FROM HERO TO ZERO
[Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men”. Matthew 16; 23
You’ve got to love Peter. In one of the most significant moments in Jesus’ life, He had ask His followers if they knew who He really was. Peter spoke up and said, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God parentheses (Matthew 16; 16”.) Very good Pete.
But only a moment later, Jesus explained that his role as the Christ was to suffer at the hands of religious leaders and be put to death. When Jesus spoke these words, Peter interrupt it, “No way that’s going to happen to you!” (see Matthew 16; 22). So Jesus put him in his place.
The ways of God are sometimes very difficult from what we can imagine. In fact, they can be the polar opposite of what we think is good and right and fair. For Jesus, the Father‘s path led Him to betrayal and the Cross, and then to a glorious resurrection.
In the same way, God may lead us through dark times in our lives before we come out into the light. If we fight against him, we earn his correction, but if we trust that He will eventually lead us into the light, we can walk with Him even in the darkest moments of our lives. Arguing with Him may be natural, but it’s counterproductive. Just ask Peter.
“God’s will is what every one of us would choose if we had all of God’s facts.”
Even well-intentioned, well meaning people speak often contrary to the will and way of God. Too often, like Peter, we have our ideas about how things are supposed to be and what God is supposed to do. That’s because we try to bring God to our level of thinking and reasoning. What we forget is that our minds have been corrupted by sin, our environment, our culture. Because of that when we introduce our human reasoning or thinking into the equation, it is often contradictory to the plans of God.
Peter’s story tells us that in almost the same breath, Peter spoke words he had received from God and during the same conversation spoke words the he received from the devil. Many times the way of God is through struggle and pain and those aren’t ways we want to consider. Much of what is said in the church today is ideas spawned by humans who are attempting to get God’s blessing and approval. What we need is to seek the plans of God and allow them to direct our path.
We hear that the people of God- both individuals and congregations- are often confused about what to do or what to believe or what to practice. That’s because, like Peter, we are subject to voices besides the voice of God. When I read the story of Peter, I used to marvel that the same person could at the same time speak revelation from God and then speak contrary to the plans of God. But I’ve come to understand that the very same trap is easy for anyone of us to fall into it. I’m sure Peter responded to Christ as He was telling of the way of suffering from the point of one who loved Him and felt horrified to hear that his best friend was going to be crucified. It’s unimaginable to be able to rejoice that your dearest friend was talking about death and one of the most cruel ways of death. Sometimes the ways of God exceed our understanding. We only have the capacity to see a short span of time- our lifetime, but God sees from eternity’s view. The only way we can stay on the track of truth and faith is to trust the wisdom and direction of the One who sees all, knows all and is all. There’s no way that any human can comprehend life, especially when it isn’t making sense to us. Who can explain the suffering, the evil, the struggles that good people experience? Who can make sense of death outside the wisdom and the grace of God?
We are in an environment when every absolute is being called into question. There is the question of the authority of the Bible. There are questions of what is and what is not acceptable lifestyles. There are questions of what is righteousness and whether everything done in the name of love justifies our actions. At the risk of sounding like the prophets, may I say to us that unless our source for the answers is God and not our own wisdom, we will find ourselves in the place of Peter when Christ said to him, “Get thee behind me Satan, for you are an offense to me for you are not mindful of the things of God, but of the things of men.”
It’s time for a change. It’s time to intentionally discard the human derived answers to life and turn our hearts to God and His word and let that be sufficient for us. Oh, we may not understand it all or even like it all, but we choose to accept it all. Wherever it challenges us, in whatever way it changes us, and however it affects us, we embrace it. Let us as Christians renounce the influence of worldly thinking and submit our minds to God. Paul in Philippians says this to us:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in the fashion of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death—even the death of the cross.”
Peter discovered that it wasn’t enough to just have a revelation, it required living it out. In a place of safety it was easy to declare loyalty to Christ, but standing outside the courtroom it was another matter to put yourself on the line. Its easy for us to talk about the ways of God but to include and implement them especially when they’re counter to culture or the social norms of the day, it’s another matter.
We have become so afraid of offending anyone that we say nothing or worse still we go along with the flow never realizing that while we work hard at not offending those who live contrary to the teachings of the Bible, we offend Christ. Peter wanted to operate in human thinking and feeling in expressing that he wouldn’t let Jesus go to the cross. In taking that position, he put himself on the opposite side of God. We, too, may take the least offensive road as far as human opinion counts but we’d better be careful for often what is desirable behavior from a human point of view is contradictory to the will and plans of God.
If you find yourself having spoken words from the devil or the world and felt the rebuke of Christ, remember that Peter also found forgiveness and restoration by Christ when he brought his thinking into line with the plans of God. We can too.
Dr. John Thompson