God’s Will, God’s Way
March 6, 2022
3/6/22 Sunday Sermon
- Hey everyone! If we haven’t met yet, my name is Josh Brake and I’m on staff here at the Branch overseeing our NextGen ministry.
- I would love to meet you after service if we haven’t met yet!
- We are in the middle of a journey through the gospel of Matthew.
- And I just want to give you a heads up… there is a little bit of whiplash in what we are going to read today.
- There are high highs and low lows. Both of which are a product of the passion and shortcomings of my favorite disciple, Peter.
- And they happen within a few verses of each other.
- My guess is we can relate to this. We have a mountain top experience immediately followed by a colossal failure.
- Kind of like what we talked about last week when Peter walked on water then immediately began to sink.
- Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Even the leader of Jesus’ disciples struggled with this.
- This week, we see Peter make this amazing confession declaring the true identity of Jesus. And then we see him totally miss the mark on what that really meant and what it would eventually lead Jesus, and the disciples, to do.
- So, let’s dive in.
- Matthew 16:13-14, 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.”
- Okay, let’s stop here for a moment.
- Jesus had taken his disciples far away from the city of Jerusalem.
- Caesarea Philippi was 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.
- It used to be the center of Baal worship. It then became the center of worship for the Greek god, Pan. And at the time of Jesus, it was the center of worship for Caesar himself. There was a temple there to honor Caesar.
- This is where Jesus takes his disciples to ask them questions about his identity.
- And his first question is, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
- “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself.
- Jesus is basically asking his disciples, “Who do people think I am?”
- And they give him a few answers.
- Some people think Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead.
- Back in Matthew 14, we learned that Herod beheaded John the Baptist. But, because Jesus was doing so many miracles, Herod and others thought that John the Baptist had risen from the dead.
- Some people think Jesus was Elijah.
- And the end of the Old Testament, God gives Israel a promise that He will send Elijah the prophet before the day of the Lord, or judgment day.
- So, some people think Jesus is the fulfilment of that promise. He is Elijah.
- Some people think Jesus is Jeremiah or one of the prophets from the Old Testament. They had risen from the dead and begun to do miracles.
- Apparently, the concept of Jesus being the Messiah was not very popular. That was not included in the disciple’s answer.
- Then, Jesus turns the question to the disciples.
- Matthew 16:15-16, 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.”
- I hope that at this point you can feel the tension in this story.
- Jesus and the disciples are in the middle of a district that historically has been the center of pagan worship.
- Baal, Pan, and now Caesar. They are probably close to a temple dedicated to worshipping Caesar himself. The town was even named after him and Philip the Tetrarch who was in charge of that district.
- On top of this, God’s people, the Israelites, didn’t even believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
- And this is where Peter makes this amazing confession of who Jesus is.
- This wasn’t prompted by a miracle like in Matthew 14 when Jesus walked on water and the disciples said “Truly you are the Son of God!”
- With a simple question Jesus draws out from Peter who he and the rest of the disciples believe Jesus really is.
- So who do they believe He is?
- The Christ
- The Christ was the long awaited, anointed King of Israel.
- He was promised in the Old Testament. God told His people that He would send someone to guide, protect, and lead Israel in the conquering of their enemies.
- This person would lead with righteousness and power. He would fulfill all of Israel’s expectations. And they had been waiting for this person for a long time.
- Peter and the disciples believe that Jesus of Nazareth is this long awaited, anointed King.
- It’s not Baal. Not Pan. Not Caesar. Not John the Baptist. Not Elijah.
- But the carpenter from Nazareth. What a confession. What faith. But he didn’t stop there.
- Peter also said Jesus was the Son of the living God.
- Not only is Jesus the Son of Man. He is the Son of God.
- Which God? The Living God.
- This is a reference to the Old Testament and is essentially calling Jesus the Son of Yahweh. The God of Israel from the time of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses.
- There is so much packed into this confession.
- Peter is saying this, “You are the one we have been waiting for. You are the true king of Israel. You are the Son of YHWH, the living God that we have been worshipping and waiting for.”
- Again, I want to point out the contrast in this scene.
- Peter, in the middle of a culture that has no idea who Jesus is, declaring the true identity of Jesus.
