Introduction: A significant part of my job over the years is handling
religious liberty cases. I only represent “the little guy,” meaning
employees, in a narrow area of workplace religious freedom. However,
a very important question in this kind of case is whether the
employee has a sincere religious belief. I have learned to avoid
representing employees who do not have a solid connection to a local
church. Those who regularly worship with a group of believers are
much more likely to hold sincere religious beliefs. Why is that?
Let’s explore what the Bible teaches about the believer and the

  1. The Rock

    1. Read Matthew 16:13. Why do you think Jesus asked His
      disciples this question?

    2. Read Matthew 16:14. What do you think about these answers?
      (This is an impressive list of possibilities. Of course,
      these are not the correct answer.)

    3. Read Matthew 16:15-17. Peter has the right answer! Who
      inspired him with it? (God.)

    4. Read Matthew 16:18. Was there some confusion about Peter’s
      name? Why would Jesus say to Peter, “I tell you that you
      are Peter?” (The Greek is important here. The Greek for
      Peter means a small rock, or piece of rock. Jesus is
      making a play on words, “I tell you piece of rock that I
      will build my church on a big rock.”)

      1. What do you think is the meaning of that? (Read what
        Peter says about this in 1 Peter 2:4-6. Peter says
        that Christians are “living stones” that are built
        into a “spiritual house.” Jesus is the cornerstone of
        that house.)

      2. Let’s go back to the big rock in Matthew 16:18. As
        you consider the dialog with Jesus, what do you think
        the “rock” (the big rock) represents? (I think the
        rock on which the Church is built is Peter’s
        statement that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the
        Living God.” Jesus is the cornerstone and His
        divinity is the cornerstone belief.)

      3. Let’s step back a minute. What do you think is the
        total meaning of Matthew 16:18? (That the Church is
        built on the “rock” of knowing that Jesus is God, and
        the Church consists of little rocks who understand
        this, like Peter and you and me, and hell will not
        defeat us.)

    5. Read Matthew 16:19. Who is getting the “keys” here? (It
      sounds like the Church – or at least the members of the
      Church. It can hardly mean Jesus for Jesus would not be
      giving the keys to Himself.)

      1. This is a very serious sounding statement. What do
        you think Jesus means when He says that the “keys to
        the kingdom of heaven” are given to the Church, or at
        least Church members working together as the Church?
        (I’m sure I don’t understand the full extent of this
        statement, but at least it says that the Church
        reveals the way to heaven. Being in a company of
        believers helps us to understand grace and the
        Christian walk.)

    6. Read Matthew 16:20. If the fact that Jesus is God is the
      rock on which the Church is built, why would it ever be
      kept a secret? (God has His timing for everything. This is
      a truth that we need to keep in mind when we are
      frustrated by the inactions of others.)

  2. The Attitude

    1. Read John 17:20-23. We have a lot of concepts packed into
      these verses. What is the reason for having an attitude of
      unity among believers? (“To let the world know that You
      sent Me.” Unity within the church gives a positive
      message to the world of unbelievers.)

      1. What is at the heart of that message? (The unity
        arises from love. God loves us and we love each

      2. How is the Church doing on this score? (You may have
        noticed that when we were discussing Matthew 16:19 I
        skipped over the language about the Church binding
        and releasing things in heaven and earth. It is hard
        for me to understand how this applies now when we
        have so many churches with different standards.)

      3. Another interesting statement in John 17:22 is that
        Jesus has “given [us] the glory that [God the Father
        gave Jesus].” What is this Godly glory that you and I
        have? (I think it is the glory of being associated
        with God. Do you have certain associations in life
        that make you look good? Right now I have a new car
        that people will stop me to talk about. If you have a
        successful spouse, successful children, a successful
        company, these associations all bring you “glory.”
        Being a close associate of the Creator of the
        Universe brings us glory.)

  3. When Unity Has a Flat Tire

    1. Read Matthew 7:1-2. This sounds like a practical lesson.
      What is the problem with judging others? (You get judged
      by the same measure you use.)

      1. Are we talking about the final judgment? Does it have
        a sliding scale? Those who don’t care about anything
        get the lowest standard applied? (Again, this sounds
        like a practical lesson for life, rather than a
        statement about the final judgment.)

    2. Read Matthew 7:3-4. Why do you think that both of the
      examples, sawdust and plank, are made of wood? (I think we
      tend to notice our own sins in others. It is the same sin,
      except the other person has it. Of course, the text
      suggests that the one judging has the bigger problem.)

    3. Read Matthew 7:5. Are we supposed to be in the business of
      removing sawdust? The issue is simply whether we are
      properly prepared?

      1. How do you like having sawdust in your eye? (Sin
        problems in our life irritate us. They make us
        uncomfortable. When someone with that same problem
        starts criticizing us, it makes us angry – even
        though we really would be better without the sin

        1. I’ve always thought that someone who has
          experience with a certain sin is better able to
          counsel others about that sin. Is that true? (I
          think this is what “you will see clearly to
          remove the speck” means. If, by the power of
          the Holy Spirit, you have overcome a big sin
          problem, you can “see clearly” the solution.)

      2. What does all of this have to do with unity?
        (Criticizing others about the very sins in your life
        creates strife and division. Helping someone overcome
        a sin that you have overcome brings a blessing.)

        1. Should that be a rule in the church – only
          those previously struggling with a sin can
          comment on that sin in others?

    4. Read Matthew 7:6. Has Jesus changed topics?

      1. If we are on the same topic, what would be the sacred
        pearls? (Your advice based on your own experience.
        Your discussion of your addiction in that area. Dogs
        and pigs will not benefit from your sincere
        revelation of past problems, they will “turn and tear
        you to pieces.”)

  4. Fixing the Flat

    1. Read Matthew 5:23-24. What are these people doing at the
      time they remember a conflict? (They are at the altar –
      meaning that they are getting right with God. Often,
      getting right with God involves a sin that
      impacted others. You would naturally think of this person
      when you were confessing your sin to God.)

      1. Are we talking about someone who has offended you?
        (No. “Your brother has something against you.”)

      2. Are we talking about a situation in which you are not
        at fault? (The text says nothing about who is at
        fault. It simply says that someone else is unhappy
        with you.)

      3. What are we required to do for those brothers who
        hold a grudge against us? (Go and be reconciled.)

      4. I notice that Jesus uses the word “brother.” Is that
        significant? (Read Luke 6:22-23. These people have
        something against you, and this time it is a
        blessing. I think this goes back to the dog and pig
        discussion in Matthew 7:6. When the problem is
        between church members you need to pursue working it
        out. When the problem arises with pagans because you
        are faithful to God, then trying to reconcile is
        impossible. Pagan pigs will turn on you and trample

    2. Friend, are you in a church and is your church unified?
      The Church is God’s special vehicle for advancing the
      gospel. If you or your church are experiencing a flat tire
      when it comes to unity, will you commit today to try to
      restore unity?

  5. Next week: Our Mission.