Act Like Jesus (Matthew 16:24)

Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

Every disciple – that is, every Christ-follower – is seeking to be like Jesus. We  are seeking  to go after Jesus in modelling His character and behaviour. To that end, Jesus said there are three things we need to do if we want to be Christlike, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.””

Jesus said we need to deny ourselves. That means that first of all, we forgive others. For we can’t hold something over others when Jesus holds nothing against us and claim to be taking after Him. Secondly, it means we need to limit our wants. We can’t be about attaining our own goals and our own wants. That is a hard thing to do, because we constantly mistake want for need. We say things like, “I NEED to buy that” or “I NEED the food I like”. But a sober second thought most often reveals we don’t really need those things. Or that particular relationship, or that kind of job or even to live where we do. 

That such things are wants and not needs is evidenced by the fact that over seven billion people live their lives without those things. Following Jesus means going where He wants us to go, eating what is set before us and living mindfully so that as many resources as possible can go toward Jesus’ cause. As Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” It is not always a comfortable life, but it is a rich life in Christ. 

Jesus said we need to take up our cross. That means we need to willingly take on the burden of others, as Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” It means we care for those who don’t know how to care for themselves. It means we love to the utmost, even giving up matters of life to bless those we influence. 

It means we don’t just shrug when we come across a person in need. Far more than denying ourselves, taking up our cross is sacrificing ourselves so that the Kingdom of God can be experienced by others. As the book of Romans encourages us, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Jesus said we need to follow Him. That means recognizing that Jesus left the highest heaven to live in poverty for our sake. To follow Him – to take after Him – means fully obeying Him, even when He says, “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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

It means crossing whatever boundary we come across for the Gospel’s sake. It means overcoming our fear of other people and other cultures so that they too can have what we have in Christ. After all, Jesus ministered to Romans, Syrians, Greeks and Jews. He ministered to the poor, the leperous, diseased and possessed. 

We must do likewise. We cannot help but do likewise, for we are His disciples if His Spirit lives within us we will do likewise.  Amen.

Many people want God to rain down blessing on them, but they don’t want to surrender their will to him in obedience. They aren’t willing to think and act like Jesus.

Nelson Searcy

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Are you willing to act like Jesus?

Overflow (Matthew 16:21-23)

Photo by Santiago Lacarta on Unsplash

In the course of the day’s conversation, Jesus has singled out Peter as   someone to whom He would give the keys to the kingdom of heaven. He called Peter blessed. He noted that Peter received a revelation from God the Father. He told Peter that he will have an enormous amount of spiritual authority, and then He shared with Peter and the other disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer, be killed and be raised to life on the third day. That means that Peter also got an unusual prophetic insight into the Father’s plans for Jesus’ own ministry. To say it was a significant day is an understatement. 

In response, Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke Him, ““Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”” 

It is hard to imagine how someone so blessed can fall so far and so fast. One moment Peter receives a revelation of God and in almost the next breath he is called “Satan” and “a stumbling block”! 

No doubt Peter’s spouting of most unwise counsel is the result of a demonic impulse – otherwise Jesus would not have called him “Satan”. He heard Jesus share His plan to overcome death and a visceral urge prompted him to speak against it. Surely in hindsight even he would even say his response was out of place given the day so far. But this episode in Peter’s life merely demonstrates the spiritual immaturity common to us all. For while we are capable of such intimate fellowship with God that we receive revelations and prophetic knowledge, we are equally capable of acting out of our emotions in the moment – and acting out of emotional impulse in the moment is almost always exceedingly foolish. 

God gave us emotions because He has emotions. Emotions are good – they help us discern our wants and they help us respond with wholeheartedness instead of mere mechanical impulse. Yet the emotional response of a fallen creature living in fallen flesh in a fallen world is easily manipulated. We may make wise choices given the right spiritual voice (as Peter did when Jesus asked him, “Who do you say I am?”), but we will surely make unwise choices given unclean spiritual voices (as Peter just did in rebuking Christ at Satan’s prompt).  

The key to a more consistently godly response then, is thoughtfulness about our emotions prior to action arising from them. 

