THE BLESSING OF FAITH

BLESSING OF FAITH

All of this should be cause for great comfort for us – our very belief is evidence of God’s work in us. If you, like Peter, believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, you are blessed! It means that God himself is at work in your heart. It means that our trials and grief and suffering in this life are not the full story.

 

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Matthew #53 . Matthew 16:13-20 (Part B)

Bible passages like the one we have been studying these past few weeks strike me as extremely important. As I have been working on these past few messages, I have found myself hoping and praying that more and more people can hear them.

That is one reason I deeply appreciate your partnership in prayer. It is a great joy to me to know that some of you are praying along with us that the Lord uses this ministry to get his message out to the world. We aren’t the only ministry preaching God’s word, not by a long shot; but I truly believe that we do have responsibility for one small part of what God wants to do in the world during our lifetimes. Please pray that his purposes are fulfilled in and through Clear Bible. Please pray for protection and provision for me and my family.

Another thing I’d like prayer for is the idea of getting more “space” on the internet to archive more sermons. The hosting for our sermons is relatively inexpensive, but it is also limited. I recently had to delete about a hundred old sermons in order to make room for new ones. The great thing about the internet is that someone could come along and benefit from this sermon years from now. But to make that possible, we’re going to have change some things. Pray for guidance in this process, and technical help.

We value your prayer partnership above all. We do also welcome your financial partnership, if the Lord leads you to give. Please don’t feel guilty or bad if he does not. If the Lord does lead you to give financially, you can, just use the Paypal Donate button on the right hand side of the page. You don’t have to have a Paypal account – you can use a credit card, if you prefer. You can also set up a recurring donation through Paypal. We can make this tax-deductible if you just mention that it want it to be so in the “note” part of the transaction.

You could also send a check to:

New Joy Fellowship

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Just put “Clear Bible” in the memo. Your check will be tax-deductible.

Thank for your prayers, and your support!

~

Last time we considered the substance of Peter’s statement that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), Son of the Living God. Theologians sometimes call a statement like this a “confession.” Many people think “confessing” is the same as “admitting,” but there are subtle and important differences. To confess in a biblical sense means “to say with,” or “to agree with the truth.” So, when we confess our sins, we are agreeing with the truth that the Bible teaches about those actions: namely, that they are wrong (they are sins) and also that we have done them. You see, it isn’t just admitting that we sin, it is agreeing with what the bible says about it. Confession can also be positive. You may have been in a church service where everyone said the Apostles’ Creed together. The pastor probably said something like: “Let us confess our faith together in the words of the Apostles’ Creed.” We are agreeing with the truth – thus, confessing. So Peter is agreeing with something that was already true – the identity of Jesus.

Now Jesus tells us several very important things about this confession:

He says, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! (literally, “Simon, son of Jonah”). This confession blesses those who make it. Actually, it is hard to overstate how much blessing comes from truly believing and confessing that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. To agree with this truth, to submit to the implications of it – that is, to personally submit to Jesus Christ and put your trust in Him – this is the only path to Life, according to the Bible. Jesus says elsewhere:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6, HCSB)

John writes:

The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within him. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about His Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1John 5:10-13, HCSB)

That Life starts now. Even now, before we die, through Jesus we can find increasing wholeness in our spirits and souls. Even now, we can begin to experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness faithfulness and self-control in increasing measures.

But of course, it doesn’t stop when we die. The bible is pretty clear that we can’t even begin to grasp the wonder and joy and hope of the life to come, but it gives us some very exciting hints. I think this is one of the great biblical truths, one of the great Christian hopes. Our trials and grief and suffering in this life are not the full story. The Life after death – promised in Jesus alone – gives meaning and hope and joy to all things now, even the ones that seem to defy explanation. 1 Corinthians says:

What eye did not see and ear did not hear, and what never entered the human mind — God prepared this for those who love Him. (1Cor 2:9, HCSB)

Life begins now, but it continues on into eternity in a way that has “never entered the human mind.” If this is not so, says Paul:

If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. (1Cor 15:19, HCSB)

Our hope is much, much greater than simply a good life for 100 years on earth. This life we have in Jesus makes sense of things that are otherwise terrible tragedies.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. (Rom 8:18, HCSB)

Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. (Rom 8:24-25, HCSB)

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28, HCSB)

All of this begins with truly confessing, along with Peter, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Those who confess it are blessed.

