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Living According to the Will of God ~ Matthew 16.21-23

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Living According to the Will of God

Text:    Matthew 16.21-23

Introduction:        The last statement is of profound importance to us. “For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” In this rebuke the Lord gives His disciples and us a profound principle of living a spiritual life: to live our lives according to the plan of God rather than the plans of men.

It sets the things of God over against the things of men, God’s glorious purpose over men’s blind, erring, sinful purposes. This is all through the Bible; man simply does not know or understand God. Human wisdom cannot comprehend God’s ways. Proverbs 14.12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Psalm 92 says, “O Lord, how great are Your works! You thoughts are very deep. A senseless man does not know, nor does a fool understand this.” Isaiah 55.8 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

This all begins in verse 13. Jesus brings His disciples to the a remote place called Caesarea Philippi and asks them “Who am I?” Peter answers for them, “The Christ.” And Jesus begins to tell them. You did not just figure this out. God has revealed this to you. And He begins to tell them, “I am building My church and even death will not stop it.

I want to this week and next week to speak about two Spiritual Principles by which to live the Christian Life. The first one today is “Living According to the Will of God.”

There are 4 things here that show us how we should be diligent and careful not to replace the things of God with the things of men.

I.                   God’s Plan

A.                  In verse 21, “From that time” – Now this is a key phrase in that Matthew gives forth a transition. This is the same phrase that Matthew uses in 4.17 – “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That began His primarily public ministry and now He begins a primarily private instruction to His disciples.  

B.                  Again in verse 21, we read, “Jesus began to show them.” He begins to instruct them about God’s plan. The plan is one of the saving work of Christ. I want you to notice the word “Began.” This indicates that it is not a onetime lecture or instruction. He began to show them, not by proving the matter to them, but by revelation. It is the same word, δεικνύω, used in Luke 24.40 where Jesus shows these same disciples his hands and feet. It is also used in John 14.8 where Philip ask Jesus to “Show us the Father.” What is Jesus “showing” His disciples here?

C.                  In verse 21 again, that “He Must go to Jerusalem.” The important word here is “Must.” It is the divine imperative, the Plan of God. In other words, there is no plan B, folks. God does not operate with whimsical idea and float it out there like most of our politicians do. He has an established plan developed in His wise and good council. Again, I remind you of Isaiah 46.9-11. So, when Jesus begins to show His disciples that He Must go to Jerusalem, It is a necessity. It is a must that comes thundering from the Divine Throne. It comes with a force of eternity. God set this plan in motion before the foundations of the world.

D.                  What made this necessary? First, sin made it necessary that Jesus go to Jerusalem. He had to die because men are sinners and they must have their sin paid for. Secondly, God’s decree by His own determined council and foreknowledge brings it to pass. Also, Divine Requirement, “for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin” makes it necessary that Jesus go to Jerusalem. A death must occur. God required it. “When I see the blood, I will Passover you.” Man’s sin, God’s decree, and Divine Requirement make it necessary, but finally, God’s prophecies also add the element of necessity. God speaks to His prophets concerning the decree involving the Messiah, There is no alternative, no plan B.

God had a plan fashioned in eternity in the councils of His divine foreknowledge. It was a plan of love to redeem lost sinners. It was a plan of righteous judgment; all the sins of all the world for all ages were placed on an innocent man to meet the divine requirement. It was a plan of immanent effect accomplishing a full salvation. What God did was right and good and necessary.

II.                Peter’s Plans

We have talked about God’s Plan. But as our story goes on we find a usual response: Men have plans too. Acting on the declaration of the serpent in the Garden, we all think ourselves to be “Like God.” We have plans of our own. And this is where danger comes in for us.

A.                  Peter objects to what Jesus begins to show them. But his reaction is not one of a simple objection. This is a presumptuous rebuke of what Jesus has begun to teach. “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” The word means that Peter took hold of him. It is a forceful grabbing Jesus. Now, we may think, how brash. But, really, have we not all done the same thing when we complain about the things we have to go through? How many times have we murmured about our situation, in a figurative sense taking God aside and said, “No trials or suffering please?” “No difficulties, no pain.” Because that’s the way we think it ought to be.

B.                  Peter says, “Far be it from You, Lord.” The amazing thing is that in the middle of his rebuke, Peter calls Him Lord. This is a negative idiomatic expression that means, “God forbid.” In other words, “Don’t think this way. Don’t do this to yourself. You don’t have to do this to yourself.

III.             Christ’s Proper Response

So the things of God is set against the things of men. Here is the epic battle of the ages; God’s will versus man’s will.

A.                  What Peter says, really is genuine. He has the best interest in mind for Jesus. He doesn’t want Him to die. He doesn’t want Him to suffer any pain. And this is a very good time to stop and consider this thought for a moment. Many times well intending people think that they are doing the Lord’s work and helping God when in fact, what they are really doing is blasphemous. (This was the Jewish mindset concerning the Messiah – A triumphant Christ, not a Suffering Servant). So, Peter is only reacting to the “traditional” belief. We ought to consider our traditions and see if they match up to the Word of God.

B.                  Jesus gives Peter a harsh rebuke. I mean, “Get behind me, Satan.” This is the same rebuke He gave to the devil in the wilderness. Why? Because it is the same exact temptation the devil gave Him. “Don’t do the will of the Father. There is another way. There are many ways.” But there is only one way and that is God’s way. God’s Plan.

C.                  Jesus quickly identifies this as a temptation to Him. He calls it an offence or a better translation is “a stumbling block” or “a trap.” Σκάνδαλον is the word. It means to entice somebody to destroy them. I don’t think Peter intended to scandalize Christ at all. I think he really didn’t want Jesus to die. He didn’t think that was the proper route for the Messiah. But he unwittingly becomes a participant in a Satanic plot.

So, how did it all come to this for Peter? How could he have been so very far off after having made the right declaration of who Jesus was? How could one who was getting a revelation from God have strayed so far to scandalize Jesus, to be caught up in a Satanic plot to derail Jesus from the work He was sent to do?

IV.             The Christian’s Principle to Live by

So we have seen God’s Plan, Peter’s Plans and Christ’s Proper Response. Now we come to the last statement of Christ and this is the point to all this. This is very applicable to each of us.

A.                  Verse 23 – “You are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” What is He saying here? You are not mindful or the things of God. In other words, You are not thinking the things of God, but men. Your mind is reasoning these things out from your humanness instead of God’s word.

B.                  God’s word is His thinking, His reasoning, His viewpoint. His viewpoint is that Jesus must go to Jerusalem. He must suffer. He must die and He must rise again. The important thing to remember here is that God’s view is not just like everyone else’s. This is the mindset of men, always has been.  One man’s view is as good as another.

C.                  There are two things here for us to learn. First, Jesus may not fit the mold or the definitions of men, but He is the fulfillment of God’s Plan. Birth as a man – Commonness – His Ministry to the poor – His life – and His death. None fit the mold of men of what the Savior should be much less what God should be.

D.                  The second thing is we must learn to think like God. In order to do this we must wholly submit ourselves to God in full trust that His plan is good and the only plan. The danger is that in the immediate circumstances, everything but God’s plan looks best. How is it that I must go through this? Why this now? There must be another way?

Conclusion: Have you seen a consistent pattern in the things we have seen since the first time I came to preach to you? The pattern is to trust God in everything. He is sufficient in all things. He will never fail. He will prevail. Trust Him. He is God.

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