THE THINGS YOU BRING TO JESUS
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 23, 2012
 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them.  And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him.  And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”  And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute.  And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”  And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”  And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.  And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.  And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”  And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”  And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”  But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.  And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”  And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
-- Mark 9:14-29, ESV
What did you bring to Jesus today? You brought yourself, probably in your Sunday best. That’s a good start. Jesus is glad you are here, but I’m not sure He cares that much about how we dress. They say clothes make the man but clothes do not make a man a man of God. Fancy clothes are not required.
You brought your money. In these skeptical days, people think money is what the church is after. Giving is important, but Jesus wants you to be here whether you give or even if you are given out. Money is not required.
You brought your Bible. That’s good. We are a Bible church, after all. But if you did not, Jesus still loves you. And, we have some Bibles available in your pews. Plus, we read the Scriptures slow and plain enough for you to follow along whether you have a Bible in your hands or not. Bibles are not required.
What exactly are we required to bring to Jesus when we come to worship? You may be surprised at what they are. Read Mark 9:14-29 and discover at least a few of the things you should always bring to Jesus.
Bring your problems to Jesus.
The anonymous man in this story, “Someone from the crowd,” said to Jesus, “I brought my son to you” (ref. vs. 17). In other words, I brought you my biggest problem. It was a monumental problem that stretched across spiritual, mental, and physical boundaries. Spiritually, demons were involved. Mentally, the son suffered from terrible seizures and could neither speak nor hear. Physically, the devil in the details of his delirium determined to destroy the boy’s body either by water or by fire. This was an exponential problem!
Frankly, we all share such problems. Who among us is not under spiritual attack by the enemies of God? Who among us does not suffer at least occasionally with some type of mental defect, mania, depression, lack of intelligence, or poor judgment? Who among us is perfectly physically fit and without flaw in the functioning of our body? We all have spiritual, mental, and physical problems and often they become quite severe. Plus we have family problems and financial problems and a boatload of other problems. What are we going to do? Hide them from God and others, or bring them, even publicly and unashamedly, to Jesus?
All too often we hide them from Jesus, from family and friends, from the public eye. Public worship, where God and man can see us, is the last place we want to be. We are not spiritually tuned up, so we don’t come to worship. We are not mentally in the mood, so we don’t come to worship. We don’t have the right physical stuff, clothes and money and a leather Bible, so we don’t come to worship. God forbid, for these troubled times are the times when we need God, and to worship God, the most.
Bring your problems to Jesus, no matter how big, how small, how many, how tall. Bring them with a banner waving, “I need love, God’s love, and the love of the members of the church.” Present yourself publicly to Jesus, just like the man in this text. Lay your burdens down at Jesus’ feet, at the foot of the cross, on the floor of the church. Bring your problems to Jesus, and along with them, bring your unbelief.
Bring your unbelief to Jesus.
The burdened father with the problem son says to Jesus, “I believe,” then perhaps after an awkward pause he adds, “Help my unbelief” (ref. vs. 24). This is one of the most honest confessions of faith we will ever read or hear. For all of God’s children at all times are believers and unbelievers at the same time.
“I believe,” he said, and obviously he did, enough to make a kind of public profession of faith. He confessed Jesus as the ultimate Teacher, the High Priest of pity (mercy), and the Healer with the hands of God. He brought his belief to Jesus, as do we when we come to worship the Lord. But he also confessed, “Help my unbelief.” He brought his unbelief to Jesus. As do we, every time we approach the Lord.
We know that without faith it is impossible to please the Lord (ref. Hebrews 11:6). So, how many of us have perfectly pleased the Lord this year, this week, even in the last hour? I submit that in the moments we sin, doubt, or otherwise lack faith, we believers are basically standing in unbelief (ref. also Romans 14:23). Who among us is absolutely perfect physically, mentally, or spiritually? We are all like this imperfect man who stood before the perfect Son of God and brought to Him his unbelief.
We must do the same thing. Are you struggling with sin? Do you lack faith in some of the faithful truths concerning the person and work of Christ? Has the word of God become hazy and hard to read, blurring the lines between right and wrong? Are you questioning some situation in your life so strongly that it seems that even God Himself does not have the answer?