- I think this is why Jesus brought them here to answer this question. He wants to reveal to them more of who He is (which we are about to read), but in order to do that, He wants to know where they are in terms of their faith and understanding of who He is up to this point.
- And he gets the answer he was wanting!
- Peter gives a supernatural answer. Let me show you what I mean.
- Matthew 16:17-20, 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.
- In response to Peter’s confession, Jesus blesses Peter.
- Why? Because this confession was not natural. It was supernatural. The Father in Heaven had revealed who Jesus was to Peter.
- By the way, you can’t force the people closest to you to love and follow Jesus. That is a work of the Father. So, take the pressure off yourself, okay?
- “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
- Okay, there is a lot going on here. And it’s implications are huge.
- I think we see two things here.
- We see the foundation of the church and the future of the church.
- First, what is the foundation of this church?
- In order to know what the foundation of the church is, we have to know what the church is.
- Believe it or not, this is the first time this word is used in the New Testament.
- The church was Jesus’ idea. And there is so much we could talk about here related to this word. But, to keep it simple and clear…
- This word church in the Greek basically means “called out ones”. It means a group of people called out for a particular purpose.
- So, when Jesus uses this word, he isn’t picturing what we normally picture like a building. He is picturing a people.
- And these people have a particular purpose.
- You and I don’t go to church. We are the church. It is who we are as followers of Jesus. Peter will later say in his letter 1 Peter that we who were once not a people are now a people. We have been brought out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His Son Jesus.
- So “church” is not something we do or go to. It is who we are as a people of God.
- And it is founded upon one central truth… Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
- We are who we are because Jesus is who He is. He is our foundation.
- I think this is really important for us today because there are so many people claiming to have “church hurt.”
- And I think on some level a lot of those people have warrant to feel that way. They really have been hurt.
- But so many people’s response to that church hurt is abandoning church all together.
- And they end up deconstructing their faith and taking it a part piece by piece to the point that they become more known for what they don’t believe than what they do believe. Which is a dangerous place to be.
- Because before you know it, you have abandoned the one thing that actually matters when it comes to the core of what church is. Namely, the true identity of Jesus.
- So if you are in this place right now… You have been hurt or burned by the church… a pastor hurt you, a friend betrayed you, a small group abandoned you when you needed community… Let me ask this one question…
- Who do you say Jesus is?
- That is the foundation of this thing called “Church.” Not your pastor or your friend or your small group. Everything else is to be built on top of Jesus. So, let’s start there. Who do you say Jesus is?
- We also see the future of the church.
- What does Jesus say? “I will build my church and the gates of hell won’t prevail against it.”
- What I want us to pay attention to is that the church is on the move.
- It is being built up by Jesus Himself. It’s not just a Sunday service.
- There is to be movement here.
- We are after something. So, what are we after? The gates of hell.
- What does that mean?
- The word hell in this passage could be translated as “Hades” which historically was viewed as a place of departed spirits. In other words, a place of death and darkness.
- So here is what Jesus is saying. The church, founded on Jesus Christ, is always moving towards places marked by death and darkness and replaces it with life and light.
- This is the future of the church. And we can’t lose.
- And guess what… this is your church staff’s job.
- This mission is not meant for just a select few that are a church’s payroll.
- This is for you! You are the church!
- Let me show you how this played out in Peter’s life.
- Jesus tells Peter that he will give him the keys to the kingdom of Heaven and whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in Heaven and whatever he lets loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.
- What is Jesus saying here?
- Okay, the keys to the kingdom of Heaven… If you are given keys to a building, what can you do? Unlock the door and get in. And anyone who is with you can go in too. You have access and authority to grant access. And all of Heaven is behind you and supporting you.
- Check out how this actually happened in Peter’s life.
- In Acts 2, he preaches a sermon that leads to many Jews and other ethnicities believing in Jesus and entering the kingdom of Heaven.
- In Acts 8, Peter comes to Samaria and lays hands on the believers there and they receive the Holy Spirit. So the kingdom of Heaven was opened to the Samaritans.
- In Acts 10 and 15 Peter is responsible for the door to the kingdom being opened to the Gentiles.
- Jesus’ words came true. Peter used the keys of the kingdom to open the door to many who previously wouldn’t have been given a chance to enter.
