Mark 8:31–38 31Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things; be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the experts in the law; be killed; and after three days rise again. 32He was speaking plainly to them. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But after turning around and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have your mind set on the things of God, but the things of men.”
34He called the crowd and his disciples together and said to them, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36After all, what good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38In fact, whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Peter is confused. Moments before he had given his bold and correct confession, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29) Now he is being pulled aside and admonished by the Christ.
Although Peters knows the right answer, he doesn’t know how he got there. It’s like a student who got the right answer on his math problem, but didn’t show his calculations, so he doesn’t know how he got there.
Jesus then starts describing what being the Christ entails. He begins to teach the disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected by the religions leaders, be killed, and then rise from the grave on the third day.
Peter objects. His calculations and Jesus’ calculations about the Christ aren’t equal. Worse than objecting, Peter pulls the Son of Man aside and rebukes Him for talking like that. The student tries correcting the math teacher on the right answer.
For his efforts, the student receives a harsh rebuke in return. “Get behind me, Satan!:
As Jesus and His disciples are on the way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks them: “Who do people say that I am?” Well, the disciples report, the people still really don’t know. Sure, Jesus was healing people and driving out demons; He had performed great feeding miracles, and he even raised the dead . . . but the people were saying that He was just John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of prophets. They still weren’t getting it - that Jesus was more than a prophet, more than a miracle worker, more than a bread king.
Okay, but what about all of you?, Jesus then asks them. Who do you guys say that I am? What have you come to know . . . And Peter responds on behalf of all: “You are the Christ.” Which is, of course, the right answer. But what Peter’s right hand gives one moment, his left hand takes away the next. For while he knows the right answer, he does not really know it, for he does not know what it means. And so when Jesus tells them what it means that He is the Christ, that He “must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed . . .” Peter objects. Actually even worse than that, he pulls Jesus aside and rebukes Him for talking like that. The student tries to teach the teacher. And for his efforts, Peter receives a harsh rebuke back: “Get behind me, Satan!”
Those words sound pretty harsh to us, but they were the most loving thing Jesus could have said to Peter at that moment. To help him understand; to jolt him out of his wrong thinking; to open his ears and mind and heart to hear what Jesus was going to say next. That not only was it necessary for Jesus to take up the cross and be taken up on it to be our Saviour - Jesus then makes it plain: it is necessary for them as well. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” And if Peter didn’t like Jesus’ first talk of the cross, he really wasn’t going to like this second. But with it, Peter, and the others, begin to learn what it means to set their minds of the things of God and not the things of man. They begin to learn the difference between heaven and earth, between life and death.
And that is a lesson we must learn as well. A lesson not easy to learn.
Now that sounds a bit silly, I know - that we must learn the difference between the things of God and the things of man; between heaven and earth; between life and death. For doesn’t everyone know that, whether they confess Jesus or not? Well, no. It’s not quite that simple. For born as sinners into this world of sin, sin is all we know; sin looks normal; sin looks the way things are. And so we look at our world and think it okay, because (by nature) we don’t know any better. We look at our brokenness and think that’s what wholeness looks like. We go after things that cause death thinking they will give us life. And satan wants to keep us in this confused state, so that we are satisfied; so that we do not yearn for something better, and instead try to make the best of what we’ve got.
But then into this fallen and confused world stepped one who knew this world without sin, for He created it without sin. Into this world stepped one who had no sin and so knew the mind of God. Into this world stepped Jesus, the author of life, to show us life, to teach us life, and to give us life back again. Life not as we imagine it, but as He created it. The life that He lived - a life of love, a life of compassion, a life of truth. We see glimpses of those things in people today, that is true - but only as mere remnants of the way we were created. For sin has swallowed us up. Sin has corrupted us. And so my love for God and for others has grown cold; my compassion is often overwhelmed by selfishness; and my truth is far too often the lie I want it to be.
