Self reflection is such a big part of the Christian life, it can come to actually dominate our lives at times. Especially during the Passover season, we all are admonished every year to examine ourselves with the intent of taking the symbols of the Passover in a “worthy manner”. Then during the days that follow the Passover, I always wonder if I took the Passover seriously enough. Because I always could have taken even more time to study and pray … even to fast.
This year seemed to be an even more intense time of reflection because this winter and spring marks the 20 year anniversary of the events that took place in 1995, when those of us in the Worldwide Church of God were faced with some really serious life-altering spiritual choices, and not just passive choices you can make between yourself and God in your prayer closet, but open public choices that effected friendships and family.
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods” (Joshua 24:15-16)
Joshua himself is quoted as making this very public choice in the hearing of the children of Israel. The people agreed to follow his lead in this and they did … until Joshua died. Then they forsook the Lord and began to serve false Gods.
In Matthew 16, Jesus, the Christ of God, drew a very sharp contrast between two mindsets, and two very divergent ways of life for the disciple Peter. Let’s begin with a question Christ put to His disciples.
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:13-19)
Peter must have been on top of the world at this moment. He may have briefly been the first believer in the “Primacy of Peter” doctrine, because he had been praised and exalted by the Master Himself here. But that’s not the end of the narrative here. We’re in the middle of the story.
Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:20-23)
Peter, fresh off the experience of identifying the Christ of God, under the verified inspiration of God Himself … was pretty self-confident. The word “rebuke” here is a pretty strong word, epitemao in the Greek. It means to censure, admonish, forbid, to straightly charge. Not something you’d expect a student to do with his Master. Then in verse 23, Christ lowers the boom. So much for the “primacy of Peter” doctrine.
There are two distinct directional attitudes, or mind sets evident here that are as different as the east is from the west. And we’ve all heard messages based on the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken”. “Two paths diverged in a yellow wood … I took the one less traveled by … and that made all the difference!
I like the wording of verse 23 in the King James version: “you SAVOR not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” The word “savor” is phroneo in the Greek, and means, to exercise the mind, to intensely interest oneself in with concern for obedience. In this case, “the “things that be of GOD” were coming to Peter directly from the mouth of Messiah God, but he had his own thoughts on the matter.
Brethren, I don’t know if there has ever been a time in church history when it’s been more difficult to be sure what we savor. It just seems like there are distractions everywhere. The pace of life is becoming more and more frantic. There’s economic pressure, social pressure, societal dysfunction, increasing violence, and persecution as we’ve never seen before. I read an article last week on the most persecuted religion on earth today, and this author concluded it was Christianity! Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have thought it likely that there would be this level of active persecution in this country.
What Do You Savor?
So how can you and I be sure we are “savoring” the things that be of God? Peter was after all saying something here that we would all have agreed with. It was not his will that his Messiah would die — “I don’t want that to happen to you, Lord!” The innocent Messiah of God having to die for the guilty? That didn’t make sense to Peter, and it probably wouldn’t have to us if we were in his shoes. But really, what Peter wanted was for his own human will to be done.
Sentiments like that , even if they make perfect sense to us, are “the things that be of men” if they aren’t in line with the will and plan of God. The only way I know of to be “savoring” the things that be of God in times of increasing persecution is to have our noses in His Holy Book every day with an attitude of submission to GODS will.
Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (Rev. 3:10
These words in Christ’s letter to the Philadelphians are easy to savor, aren’t they? It is very easy to submit to God’s words when they align with our own will. As Peter found out though, it isn’t always that easy.
So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. (Rev. 13:4-10)
These too are the words, the things, that be of God. Do we savor them? Do we savor all the words of God, even the ones that are hard to hear? If we keep reading in Matthew 16, we see that Christ knew savoring God’s way of life isn’t always easy, but He assures us it is well worth it. We will receive a positive reward.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matt. 16:24-27)