The life and ministry of Peter. (Matthew 16:21-28)
It is so easy to start to live a Christian life and then to struggle, to slip or to stop after a few days, weeks or even years. This should not surprise anyone because Jesus said it would happen in His kingdom parables of Matthew 13:18-23. Some people would be careless about Christ’s message and quickly lose it (the Sunday night sermon forgotten by Monday morning). Some would be carefree and, after an initial surge of benefit and blessing, do nothing to develop their new life and so it dies. Others are shown as cautious and when it comes to counting the cost of discipleship, they decide it is too much to pay. Their lives remain
cluttered with all sorts of other things. Only the conscientious person hears, understands and produces fruit.
How can we make sure we are not among those who fall away?
Follow the way of God (v.21)
No one enjoys suffering. When there is a decision to be made and one
path involves suffering while the other does not, few would choose to
suffer. Jesus’ path involved Him in suffering. The Christian path will also
involve suffering for all who walk along it. Do you suffer ridicule, rebuke
and rebuff from the world? Or do you let your Christian life suffer
because you refuse to reject the world’s way?
The beginning of slipping back comes when we are not willing to go God’s
way. For Jesus there were three imperatives: He must suffer, He must
be killed and He must be raised again. We like to anticipate the
resurrection without the crucifixion. We want proof without pain. This
is what causes us to start slipping away from God.
Fight the will of man (v.22)
Peter actually resisted the will of God because it did not fit in with what
he wanted. He overestimated his own ability and he underestimated God’s
ability. He assumed God to be making a mistake! There was a
confrontation between the Master’s will and man’s will. This always
causes the man or woman to slip away from God. Perhaps the Master says
to you, ‘Stop that language,’ or, ‘Don’t feed your mind with that TV programme
or that magazine,’ or, ‘Will you befriend this person who has no other
friends?’ or, ‘Please take on this responsibility each week in teaching
these children.’ Every time God challenges you to stop something, or to
start something, you have a choice: grow along with Him or go away from
Him. There was a contradiction in what Peter said. ‘Never, Lord’ (v.22).
To call Jesus ‘Lord’ is to acknowledge He is right in everything and He has
rights over everything. You cannot truthfully say He is Lord without
showing it. Are there contradictions in your life before God?
Flee the wiles of Satan (v.23)
Satan can make a man or woman sincere and yet wrong. He can make a man
seem to be OK and yet be wrong. He can sidetrack a man into a good thing that
is outside of God’s will. He can make man a stumbling block to God’s
purposes. Here Jesus shows us that Satan had got hold of this
fisherman. Satan can use even people who call Jesus ‘Lord’. He plants
into their minds the things of men and not the things of God. All your
feelings, all your hunches, all your ideas, must be tried and tested before
being either accepted in faith as God’s will, or rejected in faith as Satan’s
wiles. If ever you have been caught out by ice when driving a car you will
know that there is a right and a wrong way of handling a skid. Handle it
correctly by leaving your bakes, steering into, slowing down and you’ll
probably be OK. Handle it wrongly and the consequences for yourself and
others could be grave. Be careful not to be duped by the devil.
Find the will of God (v.24)
God’s will for any disciple of Jesus Christ is found in this verse. He had
already called Peter, sometime earlier, by the sea of Galilee. Peter had
left his nets and followed Him. Now Jesus says, ‘Look Peter, to follow Me
is not just an exciting trip, an experience to be talked about, an enjoyable
time. It will involve self-denial, suffering and submission to My will. Are
Satan may have got Peter this once, but Peter was still on course.
Discussion guide for ‘Slipping back from Jesus’
Bible reading Matthew 16:21-28
1. Peter gave a great testimony one minute, and the next he denied
Jesus the right to live and die His own way! Why does “personal
suffering” seem to be a stumbling block to people following Jesus,
2. How can a Christian keep “in mind the things of God”, rather than
the things of men (or even, of Satan), verse 23? Share practical
3. “Satan can use even people who call Jesus ‘Lord’”. True or false?
Why? (See fourth paragraph above).
4. Take time to learn Matthew 16:24-25 off by heart. Say it to your
friend, who can test you. Who does this verse apply to?
5. Make some time to listen to God by yourself. What do you believe
God is calling you to be and to do? What is stopping you?