Who do you say I am?

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’  He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.‘”  Mat 16:13-16

According to the account given to us by Matthew, Jesus finished up a confrontation with the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  They had tested Him by asking for a sign that would show them that He was the long awaited Messiah.  They were probably not serious in this request, but were actually hoping He would try to show them a sign and fail miserably.  He scolded them, telling them they could read the signs of the weather, but not of the times.  They should have known based on the declarations of the prophets of old who He was, but they were blinded by their prejudices and standing in the Jewish community.

Later on, as they are arriving in the Roman District of Caesarea Philippi, He remembers the conversation He had with the Jewish leaders, and asked His disciples who the people think that He is.  They had varied answers to His query. One of the answers was the resurrected John the Baptist.  In Mat 14:1-5 we read, “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.’  For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’ And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet.” Herod had told his servants that Jesus was the resurrection of John because of the miracles that he had performed.  Others saw Him as the return of one of the prophets of old, such as Elijah and Jeremiah.  As you can see, the average person thought that Jesus was simply a prophet.  Then Jesus asked His twelve closest disciples and friends who they think He is.  Immediately, Peter chimes in as he always did, with the answer Jesus had hoped they would give.  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

If we were asked this question, would we have the same answer?  Be careful not to answer that question too quickly.  Remember, the way you think and act is a window into your beliefs.  Take the time to be introspective, examine your true thoughts and feelings, look intently at your actions.  Do they match what you think you believe?  Sometimes we have a very idealistic view of our beliefs, thinking that what we want to believe about ourselves is reality, when actually it is reminiscent of the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, where he wanted to believe he was wearing the most wonderful outfit, when in reality he was totally naked.

As I went through this process, I found that my beliefs were not as solid as I thought.  I told myself that I believed Jesus the Christ was the Son of the Living God.  However, when I came into His presence, did I come humbly?  Did I do or say anything that would offend Him?  Did I take this time in His presence seriously?  I am ashamed to say that at that time, I could not answer YES across the board.  I thought I believed that Jesus was one with the Father, Almighty, All Knowing, All Seeing.  But my actions did not agree with my words or thoughts.  I found myself conforming to the image of my friends rather than Christ.  As I think about it now, I still feel bad.  However, I know that His grace is greater than my faults, and this gives me peace.   Because of this exercise, I spent some time in prayer and study, which helped me change the way I thought and acted.  One passage which really spoke to me was Heb 12:1-2. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”   It brings to my mind the awe, humility and fear that the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and martyrs had in the presence of God. They took seriously what it meant to be followers of God.  They were not perfect, of course, as we are not.  But they were not trite in His presence either. The patriarchs honored God in following His precepts.  The prophets spent time with God, listened to what He revealed to them, and took whatever measures they needed to accurately convey it to His people.  The apostles and other martyrs gave their lives to the propagation of the gospel.  And these are the ones who are, as Albert Barnes states in his commentary, “looking on to witness the efforts which Christians make, and the manner in which they live.”  And with God always seeing what I am doing, I want to be seen as one who stands firm in the faith, and acts as Christians ought to act.

I want to challenge everyone who reads this post to examine your lives and see if they line up with what you purport to believe.  If your answer to the question Jesus posited to His disciples is the same as Peter’s declaration, do your thoughts and actions line up?  If not, then spend some time in prayer and study and allow God to help you become conformed to Christ’s image.  If you honestly cannot answer as Peter did, then again cry out to God, be honest in your prayers and ask Him to reveal the truth to you.  God already knows what you believe, and is ready to bring you to Himself.  We are approaching a time where we must be clear as to our beliefs, because we must stand firm for Christ no matter what the rest of the world does.  We must be fully convinced as to who Christ really is, so that we can avoid the compromise that comes with ambivalence.  We must know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is the Son of God, and then act like it.  This is the only way that the world will be convinced of the truth.  As Brennan Manning once said, “The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable”  Are we believable or unbelievable?  Probably one of the most important issues we need to address.

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3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Perhaps I have let the judgment of my friends and others trump the call of God in my life.

    • I have found that life in God is a series of moving forward, examining our hearts and where we are with His input, and then making adjustments as we move forward again. This is how we can insure we are following His plan. Thanks for all you do with the English Tea meeting. This is much needed in a time of shallow and surface level Christianity. God Bless you as you follow the calling of God in your life and I hope I can join you guys on Tuesday again soon.

  2. Excellent as always, Bill!

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