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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Confessing Jesus Christ
Text:Matthew 16:13-28 (View)
Occasion:Public Profession of faith
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2013-03-08
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Confessing Jesus Christ                                     Public Profession of Faith 

Ps. 100: 2, 4

Ps. 37: 12, 13, 15

Hymn 21: 1, 2, 7

Ps. 40: 4

Ps. 69: 12

 

Scripture reading:       Mt. 16: 13 – 28

Text:                              Mt. 16: 13 – 28

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

This morning eight young members of the congregation wants to do public profession of their faith – Sam Broere, Reuben DenBoer, Julie Herbert, Paul Herbert, Amberley Houweling, Lauren Reitsema, Fayliesha Spyker and Chris VanderPlas.

 

Already at their baptism God declared that they are part of His congregation and that the promise of salvation is also for them.    

They have been raised with the promises of the covenant: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

They were instructed at home, and they were brought up within the covenant communion.   They attended Reformed schools.   Since childhood they attended the church services and later also received many years of catechism instruction.

 

The Lord has blessed these means of grace; and He worked faith.

It was not their own doing.  

They did not choose to be covenant children.   It was God’s choice and His doing.

They were joined to the Church of Christ before they could even understand.

And yes, God does ask a response.   He demands that we respond to His promises with repentance and faith.   And He demands that we use the means of grace: the instruction of His Word which we receive in the church.  

But, in the end, their faith was His work only.   He gave them faith; and thus they believe.

 

He made them spiritually alive and worked conversion and regeneration.    It is as we confess in the Canons of Dort “a supernatural, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, marvellous, mysterious and inexpressible” work of God – CD, chapter iii/iv, art. 12.

Yes, their faith is supernatural.   It is a most powerful work of God in them.

 

Now, this morning we read the same here in our text.  

The apostle Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, and then Jesus replied:

 

“Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

 

The same applies to us.

We are blessed; and blessed are you young people, for your confession of faith is not the natural result of your education.   It is not the natural result of growing up in the church.   It is not the logic consequence of having received so many years of instruction.  

As the Lord said to Peter, He also says to us this morning: it has been the work of My Father who is in heaven.  

He gave you eyes to see, and ears to hear.   It is His doing that you believe in Christ His Son. 

 

And therefore all glory and thanksgiving belongs to Him.   What we may hear and witness this morning is not the work of flesh and blood, but the electing and saving grace of our Father in heaven.

 

Yes, we may look back and thank the Lord for His work of grace in the lives of these young members.   This morning we will also look ahead at the road that lies before us.   For our Public Profession of Faith, once made before God and His congregation, is not the end of the road, but in a sense only the beginning.   It is a public profession of faith which now has to continue day after day.   It is a confession which we have to live every day.

 

Our text does not stop at Peter’s confession; it continues and speaks about the necessity for those who confess Christ to follow Him.   True confession of His Name involves a new life of discipleship in which we take up our cross and follow Him.

And thus the theme for this morning will be:

Confessing Jesus the Christ with word and deed

 

We will note…


1.      The confession that Jesus is the Christ

2.      That the cross comes before the glory

3.      How Christ has to be followed


In the first place we note…

The confession that Jesus is the Christ

 

The apostle Peter was the first one to clearly pronounce this confession:

            “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This short confession is a summary of our faith in Jesus.   The apostle John, for example, says that he described the gospel to his readers with this purpose: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” – John 20: 31

Martha also made this confession, saying to Jesus:

            “…Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God…” – John 11: 27.

This was also the crucial point of Jesus’ trial before the Jewish council.   The high priest, Caiaphas, said to Jesus:

“…I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Mt. 26: 63)

And then Jesus, speaking under oath, confirmed that He is indeed the Christ, the Son of God.

This was the confession of the Ethiopian at his baptism.   When he asked: what hinders me from being baptised, Philip answered him: “If you believe with all your heart, you may”.   And the Ethiopian answered: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” – Acts chapter 8  

And this was the gospel preached by the apostle Paul.   After his conversion we read:

            “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.”

We see then how this confession is indeed a summary of our faith in Jesus: He is the Christ, the Son of God.

What then does it mean to confess that He is the Christ? 

It is a confession that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, is the long awaited Messiah.

It is a confession that Jesus is the fulfilment of all God’s promises.   He is the promised Seed, the King and Saviour of His people.

It is a confession which is first of all rooted in the prophecies of old.

 

With this confession the apostle Peter was saying: Lord Jesus, You are the One of whom all the prophets spoke.   You are the Saviour that has been promised to us.  

 

This confession of Peter is not the product of human calculation.   It is not simply a matter of reading the Scriptures, adding up the facts, and then making this factual conclusion that Jesus must be the Messiah.

No, flesh and blood did not reveal this to him.  

Apart from God’s supernatural, divine grace, this confession is beyond flesh and blood; beyond human capability.

 

Already in chapter 11 Jesus spoke about the fact that many did not recognise Him, nor repented when they heard His preaching; and then He prayed to His Father, saying:

 

“…I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.”

