NPR reported that 2 suicide bombers had infiltrated the confines of two church buildings in north Africa last Sunday. 100 were wounded and 21 became martyrs in a moments notice. I wonder what the attendance for those two groups are today. I wonder how many decided to stay home. I wonder how many will never return. I wonder if the faith of some was not crystalized by persecution. Living out the mission of God in our lives means that we have a faith built on solid rock and we ourselves become the living stones of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi with his disciples. It was an area named for Caesar Philip of Macedon who was Alexander the Great’s father. T.B. Larimore noted “Caesarea was founded upon a mass of imperishable rock. It was built of stone, from hovel to palace, from foundation to roof, hence it might as well be called “Rock City” or “The City of Rocks”. It was surrounded by a stone wall. It was situated in one of the roughest , rockiest, and most romantic, picturesque and rugged spots on earth, at the foot of Mount Hermon, that cast its dense, dark shadow upon the town for hours at the beginning of every bright day….It was on the coasts or immediate presence of this rock-founded, rock-builded, rock-bounded, rock-surrounded, rock-protected, rock-shadowed city that JEsus, the Rock of Ages, the Rock for sinners cleft, said to Peter the rock, ‘Upon this rock I will build my church.'” This is the Rock from which Christians spring and which sets the bounds for our lives.
Making the Confession of the Rock –Matthew 16:13-20
Jesus asked the question that will separate the sheep from the goats: “Who do men say that I the Son of man am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”. Who is this Jesus? “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter answered correctly and we must as well if we are to find Heaven.
This is the same confession to which we find a prelude in Isaiah 9:6-7 and Psalm 2:6-7. This is the confession made by God himself as Jesus ascended from the waters of obedience–Matthew 3:16-17. This confession made again on the Mount of Transfiguration–Matthew 17:5. This confession was made by the sorrowful sister outside the tomb: “Yes Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (Jn. 11:27). The confession was surely made again as the earth trembled at the thought and gave up the dead. Again the Christ is acknowledged as the temple veil is torn into just as the heart of God was broken. From a distance a Roman soldier rightly said, “surely this man was the Son of God.”
This is the confession that we too must make. Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will confess also before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). As an act of obedient and living faith, we must confess the name of Jesus in order to be saved–Romans 10:9-10, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Just as we must believe, repent, and be baptized, we must confess publicly and daily that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Savior of my soul. Jesus shows us the importance of confession in Matthew 7:21-27. Will we confess him with our actions, words, attendance, parenting, and teaching?
The Charge to Keep Requiring Rock Solid Faith–Matthew 16:21-23
It is easy to state a belief, but is another matter to live out your convictions. Jesus’ determination to die as the propitiation was a conviction which led to His mission and ours. Perhaps unknowingly, Peter became the servant of Satan when he rebuked our Lord for His determination to reach the goal of Calvary. Jesus was teaching them 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.” The Hebrews writer said, “Since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has power of death, that is the devil.” This was Jesus mission. He would not be deterred. Mankind would have the opportunity to be saved. We have a mission as well.
In a similar way, we are to “put to death that which earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness” (Col. 3:5). We are to be like Paul who said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The same Apostle said, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6).
The Cross to Bear on a Rock Called Calvary–Matthew 16:24-28
Jesus emphatically declares that His mission must become ours if we are to be His people. He said, “If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Jesus demonstrated his resolve while praying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk. 22:42).
We all have a cross to bear. “Let us be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Our cross begins as we sacrifice our worldly desires on the alter of God’s love only to have the void and our broken lives filled with Heavenly joy, love, and peace that passes understanding (Matt. 5:29-30). Paul knew only that “I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city saying that bounds and afflictions abide me” (Acts 22:23). We may not be asked to sacrifice as much as Paul. We may not choose to find as much service as Paul. We may not be accepted and awarded as Paul either (2 Tim. 4:8)
We never know when we will find a cross to bear, neither do we know when we will be rewarded for bearing that cross. We remember Karen Klein of New York who was bullied by several children on a school bus. She endured the ordeal and was recently rewarded with an apology and donations totaling 1/2 million dollars from a website dedicated to the “Lets Give Karen Klein a Vacation Campaign”. Let us endure. A far better reward waits for those who die in faith (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Will You Confess Him?
Now let us ask the question of ourselves, “Who do you say that He the Son of Man is?” Who is He to you? Is He your Lord, your Savior? In fulfillment of the Savior’s sweet words, the church was built, the gates of Hades have not and will not prevail against it, and the keys of the kingdom remain. I is as if the nails which pierced our Lord’s body and fastened him to the cursed tree were melted down and refashioned into the keys opening wide entrance into the kingdom of Christ. Peter used those keys and handed them over to us all during the first Gospel sermon. Though it was not recorded in Acts 2, we are certain 3000 confessed “I believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God.” Those keys were placed into the door of eternity and turned as 3000 repented and were baptized so that their sins may be forgiven and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those keys remain. They wait for you to retrieve them through faith and use them through obedience. Today is your faith built on the Rock?