Join the club. Do not do what you are tempted to do and run away from God, the word of God, and the people of God. Bring your unbelief to Jesus. “Come every soul by sin oppressed, there’s mercy with the Lord, and He will ever give you rest, by trusting in His word.”
Bring your problems to Jesus. Bring them with your humble human homogenization of belief and unbelief. Then, offer to Him your utmost prayer.
Bring your prayers to Jesus.
The man and his son disappear at the end of the story. So does their problem and their unbelief. How did this come about? Jesus said, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (ref. vs. 29).
When Jesus became indignant at the corruption in the church of Israel, He took action and made an important declaration. “My house,” Jesus said, “shall be a house of prayer” (ref. Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46).
This is most interesting and informative. When you come to Jesus, wear some good clothes, give an offering if you can, and bring your own Bible if you have one. When you come to Jesus, bring a song and a sermon, baptism and communion. But perhaps most importantly, bring a prayer, even if, and especially if, a prayer is all you have.
From time to time we hear, “He doesn’t have a prayer.” Well, don’t tell that to the man in this Gospel story. Did the man pray? I’d say so! Prayer is conversation with God. Prayer is confession to God. Prayer is coveting the things only God can give. The man spoke all this and more. Did the man receive prayer? I’d say so! Jesus spoke for him, on behalf of him, and with power upon his troubled son. As he encountered the living God, he realized he had come to the house of prayer, and he brought his prayer to Jesus.
What are you praying for today? Perhaps, like this wonderful man, God will provide the healing you need. Perhaps, like the Apostle Paul, God will allow you to live with chronic pain, be deserted by family and friends, and have your head cut off in a Roman prison. In either extreme and everywhere in the middle, God is there in the answer to your prayer. He will glorify Himself in every prayer by answering every one according to His own will. In the scope of eternity, His answer will be for your ultimate good and provide a godly witness to others. Of these things I am sure, for when we bring our prayers to Jesus, “all things are possible” with God – all good, God-centered, God-glorifying things.
So bring these things to Jesus, in your regular devotional time of private worship, and every Lord’s Day in public worship. Bring to Jesus your problems, your struggles with unbelief, and your honest prayers. “Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now, He will hear you, He will save you, He will bless you now.”
WE FOLLOW CHRIST FOR WHAT HE GIVES
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 16, 2012
 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “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 and the gospel's will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
-- Mark 8:34-38, ESV
Most of the people of the world know the name Jesus Christ. With their mind, they believe in Him. But the vast majority of them are not Christians. Most of the people in the world have a favorable opinion of Jesus Christ. With their hearts, they would even say they love Him. But the vast majority of them are not Christians.
Only a few people in the world -- a remnant, a small percentage, a chosen few – are truly Christians. With an enlightened mind, they really know Jesus Christ. With a regenerate heart, they really love Jesus Christ. Because, with a will made free by the grace of God, they follow and obey Jesus Christ with all of their mind, heart, and soul.
Christians follow Christ not only for who He is, and for what He has done, but also for the things that only He can give. Jesus said so, in Mark 8:34-38.
Jesus Gives Order and Makes Demands
A raunchy movie came out a few years ago called Horrible Bosses. All three main characters had bosses they considered to be, well, horrible. Most people think their bosses are horrible because most people think any boss at all is a horrible thing. Human nature dictates that regular people don’t like anyone bossing or telling them what to do.
This makes being a Christian very hard. If you confess Him, He is Lord; i.e. He is boss. If you accept Him, He is Redeemer; in other words, He owns you and you are His bondslave. If you follow Him, He rules the road and calls the shots. Jesus, above all other authorities, has the right to give orders to the world, and especially to His church (see John Piper’s excellent book, What Jesus Demands of the World, which has 50 chapters!).
When Jesus got ready to give orders concerning the gospel, He called all the people together with His twelve disciples (ref. vs. 34). This means that what He said is not just for leaders or super-Christians, but for anyone who simply wishes to be a simple Christian. His demands upon the world are no more and no less than what He has done for the world, which is, namely, everything. “Come after Me,” Jesus said, into the Christ life, the Christian life. It is a life characterized by the renewed will to suffer and sacrifice, give up your very life, and claim the very great rewards that come with very great costs.