One must learn to discern whose voice is prompting us. Is it God’s? In that case it will be in line with all that God has revealed about Himself and His Kingdom. Is it the enemy’s? In that case it will be opposed to all that God has revealed about Himself and His Kingdom. Is it our own voice only? In that case it is impotent – it neither advances God’s Kingdom within and around us, nor does it detract from God’s Kingdom within and around us. 

Inserting a bit of thought between realizing the emotion and acting on it – or a bit of prayer about it if we are unsure why we feel the way we do – is always spiritually profitable. And it always moves us towards greater spiritual maturity. Amen. 

Remember, nothing we do goes unnoticed. Everything we do impacts our reputation and that of both our earthly and divine family.

Gary W. Derickson

APPLICATION: Intentionality

It is a good habit to think before we act. It is a better habit to pray before even that. 

The Difficulty (Matthew 16:21-22)

Photo by Alexandre Chambon on Unsplash

Before any of us can take the second step in our journey, we need to take the first step.   The first step in any relationship with God is confession of Jesus as Messiah – for without the forgiveness of sins, the offense of our treason under the first covenant remains, blocking us from relationship with God. The second step in our journey is accepting that God’s plan – no matter how distasteful it seems to us at the present – is better than our own plans. 

Christians of old called that idea, “lordship”. Knowing Christ as Savior is good and necessary. But knowing Christ as Lord is just as necessary. Not merely because a first step without a second step is the very definition of stumbling, but because without living with Christ as Lord of you, you will not consider Him in every decision you make. The result will be a life lived with Jesus as an ‘extra’. Even obedience to Him in some things will seem like an option, and although followed in some things, He will not be truly Lord of your life (even if you call Him that). Christ has already told us what the result of that is: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Lordship is putting Jesus first in all things, not just in how you deal with the demonic. It means allowing God’s plan to be pre-eminent in all things. 

Of course, lordship often is a bitter pill to swallow, because lordship mandates submission. Even submission to difficult things. But we are called to Christ-likeness, and our Lord Jesus modelled lordship. He understands it. He understands that although He is God, the Father must be pre-eminent. Even the Godhead has order, and the Father holds the higher office. 

“Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!””

We who live on this side of the cross understand all that was gained through Christ’s suffering and death. Yet though we get that and appreciate it, lordship of our own lives still seems the most difficult and challenging aspect of the new life that Jesus died to save us to. It seems to us every bit as difficult as the Messiah’s determination to suffer and die seemed to the disciples. But lordship means following God over oneself. It means embracing all God Most High has planned for you, even when God’s plan includes the nastiness of suffering. 

Indeed, even when it includes the nastiness of injustices done against us. 

Even when those injustices don’t seem like they are going to be corrected.

Yet God wastes nothing – suffering and death have a purpose. They did in Christ’s life, and they do in the life of the one who understands lordship. Amen. 

It is doubtful whether we can be Christian in anything unless we are Christian in everything.

A.W. Tozer

APPLICATION: Intentionality

As James 5 says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

The Cost (Matthew 16:21)

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Peter’s confession of Jesus as “Christ, Son of the Living God” is a turning point  in  Matthew’s Gospel. Not only is it the centre of the Gospel text, but from that moment onward Jesus’ dialogue with His disciples notably changes. 

Prior to this, Jesus had said nothing about His Father’s plan of death and resurrection. He only taught the benefits of the Kingdom of God. But from this moment forward, the mechanics of His Father’s fuller plan for the restoration of all things comes to be front and centre; “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

This is the first of three instances in Matthew’s Gospel where the revealed will of God includes the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. As it is repeated three times, it is impossible to argue that Jesus did not know what awaited Him in Jerusalem, or that the disciples did not know what awaited Him in Jerusalem. Jesus knew He came to do this, and He repeatedly told His disciples He was going to do this. 

His disciples needed to know it too. Up to this point they had seen a man who was clearly more than a man. They had seen Jesus heal, and they had seen Jesus deliver. They had seen Jesus teach and preach. They had seen Jesus weep and rejoice. They had seen Jesus react to all manner of circumstance and all manner of conversation. But they had not yet seen Jesus suffer. They had not yet seen Jesus persecuted. They had not yet seen Jesus – this great God/Man who could raise others from the dead – they had not even considered that He could die. But they needed to know that this too was part of God’s plan. That suffering and death was part of – even the most critical component to – bringing God’s Kingdom come. 