And so to confess Jesus as the Christ, the anointed one, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, the Saviour - as Peter did - is not just to confess something about Him, but also something about us. It is to confess that something is wrong that needs to be set right, and that I can’t set right. For what’s wrong is me. It’s not just that the world is fallen and sinful, and that others are fallen and sinful - it’s that I am fallen and sinful. And if fallen and sinful, then also unclean and in satan’s clutches.
But it is exactly for fallen and sinful and unclean and in satan’s clutches you that Jesus came, and why He came to suffer and die. He did not come to demand that you first “pick yourself up and dust yourself off and start all over again” - it is rather as St. Paul told us today, that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still sinners, the Son of God came down and took us and our sins and our dusty death upon Himself, and took it all to the cross. While we were still sinners, He died our death to cleanse us from our sins. While we were still sinners, He reconciled us to the Father, to give us a new start and give us His life. And please mark that well - that Christ did not die to give us our old life back again; an old patched-up, warmed-over again life; but to give us His life. A new life. A better life. A life not bound to earth or that will end with death - but a life to live forever. Starting now.
That life comes only through His cross, and through His cross placed upon us. For in reality there are not many life-giving crosses, and we each get to choose the one we want to pick up and carry. No. There is only one cross that gives life: His cross. The Romans used lots of crosses to kill and punish lots of criminals, but there was no cross like Jesus’ cross. For only on that cross hung the one whose death paid for the sins of the world. Only on that cross hung the one who not only died but rose from the dust of death. Only on that cross hung the one over whom death had no power, but who laid down His life into death in order to break the power of death in His resurrection. And now risen, He lives to give that life He won to us. That just as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, so might we. (Small Catechism, Explanation to the Second Article)
And that life is what He now gives to you. His life, given to you when you were baptized into Him. His life, daily given to you in forgiveness in His Name. And His life, here given to you when you eat His body and drink His blood.
And thus given His life, now is not the time to rest, but to join the battle, as He calls us to do. To deny ourselves, take up our the cross and follow Him. That is a call given in love, to love. It is a call not to make us earn something or to punish us or make us suffer, but to save us. To save us by putting to death in us - by His cross - all those things which lead us astray, that satan uses as hooks for his temptations - our greed, our lusts, our pride, our selfishness, our self-justifications, our fears, our stubbornness, and the many other sinful urges that live in us. For He who took the stony, barren womb of Sarah and transformed it and raised it to life to produce the fruit of His promised mercy and grace - also takes our cold, stony, and barren hearts and transforms them in His mercy and grace and raises us to life to produce the fruits of faith. To deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him in love, in compassion, in truth, in acts of mercy, in prayer, and in all manner of good works. It is a call to repentance and to faith, to live the new life He has given us.
And so joined to Christ and living in Christ, we learn the difference between the things of God and the things of man; between heaven and earth; between life and death. We learn that what we thought great . . . maybe not so much. We learn that what we thought was life was really killing us. And we learn that our life isn’t something to save, but to give. But we also learn that the life we give is nothing compared to the life we have received. For that is the way of it with Jesus - He always gives more than He asks; and He always acts first - first giving us what He asks of us. And so all that we are, all that we have, and all that we give, is from Him. And as we have freely received, we now freely give.
And that is true freedom - the freedom that we have in Christ. That set free from our sins, we no longer live for them, but for others. And having received the life of Christ, we need not find our life and hope in the things of this world, that come and go, that whither and die. And so even if suffering should come our way - if living the Christian life should cost us a higher place in this world, or bring us woe or ridicule and scorn, or cause us not to have or do what everyone else has and does - if this Christian life brings suffering our way, then as St. Paul said, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Or in other words, we rejoice, because we are confident our Father is at work for us, in us, and through us, with his love - the love of the cross.
