Lord of Life

Lord of Life

Text: Matthew 16:13-17– Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 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. (Verses 24-27) Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?  27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Introduction: Last week we started into a new preaching series called “the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” The word for “lord” means master or owner. When we say that Jesus is Lord (which is the earliest confession or creed of the Christian church—Romans 10:9 – If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord … ; 1 Corinthians 12:3 — … no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit), we’re declaring that we recognize His rightful place to rule over us. In our previous message we looked at Philippians 2:6-11 and what happened that established Christ’s lordship over all creation in heaven and on earth. Here’s a quick summary for you: In servant-like humility, Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh and then offered Himself as a sacrifice, voluntarily dying on the cross, and giving His life in payment for our sin. God raised Him from the dead and He ascended into heaven where Christ has been exalted to the highest place.  Now we’re told that every knee will bow (of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth—a reference to angels, humans, and demons) and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. It’s important to note that there is both a present and future element to this confession. As Christians, we have already acknowledged our need for Christ, turned from our sin and by faith accepted His sacrifice so that we’re saved. Today, we call Him Lord and Savior. Everyone else will have to decide for themselves when they, too, will come to the same conclusion and make a similar declaration. Will it be in this life or at the end of time as we know it at the final judgment when there is no possibility of salvation? So, the question isn’t if, but when!

Today, I want to look at what the Scriptures have to say to each of us as believers about our confession of Christ as Lord, the implications of which are far-reaching as He works His way into every area of our lives and changes everything about us. For some, this may seem a little threatening, but let me assure you that the Lord will never make you into someone that you do not desire to become. That’s because when we begin to experience the beauty and wonder of the new life Christ desires to bring to us, we just want more and more of it in our daily experience.

In “Conversations about Christmas with Tim Keller”, the author addresses the kind of mentality all too often expressed by those who are reluctant to come to Christ for fear of what they might have to give up if they submit to Him as Lord. He writes: I’ve heard people say, “I’m checking out Christianity, but I also understand Christians can’t do this and the Bible says you’re supposed to do that. You’re supposed to love the poor or you’re supposed to give up sex outside of marriage. I can’t accept that.” So, people want to come to Christ with a list of conditions. But the real question is this: Is there a God who is the source of all beauty and glory and life, and if knowing Christ will fill your life with His goodness and power and joy, so that you would live with him in endless ages with his life increasing in you every day? If that’s true, you wouldn’t say things like, “You mean, I have to give up ______ (fill in the blank).” Let’s say you have a friend who is dying of some terrible disease. You take him to the doctor and the doctor says, “I have a remedy for you. If you just follow my advice you will be healed and you will live a long and fruitful life, but there’s only one problem: while you’re taking my remedy, you can’t eat chocolate.” Now, what if your friend turned to you and said, “Forget it. No chocolate? What’s the use of living? I’ll follow the doctor’s remedy, but I will also keep eating chocolate.” If Christ is really God, then all the conditions are gone. To know Jesus Christ is to say, “Lord, anywhere your will touches my life, anywhere your Word speaks, I will say, ‘Lord, I will obey. There are no conditions anymore.’” Look … if he’s really God, He can’t just be a supplement. We have to come to Him and say, “Okay, Lord, I’m willing to let you start a complete reordering of my life.” That’s what we’re talking about this morning and to understand where it leads us as Christians, let’s look at our passage from Matthew chapter sixteen and discover how the creed “Jesus is Lord” impacts all who sincerely confess it.

