A Manual For Discipleship

 

Disciples – “Who Do You Say That I Am?”

 

In Matthew 16 we come to the most important of all questions for the disciple, that question, from Jesus, is, “who do you say that I am?”  (16:15). The gospel, salvation, discipleship, and the entirety of the Christian faith, all depend on how that question is answered.

 

Before Jesus points that question personally at the disciples, He asks a broader question, “Who do men say that I am?” (16:13). In addition to these two questions, there are two more that we will consider in this chapter. These other two questions are: How do we come to know Christ? And, What do we do with Jesus when we acknowledge Him as Christ? Let’s consider these questions.

 

Who Do Men Say That I Am?

 

Matthew 16:13 - When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”  [1]

 

This question opens the door for us to consider a number of beliefs about Jesus which are common to people. There are seven views of Christ we can glean from this chapter and each except for one represents a certain faulty perspective on who Jesus is. Let’s consider who some people say Jesus is.

 

First, some say Jesus is merely a miracle worker who titillates our interests.

 

Matthew 16:1-4 – “Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. 2He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; 3“and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. 4“A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.”  [2]

 

In Matthew 14 Jesus fed 5,000 plus people with five loaves of bread and two fish (14:13-21). In Matthew chapter 15, Jesus fed 4,000 plus people with seven loaves of bread and a “few little fish” (15:32-39). Each of these miraculous mass feedings were preceded by miraculous healing ministry by Jesus (14:14; 15:29-31). All of these miracles of Jesus were done in public, out in the open. This is the context in which the opening verse of Matthew 16 states,  “Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.”  [3] Another “sign”? Why did they come seeking still another sign? Weren’t the various miracles Jesus did enough for these religious people? First, the reason that the Pharisees and Sadducees came looking for another sign was probably due in part to a tradition they held to. Pastor Chuck Smith comments on this saying:

 

‘The Pharisees believed that it was possible for Satanic powers to show signs on the earth because you’re dealing in Satan’s realm here on the earth. But they believed that a sign from heaven could only be wrought by God. Now He had just fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish, He had fed the 4,000 with seven loaves and a few fish, and you say, what do you mean asking for a sign? These were earthly things and they believed that these were in the realm of demonic powers and you remember they had suggested that He was doing His miracles by the power of Satan, by Beelzebub [Matthew 12:22-30]. So asking for the sign from heaven, some kind of a lightning bolt or some kind of heavenly sign would then indicate that His power was from God.”  [4]

 

The point here is that they were seeking to have Jesus jump through the hoops of their human tradition. Jesus didn’t come to perform; He came to preach the gospel! Jesus didn’t come to earth to operate a three-ring circus. Jesus is not One to merely titillate our senses with miracles. Those who seek Him emphasizing the miraculous are shallow like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

 

Second, some say Jesus is merely concerned with material needs.

 

Matthew 16:5-12 – “Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” 7And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.” 8But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? 9“Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 10“Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 11“How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  [5]

 

In these verses Jesus is trying to warn the disciples about a dangerous doctrinal deception of the Pharisees and Sadducees that could pollute their faith. But the disciples are so caught up in the material realm that they initially miss the point being made by Jesus. What did Jesus mean by using the word “leaven”? And what is the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees?

 

The meaning of “leaven”

 

“Leaven” is used as a type of sin. We see this in the following verses:

 

·         1 Corinthians 5:6-7 – “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”  [6] See also Galatians 5:1-9).

 

Just as a small portion of leaven or yeast causes dough to rise, so too, it only takes a small amount of sin to infect the believer. Sin is like cancer, it only takes a small cancer cell to be present and that small cell then multiplies out of control to infect the entire body, and if left untreated the consequence can be devastating.

 

The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

 

What is the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? In Luke’s parallel account it states:

 

·         Luke 12:1 - “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”  [7]

 

The Pharisees and Sadducees were always putting on a show for those around them. Their leaven involved presenting yourself as something that you are not. In other words they were play-acting religion.

 

The Pharisees were the legalists of their day who had constructed a body of human traditions that interpreted the Law of God (i.e. the Mishnah) creating a web of ceremony that only they could figure out. The Sadducees were the liberals of their day, they didn’t believe in miracles or the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees and Sadducees focused on the material and temporal aspects of reality. Jesus emphasized the spiritual and eternal aspects of reality. The religious leaders were superficial, Jesus was substantial. The religious leaders were concerned with the external and outward performance of things; Jesus was concerned with the heart and one’s faith. The religious leaders lived by law; Jesus came to bring grace (John 1:18). The religious leaders sought for a sign, Jesus wanted people to recognize the Spirit I what He did.

 

When we boil this down to the root problem what we come up with is spiritual blindness. Jesus had referred to the spiritual blindness of the religious leaders earlier when He said:

 

·         Matthew 15:14 – “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” [8]

 

You see, this spiritual blindness is what the disciples were in danger of falling into. When Jesus spoke of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, He was speaking of their spiritual state, not bread. We are all in a spiritual battle. Those who are unsaved are locked into the self-preoccupation and self-serving nature that the Bible refers to as “the flesh.” Those who are saved have a battle within them of the Spirit against the flesh. The flesh of humankind is always trying to seat itself on the throne of the heart. And this creates all kinds of trouble.

 

Spirit versus flesh

 

The Bible states that in the “flesh,” the sinful human nature of people, there is no good thing:

 

  • Romans 7:18 – “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”  [9]

The flesh in humankind is ultimate spin-meister. The flesh puts a spin on things to put the self in a positive light. The flesh is self-serving, self-centered, self-centered. The only way to overcome the flesh in us is through the Spirit in us that enters us at conversion. We will discuss this more later, but suffice it to say with Paul:

  • Galatians 5:16 – “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”  [10]

 

Spiritual Discernment

 

In order for a person to understand Jesus, they have to receive what the Spirit reveals to them. The Pharisees and Sadducees, and many of the people of Jesus day were not willing to do this. An example of the need for spiritual discernment is found in the gospel of John.

 

In John’s gospel account, when Jesus spoke of Himself as bread to eat, the religious argued about what He meant (John 6:22-59). Later Jesus explains the need to allow the Spirit to enlighten one’s understanding when He said:

 

  • John 6:63 – “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”  [11]

 

There is no way you can understand Jesus unless you are open to and aided by the Holy Spirit. Our “flesh” (i.e. self-reliance, human understanding, human reason), will just not cut it. Read the words of Paul who explains this further by saying:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 – “But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”10But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”  [12]

 

Therefore, by warning the disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, He is exhorting the disciples to rely on the Spirit not their flesh to understand. This is an essential truth for the disciple.

 

Third, some say Jesus is merely a good social worker

 

Matthew 16:14a – “So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, . . . .”   [13]

 

John the Baptist had been beheaded for standing up to Herod over an immoral social injustice (Matthew 14:1-12). Some evidently thought Jesus, who had fed more than 4,000 and 5,000 on tow occasions, was merely interested in meeting the social and material needs of people. While Jesus is concerned with social justice such as feeding the poor and helping the weak, but His primary purpose in coming to earth is not social justice. Jesus is far more than a social worker, He is a Savior.