Peter and the others learned that day that to confess Christ is a costly confession. It is a battle cry against the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. It cost Christ His life, and it may well cost you yours. But if so, you have this promise: that whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. A promise made sure because the victory has already been won. Christ is risen, the devil is defeated, and life is yours. So now is not the time to rest, but to join the struggle and come to the Supper. Now is not the time to rest, but to love - which (you know what?) is hard work. Now is not the time to rest - but that time is coming. When the Son of Man [will] come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels and take you to your rest. So do not give up; do not lose heart; do not be ashamed, but confess - and rejoice that you bear His name.
Now, that last thought should make you pause. It often doesn’t, to our shame. We often take it for granted, I think. The cross. We hear of it so often. We see it so often. Do we think we know it? The words of Jesus in the Holy Gospel for today show that we don’t. For what we heard there is that those whom God chooses in His wondrous, magnificent, mind-boggling grace, He chooses with a cross. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” And isn’t it at that point that we do the Jacob thing, and run away? The Peter thing, and object? The anti-Christ thing, and try to find a way – any way – except through the cross? Uh, thanks, but no thanks.
Because we all have an idea of what the Christian life should be like. For some it is to be victorious over the sin that plagues me. For others it is to set free from troubles and cares. For some it is to live in a state of holy bliss and perfection. For others it is to be successful and satisfied. And for still others, it is to be happy and joyful all the time. And there are lots more. And the common theme in all these pictures is that the cross is great . . . as long as it is on Christ. As long as it is on Him, and not on me.
But that is setting our minds squarely on the things of man and not the things of God. For all of those things are straight from the philosophy of the world. The world which teaches that luxury and ease are good, and suffering and hardship are bad. And so if something causes you to suffer, or causes you hardship, or holds you back, just get rid of it! And so if it’s your marriage, get rid of it! Get a divorce. If it’s your baby, get rid of it! Get an abortion. If it’s an elderly parent, get rid of him! We’ll call it mercy killing. Whatever it is, don’t be held back! And in the name of these gods, these idols of success and convenience, of pleasure and ease, many have also gotten rid of Christ. For if God teaches differently than the way you want to live, just get rid of Him.
Us too? Oh, not intentionally! We would never do such a thing! But by trying to save our lives here and now, trying to be all that we can be, are we selling our souls to climb up the wrong ladder? The corporate ladder, the power ladder, the popularity ladder, the pleasure ladder, the wealth ladder, the praise ladder. These are powerful temptations – for Christians, for churches, for synods. We have a picture in our mind of what our life should look like, and what our Christian life should look like. But in our efforts to achieve this self-imaged picture, are we saving our life, or losing it? Are we bowing our knees to the true God, or one of our own making? “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
But there is another ladder. A ladder God set down into this crazy, mixed-up, hungry world. A way out. Jacob dreamed of it. Christ hung on it. The cross. It is the only way to life. Real life. God’s life. For the cross is how God gives life. His life. Eternal life. There is no other way. For the sin in us and in the world has so robbed us of life that the only way to live is to die! To die and start all over again. We can’t be fixed; we must be resurrected.
And so Jesus comes, to die and rise for us. To break this curse of sin. And He must, for He’s the only One who can. We can’t die and rise ourselves because when we die, that’s it! The end. Kaput. Nothing more. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. . . . But when Jesus dies, it is different. When Jesus dies there isn’t just death, but life. When Jesus dies, dead people come out of their graves! (Mt 27:52) And then He comes out of His grave. And so no longer does life die and death live! Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has put it right again! Life lives, and death dies!
And this He wants for you and me. He doesn’t want your life to die and your death to live, and so Jesus gives to us His cross. Not just any cross, His cross. Not to make us suffer, but to make us live. To kill the old, sinful, idolatrous man in us all, and raise to life a new man. A new Jacob, a new Peter, and new you and me. Because God knows that left on our own, we quickly return to our own, old images of life, and the Christian life. The way we think things should be. And so He gives us His cross, that we may not live to die, but instead die to live. That things be the way He wants them to be!
