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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Things of God and the Mind of Christ
Text:Matthew 16:21-28 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2013
Added:2023-07-20
Updated:2023-07-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

O Come, My Soul, Bless Thou the Lord
I Lay My Sins on Jesus
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness
Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken  

Note: This sermon was a communion preparatory sermon, but it can be used on a regular Sunday by omitting the phrases in parenthesis.

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


06/02/2013
“The Things of God and the Mind of Christ”
Matthew 16:21-28
 
Writing to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul makes a startling statement. In 1 Corinthians 2:16 he writes: “‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”  We don’t have the mind of Christ in all its perfection and omniscience, by any means. But by God’s grace we have, as part of our sanctification, the mind of Christ to discern the things of God. The passage before us, from Matthew 16, teaches us what “the things of God” are; it describes part of what He focuses on.
 
His focus is on, first, the suffering Jesus would endure. Verse 21 begins by saying, From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law…”
 
It is hard for us to comprehend what a shock these words were to the disciples. When we think of Jesus we think immediately of the cross. But when they thought about Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the living God, as Peter had testified in Matthew 16:16, they thought about earthly rule. They believed that the Messiah would reign from His throne in Jerusalem and they would all reign with Him.
 
That mindset gripped everyone of that day. Even King Herod had that mindset. Matthew 2:2 describes how “when the Magi came from the east to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the One who has been born king of the Jews?’”, King Herod was disturbed. Here was a rival to the throne. Here was one who threatened Herod’s political power. Herod did everything he could to keep the Messiah from reigning; he even made an edict that every male child under the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem be put to death.
 
Very few in that day comprehended that the Messiah would suffer and die. Even though the Old Testament contains graphic accounts of the suffering of the Messiah, such as in Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 and other passages. Yet, the people of that day, including the disciples, did not grasp the reality of such a thing happening. 
 
Furthermore, Jesus tells them in verse 21 that these things will happen at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law.”  Here again, it is hard for us to comprehend how esteemed these religious leaders were. We look back at the cross and all the events surrounding it, and we know that these religious leaders were self-centered evil men. But back in Jesus’ day, these were the men who were highly regarded, well respected, honored and listened to. The three groups together – the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law” – formed the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme religious body of that day; it was, in the eyes of most people, the final authority on Jewish law. And now Jesus says that He is destined to suffer greatly at their hands.
 
That is why Peter makes the statement which brings a harsh rebuke from the Lord. In verse 22, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’”
 
Verse 23: Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”
 
But do you see why Peter had in mind the things of man and not the things of God? It was incomprehensible to him and the other disciples that Jesus would suffer so severely at the hands of the religious leaders of that day.
 
Suffering Leading to Death
 
Not only did Jesus speak to His disciples about His impending suffering, but also how that suffering would culminate in His death. His death was necessary. After all, in order for the Lord to accomplish our redemption, blood would have to be shed. In Leviticus 17:11 the Lord declares: “The life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”
 
The Old Testament high priests offered a wide variety of different bloody sacrifices all pointing ahead to the shed blood of Jesus. Hebrews 9 teaches just how crucial that shedding of blood is. After describing the bloody sacrifices made in the Old Testament, the author observes: “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:13, 14) There is no way to be cleansed from sin except by the blood of Jesus Christ, (which we remember in a special way next Sunday as we take the Lord’s Supper).
 
Not only did Jesus cover our sins with His blood, but by His death on the cross He also bore the curse of our sins. There was no other way to bear that curse, for in the Old Testament law, in Deuteronomy 21:23, we read that those who are hung on a tree are cursed. Galatians 3:13 quotes Deuteronomy 21:23 as it explains the reason for the crucifixion this way: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for as it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’”
 
We recognize that the death of Jesus was no mere accident. His death wasn’t a mishap – a slip of a knife or a misplaced spear. Nor were those successful who tried to push Him over a cliff to His death and sought other means of ending His life. All those attempts failed. Those attempts on His life failed because the only death that Jesus could die to atone – to propitiate – our sins, was death on the cross.
 
That is why although there had been innumerable threats on His life, Jesus always seemed to escape them. For on the cross He shed His blood to propitiate our sins; that means that He covered our sins and appeased the proper and just wrath of God against sin. At the same time, He took the curse of sin that you and I deserve upon Himself and imputed His righteousness to us as “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
 
Another reason for the death of Jesus is given by the author of Hebrews in Hebrews 9:16 and 17, where he writes, In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.”
    
Many passages of Scripture tell us how we are heirs of salvation, including 1 Peter 1:3 which assures us that we have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you…” But without the death and resurrection of Jesus, we would have no inheritance in heaven; we would have no forgiveness of sins, no oneness with Christ. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus we would never know the fulfillment of the wonderful promises of Psalm 16:11 –
 
You have made known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
 with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
 
Resurrection Power
 
While the death of Jesus was necessary, so too was His resurrection. As verse 21 ends, Jesus assures His disciples that on the third day He will be raised to life.
 
His resurrection is essential for many reasons, including that it proves His divinity; it proves the truth of Peter’s confession of Jesus in Matthew 16:16 that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. In Psalm 16:10 David had prophesied that the Father would not let His Son see decay, and that prophecy, along with every promise God has made, was fulfilled in Christ. As the Son of the living God, He was raised in glorious power from the grave.
 
The resurrection also shows that the Father is fully satisfied with the redeeming work of His Son. The resurrection serves as a “stamp of approval” on all the work that Jesus did as He redeemed us from our sin. It is the Father’s “stamp of approval” on His perfect life, credited and imputed to us through saving faith. It is also the Father’s “stamp of approval” on His sacrificial death where His blood was shed for the complete forgiveness of the sins of those who have saving faith in Him alone.
 
