The Fullness of Time, Part 2

“What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces[a] of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:1-5).”

 

You notice how Paul uses the phrase, “when the set time had fully come?” That’s what I want to emphasize today. God’s perfect timing. God has a way of doing things, orchestrating things, with precision. Just look at God’s creation. From the human body to the stars in the universe, everything is set in a specific and detailed order. And I want you to know, that God has set a time for you, your miracle, your prayer to be answered.

As we look at scripture, we know that the need and promise of a savior arose long before His birth. In fact, from the time of Adam’s fall to the time of Jesus was 4,000 years. And if we look carefully at scripture, the first prophetic hint of the coming Messiah was doled out not to man, but to Satan at the time of the fall.

14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,

Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike[
b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

So what does this mean? Bible.org goes into a lengthy discussion about this, but to sum it up, it states these two important things: First, her seed would bruise, crush the serpent’s head. This clearly portrays a mortal wound which means her seed would be victorious. A deliverance is anticipated. Second, the serpent would bruise her seed on the heel. Her seed would suffer, but it would not be a mortal wound or one that would lead to defeat. A deliverer who suffers, but is ultimately victorious is promised. We anticipate, then, a struggle but also a deliverance by one who will suffer.

The Old Testament gives us more than 300 glimpses as to the coming Messiah over the period of those 4,000 years. In fact, many of these prophecies only hint at a Messiah, and like the one I just read, can be easy to read without knowing there was anything specifically prophetic about it, while others are more direct.

But the point is, that God wanted to encourage his people in the coming of the promised one, and that when His son finally arrived on earth, there would be no doubt from that time until the end of the world, that Jesus was certainly the one foretold in scripture.

But what about the timing? Why did God wait 4,000 years?

1. There was a religious preparation for His coming – The fact that the many false idols had failed to give them victory over the Roman conquerors caused many to abandon the worship of those idols. At the same time, in the more “cultured” cities, the Greek philosophy and science of the time left others spiritually empty in the same way that the atheism of communist governments leaves a spiritual void today.

The mystery religions of the time emphasized a savior-god and required worshipers to offer bloody sacrifices, thus making the gospel of Christ which involved one ultimate sacrifice believable to them. The Greeks also believed in the immortality of the soul (but not of the body).
Another religious preparation was that the body of Old Testament literature was pulled together in a single volume; thus paving the way for the preaching of the coming Messiah.

The Babylonian captivity that happened in the interim of the Old Testament and the New Testament created the Jewish synagogue. Until the time that the Jews were displaced from their homeland, they had worshiped exclusively at the Temple in Jerusalem. Now, there was no longer a temple, and so the Jews developed a method of assembly we now know as the synagogue. The synagogue is the pattern on which the Christian church is fashioned. So we can see from all of these things, the religious preparation for the coming of Christ.

2. There was also a cultural preparation for His coming In 350 B.C., about 100 years before Christ, there arose a man whom you might have heard about – Alexander the Great. He conquered the entire known world in twelve years. And because of Alexander’s influence, the world became Greek in culture. This, of course, is very important because in 280 B.C. the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek. A “common” form of the Greek language (different from classical Greek) was the trade language and was spoken throughout the empire, making it possible for the first time to communicate to many different people groups through one common language.

3. Finally, there was a political preparation for His coming – After the Greek Empire came the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had unified much of the world under its government, giving a sense of unity to the various lands. Also, because the empire was relatively peaceful, travel was possible, allowing the spread of the gospel to become. Such freedom to travel would have been impossible in other eras. In fact, Rome had a postal system, which allowed for what? The letters which became the New Testament.

William Lane Craig gave this answer as to the timing of the Messiah:

Human beings have existed for thousands of years on this planet before Christ’s coming. But what’s really crucial here is not the time involved; rather, it’s the population of the world. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever lived on this planet is about 105 billion people. Only two percent of them were born prior to the advent of Christ. Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research says, “God’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Christ showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world’s population.”

As we search the prophetic scriptures, we see that in order for everything to have had a maximum impact, they could only have been fulfilled at a certain place at a certain time. This is also how God works with us. He knows. Like the need for a savior 4,000 years before the Messiah came, He had a plan already in place before the foundation of the world, a day and a time set for it all to unfold. When it seems we go through life, day after day, going to work, raising a family, wondering when our moment will come; God has had a plan already set, a time already fixed. He is working behind the scenes and we don’t even see it. And like with Adam and Eve, he’s even probably already told Satan, the enemy, before telling us.