And that’s why the only thing Satan fears in this world is the cross. He doesn’t fear you and me – he toys with you and me! If we think we can beat him at his own game, you are sadly mistaken. But he knows there is One he cannot defeat. He knew that the sacrifice of the perfect humanity of Jesus would satisfy the demands of the Law and reverse the curse. He knew that the blood and death of the Son of God would cover the world’s sin. He knew that his dirty little lie would be shoved into the pit of hell by Jesus’ “It is finished.” He knew that death and the grave could not contain the Body of Jesus. He knew that his accusing voice would be silenced, sin atoned for, death undone, and his kingdom vanquished. He knew it. But since he couldn’t stop Jesus from His cross and death and resurrection, he’s now come to mess with you. Get you to avoid the cross. Throw it off. Chase your own dreams. Have life on your own terms.
But our Saviour will have none of it! And so just as He rebuked Peter with His “Get behind me, Satan!” so He still rebukes Satan today, here, on your behalf. In Baptism, in Absolution, in His Supper, Jesus is still putting Satan behind Him, driving Him out of his kingdom, crushing his head, forgiving our sins. Putting Himself and His life in us, and putting us in Himself. And laying his cross on us. Not to make us suffer, but that we may live. That we trust Him and not ourselves. That His cross be our cross, His life our life, His kingdom our kingdom. . . . And so Satan hates it when you trust Jesus and cling to His cross. He hates it when you bow your head, confess your sins, and open your mouths to receive the body and blood of Jesus. He hates it because he knows he’s lost. You’re not his. You belong to Life. You are justified, you are sanctified, you are glorified, in your Saviour. Chosen by Him. Given His life. All grace. All gift. Rescued from running the endless treadmill of this life and never getting anywhere, and joined to your Saviour in the life that has no end.
So take up the cross that Jesus has given you. Do not be afraid. Don’t run away, object, doubt, or deny. For if it is from Him, it is good. It may not be what we think, what we have pictured, what all those guys on TV are trying to sell us – because it’s better than all of that! Just ask Jacob and Peter. . . . Dying to live. It sounds funny. But it’s the way of the cross. The way of Jesus. The way of forgiveness and life. The way of grace. His way with you. Amen.
“A Relentless Love”
Text: Mark 8:31-39 (Genesis 28:10-22; Romans 5:1-11)
We hear these words so often that they’ve kind of lost their impact, haven’t they? We’re used to them. They’ve become commonplace. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected . . . and be killed.” After all, we hear that every Sunday! You hear it perhaps every day in your personal devotions. We sang in one of our hymns on Thursday night, “Do we pass that cross unheeding?” Well, yes. Sadly, yes.
But put yourself in Peter’s shoes. It’s always good to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, right? So put yourself in Peter’s shoes for a moment, and imagine if you were hearing those words for the very first time. . . . In the verses right before the Holy Gospel that we heard this evening, Peter made the great confession of who Jesus really was: “You are the Christ!” You’re it! You’re the long-awaited and long-promised Messiah! The One who was promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden after they sinned. The promised prophet greater than Moses. The promised Seed of Abraham who is going to bless all nations. The Redeemer, the King, the One who is going to get us out of this mess! Why, you are God Himself! In the flesh! Peter knew. . . . But then talk about getting hit with a ton of bricks! “And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things . . . and be rejected . . . and be killed.” There’s a kick in the gut!
