13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
20Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
Tell no one. Keep it to yourself. This nugget of truth. This slice of understand will be a secret between you and me. Don’t let anybody else know that I am Jesus the Christ– Jesus the Anointed One. Cause on the day that I choose I’m going to let everyone know not only who I am but the reason I’ve been sent. And once they hear what my mission is, people are going to be upset. If you tell them I’m here, they’re going to want to know what that means. Ane I can’t tell them that right now. I’ve got too much to do. I can’t afford right now to let them know that my Father didn’t send me to everyone. I can’t afford to tell them too early in my ministry that I came looking for a specific group of people, who are not held in high regard, because they sinned and sinned and kept on sinning until they got themselves kicked out of God’s divine favor. But I’ve been sent to find them. I’ve been sent to bring them back. Because they, too, are beneficiaries of the promise made to Abraham. So, on the day of my choosing– a day that my Father will be the one to decide– I will let them know, and I’ll do it in Matthews 15:24, that I am sent only to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.
But right now, Peter, I’m going to give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. I’m giving you the keys that unlock the door to the revelation of God in you, hallelujah, and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Listen,before we get into the message I need to stop and take the time to go into a teaching moment. You see, every now and then I hear the criticism from people in the church that preachers today don’t preach enough about sin and going to hell. I have to admit that I don’t dangle people over the fires of hell. I personally don’t believe in condemnation preaching. If I’m wrong I fully expect to hear from God about it, and I’m prepared to accept the consequences, but in my heart of hearts I just don’t think we ought to be in the business of scaring people into heaven. If anybody doesn’t WANT to go to heaven, I’m not about to try and scare them in.
Because heaven– to me– is too precious. Heaven has too much value for me to force it on anyone who doesn’t want in. When Jesus sent the disciples out to evangelize the world he told them to enter into people’s homes with the word of peace– let Shalom be the first word that you speak– but if they didn’t receive you or your message, kick the dust off your feet and keep it moving. He said don’t cast pearls at the feet of swine.
Now, on the other hand, I know that the message of paying for what you do has to be preached. That’s God’s universal message. Christian or Muslim, Aethiest, Buddhist or Jew, paying for what you do catches you up regardless of your profession of faith. Regardless of what you believe or do not believe. Most people know when they’re leading sinful and unfulfilling lives. And I like what the Bible says in James 4:17 that Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. You know down deep inside you when you’re doing right and when you’re doing wrong. You know down deep inside you when you’re doing good and when you’re not. Even a child will look over his shoulder to see who’s watching when he’s doing something wrong.
But just like King David, who looked into his neighbor’s back yard, saw Bathsheba taking a bath, took her, raped her and got her pregnant, tried to get her husband to sleep with her so no one would know the child wasn’t his, then had the man killed when it became clear that the truth was going to come out– just like King David, who God declared to be a man after His own heart, you can get so caught up in wrong thinking and wrong living– you can get so comfortable in doing the wrong thing that wrong actually becomes right to you. But my job is not to condemn you. I am only here to remind you, to him it is sin.
When the Prophet Nathan came to David and reminded him of what wrongdoing looked like, he never condemned King David for what he had done. He simply reminded him of what he had done and David was stunned. He had gotten so caught up in thinking wrong thoughts that he had no idea he had moved away from godly things. So, the job of the preacher is to bring everybody back to remembrance about who they are on the inside every now and then.
But I just don’t believe that God is looking for folk who only want to go to heaven because they’re afraid of going to hell. As I read through my Bible I just get the sense that God is looking for people who love him; people who are ready to repent and walk away from the wrong they have done because they havE decided that they want a real relationship with him– people who obey him because they value his Word, his Way and his Life.
The late Rev. Smith E. Counts once said that anybody that ends up in hell had to break in to get there-because as 2 Peter 3:9 says: “9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
God’s desire is that you end up in heaven. And regardless of how you view heaven and hell– whether you see them as places you go after death, or states of being that you can exist in right now, here on earth– being in hell or living in hell is a choice that you and I make by the things we say and do.
I believe the Bible speaks about heaven and hell because they are ideas that people can quickly understand. Both heaven and hell are future day concepts to get us to do something in the present. Future day concepts because they happen after you die. But the reason for both of them is to get you to do good right now.
