Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mt 16:21-28 Helping or Hindering God?

KEY VERSE: 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 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."

KEY THOT: Jesus and Peter are pictures of contrast in this situation. Jesus was focused on the things of God (divine vision) whereas Peter was focused on the things of man (human enterprise). This basic difference in perspective resulted in a clash of priorities and purpose. Jesus' self-identity was defined by his participation in God's kingdom agenda where self-denial and self-death are its values. Peter's self-identity, on the other hand, was defined by his participation in a human enterprise where position, power and privileges are its values. These values were Satan-inspired, not Spirit-inspired. So, instead of helping Jesus fulfill His divine purpose, Peter actually hindered it. 

As I move around different churches and different groups, I realise that Christians can be divided into roughly two categories: those who are helping God fulfill His kingdom agenda and those who are hindering God in His purpose from being accomplished. Those who align themselves with God's kingdom agenda prosper and grow. Those who align themselves with human agenda stagnate and even shrink. Strictly speaking, we cannot help God because only His power can establish His own kingdom. But while we cannot help God, we can definitely hinder His purpose because He works through us. Peter became the unwitting pawn of the devil because he, together with the other eleven disciples, saw following Jesus as the path to self-glory defined by position, power and privileges:

  • Luke 22:24-26 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And (Jesus) said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.

So we see that all twelve disciples thought that following Jesus was the path to position, power and privileges--and for this reason, there were a dispute and division among them. This conflict of interests frustrates instead of fulfills God's kingdom purpose through them.

Jesus then went on to define the self-identity of a true disciple:

  • Matthew 16:24-26 "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.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?"

The true disciple of Christ is not focused on self-ambition but on self-denial and self-death: "let him deny himself and take his cross and follow me" (v.24). The kingdom self-identity and self-esteem are defined not in terms of self-preservation ("save his life") but self-sacrifice ("loses his life").

In the final analysis, we cannot help God; but we can definitely hinder Him. Jesus' way of building His church is by proclaiming and promoting the kingdom of God--the things of God.  But like Peter, we can end up hindering Jesus' mission when we focus on the things of man by concentrating on building our religious brand and institution instead of God's kingdom.

Abba-Father, deliver us from human ambition. Help us become true disciples by denying and dying to our own human ambition and vision. Instead, grant us grace to align our hearts with Your vision of the Kingdom marked by self-denial and self-death. Amen. 

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