Jesus demands suffering and sacrifice when He said a Christian must “deny himself.” Do not confuse self-denial and denial of self. Self-denial is when we skip a meal, give up something for 40 days for Lent, or some other well-meaning and short-term sacrifice. Denial of self is a long-term, permanent commitment of surrendering your rights and control to Christ, His Spirit, and His word. Prisoners and Christians have one great thing in common. They both lose their rights. Yet prisoners are penalized for their sins, while Christians are pardoned for theirs. But those truly pardoned are more than willing to become prisoners for Christ.
Jesus demands total sacrifice, even of one’s life, when He said a Christian must “take up his cross.” Jesus’ Jewish followers and Mark’s original Roman audience were well acquainted with the death march. From Fortress Antonio to Calvary Hill, Jesus carried His cross. From new birth to final breath, the Christian is called to do the same. You have a short time to live. You have one overarching purpose. Living like you are dying means magnifying Christ and the Christian faith, moving according to the rhythms of the Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture, and never letting go of the One who will never let go of you. Only those who are willing to die have the willpower to really live the abundant and eternal life.
Jesus demands a living sacrifice when He said a Christian must “follow Me.” These two words are the gospel call in a nutshell. Christ seldom articulated the demand to “Know Me,” or “Love Me,” but many times He said, “Follow Me.” That is why to be truly Christian, you must trust in Jesus with your mind, confessing who He is, trust in Jesus with your heart, accepting Him for what He has done, and follow Him with your will, with your whole life, following Him for what He alone can give: abundant and eternal life.
Jesus Gives Abundant and Eternal Life
For those who give their “life” (ref. vs. 35) and “soul” (ref. vs. 36-37) to Christ, there are the great rewards of abundant and eternal life. Actually, the English words translated “life” and “soul” is actually the same original word. And the abundant and eternal life you receive from God at the moment of salvation is one and the same life. It is a life that is meaningful, purposeful, rich, and abundant. And, it is a life that is eternal with God.
Here and now, there is the opportunity to live your life abundantly without having to be “ashamed” (ref. vs. 38). Shame is a powerful and valid emotion that no one wants. Yet there are only three ways to avoid it. Ignore it, by plunging headlong into this “adulterous and sinful generation” (ref. vs. 38), a generation that claims nothing is wrong except saying something is wrong. That’s wrong! Or, hide it, sweep your sin and shame under the rug and hope it just goes away. That’s wrong, too, because hiding it will only make it worse. Instead, bury your sin and shame by never being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, never being ashamed of the Christian life and all that comes with it, and never being ashamed that your sin and shame has been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ, forgiven, and remembered no more by God!
Oh yes, and there’s one more reward – eternal “glory” (ref. vs. 38). What is the weight of glory? What is the Christian life really worth? The glory of all earthly things is fleeting. The gross domestic product (GDP) of the USA is 16 trillion dollars. The GDP of the whole world is about 60 trillion dollars. A soul, your soul, is worth more and will last longer. Let me ask you some questions: who was the richest man in the world in 1990? Who won the Super Bowl in 2000? Who was Miss America in 2010? Real glory, God’s glory, is more valuable than any glory on earth and can never, never be taken away once it is received. And this glory, given by God to every true follower of Jesus Christ, is to be enjoyed forever in a real and eternal place called Heaven.
Angels will be there. All the saints of all times will be there. Your loved ones who have died in the Lord will be there. Most of all, the Son of God who became the Son of Man for us will be there. Jesus, and the abundant and eternal life He gives, is the great reward for those who have confessed the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is, accepted Him for what He has done, and who follow Him for what He alone can give.
WE ACCEPT CHRIST FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 9, 2012
 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
-- Mark 8:31-33, ESV
As we continue to think about the miracle of grace that brings salvation to our minds, hearts, and lives, I want us to focus for a moment on the heart. With our hearts, Christians accept Christ for what He has done. Jesus preached about what He has done, even before He did it, in Mark 8:31-33.
