Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sermon on Matthew 16:21-28, for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, "Life Under the Cross"

Sermon outline

1. Today’s Gospel: Life Under the Cross. More ways than one: 1) discipleship leads on a path where we will encounter suffering; 2) under the cross of Christ—forgiven

2. Peter’s false view of suffering—God forbid! This shall never happen to you! Was suffering not fitting for the glory of the Christ in his eyes? Idea today that “real love rescues from all pain” (Koukl). T or F? Sometimes as parents we let our children suffer under certain circumstances for their own good, because a greater good is in view (Koukl God can teach through suffering.

3. Peter wants to steer Jesus away from the cross. Avoid the path of suffering. Unwittingly the mouthpiece of Satan…just earlier had been a mouthpiece for God “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” 180 degrees. Rock of Confession to stumbling block for Jesus.

4. Which is a greater shock? Peter daring to rebuke God? Or Jesus rebuking Peter (and calling him Satan)? Thought he knew better than God. Have we unwittingly done the same? Hear God’s Word and say “It is certainly not so!” Claiming higher or better knowledge than God. Correcting God. The height of arrogance and idolatry of self to think of ourselves more highly than God. Well-deserved rebuke. Are we “put in our place” by God’s Word often enough (pastors included!)? Satan was behind Peter’s thought, as Satan’s ‘M.O.’ is to challenge God’s Word and command, “Did God really say?”

5. Jesus needed Peter to understand that it was Divine Necessity that He go to the cross. God’s plan. This was part of His “job description.” Without God’s plan, it certainly would’ve been senseless or futile suffering. But since it was God’s plan, it was redemptive. That is, Jesus’ suffering bought us out of our sins. Peter would preach some 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection: 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:23-24).

6. Cross was part of God’s greater plan. In the short-term it seemed to be an evil, unjust suffering and death. Infinitely greater good in view. To take Jesus’ cross away from Him is to have the thoughts of men, not the thoughts of God. Life under the cross is life redeemed—bought back from sin by His death. God had to suffer to give us His greatest gift—never second-guess what He had to do. Gives humble knowledge and repentance. Accept that our sins had the terrible price of death, and Jesus paid it for us willingly. Life under the cross means life forgiven. We stand under His forgiveness, stand behind Jesus’ innocence when God brings us into judgment. Sin will not be counted against us if we have faith in Jesus.

7. Helping Peter to realize this, Jesus also taught that the life of the disciple (follower) is under the cross. There will be suffering in our lives. Not all of it is attributable to the fact we are Christians. Unbelievers obviously also suffer. But suffering always presents a challenge to our faith. Will we still bless the name of the Lord? My classmate Rev. Carl Roth put it this way: when suffering happens, will we still confess that “God in Christ is completely for [us]; that despite all outward appearances, God is at work saving [us]. When the Christian bears any cross faithfully, he is at the same time confessing to those around him, “God is good in spite of all that is happening to me.”

8. Taking up our cross and following Jesus, means that we accept our sufferings in this life, and follow Jesus by faith. Living under His cross that redeems us. Not that we participate in redemption by bearing our crosses. They’re not redemptive for us. Only Jesus’ cross redeems us. Jesus wasn’t telling Peter that he would share in the work of redeeming the world. When it came to that crucial moment, and Jesus hung on the cross, He was forsaken…bearing sin alone. No one else shared in that burden of sin at the cross.

9. But we are to learn that suffering is inescapably part of the Christian life. Not that we somehow find it enjoyable or that we seek or desire it. It is a reality of our broken world. But we have a specific response to suffering as Christians. Instead of being a sign of the meaninglessness and futility of life, we by faith take up the cross and bear it. Not to complain, not to wallow in self-pity, not even to impress others by our great endurance, but to confess that God is good despite our sufferings, and that whatever reasons there are that are hidden from us, God is working good for those who love Him. Not that every event of suffering has a hidden lesson that we are to try to decipher. But in the time of suffering, we look all the more to Christ. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Our strength, our redemption, our promise of final deliverance from evil and suffering, is through Him.

10. So also, the church in mission is the church under the cross. The mission proceeds under persecution, loss of life, great resistance. Do not look for the path of glory, as Peter was tempted to do. The path of least resistance is often not the best path. Greatest achievement happens through trial. We set our eyes on the greater good that exists beyond these sufferings, and accept them graciously as our crosses, with the faith that God will bring us to the greater good of life with Him. We have faith that it wouldn’t profit us anyways to gain the whole world, to avoid all suffering and have all pleasure—if it meant we lost our soul. Rather, we follow the Christ, who taught that if we lose our life for His sake, we will find it. Our little crosses point us to His great cross, where His suffering was turned into our redemption by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Life under the cross will have its trials, but the worth of standing under God’s forgiveness is truly to find real life with Christ.

Sermon Talking Points
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1. What are two ways in which Christian life is a life lived “Under the Cross?” Why will we be misled if we think that God’s plan for the Christian would be to rescue them from all immediate pain and suffering? Give an example of a “greater good” that might be in store beyond a situation of temporary suffering.

2. Why was Peter’s rebuke of Jesus such a shock? Compare Matthew 16:16 and 16:22. What are more subtle ways that we might unconsciously “rebuke” God? How is this an idolatry of self, as well as being supremely arrogant? Cf. Satan’s “M.O.” Gen. 3:1

3. Why is it essential to understand that Jesus’ suffering on the cross happened by “Divine Necessity”? Acts 2:23-24; Isaiah 53:10-12. How does that change it from senseless and purposeless suffering, into God’s redemptive act?

4. Most often any apparent “purpose” for our sufferings is hidden from our eyes and mind. How does that “life under the cross” then cause us to rely on faith? Will we still be able to confess: “God is good in spite of all that is happening to me”? Job 1:21-22; 2:9-10; Romans 8:16-30

5. Our crosses are not redemptive—i.e. we don’t “earn salvation” by them. But how do they help us look to Christ? 2 Cor. 12:9. What do they remind us about the cost of our own sin, and the real cross that Christ bore?

6. How is the mission of the church always under the cross? How is following Christ the only way to find our lives, even if we lose them for His sake?

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