And so Peter objects! Of course he objects! So would you and I if we had been there! And he rebukes Jesus, with the goal – according to the original Greek word used there – with the goal of preventing it! Of preventing it all. . . . And so Jesus in turn has to rebuke him. “Get behind me, Satan!” . . . Now that shocks some people, that Jesus would call Peter Satan. But think about it, and think about the Holy Gospel that we heard last Sunday. It is Satan’s goal to stop the atonement from happening. It is Satan’s goal to stop Jesus from doing the work He has come to accomplish. Last week, we heard that Satan tried to accomplish that goal by tempting Jesus in the wilderness. But he failed. And so now Satan tries again, but this time using Peter. This time, through a friend, a close associate, someone Jesus would surely listen to, right? Satan wants Jesus to “Just say no!” No to the cross. No to suffering and dying in our place. No, because well, now that you mention it Satan, there must be a better way!
for Jesus to BE Messiah meant precisely that He would go to the cross, shouldering the sin of the human race, stretching out His holy hands to be nailed to the wood, to spill the blood that would cover the sin of our race, and then to die so that Death might die itself, and to rise again in a body incorruptible as the first-born of many brothers and sisters. His is the Name that saves – for baptized into that name we have the fruits of all His bitter sufferings and death given to us as our very life.
It seems that no matter where Jesus goes in the gospel of Mark there is the Devil or one of his henchman tempting, taunting, and terrorizing. Jesus meets him in the wilderness among the wild beasts and defeats him. Jesus runs into him in the synagogue and casts him out. Jesus encounters him in the tombs and sets the man free. He sends them to the swine and drowns Legion in the sea. And every time they meet, every time the [Seed] Son and the Serpent do battle it is always a battle of words. And Jesus’ Words always win because Jesus’ words do what they say, work what He wants, and give what He offers. This morning is no different if you have ears to hear.
What we hear this morning is again a battle of words between Jesus and Satan. “who do men say that I am?” Men say Jesus is a teacher, a prophet, or John the Baptist risen from the dead. Men get it wrong because they do not think the things of God but they think the things of men. The world has the wrong words about Jesus. “Who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ!” Peter gets it right, not because Peter is super smart or super spiritual but because this was revealed to him by the Father in Heaven. Peter gets it right and Peter is blessed. Peter has the right words about who Jesus is and Jesus praises him for it. But there is more to being Christ than Peter understands. The Christ must suffer many things, be rejected by the chief priests and scribes, be killed and on the third day rise from the dead. To be Christ means to be unpopular, persecuted, put to death, and in the end triumph over the enemies of man.
Here, Peter speaks for Satan. Taking Jesus aside Peter has words with Jesus saying, “This will certainly never happen to you.” And all of a sudden Peter gets it wrong. Peter’s voice [parrots] becomes the voice of the Devil because Peter’s words are going against Jesus’ Words. Words that go against Jesus’ words get Jesus’ words wrong. Sure, Peter was praised for know who Jesus is. But Peter is Satan for not knowing what Jesus does. Getting wrong what Jesus does gets everything wrong. Who Jesus is and what Jesus does are intimately linked together for the salvation of the world. Get one wrong, you get the whole thing wrong and you are lost.
Thinking the thoughts of Men
Peter’s mind was not on the things of God but he was thinking the things of men. The things of men are under the dominion of another ruler – they get Jesus wrong because they are not thinking the things of God – because they are not under the dominion of God’s Word. Thinking the things of men is way Old Adam wants to go. This is the way your fallen nature wants to go because this is way that seems right, it’s the way that feels right. This wrong way, this way that seems right and feels right, this way that gets Jesus wrong, is the way we’re all tempted to go if we fail to heed the words of God. The way of the world is the works of the flesh and the works of the flesh are manifold. “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21 ESV) Why such immorality along this way? Because following a Jesus that doesn’t die for sins doesn’t take sin as seriously as Jesus does. And when one doesn’t take sin as seriously as Jesus does such a person doesn’t take Jesus death very seriously either. Sin deserves death. Thinking the thoughts of men, thinking the way of Old Adam, too many of us find ourselves sounding a lot like Peter – while not denying the death and resurrection of Jesus, certainly downplaying what He’s done for us and emphasizing a gentler, kinder,, less offensive, softer side to salvation. Thinking the thoughts of men we prefer to hear about God’s love, how much he loves me, how wonderful I am to Him, how proud He is to call me His own, how he rejoices over me. Thinking the thoughts of men we don’t really want to hear so much about sin, or self-denial, or suffering, and certainly not death, or even resurrection. Those are “messy” “unloving” topics. They offend people. They offend us. They make us uncomfortable and if there’s one thing that we’ll go to great lengths to provide for ourselves its comfort! We want the easy going Jesus. The fun loving Jesus. The never get sick, never suffer or die, kind of Jesus. In truth we want a Jesus that doesn’t do what Jesus says He’s come to do because we know that if we follow such a Jesus we will have to do it too – not for our salvation but simply as the cost of being His disciple.