 

Fourth, some say Jesus is a powerful reformer broker

 

Matthew 16:14b – “So they said, “Some say . . . Elijah,”  [14]

 

Elijah was revered in Jewish history as one of the most if not the most powerful of prophets (see 1 Kings 17-19). It was Elijah who God used to powerfully defeat the prophets of Baal. It was Elijah who restored the widow’s son. It was Elijah who was taken up to heaven in a flaming chariot. Elijah was powerful and did powerful miracles. And it was Elijah who called king Ahab and the people of Israel to reform their ways and choose whom they would serve, Baal, or God. But Jesus is more than merely a powerful prophetic reformer. We need more than reformation, we need regeneration! Jesus is our Savior.

 

Fifth, some say Jesus is merely a prophet

 

Matthew 16:14c – “So they said, “others say Jeremiah”   [15]

 

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet who God used to reach out to a nation gone astray. Jeremiah was one of the most revered prophets of old. He spoke of the empty hearts of the people of God and how they had put their trust in broken cisterns that held no water. He spoke of a new covenant. But as good and powerful a prophet as he was, Jeremiah was still only a sinful man. Jesus was far more than a mere prophet, than a mere man, He was God in the flesh.

 

Sixth, some say Jesus is a cross-less Christ

 

Matthew 16:21-23 – “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” 23But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”    [16]

 

As we will see in a moment, Peter had just a short time ago proclaimed that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  (16:16). But no sooner had he been the conduit for this mighty revelation, he relied on his flesh and was influenced by Satan to denounce the mission of Jesus. Jesus “must” go to the cross. Without the cross there is no salvation. Peter did not understand this vital truth at this point. But sadder still, is that people today do not understand this as well. There is no Christ without the cross!

 

In our age of tolerance we have stepped over the line of reason to the point where all views of reality are given the same validity. I am all for freedom of speech and expression of belief, but that does not mean that I accept that there are no absolutes. I tolerate the expression of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and even cultic teachings; I do not resort to coercion or force to get people to believe the way I do. But what I do, is present Jesus, the way, the truth, the life, and let the Spirit break down all other arguments leaving Jesus the Christ standing as superior to all others. It is the cross and resurrection that puts Jesus in a class of His own.  No other belief system deals adequately with the sin and guilt that human kind have. Only Jesus does that. Jesus is not a cross-less Christ; He is Christ who gained victory through the cross.

 

Seventh, Jesus is the Christ, Savior of the world.

 

Matthew 16:15-20 – “ He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19“And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.”  [17]

 

Someone has said:

 

“If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.” 

 

Jesus directed His question to the disciples and it was Peter, inspired by the Spirit, who proclaimed the foundational truth of Christianity, “YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.” This is the rock foundation upon the church of Jesus is built.

 

“You are the Christ. . .”

 

What exactly was Peter saying when he made this proclamation based on a realization from the revelation of God? First of all Peter was identifying Jesus as the Messiah who was promised through prophesy of the Old Testament. More than 300 Old Testament prophecies, given hundreds of years in advance, (some over 800 years in advance - ! - such as those in Isaiah) were fulfilled by Jesus. When Peter identified Jesus as, “the Christ,” the word “Christ” is translated from the New Testament Greek term CHRISTOS (Strong’s’ #5547) meaning “anointed one,” and which is parallel to the Old Testament term for the Messiah which is MASHIYACH (Strong’s #4899) which means “anointed.” The Messiah of the Old Testament was a particular figure identified and promised in God’s word. The Old Testament contains prophecies of Messiah as both King (Psalms 2:6-8; 68:18; 118:22; Isaiah 9:6-7; 32:1-3; 42:1-4; Jeremiah 23:5; Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 6:12-13; 9:9-10; Malachi 3:1) and Suffering Servant (Genesis 3:15; Psalm 22:18; 69:21; Isaiah 50:6; 52:14; 53:1-10; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 11:12; 12:10; 13:7). The political climate of the day with the Romans ruling over the Jews lent itself to the religious leaders and people to focus on the kingly aspect of Messiah and not the suffering servant aspect. Because the people were caught up in the Messiah they envisioned, they missed out on the Messiah Jesus who came to suffer for their sins. But not Peter, he responded to the Divine revelation of the heavenly Father and confessed Jesus as “Christ.”

 

The importance of understanding that that Jesus is the Christ prophesied in the Old Testament is seen in that it is a central focus of the message of the early church. Look at the following verses from Acts and see the centrality of Jesus as the Messiah, particularly the Christ foretold in the Old Testament:

 

  • Acts 2:29-31 - “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.30 “Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,31 “he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.”  [18]
  • Acts 3:18-21 - “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.19 “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,20 “and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,21 “whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”  [19]
  • Acts 5:42 – “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”  [20]
  • Acts 9:20-22 – “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”  [21]
  • Acts 17:1-4 – “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.”4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.”  [22]
  • Acts 18:5,27-28 – “When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. . . . 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace;28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”  [23]

Later in the New Testament we see that one’s salvation is dependent upon recognizing the Spirit given revelation of Jesus as the Christ foretold in the Old Testament. Indeed, to deny Jesus as the Christ, is to be like antichrist in nature:

  • 1 John 2:22 – “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”  [24]
  • 1 John 5:1-5 – “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  [25]

As the Christ, Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the One who died on the cross in place of sinners to pay the penalty for sin and make a way by grace through faith to receive forgiveness of sin and enter into eternal life. That’s what it meant to be the Christ.

 

“You are . . . the Son of the Living God”

 

When Peter adds, “the Son of the Living God,” he is not making a general statement as though Jesus were just one of many sons of the Living God. No, Peter uses the definite article “the Son of the Living God.” Jesus was THE Son of the Living God, the unique, unequalled, and special Son of the Living God.

 

The Pulpit Commentary gives the following remarks concerning this verse and Peter’s confession:

 

“Herein Peter acknowledges Jesus to be the true Messiah, commissioned and sent by God to reveal his will to man, and accomplishing all that the prophets had foretold concerning him; no mere man, not even the most exalted of men (which common opinion held Messiah to be) but the Son of God, of the substance of the Father, begotten from everlasting, God of God, perfect God and perfect man, Son of God and Son of man. Such was Peter’s faith. The Church has added nothing to it, though she has amplified and explained and illustrated it in her Creeds; for it comprises belief in Christ’s Messiahship, Divinity, Incarnation, personality, and the momentous issues depending thereon. We need not suppose that Peter understood all this or speculated on the question how these several attributes were united in Christ. He was content to accept and acknowledge the truth, waiting patiently for further light. This is the attitude which Christ approves.” [26]

 

Everyone needs Jesus

 

An unknown author has written a poem-like piece that depicts the Savior Jesus. Jesus is the missing piece to the puzzle of every person’s life. Jesus is the answer, the truth to every life question. Jesus is the way to eternal life and victory over death. Jesus is God. The poem reads:

 

Mary and Joseph were told to call His name "Jesus" which means "Savior."  But far too few do not see Him as such today.  To so many Jesus is like Washington, Lincoln or some other VIP that we celebrate and get a day off work because of.  But in the Scripture He is seen in so many ways.