Do good and you go to heaven. Don’t do good and you go to hell. That’s the message of the two ideas. But instead of focusing on the concepts, why not focus on the message? Do good. If you focus on the message and do good, you don’t have to concern yourself with heaven or hell. God will take care of that for you.
Since the day man came into existence, the message from the universe has been do good. If you do good, good will come back to you. If you do bad, bad will come back to you.
If you do good, heaven will come back to you. If you do bad, hell will come back to you. It’s karma. It’s wisdom. It’s sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting. It’s so natural its actually supernatural.
But even sowing and reaping takes belief. If you don’t believe that sowing will result in your reaping, you’ll sow and be done. If you don’t believe that the seeds you plant will one day produce wheat, you’re not going to get up every day and go out into fields and pull up the weeds, scare the birds away, make sure the crop gets watered.
Belief pushes you to act. No belief, no doing. If you don’t believe that by doing good, good will come back to you, then by definition you don’t believe in heaven, and you certainly don’t believe in hell.
Because the thought of a heaven, the thought of a hell that you can’t see and you can’t confirm by anyone who’s been there, that’s not going to make you do good and its not going to stop you from doing bad.
Most of us start out our journey of belief by living the faith of somebody else– our mothers or our fathers, our grandmothers or grandfathers. They pray or don’t pray. They take you to church or they don’t take you to church. They talk scripture around the house or they never speak the word. That’s how we get our initial understanding of faith or no faith. Belief or no belief.
We read our Bibles in the light of what we have learned from people who got their understanding from other people and we come to Scripture with our minds already formed and shaped by the opinions and viewpoints we have bumped into along our journey. And its hard for us to realize how much what other people believe have shaped our understanding of God’s word.
But we don’t have any excuse for allowing ourselves to become slaves to other folks’ interpretations of the Word. The Bible says “How shall they hear without a preacher,” the Ethipian enuch told Peter How can I understnd what I’m reading without somebody to teach me, but I need you to understand that that’s only the starting point. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was rent, the Bible says, torn from top to bottom and forever removing the separation between man and the priests who made atonement to God for their sins.
Because the Master died on the cross, we can go to the Father on our own. The bridge was built, the gap was repaired. So we can go to the word for ourselves and learn of him. Just because my mother thought she understood doesn’t mean that she did. Because she listened to someone who came before her.
In 2 Cor. 13:5, Paul told the Corinthians: Try your own selves, whether ye are in the faith; prove your own selves.
In Eph. 5:8-10, Paul commanded the Ephesian Christians: “for ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord, walk as children of light, proving what is well-pleasing unto the Lord.
Listen, In the Old Testament, the word hell is translated in the King James as sheol, and the root meaning of sheol is “unseen.” Sheol is translated as “hell” 31 times; it’s translated as “the grave” 31 times, and it’s translated as “the pit” three times.
I need you to lean this way, now. Because in the Old Testament sheol was not just a place of punishment for sin. IF you study the Word for yourself you may find that faithful Jacob was in sheol. And righteous Job longed to be there. David spoke of going to sheol in Ps. 49:15 and in Acts 2:31, the Bible says the sould of Christ was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
So, instead of scaring folk out of hell, I prefer to talk about the goodness of God. Because it’s the goodness of God that brings people to repentance. It is the goodness of God rooted in love that shines the bright light that attracts people who are living in the dark. The love of God. The compassion of God. The goodness of God.
But people want to see that goodness in you. People want to know that when you’re talking to them about church, you’re not just selling them a bag of goods.
If God is good and being in God and being with God is good, and that’s what I’m preaching, then something in MY life ought to show it. Something in my earthly walk ought to manifest God’s goodness in my life.
People ought to see it on my face; hear it in my voice; see it in the way I walk. But if I’m walking the walk of personal defeat, who’s going to want to walk with me?
If I’m walking around town with my head hanging down, my shoulders all slumped over, one foot dragging to catch up with the other, who’s going to want to walk with me?
In John 15:22, the Messiah said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” Once you know better you have no excuse for not doing better.