 

And then He added:

 

“…no one knows the Son except the Father.   Nor does anyone know the Father except that Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” – Mt. 11: 25–27

 

He says: the Father reveals the mysteries of the kingdom to babies, and hides it from clever men.   And He says: He, the Son, reveals the Father only to those to whom He wills.  

God chooses to whom He wants to reveal Himself.

This revelation does not refer merely to the written Word of Holy Scripture.   Yes, God’s Word is the means of revelation, but God’s Word remains a closed book until God works faith; until He gives us eyes of faith to see, and a heart to understand.

 

And thus, when Jesus said to Peter, “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”, He did not speak merely of God’s revelation in the prophecies of old; He spoke of a God-given understanding of these prophecies.   He spoke about the divine gift of faith to grasp and believe all that God has promised us in Christ His Son.

 

Blessed are you, son of Jonah, for this is not of yourself.   It has pleased my Father to reveal this to you, while He passed by many others.

 

Dear brothers and sisters, young people, the same benediction also comes to us.

Blessed are you who confess your faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.   Blessed are you, for in Him you have eternal life.

 

Yes, whoever knows Him has eternal life.   As Jesus prayed to His Father, and said:

 

“Father…this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – John 17: 3

This is eternal life: to know God, and to know His Son Jesus Christ.

It is the sum total of all blessings to know Him.

 

Blessed are you, young people, blessed with all the riches of heaven, for God has chosen you and called you and given you this faith.

 

Yes, we look back at God’s work of grace in your lives, and we thank Him for the faith He has worked in you.

But we said that we will also look ahead at the road that lies before you.   We said that your Public Profession of Faith is not the end of the road, but in a sense only the beginning of a road, of a life, in which we have to live this confession.

And therefore we also note what happened after Peter made this confession.

 

We see how much Peter still had to learn after his public profession of faith.

The one moment the Lord said to Peter, “blessed are you”, and the next moment He says to Peter: “Get behind Me, Satan!” – verse 23

The one moment Peter spoke words that were not of flesh and blood, a confession that has its origin from the Father in heaven, but the next moment Peter was not mindful of the things of God, but of the things of men – verse 23.

The one moment he is called a rock – a rock on which the Lord will build His church.   The next moment Peter is called a different kind of rock: a stumbling block.

 

Peter rose to heavenly heights with his confession in verse 16, and Christ blessed him and appointed him as His servant to administer the keys of the kingdom – verses 17 – 19.

But then versus 21 – 23 seems to be an anticlimax.

Christ says to Peter: you are an offence to Me!   Be gone, Satan!   Get away from Me!

 

What then is the reason for this sudden change?

We note that in the second place, that…

The cross comes before the glory

 

 

When Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, it was indeed a glorious moment in the history of salvation.   The fullness of time has come.   The time has come for all the glorious promises of God to be fulfilled.

 

You can imagine how the apostles must have felt when this truth dawned on them!   Here, before their very eyes, stands the long awaited Messiah!   He is that glorious King, that eternal King, whose kingdom shall have no end!   Yes, He is the very Son of God!    He is the Son who will be called Emmanuel: God with us.

Now salvation has come!   Now God will save His people as He has promised!

 

The expectation of the disciples was that Jesus would now restore the house and the throne of David.   Now, finally, Israel’s glory will return.   Now is the time that all the kings of the heathen nations will show homage to the King of Israel.   The time for the glorious restoration of Israel has come.   Here He stands: the promised Christ.

 

Since the time that God has promised king David that the Christ would come from his seed, the promised Messiah was called “the Son of David”.    And God has promised that the throne of His kingdom will last forever – 2 Sam. 7: 12, 13

 

And thus Peter, and the other apostles, confessing Jesus to be the Christ, would be thinking of all the glorious prophecies about the Christ.

 

“…the government will be upon His shoulder.   And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever…” – Isaiah 9: 6, 7

 

The eternal kingdom of peace – where the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the goat will dwell together in peace – is at hand!  

 

But immediately Christ corrects them.

The moment they understand and confess that He is the Christ, they also need to know something else:

 

From that moment Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” – verse 21

 

The Christ would not receive the throne immediately.   He first had to suffer and die.   He first had to be rejected by the people, even by the elders and chief priests and scribes.   They will cause Him to suffer, and kill Him.

 

But Peter did not like to hear this.   Peter was eager to except the glory of being a disciple of the Christ, the Son of God, and to share in His glory.   But in his mind the shame of rejection, suffering and death – even by the hand of Israel’s elders and chief priests – did not suite the glory of Israel’s eternal King.

And thus he tries to prevent Christ from going on this road of suffering and death.

 

Christ’s response is drastic: “Get behind Me, Satan!”

His response is so drastic because it is a serious matter.

Much is at stake.

This is a crucial moment in which Christ is tempted, by the hand of His own disciple, to take the easy road to the throne – a road without a cross.

And therefore He utters the same words which He addressed to the devil, when the devil tempted Him in the desert:

 

            “Away with you, Satan!” – Mt. 4: 10

 

And now Jesus says this to His own disciple, even to Peter, so shortly after his public profession of faith!

Why?