 

In Genesis He is the seed of woman.

In Exodus He is the Lamb for sinners slain.

In Leviticus He is the High Priest.

In Numbers He is the Star of

David and the Brass Serpent.

In Ezra He is the Lord of Heaven and earth.

In Lamentations He is the Man of sorrows.

In Amos He is the Eternal Christ.

In Malachi He is the Son of Righteousness.

 

He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, The Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Rock of Ages, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

 

To the artist He is the one altogether lovely.

To the architect He is the chief cornerstone,

To the baker He is the Living bread,

To the banker He is the hidden treasure.

To the builder He is the sure foundation.

To the doctor He is the great physician.

To the educator He is the great teacher.

To the farmer He is the sower and the Lord of the harvest.

To the florist He is the Lilly of the valley and the Rose of Sharon.

To the geologist He is the Rock of ages.

To the judge He is the righteous judge.

To the lawyer He is the counselor, lawgiver and advocate.

To the newspaperman He is the good tidings of great joy.

To the philanthropist He is the unspeakable gift.

To the philosopher He is the wisdom of God.

To the preacher He is the Living Word of God.

 

To every man, woman, boy and girl He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, without whom there is no hope of everlasting life.

 

Who is Jesus? Jesus is God in the Flesh, touchable, personal, and real

 

Who is Jesus? Jesus is God in the flesh. What makes Jesus superior to every other religious figure in history is that He is God in the flesh. We have seen that Peter’s declaration on the identity of Christ and his use of the definite articles “the” show that he was beginning to recognize the uniqueness of Jesus. But just how unique is Jesus? The Bible tells us quite clearly that Jesus is God in the flesh. Where does it say this? Look at the following representative verses in this regard:

 

  • John 1:1-2,14 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God. . . . 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  [27]

Jesus exists eternally as the second Person of the Triune Godhead (The Father is the first Person, the Holy Spirit is the third Person). It was Jesus who presents us with the personal revelation of God. In Jesus God became touchable, personal, and real. Jesus was, is and ever will be the answer to those who claim God to be distant, far off, unreachable, and unknowable. Read some of the things Jesus said that confirm this truth:

 

  • John 10:30,37-38 - “I and My Father are one.”. . . 37 “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;38 “but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”  [28]
  • John 12:45 -  “And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.”  [29]
  • John 14:7-10 - “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.”  [30]

Who is Jesus? Jesus is equal with God.

The Bible tells us that Jesus equal in glory with the Father, He is eternally blessed, and all the fullness of God dwells in Him. We see this in the following verses:

  • John 17:5 -  “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”  [31]
  • Romans 9:5 – “of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”  [32]
  • Colossians 2:9 – “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;”  [33]

Jesus gave up temporarily His position in heaven to save humankind (Philippians 2:1-11). But this did not diminish His divinity. In fact, only God could do what Jesus did. Only God could love the way He did in and through Jesus.

When we look at the Bible as a whole inductively, we see that Yahweh in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament have parallel and equal attributes. Yahweh is referred to as “Creator” (Job 33:4; Isaiah 40:28) as is Jesus (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). Yahweh is referred to as the “First and the Last,” (Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12) as is Jesus (Revelation 1:17; 2:8; 22:13). Yahweh is referred to as “I AM,” (Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 43:10; Deuteronomy 32:39) as is Jesus John 8:24, 58; 13:19). Yahweh is referred to as “Judge,” (Joel 3:12; Romans 14:10) as is Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1).  Yahweh is referred to as, ”King,” (Psalm 47; Isaiah 44:6-8; Jeremiah 10:10) as is Jesus, (Matthew 2:2; Luke 23:3; John 19:21). Yahweh is referred to as, “Light,” (Psalm 27:1; Isaiah 60:20; 1 John 1:5), as is Jesus (John 8:12; Luke 2:32; John 1:7-9). Yahweh is referred to as the, “Rock,” (Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Samuel 22:32 and Isaiah 17:10) as is Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:6-8). Yahweh is referred to as, “Savior,” (Isaiah 43:3; 45:21) as is Jesus (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). And Yahweh is referred to as, “Shepherd,” (Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:11) as is Jesus (John 10:11,14,16; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25). These verses all attest to the equality of Jesus with God. Jesus always was, is and ever shall, be God.

Who is Jesus? He is God our Savior who reconciles us.

Because every sin committed is a sin against God, God hates sin. God hates sin because sin leads to pain, hurt, suffering and separation of His beloved creation from Him. Humankind on their own was, is and always will be helpless to solve the problem of sin (see Ephesians 2:1-10). But God has taken the initiative to reconcile humankind to Himself by solving the problem of sin through Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”:

 

  • 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 – “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  [34]

In Christ, God took the initiative in reconciling the world to Himself. That is pure grace! God was offended; He was, is and ever will be in a position to righteously judge sinners. But rather than terminate humanity, He came to our world and worked out a way for His justice, holiness and love to be satisfied so that reconciliation could occur. He did this in Christ on the cross and the resurrection proves the cross to be acceptable to Him and victorious over sin and the result of sin, death.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Heir of all things, the KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS.

The Bible refers to Jesus as “first born.” This is not to imply, (as Jehovah’s Witnesses wrongly interpret) that Jesus was created, no, Jesus as “first born” is entitled to rule over all things. Jesus is therefore, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS as the following verses attest:

 

  • Colossians 1:15 – “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”  [35]
  • Hebrews 1:1-3 – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”  [36]
  • Revelation 19:16 – “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”  [37]

These are only a small sampling of verses that attest to the deity of Jesus Christ. There are scores of other verses that attest to Jesus’ deity, as well as parallels between Jesus and the Father,  Divine names given to Jesus, His Divine attributes, and other statements associating Jesus with being God. Jesus is God in the flesh; He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Who Or What Is The “rock”?

 

The Roman Catholic Church interprets this passage to mean that Jesus was establishing Peter above the other apostles as the “rock” and thereby setting in place him as the first pope in a line of successive popes descended from Peter. There are a number of problems with this interpretation. First, if Peter is the “rock” upon which the church were to be built, that rock seems pretty shaky a few lines on in the passage when Jesus rebukes him for having fallen prey to the deception of Satan who moved him to denounce the necessity of the cross mission of Jesus. And if one argues that Peter had yet to experience Pentecostal experience and that is why he fell the way he did, well, that does not explain how Paul had to rebuke Peter to his face for backsliding into Jewish legalism after Pentecost (see Galatians 2).

 

The name “Peter” (Greek – PETROS – Strong’s #4074) means, “(piece of) rock” [38] the term Jesus uses when He says, “upon this rock,” is PETRA (Strong’s #4073), which means, “a (mass of) rock.”  [39] Now Peter may have been as dense in understanding as a rock, but he is not the rock that Jesus intended to build His church upon. No, rather, the “rock” upon which Jesus would build His church was and is THE DECLARATION BY PETER THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.

 

Jesus alone is the foundation of the church, as Paul was inspired to write:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 3:11 – “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  [40]

 

The foundation of the church is the declaration of who Jesus is, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. That is what God aimed to reveal through Jesus Christ His Son. And that truth is the solid and certain foundation of the disciple’s life.

