be dubbed a post-truth culture wherein the very idea of absolute truth is considered archaic and even offensive. In this series, we will look to the "Scripture of Truth" (Daniel 10:21) to reinforce our foundation and engender biblical literacy. Here at the end of Paul's life, he could foresee the abandonment of truth, and he gave Timothy this antidote: "Preach the Word!"
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6/21/2020
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Seeing God as Father
Luke 11:2
Skip Heitzig
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God is presented in Scripture by a variety of images. He is called our Rock, our Refuge, our Warrior, our Shepherd, our Shield, our Hiding Place, our Redeemer, our Fountain, our Husband, and our Vinedresser. But no motif is as powerful and personal as seeing God as our Father. With this title, the invisible God becomes the intimate God. Today, on Father’s Day, we consider the singular phrase "Our Father in heaven" as an introduction to the doctrine of God. Let’s turn over each word and mine the depths of the riches contained in this great verse.
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6/28/2020
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How Can I Relate to God?
Exodus 32-34
Skip Heitzig
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The subject of God is the loftiest of all themes and the pinnacle of all pursuits. For some people, the idea of God is absurd because He is not readily perceived by the senses, like a flower or another person. But as we learn who God is and how perceptible He is to us, I think we’ll be both lifted up and humbled all at the same time. Today we trace the journey that every person must take who wants to relate to the God of the universe. Let’s examine five stages of this relationship.
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7/5/2020
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Biblical History: Fact or Fancy?
Dr. Steven Collins
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Dr. Steven Collins serves as the dean of the College of Archaeology at Veritas International University and a consulting research professor at Trinity Southwest University. He is also the director of the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project in Jordan, which is believed to be the location of Sodom.
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7/12/2020
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Hello, I’m God!
Exodus 34:5-9
Skip Heitzig
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People have written and spoken about God for millennia. It’s what I have done for nearly four decades. But today we get to hear from God Himself as He gives to Moses His own autobiography. Here He introduces Himself by stating His name and His occupation as God. He states His primary character traits, thus framing what our relationship with Him is going to be like. This is a primary passage of Scripture, meaning other biblical authors make reference to it later on in their writings. Let’s find out what God says about Himself.
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7/19/2020
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Knowing the God Who Knows You
Psalm 139:1-6, 23-24
Skip Heitzig
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A person with knowledge can be intimidating. They spew facts and figures and can dizzy us with information and understanding. But rightly seen, a study of God’s comprehensive knowledge can be a source of great comfort to us. In this series, 20/20: Seeing Truth Clearly, we come to grips with the fact that God sees everything most clearly. His knowledge is vast, infinite, comprehensive, specific, and personal. But let’s observe how God’s omniscience can become inspiring rather than intimidating.
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7/26/2020
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Here, There, and Everywhere
Psalm 139:7-12
Skip Heitzig
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One of the Beatles’ most melodic hits expressed a couple’s romantic desire to be together at all times and in all places and was simply titled, “Here, There and Everywhere.” This title also expresses a unique attribute of God (what theologians call an incommunicable attribute). He is everywhere present in the totality of His being! This may be one of the hardest-to-understand characteristics of God, but one that brings great comfort to us.
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8/2/2020
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The Unrivaled Power of God
Psalm 139:13-18
Skip Heitzig
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God is called Almighty fifty-seven times in Scripture. It means that the resources of His power are boundless. He is unlimited in His ability and unconstrained in His capacity. God’s attribute of omnipotence is helpful for us to remember when we are feeling overwhelmed with threatening circumstances. Just as we feel confident when our mobile devices have plenty of battery power to spare, we can live confidently knowing that our great God has power for any of our problems.
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8/9/2020
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Holy, Holy, Holy!
Isaiah 6:1-8
Skip Heitzig
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Holiness sounds scary. Thoughts of dusty, cloistered halls of a monastery fill our minds when we hear the word. We might think of chants and long prayers rather than anthems and short prayers. It hardly seems like an appropriate word for the twenty-first century! But according to one theologian, God’s holiness is the one attribute that binds all His other attributes together. This is the characteristic that most uniquely describes God. Let’s consider it today.
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8/16/2020
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One Plus One Plus One Equals One?
John 14:1-18
Skip Heitzig
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One of the most fundamental yet challenging truths in Scripture is the doctrine of the Trinity. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Try to explain it and you might lose your mind, but try to explain it away and you might lose your soul. The Bible openly teaches the plurality within the Godhead—three persons who are distinct from one another yet perfectly One in essence. How are we to think about this? And how should it affect us personally?
