Sermon (listen now)
The gospel story of the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi marks a major turning point in the battle for the heart of the world’s people. The moment marks the first time a person, one man, Simon, confesses Jesus as Lord: “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God”. Jesus commends Simon as “Peter” (the name means rock) as the “Rock upon which I will build my Church.” As I indicated in my sermon (listen here), there are three, yea four, ideas as to what the Lord means by “this Rock”: Peter himself, the faith of Peter, or Jesus as the object of Peter’s faith. As I argued, all three are important for understanding the “this Rock”. Jesus is the Rock and having a rock-solid faith in Him will give a man a rock-solid character. They go together and should never be separated. There is a fourth element to the phrase “this Rock” we need to consider implied by the location of the Confession itself.
Jesus had taken the disciples into the heart of Paganism. Caesarea Philippi was a city which the rabbis warned, “No good Jew would ever enter!” Not only was it a city that was wrapped up in emperor worship. But it also had adopted the more base and perverse worship of the pagan god, Pan. At the base of the cliff face in Caesarea there is a grotto where a statue of Pan stood. And all manner of perverse rites of fertility and bestiality occurred there. This was the “Sin City” of the region. To make matters worse near the grotto stood the entrance of a cave which bore the name “The Gates of Hell” where access to the underworld was attained. To any good Jew, the city was perversely disgusting and place of tremendous satanic and demonic activity.
So when Jesus says, “on this Rock I will build my Church”, was he indicating that the Church would be planted in the heart of that demonic capital, a Church that would storm the “Gates of Hell” and take the ground of a perverse Pagan city such as Caesarea Philippi for the Kingdom of God? Consider the next statement of Jesus, “And the gates of Hell will not stand against it.” Many in the Church of our day have a “sanctuary-refuge” concept about the church. The church is seen as the place of protective refuge where we escape the evil powers of the world and beyond. Now there is tremendous comforting truth in that perspective; however the Church is not merely a sanctuary. It is also a base of operations, an outpost, for the missionary expansion of the Church militant. The call of the Church is to take ground from Satan and evil powers. This world does not belong to him, but to Jesus. We do not merely defend against evil; we attack!
To the church was given the power to “bind and loose”. We are given weapons to bind the spiritual forces of evil and loose the chains of the human captives held within Satan’s strongholds, like Caesarea Philippi.
Consider this: who has ever been attacked by a gate? Gates are defensive in nature. The challenge to Peter and the Church is that Satan has set up his fortresses all over this world. Yet, the Church of Jesus Christ will storm the gates of these hellish strongholds. As we do, they will not stand. The ground will be taken. Satan’s minions will be bound, the people of God will be set free. Hell will not prevail.
Practically, how does this happen? It begins when, a man, woman or child stands up and confesses the Name of Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. At that moment, they have chosen sides. The Confession of Jesus is a flag planted in the ground for the Kingdom of Jesus. Jesus is Lord of all. Our job as the Church is to incarnate that reality in word and deed. As Jesus’ disciples revealed, many people could not bring themselves to fully submit their lives to Jesus as Lord of all. When Jesus asked, “Who do people say that the Son of man is?” The answers were all related to Jesus being a mere spokesperson for God, John the Baptist, or Elijah or one of the prophets.” Jesus asks, “But, who do you say that I am?” Simon replied, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God.” Jesus wants submitted souls, not warm acknowledgements.
At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Do not fear the haunts of Hell. On the contrary, Jesus would have the church claim the darkest places on earth for his kingdom. People who live in places such as Caesarea Philippi need to be liberated from Satanic bondage and his stronghold. Only Jesus and the Spirit of the Living God can liberate souls in bondage.
One man or one woman, one child who stands in their place of business, community group or school, and raises the banner for Jesus will find the battle engaged. Start a bible study prayer group in a place governed by evil. That is what the early church did all over the Roman Empire. Peter led the fight in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire! These bold Christians took the fight out and into the pagan strongholds. They stormed the Gates of Hell. Make no mistake Satanic strongholds do not go down without a fight. The devils and demons fight dirty. Victory belongs to the faith-filled. Christians who stand up with rock hard faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will prevail. The gates of Hell will not stand against the Church militant. Down the gates will go. And, go down they should!