What Jesus Did
What Jesus did should be plain to us today. It is written in the Bibles, Old Testament and New. Iit rings in the hymns we sing in our worship services. It is even pictured on our windows and walls in the sign of the empty cross. But the work of the Christ was not plain to His original disciples until “… He said this plainly” (ref. vs. 32). After almost three years of miracles and parables that perhaps went a little over their heads, Jesus plainly talks to the twelve about the cold hard cost of Christianity. Eternal life demands death, the sacrificial death of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Jesus had made veiled comments about the cross before (ref. Matthew 12:40; John 2:19). But this was the first of a few times He would speak directly about His death to His disciples (ref. Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19; Mark 8:31-33, 9:31, 10:34; Luke 9:22, 18:33). Obviously, it was not the sermon they expected. But here are the four things that the King of kings and Lord of lords came to do: “suffer …, be rejected …, be killed, and … rise again” (ref. vs. 31).
Jesus suffered, many things, like no man has ever suffered. The King of glory became poor. The living Word lived silently for three decades. The One who is the way, the truth, and the life, put on a three-year ministry after which His way was not followed by man, His truth was not believed by almost any, and His life was put on trial then put to death. Furthermore, suffering is greatly amplified when it is not deserved.
Jesus was rejected by the powers that be, political and religious. Pilate, Rome’s governor over Judea, was inept and corrupt. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were hypocritical and hateful. The crowds that were stirred up against Jesus were misinformed mobs. Rejection is made all the more cruel when it comes from infinitely inferior people.
Jesus was killed. Death is no one’s friend and there is no good way to die. But death upon a cross is the cruelest blow that has ever been struck. It is humiliating, asphyxiating, dehydrating, and excruciating (a Latin word derived from crux, or cross). There has never been a death like crucifixion and there has never been a crucifixion like the cross of Christ.
And, after all of this, Jesus did rise again. Remember, Jesus was telling this to His first disciples for the first time. The first three things Jesus told them should have turned their stomachs. But this fourth thing should have turned them around. Yet the saving grace of the resurrection could not penetrate their hearts hardened by the incredible concept of crucifixion.
What Jesus did is plain, just as he plainly told the first disciples. But modern people, like those ancient fishermen, possess at least a couple of traits that makes what Jesus did very difficult to accept.
Why It’s Hard to Accept
In the previous paragraph (ref. Mark 8:27-30), Simon Peter spoke as an exceptional believer by confessing, “You are the Christ.” Now, in this text, he speaks like an ordinary unbeliever by blatantly rebuking the King for His presentation of the gospel. Something, or at least two things, made Peter’s heart hard so that the full gospel story was something that he just could not swallow.
Peter’s first problem was ignorance. At the time of his ill-advised rebuke, Simon Peter was not speaking primarily for humble Christians who know the whole story of redemption, but for religions Jews who could see only half the picture. The Jewish concept of Messiah involved a descendant of David miraculously riding in on a white horse to conquer all worldly powers and establish the eternal kingdom of God. This concept is half right, but at the time it was all wrong. Peter wrongly thought Jesus was headed for Jerusalem to take over, not to be taken down. Jesus attributed such ignorant unbelief to “Satan,” or adversary, or someone who opposes God’s plan of salvation. Ignorance is a great impediment to embracing the cross of Jesus Christ.
Peter’s primary problem, one even greater than ignorance, was pride. Peter thought Jesus came the first time for glory, and he wanted his share. He felt like he had been chosen by Jesus because he was good, because he was strong, because he was already fit to wear a crown beside the King of kings. But there is no crown without a cross. It is hard to accept that the free grace of Christ cost Christ His life. And the free grace of the gospel will cost a follower of Christ all that he or she has, too (see next paragraph, Mark 8:34-38).
Once one searches and finds the true gospel in the word of God, it is still hard to accept on several levels. It is hard to accept that such sinful people would do such sinful things to Jesus. It is hard to accept that sinless Jesus would do such sacrificial things for such sinful people. It is hardest to accept is that I am one of the sinful people. This was Satan’s trick on Simon, and us. He seldom tells us we’re too bad for the cross, but that we’re too good. Satan’s lies promote our pride and tempt us to reject the gospel of the blood atonement for sin. Jesus’ gospel calls us to humble ourselves, confess our sin, repent, and accept Jesus Christ for what He has done.
