Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Who Do Men Say That I, the Son of Man, Am?

Matthew 16:13

When Jesus asked His disciples this question, they were quick to respond: “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:14). They had just come from Galilee where crowds had flocked by the thousands to see and hear Jesus of Nazareth. The disciples had listened to the views of the people, collected their own polling data, and found that popular opinion about Jesus was divided. Things haven’t changed much. Two thousand years later people still do not agree on who Jesus is.

Consider some of the opinions then and now. In Jesus’ day, some folks thought that the spirit of John the Baptist—the recently beheaded prophet and Jesus’ cousin—had entered Jesus. After all, both men preached the message of repentance. Other people said that Jesus was a reincarnated Elijah, and the Jews regarded Elijah as among the greatest of the prophets and teachers. In fact, to this day people have an empty chair at every Jewish Seder meal in honor of Elijah. Still others thought Jesus was the weeping prophet, Jeremiah. And then there were those who said He was just another in a long line, just another “one of the prophets” (v. 14). Ask your Islamic friends who Jesus is, and they will say He was a prophet.

So even today one of the greatest challenges believers face is how people answer the question Jesus asked in Matthew 16:13. What men say tends to carry more weight than what God says. Most often the opinions of anyone and everyone are more highly respected than the convictions of believers in Jesus Christ. The proof of this is all around us. Pick up a newspaper and you will find an “Opinion Section.” I’ve always thought how wonderful it would be to read a “Conviction Section.” But we live in a world that is much more attuned to what men say about anything and everything than to what God says about how to live life. Television talk shows lead the ratings in today’s media-crazed, celebrity-obsessed world, further evidence that we care more about what so-called celebrities and experts think than about what our Creator, our Almighty, our Sovereign God says.

This preoccupation with what men think and say—and the disregard for what God says—always results in two things: pluralistic compromise and political correctness.

Pluralistic Compromise

A pluralist believes that all human beings are en route to the same place, but we are just taking different roads to get there. Muslims take one road, Jews choose another, Buddhists go on a third road, Mormons have their own road, and we born-again believers follow the road we believe the Bible out-lines for us. In other words, popular opinion argues that we can choose from among a plurality of ways to get to heaven.

Understandably, pluralism characterizes a society that is more interested in what men say than in what God says.

In an effort to reach those listening to men, some mainline Christian groups have taken their theological remote controls and pushed the mute button when it comes to such topics as the wrath of God, His judgment, the sole authority of Scripture, and the exclusivity of the gospel message. Ironically—and parenthetically—one seldom ever finds these same individuals challenging other religions about their exclusive claims.

Pluralistic compromise results when what men say matters more than what God says.

Political Correctness

Another result of today’s obsession with the opinions of men and women is political correctness. To be politically correct in our current culture, one must adhere to inclusivism. This view holds that God’s salvation applies even to men and women who have not explicitly believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Inclusivism argues that since Jesus died on the cross for all people, everyone is included in atonement for sin accomplished by His crucifixion and resurrection. Again, whether your personal faith is in Christ alone is irrelevant.

In Acts 16:30, a Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Had the apostle been an inclusivist, he might have answered, “Relax! You’re already saved. Everyone goes to heaven.” But Paul’s reply was pointed and exclusive: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (v. 31).

Why should we, as followers of Christ, be concerned about pluralism and inclusivism? Because these perspectives—these value systems—can dramatically impact the perceptions and practice of our Christian faith. Pluralism runs absolutely counter to our doctrine, to what we believe, to the Bible’s message that Jesus is “the way” (John 14:6, emphasis added). If we believe that everyone is going to heaven, and that people simply travel on different roads to get there, then what do we do with the doctrine of the virgin birth, of Jesus’ sinlessness and His role as Lamb of God, of the fundamental teaching that we are saved by God’s grace through the faith we place in Him (Ephesians 2:8)? On the other hand, inclusivism affects our duty; how we behave and our mission as God’s people. If we in fact believe that everyone is going to heaven, then we in the church no longer need to work on evangelism and missions. The church then loses its sense of urgency and passion to reach a lost world with the saving news of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

Again, we are living in a world today that is far more interested in what people say and do than in what God says and commands. Aware of this, Jesus moved beyond His question of public consensus to the real heart of the matter. In His next breath He asked His disciples this question of personal conviction: “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15, emphasis added). And that’s the question we’ll look at next.

Q & A: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” The answer is the same today as it was when Jesus uttered these words: there is no consensus. What God says is most important; the truth He proclaims will matter throughout eternity. Man’s opinions fade into insignificance next to God’s infallible and eternal word. Peter had the right answer to Jesus’ very important question, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Have you joined Peter and made this great confession?

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1)The Names and Titles of God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior will be respected at all times.
2) Discussion is encouraged, however, respect for other people and their opinions is the rule---play nice.
3) No profanity, allusions, innuendos or just plain nastiness will be tolerated. Decency WILL prevail.

This is MY house and YOU are a guest here and differences of opinion will be tolerated as long as you conduct yourself accordingly. If "the exercise of civility is beyond your ability" or you were never taught by your parents, feel free to take your toys and go home and vent your pent-up anger elsewhere.

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