Matthew 16:13-18 – He cares what you think

Matthew 16:13-18 – He cares what you think

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'”
– Matthew 16:13-18ESV

Here in Colorado, we’re pretty proud of our sports nation. Each season brings fans rolling out their color-combos depending on which major sports team is currently duking it out in the stadiums. Did you know we have a national AND major league lacross team? Yep! The Mammoth and the Outlaws! We can even get pretty passionate about our minor-league sports.

But there’s another competition that is sacred to many Coloradans: the Rocky Mountain Showdown. This is the rival game between the two major state schools in Colorado: the Colorado State University Rams and the University of Colorado Buffalo. Hailing from different championships, they meet for one rabid game a year, often at Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos.

At once such showdown, I attended with a large group of friends. As we were passing through the gates, each one of us had shoved into our hands some sort of paper advertising. I didn’t want it, but there was not a chance of beating my way back upstream to hand the paper back. So, at the next trashcan I saw, I quickly shoved it in (comeon, they didn’t have paper recycling at the stadium at the time). Almost immediately, I heard someone shout from behind, “Hey you! In the cowboy hat! Al Gore hates you!” Considering I was currently wearing the aforementioned hat, it was clear where the words were directed. For those wondering, this was shortly after Al Gore had released his controversial film An Inconvenient Truth on global warming.

I was devastated.

In this case, by devastated I mean laughing out loud. I can’t imagine caring less about what a complete stranger, wholly unconnected with me or my life, thinks of me. I still tell that story with laughter today.

And that’s just the thing. What a total stranger thinks of me meant nothing. But if someone I love were to hate me…well that would be something else. That would be something devastating…life defining…impossible to get over. To look a dear friend, loved family member in the eye…and to be told they hate me… That is no laughing matter.

So when Matthew records in chapter 16, verses 12-18 that Jesus is interested in what the disciples think of Him, we should sit up and pay attention. Remember, this is the same Jesus who, “was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:2-5ESV). All creation was made through Jesus. His words spiraled out the galaxies, ignited stars, covered the earth with land and water, sprouted flowers, spawned the creatures of the deep and the birds of the air, and scattered life across the earth. And in His arms was gathered the frame of man, into which He breathed His own life. The same life He would sacrifice on the cross, stained with our sin.

You see, this Creator God also calls us “child” throughout the Bible. This Creator God names us inheritors of all He has made. This Creator God granted us His authority to work on earth in His name.

And this God cares what we think of Him..the beings He wove from dirt.

In fact… letting us know Him for Who He really is…that’s everything to Him. To that end He has dedicated His every act in our world, from the very beginning.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” – 1 John 3:1NIV

  1. Think of the people you love the most. What would it be like to discover they actually hated you?
  2. How does it impact your perspective to think about this all-powerful Jesus caring what you think of Him?
  3. Knowing how much Jesus cares about what we think about Him, how do you think it impacts Him to see people lose faith in Him or not believe in Him?
  4. Challenge for the Week: We have a lot of ideas about who Jesus is, and not all of them are actually based in the Bible! Commit to reading through the entire book of John over the month of February and March. Make note of all the things you can know about Jesus from this Gospel account.
Ephesians 1:15-20 – What is truth?

Ephesians 1:15-20 – What is truth?

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 1:15-20ESV

Truth…how can we even know it in our world? Since the revelation of how prevalent and deep-running “fake news” is, every time I read an article or watch a snippet of news…I feel the worm of doubt eating its way through the back of my mind, unless the news report is on rescued kittens or the latest outfit a female royal wore to a high-profile event. It’s gotten to the point where, unless I actually read the transcript of the entire conversation being reported on, I nearly wholly doubt the truth of what is being reported. The biases are so obvious, even in the most respected sources of world news…how can I even know for sure what is really happening unless I witness it myself? I find myself asking:

“What is true?”

And in so doing, I echo the question an incredulous Pontius Pilate posited to Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38ESV). Ironically enough, in a world where we celebrate “You do you” truth, where truth’s parameters are defined subjectively by the individual without any necessary application to anyone else… we hunger for somewhere strong to stand. We want the things we believe in to not just be our arbitrary stances but to have good reasons for us to believe them. We want to know we are doing well, even if we don’t agree what that looks like. We want our lives to have meaning, not just a chasing after the whims of the moment. When we stand at the end of our lives, we want to look back and say, “Man…what a good ride.”

Interestingly, it seems as though we stand in a world similar to the one in which Pontius Pilate first placed his question before Jesus. A preoccupation with gladiatorial violence and love of dangerous chariot races doesn’t seem that different from some of the reality shows and popular sports we see today. People want their shows to be more and more realistic, barring no content in the pursuit of “authenticity”. Paganism, central to Roman culture, is the on the rise in the United States. Extremely lose parameters on sex and sexuality were common in Rome (at least for men), and we see those same parameters sliding away for men and women today. Political unrest and dissidence are shared between ancient Rome and the modern United States, including a general skepticism of the reliability of political entities. I’m sure a more informed historian could draw even deeper parallels.

So we ask, ‘What is truth?” as Pontius Pilate did two thousand years ago…and shrug.

But the question is: what did Jesus say that drove Pontius to ask this heart-deep question?

“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37ESV).

You see…Jesus is the source of truth we are hungry for.

