Read: Matt 16:13-28
Then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.” Matthew 16: 15 – 17
I think in Christian circles we sometimes try to take on what isn’t ours. Specifically I’m thinking we have the tendency to believe that it’s our job as Christians to save the lost. I know in my own walk, particularly when I was a new Christian, I had a tendency towards this. I was so joyful and excited about the tangible changes Jesus had made in my heart and my life that I wanted everyone to experience what I had. While the excitement and joy were the right emotions to be experiencing and sharing, my approach was misguided. My approach turned from one of joyously sharing how Jesus was changing me and the hope He brought to my life to feeling like it was my responsibility to convert friends and family who didn’t know Jesus into Christians. Instead of joyfully sharing my reason for hope, which we are all called to do ( 1 Peter 3:15 – But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect), I took on the impossible task of feeling responsible if someone else didn’t respond to my relaying of the Gospel.
For anyone who has taken the Alpha Course, in one of the earlier talks Nicky Gumbel has a humorous way of explaining his own struggles with this when he first became a Christian. Nicky tells a story about being invited to a party shortly after becoming a Christian. While digesting books about Jesus, Nicky identified about half a dozen or so that he thought told a new believer everything they needed to know to get started in the faith (I can relate). Nicky decided that he was going to use the party as an opportunity to tell others about God (great idea). He didn’t want to leave anyone that “he converted” scrambling for answers like he had, so he stuffed his pockets full of copies of the books he had been reading with the idea of giving them away to anyone who seemed receptive to the Gospel (again, I can relate; it’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve done very similar things). During the party, Nicky found a young lady willing to dance with him, which was really his platform for evangelizing. As Nicky tells it, while they were dancing, he proceeded to tell the young lady about the Good News. At the end of the dance, the lady said that she was interested in knowing more. I’m cringing as I type this because I’ve been there, done that (just not on a dance floor), but Nicky took that as an opportunity to empty his pockets of books, which he unloaded into the young lady’s arms.
Like Nicky, I too am a pretty analytical person. Also like Nicky, when I became a Christian, I made it a point to immediately digest as much “head knowledge” as I could about Jesus and the Christian faith. Writings by Christian apologists that presented rational arguments for Christianity consumed my reading time. Since God had appealed to me through my analytical side, I made the wrong assumption that was how He reached everyone (as a teacher, I should have known better). I can see my wife laughing as she reads this and saying to herself “only my husband would find logic and analytical arguments as a way to win someone’s heart”; however, God knew that was the way to woo me. Since God created me, He knows what makes me tick, and He knows that the way to my heart was through my head. Just like He (and only Him) knows the way to reach every other person who walks the earth.
This brings me back to part of the focus verse for today. In Matthew 16:17, Jesus tells Peter “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.” The “this” is that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the One God promised throughout the entire Old Testament to send to save Israel and the all who believe in Him. Jesus very directly tells Peter and us that the only one who can convert someone to belief in Him is God. In John 16:8, Jesus promises His disciples that when the Holy Spirit comes (as He did at Pentecost, which we’ll read about a little later when we cover Acts 2), “He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” There are many other verses where God tells us that it’s His job (not ours) to convict others of their sins and convert them to belief in Him. One such verse that particularly hit home to me is Ezekiel 36:26: “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new Spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
So does that mean we, as believers, don’t have a role in this? Most certainly not! The New Testament is filled with scripture telling believers what our role is in sharing the Good News. In Matthew 28:19 – 10, Jesus commands us: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” In other words, we are to live life as Jesus taught, loving God first and others above ourselves (John 13:34, Mark 12: 28 – 29, etc), sharing the Truth of the Gospel of Christ, living our lives in a way that is pleasing to God (Colossians 1: 10 – 14), and trusting that Jesus is with us always (“even to the end of the age”). If we do that and can remember that it’s up to God to convict, convert, and save those with whom we share the gospel, we will be much more effective ambassadors of Christ in the world.
Finally, I have an extra reading assignment for anyone with a few extra minutes on your hands – go read Romans 10 (it’s a short chapter). In it Paul very succinctly ties all of this together.
Lord, thank You that You fill my life with joy and hope. I am so excited to tell others about You. Please guide, lead, and help me to do so in a way that is true and brings glory to You. Please also help me to remember that it’s Your job to convict and save those with whom I share Your Good News. In Jesus’s name I pray… amen.