Let us pray: Dear Savior, how easy it is for us to forget that You are Lord and not us! How easy for us to try to make You conform to our idea of what You should do and how You should act when it comes to helping us. And how easy it is for us to get frustrated or upset when things work out differently than we desire. Lord, today remind us that You truly are the Son of God and that we must conform to You and not the other way around. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR GLORIOUS LORD AND SAVIOR!
TEXT: Luke 9: 18-24
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
What morning of each week has the least amount of traffic? Of course, the answer is: Sunday morning! And yet, in polling data the majority of Americans still say they believe in God and also seek to honor Jesus Christ. How can this be? If you really believe in Jesus as the Son of God, wouldn’t you mark Sunday as a special day to attend His church? If you truly believe what He says—including the 3rd commandment which says we should worship Him weekly without exception—then why would you want to skip worship and replace it with something else? There’s a problem here, isn’t there? And the problem is: most people talk big and want Jesus in their corner when trouble strikes, but they actually have no idea Who He really is. They worship their idea of Christ instead of actually worshiping the Lord. Has that cavalier attitude afflicted you, too, at times? Let’s all get re-inoculated against this disease as we ponder:
THE JESUS QUESTIONS…..
Exactly Who is Jesus? Well, many believe He is nothing more than a special prophet of God. This view was held by many in Jesus’ day, too. For, “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
Many people believe the same thing today. The Mormons call themselves: “The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.” And yet they reject the Biblical truths of the creed. They don’t believe Jesus is the eternal Son of God. In fact, they teach that by hard work and a moral lifestyle all people can become “gods”—just like Jesus–someday! So much for worshipping yourself—and feeding your pride in the process! The Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the truth of the Trinity. They reject passages like: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” To them, Jesus isn’t the singular gateway to heaven. No, their false understanding of Who Jehovah is, that’s what is vital for salvation, not Christ or His sacrifice for us on the cross. Then we have the Unitarians who believe Christ was a moral teacher, perhaps even some sort of prophet—like Buddha or Confucius. So, they don’t pray to Christ. They don’t worship Jesus. And they ridicule those of us who do. All these groups reject Christ’s own words when He says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.”
Sometimes, like the crowds of our lesson, we treat Jesus as just another great prophet, too. We look upon Him as a model of morality, as a person to emulate, instead of as a Savior from sin. We can fall into the age-old trap of trying to be “Christ-like” in our words and actions, and then when we fail, we either get down on ourselves or make excuses like: “Everyone else does it, so my failures aren’t really so bad after all!” When you do that, you’re avoiding responsibility and then why do you really need a Savior?
How many church-goers are just like Peter in our lesson? That is, they correctly profess their faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, but disregard the cross and expect some sort of utopian existence on this earth. From the other Gospel parallel accounts of this lesson it is obvious that Peter isn’t blameless in his concept of Jesus. Peter and the rest of the apostles didn’t expect Christ to suffer and die on a cross to save their souls. Deceived by Satan, they espoused the common view that Jesus had come to set up some sort of Godly kingdom, a nation-state, where they could eat, drink, and live without fear of political angst. They thought Jesus had come to kick the Romans out, get rid of the corrupt religious leaders of that day, and then they would be in charge! Obviously, this view fed their pride. Later on, they began to learn the meaning of Jesus’ words: “My kingdom is not of this world!”
If you ever listen to the electronic church, mainly populated by evangelicals and Pentecostals, like the 700 Club, you’ll be amply exposed to these kind of false expectations. If you listen to those sermons carefully, you’ll find they don’t talk about suffering for Christ. They don’t talk about walking through life by humble faith and not by sight. In essence they view Christianity as some sort of good luck charm where blessings are always visible and personal suffering calls into question your commitment to Jesus. Christianity becomes externalized. Its power and reality then are no longer founded and grounded in the cross and the empty tomb, but in how well your kids do in school or how much you earn in your job.—I wonder how the widow who had only two pennies and gave them to the Lord, would fit into such a definition?
No, Jesus came to suffer and die. He wasn’t a political savior, or an economic savior, or a good-times savior. He was and is the Savior of hurting, humble, downtrodden sinners who desperately need God’s cure for their inner evil and the death that it brings. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the 3rd day be raised to life.”
Jesus told the apostles those truths in order to correct their proud, faulty faith. He told them in order to focus their attention on humility and the power of God’s love. So, just as His life was one of suffering while in this evil world, so must ours be, too. Certainly that’s not a “user friendly” concept. But it is the truth. And unless we think we’re somehow above our Master, then we must expect the same things He experienced.
So, Who is Jesus? He’s the Savior from sin. And just as he fought sin—not by ignoring it, or down-playing it, or trying to outwardly overcome it to feed our boastful ego, so we must do likewise if we wish to be His disciples. In fact, now Jesus directly answers the question: What is the role of a true disciple? “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
The crowd following Christ, His own disciples, and many people today really follow their own dreams. That is, they superimpose their ideas about how Jesus should act and what He should do in certain situations—they superimpose those human dictates upon the Lord. And then the whole idea of self-denial gets left in the dust. We know we should attend church on Sunday, but often we stay in bed. We know we should watch our use of language, yet we don’t. We know we should trust that His plan for our future is the best, yet when sickness or an employment disruption comes our way our first reaction is to blame Him, to doubt His goodness, and to withdraw inside instead of embracing Him all the more! Too often we try to shrink Jesus down to our size and we postulate He should act just like we are acting, instead of viewing Him as He really is: the Almighty, Eternal Son of God!
True disciples must always seek to follow the way of the cross. Jesus’ apostles were led through the anguish of Good Friday which gave birth to the joy of Easter. They were led from suffering and martyrdom to the ultimate glories of heaven. And along the way they were forced to shed their cocoon of pride and self-love and put on His robe of humility and selflessness.
You see, Godly glory isn’t to be found in human accolades, or in being enviously wealthy, or in seeking to promote your own self-image. No, Jesus says: “The meek will inherit the earth.” In other words, Godly glory is found in humility, forgiveness, and unconditional love—confessed and practiced. It comes to us through faith in Christ. It comes as a gift from Him, alone. It comes in total surrender to Him. It comes in obedience to God’s word and God’s ways instead of obedience to our often misguided emotions. I’ll admit this is hard to do. Yet, with God, “All things are possible.” Christ says that, so we know it’s true! Indeed, the joy of Christianity is that Jesus makes it possible through His Superhuman, Divine love for us as shown on the cross. And that, my friends, is the point of Christianity and all those “Jesus Questions”—Jesus saves us from ourselves! Amazing! Amen