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The Fullness of Time, Part 1

I had something really remarkable happen a few weeks ago. I drive a medical shuttle all over the place. Anywhere between Buffalo and Binghamton, and I never know where I’m going to be from one day to the next. One day in early November, I was scheduled to be in Rochester all day. Now, this was the first time they ever scheduled me like this. In fact, I was not expecting to be in Rochester at all, let alone all day. I was expecting to be in Livingston and Steuben counties because, that’s what I had requested for the winter months, and they said that was certainly reasonable. But, like I said, I never know where I’m going to be. Usually, if I have to be in Rochester, I take a passenger up, wait for them, and drive them back home. But that day was unusual.

I drove a passenger up, then they gave me a lot of buzzing around the city to do. Now, there’s one passenger, whom I had met not far from here in Dundee. I haven’t seen him in months. He’s a Christian, and it turns out he’s living in a halfway house in the middle of the city. To you, it may not seem like much, but while he was living in this area, I had the opportunity to minister to him quite a lot. He’s been in a lot of rough situations lately. He was released from prison, hasn’t been able to find work, has had a lot of rejection as you can imagine, has had to move from his home in the country to a crowded halfway house in the middle of a noisy city with no money and no transportation, has had to deal with all sorts of rigamarole with social services, has had to put his mother in a nursing home and has had a hard time clinging to his faith.

He always texts me, asking when I’m going to pick him up again. Well, it was few and far between when he lived in Dundee because that’s out of my normal area, but when he moved to Rochester, I thought I’d never see him again because, like I said, it wasn’t my area. He just received word that our company wouldn’t take him anymore, and wouldn’t you know just a few days after that, I was assigned out of nowhere to pick him up?

Now, earlier on the same day, something else happened. Mind you, if it weren’t for a GPS, I wouldn’t know where I was or how to get around anywhere in the city. All these addresses I had that day were completely foreign to me. And I was assigned another gentleman whom I’ve never met, on a street I’ve never been on and was completely unaware where he lived and where I was. When I received his booking, I didn’t know if he lived in the middle of the city, on the outskirts, on the east side, on the west side, in the slums…I didn’t know where he was.

I was completely reliant on the GPS and doing what it told me to do, and turned when it said turn and go when it said to go. And as I’m turning the corner onto his street, just a few blocks from where he lived and wouldn’t you know I just happen to see someone I know who used to live in Dansville jogging along the sidewalk on the very same street this other man lived?

His name is Tony. And to make it all the more amazing, I didn’t know where in the city Tony had moved to. Tony also got out of jail not too long ago, and through someone who does jail ministry at our church, I was informed that Tony was living in Dansville, and if I wanted to, it might be good to try and reach out to him. So, I had gotten his contact information and invited him to our home Bible study group. This was about a year and a half ago.

About a year ago, he had moved up to the city and has had to deal with many similar issues of trying to get his feet back on the ground after being released from jail. He’s had issues getting permission to see his children, find a home, find a job, deal with social services, all of those things, and all the while, struggling to keep his faith alive. He and I have also texted and talked on the phone. But I had no idea where he lived. I didn’t know what street he lived on—I still don’t know. But what are the chances of the timing to be just so that after I turn the corner, Tony just happens to be jogging in that spot—not a mile down the road—and in a city of 200,000 people?

I don’t think that either of those incidences was random. I think that for some reason, The Holy Spirit was working. What was The Holy Spirit trying to say? I think what He was trying to say was this: that if He can make those things happen, those somewhat smaller things happen, then He can make anything happen. He can make the bigger things happen for me. On the right day, in the right place, in the right time. Even when I don’t think it will ever happen, even when I don’t see it coming, He can orchestrate all the pieces to make the timing happen just right.

 

Paul, the unlikely hero (conclusion)

Luke 15 begins its chapter with these words, the New Living Translation put it this way: Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.  Did you hear that? Notorious sinners. In four of the five gospels, Jesus said “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but the sinners.”

And Paul himself, in his book to the church in Rome said, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul is the perfect example of that, isn’t he?

Character after character, the whole Bible is about redemption—about God knowing we are sinners who are trapped inside of something that we can’t get out of. But Christ comes to redeem, or restore, us to who He intended us to be. We don’t always know our own potential. Saul didn’t. But God does.

He sees us as who He originally intended us to be. Think about that. God did not intend for us to be trapped as sinners. Who he intended for us to be was established since before the foundations of the world, but it changed in the Garden. Who you and I are, our Godly potential, was established before the foundation of the world and changed millennia before we were ever born. But because of the cross, he can change it back. It doesn’t happen instantaneously and not even fully until we are rid of these bodies. But the process starts at the time of choosing Him.