- Now here is the kicker… this mission is not done yet. And it wasn’t just for Peter.
- Sure, he had a unique role because this was the beginning of the church.
- But, you and I have been given the keys to the kingdom of Heaven so that we might be open doors to that kingdom so that darkness and death might be replaced with light and life.
- Now, that sounds terrifying right? Like, I know Jesus is guaranteeing victory, but how on earth is this possible?
- Let’s keep reading…
- Matthew 16:21-23, From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
- I told you there would be whiplash!
- Anyone else think this whole “Keys to the kingdom” thing went to Peter’s head?!
- I mean, come on man! What are you thinking!
- You just rebuked the man you just said was God in the flesh. Really bro?
- I think it is easy to make fun of Peter here but if I’m honest, I see a lot of myself in Peter.
- Why was Peter so impassioned here?
- Think about it, Jesus had just guaranteed Peter victory. The gates of hell won’t prevail against you and the Church. You will bring life to the places of darkness and death around you.
- Then what did Jesus say? “Yeah, but I’m going to have to be tortured and killed.” What kind of victory is that? How can the church replace death in this world with life if its founder is killed?
- This is Peter’s thought process.
- Peter thought the Christ was going to come and lead Israel in a war against Rome. Not die at the hands of the religious elite.
- And because Peter was thinking this way, he became a stumbling block instead of a foundational rock.
- Here is the thing about Peter…
- He wanted so badly to accomplish God’s will.
- He wanted the church to be built up.
- He wanted to see death and darkness be overcome by life and light. He has given his life to this and has just been commissioned by Jesus himself to go and do just that.
- He had done it already! He has spent time with Jesus. He had seen him heal the sick, cast out demons, walk on water. He even walked on water with him!
- That’s what following Jesus meant to Peter! Miracles upon miracle. Walking on water. Casting out demons.
- He wanted so badly to accomplish God’s will.
- But he didn’t want to do it God’s way.
- This is what Jesus is referring to when he said that his mind was set on the things of man, not the things of God.
- We want to do God’s will. But if we aren’t careful, we will want to do it our way.
- So, what is God’s way?
- Matthew 16:24-25, Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
- I think we can learn two things from these two verses related to what it looks like to do God’s will God’s way.
- First of all, Doing God’s will God’s way involves self-denial.
- I would venture to say that the core of what it means to be a Christian is self-denial.
- I mean, implicit in our confession that Jesus is Lord is the belief that I’m not Lord.
- In that confession I am denying any right to the throne and any right to determine my future. Jesus is Lord. He has authority over my life and He alone determines my future.
- This denial doesn’t stop at the first moment you confessed Jesus as Lord.
- Discipleship is the process of bringing every area of your life under that confession.
- For example, my wife, Abby, and I have lived in our house for almost 5 years. And recently we have been convicted that the way we interact with our neighbors is not consistent with our confession that Jesus is Lord.
- If we really believe Jesus is Lord, what does it look like to relate to and interact with our neighbors?
- Well for starters, do they know we confess that? Do they know where we stand when it comes to Jesus?
- Do they see the way my wife and I interact with one another and wonder why it’s different than most marriages they see?
- Do they see the way Abby and I love and disciple our son and wonder why we do that?
- We have been convicted because I think the answer to all of those is no. I mean, I think a couple might know I work for a church, but have they seen how Jesus being Lord impacts our everyday life? I don’t think so.
- So, my wife and I, imperfectly and inconsistently, have been praying for our neighbors and seeking opportunities to meet them and get to know them.
- I mean, if Jesus really is building His Church so that we might push back darkness and bring life to those around us, why wouldn’t he want to start right in your neighborhood where you spend most of your time?
- But here’s what it’s going to take… self-denial.
- It’s going to take us denying our own comfort and this mindset that my home is my refuge and sanctuary and place to “turn off” and changing our minds to think how your home could be those things to the people in your neighborhood.
- Doing God’s will God’s way involves denying our own comforts in order to be the church and bring life to those around us.
- This is hard. Which leads me to my second point.
- Secondly, Doing God’s Will God’s way involves loss.
- What does Jesus say? “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life FOR MY SAKE will find it.”