To Be Christ is to Die and Rise
There is no room for error in Peter’s Words. Though Peter set his words against Jesus privately, Jesus doesn’t keep things private. Too much is at stake. Getting Jesus wrong, either His person or His work is damnable. Jesus’ words to Peter are words to all who would be Jesus’ disciples. And once more Jesus’ words bring clarity to cloudy theology. “GET BEHIND ME SATAN.” Jesus calls it what it is because what it is . . . is demonic. It contrary to God and it’s in the way of Jesus.
Nothing gets in the way of Jesus. He is the Christ and to be Christ means that He is come to save sinners. To save sinners means that Jesus takes sin seriously. He takes your sin seriously. Sin deserves death. Your sin deserves your death. But Jesus doesn’t want you to die. Jesus doesn’t want you to pay for your sins. Jesus doesn’t want you to offer even one drop of your blood, one prayer of your piety, one utterance of praise. He doesn’t want you to decide. He doesn’t want you to try harder. He doesn’t want you to have your best life now or to make every effort to improve your relationship with Him. That is all of the thoughts of men and therefore demonic. Jesus wants you to repent and believe the gospel.
And the gospel is that Jesus takes away your sins. He who knew no sin becomes sin so that you can become the righteousness of God. Taking away your sins, becoming sin itself, cannot survive the justice of God. Sin deserves death. Therefore Jesus dies – not for Himself, for the sins He carries are not His own but yours. He dies for your sins. He dies for the world’s sins. He is not ashamed to take up His cross and carry this burden. He is moved by love, love for God who sent Him and love for you who need Him. Love leads Him to the cross. Love stretches out His arms, bares His back, and offers His brow. Love is set in place with nails and poured out upon the earth in blood. Love gives everything to save you, to forgive you, to redeem you not with gold or silver, but His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Love dies and Love rises on the third day because God is love and nothing triumphs over God, not sin, not death, not devil, nothing!
Thinking the thoughts of God
Love is not ashamed to draw near sinners. Jesus has come for sinners not saints, for the sick, not the well, for the unrighteous not the holy. He’s left the 99 to seek out the lost one. He’s lit His lamp and searches the whole house, every corner of the globe to find you. He watches for insolent and ungrateful sons to abandon the pig slop and come home. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways. That’s why we need Him to save us, because we cannot save ourselves. We can’t think our way out of sin. We can’t work our way out sin. We can’t feel our way out of sin. We need our minds to be renewed. We need our hearts to be regenerated. We need our souls to be redeemed.
The Words of Jesus give such things to those who believe on His Name. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:14.) If anyone is in Christ he or she isn’t supposed to be the same as they were before Christ. To be the same is to remain in sin thinking the thoughts of me. To be in Christ means to be different than the ways of men. To be in Christ means to not be “conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewal of your minds that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2 ESV) To be in Christ means to be regenerated by the washing of renewal and the Holy Spirit whom He’s poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ.” (Titus 3:5) To be in Christ means to be “redeemed from the earth for God and for the Lamb” (Revelation 14:3-4).