In order for us to be an effective Christian witness to the world, as a church body of believers in the world Monday through Friday; as a church building and as a church service on Sunday, we need to see everyone around us with the eyes of whom God intended for them to be.

Now, I’ll admit, it’s hard sometimes, isn’t it? With some, it’s easy to see, but I have to admit it, I can be like Ananias. I can look at some people and think they’re irredeemable. I have a hard time seeing the potential in people. I have a hard time seeing how God could transform certain people. But if He can do that with Saul, he can do that with anyone.

I want us to think about how many testimonies you have heard where God changed someone’s life. Time after time, after time, after time we have heard testimonies like this. What about your testimony? Where were you at one time, and how did God transform your life?

Are you like Ananias? Does God need to change your vision? Does God need to help you see people for who they could be as redeemed sinners rather than notorious sinners? Maybe God is calling you to reach out to someone that you’re afraid might respond negatively, even harshly.

Are you like Saul? Are we thinking we’re doing the Godly thing, but in actuality are we persecuting God’s people? Are we not seeing people who are already saved for who they already are in Christ? Are we so judgmental against other Christians that we think we should put them down and persecute them because they go to a different church denomination, dress differently, watch movies we wouldn’t watch, listen to music we wouldn’t listen to, use language we wouldn’t use or drink something we wouldn’t drink? Is God telling you to stop laying down judgement, being divisive and persecuting His people?

We Christians have had a bad habit for far too long saying, so-and-so isn’t a real Christian because of such-and-such. It’s time to stop judging, putting people down and persecuting. It’s time to start living in such a way that lifts people up. Everyone needs encouragement no matter who they are; they need to be loved and respected. It’s called living the Christian life. And that was a commandment. And that’s how we show people the way to the cross. They already know they’re sinners, but they don’t all know they’re loved.

Paul, the unlikely hero (part 3)

Picking up where we left off yesterday, we see that God wanted to display his compassion more by using someone named Ananias to heal Saul.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

You’ll notice Ananias’ response. He was well aware of Saul’s reputation as a strong persecutor of the faith, Ananias had a right to be afraid. And he questioned God. You’d have to admit it must have seemed strange to Ananias. This is the one you have chosen to reveal the gospel to the world?

I like the way Tim Challies put it:

I have always loved Ananias’ response. Somehow he forgets his place and attempts to give God a bit of a newsflash. I can just picture Him stammering a bit as he takes it upon himself to remind God of just who this Saul guy is. I like to think that he began the sentence with uncertainty and confusion, and perhaps with with the words “Ummm…God….?” 

Have you ever questioned God? When you feel that tug in your spirit to say something, but you’ve felt afraid to do so? Why? Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid of their response when they find out we’re a Christian. We are afraid of just a little bit of backlash. But here, Ananias had some real fear to contend with.

Tim Challies goes on: Ananias had not only heard of how Saul had been systematically destroying the church in Jerusalem, hunting down men and women and turning them over to the authorities, but also knew that he was on the march to Damascus, ready to destroy that church as well. Paul’s hatred for Christ and His followers was common knowledge. We can well imagine that Ananias and the other believers were terrified as they awaited Saul and his cohort, for they knew their lives might be lost for the sake of Christ. They must have awaited his arrival at the city with great dread. And now here God asks Ananias to go and confront the ringleader of the persecutors.

Why did God ask Ananias to do this? It was for both Ananias’ benefit and for Saul’s. For Ananias, it was an act of obedience that resulted in God demonstrating to him just how far reaching God’s transforming love and grace really is.

For Saul, it furthered his belief in Jesus as Messiah because God gave a miraculous vision to a Christ follower, Ananias; and furthermore, that Christ follower extended grace by healing Saul. You see, God’s grace was proven to both Saul and Ananias. The first to a Jewish Pharisee who was an ardent persecutor of Christ. The second to a Christ follower who needed to see and practice the extent of God’s love. It’s evident that both were transformed, not just Saul.

That happens to us when we extend grace today. Both we and the other person are transformed by that grace. But what happens when we judge a person for where they are? Neither one of us experiences God.

This was all due to God’s ability to see Saul’s potential. God knew when certainly, Saul did not. Think about it. Would Saul have ever imagined where his life would lead? That he would leave a lasting legacy 2000 years later?

You never know where a step of obedience and grace on our part could lead someone else. Think about Ananias. His act of obedience was a leap of faith. He must have been scared to death the whole way to meet Saul. I can feel his stomach tightening as it must have seemed to take forever to get to that house. His mind spinning of what might happen when he gets there. But he did it anyway.