In John 3:18-20, He said, “He who believes in the Father is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”- (I’m talking about) the flesh-draped Word of the Living God.
I believe in new beginnings. Don’t you? Cornerstone is a place of unlimited possibilities where your spiritual growth is my greatest concern. Your life is full of potential. And this moment right now can forever determine your destiny. I believe in you!
I believe in the power of God inside of you.
I believe that you can do all things because of the Word that rests inside you.
I believe in personal excellence. Behold, Jesus said, the Kingdom of God is inside you.
I believe in doing greater works. And greater works than these, Jesus said, shall ye also do.
I believe in thinking bigger thoughts. And now unto him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that you can ask or think.
I believe in the power that rests inside of you. Greater is he that is in you, my friend, than he that is in the world
I believe because the Word says God believes in you. And you and you and me.
But all that believing is in vain if you do not yourself believe in you.
There are those in traditional Christian theology who would call this a “believe in yourself “message. There are those who would tell you that this kind of message ignores the teaching of faith in God and man’s need to be corrected. They say that whenever you hear a preacher teach about what YOU can do, you better be on guard because the focus should never be on man, but always on God.
But I stand today to tell you that that is the problem with the Roman understanding. When the word got to the Gentiles in Rome they received it, but they fit it inside their construct of faith that already supported Zeus and Hera and Ares and Aphrodite and Apollo and Poseidon. They took God from inside of man and forced him outside. But God sent the Messiah to take us back to the understanding that His Word– and if you’ve got his word, you’ve got the Father– that His Word must be returned to the inside of us.
In Jeremiah 31:31 God said he was going to usher in a New covenant– a new covenant he was making with the House of Israel– the Lost Sheep he sent Jesus for– and as part of that covenant the Great God of Glory said he would write His laws on their inward parts.
And In Luke.17:20-21: the Bible says that Jesus, being demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Won’t be any signs to announce it 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” In the inward parts. Down there where God placed his law.
You’re looking for signs outside yourself when you ought to be looking within.
When you allow the thing inside you to become corrupt; when you allow the thing inside you — that precious gem that is God’s Living Word to become littered with bad thoughts and evil deeds, you change the very nature of who you are.
Because that’s what words do. Words are power. Words are life. Your words affect your present and your future. Jesus told the disciples over in Matthew 15:17-20, and I’m paraphrasing, now. He said:
Don’t you understand that the things that come out of your mouth are the things that defile you. They start in your heart and you speak them with your mouth: evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
You see, what I speak is a reflection of who I really am. The things I say are a mirror of the things that are in my heart. So, I’ve got to be transformed. I’ve got to be renewed. I’ve got to leave behind the old negative thoughts for the thoughts that are designed to bring good stuff to me, good stuff to my family, good stuff to my church.
That’s why it’s important to fill up on the Word of God. So that anytime you open your mouth, the Word of God starts running out. If you want to speak truth to power, it ought to be God’s truth rather than yours. If you want to speak power to principalities, it ought to be God’s power rather than yours.
Speaking God’s Word over your life can help you to live the life of victory that God has already laid up for you. And other people will see that in you, and they’ll follow you back to your church, back to your place of learning, to get whatever it is that you have. Back to the place of God’s favor.
Stop trying to convince people how smart you are. Trying to convince everybody that you run into that everything you know came only from you. Tell somebody what you’re learning in this place so they can come and get some, too.
Because everybody wants some revelation. Everybody wants God’s favor. Everybody wants to be blessed by the Word. No matter what they call it, everybody wants that supernatural anointing that causes everything they touch to shout God’s blessing. So that other people just want to be around you because of what they see in you.
And one of the main ways that we grow in favor is by declaring it in our lives. It’s not enough to just read it. It’s not enough to just believe it. You’ve got to speak it. The Word says call those things that are not as though they were. Your words have creative power. And one of the primary ways we release our faith is through our words. And there is a divine connection between you declaring God’s favor and you seeing God’s favor manifest in your life. You’ve got to give life to your faith by speaking it out.
Speak it and release it. That’s spirit realm stuff. It spills over into the natural because the spirit man is always supposed to be in charge of the natural man. The things of the spirit are always superior to the things of the flesh.
