Jesus said, “Where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst,” (Matt. 18:20). Here is a revelation of the power of Jesus’ Church; the promise of His presence within the church when it has fulfilled the conditions He laid down.
Two words stand out in His statement, “Where,” and “there.” They explain how the church can have the ethical authority that commands attention in world gone wrong. How does the church obtain such ethical authority that commands the world’s attention? It is where the conditions of Jesus statements are met, there He will be in our midst.
You cannot be a church of one, though many today are trying that. There must be two or more and not the individual. I’m not saying a person cannot still pray alone, but I’m commenting on what Jesus is talking about – His church. The principle that is to be met is, “Gathered together in My Name.” It means where people gather to receive His salvation, gather to be made pure, gather to submit to His authority, and gather to be ruled by Him. Under those conditions there He will be. Anyplace where two or more are gathered in Jesus name, and who have yielded themselves to his conditions there He will be.
The church that knows the where and there of Jesus presence knows when it gathers, when it prays, when it asks, and when it yields that it is His church unconquerable.
Jesus took three of the disciples to a mountaintop where he was transfigured before them; they saw his inner glory shine through. During that grand event God’s voice was heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him,” (Matt 17:5).
God said, “Listen to Him,” yet in the next set of verses we read how Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem, and instead of listening to what He said, they were, “Grieved,” (23) by what he said. They were grieved because they heard something that did not fit their world-view of a Messiah. Yet they were the very words from the Divine Son, so they must be true.
As Christians we often think we have it all figured out, but then something causes us to listen to Jesus and we find ourselves grieved. When we listen to Jesus we find Him bringing us back to the narrow gate of Matt 7:13. The command to listen reminds me of a poem by Edward H. Richards, “A wise old owl sat on an oak; the more he saw the less he spoke; the less he spoke the more he heard; why aren’t we like that wise old bird? The poem makes a good point: We should listen more than we speak. Unfortunately we can’t get past the conversation of self-righteousness that is going on in our head to hear what Jesus is saying. The Proverb is correct that says, “He that has knowledge spares his word,” (17:27).
In the days before Pentecost the disciples had not only the physical presence of Jesus, but the O. T. Scripture, fasting, and prayer. Yet we read how Jesus was continually frustrated with them. Also Jesus was telling them what he was going to do, but what He was saying wasn’t getting past their own theology; it was getting in the way of them hearing Jesus.
The actions of the disciples teach how we frustrate Jesus today. Today the Christian not only has the completed Scriptures, prayer, and fasting, but we also have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the church. And we have even more. We have the power to move mountains. We have God’s wisdom if we will ask for it and believe we have it. We are told the gates of Hades cannot stand against our confession of faith. We are promised that nothing can separate us from God. We are promised that all are sins are forgiven. We are promised that all we have to do is ask, seek and knock, yet we stand around with our arms hanging down, lacking power, and failing to experience the power of the Christian life.
The power of the Christian life is available to you if you would just have it. Paul wrote, “Put on the full armor of God.” Isn’t it time you stopped being a Marvin or a Mary Milk-toast and do what Paul said to do? Isn’t it time you began acting like a citizen of the Kingdom?
Has there ever been a time when you thought you knew Jesus very well, and then suddenly He seem to pivot and head in a new direction. At that time did Jesus seem quite different to you? Did the Jesus you knew suddenly seem like a contradiction to you? Was it because He was leading you in a direction that you did not want to go, or even want to think about?
The reason for His change lies in the severity of his call. Jesus is committed to the building of the Kingdom God, and his church. He is committed to the battle against all the forces that are against God and man, and He must have those associated with Him be just as committed. Jesus in his day gathered many people around him, and even today He gathers many people around him, but those who follow always find a strange sifting going on by Him. He is always asking, “Will you go where I’m going?”
Like the prophet Nehemiah who rebuilt Jerusalem with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, so Jesus came to build and fight! Jesus says to anyone who follows him, “Deny yourselves, and take up My cross.” The battle Jesus is fighting will not be won by popular acclaim, but by solid building and hard fighting. Jesus asks, “Who is coming with me? Who will fight? Who will build?” If our answer is, “I will go!” Then we must be ready for change.
Jesus asked, “Who do the people say the Son of Man is” (Matt 16:13)? The disciples’ answer seemed as if they had taken a poll, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still other, Jeremiah.” Jesus knowing the answer fell short pressed the issue, “Who do you say I am?” Peter’s, of all people, stepped forward and answered correctly. “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”
Two lesson arise out of this conversation. First, you cannot make a correct decision about Jesus by taking a poll. A poll is an accumulation of data which leads to a statement of what the majority of people think, but what the majority of people think is not truth. The decisions of a crowd can never substitute for a personal decisions, for a decision about Jesus often leads a person to stand against the crowd.
The other lesson is: A decision about Jesus must be made. Two of the three possible answers that can be given are: Deny Him, or proclaim Him. These are not simple answers, for the consequences of the decision a person makes about Jesus are eternal, but everyone who hears about Jesus must make a make a decision about Him. What is the third answer? Ignore Him. However, when you ignore Jesus you are making a decision against Him.
Let me close with this thought. It is not what you will do with Jesus, but in the end what Jesus will do with you!
As Christians we all want salvation to come to our country, state, city, community, and neighborhood. This is a great desire, but salvation cannot come unless the Gospel is preached. If we truly want salvation to come near to where we live, it is the individual Christian’s responsibility to take the Gospel into the places where they live; the stores where they shop, the schools that teach their kids, and the gyms where they work out.
However, salvation cannot come unless the gospel we preach is believed. Therefore the Christian must live a life that is different from the ways of the world. A life that is so remarkably different that it causes others to ask, “What is different about you?” To which we reply, “A great King rules my life! May I tell you about him?
Before salvation comes there must be repentance. There can be no hypocrisy, or hidden sin in the Christian’s life; it all must be brought to the King’s Cross. Without repentance we will never be believed; we will just be bells without clappers, and parrots repeating words.
Lastly, salvation cannot come unless it is declared that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. There is no other salvation offered to mankind except through Jesus Christ.
If we truly want salvation to break out in our community then it is up to the Christian to make it happen, for salvation is already here if we will just have it.