In Ephesians 1:15-20, Paul prays for the Church at Ephesus to:

  • receive “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” – v. 17
  • have “the eyes of your hearts enlightened” v. 18
  • know what is the hope to which he has called you” – v. 18

If you look at the bolded words in this passage, all of them have to do with someone coming to know something in deep, life-changing ways. The Spirit referenced in verse 17 is the Spirit of God, whose whole job is to help us know and understand God’s voice and will. To have your heart’s eyes enlightened is to have them come to see the world through the eyes and love of God so you desire what He desires. To know God’s hope is to know the hope revealed in Jesus’ victory over death, sin, and the Devil when He died on the cross and rose from the grave.

You see, in a world where everything seems suspicious and uncertain, fearful and dangerous and hopeless…Jesus gave Himself so we could know truth. The kind of truth immune to the twisted words and judgment of this life. The kind of truth that never buckles under scrutiny. The kind of truth we can turn to when we are pounded with lie after lie. The kind of truth we can stand firm on when everything else is stripped away.

And He is not a truth buried in mystery that we have to hunt down. He is truth revealed. Revealed freely out of love for us.

  • When you look at our culture today, what discourages you?
  • When you try to define what is true, how hard is it for you to do so? Why?
  • Do you sense the desire for firm truth in our culture, even as we reject it? Where?
  • Challenge for the Week: If Jesus is the truth, then His words shape reality. Review His words in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and ask God to guide you to live into His truth this week. Pray this prayer every morning.

 

1 John 3:1 – What a Father

1 John 3:1 – What a Father

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” – 1 John 3:1NIV

Father…

What images, thoughts, or feelings instantly come to mind when you read that single, powerful name?

For some of you, it may be a trustworthy, super-hero like figure whose strong hands held you when you cried and taught you to play football.

For some of you, it may be a mysterious, empty title…a looming, dark figure with no face whose presence was made loud by its absence from birthdays, holidays, and the victories of life.

For some of you, this is a dangerous name…a name filled with booming, angry voices, pain, and fear.

For some, this is a bitter title, symbolic of empty promises and unfulfilled longing. A figure, while present, who made you feel like nothing more than an uninteresting footnote in his life.

Depending on which father you had, the concept of being the “child of God”, a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father…may be difficult to understand. Even if you had the best of fathers, he wasn’t perfect, and for many of you, the idea of a father hasn’t been much of a positive experience in your life.

Yet John writes “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1A ESV [emphasis mine]).

To understand what he means, I think we need to head over to Jesus’ “Parable of the Prodigal Son” in Luke 15. Jesus is trying to help people understand just how incredible the love of God is for His people. So He tells the story of a man with two sons. One son is faithful and good and continues to help his wealthy father work the land. The other son essentially tells his father “you are dead to me” by taking his inheritance money from his father and running off to live the high life on the money. Naturally, the money runs out, and he finds himself starving to death, feeding pigs in the countryside just to survive. And suddenly he comes to a realization in Luke 15:17-19ESV, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.'”

Already we’re getting a taste of what kind of man the father is. You see, there are a few problems first century hearers would have expected this young man to face on returning home. One is he was merely a second son. You only need one son to inherit the family estate, so there is no pressure on the father to accept the boy back, despite what he had done. Second, the son had insulted his father’s honor by demanding the inheritance before his father’s death, leaving the family work, and running off to spend the money on “frivolous” things (we can safely infer gambling, prostitution, and the like). It would have been expected the father would, at the very least, disown the son, and there would have been no surprise if the father had the son killed on sight to preserve his honor.

With all this, the son is still willing to go home and ask his father for work. That implies something the son knows about his father’s character: he is kind, he is merciful, he is loving, he is forgiving… The sons knows what his actions deserve, yet he still does not doubt his father will allow him back safely. Yet even then, the son underestimates his father. Not only does the father not demand the punishment due for his son’s behavior, instead “his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him… the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:20, 22-24ESV).

Not only does the father not demand the life of the son for the evil he has done…the father welcomes him with open arms, running to him to end the separation that much sooner. The father celebrates the son’s return, not even bringing up what happened in the past but living only in the joy of reunion. Despite everything, the son is cared for, loved, cherished, and welcomed…without restraint.

And that is the kind of Father our Heavenly Father is. When John writes we have been “showered” with love by God calling Himself our Father and we His children, that is the kind of loving relationship we can expect with God.

Not a distant, faceless, empty absence in the joys and sorrows of our lives.

Not an angry, judgmental, hurtful shadow looming from the darkness to “get us” when we mess up.

Not a disinterested, blessing-dispenser who’ll snatch us up when we die but otherwise has washed his hands of the intimate details of our lives.

This God…this Father cares about every detail because He cares about you. This God wants you back, despite how bad a mess you’ve made of your life. This God is walking with you into the challenges, celebrating the joys and victories, and looking forward to when you can look Him straight in the eyes as He says, “Well done.”

What great love, indeed.

  • How do you feel and think about your experience with earthly fatherhood?
  • Do you see yourself sometimes viewing God through the lens of how you have experienced fatherhood? How?
  • How would it change the way you view your life to see God as a “good Father”, not matter your personal experience with fatherhood?
  • Challenge for the Week: Spend some time reading passages where God calls Himself “Father” or us “Children”. Make a list of all the good things it means to be a “child of God”. Put the list where you can see it as you prepare for your day.