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"God's Interests or Man's?"

Matthew 16:21-26

Pastor Robin Fish

Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church  
Laurie, MO

Sun, Sep 5, 1999 

Matthew 16:21-26

From that time Jesus Christ began to show 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 up on the third day.  And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You."  But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.  For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Today is a day of beginnings.  It almost feels as if someone ought to call out, "On your mark, . . . Get Set, . . . Go!" Today we formally begin working together as Pastor and people in the work which God has laid before us at Peace Lutheran Church, here in Greenview, Missouri.  A couple of months ago, I had never heard of Greenview, and you had never heard of Pastor Fish.  See how God works?  Here we are, Pastor and people, ready and eager to begin together.  So, let us begin.

Our text is the Gospel lesson for this Sunday, the Fifteenth Sunday in Pentecost.  God has chosen the right text for this day of beginning.  He always seems to work things out that way.  This is a Gospel in which Jesus chastises Peter for setting His mind on human values and human interests rather than on the interests of God.  Then Jesus describes what discipleship means in the context of values and interests and attitudes.  Let us listen to the Word of our Lord, this morning as He challenges us about where and how we stand.  Out theme is God's Interests or Man's.

From that time Jesus Christ began to show 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 up on the third day.  Peter had just made the great confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.  Then Jesus began to teach them the true nature of the Messiah He was not the hero on the white charger bringing human glory and power to Israel, but the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.  He was going to suffer horribly and die, and rise again.

That message didn't suit Peter, however.  Peter could confess, but he didn't understand.  He had the human glory kind of Messiah in mind not a Savior, but a conqueror.  His devotion to Jesus, his love for his Lord, and his erring sense of religion of how it ought to be led Peter to rebuke Jesus and do his level best to talk Jesus out of it.  He even dressed up his confused sense of how his church ought to be in religious clothing God forbid it, Lord!  The truth, however, was that Peter was wrong and misguided, no matter how pious or sincere.  He was placing God's interests second, and his own ideas and values first.

So Jesus corrected him.  "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."  Those are powerful words!  He called Peter "Satan".  He called him a stumbling block.  and He was a stumbling block because he wanted things the way they seemed right to him, not the way God would have them be.  That is a problem in the church even today.

How often are many of us are like Peter?  How often do we have this picture in our heads about how it supposed to be, and when what God is doing among us does not match our mental image, we launch into action to make it be the way we are just certain it should be.  It is an affliction of pastors and a common problem among laymen as well.  We want God to do it our way.

Well, that isn't how it works.  I don't get my way if things are going the way they ought to the way God would have them go and you don't get your way!  If we are faithful and God is at work, God gets His way, and we end up setting ourselves aside for Jesus.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  We are called to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow Jesus.  In a sense, that is what I did when I came here.  I left behind a group of people who dearly loved me, and a congregation in which I was safe and secure, and I left behind a place where they did everything the way I like it I had been there for over a decade and we had grown together into a common way of doing things that we all appreciated.  And I came here.

This is a wonderful place, don't misunderstand me.  I have had no reason to feel insecure or unwelcome but it is new.  And you all use the newer hymnal which is different from what I was accustomed to.  And everything is different for me, and different is spooky just as I have caused a few of you to wonder about what having Pastor Fish is going to mean here.

I know that not everything is going to go the way that I would like it to, and that is probably as it should be.  Jesus knows better than I do what you need, and what I need.  But not everything is going to go the way each of you would like it to go either.  I promise to do my best to work each thing out with you all, but this new relationship means that each of us will need to deny ourselves at some point, and take up the cross appointed.

Of course, Jesus is speaking here about more than just how Peace Lutheran Church and Pastor Fish are going to deal with things.  He is talking about the reality of our lives here.  We all think we know how it is supposed to go.  We know what we like and what our ambitions are but God has something else in mind for us at times.  It is at those times we need to consider whether we are setting our minds on God's interests or man's.

Sometimes God has a plan for us to walk through a valley of sorrow, or difficulty, or pain.  He may permit us to suffer sickness and look death square in the face.  We can only see how it feels to us, and what we would prefer to the trial.  God has our blessing and salvation in mind.  He knows what we need to be humbled to genuine repentance, and where and how our faith will best serve Him shining forth as an example, or lighting the way to understanding the grace of God for someone who just does not understand.

If we had our way we would each have ease and comfort and pleasure and riches.  Some of us might not ask for great wealth, compared to those around us, but we would still want health and comfort and prosperity.  God, however might plan for us sickness, or difficulties, or even economic distress to place us in the right place to do what He has set before us, or to humble us to the point where we might be a useful tool in His plan.  And we, not knowing God's plan or understanding the way He is dealing with us and working through us, might chafe and wonder just what good our troubles could possibly serve.

To understand that, we only need to look at the cross.  There the very Son of God suffered the pains of hell and died on our behalf died for our sins.  He had lived a life of sinless perfection.  He had earned and deserved eternal life and endless bliss and glory.  But He suffered cruelly and died horribly.  He died the death you and I have earned.  He died for us, so that He might freely forgive us and give us the life and glory everlasting that He had deserved.

And now He forgives us our sins freely without our deserving or measuring up, and He pours out the gift of everlasting life upon us all.  It is a gift that is received and possessed by faith everyone who knows what He has done, and what God, our Father, has promised for His sake, and trust God to do all that He has promised on account of Jesus, who simply takes God at His Word everyone who believes has forgiveness and eternal life by God's grace and through faith.

His misery, His humiliation (the great humbling of the Son of God), His agony and death which all seemed so pointless and defeating at the time, worked our victory and salvation and is our hope and our joy today.  So when we look at our pains and our troubles and wonder why?, and what good this can possibly do?, we can look to the cross and see how much God can do, and what great good He can work through such abject sorrow and misery.

And in the cross we can see the love of God.  It is in the cross that we see how deep the love of God is for us.  It is in the cross that we can measure the attitude of God toward us.  We cannot see what God thinks of us, or what His will for us is in our wealth, or our health, or our contentment with the moment by our feelings.  We can judge that only by the cross.  It is the sign of heart of God toward us.  It tells us His will for us.  And what is the will of God toward us?

And here you must learn to answer "Our salvation."  That is the will of God toward you.  It is that will which we see reflected in the cross of Jesus Christ.  And that salvation, and nothing else, is the Interest of God.  And He alone knows how to work our salvation to bring us to faith and keep us in the truth.  All that He works is to the end that we, and others, might be saved.

We can have our own way in the church we can make it work the way we want it to work, but there is no profit in it, as Jesus said, For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  There is no profit is doing it our way, unless our way is Hs way as well.  For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.

We can lose our life by giving in to God, or we can save it by demanding our way, and our values.  One way we lose our lives but gain eternal life.  The other way we may win our way, but we may lose our salvation. 

We dare not surrender to the temptation that Peter fell prey to.  We cannot demand that God do things the way that makes sense to us or pleases us.  I need to be careful of that temptation as a pastor, and you need to be wary as laymen.  We do not want to hear Jesus refer to us as He did to Peter as Satan or a stumbling block.  We want to be faithful children and profitable servants in His kingdom.  So in every question, and in every controversy big or small, we want to ask ourselves are we setting our minds on God's interests or man's?  We earnestly desire to set our minds on the interests of God.  It is also in our best interest to do so.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.



These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due. Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.



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