- If you are anything like me, you have a vision of what your life could look like.
- Maybe it involves material possessions like a big house, lots of cars, lots of stuff.
- Maybe it involves career success and moving up the corporate ladder.
- Maybe it looks simple with just you and your family in a simple house enjoying life together.
- And listen, I’m not here to tell you those things are bad in and of themselves.
- But, according to Jesus, if you are not willing to give those up for His sake, then you will end up not only losing those things but also your own soul.
- And I know that is heavy. Because some people in here might find themselves today seeking after those things with their whole heart. But that is the point.
- The question before us today is this, which life do you want? The one the world is offering? Or the one that Jesus is offering?
- The one that the world is offering is shallow, unfulfilling, and fading.
- The one that Jesus is offering is deep, fulfilling, and unending and satisfies every longing your soul will ever have.
- The one that the world is offering is fun.
- The one that Jesus is offering is full.
- Jesus has not invited you into a fun life.
- I mean, look what He ended up doing!
- The story in Matthew continues and Jesus finds himself in a garden pleading with God that He wouldn’t have to give up his own life. I mean, who wants to do that?! That doesn’t sound fun!
- But he knew that fullness of life for me and you came only by him dying.
- After the garden he finds himself on trial. And the same man, Peter, his closest disciple, instead of denying himself denies Jesus three times.
- Do you think your best friend denying they know you in your greatest time of need is fun? No.
- But Jesus kept going. He picked up his cross and was led to the slaughtered.
- He was killed.
- Why would he do that?! That is not fun!
- But He knew that three days later he would rise from the grave and provide the fullness of life in a relationship with Him to all who would believe in Him.
- Including the Peters who denied him.
- Including those who previously were seeking after everything the world has to offer.
- He has invited you and I into a full life.
- And we step into that when we believe in Jesus. And we grow in that fullness of life as we follow in Jesus’ footsteps by denying ourselves and counting everything this world has to offer.
What does it look like for you to be the Church this week?
What is one area of your life where you want to start doing God’s will God’s way?
Christ commanded us to love one another even as . For us to know how to love each other we must understand the character of the rich deep love that Jesus Christ that Paul describes in Ephesians 3 as surpassing knowledge.
I. His love is unmerited
A. 1 John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the .”
B. Ephesians 2:4-7 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
C. What escapes definition is that even when we reject Him, we disobey Him, we sin against Him, . We call it ‘’, unmerited love from God to His rebellious creation.
D. God’s unmerited love is given to us, people who don’t deserve His love to transform and change us into new creations.
E. We are such undeserving beneficiaries of God’s . He reached down to us in our absolute total depravity and lifted us to Himself pouring out His grace to us.
F. Psalm 40:2 He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.
II. His love is unlimited
A. He, who loved us forgave us, doing so without limit.
1. Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
2. Luke 23:34 Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ And they divided His garments and cast lots.
B. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son…
C. Every week among the people who worship will be some who are hurting, some who have fallen once again into the old sins, some who are doubting God’s love and others who are craving it. “God so loved the world” is not an impersonal truth, but a comforting one because it impresses on us the unlimited love of God for us. He so loved us – any of us in the world, no matter what we’ve done – that He gave His only begotten Son. Even His gift to us shows His unlimited love. He did not withhold His dearest and His best. – James M. Behringer
D. Jonah 4:2 So he prayed to the LORD, and said, ‘Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness…
E. Nansen, the Norwegian explorer, tried to measure an extremely deep part of the Arctic Ocean. The first day, he used his longest measuring line but couldn’t reach bottom. He wrote in his log book, ‘The ocean is deeper than that!’ The next day, he added more line but still could not measure the depth, and so again in his record book he wrote, ‘Deeper than that!’ After several days of adding more and more pieces of rope and cord to his line, he had to leave that part of the ocean without learning its actual depth. All he knew was that it was beyond his ability to measure. So too, we cannot plumb the unlimited depths of God’s love, because our human measuring line is too short.
III. His love is unselfish
1. 1 Corinthians 13:5-6 Love “Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.”
2. Jesus is the perfect example of selflessness. Matthew 20:28 says, ‘Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.’
• 2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
• John 10:10 ‘The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it] more abundantly.