August 28, 2011
TEXT: MATTHEW 16:21-28/ROM. 12:9-21/JER 15:15-21
THE SIN OF CROSS-DENYING GOOD INTENTIONS!
THE SAVIOR OF DEVIL-DEFEATING FULFILLED WILL!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting
To all those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, loved by God and called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It doesn’t get any higher or better than for Jesus to say to you, “Blessed are you…” Amid all the idols of Caesarea Philippi, Peter had it right. He said of Jesus - You are the Christ the Son of the living God. Jesus responded “Blessed are you Simon…flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. It doesn’t get any higher or better than for Jesus to say to you “Blessed are you…”
From that time 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 on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Mercy to you, Lord, this shall not happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
It doesn’t get any lower or worse than for Jesus to say to you, “Get behind me Satan!” With the blessing of the Son of God ringing in his hears, Peter trusted his “good sense” over the Word of God. One moment he glorified Christ! The next moment He defied Christ! One moment He spoke under inspiration of the Father in heaven “You are the Christ…” the next moment he spoke caring religious words under the inspiration of Satan “Mercy to you Lord, this shall not happen to you.” Most fearful of all, Peter couldn’t tell the difference! He spoke words from heaven with one breath, words from hell with the next and it was all the same to him.
Dear Christians, this is the danger of enthusiasm, that is, human expectations beyond and contrary to the Word of God. To be enthusiastic is not a bad thing, especially about God’s good gifts. The Holy Spirit grant to you ever-growing enthusiasm to receive Christ’s gifts as the center of life each week! God give you enthusiasm in your prayers for and speaking to others in your family and circle of friends to encourage them to draw their life from the presence of risen Christ as well.
But there is a theological use of this word “enthusiasm” that denotes a very bad thing. It indicates judging the things of God by our own experiences and feelings and desires and not by His Word. Our Lutheran Confessions state that such “enthusiasm dwells in Adam and his descendants from the beginning to the end of the world. Its venom has been implanted and infused into them by the old serpent. It is the origin, power, and strength of all heresy…Therefore we must constantly maintain this point: God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. Whatever is praised as from the Spirit – without the Word and Sacraments – is the devil himself.” (SA, III, VIII – Confession, 9-10)
That is why Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind Me Satan.” Peter confessed who Jesus was by revelation of the Father. But he refused to confess what Jesus does despite the revelation of the Father. Peter actually rebuked the Son of God! What Jesus says will happen Peter says will not happen. He even attempts to use God’s mercy to deny God’s Word. “Far be it from you lord!” literally reads, “Mercy to you Lord! This shall not happen to you.”
The church is full of such false mercy still today. So are we! When the way of Christ seems difficult there is the temptation to simply ignore the clear Word of God. “Let’s just not go there.” “It’s different in our time and culture.”
Whether it is God’s gift of life in the womb or honoring the marriage bed or defining marriage or acknowledging God’s presence in worship or seeing God at work in suffering or loving our enemies we are in constant danger of looking out for people’s feelings and forsaking their eternal life. This includes our own feelings and our own eternal life. Jesus’ question is fundamental still today – “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?
Related to this question Jesus also said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Daily you are hunted and haunted by a persistent false god. It likes happy feelings and dislikes suffering! It likes pleasure and dislikes stress! It likes to judge the sin of others and dislikes confessing its own sin. It will constantly assure you that its best to look out for number one – and those you love of course. This enemy is seen at work in comparison with others and in criticism of others (most often behind their back). Whether on campus on in the home, this enemy is seen in competition with others and it must win every argument! This enemy is seen in road rage and in the passion of perceived political purity and in assumed mental superiority. This enemy is seen in scheming against others instead of praying for them. Daily you are hunted and haunted by this enemy and the enemy is you! If you think of anyone else - anyone but yourself - as you hear these words - Get behind me Satan!
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Denying oneself is self-renunciation instead of self-justification! Denying oneself is to stop thinking we have all the answers! Denying oneself is to live in humble obedience and submission to the will of another even if it leads to Jeremiah’s cry – why is my pain increasing? Denying oneself is turning oneself off every day - refusing to worship LORD SELF!
Do you see the wisdom in Luther’s counsel that we begin the day by making sign of the cross and saying “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It’s one way to say – “Dear God, don’t put me in charge of my life today - I’ll make a royal mess of it – Lord help me.” As St. Paul wrote to the church at Rome – do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. As we prayed in the collect, “Grant us courage to take up our cross daily and follow Him wherever He leads.
You see, this was Jesus’ first unveiled prediction of His Father’s will that He must die and rise again! The cross is now out in the open – radical and new – for the disciples to see! The Greek behind Jesus saying that he must…be killed and on the third day be raised means - it is absolutely necessary – it is the will of God! The things of God center on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus! Satan is not opposed to a generic Jesus who is your buddy and helps you do better and feel better in this dying world. In fact, Satan is very pleased with a Jesus molded to fit the desires of your own heart. What Satan works tirelessly to destroy (even now as you hear this sermon) is faith in Christ crucified and risen whose blood sets you free from sin and death and hell and who bids you to deny yourself, take up your cross and continue following Him. That is why Jesus began to teach His disciples that it was - absolutely necessary – the very will of God - that He suffer many things…and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
More-merciful-sounding-than-God, Peter is in effect saying “Lord not Thy will, but my will be done.” Acting with the best of intentions Peter spews forth the worst of evil. He unknowingly attempts to keep all people including himself from being forgiven! With heartfelt, “let-me-help” enthusiasm Peter is doing the devil’s work! No wonder Jesus calls him “Satan.”
