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Matthew 16:13-19 13 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,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.” 

Being a Jesus’ follower is not a casual thing. It’s a radical thing. We see here in Matthew 16 that on the heels of Peter’s confession, Jesus confirmed who He was.  He confirmed He was the Promised Messiah, and then He said something very intentionally, something very powerful.  He issued a declaration about the role of the Church in the world.  Look at it again.

And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock (on this confession) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] (Hell) will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.”

This is the first time the Church is mentioned in Scripture, and here, at this juncture, when Jesus talks about His Church, He says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church.  Satan will not be able to take down His Church.  Satan will not be able to overcome God’s Church.  From the get-go, right out of the gate, Jesus establishes, as a fact, that Satan will try to come against the Church of the Living God.  The conflict that Satan has with God is carried over to a conflict with the Church.  By affiliation with Jesus, the One who dealt Satan an eternal blow on Calvary’s cross, by affiliation with Him, God’s Church is part of a war with unseen, evil powers. 

I’m guessing when you became a Christian, you announced to your friends and family that you made a decision to follow Jesus and to surrender our life to Him, but I’m guessing you didn’t also announce that when you did, you enlisted in the war against the powers of darkness.  I’m guessing you didn’t say you became a soldier in the battle against Satan and his demons.  I’m pretty sure, that wasn’t at the forefront of any of our minds.

But here, God says, that His Church, His followers, the disciples of Jesus are engaged in a battle.  Why else would He say that Hell couldn’t take His Church down?  If Satan wasn’t going to try to bring down God’s Church, why would Jesus declare to the disciples that a takedown wasn’t going to be possible? What a shot in the arm that was for the disciples to hear from Jesus that they didn’t have to fear the devil or his demons!  Satan is subject to the authority of the church.  He is under our feet. (Romans 16:20) He cannot undermine God’s purposes for His Church.  To reiterate it again, simply, the Church has authority over Satan.

In verse 19 Jesus went on to say He was giving some keys to the disciples.  They were the keys of authority that would assist them in this war against the powers of darkness.  Keys are a symbol of delegated authority.  If I give you keys to my house, I am delegating my authority to you.  I am giving you a right to be there and a right to exercise my authority while you are there.  You can open my house when you want to.  You can lock my house when you want to.  You can decide who comes in and who stays out.  You can kick people out if they come in and become a problem.  You can relegate some people to the porch.  If you have the keys to my house, you can admit whoever you want and ban whoever you want.  Do you get the drift?  But the keys won’t do you any good if you don’t use them.  If you don’t use the keys to get into my house, you will remain outside and unprotected, vulnerable to the elements and whatever lurks after dark.  You won’t be able to separate yourself from dark forces that might take advantage of you if you don’t get inside and lock the door.

In Revelation 1:17-18 Jesus said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Revelation 1:17-18

This war between Satan and God isn’t even a fair fight because Jesus holds the Master Keys to everything that would set itself up as an enemy of His Church. He is large and in charge.  There is no possibility that Satan will be victorious.  His fate has already been secured.  He was dealt an eternal blow when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave.  His fate is sealed, but he is still fighting, still acting as if he has a shot. What a fool!

This battle isn’t like a round of “Capture the Flag” or “Paintball” where we have to run and hide and look for an opportune moment to get the enemy flag or to wait until the enemy is vulnerable so we can pelt the enemy with our paintball gun.  We don’t need to hide out and lay low, afraid, and hope the enemy doesn’t see us or hear us breathing heavy as we sit in the bushes.  Satan can’t capture a Christ-follower because the keys that Jesus possesses, are the keys to victory in any situation, and they have been given to us.  We don’t need to hunker down and keep our head down to avoid contact with Satan because we have the keys to get out of any trap.

With the spiritual keys that have been given to those who are in God’s Church, we have power and authority to open stuff, to close stuff and to evict demonic spirits that aren’t welcome into our circumstance.  What kind of stuff?  How much authority do we have?  Jesus said, “Whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.”

That sounds pretty broad.  That sounds like a blank check.  But is it?  Some of you are thinking right now about loosing a new truck or some extra funds into your bank account.  Ain’t happening, friends.  Remember, we don’t just have carte blanche authority, but we have the authority of Jesus. You may take some liberties in my home, if you have my keys, but the authority Christ gives you is to do what He would do here on earth. As His representatives on earth, we have authority to do His will on the earth.  Did you ever stop and think as you pray, “May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” that you held the keys to make that happen?  As we are surrendered to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who will always guide us in truth and in the Father’s will, we can trust that as we use Jesus’ authority, what we bind and loose will take place.  We don’t have authority to contradict God’s will or His Word, but we have Jesus’ authority to act like Jesus!