 

Because Peter’s mind was, in this instance, not set on the things of God, but on the things of men.   And so it happened that he became an offence to Christ in this matter, tempting Christ not to go on the road of suffering and death to which the Father called Him.

Just as Christ was tempted by the devil, He was now tempted by His own disciple.  

 

Peter had good intentions – no doubt!

He only whished the best for Christ – no doubt!

But he was following his own fancy, and not the path which God has set out.  

 

If Peter had his wish, Christ had to enter Jerusalem in a triumphant procession, reveal His power and glory, and ascend the throne forever – without the shame of the cross!

But God’s ways are different.

He did prepare an eternal throne of glory for Christ, His Son.   But first the cross, and afterwards the glory!

 

It applies in a unique way to Christ, who first had to atone for the sins of His people, but His example of suffering and self-denial also applies to all who confess His name.

We have been made co-heirs with Christ, and we will also reign with Christ forever (Rev. 22: 5).   But we may not reach for the crown before we bore the cross.

And therefore our text concludes with an exhortation to take up our cross and to partake with Christ in His sufferings.  

We note that in the last place…

How Christ has to be followed

 

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.   For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but however loses his life for My sake will find it.”

 

Not only did Christ need to accept the cross, and not only did His disciples need to accept Christ with His cross, but they themselves also needed to follow Christ and share in the sufferings of the cross.

 

Scripture teaches this in many places. 

 

The apostle Paul says that we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified with Him – Rom. 8: 17

 

The apostle Peter says the same:

 

“…rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” – 1 Peter 4: 13

 

Scripture teaches that if we suffer with Christ, we will also share in His glory.   But in order to share in His glory, we first need to share in His sufferings.

 

The apostle Peter also says:

 

“…when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.   For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” – 1 Peter 2: 21

 

And here the Lord teaches it so clearly.   Whoever confesses Him must also follow in His steps.   Confessing Christ and following Him goes together.   And there is no following of Christ without sharing in His sufferings.

 

Therefore:

 

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

 

We sometimes say: “every house has its cross” and then we mean to say: every house has its own troubles to bear.   But that is not what Jesus means when He says that we have to take up our cross.   He is not speaking of all kind of troubles in general; He is speaking about willingly sharing in His sufferings – the sufferings which comes by following Him!

 

It is in this context that Christ speaks of self-denial.   It is to crucify and to put to death your own desires.   It is to lose your own life for the sake of Christ.   It is to say with the apostle Paul:

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” – Gal. 2: 20

 

This is radical!

Christ does not want any disciple who does not deny himself completely.

Christ does not want any disciple without the cross.

 

But this world may still seem so attractive – especially when we are still young.   And this life may seem so dear to us.

Young people, you may have many ambitions in life, and dreams that you would like to see realised; but hear what Christ is telling you: if you want to follow Me, take up your cross.   

 

“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

 

He gives us this choice: gain the world and lose your soul, or deny the world and save your soul.

If we seek the glory of this world, we will lose the glory of the world to come; but if we deny ourselves in this world and share in the sufferings of Christ, we will also share in His glory on the day of His coming.

 

“For the Son of man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (verse 27)

 

In order to fix the glory of that day before our eyes, He also adds:

 

“Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” – verse 28

 

When Christ rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of His Father, His disciples witnessed the very beginning of His eternal reign on the throne of David.   He did enter the promised glory after the cross.

And He promises the same to us.  

 

Brothers and sisters, it was not only Peter and the other apostles that were in need of this instruction.   Also in our own day there are many who confess Jesus Christ – at least with the lips – but refuse to deny themselves, and refuse to crucify their flesh with its desires.

 

They are excited about the glory of Christ, but refuse to share in the shame and suffering of the cross.   They want both worlds – this world and the world which is to come.  

 

But Christ teaches us differently.  

Confessing Christ come with a cost.

Taking up your cross means that you will have to patiently bear the ridicule of men, when you refuse to depart from the Lord’s commandments.  

Taking up your cross means that you will have to bear the hatred and the attacks of men, when you refuse to follow a crowd in doing wrong.

Taking up your cross means that you will bear the laughter of your peers, when you do not join them in worldly practices.    

Taking up your cross means that you will confess Christ also when it becomes uncomfortable to do so; and that you will continue to confess Him even when such a confession will cost you everything.

 

Yes, without taking up our cross, our confession of Christ will be empty and vain.

Whoever knows Christ has also been crucified with Him.

Let us then say with Paul: through Jesus Christ the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world – Gal. 6: 14

 

Here in our text the Lord also comforts us and assures us that our willing participation in His sufferings will be rewarded.   Whoever loses his life for Christ sake, will find it.

 

Brothers and sisters, dear young people, we see then that confessing Christ has consequences.   We are not marching with Him in a triumphant procession towards Jerusalem to place Him on the throne of David. 

The confessors of His Name are now, in this world, a humble people; in the eyes of men a miserable and despised people.

While we forsake this world, we posses it through faith only.

 

Let us then not fall for the temptation of the devil to reach for the crown, when God had given us a cross instead.  

Let us take up the cross, and God will give us the crown of glory on the right time which He has determined.  

 

After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.   To Him be the dominion for ever and ever.  

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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