Sermon Notes + Quotes:
We study the books of the Bible here at TVC, and this Sunday is no different. If you would like a copy of a Bible, go ahead, and raise your hand and somebody will come around to hand you one. We’re going to be camping out today in Matthew 16. Y’all can start flipping or scrolling there.
Over the last few weeks, we have seen Jesus performing some of his most famous miracles and slowly seeing the tension arise between him and the religious leaders of the day. In the last few chapters, Jesus has fed two crowds, which were 5,000 people and 4,000 people. He has healed a large number of people, including a Canaanite woman’s daughter, and he has walked on water. Pretty good week.
Now, the more Jesus gains popularity by performing miracles and teaching about the kingdom of heaven, the more the tension arises, and the frustration arises with the religious leaders. They begin to try and trick Jesus by asking him hard questions to get him to fumble over his words. Yet Jesus seems to always have an answer that leaves them in awe and greater frustration than before. At the beginning of our text today, we are going to see yet another futile attempt by the Pharisees and Sadducees to trick Jesus, but allow me to pray quickly before we dive in.
Jesus, thank you so much for this day. God to pray that you would be with us this morning. Jesus, please speak through me. Father, help me to communicate the Word clearly. God, help us to see you in this text more clearly and help what we learn about today, God, help us to worship you and love you better. In your name I pray, amen.
So, if you have seen me teach before, you will know that I typically like to start with some incredibly embarrassing story about my time in high school or middle school, and sadly, I’ve got a lot of those to choose from. But today, I am going to be talking about embarrassing story, it will not be about me, it will be about my lovely wife Emily. (Which I like this story a lot better than the ones I’ve told.)
During Emily’s freshman year of college up in Pennsylvania, she had decided to go back home to North Carolina during our spring break. She went, had a great time, and began the eight-hour road trip back to school. On the way back, though, Emily began to notice that her car was having some pretty serious issues. It started to make some awful noises even stalled out on numerous occasions, and there started to be smoke that came out of the front of the car. And what I love about my wife is she just kept driving. She never stopped to check what was going on. She just was like, “I guess we’ll go until it dies.”
And as soon as she arrived back at college, only a short distance from the parking lot, the car broke down entirely and would not start back up. So, she called one of our friends who was a lineman on the football team to come and help her push the car back to the parking lot. And not only was our friend strong, but he knew a lot about cars. So, he began to ask Emily a series of questions trying to figure out what was wrong with the car. And Emily began to say that there was no real explanation for the problem, but she noticed that the car began to have issues shortly after she stopped at a gas station. She paused. She also remembered something weird about the experience of the gas station. She remembered that the pump didn’t fit into the tank of her car, so she had to kind of hold it outside of the tank and just kind of shoot it in. And the pump was bright green and that’s not typically the color of the pump that she uses. And it was a bit more expensive than she’s used to paying for. And I’m sure many of you have figured out by this point Emily had accidentally filled up her tank with diesel fuel and her car is designed for unleaded gasoline.
And so, if you don’t know much about cars, this is a big deal because when you fill a car up with diesel that isn’t designed for that kind of gas, it will do some serious damage to the engine of the car. It will clog everything up. It will make the car no longer work and could potentially ruin the entire engine. But thankfully there was no major damage done and a mechanic was able to fix her car by draining her gas tank completely and putting the right fuel in it. The sad news of the story is that Emily got the nickname Diesel for the rest of college. We never let her forget that moment.
Here’s why I bring this up. If you were to boil down the problem of the story, it is that the fuel Emily put in the tank was not the fuel the car was designed to run on. Though the tank was full, it was filled with the wrong thing, which caused the car to break down and made it unusable. And the principle we see here is when you fill something up with the wrong thing, it won’t work as it should, it won’t work properly. And here’s what I’m going to argue today.
In the same way Emily’s car was designed to be filled with something specific, you and I were made to be filled with something specific. The thing that you and I were designed to be filled with is a relationship with Christ. But the problem is, is we have filled our lives up with numerous things that are not him. And like Emily’s car, when your life is filled with the wrong thing, it will cause you to experience a lot of issues that would eventually lead to a breakdown. But the question is how do we fill up our lives with the right thing? How do we empty the tank of our hearts and fill it with what it was designed to be filled with? Thankfully, this is what Matthew 16 is all about. So, let’s go ahead and dive into the text. We’re going to start in verse 1 and go through verse 12. So, if you would follow along with me.