Therefore, as a Christian your desire will be for the Lord and not for sin. Sin will no longer have dominion over you. Satan will no longer have dominion over you. Your own passions and lusts will no longer have dominion over you. Yes, you will still sin, but such sin is not to rule you. When sin is given to rule over you then you will have returned to your vomit and abandoned your Lord. In all things be penitent and believe the gospel. Return to the Lord your God and He will shower you with steadfast love and mercy. Do not take sin lightly but rejoice in Him who calls you to die with Him and to rise with Him.
To be Christian is Follow Christ
Beloved in the Lord, this is what it means to be Christian. It is not only to believe but it is also to work. It is not only to know who Jesus is but also to know and believe what He’s done for you. It is not only to confess your sin but also to take up your cross and follow Him, denying yourself, your desires, passions, and lusts. To be Christian means to be little christs. It is your identity given you as a gift in baptism. It is who you are and because it is who you are it is also what you do. What you do is a reflection of who you are. And Faith without works is dead. You are not dead but you are alive in Christ by grace through faith. Faith in Christ and His Word makes you Christian, and good works; bearing the cross, suffering for the Name, loving your neighbor, avoiding sin are the outward marks of the inward renewal and working of the Holy Spirit. Therefore let your light shine before men, beloved. And let all give glory to God alone. AMEN!
The cost of discipleship. . .
It seems pretty darn arrogant for Peter to tell Jesus He was wrong. The Kingdom of God ain't gonna come by betrayal, suffering, cross, and death. It might have been Peter attempting to protect Jesus but it was more than foolish. It was satanic and earned Peter a swift rebuke from Jesus. Could it be that there is the same bit of Satan in us that Jesus must also cast aside?
No, I don't mean we want to prevent Jesus from suffering and dying on our behalf. I am talking about the rest of what Jesus said. "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me... and lose his life for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel..." We are not as concerned with what happens to Jesus as we are what happens to us. Jesus can go and do what He must but the way of the cross, suffering, self-denial, and service is not my plan.
"If any would come after Me, let him deny himself..." These are the hard words of the Gospel. It is great to receive but it is not so great when receiving comes with consequences. Here Jesus calls us to self-denial – to deny that we are large and in charge of our lives, that we can handle everything that happens to us all by ourselves, that we are basically good and slip up only now and again. Self-denial does not begin with giving up little things we like, it means surrendering our independence because all it has earned us is death and despair.
The call of Christ is to surrender what matters to most of us – our very selves, our lives, and our happiness. You cannot have it all – not God and mammon, not your way and His way. Don't blame me, this is Jesus talking. You cannot love your self, and seek the things that appeal to your happiness and pleasure and be a follower of Christ. It is not Christ AND what I want but Christ alone. So precious is the Gospel as a treasure that we give up every other treasure for it. Even our very selves.
You have no glory. Sin has stolen every glory you were created to enjoy and the devil has left you alone in your sin, alone in your guilt and shame, powerless to do what is good and right, and impotent before the enemy death. No, the only glory we can hope to have is the glory Jesus gives us, the glory He gave to us in our baptism, and the glory we grasped by faith.
If any would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me... But what cross must we take up? Though we usually think of problems in life or problem people in our lives, these are not our crosses. No matter how hard your spouse is to live with or your job is to work or your finances to balance, these are not your crosses. The cross is not your choosing nor is it a consequence of living in a sinful and fallen world. The cross is the shape of Jesus' own cross lived out in the domain of your own daily life and work.
Peter pulls Jesus aside and begins to rebuke Jesus. “No, that’s not the program. Enough of this loser talk. We didn’t leave the fishing business for this. We thought we were in on the ground floor of the kingdom. Suffering and dying aren’t part of the kingdom building agenda.”
That wasn’t Peter talking. That was the diabolical voice last heard in the wilderness, tempting Jesus not to be the suffering Son of God. Now he tempts Jesus through one of His own, the chief of His disciples. “Get behind me, Satan. You do not have in mind God things but man things.”