Accept Christ for What He Has Done
Last week I asked you to do something easy. Today I am asking you to do something hard. Next week, Lord willing, I will ask you to do something impossible.
But if you can confess Christ for who He is, I want you to accept Christ for what He has done. If you know in your mind that Jesus is who He says He is, then I want you to accept from the heart what He had done for you.
Perhaps the key is the keen switch in the names of Jesus revealed as this moment moves forward. In 8:27-30, He is “the Christ.” In our text today, 8:31-33, He is the “Son of Man.” Christ is an anointed, exalted title. Son of Man – three words in English, two in Greek, and only one in Aramaic – is a humble, self-deprecating reference, almost like saying “I’m just a man.”
This is what the Lord Jesus Christ as done for us. He became “just a man,” although He was much, much more. He became a nobody from Galilee. He allowed Himself to live in poverty. He roamed with no home, was condemned by men infinitely inferior to Him, was humiliated and beaten and nailed to a cross, was separated from the Father while the wrath of God was poured upon Him, shed His blood, and died of a broken heart. This is what Jesus did, pressed from the weight of sin and the pressure of the wrath of God, He died of a broken heart.
Now, let this break your heart and enable you to accept Jesus for what He has done. Jesus suffered and died to pay for our sin, wash away our shame, and bring us home to the irresistible grace and unconditional love of God. Let this gospel break your heart, and with a heart wide open, accept Christ for what He has done.
WE CONFESS CHRIST FOR WHO HE IS
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 2, 2012
 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”  And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”  And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
-- Mark 8:27-30, ESV
Becoming a Christian requires a miracle of grace. It happens when faith and repentance permeate a human being on at least three major levels. First, the mind is opened to understand the principal truths of the gospel. Then, the heart is pierced with a feeling of great need for forgiveness and cleansing. Finally, with the mind and heart in sync, the entirety of our humanity, our sheer will to think and act, follows the Lord Jesus Christ, pledging allegiance to His will and word. Salvation requires nothing less that this total transformation and total commitment of life.
With our minds, Christians confess Christ for who He is. With our hearts, Christians accept Christ for what He has done. With our lives, Christians follow Christ for what He gives. This is the centerpiece of gospel preaching and this is the centerpiece of Mark’s Gospel. Today we shall look at the first part of this transformation, the renewing of the mind, as we confess Christ for who He is from Mark 8:27-30.
Spend time with Jesus.
Blind dates are one thing, but blind marriages are quite another (at least in our culture). You would never think about making a serious commitment to someone unless you first took some time to get to know them. You wouldn’t and you shouldn’t. So before you make up your mind that you want to be a Christian, you should first spend some time with the Christ.
A major part of Jesus’ public ministry was spending personal, meaningful time with His disciples. Over a three year period, I would wager that most of Jesus’ time was not spent in public, but rather in private prayer, private meals, private time with His privates, the first Christians. Mark’s text tells us this was the case in Caesarea Philippi, a city 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, a place where Jesus and His friends could have some privacy. Finally, Jesus pops the questions: “Who do people say that I am?” Followed by, “Who do you say that I am?” Keep in mind, these questions came approximately two years after Jesus and His disciples first met.
One of the great errors we have made in twentieth and twenty-first century evangelicalism is that we put too much pressure on people to make a “decision” for Jesus Christ. Such pressure is unnecessary and such language is foreign to Scripture. Christ has commissioned us to make disciples, not decisions.
We should witness, we should preach, but we should never apply human pressure. If our lives are led by the Holy Spirit and our witness is consistent with Holy Scripture, the Spirit will use the Scripture to do the saving. And usually the Spirit converts a soul after giving him or her time and grace to think deeply about who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and what Jesus requires.