According to some commentators, the resurrection also relates to verse 28 where Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” While many see the fulfillment of that statement in the next chapter, which describes the glory of Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, other commentators see its fulfillment in the resurrection. The fulfillment of that statement is also seen in the Spirit coming with power at Pentecost, and the spread of the gospel as it was proclaimed in the early church and continues to be proclaimed around the world.
 
Sharing in the Sufferings of Christ
 
But how do the sufferings of Jesus, and His death and resurrection, relate to us (on this preparatory Sunday?)  In Philippians 1:29 and 30 Paul writes, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”
 
What does it mean to share in the sufferings of Christ and to suffer for Him? In the context of this passage, sharing in the sufferings of Christ involves denial of self. In verse 24 Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
 
Denying oneself is anything but popular. And we see that in the churches of our day. People often flock to churches that proclaim a prosperity gospel. Or a teaching of self-esteem, or a healing ministry that promises restoration from disease, illness and injury.
 
But the message of self-denial, although at the heart of the gospel, is not nearly so popular. Self-denial tells us to put God’s kingdom before our plans, it tells us to order our life not by our wisdom but by God’s Word, to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness rather than the treasures of this world. In other words, denying ourself means putting Christ first in all things, not ourself. And that is not a popular message.
 
Jesus tells us in verse 24 that in addition to denying ourselves, we are to take up our cross and follow Him. To take up our cross involves sharing in all the suffering, persecution and hatred of the world that Jesus faced. It also involves subjecting our will to His; it means fighting temptation as well as forsaking things we want in order to help others. In short, it involves all the sacrifices that come with being a true disciple of our Lord.
 
Furthermore, the denial of self and the taking up of our cross is not a temporary activity, but rather a way of life that we are to follow to the very end. We are to follow Christ, and following Him is a continual process. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian didn’t just enter the Wicket Gate – a reference to the narrow gate that Jesus tells us to go through. Once he entered it, he followed the path, even when it brought him into danger, persecution and ridicule.
 
We are to do the same, following Jesus continually. Jesus Himself said, He who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt 10:22, 24:13).  Following Jesus is a continual process. In Psalm 119:112 the Psalmist declares, My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.”  
 
Gaining the World; Forfeiting One’s Soul
 
A second application: Verses 25 and 26 remind us that all the world’s treasures are nothing compared to salvation from sin. Jesus says: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
 
In Luke 12 Jesus describes the rich fool who stored away his valuables thinking he would take life easy as he enjoyed his earthly treasures. Jesus said: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
 
 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
 
 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
 
 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
 (Luke 12:17-21)
 
There are so many people just like that rich fool. And everyone who places their security in material riches finds that the world’s treasures bring no lasting joy. Consider how many who sought the treasures of the world died broke and disillusioned, while many others ended their lives in tragic suicides. In the words of Proverbs 1:19, “Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it.”
 
Jim Elliott the well-known missionary who was killed in Ecuador by the tribe he was ministering to, wrote in his journal back in 1949, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  It is a re-wording of an ancient saying, which conveys great biblical truth. Jesus said it best, and says it so clearly in the rhetorical questions he poses in Matthew 16:26 – What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
 
The Fruit of Saving Faith
 
A third application: (In this week of preparation) we are to remember that Christ will reward each person according to what he has done” (27), meaning that the deeds of our life will show whether we have truly placed our faith in Christ alone for salvation.
   
We are saved by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone, yet our judgment is based on works. At first glance that doesn’t make sense. How can that be? It is because true saving faith always results in good deeds. “By their fruits you will know them,” Jesus said (Matt. 7:20). And James points out that faith without works is a dead faith, it’s not a true saving faith in Christ alone (James 2:17).
 
The Reformers had a wise saying, “We are saved by faith alone, but not a faith that is alone.”  What they meant is that true saving faith is always accompanied by works, by deeds, by the “fruit” that must be evident in a Christian’s life. Not every Christian produces the same amount. But every Christian must show their faith is real by what is produced in their life.
 
As we examine ourselves (in this week of preparation) we are also to examine what fruit – what deeds and actions – are produced by our faith. Does our faith result in the good deeds before ordained for us to do? Does our faith reflect its genuine character by our love for God and a whole-hearted commitment to live for Him, seeking to walk by the light of His Word?  
___
 
Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul made a startling statement. In 1 Corinthians 2:16 he wrote: “‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”
 
If by God’s grace, you and I have the mind of Christ, then (in this week of preparation) think on the things of God, rather than the things of man. Think especially of the suffering, death and resurrection of our Savior and Lord (as we look forward to taking His Supper next week), always looking forward to the glorious return of the Son of God who came to save sinners from their sin. Amen.
 
 
sermon outline:
 
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a
stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God,
but the things of men.” – Matthew 16:23
 
                 “The Things of God and the Mind of Christ”
                                        Matthew 16:21-28
 
I.  This passage teaches us what “the things of God are” (23)what He
     focuses on. His focus is on:
      1) The suffering Jesus would endure (21a)
 
 
 
      2) His death (21b)
 
 
 
      3) His resurrection (21c)
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) Following Christ involves denial of self (24)
 
 
 
     2) All the world’s treasures are nothing compared to salvation from
          sin (25-26)
 
 
 
     3) Christ will reward each person according to what he has done”
         (27), meaning that the deeds of our life will show whether we
         have truly placed our faith in Christ alone for salvation (James 2:17)
 
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Ted Gray

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