“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him, they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, ‘When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ So he left them and departed.
“When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, ‘We brought no bread.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said, ‘O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the 5,000, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the 4,000, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Like I mentioned earlier, Jesus’ relationship with the religious leaders has been growing more and more intense. And as soon as he gets off the boat in Magdala, there is a crew of these guys waiting there to trap him like scene out of the Karate Kid where the bullies are waiting for Daniel LaRusso. That’s what the religious leaders are constantly doing to Jesus. Now here they want him to perform a sign. They want Jesus to show his identity as Messiah through performing miracles. And instead of doing what they ask, Jesus answers them by asking a question. He asks them how they are able to properly read weather patterns but cannot seem to understand about Jesus being the Messiah. Let’s not forget these guys should have known who Jesus was before anybody else.
These are the men that devoted their lives to the Scriptures and knew the prophecies to look for when the Messiah arrived. Instead of allowing their knowledge of the Scriptures to lead them to a deeper faith and understanding of what the Messiah would be like, they took their knowledge and became incredibly self-righteous and power hungry. They knew a lot about God, but in their hearts, they did not love and treasure him. They knew the truth but did not live it. In other words, they worshiped God with their lips, but their hearts were far from him. These men were unable to see who Jesus was and they continuously ignored the signs that validated his identity. And the ironic part of this story is that Jesus has already done so many signs to prove who he is. He’s fed thousands, he’s healed thousands, and yet they still do not see him for who he is. It didn’t matter if Jesus performed another sign, their hearts were hardened, and they did not have the eyes to see and the ears to hear Jesus for who he really was. The only sign given to them, Jesus says, would be the sign of Jonah.
Now, if you know much about the story of Jonah, you will know that he himself never performs any miraculous signs or miracles. In fact, Jonah is kind of a stubborn prophet who is constantly trying to flee from the will of God. So, what does Jesus mean by the sign of Jonah? Well, instead of Jonah performing signs, he himself is the sign. He is thrown into the sea, swallowed by a big fish and reemerges three days later. And it may seem like a weird connection at first, but Jonah’s life is actually assigned pointing forward to the fact that the Messiah would one day be swallowed by death itself and resurrect three days later. This is no small sign Jesus is talking about. This is the sign that would prove Jesus is truly the king and he is the king who has conquered death. But the sad reality is that even after his resurrection, the religious leaders still do not see him for who he is. Not even the sign of Jonah can prove to them that he is Christ.
So, after this, he just gets in the boat and begins to sail away with his disciples. And quickly after takeoff, the disciples find that they have forgotten the leftover bread from the feeding of the 4,000. Each of them was given a basket and each of them forgot the basket. And so now they begin to worry and freak out. And in response to their forgetfulness, Jesus speaks a cryptic message about: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And the disciples could not be more confused. They begin to argue over who forgot the bread and are most likely frustrated because maybe they’re hungry and they have no food to eat, which is a pretty wild thing to worry about considering Jesus has just fed 4,000 people with a Lunchable. And now they are not sure if he will provide for them personally. They trusted that Jesus would feed the crowds, but the question they cared about now was, “Will Jesus feed me?”
It can be easy at this moment to laugh at the disciples, make fun of the disciples, but let’s not be too quick to judge. We do this all the time in our lives. How many of us have experienced God’s faithfulness in our life just to wake up the next morning and wonder if he’ll really do it again? Jesus addresses the disciples concern over the bread and tells him that he wasn’t talking about actual leaven, but it was a metaphor he was using. What he was trying to say to the disciples is that in the same way a little leaven affects the whole loaf of bread, having a small belief in any false teaching will affect our whole lives. The leaven that the disciples must be aware of is false teaching from the religious leaders, the kind of teaching that will only believe in God if he performs a miracle for them. This is not just a warning for the disciples, this is a warning from Jesus that we must take seriously too.
We live in an age where there is more information about God than ever before, and we need to be able to discern what is true and what is false. Because a little bad theology will affect the whole heart and mind of a believer like a little leaven affects the whole loaf of bread. Like the disciples, we must be aware of the false teachings of our day, but we will touch on this more in a bit. Let’s keep reading in the story and see what happens next. So, starting in verse 13, I’m going to work my way through verse 23.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ Then He strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ.