 

That “the rock” refers to Peter’s divinely inspired declaration and not to Peter himself is further attested to by an earlier passage in the gospel of Matthew. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus closes with this illustration:

 

  • Matthew 7:24-27 - “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”   [41]

This is the crux of the message of the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus gave.  Notice that “the rock” that Jesus refers to here are, “these sayings of Mine.” Jesus here uses “the rock” to illustrate or show the importance of His declarations in His teaching. This supports the interpretation of Him using the reference to the “rock” in Matthew 16:16 to refer to Peter’s Divinely inspired declaration.  The rock upon which Jesus would build His church is the proclamation that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and when we take Him at His word, we build our lives on a rock steady and secure foundation.

 

“I will build My church”

 

Jesus said, “on this rock I will build My church.”  Those are comforting words to the pastor friend. Those words take the pressure off of the minister and disciple because Jesus has stated He will build His church. The church belongs to Jesus not to any one person or any one organization or denomination. And He has said that He will do the building. He builds His church by the Holy Spirit who works in and through the people of the church by way of the teaching of God’s word, fellowship of believers, worship and prayer (see Acts 2:42). Jesus is the One who adds to the church, who builds the church as testified to by the following verses:

 

  • Acts 2:47b – “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”  [42]
  • Acts 9:31 – “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”  [43]
  • Acts 11:21 – “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.”  [44]
  • 1 Corinthians 3:5-11 – “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  [45]

Disciple, remember always that the growth and health of the church depends on Jesus primarily. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed with the thought that the church depends upon you. You can’t lay a foundation other than that of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You are no match for Him. Give the ministry to Him and let Him work in and through you (Romans 12:1-2).

“And the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

The place where Jesus brought His disciples to ask the question of His identity and to make His remarks was Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea Philippi is located southwest of Mount Hermon where a spring serves as the source of the Jordan River. The spring flows out of a cave at the base of a massive rock formation that forms a huge cliff and serves to make the area beautifully lush in vegetation. This is one of the most beautiful places in the Holy Land.

In 20 B.C. Herod the Great built and dedicated a temple to Augustus Caesar in this location. After Herod’s death, his son Philip enlarged the temple and named the area Caesarea. It was then named Caesarea Philippi to distinguish it from the prominent seacoast city of Caesarea located on the Mediterranean coast. Today the area of Caesarea Philippi is called Banyeas, a modern Arabic derivation of Panyeas.

In the Old Testament it states that there was a shrine dedicated to Baal located here (Joshua 11:17). When the Greeks invaded the Land they set up a shrine to the god Pan. Pan was the god of nature and the Greeks called the place Paneas (i.e. the city of Pan). Pan was a goat-headed god that was then and continues today to be closely associated with Satan. Pan was believed to dwell in the dark cave at the base of this rock formation. Worship of Pan very possibly included human sacrifice and definitely did include animal sacrifice. When the blood of the sacrifice flowed down the stream from the cave it showed Pan had accepted the offering. Pan was a frightening god and it is from this pagan deity that we get our English word “panic.”

What makes this pagan shrine pertinent to the student of the Bible and disciple of Jesus is that the entrance to the shrine of Pan at the base of the rocky area was called, “the gates of Hades.” Perhaps the pagan worshipers viewed this as the entrance to the underworld, (“Hades” refers to the abode of the dead, the dark unseen netherworld – Strong’s #86 HADES). Therefore, when Jesus told Peter and the disciples that “the gates of Hades will not prevail against” the church, He very possibly was pointing or at least alluding to the satanic pagan god and all the evil it represented.

There are a host of Bible verses which speak of Christ’s defeat of satanic forces and the disciple’s power in Christ over these forces. Below are just a few:

  • Romans 16:20 – “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”  [46]
  • Hebrews 2:14-15 – “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”  [47]
  • 1 John 3:8 – “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”  [48]
  • 1 John 4:4 – “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”  [49]

The gates of Hades

 

What Are The “keys of the kingdom of heaven”?

 

What was Jesus talking about when He spoke of, “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”? First, we need to ask, what is a key? A key is something used to unlock a door. Jesus referred to Himself as “the Door”:

 

  • John 10:1-9 - “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4“And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5“Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.7Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8“All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”  [50]

 

The disciples held the “key” to opening the truth about Jesus “the Door.” But there is a particular sense here in which Peter alone was given the keys.

 

Dave Hunt makes the following comment here:

 

“The promise ‘I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, . . .’ was given to Peter individually, the singular ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ making this clear. . . . The only unique actions by Peter which could be associated with opening the kingdom to anyone were on the day of Pentecost and at the home of the Roman centurion Cornelius. These were historic occasions on which Peter undoubtedly used the ‘keys of the kingdom’: one key to open the kingdom through the gospel to the Jews (Acts 2:14-41) and the other key to open the kingdom to the Gentiles (Acts 10:34-38). . . . Obviously these keys given to Peter by Christ, one for the Jews and the other for the Gentiles, needed to be used only once. The door of the kingdom having been opened to all mankind, the ‘keys’ had served their purpose. The Roman Catholic Church, however, teaches that the ‘keys’ bestowed a unique and lasting authority upon Peter, which then passed on to his alleged successors, the popes. There is no support for this belief either in Scripture or in history. Peter never again used the ‘keys’ during his lifetime. Obviously, having served their purpose, they were no longer needed. Nor is there a word about Peter’s alleged successors or subsequent use of the ‘keys.’” [51]

 

The keys Jesus gave to Peter had no magical power. Some who are more pharisaic in their perspective might be inclined to adopt such an interpretation, but the keys were used to shine the truth of the glory of God in Christ when Peter open the door of Jesus to the Jews and Gentiles of this world. Now whoever desires may walk into a saving relationship with Jesus.

 

What is Binding and Loosing?

 

In 16:19 it refers to “binding,” and “loosing.” What is “binding,” and “loosing”? First, we need to understand that this was not an authority given only to Peter since later in Matthew it is given by Jesus to all the disciples (see Matthew 18:18). I believe this refers to the spiritual battle we, as disciples are involved in. To “bind” refers to the calling upon God to bind Satan and his culprits from having influence in ministry. A verse that would support this comes from Jesus own words where He stated:

 

·         Matthew 12:28-29 - “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29“Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”  [52]

 

We should always precede ministry by praying for God to bind the strong man Satan so that we can minister undeterred.

 

“Loosing,” likely refers to the liberation by God of those held captive by Satan. Paul expressed this as his call form God when he stated:

 

·         Acts 26:18 – “‘to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’”  [53]

 

Elsewhere it states:

 

·         Ephesians 6:11-13 – “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  [54]

 

·         1 John 3:8 – “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”  [55]

 

The binding and loosing seems to best be explained in terms of the spiritual warfare the disciple encounters in ministry. We bind and loose in the spiritual battle by the power of God not our own power (Romans 16:20; Ephesians 6:10-18; James 4:7; 1 John 4:4).

 

How Do We Come To Know Christ?