They needed to know that for the same reason every Christ-follower needs to know that. Suffering and dying is part of the Christ-life. It is not something to be shirked, but to acknowledge and embrace. Even though the day will come when God does away with suffering and death forever, for now it is part of what it means to imitate Christ. The suffering, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s way. 

Of course, this side of the cross in history, we know that Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, death and resurrection accomplished much. We are saved from the penalty of our own sin because of it. Which means that we can clearly see; though God’s purposes and ways are well beyond our understanding, God truly is good. Moreover, because God is revealed through Christ as good, we can also know that our suffering – and even our death – are not without plan either. Therefore, they are not without purpose, either. 

This is something we can only grasp when we are on the ‘other side’ of it all. Till then, we just need to have faith in God and His goodness. This is the core of our faith in God. That He will make it all – even our cruelest suffering – worthwhile. For now we do not see how or why, and it all seems so incredibly frustrating. But one day – all at once – we will know it was all to His great glory, and at the same time to our very great benefit. 

But not till we are on the other side. Amen.

When we do not understand why God allows something, we can always know this; undergirding it all is His intense love for us, and in that love, His intense desire for our Christlikeness.

Marcus Verbrugge

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Be thankful that God will yet redeem the suffering of His saints, in the same way He redeemed the suffering of the Head of His body, our Lord and Christ. 

The Silence (Matthew 16:20-21)

Photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash

Jesus has just powerfully affirmed Peter’s confession of Himself as Christ. But   immediately afterward, Matthew records, “Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.” Most Bibles have a heading immediately after that verse (16:20), which seems to make it separate from the next. But that heading was not in the original text. In fact, in the actual text of Scripture the next verse explains why Jesus did not want the confession of Himself to become commonplace just yet: “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Jesus obviously came to fulfill the mission of Messiah, but He didn’t want people to be proclaiming that He was the Messiah. He knew that if they did that, His opportunity to reconcile humankind to God through the cross would be compromised. After all, not even the cruelest Roman would crucify their only hope for salvation. That meant that the Messianic purpose Jesus was fulfilling could only be completed if Satan’s plan to kill God in the flesh was achieved.

That sounds paradoxical, but in reality, it is the wisdom of God. Those made in God’s image had broken their covenant with Him through sin, and that meant that the full penalty for violating the covenant must be invoked, unless the covenant could be broken. But a covenant can only be broken if one of the members of that covenant dies (just like in a marriage covenant). So, because God was unwilling that humankind be extinguished, He chose to die. Satan would get his wish to kill God, but he would not be able to take God’s place in His absence. For God had disguised the greatest blessing the universe had ever seen as the greatest disaster the universe would ever see, and in so doing He overcame His people’s greatest enemy. 

It is something we can only glimpse in hindsight. Even then we can still only glimpse it. God’s wisdom and way is far beyond our understanding. For who else would’ve thought to package blessing as disaster? Even though God had done that repeatedly before when He had chosen to bless (save) His people through a worldwide flood – delivering Noah and his family from a wicked society and blessing them with a new earth. Again, He blessed (saved) Israel through the dire famine that resulted in them leaving their homeland for Egypt. Though 70 went into Egypt, millions would leave, and that with untold riches after plundering the Egyptians who had enslaved them. 

This is God’s way, and this is why we cannot shirk the suffering that He asks us to endure. Somehow and someway, He is purposing to make it all far more than worthwhile in the end. As He said to His people through Jeremiah as they entered the exile, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Amen, and amen. 

A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake.

Eliphaz the Temanite (from Job 4:12)


God is God, and we are not. This much holds true no matter how much we learn or how much wisdom we gain.  

The Authority (Matthew 16:19)

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on  earth will be  bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Biblical scholars tell us that the words Jesus used for “bind” and “loose” were commonly used terms: To bind meant to forbid. To loose meant to allow. One commentator said, “Binding and loosing—that is, prohibiting and permitting—were, in the Aramaic language that Jesus used, a customary expression to denote the highest authority.” 

When a new business wants to open up shop, they have to first seek the permission of the city council. The council controls the bylaws and zoning of the community. The city council can allow (rule in favor) or disallow (rule against) any zoning application for a business license or building permit. Without the approval of city council, the business is unable to legally establish itself. 