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8/23/2020
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Pain: God’s Biggest Problem
John 9:1-7
Skip Heitzig
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Perhaps the biggest impediment to believing in God (as stated by those who don’t) is the presence of pain and suffering in the world. How can there be a God who is benevolent and omnipotent with the sheer volume of grief, misery, travail, and torment at any given moment? Today we explore the theme of a loving God in a universe pockmarked by pain. As Jesus was in Jerusalem with His disciples, they came across a blind man. I’d like to show you four features of this most common and universal of human experiences.
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8/30/2020
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Christ Jesus Our Lord
Philippians 2:5-11
Skip Heitzig
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At the very center of history’s stage stands Jesus Christ. He has no peers. The Father in heaven sent Him on the mission of redemption and He humbly surrendered. When it was accomplished, He conquered death itself by resurrection and returned to glory. In what is considered by many to be the greatest single statement about Jesus Christ in the New Testament, Paul succinctly framed His humiliation, His exaltation, and His example to us.
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9/6/2020
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The Atonement: His Death, Our Life
John 12:20-33
Skip Heitzig
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Wasn’t there any other way for God to save human beings than by sending His Son to die? The very idea of a bloody crucifixion sounds brutal and barbarous to some, yet it is the centerpiece of our faith. What is the big deal about the atonement? Why the cross? Why had it been the plan of God through the ages? Today we examine the death of Christ for us and, in His own words, His own estimation of its necessity and consequence.
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9/13/2020
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He’s Alive! Proofs of the Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Skip Heitzig
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Just as your own heart is the pump that brings life-giving blood to your entire body, so is the resurrection of Jesus that gives life to the gospel message. Without it, our faith would be totally useless; our message would be utterly powerless. The resurrection is also what separates Jesus Christ from every other spiritual leader and would-be messiah. It validates His teaching. It authenticates His claims. It substantiates His promises. And it corroborates our confidence in Him as our Savior and Lord.
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9/20/2020
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The Holy Spirit in the World
John 16:5-11
Skip Heitzig
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We are not alone in the universe! That’s the premise of most sci-fi documentaries, but I’m not referring to alien life from another galaxy, rather to the living God Himself. In particular, I am referring to the Holy Spirit. He has a particular role when it comes to working in this world, and that is to awaken people to their great need for Christ. In our series 20/20: Seeing Truth Clearly, we will turn in the next few weeks to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. What is His role in the life of the unbeliever and the life of the believer?
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10/11/2020
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Who Is the Holy Spirit?
John 16
Nate Heitzig
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There can be a lot of mystery and misinformation surrounding the Holy Spirit. When we look to Scripture, however, the third person of the Godhead comes into clear focus. In this teaching, Nate Heitzig describes the person of the Holy Spirit, His work both at scale in the world and individually in the hearts of believers, and how He helps you gain a deeper understanding of God's Word.
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10/18/2020
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Help Has Arrived!
John 14:15-18
Skip Heitzig
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Someone said to me this past week, “Life is hard, but God is good!” We all know it’s true. To live for God in an ungodly world is challenging, sometimes daunting. But God never intended for us to try it alone! He has provided for us a Helper, the Holy Spirit, who is not only at work in the world around us but is very busy working inside of us. Let’s drill down into the promise Jesus gave to His disciples in the upper room about the coming Spirit.
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10/25/2020
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God’s Purpose for People
Genesis 1-3
Skip Heitzig
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After spending several weeks considering God’s nature and character, we now turn to mankind. What is the purpose of the people inhabiting this planet? How can we fulfill the God-given destiny that He originally had in mind when He placed us here? Someone once said that the two most significant days in one’s life are first, the day we were born, and second, the day we discovered what we were born for. Let’s go back to the beginning.
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11/1/2020
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The Dark Side
Romans 3:10-26
Nate Heitzig
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God created humans in His own image. But even with God's imprint in humanity, people have a dark side—a sin nature—because of Adam and Eve's rebellion. One consequence of our rebellion against God is guilt, but in today's society, many people try to minimize both sin and guilt by casting them in a deceptively benign light. In this teaching, Nate Heitzig looks at what the book of Romans has to say about our true condition and its only remedy.
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11/15/2020
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Once Dead, Now Alive!