I.     What Believers SAY When Christ is Lord of Their Lives (Matthew 16:13-17 – Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do the people say the Son of Man is? And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. 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.” 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). I just want to point out three simple observations from these verses. First, Peter, speaking on behalf of all the disciples, referred to Jesus as the Christ. This is a title that means “Messiah” or “anointed one”. In the Old Testament, it gradually came to refer to the person who would sit on the throne of David and represent God’s people in the last days (See 2 Samuel 7:16). For the Jews, this person was the focus of their hope for deliverance from their oppressors. While it is clear that Peter (and the other disciples) did not yet understand all the implications of his confession, he knew enough to believe that Jesus was the Messiah who came in fulfillment of these ancient prophecies.  Second, in the first half of the Gospel of Matthew, only Satan, his demons, and God the Father referred to Jesus as the Son of God. It isn’t until Matthew 14:33 that the disciples begin to come to the same conclusion. Prior to that, they knew Him as the Son of David, the Messiah, but when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water and empowering Peter to do the same, they knew He had to be more than just a man. Over time the only logical answer for doing the things He did was impressed upon them. Jesus was and always will be the Son of God. Here in Matthew chapter sixteen, it all comes together for Peter. And third, note our Lord’s explanation for how Peter came to understand His true identity. It was revealed to him by God the Father. How else could he know, especially since Jesus said in Matthew 11:27 that no one knows the Son but the Father? (Review: Peter saw that Jesus came in fulfillment of ancient prophecies as the Messiah; He did things that only the Son of God could do; This revelation came to him from God the Father). When he put it all together, Peter made his confession … You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Application: Christians can confess more about Christ, but they can’t confess less. When God reveals His Son to us, it is as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The title “Christ” speaks of Jesus’ ministry of deliverance from sin and death and brings to mind promises made in Genesis 3:15, 12:3 and 2 Samuel 7:16. The title “Son of the Living God” tells us how our atonement became possible. God became a man in the person of His Son in order to be our Messiah. I trust that are you able to say a hearty “amen” to Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

What Believers SURRENDER When Christ is Lord of Their Lives (Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me). The word “surrender” is not a popular term these days. The dictionary defines it as the act of submitting to the power of another. Few people are willing to give up control or power to anyone else. Most of us see surrender as a way of admitting defeat. This is how General Robert E. Lee thought about it. Civil War historians tell us that after a long night and day of marching, General Lee and the exhausted Army of Northern Virginia made camp just east of Appomattox Courthouse on April 8, 1865. Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant had sent him a letter on the night of April 7, following confrontations between their troops at Cumberland Church and Farmville, suggesting Lee surrender. The Southern general refused. Grant replied, again suggesting surrender to end the bloodshed. Lee responded, saying in part, “I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army,” though he offered to meet Grant at 10 the next morning between picket lines to discuss a peaceful outcome. That night Lee watched much of the fighting between the two armies through field glasses and it did not go well. The following morning the general said, “There is nothing left for me to do but go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.” When he met the opposing general at the Mclean house, Lee said “We are pressed and are ready to surrender. What are your terms?” Much to his surprise, his counterpart did not speak of judgment, prison or retribution. The terms were to stop fighting and to start living. All they had to do was give up their weapons, go home and plant their fields. The soldiers who hadn’t eaten in days were given meal rations, horses and mules to plow fields. The war was over and new life had just begun. Though surrender cuts against the grain of our human condition, sometimes it’s the only way to a better life. That’s why, here in this verse, Jesus calls us to it!! Certainly, He qualifies what a person must do if he follows Him and says we must surrender our wills to God’s will just as He did when He went to the cross for us. That’s what Jesus means by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Him. Listen … if we’re honest with ourselves … most of us would admit that apart from Christ, we are self-centered. The Scriptures concur with that opinion, by the way. Mankind without Christ is under the lordship of his own sinful desires. That’s the only way we can be! It doesn’t mean we don’t care about others or are incapable of performing acts of kindness on their behalf. It simply addresses the fact that when we do it is ultimately for self-centered reasons. When we come to Christ as Savior and Lord, we become Christ-centered people who are not motivated by self-love or even the love of others for self-benefit. We are first and foremost driven to action by a love for Jesus Christ. We want to obey Him. That’s why He said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me (John 14:21).” The surrender of our wills in order to obey Christ is what most clearly demonstrates our allegiance to and confidence in Him. And this involves not merely adding Him to our lives, but submitting to His rule and reign over our lives. Illustration: One of my former professors at Trinity, Ray Ortlund, explains the principle of surrender this way: “You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons. Our hearts are multi-divided. It’s like we have a board room in (our) heart. Imagine a big table, leather chairs, coffee, bottled water, and a whiteboard. A committee sits around the table. There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, and others. The committee is arguing and debating and voting, constantly agitated and upset. Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision? We tell ourselves we’re this way because we’re so busy with so many responsibilities. But the truth is that we’re just divided, unfocused, hesitant, and unfree. That kind of person can “accept Jesus” in two ways. One is to invite him to the committee. Give him a vote too. But then He becomes just one more complication. The other way to “accept Jesus” is to say to Him, “My life isn’t working. Please come in and fire my committee, every last one of them. I hand myself over to you. I am your responsibility now. Please run my whole life for me.” Turning to Jesus as Savior and Lord, then, is not just the notion of inviting Him to become a member of an already conflicted board with too many chiefs. It is the radical act of replacing the board with Jesus and letting Him dictate everything else. That’s what surrender looks like to one who calls Christ “the Lord.”