Likewise, the banks and other companies also have to grant permission (albeit in a totally different way). Banks and trust companies are almost always relied upon to fund the expansion and/or new equipment. Other companies are almost always relied upon to do that actual work of building – if they choose, they could turn down the job and refuse to dig the foundation, pour the cement or build out the interior of the building. They could refuse to provide electrical or telecommunication services. It isn’t just the city council that has to approve the new business, the other business leaders have to also approve it. 

When all is permitted, a new company opens up, providing employment and blessing to many.

What city councils and business leaders do in the physical/financial world, the ekklesia does in the spiritual world. Knowing this – and knowing the ekklesia Jesus had just committed to build on the foundation of the confession of Himself as Christ, Son of the Living God – we can understand that Jesus is giving a great spiritual authority to His ekklesia. 

Just as a city council or group of bankers and businesspeople can affirm and ‘grant’ privileges to build something in the city, so also the ekklesia can grant spiritual permission or deny spiritual permission in that region. The ekklesia has the authority to bind (to disallow) and it has the authority to loose (to allow). The ekklesia can grant spiritual authority to see a new expression of the Kingdom of God succeed, and the ekklesia can forbid spiritual influence over land and homes and groups of people, stifling the work of the enemy. 

Late author and pastor Rev. Dr. Stanley Jebb once wrote, “Strictly speaking, the only authority a pastor has is the spiritual authority inherent in the message he preaches.” That may be true, but consider what a large authority that is! If a new church (or even an existing one) is to advance, the ekklesia must loose it. If there is demonic interference to the Kingdom, the ekklesia must bind it. 

But if the ekklesia is to do anything, it must first understand its role and its authority. It is for this reason that the evil one does all he can to confuse people as to who they are, and confusion usually reigns. Our enemy doesn’t want people to know that there even is an ekklesia, and he doesn’t want people – especially pastors and people of influence – to know that they are part of the ekklesia. But if we are to succeed, the ‘city council’ part of the ekklesia (the pastors and spiritual leaders) must be on board, and the ‘business’ part of the ekklesia (the people of influence) must also be on board.

The authority of Scripture will be in the fullest sense a spiritual authority, one that has not been forced upon us by convention and tradition, but is freely recognized, and gladly obeyed, as the utterance of mind and will truer and finer than our own.

H. Wheeler Robinson

APPLICATION: Intentionality

How are you using your spiritual authority? 

The Keys (Matthew 16:19)

Photo by Samantha Lam on Unsplash

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be   bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Peter, to whom this sentence was originally spoken, would later preach to the Jews. The Jews are arguably the most resistant people group on the planet in terms of their internal resistance to turning to Jesus for salvation. But at Pentecost, as the Spirit of God fell, Peter preached to them that they should repent and turn to Jesus for salvation. Then, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”  

Peter would go on from there to preach to the Samaritans at the request of the church in Jerusalem. The Samaritans had already come to Christ under Philip’s preaching, but they had not received the Spirit. “Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” 

Peter moved on from there to preach at Cornelius’ house (a Gentile home) by personal request at the homeowner. Scripture records, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.” 

Peter literally opened the door to the Kingdom of God for the Jews, for the Samaritans and for the Gentiles. In this respect, what Jesus said literally came to pass. Peter had the keys to the Kingdom of God for others. Full of the Spirit of God, Peter opened the way for people of other cultures to hear the Gospel. 

But Peter is hardly unique. Peter might have been the first true Christian – the first to publicly confess that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the Living God – but Peter is not the only one to confess that. Each of us who confess the same thing also have the keys to the Kingdom for other people. Each of us who confess Jesus as Christ, the Son of the Living God are to follow Peter’s example. We have keys to the Kingdom of God for other people, and like Peter, we must use them! 

There are people in your circles of influence who do not yet know Christ. They may be of your own culture (like the Jews were for Peter). They may be of the same country, but a different culture (as the Samaritans were for Peter). They may even be of a completely different culture and country (as the Gentiles were for Peter). But they are made in God’s image also, and they are lost. 

They are lost until you use the keys God gave you. Until you – full of the Spirit of God – seize the opportunity clearly given to you to preach Jesus as Christ, the Son of the Living God. Then they will hear the Good News, and they will respond. They will come to Christ, and the Kingdom of God will expand right before your eyes.