“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
So, the disciples arrive at Caesarea of Philippi and Jesus pauses to ask the disciples a few questions. The first question he asks is, “Who do people say that I am?” And the disciples respond with a multitude of answers: “Some say you are John the Baptist, come back from the dead. Some say Elijah, others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Much like our day, there are a lot of different views of who Jesus is that don’t quite hit the mark of who he truly is. But then Jesus makes the question personal. He looks at the disciples and says, “But who do you say that I am?”
It’s one thing to know everyone else’s opinion about Jesus, but it’s another thing when it comes down to what you [actually] think of Jesus. If Jesus were to ask you what you thought of Him, what would you say? Are you an expert and knowing what everybody else says about Jesus or have you taken the time yourself to really consider for yourself, who is this Jesus? Is He really who he said He was? And to this question, Peter expectedly comes forward and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And for the first time in the story, the disciples truly understand who Jesus is, but Jesus wants to set the record straight right away. Peter did not come to this conclusion from his own understanding. He has come to understand this because God has opened his eyes to see the beauty of who Christ really is.
Salvation is not a conclusion we come to; it is a gift from God. But nevertheless, it is a gift that Peter has received in this moment because most of the time Peter is the one who’s kind of putting his foot in his mouth, but now he finally gets the answer right. And not only that, but Jesus says that He is going to build the church on the confession of faith that Peter has just made. This is the first time in the gospel account we see Jesus use the word ecclesia, which is the word for church that we use today. Let us not forget that the church is Jesus’s idea, not ours. Not only that, Jesus is going to be the one who is responsible for building His church. What a good reminder it is for us that the future of the church is not in our hands but in His hands. See, the church is a place where Jesus is properly proclaimed and worshiped. And where the name of Jesus is being proclaimed, he says that the gates of hell cannot prevail against us.
Now I want to point out something about the area that they are in, which makes this story truly come alive. I believe I have a photo on the screen. So, they’re having this conversation in a place called Caesarea Philippi. And up here I have a cool little map of Caesarea Philippi that you can see. And using this cool little laser pointer, let me do this guy. Turning on. There we go. And he died. All right, let me just use my fingers.
So, starting on the left over here, we have something called the shrine to Caesar. In Caesarea Philippi, there is a large shrine to Caesar. And then directly to the right of it, in between the two temples there is a place called the shrine to Pan. And this is a place that they worshiped one of the false gods of this specific area. And then to the right of that, the next temple we see is the temple to Zeus. And then this is just kind of fun, that little area down there that’s white, that’s called the dance of the sacred goats, which that’s just kind of fun. I’m not really going to talk more about it, but here’s what is interesting about this setting in which Jesus says these words.
If you will look behind the shrine to Caesar, you will see a cave being formed. And in this cave, behind the shrine of Caesar, was a place where worshipers would offer sacrifices to their false gods. It had a well of water that went down to depths nobody could get to. And guess what this cave is called? The portal to Hades or the gates of hell. So, when Jesus says this, they are truly standing at the location where it was thought that hell and earth met. What a bold statement to say that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the kingdom of heaven. This is no simple teaching. This is a declaration of war against the enemy. Our leader has told us that though the war is happening, the end is secure, the enemy will not win, the enemy will not prevail. And not only will Jesus build His church with a confession of Peter and there’s nothing hell can do to stop it. He also says that he has given them the keys to the kingdom of heaven and whatever they bound on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever they loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Now, a lot of people have different thoughts on this text, but I think this is what Jesus is trying to say. Think about the function of a key: A key opens the door and a key locks the door. So, the way we open the door is by having the proper key. So, the key that opens the doors to the kingdom of heaven is what? It’s faith in the true Son of God. It’s what Peter just said. That is the key into the kingdom of heaven. And the key that does not open the door is everything else. It is only through Christ that we enter in. It is the only way through the door. It’s through the key of faith. And this may sound exclusive, but in reality, it is gracious that God has even given us a way to experience eternal life with him.
Now you must imagine Peter is riding pretty high at this moment. Jesus has approved of his answer of who he is. He has told Peter that he was going to use the confession of faith he has made to build the foundation of the church upon. Sadly though, this moment of excitement wouldn’t last too long for Peter because the text goes on to say that from that point on, Jesus began to tell the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem so he can die in the hands of the religious leaders and be raised back to life in three days’ time. And Peter cannot fathom what he is hearing. He has just come to understand that Jesus is the Messiah, but even though he understands that Jesus is the Messiah, he has not quite figured out, yet the kind of Messiah Jesus is going to be. He wanted Jesus to be the political figure who was going to come and destroy Rome and rescue Israel back to being a great state free from its enemy.