Saul of Tarsus was converted in a flash of light on the Damascus Road. But, he also had spent years as a serious student of the Bible before it came alive right before his eyes. I was converted at age 20, after spending ten years thinking about the gospel, on and off. My children were converted as, well, children, but only after each one had attended hundreds (if not thousands) of worship services, Bible studies, and conversations with Christian parents and friends. Most of the time it takes time, spending time with Jesus, before a person can confess Him as their Lord and Savior.
Also, a confessing Christian has no right to enjoy assurance of their Christianity unless they can confess they enjoy spending time, quality and quantity time, time in public worship and private worship, time with the church and time alone with Jesus Christ. Spend time with Jesus!
Investigate the alternatives.
After spending time with Jesus, perhaps people should spend some time with Mohammed, Buddha, and other leaders of other religions. I’m just kidding, almost. I don’t advocate leaving the church to attend mosques, synagogues, or sit on the floor and chant. But it is good to know what other religions teach about God and man. All of them, except for biblical Christianity, teach that there is something man has to do for God in order to be saved.
It is also good to know what other Christian denominations and cults teach about God and the gospel. Investigate the Protestant denominations, as well as the Catholic and Orthodox churches. This rarely happens, I admit, for we almost automatically embrace the branch of the faith upon which we grew next to our family and friends. When I converted I only had two real choices. My friends were Baptists and my family members were Campbellites. I think I took the lesser of two evils. But seriously, know what different Christian groups teach about Christ. Many of them, like many false religions, make Jesus out to be someone He is not and require their members to do things Jesus never taught us to do.
We must remember that Christ is perfect, but Christians and Christian churches are not. Seek out a church that does her best to treasure biblical truth above tradition, grace above guilt, and love above everything else. Seek out a church that gets the gospel right, beginning with the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Jesus’ first question to His disciples on this fateful day regarded the ominous opinion polls out there. “Who do people say that I am?” the Lord surveyed. The CNN/USA Today poll of the day revealed 22% chose John the Baptist, 13% voted for Elijah, 5% picked another prophet, and 60% remained undecided. Things haven’t changed much in 2,000 years, have they?
Never be afraid of an opinion. Never be swayed by one, either. Jesus did not fear political spin (Herod’s story of Jesus and John the Baptist), religious mysticism (Jewish belief that Elijah would literally reappear), nor popular pluralism (all roads lead to God). He actually wanted His followers to be aware of other options before choosing Him. But when all was said and done, Jesus challenged them to make up their mind. “Who do you say that I am?”
Make up your mind.
Ladies and gentlemen, almost all of you here today have had more time than the first disciples to consider who Jesus Christ really is. It is time to make up your mind. I would suggest following the example of a chief follower of Christ, one Simeon Petros Johnson.
Simon says, “You are the Christ!” Do likewise. Confess Christ for who He is. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of a man named David according to the flesh, the Son of God according to the Spirit, the fullness of Deity in physical form, the Lord, the Savior, the true and living God.
I’m not sure that Simon Peter, the impatient, impetuous, impolite Apostle, totally understood what he was confessing. His confession was more aggressive than astute. But it was unafraid of religious and political authorities, unfettered by opinion polls, and unconditionally committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He had made up his mind.
His mind, by the way, will unravel in the next paragraph. His mind will falter and fail again in the courtyard of the high priest. His mind will waver yet again as the gospel spread from a Jewish to a Gentile base. His mind was not perfect, but his confession was. Jesus is the Christ!
It is time to make up our minds, to confess Christ for who He is. He is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament (ref. Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:18; 1 Kings 2:4; Isaiah 53:1-12; Daniel 9:23-35; etc.). He is the Christ of the New Testament. He is the Savior of all souls who cling to Him. He is the Lord of life, abundant and everlasting. He is the Lord, He is Jesus, He is the Christ!
Now, don’t tell anybody (ref. vs. 30); that is, unless you are ready to show them, first. Jesus gets to this in the following verses. Those first disciples were not ready, yet, but Jesus was about to spend His last days on earth preparing them.
I pray you are ready already. I pray you have spent quality and quantity time with Jesus. I pray you have investigated all other claims. I pray you have made up your mind. I pray you have confessed Christ for who He is, and that you will accept Him for what He has done, and follow Him for what only He can give.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org