 

We have seen six false views of Jesus and the one rock true foundational truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But how does someone come to know this truth about Jesus? The only way to come to an understanding of this truth is by God.

 

First, believe God is alive.

 

Matthew 16:16 – “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  [56]

Peter’s rock firm declaration was that Jesus was the, ”Son of the LIVING GOD.” (Emphasis added.). God is living and He is active to reveal Himself to humankind. We do not relate to some stone cold statue like Buddha or some other idolatrous image. No, the God of the Bible is living. Read what the Bible says about this “living God”:

 

·         Joshua 3:10 – “And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites:”  [57]

 

·         1 Samuel 17:26 – “Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” [58]

 

  • Psalm 42:2 – “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”  [59]

 

  • Psalm 84:2 – “My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”  [60]

 

  • Jeremiah 10:10 – “But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the

everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation.”  [61]

 

  • 2 Corinthians 3:3 – “clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”  [62]

 

  • 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 – “For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”  [63]

 

  • 1 Timothy 4:10 – “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 11These things command and teach.”  [64]

 

God is living, not dead, and He reveals Himself to us. Jesus is the living incarnation of God and we can know God personally through faith in Jesus Christ who reveals Him to humankind.

 

Recognizing that God is alive is essential to salvation as it states in the book of Hebrews:

 

  • Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” [65]

The first step in coming to know God is acknowledging that He is, that He is the living God.

Second, understand God reveals Himself to us.

 

Matthew 16:17 – “Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”  [66]

 Jesus clearly said, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”  [67] God the Father revealed the identity of Jesus to Peter, and He reveals Himself to us through His word from which we see what He did in those such as Peter. The only way we can come to believe that God is alive is by God revealing Himself to us as alive. Believing that God is alive is not something we do as much as it is something God does in us. God creates humanity with an innate awareness of a Higher Power. Atheism is a learned belief. The Bible states:

 

  • Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”  [68]

When Solomon states God has “put eternity in their hearts,” he is being inspired by God to refer to humanities sense of being, that humanity is created with a sense that they are missing something. “No one can find out the work that God does,” in their own strength. In other words we are created with a sense of loss because we are out of relationship with the One who created us due to our sin (Psalm 51:5). We are created with a God-shaped void so to speak. God clarifies our foggy awareness of emptiness and loss and He shows us that He is our need.

 

In Colossians Paul is inspired to write:

 

  • Colossians 1:16 – “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”  [69]

We are created by God (i.e. Christ in context of Colossians) and we will be empty until we realize our purpose is to live, “for Him.” We can only come to this awareness through God’s revelation.

 

In John’s gospel account the “work of God,” to reveal our need/sin-problem and its solution is presented in the following Spirit-inspired way:

 

  • John 6:29 – “Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”  [70]

 

  • John 6:44 – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.   [71]

 

  • John 6:63 - “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”  [72]

 

What we know about God is revealed to us by Him. This is further explained by Paul in 1 Corinthians 2 (where even though we have mentioned it before we do so again) it states:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 2:9-14 – “But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  [73]

No one is exempt from having to respond to God’s revelation as Paul is further inspired to write in Romans:

  • Romans 2:11-16 – “For there is no partiality with God.12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified;14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”  [74]

Each person is responsible to respond in faith to whatever revelation God gives to him or her, whether it is conscience or the particular most full revelation in Christ. Not only does God reveal Himself to us, but also He does so in an intimate and personal way.

Third, God reveals Himself to us personally.

 

Matthew 16:15 – “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”   [75]

When Jesus addressed His disciples He first asked them what other people thought about Him. But then He asked them personally.  That is how God reveals Himself to us, personally. Jesus said, “But who do you say that I am?” Each person has to answer that question, personally. No one can answer that question for you, you must respond to Jesus one on One in answering that question. You can’t depend on your family, your friends, your spouse, your pastor, your church, not even Billy Graham or the Pope can answer that question for you, you must answer that question one on One with Jesus.

 

Fourth, Jesus calls us to come to Him.

 

Matthew 16:24a – “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, . . .”  [76]

The last verses of Matthew 16 imply that Jesus is calling the disciples to follow Him. Jesus calls us to follow Him:

 

  • Matthew 11:28-29 -  Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  [77]
  • Matthew 14:29 – “So He said, Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.”  [78]
  • Matthew 16:24 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”  [79]
  • Matthew 19:14 – “But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”   [80]
  • Matthew 19:21 – “Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  [81]

To “come” to Jesus means to simply receive Him and what He is offering to you. Those who receive His gospel gift are saved, as John is inspired to write:

  • John 1:12 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:”  [82]

To receive Jesus is to turn from your sins, (i.e. repent) and turn to Him, to respond to Him in faith, (the faith God gives - Ephesians 2:8-9).

Christ’s Call to Discipleship

 

Matthew 16:24-28 – “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28“Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”  [83]

 

The natural consequence of coming to Jesus is to follow Him. In fact, if you aren’t following Jesus, you haven’t truly come to Him. This is what Jesus said in the following parable:

  • Matthew 22:1-9 – “And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,3 “and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.4 “Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’5 “But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.6 “And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.7 “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.9 ‘Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’”  [84]

Jesus calls us to come, but He does not force us to come to Him, He simply offers or invites for us to come to Him. And to come to Him leads us to follow Him. But what does it mean to follow Jesus?

 

We are saved by receiving God’s gift of salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Romans 10:8-13; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). But once we are saved, then what? Once saved we need to grow and go on in the Lord bearing spiritual fruit and developing our relationship with the Lord. Not everyone answers Christ’s call to discipleship. Let’s consider the alternative to discipleship.

 

The Characterlessness of the Carnal Christian

 

The Bible says that there are those who are spiritually immature in their faith. The apostle Paul describes such believers in the following way:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 – “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”  [85]

Looking at this verse we see that the spiritually immature are “carnal.” The word “carnal” means fleshy, living for temporal and material things.  The carnal Christian is still living for self to a great extent. They are not” spiritual people,” but are rather perpetual “babes in Christ.” They don’t grow and are stuck in the early stages of their faith. They are “not able,” or impaired by their disinterest and shallowness in spiritual things. The result of such spiritual immaturity is, “envy, strife, and divisions among you . . .”

 

A further result of carnality in the Christian is instability and a susceptibility to deception.  We see this referred to in the following verses:

 

  • Ephesians 4:14 – “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,”  [86]

There is a lack of spiritual growth in the carnal Christian as seen in the following verse:

  • Hebrews 5:12 – “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”  [87]

Because the carnal Christian settles for the least benefit of their walk with the Lord, they miss out on the benefits of assurance, (which they often mistake for presumption), they are susceptible to deception, and they are stunted in their spiritual growth and usability to God. They miss out on the blessings of ministry and they fail to store up for themselves eternal heavenly gifts (see Matthew 6:25-34). The carnal Christian lacks spiritual character, lacks spiritual substance, they are superficial.

 

The carnal Christian is somewhere in between an unsaved Pharisee and a devoted disciple. Jesus wants more for us than mere carnal Christianity. He is grieved when there is strife, division, superficiality, and lethargic commitment in one’s walk with Him. Jesus calls us to be disciples. He calls us to grow in our faith and be spiritually mature. Being a disciple is the only way to experience the fullness of God’s blessings.