Ephesians 2:1-7
Skip Heitzig
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Of all the doctrines that adorn the New Testament, salvation is the most personal and the most transformative. Below are the various stages that every saved person goes through in coming to Christ. Today, try to remember what it was like for you when Jesus became real to you and you realized your need for Him to save you, then answer this fundamental question: How has your conversion changed your contentment?
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11/22/2020
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I’m a Christian—Now What?
Romans 8:12-17
Skip Heitzig
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Once you decide to repent from your past, say yes to Jesus Christ, and invite Him into your heart, you begin a lifelong relationship with Him. Nothing stays the same. Paul wrote, “Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT). Conversion is the gateway to transformation. Let’s consider four clear experiences that happen in the life of everyone who believes.
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11/29/2020
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The Angels of God
Hebrews 1
Skip Heitzig
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Angels are largely relegated to the realms of mythology and childhood fantasy. Most people never think about them. But angels are very, very real. Martin Luther commented, "An angel is a spiritual creature created by God without a body, for the service of Christendom and of the church." He was partly correct, but angels serve an even greater role than being strictly for the church. Their ministry objective is principally concerned with the glory and majesty of God. Let’s explore some of the noteworthy traits that angels have.
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12/6/2020
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Satan: His Meaning, Minions, and Methods
Luke 10:17-20
Skip Heitzig
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Most people today don't believe in the Devil. For them, he's merely a symbol of evil, or he's reduced to a mythical figure with horns and a pitchfork. But the Bible is clear: Satan exists. There is no more powerful foe we face as believers. In this message, Skip Heitzig reveals six surprising facts you may not know about our Enemy.
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12/20/2020
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What Every True Church Should Be
John 17
Skip Heitzig
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Not only is the church essential, it is purposeful and practical—it has a reason to exist. Since Jesus said He would build His church, He gets to decide what the distinctive marks of this new community should be. In this most intimate prayer of Jesus recorded in Scripture, we hear what He wants most for His people who He calls His church. Today we will consider the first two characteristics of the church Jesus had in mind.
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12/27/2020
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What Every True Church Should Be - Part 2
John 17
Skip Heitzig
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The prayer of Jesus in John 17 is His longest and most intimate recorded in Scripture. Here our Lord expresses His wishes for the new community of His followers we call the church. Since the church belongs to Jesus, since it is Jesus who builds the church (see Matthew 16:18), and since it’s Jesus who paid for the church (see Acts 20:28), He gets to decide what it should be like. So what are the characteristics He wants to see in His followers? What are the marks of a true church? We noted two last week and today we unpack two more.
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1/3/2021
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Are We Living in the Last Days?
2 Peter 1-3
Skip Heitzig
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When it comes to the last days or the end times or, for that matter, any Bible prophecy, there is no shortage of speculation and sensationalism. Every generation has its doomsday preachers predicting the end of everything, trying to fit current events into the predictive prophecy so prevalent in Scripture. Yet one day the world will end. So what are the last days and what are the characteristics of that time period? Let’s consider five features.
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1/10/2021
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The Rapture—Is It Real?
John 14:1-6
Skip Heitzig
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The word rapture is not found in most English translations of Scripture, but the concept of it most certainly is. Latin translations of the New Testament have the word plainly rendered as rapturo, which simply means a catching away or a snatching away. The Bible presents two stages of Jesus’ second coming: first, He will come suddenly in the air to snatch away believers; then He will return to earth at the end of a seven-year period called the tribulation.
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1/17/2021
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The Second Coming of Christ
Revelation 19:6-16
Skip Heitzig
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Jesus said He was coming back (see John 14:3), and an angel told His disciples He would come back to the earth (see Acts 1:11). The second coming of Christ will be the culmination of redemptive history. After history runs its sinister course, after the final period of man’s rebellion, Satan’s retaliation, and God’s judgment is poured out, Jesus will return to planet earth. Today, we will consider four aspects of His return as found in Revelation 19 and throughout the Scriptures.
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1/24/2021
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What Most People Don’t Know about Heaven
Revelation 21
Skip Heitzig
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What happens when a believer dies? What will heaven be like? I’ve heard the craziest stories and descriptions about the afterlife over the years, often at funerals. I have since discovered that most people’s (even Christians) ideas about what heaven will be like are vastly different than what Scripture reveals. First off, I hope you indeed are going to heaven. Let’s examine a few things that might surprise you about your heavenly home.
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There are 29 additional messages in this series.
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