Sermon on Matthew 16:21-26
Text: 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, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
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 concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
Millions of dollars are spent every year on security systems. We get them for our homes and businesses, making sure that no intruders get in and take what is valuable to us or destroy our property. A big thing right now is internet security. We put up firewalls and encrypt our messages. We make sure that our passwords are tough to figure out, so that no one will get in and get a hold of our finances. It is a never-ending struggle to keep out those who do not belong there. This morning, we will learn from our Savior HOW TO KEEP THE DEVIL OUT OF OUR LIVES. We do so by 1. Being On The Lookout For Him, 2. Dealing Decisively With Temptation and 3. Following Faithfully After Jesus.
In our sermon last week, we had the beautiful confession that Peter made, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is on the heels of that confession of faith that Jesus told his disciples what would happen to him when they reached Jerusalem. It says that “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Verse 21) There was no mistaking what was going to happen. Jesus made it very clear where his path would lead.
At this, we read, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” (Verse 22) Peter took Jesus off to the side and began to set Jesus straight. This was not how it was supposed to be. ‘Jesus, you are the Savior. This idea that you are going to die does not fit in with the way it is supposed to be!’ Peter and the other disciples were laboring under the misconception that Jesus had come to be a physical King and that could not happen if Jesus died. We see the love that Peter had for Jesus. He came to him with the best of intentions. However, his love was misguided and very much in need of correction.
Jesus saw right through these words and heard the voice of Satan in them. That is why he spoke as he did to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Verse 23) Satan was using this dear friend to Jesus to try to get him to veer from the path that Jesus’ Father wanted him to follow. Satan knew that if Jesus followed the path that the Father had set before him, it would mean that he would be defeated. He knew that Jesus was the one who was prophesied to crush his head. So, Satan tries to get Jesus to follow what would seem to be an easier path. Remember, when Satan was tempting Jesus during those forty days in the wilderness? Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor and told Jesus that he could have all of them, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. Here’s the easy way out. When Jesus rebuffed that attack, it did not mean that the devil had stopped trying. So, he chose to use the well-meaning, misguided words of a dear friend to tempt Jesus to sin.
Note that the devil has not changed his tactics. Rarely will he come to us with an out and out temptation to sin that can be seen miles away. More often, he will come to us in a subtle way. He will come in the form of a friend who tells us that there is no reason for us to be suffering the way that we are. There must be an easier way out of this. Surely, God wants you to be happy! He comes to us as we are part of the crowd and something that is sinful is going on. Perhaps the gossip is flying fast and free. Perhaps it is complaining about someone or something. Satan tells us that we don’t want to stick out. He comes to us when we see a family member sinning. He tempts us to keep quiet because we don’t want to have an unhappy family life. We want our spouse, our children, our parents to love us. These temptations are so dangerous because we can so easily justify them. We think that this will make our lives better or happier. However, these temptations can easily lead us to sin, especially because we don’t want to follow the path that God has laid out for us. We want to take the easy path. Brothers and sisters, keep an eye out for the devil and his many temptations.
Note how Jesus dealt with the temptation that was presented to him. He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Verse 23) He did not come to Peter and say, ‘Let’s talk about this. I really want to know where you are coming from and we can work on this together.’ He acted decisively when the temptation came his way. He cut it off right there and then. There is little doubt that it might have shocked Peter and may have even hurt his feelings. Yet, when it came to the temptation to veer from the path that his Father had set before him, Jesus would not allow anything around him that would make it more difficult to say, ‘No.’
Here is the next lesson that we can learn to keep the devil out of our lives. How do we react when the devil puts a temptation in our lives? Are we as decisive as Jesus was? Do we tell Satan to go away, that we do not want to hear what he has to say? Unfortunately, all too often we are like Eve in the Garden of Eden when the devil came with his temptations. Remember how, instead of telling Satan to go away, she engaged him in conversation. She continued to look at the forbidden fruit. The more she thought about it, the more attractive that fruit became. Soon, it was all that she wanted. She could not think of anything else, so she took some of the fruit and ate it.
How often we follow that example. A temptation comes our way and we sit and look at it and think about it. We try to excuse it, saying that it isn’t really that big of a deal if we do it. It will be enjoyable. It will be easier. Everyone else is doing it. The more we look at a temptation, the easier it is for us to fall into that trap.
May God help us to act as decisively as Jesus did. When that temptation comes, act decisively and get away from it. Leave the place where you are at. Turn off the television or the computer. Say to the person that you are with that what is going on is wrong. May our attitude be that of Joseph when he was tempted to go to bed with Potiphar’s wife. He said, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9) He then turned around and ran out of the house. He got as far away from that temptation as he could, even though he knew it probably would not go well for him, as a result. Act decisively when the devil comes around with his temptations.
The next way that we keep the devil out of our lives is by following Jesus. That sounds simple enough, until we remind ourselves what following Jesus means. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Verse 24) Following Jesus means taking up a cross. That is what it meant for Jesus to follow his Father’s will. It meant that he did not always have an easy road. There were the many temptations to follow the easy path, which would have meant no suffering for him. He chose to struggle against and defeat all the temptations that the devil put in front of him. It also meant taking up a cross, literally. He carried a cross from Jerusalem to the hill called Golgotha. On that cross, he suffered and died to pay for all those times you and I have succumbed to the devil’s temptations, sometimes without much of a struggle. Jesus took the load of sins that we have committed and paid for every one of them. He died, taking our place in hell, so that we would never have to suffer there. He rose from the dead. As a result, we know that our sins have been forgiven and that the devil has been defeated, once and for all.
Now, in thankfulness for all that Jesus has done for us, we want to follow him. This means, as Jesus said, that we deny ourselves. It means that we say ‘No’ to our sinful nature that is still a part of us. It means taking up our crosses. We may have to suffer for following Jesus. It may mean that some will not like us. It may mean that we will not have all the things or the experiences that the world says we need to have. Being a disciple of Jesus means that we keep on following Jesus. It is not an on-again-off-again affair, something that we do in a moment of enthusiasm or only when we feel like it. We follow his example as he dealt with temptation.
Is it worth it? Is it worth all the difficulty that comes with being a disciple of Jesus? Listen to what Jesus says in verses 25&26, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Suppose for a moment that you were able to acquire everything your heart ever wanted. You had all the wealth and property and things you ever wanted. You had the opportunity to experience all the pleasures that this life has to offer. The world would say that you had it made. However, if you did not have a relationship with Jesus, you would have nothing. What good would your life of leisure do you when this life came to an end? All the wealth in the world could not buy your entrance into heaven. My dear friends, may God help us to take a good, hard look at our lives. What is there in my life that I am putting in the place that God deserves, that God demands? May he help me to see its true worth. May he help us to treasure what is truly important. May he help us to put our greatest efforts into holding on to them. We realize that the things of the world can only last so long. Our relationship with God and all of the blessings that come with it last forever.
What if your home security system failed you and intruders got in? What is the worst that could happen? You would lose some things that may be valuable or have an emotional attachment. What if someone was able to hack into your account and get at your finances? What is the worst that could happen? You would be flat broke. Those are horrible things that could happen to us. However, what if we allow the devil to come into our lives and set up residence there? We could easily lose our faith, and with that lose the eternal home that Jesus has won for us. May our Savior keep us ever vigilant against the devil’s attacks and temptations. May he help us to decisively tell him to go away. May he help us to follow his example, by denying ourselves and taking up our crosses. Then, we will be safe and secure with him forever. Amen.
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