Beloved, we need to confess the sin of our good intentions and the sin of following our feelings wherein they tempt us to trim loyalty to the Word of God and deny the pain of our cross. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Jesus – I cannot – if I don’t use my tongue to cut them up, who will? Forgive seventy times seven. But Jesus I need to be proven right and exact some revenge from those who have hurt me. I’m the victim here you see – well and also - the master of my own destiny – depending on the needs of the moment. One way or the other – as victim or as master - I’m in charge!
Caring religious talk and sincerely felt acts of mercy are from Satan if they deny the cross of Christ and the cross of those who follow Him. Fashioning ourselves as more merciful than God is to deny God’s true mercy in Christ Jesus! Think of what this means in an area now leading to persecution for Lutheran pastors in Nordic countries and in Canada. The Holy Spirit says, “do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Yet mainline denominations publicly say, “Mercy to you – this shall never happen to you – you may practice homosexuality and other immorality if you desire. We want to be inclusive and welcoming – and not get too hung up on a few points of doctrine.
Friends in Christ, we live in an idol-infested society just as Peter did. The most dangerous and appealing idol, however, dwells on the inside, in the enthusiasm that clings to each of us. Satan keeps tempting us to take charge, to make Christ over into one who fits our desires. Instead of eating God’s Word as did Jeremiah as the delight of our hearts and bearing reproach for it – we are tempted to be picky eaters. We have met the enemy and the enemy is us. We are constantly tempted to make a false Christ by separating Jesus from His words.
The true Christ however, will not be turned aside from His cross! What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what will a man give in return for his life? Nothing for we have nothing to give! But the Son of the living God has everything to give. That’s why He came down in the Virgin’s womb! That’s why He stood in the flesh in Caesarea-Philippi! That’s why He was so utterly crushing in His rebuke of Peter. That’s why He washed you with His blood in your baptism. That’s why He gives you to drink of His blood in His Supper. Human feelings be hanged –! Jesus is focused on saving you!
Peter was taking the short view of things to avoid the pain of Jesus’ cross and his own cross. Jesus was pursuing the long view – that includes forgiveness of sins and eternity! His mind was set on the things of God, not the things of man! On Calvary He said not just “Get behind me Satan” but “Get under my feet Satan. Here is where I cast you down and crush your accusing head.” Fellow- Redeemed there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! The devil can accuse you of nothing – not even for the sinful enthusiasm that infects you for Jesus’ carried it also!
He had spoken not only of being killed, but also of being raised on the third day. In hearing that it was absolutely necessary for Jesus to die, Peter had failed to hear that it was also absolutely necessary for Him to rise again. It is also absolutely necessary for you to rise again for you are baptized into His death and born again to a living hope through His resurrection! It is the will of God that where the head has gone, His body will follow!
It doesn’t get any better or higher than for the Lord to say to you… “Blessed are you… Blessed are you…for blessed are the poor in spirit - theirs is the kingdom of heaven! His promised blessings in water and word and bread and wine are eternal and they are yours! I am with you to save you and deliver you declares the Lord! Blessed are you…by His presence right now
Therefore, abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor…Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Live in harmony with one another. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil…If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
Heavenly Father, grant us Your Holy Spirit so that we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Your Son through this troubled life into heaven. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Heavenly Father, teach us never to shun our Lord’s suffering or our own suffering. Give us perseverance in the faith to endure persecution and ridicule for confessing Christ and His cross and resurrection. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Gracious Lord, as Jeremiah found your words to be the delight of His heart so enable Your pastors today to be as Your mouth -preaching what is precious and not what is worthless. Fill us also with a desire to learn Your Word in daily prayer and in Bible Classes and Sunday School. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Gracious Lord, cause Your Gospel to be proclaimed everywhere. Protect, encourage, and bless all missionaries of the cross so that Christ, being lifted up, may draw all people to Himself. Steady your people in their daily vocations with readiness to bear witness to the hope they have in you. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Merciful Lord, give us genuine love to abhor evil, show hospitality, be constant in prayer, be patient in tribulation, bless those who curse us, disown conceit, and so far as it depends on us live peaceably with all. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Merciful Lord bless the schools and seminaries of the Church and all centers of learning. As students return to universities and other schools, bless their learning as they prepare to serve others in various vocations. Grant your wisdom that their lives are not conformed to this passing world. Hear us for those leaving home for college for the first time, especially Holly and Brennick and for those returning to their studies … Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Merciful Lord, receive our thanks for Your gifts of daily bread, so bountiful in this land. Look in kindness on those seeking employment and those seeking to employ. We praise you for the 48th wedding anniversary of Tom and Sue. We praise you for another year of life for Calvin and Connor and for all who celebrate birthdays in this month. Most especially we praise you for the day of our rebirth in Holy Baptism – trusting Your saving grace and rejoicing that You have made us Your own. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Heavenly, Father grant your blessing to our nation and state. Give our leaders wisdom and strength. Grant your protection to those in our military, especially those deployed in harm’s way. Grant your mercy to those whose lives and homes are threatened by drought or hurricane or other disaster. Give relief and merciful aid to those in other lands whose welfare is threatened by famine or flood or tyrants or terrorism. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Heavenly Father, by Your Word and Spirit comfort and grant help to all who are in sorrow or need, sickness or adversity, especially Chrissie and her child, Wendy, Howard, Helen, Sandy, Marilyn, Velda, …and all we name in our hearts. In the midst of every trial deepen our trust in You and prepare us for the day of Your Son’s visitation. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN.