31/8/14 - Matthew 16:21-28
Matthew 16:21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

Last week we saw how greatness is about being humble and serving, Luke 22.24-30. We compared the crown of an earthly King and Jesus' crown of thorns. We looked at road signs and the need to go God's way and not our own way if we want to get to the right place.
This week we see how Jesus humility and service would lead Him to the cross and resurrection, and how this went against the expectations of Peter and many of his fellow Jews.

I haven't played snooker for a long time. When I did play, one of the frustrations is that you could play a brilliant shot, followed immediately by missing an easy one. Even the professionals do this, sometimes.

Peter had just told Jesus that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, v. 16. Jesus had told him that he was blessed because God had revealed this to him. A reminder that it is by God's revelation that people discover Jesus. Jesus then told Peter that he would become the rock upon which the early church would be built, v. 18.

Jesus then tells his followers what kind of Christ He was going to be. Jesus explains that this will involve him being rejected and killed by the Jewish authorities before his resurrection.

This was a shock to Peter, who followed the thinking of the day that the Messiah would be a victorious earthly King who would defeat the Romans and establish a prosperous, peaceful Israel.

In human terms it was understandable that Peter and the Jewish people wanted to be free from Rome. Understandable that, as leader of the disciples Peter might have hoped for an important role in a restored Israel. But, God had sent Jesus to earth to show us how to live by His teaching and example, to be rejected, executed and raised to life. This was God's plan for Jesus. This was the person He was meant to be. Peter tries to impose his wishes upon Jesus and began to rebuke Jesus, v.22. The only positive thing about this is that he took Jesus to one side to do this, rather than rebuking him privately.

Little has changed in 2000 years. We still live in a world where people will try to rebuke us and try to direct us away from what God wants us to be and do. The litmus paper is are we following God's plans or people's sinful wishes? If we are following the wrong way this can offend God and be a stumbling block to the spread of His kingdom.

One of the ways of assessing what is the right way to go is to ask, “Is this from God. Is it rooted in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control?” Is it consistent with what we know about God and His ways from the Bible?
Today the philosophy of many is “If it feels good, do it”. They may use sex, tobacco, alcoholic drinks, drugs, sport or exercise, power, and position to get this. All of these things will fail to give true life, purpose, and lasting satisfaction. The way to follow is Jesus. His way is of self-denial but also love, acceptance, a purpose in life, and resurrection.
Last week we saw how Jesus' kingship and kingdom is different. Based on humility, service, sacrifice. Not being seen as great, being served and receiving.
Jesus said v24, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

We will all fail to follow Jesus properly all of the time. But this verse reminds us and challenges us that to follow Jesus means living a life of obedience to Him, to deny our own selfish will, to put to death a life with ourselves at the centre. This may seem negative, difficult and painful, and I am not suggesting that following Jesus is easy. In some cultures it will lead to people being ostracised, persecuted, executed. But, putting to death a selfish life means that, inspired by God's Spirit, we can be better people and this will bless us and others, too. Living for Jesus will also give us fellowship with God in this life, and into eternity.

The certain hope of resurrection is behind what Jesus is saying. He can face injustice, rejection, suffering and death because He knows that there is resurrection that flows from and follows these things. The true believer can also look forward to resurrection, especially when things are difficult.
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
It has been said that a faith that costs nothing is worth nothing.

This week I was talking to a colleague who had organised an outreach event that was not as well attended as he would have liked. He was saddened by this and the lack of interest by many in the Christian faith.

Following Jesus is not an easy route. It is not a popular route. Jesus said, Mt 7.14 “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

So we need to be realistic. But we also need to be determined, empowered by God's Spirit to live for Jesus, equipped by God's Spirit with gifts of service, enabled by God's Spirit to produce fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

I don't know how many here have had a mortgage on your house and paid it off. You took out the loan, perhaps for 25 years. Paid regularly, sometimes with difficulty at the start, especially when interest rates were high. Then, finally one day, the last payment and you owned all of your home.

Whilst salvation is a free gift from God, Jesus teaches in verse 27 that those who do keep going with and in God can look forward to their reward in heaven. God sees everything that we do. Jesus said "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:19-21 (NIV) Make Jesus your treasure, your delight. Follow Him.
The song “What grace is mine” by Kristyn Getty to Londonderry air fits this passage very well http://www.gettymusic.com/hymns.aspx