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Confessing and Following Christ

Matthew 16:13-19

Jim Davis

There is a series of books being written; the series is called "Left Behind." They are fictional books, which deal with the rapture and the years of tribulation, which many believe will occur before the day of final judgment. These books have stirred a lot of excitement in the hearts of those who believe the signs of our age are pointing to the imminent looming return of Christ.

The "Left Behind" series seeks to reveal what the thousand years of tribulation, which is to follow the rapture will be like. The doctrinal theory of the rapture is one that really amazes me, since the word rapture is not found in the Bible. It speaks of the difficulties and trials of those not taken to heaven when the rapture occurs. But there is something more astonishing to me than that. It is this, how can a fictional story about the theory of the rapture and the tribulation excite so many, when the real reign of Christ in his church today seems so unexciting to the average church-goer?

Christ’s Sovereign Reign

I think that it is extremely exciting to think about how Christ is reigning sovereign over his church kingdom today. The sovereignty of Christ’s reign leaves no illusion as to who is in charge of the Christian’s destiny.

Matthew 16:13-20
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (NIV)

Jesus tells us that the gates of hell will storm the kingdom of God, but the assuring thing is that Satan will not prevail. Some are looking for a period of tribulation that will try human souls. Today Satan has declared an all out assault on the kingdom of God. Just recall the headlines from the past few week’s newspapers and news reports. One man is sentenced to a seven-year prison sentence for writing out his thoughts on child pornography. A lesbian lover is seeking benefits for cohabiting with her lesbian lover. Officials in high places engaged in immorality. A man is sentenced to prison for enslavement of farm workers. According to our news sources immorality has become the norm for living. Mass media is making a mockery of Christian beliefs. Every headline challenges us to the very heart of our souls.

There is a real battle going on between the forces of evil and good. The battle may not seem as inspiring and exciting as the fictional stories of the Left Behind series, but it is more real.

Jesus said, "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it." (Matthew 11:12-13 NIV) Of course, Jesus was speaking about the advancement of the kingdom of God as John began preaching. God had not lost sight of the faithful Jews of David’s kingdom. He was simply sending them a new king to be their Messiah.

Matthew 28:18-20

Ephesians 2:19-22

Our Messiah reigns over his kingdom from a position of authority and power. The real battles being fought today are being fought by those of us who are members of Christ’s kingdom on earth.

When Jesus walked the earth casting out the demons, the demons knew who he was. They recognized his power and authority before his death.

Mark 1:32-34
That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. (NIV)

Mark 5:2-8
When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" 8 For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" (NIV)

The excitement of the first century over Christ was because of the authority he exercised over the forces of hell. The reality of Christ’s power led Peter to make his confession. It led him to give his life to Christ.

Christ’s reign over the powers of heaven, hell and the earth is just as solid today as it was when he walked the earth. This must be the solid rock confession we make to the world. Peter not only confessed Christ as the Son of the living God in answer to Christ’s question, but he boldly proclaimed what he believed on the day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:22-36
We may only look at the facts to be confessed and say, "I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God." We may think that it ends there, but Peter’s confession led him to confess before thousands on Pentecost. Christ was reigning in the apostle’s lives when they stood up and preached Christ on Pentecost.

Powerful things happen when we spend our lives confessing Christ to those we come in contact with.

It is extremely encouraging to realize that the same God who led the Israelites out of sinful Egyptian bondage is the same God who promises Christians and those unbelievers who choose to believe in Christ victory today.

We are like Elijah, sometimes we must be reminded who is reigning. Elijah became discouraged and declared himself as the only faithful man of God in Israel. God stepped in and reminded him that He was still in control and there were thousands who had not bowed their knee to Baal.

Daniel’s belief in God did not deter his determination to declare the sovereignty of his God to a heathen world. Daniel confessed his belief in God to the succession of three kings. The confession he made by the life he lived left no doubt in those kings mind as to who was in charge of the world’s affairs.