Surely Jesus was mistaken when He was talking about dying. That’s a horrible way for any person to go out, let alone the king. Thankfully Peter was there to help Him correct course. And so, it says he pulls Jesus aside and he begins to rebuke him, owed to be a fly on the wall for this moment. I mean, think about the insanity of what Peter is doing. He has just said, “You are the Christ.” And yet he’s going, “All right, God, come here. No, no, no, no, no, that’s not it. Trust me, I know the way you should do this.” And yet we all do this all the time. Sweet Peter went from having a monumental success to now having a colossal failure. In His response to Peter, Jesus calls him Satan. And I don’t know about you guys, that feels like a harsh response. However, there is a striking parallel with what Peter is doing to what the devil did in the wilderness when he tempted Jesus.
Peter was trying to convince Jesus that He could have the crown without the cross, that He could receive the glory without the suffering. But Jesus knows that this is not the plan God has for Him and he tells Peter that he is being a stumbling block to Him. You see, Peter had a different understanding of how Jesus was going to save the world. He wanted Jesus to be a political figure who would conquer through brute force. Instead, Jesus is a gentle and lowly Savior who is going to die on a cross not to destroy His enemies, but to save them. The way Jesus accomplishes salvation is not through worldly power but through gospel humility. It is not through annihilation, but through humiliation on a cross. But let us not think that it is only Jesus who is going to live like this. He is also going to invite all who would follow him to live like this too. Let’s keep reading in the text. Starting in verse 24 and finishing up the chapter.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.'”
So, Jesus shifts His focus from Peter to the whole crew of disciples and tells them what it will mean to follow Him, and He gives them two ways that they can live their life. First, He says whoever seeks after his own life will lose it. The one who does this may in fact gain the whole world, but they will lose the entirety of themselves in the process. You see, the danger of the world is at first it seems like it is giving you life, but it will not last long like the one ring to rule them all in The Lord of the Rings. When it’s first on your finger, it feels good, but the longer you have it with you, your body and soul begin to deteriorate because you come to realize that the ring is not giving you life, it is stealing it from you.
Looking for life from the world is like drinking salt water and thinking it will quench you or thirst. It will only make you thirstier. This kind of living leads towards an individual who is looking to everyone and everything to give them life. They are putting high expectations on others in their possessions because they are looking to these things for the fullness of life that only Jesus can give them. And not only will it not give you life, versus 27 and 28 tell us what that when Christ returns, it will all be meaningless. The things of this world that you have spent your life on will mean nothing when Christ returns. Because when he returns, the only thing that matters is to whom or what you have put your faith in.
Thankfully though, Jesus gives us another way we can live. He also says that whoever loses his life for Jesus’s sake will find it. The one who is willing to let go of the things of the world and follow Jesus is the one who will find true life in Him. They may lose out on the possessions of the world, but they have gained that which is most valuable, the very one who gives us life and life to the fool. At first, though, the path of Jesus will feel like death, which is why He described it as dying and picking up your cross, a torture device that all his disciples would’ve been very familiar with. But we can rest assured that when Christ is the one we are following, true life will always be waiting for us at the end of the road of suffering. In fact, true life often meets us in the middle of the road of suffering.
Brothers and sisters, we cannot live with one foot in Christ and one foot in the world. There’s no neutral ground. We either treasure Christ above all things in this world and follow Him, or we treasure the world above Christ. But if you are looking for life, which I suggest that a lot of us in this room are looking for life, listen to Jesus’s words and guide yourself. Pick up your cross and follow him. The question on the table is, which life will we choose? Will we choose to live for ourselves and continue the quest of desperately trying to find life in the things that this world that will ultimately lead to death? Or we would choose to die to ourselves now and follow Jesus and find life in Him?
Before we end today, there are three exhortations from this text I want us all to see, and I believe they’ll be up on the screen. Here’s the first thing I want us to see from this text, and there’s a point from each of the paragraphs that we read. So, here’s the first thing that I want us to see from this text.
- We must be aware of the dangers of false teaching.
