27…“Who do people say I am?”
29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
33…“Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
34…“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Who? Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Right answer but which was the right question: “Who do people say I am?” or “Who do you say I am?” The right question mattered to Jesus not just the right answer.
“Who do people say I am?” The cultural heritage of the Jewish people was that Messiah would come as a warrior-like king in a battle to redeem their long history of oppression and remake their world. That was a powerful and appealing identity any Jew would recognize about Messiah
Jesus presses on with a far more personal question. “Who do you say I am?” It was an identity destined to be an uphill battle for their mind. Jesus was talking about being killed and rising from the dead…for heaven’s sake! Messiah WOULD redeem their long history of oppression and remake their world…BUT by giving up his own life in exchange for their souls and asking them to deny themselves and lose their life for him.
It’s no wonder Peter was worried about the messaging. It’s no wonder Jesus called him on it! “Who do you say I am?” is still the right question. It’s still an uphill battle to keep “in mind the concerns of God,” and not just settle for knowing the right answer.
Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [NIV]
I discovered there is one more thing to be added to my list in last Sunday’s post about the Holy Spirit. I missed this very important point but as so often happens, God has a way of building something more complete than what I already knew.
Everything on my original list – inspiration, truth teller, guarantee, within, teacher, support, helper and confirmation – was God’s own truth from his word. God designed the work of the Holy Spirit in us to be very personal to each of us but there’s one thing more…
God has added this Word from Titus 3 to my list. It’s important because it reveals the work of the Holy Spirit in each of us is very personal to him too: so “we might become [his] heirs…” Now it’s a complete list!
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
*Sword of the Spirit”
I often start my devotional time by jotting key points of the scripture I’m reading. What came to mind first from these verses was a graphic image of a figure wearing this armor but my visual imagery struggled with two of the pieces of armor; “feet fitted with the readiness” and “the sword of the Spirit.” The rest of the armor was clearly for personal protection but these to pieces seemed different. That made them worth thinking more about.
Shoes that are that are “fitted” to your own feet are a big deal when it comes to readiness to go anywhere. You’re virtually lame if your shoes don’t fit; too small and they pinch…too big and they can trip you up. That makes your personal fit for these special shoes dependent on knowing the truth of the gospel of peace!
The Sword is an odd image. The Word of God often confronts, challenges and convicts the one who uses it. This is what makes it personal; the Sword is more like a surgical instrument meant to save a life rather than a weapon to slay an enemy. It’s like the “physician heal yourself” idea. A surgeon’s has to be skilled and well trained!
Those two short paragraphs are what I was meant to learn today. All the other pieces of armor are protection more readily picked up and put on but shoes and swords are unique. They require more personal attention to become part of what will protect you enough to be ready to reach out to a world of broken people. The shoes are custom “fitted” so you can step out in peace to share the gospel. Your hand picks up the sword that has surgically changed your own heart and mind to become the life-saving “sWord” that reaches beyond your hand to a broken world.
The observance of Advent and Christmas has served it’s purpose. The darkness of night was lit up with the special lights we hung. We heard the annual music of bells being rung outside many stores. Those once-a-year cookies were both the taste and the aroma of the season.
It’s complete, but it’s not over.
Everything around us in that season was designed [by God] to reawaken our physical senses. Once again we’ve been stimulated by the external celebration to see for ourselves whether the fullness of these words from Mark 12:30 can become real in us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
The season is complete, but it’s not over.
These words from I Timothy 3:16 are our challenge now to carry on: “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”
We’ve moved beyond the external stimulation of this Christmas season and that long-ago story of God’s intervention to restore “our” broken world. Now it’s become personal; can Jesus, the Christ, restore “my” broken world?
It’s not over, it’s just beginning.