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.