We must guard our hearts from the dangers of false teaching. Jesus is clear with His disciples that they must be able to discern the false teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Like I said earlier, a little bad theology can affect the whole heart and mind of a believer. And if you dive deep into these two groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, you will see two different extremes that they are teaching.
The Pharisees represent the idea of self-righteousness and legalism. They believed that their right standing with God was based on their religious performance. If you were keeping the law perfectly, God was happy with you. If you broke the law, you were a sinner doomed to be condemned. This school of thought leads towards prideful individuals who look down on others. It leads to death because if you are the one in control of your destiny, then you have no need for a savior. You will scoff at the idea that Jesus has died for your sins because you will believe you have no sins for him to die for.
The Sadducees represent the idea of self-indulgence. They believe that if God loves you, then he wants you to be happy and the way to be happy is to do whatever you feel like doing. They did not believe in the resurrection, so they just thought this life is all there is. They lived under the control of their desires rather than obeying the commands of God that lead to life. And this way leads to death because if you willingly allow sin to grow, it will consume you. The kind of person who lives like this is the one who worships at the altar of freedom and self. They believe that the highest virtue in life is to do whatever they please and those who disagree with them are restricting their freedom and identity.
TVC, we must understand that both forms of thinking will lead us away from Christ. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, not by our works. But we are saved to begin living the life God has called us to live, which is obedience to Him. We do not obey to be loved; we obey because we are loved. False teaching must be discerned because false teaching will lead to false worship of who God is. We must worship God as he has revealed himself to be in the Scriptures. The Bible is sufficient in its revelation of who God is and we must trust it and treasure Him as He is, not what we think He should be like. Like Peter, we all get caught up wanting God to be something that He is not and struggle to receive Him as He is. But the good news is the true God is better than any false version we may have of Him.
But the question is, how do we discern true and false teaching? Well, the best way to know a lie is to know the truth. And thankfully, we all have access to the truth on a daily basis. The way we can discern false teaching is by being a people who are committed to studying, knowing and trusting the Scriptures. Everything we know and believe about God must come from the Bible. And if it is not there, we cannot trust it. If we want to know who God truly is, we must be people who know our Bibles. Church, we must beware of the dangers of false teaching.
Second exhortation I want you to see. I’m excited about all of them, but I’m really excited about this one.
- Where Jesus is proclaimed, we cannot lose.
Let me read back verse 18 to you: “And I tell you, you are Peter and, on this rock, I will build my church.” Get this, “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Now, when I used to read this verse, I was thinking that we as Christians will be able to survive the barrage of attacks from our enemy. But then I really started to consider how a gate is a defensive weapon. They are fortifications that protect you from an attack.
Guys, this verse is not saying that we will just endure, but that we will advance on enemy ground. That there is nothing that hell can do to stop the advancement of the gospel. We as the people of God have been given orders by our captain to go and make disciples of all nations. We aren’t in retreat mode. We are in a full-blown offensive strategy. This strategy is so sure to work that not even hell can prevent us from moving in. Not even death itself can stop the advancement of the gospel among the nations. But if I’m being honest, there are a lot of reasons to be discouraged about the church today.
People in America are leaving the church at an alarming rate. This one makes me especially sad: 67% of high schoolers are likely to stop attending church when they go to college. There seems to be a new scandal in the news cycle every week about a celebrity pastor who has had a deep moral failure. Many institutions that were once Christian are now becoming secular and persecution is happening on high levels in Asia and the Middle East. If I’m being honest, sometimes when I look out into the world, it feels like we’re losing.
What encouragement can we have in these dark times? Well, there’s something I want to tell you about that’s very special to my heart that I think will illustrate this point well. There are three moments in my life that I remember extremely well. First moment, the day I became a Christian, best day of my life. Second day, the day I married my wife, Emily. Third thing, Super Bowl 43, Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Arizona Cardinals, 2009. I was 12 years old, and this was the game. I was in seventh grade at the time, so forgive me, but I put a lot of my identity in the Pittsburgh Steelers, and so this meant a lot to me. And this game, I think objectively is the best Super Bowl game of all time. As soon as the ball is kicked, the two teams are going back and forth. Steelers score, Cardinal score, big play by the Steelers, big play by the Cardinals, back and forth. But with two minutes left, the Cardinals scored, and it looked like we were doomed. And I’m not kidding you, as a 12-year-old, I am on the ground in my living room, sobbing, crying. I’m not proud of it, but it’s just who I was and kind of still who I am.