III.     What Believers SEEK When Christ is Lord of Their Lives. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us not to seek what we are to eat, drink or wear. Paul tells us not to seek our own good (as if that should be our highest ambition) in 1 Corinthians 10:24. So what are we to seek according to Christ? Jesus calls us to a lifestyle characterized by self-denial based on the logic that life exists beyond the grave.  This has two implications for us:
A.    We Seek the Salvation of Our Souls (Verses 25-26 — 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? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?). The accumulation of all the goods and pleasures of this world cannot secure eternal life for anyone. They should not be our focus because these things are passing away (1 John 2:15-17). They will not last. Instead, we are to focus on that which will lead to eternal life. I’m speaking of the life surrendered to Christ for His purposes and glory. One that will at the end of our days result in its inevitable conclusion: that we have been saved by grace through faith, the evidence of which is submission to Christ as Lord and King. After all, can anything in this world be of such value that a man would be willing to be condemned to Hell for it?
B.    We Seek the Return of Our Lord (Verse 27 — For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done). To those who lose their lives for the sake of Christ, a reward is forthcoming! When Jesus returns He will repay those who denied themselves and submitted to His lordship. Those who served only themselves will receive a completely different fate.

·      If Christ is your Lord, others will hear it in your confession. Christians are not wishy-washy about our faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. We know what we believe and we declare it joyfully and without reservation. The person who claims to be a believer and yet is embarrassed by Christ may want to take a closer look at what he really believes about Him. After all … Jesus did say, “Everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess Him before My Father who is in heaven” – Matthew 10:32.
·      If Christ is your Lord, others will see it in your submission. How can it be otherwise? How can someone say with great conviction “Jesus is Lord” and yet live as if He is not? No … believers submit to His kind and benevolent rule over us.
·      If Christ is your Lord, others will sense it in your anticipation. Today, so many people are terrified at the thought that the world will come to an end. Christians, however, see it differently. We pray “Come, Lord Jesus” because we know that what we have now is only the beginning of what we will enjoy forever. So, we’re not afraid, we’re excited!!

Conclusion: Have you heard about the non-profit organization Mars One? It has set the lofty goal of establishing a human colony on Mars by 2027. The plan is to send four pioneers as a test group and then to add another four volunteers every two years. The organization says these adventurers would have to be highly resourceful since they will need to serve as the colony’s chefs, farmers, doctors, and engineers. The most striking pre-requisite is the knowledge there are no return flights. Since a one-way trip takes seven months and costs a small fortune, the volunteers need to be willing to die on Mars. Despite this obstacle, Mars One has had no problem attracting “highly educated people willing to die on another planet.” There were more than 200,000 video applications. After much meticulous screening they whittled it down to 1,058, then 660, and now are at 100 ambitious visionaries. One finalist, Leila Zucker, an emergency room physician, hopes to be as famous as Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. Dr. Zucker said, “We can’t stay on this planet forever—I would argue. Let’s go now.” Other applicants enthusiastically view this mission as a way to unite humanity for one extraordinary, transcendent cause. The Mars One web site advises: “Once on Mars, there are no means to return to Earth. Mars is home. A grounded, deep sense of purpose will help each astronaut maintain his or her psychological stability and focus as they work together toward a shared and better future.” Now think about that for a moment. The same kind of commitment that would lead someone to travel on a one-way trip to Mars is what ought to be seen in every believer who is also on a one-way trip … but ours, of course, is to heaven.