Belief takes place in the spirit realm. Prayers are offered up in the spirit realm. Praise goes up in the spirit realm. Blessings flow down in the spirit realm. Faith operates in the spirit realm.
God gave Joseph a dream so that he could see in the spiritual realm what God wanted him to work towards in the natural realm. But I want you to know that you can give yourself a dream. It has to be of God if you want God to bless it, but the Bible clearly says that if you just believe, whatsoever thing YOU desire, believing, ye shall have. That’s why so many evil people have so much. Because they believe hard enough. I tell you the power to produce it is already inside you. Whatsoever thing YOU desire for you, believing, you SHALL have.
I tell you believing takes place in the spiritual realm.
See, as long as you are unable to imagine it, as long as you can’t see it, then you can’t produce it. And you won’t work toward it. You’re stuck in the manna from heaven twilight zone. But Glory Hallelujah, you don’t need any manna to fall. Because God declared in Deut 8:18 that “I have given you power to get wealth.”
So, if God has given me the power to do a thing, I’m already capable of doing it. If God has given me the power to get a thing, I’m already capable of getting it. I just need to energize my thoughts and reshape my attitude AND START HANGING AROUND PEOPLE WHO THINK LIKE ME so I can exercise that power and go get that thing!
But what gets in my way is me. Paul said when I would do good, evil is always present. Bad choices and bad decisions. Allowing myself to be influenced by bad people going nowhere. Proverbs 27:4 says “as a man thinketh, so is he.”
If I start thinking I’m better than I used to be, I’ll start being better. If I start thinking like I have some power– and I’m talkingh about some God-given power– I’ll start acting like I have some power. If you don’t think you can have something good, you won’t.
The barrier is always in my mind. Always in your mind. It’s not God’s lack of resources or my lack of talent that prevents me from getting what God wants me to have. My own negative, “I can’t do that” thinking is what keeps me from enjoying God’s best.
Okay, Pastor. I hear what you’re saying. And I’ve seen all that power and potential in myself that you’re talking about, but I’m not where I want to be in life. I don’t have the stuff you keep saying God wants me to have.
My friend, God has the answer for your predicament. You see, that’s the same song the Hebrews sang while they were marching around the wilderness. They had been standing right there on edge of the Promised Land– right there– with all the blessing God had promised them only a few hundred feet away, but all the folks who said YES, WE CAN TAKE IT were outnumbered by the folk who said NO, WE CAN’T DO IT. All the folk who saw their power in the Lord, were defeated by the folks who couldn’t accept who they were. So YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL WHO YOU HANG AROUND. If they’re not going anywhere, why are you traveling with them?
If they don’t want anything, why are you letting them take up your time? How can two walk together except they be agreed?
The disciples were a like-minded group, except for Judas.
Jesus asked the disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some say, Elias; others say, Jeremias, and depending on who you ask you might hear some of the other prophets named.
Jesus said, How about you? Forget about what the other folk are saying. Don’t let the thoughts that other people have become a light of revelation that shines in your life. Because that light is probably a false light. What they think they know, they don’t really have a clue. You’ve been with me for a while; you’ve seen the things I’ve done. What do you say about it? Who do YOU, Peter; you John; you Nathaniel; you Andrew, who do you guys say that I am?
And Simon Peter spoke up. He said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus looked over at Peter and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but what you said proves divine revelation has come. My Father who is in heaven had to reveal this to you.
Then he said, “I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock– this rock of understanding, this solid foundation of understanding and belief, that I AM THE CHRIST, the Son of the Living God– on THIS rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
So if I get this rock, this nugget of understanding that the church of the Messiah is built upon; if I get this rock, the gates of hell may show up, but I’ll get the victory each and every time. Somebody say Amen.
But, now, catch this: In verse 19 he continues with the word “And.” Not only will I build my church on this understanding of who and what the word of God actually is, but I will also give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
And the very next thing out of the Savior’s mouth explains what happens when you use those keys: whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Notice that the Bible makes a distinction between heaven and earth. So we know that whether we believe it or not, the scripture is talking about down here and up there– not two places that are both inside of me.