But then in heroic fashion, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense walks back on the field, they march down, they score a touchdown with seconds left on the clock. We win the game. I’m crying again, but it’s happy tears now. And I could not be more excited. I remember that day so vividly. And because I’m a weird sports nerd, I re-watch this game every year. Every February, I re-watch the game because I’m just like, “Gosh, I want to feel these emotions again.” And as I’m watching the game, something weird happens. The plays that the Cardinals made that made my heart sink no longer had that effect. In fact, they’ve made me a little bit more excited. Why? Well, I knew how the game was going to end.
Church, we know how the game is going to end. Though we don’t know how everything in life will play out, we can have confidence that where the name of Christ is proclaimed, we will be on the winning side when the clock strikes zero. Though we are discouraged, we cannot be afraid because with Christ we cannot lose. This should give us tremendous confidence when we live out our lives in service to the Great Commission. Christ is for us.
There’s a quote by J. C. Ryle that I want to read us. I think it’ll be up on the screen. It goes something like this:
“Nothing can altogether overthrow and destroy the church. Its members may be persecuted, oppressed, imprisoned, beaten, beheaded, burned. But the true church is never together extinguished; it rises again from its affliction; it lives on through fire and water. When crushed in one land, it springs up in another. The pharaohs, the Herods, the Neros have labored in vain to put down this church. They slay their thousands, and then pass away and go to their own place. The true church outlives them all and sees them buried each in his turn. The church is an anvil that has broken many a hammer in this world and will break many a hammer still. The church is a bush which is often burning and yet is not consumed.”–J.C. Ryle, Principles for Churchmen
Church, we know the end of the game. We should live differently because of it.
And the last exhortation I want us to see.
- The way we live is by dying.
This is one of the greatest paradoxes in the Christian life. The way you and I find life is by dying. We do not find life through the things, people, and strategies of this world. This is what was on the mind of Peter when he rebuked Jesus. He couldn’t get past the thought the Messiah was going to die one day. Imagine his shock when Jesus told him that this death was not only reserved for Him but for all who would follow Him. The way that you and I receive life is dying to ourselves. Church, please hear this. We must put to death the things in our hearts that are contrary to God’s way. We must put to death self-righteousness. We must put to death self-indulgence, lust, envy, greed, comparison, our national identity, pride, worldly power, our way, our plans, ourselves. Through the help of the Spirit, we put these things to death and follow Jesus.
As Bonhoeffer says,
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.”–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Does this mean though, that we are going to be living a life of misery? By no means! Because as Christians, we know that on the other side of death is what? A resurrection.
We don’t just die to ourselves; we rise with Christ in union with him. Galatians 2:20, Paul says it like this:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”Galatians 2:20
Church, this is what we were made for. This is the fuel that our hearts were designed to run on. Nothing we put to death in this life will satisfy us the way Christ ever will. We can rest assured that when we give up the things of this world for Christ, it will always be a net positive.
Romans 8:18, Paul says it like this:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.”Romans 8:18
What could give our hearts more joy? What could give our lives more meaning than Christ who we were made for? But the only way we get there is by dying to ourselves, picking up our cross and following him. Are you doing this in your life? Are you actively trying to put to death every desire, thought and action that is contrary to the kingdom of God? Do you believe that the way of victory in life is through dying to ourselves, picking up our crosses and following him? Or are you seeking the things of this world in the name of Jesus? This is not the way he lives, and it cannot be the way we as his followers live.
I want to end with a quote by a man named… I believe it’s Vance Havner, but it might just be Vance Havner. But he says this talking about a group of missionaries. I love this quote, and after this I’ll pray. He says,
“Some missionaries bound for Africa were laughed at by the boat captain. ‘You’ll only die over there,’ he said. But a missionary replied, ‘Captain, we died before we started.'”–Vance Havner
Let me pray.
Jesus, thank you so much for this day. God, I thank you for who you are. God, I thank you for the kind of Savior that you are. God, thank you that you are so much better than any cheap imitation that we may want of you. God, I pray for everybody in this room. God, for those who do not know you, God, give them the key. God, give them faith. God, for those who do know you, help us to pick up our cross daily and follow you. God, trusting that the momentary sufferings we are in are nothing compared to the future glory with you. Jesus, help us to experience life and life to the full. In your name I pray, amen.
(Edited for Reading)