 

The Contrasting Character of a Disciple - Abandonment

 

The character of a disciple of Jesus is a vast contrast to that of the carnal believer.  Where the carnal Christian gives a half-hearted devotion to God, a disciple gives a whole-hearted devotion to God. The faith of a disciple is characterized by abandonment to God, a relinquishing to God of our perceived rights to ourselves. (In fact, we do not belong to ourselves, we have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus and no longer belong to ourselves – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

 

Oswald Chambers often spoke of the abandonment to God of the believer. He stated:

 

“”The Great aim of the Holy Spirit is to get us abandoned to God. . . . .When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time. . . . The reason some of us are such poor specimens of Christianity is because we have no Almighty Christ. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment to Jesus Christ.” [88]

 

“The weakest saint can experience the power of the Deity of the Son of God if he is willing to ‘let go.’ . . . God can do what He like with the man who is abandoned to Him.” [89]

 

An example of the abandonment of a disciple is found in the example of Philip in the Book of Acts. Philip was in the midst of a great revival in Samaria (Acts 8:4-25). Things were really cooking in ministry for Philip. Multitudes were turning to the Lord, miracles were happening, there was “great joy,” and Philip even was used by God to convert a sorcerer. But as the ministry was continuing, the Holy Spirit told Philip to go to Gaza, a vast wilderness region (Acts 8:26). Philip didn’t even ask why, didn’t argue one bit, he simply arose and obeyed and God used him mightily as a result.

 

The Spirit led Philip to an Ethiopian official who just happened to be reading the Scriptures at the book of Isaiah (Acts 8:26-34). What Philip told the Ethiopian Eunuch when presenting the gospel to him shows the heart of a disciple. Philip instructed the Ethiopian in the following way:

 

  • Acts 8:35-38 – “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”  [90]

The key to following Jesus is following Him “with all your heart.” This is discipleship.

This spirit of abandonment brings fulfillment in everyday life. I would like to share a personal example from a day ago relating to how abandonment to the Lord affects everyday life. It’s early Fall and time to rake the leaves in our spacious yard so we as a family designated a Saturday for the task. I have two young sons who I wanted to help me, Stephen age eight and Daniel age eleven. Now if you know anything about kids, you know they don’t view “work” like adults do. To young boys, “work” is really a neat avenue for play, especially when it comes to raking leaves. Now daddy (i.e. me), Daniel and Stephen were in the yard raking a ridiculous amount of leaves and daddy is seeing this as an all day job.  To make matters worse daddy’s two sons are not working the way daddy thinks they should. The boys are cavorting, kicking up the leaves, jumping in them, thrashing them, throwing them at each other, and daddy is doing his impersonation of a pressure cooker. Every time daddy exhorts his two young sons to “work!” their countenance falls and they put their hands to their small plows and their fun stops. I can just imagine what they were thinking, “Man, dad is such a pain, why can’t we have some fun? Who cares about a bunch of dead leaves anyway? We’re kids you know? Kids don’t work! Doesn’t dad know that?” At that point my thoughts were something like this, “Man, I’m going to be doing this all day. Oh, my back, man I’m not as young as I used to be. I wish I could go lay down on the couch and watch a game. If these two kids don’t get to work I’ll be here all day. Don’t they understand what work is?!” In other words, my agenda was not the same as Daniel and Stephen’s agenda. But worse, I believe my agenda was not God’s agenda!  A funny thing happened on the way to raking the leaves, the Lord spoke to me. It was as though He said, “Now son, how do you think this situation can be accomplished so that the work can get done, and your two boys and you can have fun? Why don’t you think of a way to make the work fun? What if you got them to help you rake all the leaves in the yard into one humongous pile with the prospect of jumping into it? And what if you said you would jump in it with them and video the entire event? Now that would be fun wouldn’t it son? And then after you have fun, you can re-rake the leaves, bag them and you’ll be done. ” Eureka! What a great idea! And that’s exactly what we did, we raked ALL of the leaves into one huge pile in the center of the yard and then not only jumped into it, we destroyed it, we tunneled into and through it, we laid in it, we had FUN! I worked out a plan with Daniel and Stephen to rake all the leaves, spend a time of jumping into them with the promise that afterwards we would re-rake and bag them and work as a team to complete the task. They bought it enthusiastically and we had a wonderfully fun and productive day. Now look at the point here and what was gained and why. If I had kept to my agenda, there would have been no fun, a bad attitude, a blow out between my two sons and me and daddy would be the bad guy, and lastly, the work, if it got done would have had to be done by daddy alone since the attention of Daniel and Stephen would have led to another alternative fun activity. (I could have forced them to work, but such situations never work.)  Furthermore, if I kept to my agenda and all the above happened, my witness to my neighbors would have likely been shot as they saw the pastor next door screaming at his two sons, (yes, even pastors loose it sometimes). The point is, because I was willing to abandon my agenda and follow God’s, the work got done, we had fun, we had a memorable life experience that deepened our relationship, and we were a great witness to those around us as we jumped and played and had fun, fun, fun together. You see, when I first started the yard work my perspective was my perspective, my agenda; I was only seeing this from a horizontal perspective. But I needed to look vertical, I needed to look up. God’s perspective was that the Father in heaven looked down to a yard filled with leaves, a father and his two sons and He saw an opportunity to take a hard days yard work and turn it into so much more.  When we abandon ourselves to God, He works in and through us to accomplish His will. Remember that when you walk through the day and God will do something wonderful in and through you.

The Threefold Call and Character of a Disciple

 

Matthew 16:24 – “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”  [91]

In the final verses of Matthew 16, Jesus lays out the call to discipleship. There are three things required of the one who would respond to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. What are they?

 

First, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself. Peter must have thought he was pretty special after he was the one God allowed to utter the revelation about Jesus identity. He must have thought he was pretty special, a cut above the rest of the other disciples. After all, why shouldn’t God choose him over the others to make this most important of declarations. It was just such thinking that likely led to his come to “rebuke” Jesus (16:22). Imagine, rebuking “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”! Imagine the pride, the puffed up nature of Peter to do such a thing or even think he could do such a thing. That is what the flesh, or self-centered life will lead you to do. Your “self” or “flesh” will lead you to contradict and even oppose the very plans of God.

 

The disciple therefore, needs to deny their self, their human wisdom or self-reliance. Read what the Bible says about this:

 

·         Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  [92]

 

·         Galatians 5:24 – “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”   [93] (See also Romans 8; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3)

Now we need to understand that there is a subtle and distinct difference between denying self and self-denial. Sometimes we can feed our flesh through self-denial. Self-denial can sometimes take on an ascetic or self-effort mindset that undermines denying self and actually feeds the flesh, that very thing we are seeking to crucify. How do we know the difference? Well, when you deprive yourself of something, do you subtly brag about it to God or man? Do you say, “Well, god, I’ll bet You’re pretty impressed with me aren’t you. I’ve given up smoking, and coffee, and candy, and all sorts of good stuff, and I did it all for You.” Or when you’re out with a crowd do you discreetly impress those your out with by abstaining externally from certain things with the explanation that you “gave it up for God”? Such outward medal seeking may be nothing less than pinning a medal on the chest of one whose flesh is in full bloom.