And notice where all the work is being done. What you bind ON EARTH. What you loose ON EARTH. All the binding and loosing is being done ON EARTH. The place of human habitation. The scripture is talking about you and me and what we do in the earth to one another, with one another, for one another. So what we do down here in the natural world has an impact on what happens in the spiritual.
It’s not about binding up the works of the devil. All the good stuff and the bad stuff is done by you and done by me right here on earth. But I don’t have any control over what you do. ‘Cause I can’t control the thoughts you think. All I can do is encourage you, in the words of
Philippians 4:8, that “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Otherwise, I’ll end up focused on the enemy when God wants me focused on me.
All that sounds good, pastor, but how do you know its not about binding up sin and the works of the devil, cause I often hear preachers talk about binding up the works of Satan on every hand?
I’m glad you asked. Because the scripture itself says that what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. Bind it here and you bind it there– that’s what the scripture says. So I know its not talking about binding up the works of the devil cause ain’t no works of the devil up in heaven. God cast the evil out a long long time ago.
As a matter of fact in Matt 4:8, Satan lays claim to ownership of the earth. In his conversation with Jesus, the third time that he tries to tempt the Master, the scripture teaches us that: Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he Satan said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
And in the next verse, Jesus didn’t tell him, Shut up, Lucifer, you know you can’t give me something you don’t own. That’s not what he said. Instead, he said: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'”
Let the eyes of our understanding be enlightened today. We have to flip that whole binding and loosing scripture around. If I bind it down here, I’ll bind it in heaven. Since there’s nothing but good stuff up in heaven, the scripture is telling me to stop doing things down here that will stop the flow of good stuff up there.
The spirit said to me that this scripture is about getting us to do something. It’s about getting us to stop doing something. It’s a warning that says if keep doing wrong, I bind up my blessing. And if I tie up my blessing in the earth, I’m going to bind up in heaven. And blessings will stop raining down on me.
But hellelujah if I loose all the good stuff–
Good stuff like forgiveness.
Good stuff like favor
If I loose it on you, and on you and and you and on you– if I loose it down here on earth, the scripture says I loose it in heaven and God sends it all rushing back at me. Give and it will be given unto you, pressed down shaken together and running over, the scripture says. For whatever measure you use in giving stuff out, that very same measure will be used when it’s your turn to receive.
If I bind up blessing down here, I bind it up in heaven and God stops raining blessings down on me. If I bind up mercy down here, I bind it up in heaven and God stops raining mercy back down on me. The Bible says if I don’t forgive other men their trespasses, God won’t forgive the trespasses I make.
Whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatosever things are holy– think on these things.
When you’re going through a time of trial and tribulation, think on these.
When the doctor calls you up with some very bad news, think on these.
When the rent payment’s due and you can’t see where the money’s coming from, think on these.
When your friends and relatives are getting on your very last nerve, think on these.
So many times my mother and my brother and I were in the cold, the heat turned off, bundled up together on the living room couch, in the middle of am icy cold Chicago winter, no food in the fridge, just an onion or two, and out of nowhere there would be a knock on the door, and somebody would be standing there with a bag filled with food. Mama had tuberculosis and she worked when she could, but every time the TB acted up she had to go back to the TB sanitarium. Mama was too proud to go on welfare, but Mama had faith, and when we least expected it, welfare would come knocking on the apartment door. Beans and rice, bread and milk.
Mama believed in loosing the good stuff. When the forces of the world are ganging up on you; when the spirit of againstedness is pressing in on you, attacking your thoughts, crushing you down, holding you back, you’ve got to be able to say “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for God is with me.” Hallelujah!
So No, let’s not bind up. Hallelujah, let’s loose. Let’s loose love. Let’s loose joy. Let’s loose compassion. Let’s loose forgiveness. Let’s loose peace. Let’s loose obedience to God’s word.
I’m giving you the keys of the kingdom, Jesus said. Think good thoughts. Do good. Think right thoughts. Do right. It doesn’t matter how the world sees it. It doesn’t matter what the world might say. The man and woman of faith can take comfort in knowing that the words of the Bible are true, and that “greater, greater, greater is he that is in me, than he that is in the world.”