Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 18 January 21:
Matthew 16:9 – “Do you not yet perceive?”
As discussed yesterday, it is all about perception – spiritual perception or understanding. First Jesus points out that the Pharisees and the Sadducees can’t perceive the reality of the Christ right before their eyes. (Matthew 16:1-4) Then, Jesus questions His disciples about their limited perception of Him – “Do you not yet perceive?” Then, Jesus gets to the point — “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answers correctly — “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Next, Jesus presents a critical truth, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17) Flesh and blood cannot discern spiritual truth – it must be given by God –
- John 3:3 — Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
- John 6:44, 65 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…. This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
- James 1:5 — If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
- 1 Corinthians 2:14 — The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
- John 16:13 — When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
- Psalm 119:66 — Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
The Father draws us to the Son (John 6:44, 65), and through salvation in Christ, we are gifted with the Holy Spirit and then have spiritual perception and discernment. And when we see Jesus truly as the Christ (sight we are given), we see the Truth, and it changes our perception of everything else; we can then judge all things rightly – “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)
However, we can still quench the Spirit, grieve the Spirit, get out of step with the Spirit, and even outrage the Spirit if we choose to be guided by the flesh rather than the Spirit. (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Galatians 5:25; Hebrews 10:29)
Immediately after Jesus commended Peter for seeing Him rightly through the gifting of the Father, Jesus gives Peter a harsh rebuke — “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.” After his revelation from the Father through the Spirit, Peter went right back to judging things from his human, self-centered perspective rather than from God’s truth, failing to maintain spiritual discernment. God’s plan for Jesus, the Cross, simply wasn’t the plan Peter had envisioned for Jesus or for himself from his human understanding. What Peter needed was right perception, spiritual discernment. When we allow ‘common sense,’ self-centered intellect, and worldly wisdom get in the way of the Spirit, it is “a hindrance” to our mission as Christ’s ambassadors. If we aren’t careful, we can even be tempted to co-opt Jesus for our personal agendas – “Lord, please bless me in the things I want to do,” rather than, “Lord, let your will be done.” How is your perception?
After Jesus harshly rebukes Peter, he taught, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25) It is “self” or the “flesh” (our self-centered perspective and desires) which gets in the way of our spiritual discernment. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) However, we all struggle with a part of us which wants to go our own way, determine our own truth, and live our own lives. Ultimately, we want Jesus to follow us, to simply be there when we need Him. This struggle with self is a daily battle (see Luke 9:23) and is the greatest war we all fight, though our victory is ultimately assured in Christ. Each day, we will come to several decision-points, which become crossroads for us, a choice about which path we will take, our own path or the path of Jesus — will we gratify our own desires (comfort-based decisions) or seek the Lord’s will (Christ-based decisions)? When we come to these crossroads multiple times a day, we must take the Cross road – “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Concerning spiritual discernment and this daily battle against self, Jesus said, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) Watchfulness and prayerfulness are essential to our spiritual discernment and our war against the flesh. Watch – pour into God’s word, and from the plumbline of God’s truth, examine yourself, the true motives behind your behavior and the fruit of your behavior (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Pray – pray that God will give you strength to resist temptation and will help you to keep your eyes affixed on Jesus, that you would seek His will earnestly and be increasingly conformed to His character. Pray that He will give you the discernment which can only come from Him – “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Perhaps your first cross roads decision today was whether or not you would begin your day in earnest prayer to seek His face and guidance or instead jump into all of the activities you had planned. How did you do?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 Jan 21: Pray that God will give you right perception in your circumstances and in your encounters with others, so you can respond and influence from a pure heart and the mind of Christ.
- 1 Corinthians 2:16 — For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
- Philippians 4:7 — And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.