 

No, when we deny our self, we do so out of loving appreciation to God (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) and it is almost an afterthought. It’s really nothing in comparison to what Christ has done for us. To deny your self is to surrender fully to God so that He can do whatever He wants to do with you, no matter how big or how small.  Self-denial exalts self and is self-serving. Deny self crucifies the flesh with its passions and desires.

 

Second, take up your cross. What does it mean to take up your cross? Sometimes people remark about their ailments, their sore back or physical problems or some other discomfort or inconvenience by saying, “Well, it’s the cross I bear.” Let me say that that is certainly not what it means to bear the cross.

 

To take up your cross means first to act redemptively for the lost like Jesus did. It means to go all the way, even to the point of death, for the sake of seeing the lost found and saved in Christ. To pick up your cross means to take on the particular mission God has called you to in your life. Jesus came with a mission, go to the cross. What is your mission? What had God called you to do? How does He plan to use you? To take up your cross means to commit yourself to that God-given mission unto death, no matter how obscure or self–denying. Taking up your cross builds on denying self, because you cannot participate effectively in God’s mission for you if your are self-seeking. His glory must be your sole desire, not your glory.

 

A.W.Tozer (1897-1963) described the one who picks up his or her cross to follow Jesus in the following way:

 

“There are three marks of one who is crucified:  One, he is facing in only one direction. Two, he can never turn back.  And three, he no longer has any plans of his own.”

   

Third, follow Jesus. Jesus said, “follow Me.” To follow Jesus is to follow in His steps, to make Him our example and to do all that we do according to How He would do it. This is the sense of what Peter and John meant when they were inspired in their epistles to write:

 

·         1 Peter 2:21 – “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:”  [94]

 

·         1 John 2:6 – “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” [95]

 

To follow Jesus means to have His servant’s heart (Mark 10:45), to have the same compassion for the lost that Jesus had for the lost (Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27,33; 20:34), it means to be willing to submit your will to God’s will like Jesus (Matthew 26:36-46), and it means being willing to go all the way in your God-given mission, even to the point of death like Jesus (Matthew 27: 45-56). That is what it means to follow Jesus.

 

Three Reasons Why It’s Worth Being a Disciple

 

Matthew 16:25-27 - For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.26 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?27 “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”  [96]

Jesus follows His call to discipleship (16:24) with three substantiating reasons that one should consider being a disciple. Jesus, the Master Disciple-Maker gives us three reasons why discipleship is the best way to live in relationship to Him. If discipleship is a main focus of this gospel, then this is a most strategic area of the book as a whole.

 

First, discipleship leads to true life. Jesus said,For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  The world tells us that in order to experience true meaningful life, we have to look out for number one, pamper yourself, serve your self, accumulate things for yourself and focus on your self. Self, self, self, that is the key to happiness. But the truth of the matter is that the more you focus on your self, the more dissatisfied you will be. To focus on self is the pinnacle of pride and a deception of the devil. Jesus tells us just the opposite; He says that if we want to find true life, we need to lose it, give it up, and give it over “for My sake.” True life, true meaning and purpose that will satisfy and fulfill only comes through giving up our lives, the self-life, for the sake of Jesus.

 

Second, discipleship leads to true soul profit. Jesus said, For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Your soul is the most important thing in your life and its care should be your top priority. Your soul is eternal in nature and therefore outlasts anything material. But just what is the soul?

 

What is the “soul”?

 

The word “soul” (Greek – PSUCHE – Strong’s #5590) here refers to, “the breath, the breath of life,”[97] that eternal aspect of every human being. Your “soul” is, “the seat of personality.” In Luke 9:24-25 it is described as, “own self,” (Hebrews 6:19; 10:39; Isaiah. 53:10 with 1 Tim. 2:6). It is described as, “the seat of the sentient element in man, that by which he perceives, reflects, feels, desires,” (Matthew 11:29; Luke 1:46; 2:35; Acts 14:2, 22; Psalm 84:2; 139:14; Isaiah 26:9). Furthermore, it is described as, “the seat of will and purpose,” (Matthew 22:37; Acts 4:32; Ephesians 6:6; Philippians 1:27; Hebrews 12:3; Numbers 21:4; Deuteronomy 11:13). And lastly, it is described as, “the seat of appetite,” (Revelation 18:14; Psalm 107:9; Proverbs 6:30; Isaiah 5:14; 29:8).” [98]

 

Matthew Henry describes the “soul” in the following way:

 

“Every man has a soul of his own. The soul is the spiritual and immortal part of man, which thinks and reasons, has a power of reflection and prospect, which actuates the body now, and will shortly act in a separation from the body.”  [99]

 

Notice what Jesus says here; your soul is worth more than the entire world, there is nothing you could trade for your soul, your soul is the most valuable thing you have. Nothing in this world is worth your soul, not a career, not a house, not a car, not even a relationship. Your soul is eternal and you had best care for it because it isn’t going away. You can “Lose” your soul in the sense that you can spend eternity in hell, a place of darkness and torment, a place never meant for any soul to be. Or you can save your soul through faith in Christ and live in eternal bliss and blessing (see Luke 16:19-31). 

 

Your soul is eternal, worldly things are temporal. Read what the apostle John taught in this regard:

 

  • 1 John 2:15-17 – “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”  [100]

James was inspired to write that we should not only care for our own souls but also help others with their souls:

 

  • James 5:20 – “let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”  [101]

But how do we care for the soul?

 

The good way of the soul.

 

In John’s third epistle he is inspired to write:

 

  • 3 John 2 – “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”  [102]

The word “prosper” here (Greek EUODIA from EUODOOMAI – Strong’s #2137) means, “get along well, prosper, succeed, gain.”  Literally EUODIA means, “to be led along a good road; have a good journey (EU = “good” + HODOS = “way”). Now how can we care for our souls and the souls of others so that they will prosper? What is the good way of the soul?

We need to realize that only God can quench the thirst of our souls. The psalmist wrote:

  • Psalm 42:1-2 – “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul [nepesh Strong’s #5315, “soul; self; life; person; heart.”[103]] for You, O God.2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”  [104]

The soul of humans can only find fulfillment, completion, and satisfaction when it turns to God. Augustine once wrote:

“For Thou has made us for Thy Self, and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in Thee.”

Therefore, the prosperity of our soul is intertwined with our relationship to God. The book of Deuteronomy gives five soul-enriching practices that lead to the prosperity of our souls.

Five soul-enriching practices.

First, seek the LORD. In Deuteronomy it states:

  • Deuteronomy 4:29 - “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” [105]

We need to seek the Lord so that we can find help for our souls.

Second, love the LORD. In Deuteronomy it states:

  • Deuteronomy 6:5 - “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  [106]

The Bible calls us to love the Lord with everything within us, all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength. When you love the Lord, it enriches the soul.