There is another thing. Jesus tells Peter he is blessed because “flesh and blood” did not reveal it to Peter, but rather the Father in Heaven. The only reason Peter is able to really trust and obey Jesus as Messiah and Lord, is because the Father has enabled him to do so. Paul put it like this:

Now concerning what comes from the Spirit: brothers, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you used to be led off to the idols that could not speak. Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1Cor 12:1-3, HCSB)

Obviously, anyone can pronounce the words “Jesus is Lord.” But what Paul means is that no can say it and truly believe it unless God has enabled him or her to do so. I think this is exactly what Jesus is saying to Peter. If you truly believe Jesus is Lord and Messiah, it is because God has done something in your heart. This is true of all believers. To make Peter’s confession (and believe it) is a sign that God is at work in us, and we are saved. There are many places in the bible that demonstrate that faith in Jesus as the Messiah comes about as a gift from God. I will italicize the relevant parts in the following verses:

Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God.  (1Cor 2:10-12, HCSB)

This is a reiteration of what Jesus said to Peter. This confession is given to us through the Holy Spirit.

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10, HCSB)

This is very clear – even our faith is “not from ourselves, it is God’s gift.”

[Jesus said]: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44, HCSB)

It’s hard to be clearer than that. If we come to Jesus, it is because the Father has drawn us.

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfillment — to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him. (Eph 1:9-10, HCSB)

The mystery of the Messiah was made known to us by God, just as it was to Peter.

For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, (Phil 1:29, HCSB)

To believe in the Messiah was “given to us.”

For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. (Phil 2:13, HCSB)

God is the one working in us for His good purpose.

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:3-6, HCSB)

The “good work” is salvation – and it was started in us by God Himself, and will be carried to completion by Him.

All of this should be cause for great comfort for those of us who believe – our very belief is evidence of God’s work in us. If you, like Peter, believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, you are blessed! It means, among many wonderful things, that God himself is at work in your heart.

But what about those who do not believe? Does this mean God isn’t at work in them, or doesn’t care about them? Not at all. The verses I have already shared make it clear that even faith is a gift from God. But, because God wants love to be real, the choice to receive God must also be real. Scripture shows that though we don’t create our own faith, or accomplish our own salvation, human beings can refuse and reject the gift that the Lord offers. I’ll share some more verses, again marking important parts with italics. Jesus says, later in Matthew:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing! (Matt 23:37, HCSB)

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, and you said, “No! We will flee upon horses”; therefore you shall flee away; and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”; therefore your pursuers shall be swift. (Isa 30:15-16, ESV2011)

The Lord’s desire is always for all of us to receive the gift of grace through faith when he offers us. But some people are not willing. Some people say “No.” The negative result is their own responsibility, not the Lord’s fault.

Woe to them, for they fled from Me; destruction to them, for they rebelled against Me! Though I want to redeem them, they speak lies against Me. (Hos 7:13, HCSB)

“You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do you. (Acts 7:51, HCSB)

God does enables us to receive his grace through faith, but he does not force us to do so. Also, the fact that someone has so far resisted God’s grace does not mean he or she always will. The apostle Paul violently rejected Jesus for a number of years; but finally he repented and did receive grace and salvation through the Messiah.

Now, I want to make something clear. Jesus’ words to Peter are also words to us. We don’t need to go around wondering if we have rejected God or not. Although we are called to continue trusting and obeying Jesus, we don’t need to do it perfectly, and we don’t need to fear that we will somehow accidentally reject him in the future. As we trusted him to save us, we can trust him to continue to keep us. Your very faith is evidence that God has got you. You don’t have to worry.

Let’s close by meditating on one of my favorite passages of scripture:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.

Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Rom 8:31-39, HCSB)

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