Initially the world declared that these men were at a great disadvantage. Through hindsight we understand that they had the only advantage. As their enemies sought their lives they confessed to a dying world that God’s reign was real. God delivered each one of them.

Today Christians Really Have The Advantage.

We have a great savior who is able to completely save us.

Hebrews 7:25
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (NIV)

Hebrews 4:14
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (NIV)

We have the liberating Word of God, which guarantees God’s power and his presence in our daily lives.

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV)

We have the Holy Spirit to guide us to liberation in every circumstance, as he guides us in what we say and do. Christ promised the apostles the power of the Holy Spirit to carry the gospel into the world. That same Spirit seeks to guide us today.

Acts 1:7-8
He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (NIV)

Acts 2:38-39

These blessings afford us a great opportunity to preach the gospel to a lost world. God has opened doors of opportunity that no one can shut. The doors of opportunity are just as open today as they were in the difficult times of Moses, Elijah and Daniel.

Revelation 3:8-10
I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars-I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. (NIV)

If we believe the doors are not open, we can open them by deciding to keep God’s command and do what he is asking us to do. I am amazed at how God has opened the doors of opportunity through the means of technology. I can’t understand how you can send a message around the world through a telephone line at such minimal cost.

We Need New Testament Christianity

Today we need born-again members of Christ kingdom. For Christ truly reigns in the hearts of those who have truly been born again into the kingdom of God.

John 3:3-8
"In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

"’How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!’

"Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit" (NIV)

The power of the new birth for those in the first century staggered the world. They conquered the world for Christ as they confessed his name. They were just ignorant and unlearned men, but oh, how their love for Christ motivated them to turn their relationships upside down for Christ. On Pentecost an ignorant fishermen stood up and confessed the reigning power of the risen Christ.

Acts 2:22-38

Those who confessed Christ on Pentecost faced every kind of opposition. Their suffering was enormous from without and within. The opposition to these born again followers of Christ was relentless, but they knew that Christ reigned. They knew Satan could not prevail against the kingdom established in their hearts. But they knew that their opposition allowed the world to see the rebirth of the hidden person of the heart. The world could see their sincerity because of their willingness to suffer for the Christ they confessed.

The world takes note when they see Christ reborn in our hearts. The world is busy telling us to dress and act like them. Many in the church are more concerned about how people are dressed than they are winning them to Christ or seeing them grow in Christ. Many in the church want us to impress the world with how we dress, but God encourages us to adorn the hidden person of the heart so that the world might see the reign of Christ in our lives.

1 Peter 3:1-6
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (NIV)

I think the religious world is more concerned with building churches than building people. Much of our preaching is directed toward defining the church. The church is about each of us confessing Christ daily in what we say and do. The confession Peter made, "You are the Christ the Son of the living God," wasn’t just a statement of fact, it was a principle which literally molded his life. His life confessed the presence of Christ.

We need born again believers who are willing to be faithful stewards in boldly proclaiming and confessing Christ to the lost daily. When we are seeking to confess Christ to our friends, we may lose heart and become resentful. We must not allow the devil to lead us into the trap of resentfulness.

2 Timothy 2:24-26
And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (NIV)

Confessing Christ to our lost friends requires a willingness to put Christ first; it requires courage.

Matthew 10:26-39
"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

"'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-
a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (NIV)

Confession is more than a factual statement about the living Christ. These passages reveal that true confession takes us beyond baptism. It moves us to give up our lives to the one who can make a difference in our lives.

Conclusion:

Peter’s confession of Christ led him to be what God was calling him to be.

Peter’s confession of Christ led him to do what God wanted him to do.

Peter’s confession of Christ led him to go where God wanted him to go.

We need open-minded born-again Christians who are open to the call of God.

We need open-minded born-again Christians who are open to faithfully ministering to the lost.

1 Peter 4:10-11
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)

 

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