We never know what God might call us to do, and what one small act of kindness and obedience might lead. I think Ananias’ life was changed forever that day. I think he now looked at people with the potential of God’s transforming love. And he also, out of that one act of obedience, has a legacy that has lasted 2000 years.

And what is Ananias’ legacy? He obeyed God by demonstrating the love of God, and by seeing and believing that God has chosen Saul to do wondrous works of ministry for the kingdom. Ananias saw Saul now as a brother.

We need to see others for their potential in Christ, not remind them who they are as a sinner. Ananias had every right to rip into Saul. But he didn’t. He obeyed God and demonstrated grace and healing.

Paul, the unlikely hero (part 2)

Beginning where we left off yesterday, you’ll notice right in the beginning of Acts 9, Paul had it in mind to persecute. He did not stumble upon Christians, and get angry. He had a determination to hunt them down and find them. He had no intentions—like my last series—of trying to figure out this Jesus. To find who He really was. He was not curious about Christ. He thought he had it figured out. Jesus the blasphemer had died at the hands of the Pharisees, and he thought his resurrection was a myth. Christianity was now a blasphemy punishable by death. He was going to fight against those blasphemers who claim Jesus as God, as the Messiah, and he would do this great work—he thought—on behalf of God.

Let me ask you this: Have you known anyone like this? Have you noticed there are Christians out there who seem so eager to fight for God that they end up fighting against God in the process?

I don’t think it’s as common now. At least I hope not, but it seems that when I was growing up, there were a lot of preachers out there that had good intentions, but they preached so much against things that they actually got in God’s way of being useful and effective to our culture. And I’m not just talking about how they preached against the world. I mean, they preached against the church. They preached against how people dress, their hairstyle, body piercings, tattoos; they were against wearing jeans to church. Diana tells me she remembers it was a big deal to wear sandals or flip flops to church. It was a big deal if a pastor didn’t wear a tie. Of course rock n’ roll was the devil’s music, so Christian rock was a controversial topic at the time.

What they missed was an opportunity to love, to show people that there is more to Christianity than outward appearances and a list of don’ts. Christians display typical Jewish, pharisaical attitudes when they do this. And nothing angered Jesus more than this kind of attitude. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t establish healthy rules and boundaries when it comes to how much of the world seeps into the church. But, to be so emphatic on what may or may not be doctrinal to the Christian faith that we put both Christians and non-Christians down, we are not seeing a person for whom Jesus died. We are not seeing within them who they are as Christians already; and for those still not-yet Christians, we are not seeing them as who they can become in Christ. We are looking at them without their capability of ever being a Paul.

How did Jesus look at Saul? Look at verses 3-6: As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Notice Jesus’ short and simple choice of words in this verse. He performed a powerful miracle in displaying who he was, but did not lay down the law or threaten Saul with punishment. He did not even tell Saul to change his ways. I don’t think Jesus blinded Saul to punish him, but to get his attention. Jesus asks “why do you persecute me?” then tells Saul who he is, and then tells him what to do next. That’s it. I would say, overall, that’s pretty compassionate.

Paul, the unlikely hero (part 1)

 

 

When we look at the early church fathers, none stands out more than Paul, whom as many of you know, was once called Saul. In my upcoming blog posts, I am going to focus on the writings of Paul, but today, I think it might be good to look at the beginning of Paul’s story, which ironically is not found in any of the books that he wrote. Luke continued where he left off at the end of his Gospel when he wrote Acts, which is where we find Paul’s story. Out of the 27 books of the New Testament, Paul wrote 13—that’s two-thirds of the New Testament. He is and, at the time of his ministry, considered a great authority on Christ and Christian doctrine. He was a missionary, who began and fostered churches throughout the Mediterranean, and even into Europe.

Out of the 27 books of the New Testament, Paul wrote 13—that’s two-thirds of the New Testament. He is today, and at the time of his ministry, considered a great authority on Christ and Christian doctrine. He was a missionary, who began and fostered churches throughout the Mediterranean, and even into Europe. So, you would think that a man of such great stature, such great work and zeal would have been a longtime disciple, that he would have been Jesus’ right-hand man. But that’s not Paul’s story at all. What we know about Paul is just the opposite. He did not know Jesus, and we don’t have any evidence that Paul ever saw Jesus or was present at any of his teachings or his crucifixion. We can be sure he was not at his resurrection.