This is the heritage of all who are part of Christ’s ekklesia. We each have a part to play. For some it is a small part – to reach just one soul. For others it is a large mandate – to reach many thousands. To each is given a mandate appropriate to our circumstance and gifting, but whether small or large, this is our common call. This is our mission mandate! 

May we all prayerfully and humbly do our part.

If Yahweh alone is God and if Jesus alone is Lord, and if it is God’s will (as it manifestly is in the Bible) that these truths be known throughout the whole creation, then there is a missional mandate intrinsic to such convictions.

Chris Wright

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Do you know who God gave you the keys to His Kingdom for? 

The Building (Matthew 16:18-19)

Photo by jbc on Unsplash

Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church.”  

It is notable that Jesus did not say, “On this rock I will build my synagogue.” Though synagogues were already widely in use, and although Jesus had visited many of them, Jesus did not mean to model His church after the synagogue. If He would’ve meant that He would’ve said it. Rather, He specifically said, “On this rock I will build my ἐκκλησίαν”. 

The word transliterated to English is “ekklesia.” 

Interestingly, Jesus didn’t need to define that word for His disciples. They clearly knew exactly what He was talking about. “Ekklēsia (“assembly”) was the term applied to many types of public gatherings in the ancient Roman world, whether civil or religious. In Scripture, ekklēsia can refer both to assemblies of people in a nonreligious setting and to organized gatherings of the followers of Christ. For example, ekklēsia was used to designate a confused mob opposed to Paul’s message in Ephesus (Acts 19:32, 41). The same term was used to describe a regularly constituted legal assembly of the city (Acts 19:39). Elsewhere in Acts the word is used in the sense of “the people of God” or “the church,” both universally (e.g., Acts 8:3; 9:31) and locally (e.g., Acts 5:11; 8:1).

In Roman and Greek thinking, ekklesia was a group of people who represented the people of the community. The term would’ve brought to mind the ‘movers and shakers’ of the community – or perhaps the town council. It wasn’t just a group of random people. The ekklesia was a group that had gravitas in the community. In other words, the ekklesia were the well-off who had the capacity and ability to create jobs and alter the community in significant ways. The mob at Ephesus in Acts 19 were the silversmiths and craftsmen of the town (see Acts 19:24–25) – they were an ekklesia. In Acts 8 and 9, the word refers to the house churches in homes. Those homes would’ve been larger (suitable for gatherings), and the owners would be people of significant wealth – we see that in Acts 5, when the early church included those who were selling off property. 

Jesus’ ekklesia is purposed to be similar to the Roman ekklesia, except instead of primarily wielding mere financial and political power, Jesus’ ekklesia wields spiritual power. 

In fact, to His ekklesia Jesus gives tremendous spiritual power, for the very next sentence out of His lips is, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Jesus is effectively saying His ekklesia has the power to control the spiritual well-being of the community. 

After all, they are God’s representatives in the community. They are the ones who have relationship with Him. They are the ones who can call on Him for mercy over their community, which otherwise sits under judgment for its sin. They are the ones whose prayers are heard. So they can bind spiritual forces of wickedness, and they can loose spiritual forces of blessing and peace. 

We who are the church are far from helpless. We are an advance group of Jesus’ coming worldwide government. What we say matters. What we do matters! Not only to us, but to all spiritual beings and to our Father in glory. 

[God’s] intent [is] that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.

Jamie Dunlop

APPLICATION: Intentionality

How is your church displaying the wisdom of God by the power of God to the rest of creation? 

The Bridge (Matthew 16:15-18)

Photo by Hazel Clifton on Unsplash

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter  answered, “You  are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

Jesus here takes Simon Peter’s name and shortens it to just “Peter”. He notes that Peter has been changed by a revelation of God. Who he was before (“Simon”) is different than who he is now (“Peter”).  There is clearly a relationship between these two terms, because in Greek, Peter is “Πέτρος”, and rock is “πέτρα”.  As one commentator notes, “Jesus gave the name ‘Peter’ to Simon not as an affectionate nickname nor […] as an alternative name, but rather as a means of marking destiny in some manner.”