A cross-less Christ. That’s what the devil wants. No suffering servant stuff. No bloody sacrifice. No vicarious atonement. Power and glory and fame and celebrity. That’s the satanic way. It’s also man’s way. Our way. The way of the winners. Not the cross. Crosses are shameful. Losers hang on crosses. Resurrections are cool, but there’s a catch: you have to die first. No Easter without Good Friday, not matter how hard some Christians try to have it that way.
I need to hear the same rebuke. It is easy for me to try to reshape Jesus into something I like. It is just as easy for me to distance myself from him, because he doesn’t follow my designs. I need to understand this is the work of the devil.
Older people – rolodex
Middle age – database
Younger – cloud
Satan knows your sin. He doesn’t want you to give up your sin. Get behind me, Jesus.
God knows my sin. He knows how corrupt my heart is. God sees the sins that most in the world would deem “little” and the big nasty sins of my past. God knows my sin. God knows my sin so well he sent his son, Jesus Christ to take all my sins to the cross. He does not want me to give into sin but fight against it. The Holy Spirit comes daily to strengthen me and help me fight my sin. The Word of God is my weapon of truth which declares me not guilty because of Jesus Christ. God knows my sin. Through the preaching and teaching of the law even I know my sin. My human brain can’t understand the deepness of my corruption. God shows us great mercy in this manner as the knowledge of total corruption would surely lead many into deep despair. The law is written on our hearts to bring us to repentance and faith alone in Jesus Christ. God knows our sins but because of Jesus Christ he isn’t keeping track.
The devil on the other hand is keeping track. He remembers when I was a kid and disobeyed my parents. He remembers when I was a teenager and would go out with friends at night to wreak havoc on the streets of my hometown. He remembers my college years when I fell deep into sin. He enjoyed watching me live for myself and my sinful pleasures. The church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ were nowhere to be seen in my life. My college years were the easiest years for him. I was not fighting him and telling him where to go. I was not proclaiming “I’m baptized into Christ!” I was not hearing the Word of God which shows me my sin and teaches me of the forgiveness I have in Jesus. I was not eating and drinking the true body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of my faith. Now things are a little more difficult on him but he still doesn’t have to work too hard.
The devil’s knowledge of our sin is so great that he easily tempts and teases us with past, present and even future sins. The devil knows sin, how to minimize it and how to emphasize it. He uses the same old tricks, lies and deception to bring baptized Christians fear and worry. He goes back to our rolodex of sin. “What can I tempt Nathan with today?” “If lusting after women won’t get him then worrying about his health sure will.” “What about coveting his neighbor’s house or car maybe?” “Nathan – Jesus Christ can’t cover all those sinful thoughts in your head.” In this fallen sinful world, I will always be an easy target for the devil. My sinful flesh wants to keep doing what I do best, sin. I sometimes think the devil sees believers in Jesus as a challenge or the ones that got away. He kicks it up a notch and brings out his best tricks. While the devil still tempts me with more cunning and ingenuity, I don’t need his help to sin. We are all sinners till the day we die, with or without the devils constant interference.
The problem the devil has now and forever is he has nothing to say against Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was not tempted by him. Jesus Christ was without sin and the devil hates it. The devil sits at his desk looking at Jesus’ empty rolodex and steams. It pisses him off. It pisses him off even more knowing the fact that your rolodex of sin is now empty because of Jesus Christ. Nathan Redman’s rolodex says Jesus Christ. Your rolodex says Jesus Christ. The devil will continue to attack us all but those attacks have no foundation or merit. Our foundation and merit are based solely in Jesus Christ. The devil can lie and tempt all he wants; we are baptized, forgiven children of God because of our Savior Jesus Christ. All the corrupt work of the devil can’t change that fact. So the next time the devil tempts and lies to you about your sin just remember whose rolodex of sin our salvation is based on. The devil can take your rolodex back to Office Depot for a refund because the grace of God in Jesus Christ declares us not guilty.