Look at John 14:12-14 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Our authority as believers isn’t a carte blanche authority to just use the name of Jesus to get what we want. This whole binding and loosing isn’t about using the name of Jesus as a good luck charm, but it is about radical obedience to wanting what Jesus wants in the hearts and lives of all people, including us.  “You may ask me for anything in my name,” doesn’t just mean if you use Jesus’ name when you ask for something, it is yours.  The use of Jesus’ name means we are asking for Jesus to be glorified in a situation that we are asking what we are asking is because what we are asking for is what Jesus would want to see happening in our situation if He was walking the earth. 

Jesus brought healing in the majority of the places where He encountered the sick. There were some places where healing didn’t occur, but in the majority of cases, at least that we know about, Jesus granted healing.  I believe we have been given the same authority to bind sickness and release healing when it is Jesus’ will that someone be healed.  Jesus dealt with demonic powers and strongholds when He encountered them.  I believe we have the same authority to bind the enemy from involvement in a situation and to loose warring angels to be round about to protect.  Jesus dealt with unbelief and religious spirits when it was necessary.  I believe we have the same authority to teach and lead with conviction.  Jesus dealt with sin and unrighteousness when confrontation needed to take place.  I believe we have the same authority. We have a spiritual, legal right, to deal with the things Jesus would deal with and did deal with when He walked the earth.

Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20, 18“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This authority includes connecting people with the Gospel message, assisting someone’s conversion experience, and helping them to grow as a Christ-follower.  We have those keys.  We can bind opposition that keeps people from seeing who Christ is and that keeps them from understanding their need for Him.

If that sounds weird to you, especially if you have attended here for the 15 years I have been your Pastor, I owe you an apology.  This stuff shouldn’t sound weird.  It shouldn’t sound extreme.  It shouldn’t sound hyper religious or hyper spiritual. It shouldn’t sound fanatical. It should sound like the regular practice of a disciple of Jesus. 

The darkness in the world is scary.  We are in a place I would never have dreamed we would be.  Just this week, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America posted a picture of several different name tags that a person could choose from to identify themselves using their preferred pronoun.  I guess someone declared the day, “Happy International Pronouns Day!” The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was celebrating or affirming this practice. 

I won’t take time to comment on each of the options, but according to “Pronouns.org,” someone who prefers to be referred to as “ze” instead of him or her or he or she identifies as gender neutral. I’m not here to talk about what might lead a person to the conclusion that they believe they are gender neutral or why they think they aren’t a man or aren’t a woman or are something else entirely, which is what Pronouns.org said, when it said a person who goes by “ze” may believe they are something other than male or female, I’m not here to debate why someone believes something like that, I am using it as an example of the kind of thinking and practice that is now mainstream in American culture.  There is no such thing as gender neutral.  A person cannot be other than a male or female, no one can be both male or female, but we are at the place in our culture, where protocol and policies are changing to accommodate preferences that aren’t reality. No one needs to screenshot that and put it on Facebook.  My message isn’t about pronoun preferences.  I’m simply using it as an example of how confused this world has become. Sadly, it is one of many examples I could use to illustrate the way Satan has proliferated lies and confusion in people’s thinking.

When I saw this picture on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, it wasn’t a commentary on our culture so much as it was a commentary on the Church. How did we get here?  If the gates of Hell will not prevail against God’s Church, if we have the authority of Jesus to push back and subdue the powers of darkness, if we have been given biblical authority to make disciples and to teach them to obey all that God has commanded, how in the world did it get this dark?  And God said this to me, “The Church hasn’t been using their keys.”

Have we put the keys in our purses and pockets and forgotten what we have been commissioned to do?  Have we misplaced the keys because we have been self-absorbed and just been focused on living our lives?  Have we been trying to use the keys Jesus’ gave His disciples to unlock the doors of prosperity for ourselves instead of using them to unlock the prison doors that are holding people captive?

While it might seem radical to picture that I carry Jesus’ authority like I carry a set of keys, while it might seem radical to believe that I could impact someone’s soundness of mind, while it might seem radical that I could be used to bring healing to their body, while it might seem radical that I could teach others what the Bible says and help them to become obedient Christ-followers, while it might seem radical to believe and act as if demons have to obey me because of Jesus’ authority, it isn’t supposed to be. Believing that we can do the things Jesus did and doing them shouldn’t be radical.  It should be the regular practice of a disciple.

What if God has allowed things to get so chaotic and complex because He is trying to get His Church to look for their keys and use them?  Maybe it is going to take the most outlandish and weighty of challenges, an intense darkness unlike we have seen in our lifetimes, to wake us up and to get us to start doing what He told Peter and the other disciples they would do in His name. 

I am praying for revival.  How bad does it have to get before we grab those keys and do the work Jesus said His Church would do.  If we do, Satan cannot stop us.  The darkness will be transformed to light.  We cannot sit back and just be focused on our walk with Christ and then wonder why it seems that Hell is winning.  We have been given keys.  They weren’t meant to be put in the cup holder in our cars or relegated to a purse that we no longer even carry.  They were meant to be used.  It is time to get radical and become regular disciples of Jesus!

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