Third, serve the LORD. In Deuteronomy it states:

  • Deuteronomy 10:12 - “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,”  [107]

Serving the LORD enriches our souls; it gets our minds off of ourselves and onto God and breeds healthiness in our souls.

Fourth, study the LORD’s word. Deuteronomy states:

  • Deuteronomy 11:18 - “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”  [108]
  • Deuteronomy 26:16 - “This day the Lord your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.”  [109]

There are few other things that enrich the soul like the study of God’s word. God’s word helps us to know our soul and care for it as the writer of Hebrews in the New Testament stated:

  • Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  [110]

Studying God’s word enriches the soul.

Fifth, obey, apply God’s word. In Deuteronomy it states:

  • Deuteronomy 30:1-10 - “Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you,2 “and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul,3 “that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you.4 “If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you.5 “Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.6 “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.7 “Also the Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.8 “And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments which I command you today.9 “The Lord your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers,10 “if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”  [111]

As this passage implies, obedience to God’s word, the application of God’s word practically to life is essential to the upkeep of the soul.

The words of Deuteronomy were inspired by God and written by Moses when the people of God were brought to the threshold of the Promised Land. The Promised Land was that place that God had purposed to bless His people and where they would fulfill their destiny as His messengers of light to a dark world (see Exodus 19:6). In the same way, if we want to enrich our souls and experience the blessings of God in the depths of our souls, we should pay heed to the enriching instructions in the book of Deuteronomy. These five steps will lead to the enriching and upkeep of our souls. Remember though, the upkeep of our souls, the implementation of these steps is not to be done in our own strength, but in the strength of the Holy Spirit working in us (see Romans 8; Galatians 5; Philippians 2:13).

Being a disciple is the best way to care for the most important thing in your being, your soul. Therefore, discipleship, which cares best for your soul, leads to the truest of profits because it benefits that which is most valuable to you, your soul.

 

Third, discipleship leads to true readiness.   Jesus said, For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”  Jesus is coming back; He is coming to rapture or remove His church; and He could come at any time. He says that when He returns He will “reward each” person according to their works. This is not talking about salvation; we cannot earn our salvation. But it is talking about rewards and we do earn rewards. Part of our reward will be the words of Jesus if He is able to say in truth to us:

 

  • Matthew 25:21,23 - “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ . . . 23 “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”  [112]

Oh how good it will be when Jesus comes back and He says those words to us face to face. It will be incredible. But unfortunately, He will not be able to say that to all those He returns for. Some will have been distracted by carnal concerns, preoccupied with self and will be ashamed at His return. Don’t be like the five virgins whose lamps were empty and weren’t ready when the bridegroom came for the bride (Matthew 25:1-13).

In the New Testament we are exhorted to be ready for the rapture by Jesus of the church. The rapture is imminent, that is, it can occur at any time. There are no events or conditions that must precede the rapture, it could happen before you finish reading this sentence or the next, or the next . . . Because of this we are exhorted to be ready for Jesus’ return at the rapture. Verses which speak of this include the following:

 

  • Luke 21:36 -  “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”   [113]
  • Romans 13:11-14 – “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”  [114]
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 – “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.”  [115]
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”  [116]

Martin Luther once said: “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”  With that mindset he was used by God to save the church from biblical illiteracy and false human traditions. Discipleship is worth it. Disicpleship leads to true life, true profit and true readiness. What or who are you living your life for? Have you considered being a disciple? It’s worth it, follow Jesus.

Conclusion

 

President Ronald Reagan once stated of Jesus:

“Meaning no disrespect to the religious convictions of others, I still can't help wondering how we can explain away what to me is the greatest miracle of all and which is recorded in history. No one denies there was such a man, that he lived and that he was put to death by crucifixion. Where...is the miracle I spoke of? Well consider this and let your imagination translate the story into our own time -- possibly to your own hometown. A young man whose father is a carpenter grows up working in his father's shop. One day he puts down his tools and walks out of his father's shop. He starts preaching on street corners and in the nearby countryside, walking from place to place, preaching all the while, even though he is not an ordained minister. He does this for three years. Then he is arrested, tried and convicted. There is no court of appeal, so he is executed at age 33 along with two common thieves. Those in charge of his execution roll dice to see who gets his clothing -- the only possessions he has. His family cannot afford a burial place for him so he is interred in a borrowed tomb. End of story? No, this uneducated, property-less young man who...left no written word has, for 2000 years, had a greater effect on the world than all the rulers, kings, emperors; all the conquerors, generals and admirals, all the scholars, scientists and philosophers who have ever lived -- all of them put together. How do we explain that?...unless he really was who he said he was." 

Jesus really is “The Christ, the Son of the Living God,” and as such, He should be our all in all. That is the point of a poem by an unknown author, which states:

Christ for sickness, Christ for health,
Christ for poverty, Christ for wealth,
Christ for joy, Christ for sorrow,
Christ today and Christ tomorrow;
Christ my Life, and Christ my Light,
Christ for morning, noon and night,
Christ when all around gives way
Christ my everlasting Stay;
Christ my Rest, and Christ my Food
Christ above my highest good,
Christ my Well-beloved Friend
Christ my Pleasure without end;
Christ my Savior, Christ my Lord
Christ my Portion, Christ my God,
Christ my Shepherd, I His sheep
Christ Himself my soul to keep;
Christ my Leader, Christ my Peace
Christ hath wrought my soul's release,
Christ my Righteousness divine
Christ for me, for He is mine;
Christ my Wisdom, Christ my Meat,
Christ restores my wandering feet,
Christ my Advocate and Priest
Christ who ne'er forgets the least;
Christ my Teacher, Christ my Guide,
Christ my Rock, in Christ I hide,
Christ the Ever-living Bread,
Christ His precious Blood hath shed;
Christ hath brought me nigh to God,
Christ the everlasting Word
Christ my Master, Christ my Head,
Christ who for my sins hath bled;
Christ my Glory, Christ my Crown,
Christ the Plant of great renown,
Christ my Comforter on high,
Christ my Hope, draws ever nigh.

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4] Chuck Smith, word For Today, audiotape #8015 (Costa Mesa, CA 92628  box 8000)

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26] H.D.M. Spence and Jospeh S. Exell, Eds. The Pulpit Commentary – Volume 15 (Mclean, Virginia: macdonald Pub. Co.) p133.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[39]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51] Dave Hunt, IN Defense of the Faith, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Pub.1996) pgs. 197-199

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[57]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[58]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[59]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[62]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[63]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[64]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[65]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[66]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[67]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[68]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[69]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[70]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[71]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[72]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[73]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[74]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[75]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[76]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[77]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[78]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[79]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[80]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[81]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[82]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[83]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[84]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[85]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[86]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[87]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[88] Harry Verploegh, Oswald Chambers – the Best From All His Books, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Pub. 1989) p. 1

[89] Harry Verploegh, Oswald Chambers – The Best From All His Books, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Pub. 1987) p. 1

[90]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[91]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[92]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[93]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[94]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[95]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[96]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[97]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[98]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[99]Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.

[100]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[101]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[102]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[103]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[104]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[105]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[106]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[107]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[108]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[109]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[110]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[111]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[112]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[113]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[114]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[115]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[116]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.