Monday, November 09, 2009

Lessons from Matthew 16

This morning, I wake up and want to keep to my decision to spend time with God and in His word.

No chance to do so at home — the morning mummy rush is quite mad — but now, before I start work, I have asked God for a word today. Without it this day will pass without my making a difference.

The Lord leads me to Matthew 16.

This chapter is so rich — so many things happen in the Spirit, and the verses are so nuanced, there's so much between the lines.

From Pastor Tan's teaching I find myself trying to look at whole chapters in context. Matt 16 is one of them.

1. Jesus starts by telling the disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees, to beware. Does this happen today? The yeast really is what man wants, not what God wants. It's the rules and regulations man has put in place of true worship. In a weird way it's easier to follow rules, tick them off and count our religious duties done (attended service, tick. Visited old folks home, tick. Said morning and night prayers, tick.) It is much harder to seek God and to follow His timing — He very well might, in the middle of your very important meeting, tell you to go outside and pray. He might tell you, when you are nursing a cold and so exhausted you think you are going to faint, to go and pray for someone. Serving God is rarely convenient. If we follow the teachings of the Pharisees, we will only count our religious duties accomplished. It doesn't mean God doesn't have rules and regulations (helloo??) but that if we set ourselves aside and follow Him, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

2. Question on v 4: do we ask for signs when, if we follow God with all our hearts and minds, we will never miss or need a sign?

3. Then Jesus asks Simon Peter who He is. Why does Jesus ask this? Why is it at that moment that Simon Peter is touched by the Holy Spirit? "Upon this rock" - Christ is the rock not Simon Peter. The foundation of the church is Jesus Christ. And the gates of hell will not prevail. Whatever the church looses on earth is loosed in Heaven — what do we loose? Peace, joy, understanding, compassion... What do we bind? Confusion, discord, hatred...

15"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.

18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

4. Then Jesus predicts His death.
21From 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.

22Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"

23Jesus 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."

24Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his lifeh]" style="font-size: 0.75em; line-height: 0.5em; ">[h] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26What 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? 27For 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. 28I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

So Peter, who has just been touched by the Holy Spirit and declares Jesus the Son of the living God, in the very next moment says Jesus shall not die and be resurrected. We are all like that - we vacillate between listening to the Spirit and being fleshly. We don't even realise it when we do, till Christ tells us to stop it. How keen are we to the words of Christ? We say what seems to be right in the eyes of man, but not God — because the yeast of the Pharisees has already got to us! Where we are now is, we must recognise it is the yeast of the Pharisees, and we must avoid it. Even the loosest of words we use — they must not just sound Godly, they must be God-inspired, God-approved.

Lesson for me today: Beware what I say - is it something that pleases man or God. How can I speak so that I have favour with both God and man?

Thoughts to meditate upon today.