The words Jesus uses in the Scripture demonstrate that He was fond of word plays. By tying Simon’s middle name to the confession of Jesus as Christ, He both affirms Simon’s confession as the foundation of what it means to be part of the Church He is building, and also affirms Simon as the first member of said Church. Jesus is saying that Simon is the first true convert. Peter is the first one of His followers to grasp the reality that Jesus is not merely a great man, prophet and wonder-worker sent by God, but God’s own beloved Son, sent to earth. From this point forward, Simon is no longer a Jew who sees value in following Jesus. He is now a Christian, committed to following Jesus because the change toward Christ-likeness has now begun. 

The journey of faith that every professing Christian ultimately looks back upon has within it a tipping point. Like the journey from childhood to adulthood, the journey is experienced through mile-markers and seasons, but it is only when one looks back that the definitive transition point from one to the other becomes clear. 

At that point they have moved from being interested in Jesus – even interested enough to follow Him – to being truly changed by Him. They have moved to the line that separates nonbelievers from believers, and then crossed over that line. They are no longer just followers. They are now partners in ministry. They may be still immature partners, but they are qualitatively different than who and what they were before. 

Being qualitatively changed and becoming ministry partners with God doesn’t mean that Christians are by any means perfect. Peter – as Matthew will soon demonstrate to us – still sins. In fact, in a very short time Jesus will call out Peter for allowing Satan to work through him (v23 of this same chapter)! But it does mean that as Christians, we can know that the strongholds of wrong thinking in our minds have no chance of standing against the reality God has revealed to us. Every wrong thought pattern will eventually succumb. 

Christ is our savior. He will save us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. He is able to, because He is the Son of the Living God. Not a man, but God. This much we know, and on this we will rely until made perfect, we stand before Him and see His face.

Make sure of your commitment to Jesus Christ, and seek to follow Him every day. Don’t be swayed by the false values and goals of this world, but put Christ and His will first in everything you do.

Billy Graham

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What has Jesus most recently saved you from?

Realization (Matthew 16:15-17)

Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash

Jesus has asked His disciples the question, “Who do you say I am?” Matthew  records the  conversation, “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

To call Jesus the Messiah – the anointed one of God, savior of God’s people and Son of the Living God – is a hallmark of every Christ follower, and arguably the first significant step of faith that any Christian takes. It is not a small step. Many trip over it, finding it too much of a hurdle. That’s because recognizing Jesus as the Son of God is a step of faith. It means we have overcome our resistance to God being alive and actively working in our world. It means we have overcome our resistance to God being so concerned about us and the separation between fallen humankind and Himself that He was willing to go to the point of incarnation to reconcile us. Moreover, it means that God is not a single personality. 

Many are those who’ve lived their whole lives with a very strong worldview that God is a single personality. For them, the matter of God having a Son is the largest stumbling block. Those of us who came to Christ from a nominal or secular or pantheistic background might not see that as a problem. But for much of the world it is – especially for Muslims and Jews. Peter’s worldview was that of a Jew. God was and is One. God will always be One. Not two, not three. Just one. In fact, the Jews to this day daily recite the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  In that worldview, God could not be both Father and Son, and certainly could not be Father and Son and Spirit. 

Whatever the idea of the Trinity is, it is not Jewish thinking!

Certainly, Jews knew that God had a “son” in created Adam (as Luke 3:38 points out, “…Adam, the son of God”, and has a “son” in Israel as a nation (as Isaiah 63:16 points out, “…you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” But in the Jewish mind, there could be no such thing as God’s literal Son. So, when Jesus hears Peter call Him the Christ, He knows that this fact did not spring from Peter’s own thinking. 

In fact, knowing that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and is our Messiah (literally, “Anointed One”, meaning savior) is never the result of human thinking. It is always a revelation of God. A human mind might hear the words and think about the idea, but it will remain an idea and will have no more impact than a passing idea until the revelation of God makes it reality in your mind, heart and soul. Then you know. Then reality has broken in. 

Reality changes everything. Like the light of dawn after the darkest night, it changes the landscape of everything we see, and the warmth of that reality breathes new life into our soul. Then you are convinced of, and will always confess, that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the Living God. 

If Jesus is God, then what He says about sin, salvation, judgment, how to live an abundant, joyful life … indeed, everything He said must be true. Our eternal destiny rests on our answer to the question, Is Jesus really God?

Dan Story

APPLICATION: Intentionality

How does the reality that Jesus truly is God in the flesh change how you live your life today?