Thursday, February 11, 2016

Following Jesus, Obstructing Jesus

The week before last (Jan 31), I preached a sermon introducing a series on our need to engage (Engage!). You can find a link to the blog here. You may also listen online here. The purpose of this series is two-fold. First, my hope is to remind our church of our vision, mission, strategy, and steps over the next several weeks using Matthew 16, and primarily verse 18 as our focal point. Second, this series will establish a strong foundation for the next series which will focus on the person of Jesus, and how He responded to the various opportunities that were brought to Him or that He specifically sought. Ultimately, the notion is that both series will encourage us to be ready to be used by God in both small, and in mighty ways, and yet, in all ways that He might receive the glory!

In the context (verses 13-20, especially), Jesus has asked His disciples how others are identifying Him. Then He asks His disciples for their thoughts. Peter responds (probably blurts out, knowing Peter!) that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God. What a great response. And Jesus pronounces a beatitude upon Peter (blessed are you), not for having made the response, but for having been given this truth by God the Father.

The problem is that in the verses to follow, Jesus speaking as God's anointed One (that is what Messiah, or Christ means) tells His followers that He must now go to Jerusalem to be mocked, beaten, and eventually die. Once again, it is Peter who speaks up claiming that Jesus is speaking nonsense. And frankly Peter was right from a human perspective. Looking back on the story, and knowing how it ends, we see Peter's response as out-of-line. But truthfully, should the "Son of the living God" have to die at the hands of His created beings? As that moment developed, Peter's statement was one of loyalty, of friendship, and of concern to the Man whom He had given up everything to follow. But, unknown to Peter, the purpose of Jesus life was far more than He could have imagined at that point.

So, what about you and me? Jesus and His disciples were in Caesarea Philippi, perhaps surrounding a campfire eating, when Jesus asks the questions of His disciples. "Who do others say I am?" "Who you you say I am?" Jesus expected a different answer the second time? Why? Because those that have been with Him more should know Him better. The others gave high praise to Jesus by comparing Him to notable prophets and John the baptizer. But the disciples should have known Jesus was even greater. And they did. And for even fuller measure, Peter's response puts Jesus in a higher position than the Caesar in a town named for a Caesar (it's currently known as Banias). It is important to note that Caesars were considered as gods, so after a Caesar died, his son was the "son of a dead god." But Jesus' Father was alive and working mightily through Jesus (which Peter, James, and John would see even more clearly in Matthew 17)!

So, Jesus expected their answer to His question to be different. And it was. Just like He expects that answer of His followers to be different today. And just like Peter, who still had his own purpose and desires in mind even after making such a grandiose statement about the person of Jesus, too often we put our purpose and desires above God's. And the same lips (Peter's) that properly acknowledged Jesus would quickly turn to confront Him for doing the will of God. And, as we know, those same lips would betray Jesus altogether while Jesus was later on trial. Again, we are often guilty of the same practice today.

But Jesus calls us to be in the world, not of it. That is why this blog is named fotonni. The word is the three words, in not of, spelled backwords. Fotonni symbolizes that we often live our lives backwards from how we should, and even how we wish we could. So, we need to turn our world around (or better yet, let God do it), so we can effectively live the life that He wants us to live.

For this post, living that life, is about not being an obstacle to what God wants to do. And the first question is, "What does He want to do?" Certainly that answer has unique considerations to all of us. However, many common points such as "Love one another" (John 13.35) and "Go, make disciples" (Matthew 28.19-20) are evident as well. The point is that each Christ-follower must find what He wants to do, what He wants us to do, an then do it. While the answer on what He is choosing to do at any given point may be difficult to discern, the truth is He knew His closest followers would give a better answer to His question because they had spent time with Him and, thus, knew Him. Likewise, as we spend more time with Jesus, we will get to know Him better - not just for the sake of knowing His title, but more importantly that we might know how we might best serve Him as an individual, as a member of a church, and as Kingdom-minded citizens, serving the one true King!

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