Paul was a Pharisee. He was well educated in everything Jewish and religious. And he was an ardent persecutor of the early Christian movement. Acts 8 begins with this:

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

So what made Paul go from being a hostile persecutor of the Christian church to becoming one of the most strongly persecuted himself? What made him go from an unbeliever to the most inspired writer of the New Testament? What made Saul change his name to Paul ? Let’s look at what happens at the beginning of the next chapter, Acts 9: 1-19:

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

This is a long passage with a lot in it. In upcoming posts, we’ll break it down into smaller parts. Whenever we see this story depicted—whether it’s in a movie, a documentary, a classical painting—usually the focus is on how Saul was blinded, but no one else. That is quite a miracle. But that’s not the real miracle. The real miracle is this: That Jesus chose Saul of Tarsus of all people, to preach the gospel to Jew and Gentile; to kings; to become a pastor to pastors; a mentor to mentors; to be the most inspired writer of what only God would know at that time to become The New Testament. The true underlying miracle was God’s grace. God was able to look beyond Saul the sinner into the destiny of Paul the apostle. We need to have that kind of vision. We need to look beyond where people are now to who they can become in Christ.

Jesus & Fake News, conclusion

We began this series talking about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Matt. 21. Let’s go back to an earlier chapter. Jesus poses an important question to his disciples. By now, you’d think Jesus would not have to ask such a question. Let’s take a look at these verses: Matthew 16, verses 13-20

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e]loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

So what can these verses tell us? Well, let’s start with the chapters leading up to this. First, even though Jesus has had plenty of followers, he had also met with constant rejection. Even John the Baptist questioned who Jesus was, remember? 

With both Jesus and John the Baptist, and later the apostles and early church fathers, they were constantly rejected by the authorities because the religious leaders wanted nothing to do with what they had to do or say. Instead, they wanted a cookie-cutter follower of their rules and traditions. Someone they could control, someone who wouldn’t challenge their sin. Here, Jesus raises two questions to his disciples: the first one is ‘who do the people say I am,’ and then ‘who do you say I am?’ They answer that the people, in general, say that he is a prophet. When asked who do you say I am, Peter answers: “The Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The Asbury commentary said: “Jesus declares that he will build his church upon Peter’s confession and that all the forces of evil will be unable to stand before the mighty power of the church that is built upon such a foundation (16:17-19).”

You see, there was hostile fake news back then. And like the pharisees and Herod who put John the Baptist and Jesus to death, there are those today who don’t want anything to do with Jesus. There are those whom we just won’t convince. There are those who would crucify Jesus all over again if they had the chance because the Jesus of The Bible isn’t politically correct, he can’t be controlled, and they don’t want their sin challenged. What are we to make of them? We can dust off our sandals, go to the next town, but certainly, pray for them anyway.

Then, today there are still others who say Jesus is just a prophet or a good teacher. There is still plenty of confusion out there now just as there was in Jesus’ time. People don’t really know or understand fully who this Jesus is. And to alleviate that confusion, there are people out there who long to know who you say he is. And what you have to say about him. Those are the people God is calling us to focus on. Satan is trying to make us focus on those who are hostile to God so that we don’t even want to try at all.

I remember when I was young and it seemed like preachers of that day really pressured us to evangelize. We felt like less of a Christian if we didn’t “boldly proclaim” or preach in some way, or hand out tracts or wear Christian T-shirts or hand our friends Christian cassette tapes. The pressure to do so sometimes meant that when we did, we didn’t always do so naturally out of love, talent or conviction, we did it out of a sense of duty, pressure, and legalism. That quite frankly turned our generation into the one I told you about. We became statistics. Because we felt pressured to be evangelists, we pressured people to become Christians. And that turned people off. I’m not here to pressure you to evangelize to anyone. I’m saying, just be willing to be available to anyone. Be available to use your time, your talents and your testimony in a natural, prayerful, loving Spirit-led way. This is what I meant when I said people need more than a church building or a Bible. They need us.

Okay, how do I do that? Maybe there is some way in which you can relate to someone and what they’re going through right now, some way in which God has changed your situation. What has your personal experience been? What has Christ has done for you? Do you simply believe or have you felt his presence and peace wash over you and give you strength? Have you had a prayer answered? Did you feel the weight lift off of you when you were first saved? Are you the same person now than you were before you were saved? Is your life a testimony of His supernatural transforming power over sin? Is your life better now because Jesus was actively involved in your life? In what way?

In addition to telling others about Christ, in what ways can you also demonstrate God’s love by your actions? People need to see that our faith is real by the way we live and how we treat them, not just what we say and the answers we give. In what way can you also serve your neighbor to let your light shine? Maybe you have the gift of hospitality. Did you know that hospitality is one of the spiritual gifts listed in The Bible? Sometimes, that’s all you need to plant a seed. How can you give them more than just the verbal answer to “Who is Jesus?”