Track 1: The Vital Questions of Life
Today we explore the most important question of all. Jesus asked it to his disciples. Reading from Mark’s Gospel:
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 answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:27-30)
Peter knew who Jesus was. God, the Father, had revealed him to Peter. But Peter was not expecting what Jesus would say next. Again, from Mark:
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (Mark 8:31-33)
Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ, but he did not understand his mission of Christ. He did not understand the cross. Jesus began teaching what that meant:
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)
Jesus was speaking about two crosses, his and ours. They are not unalike. In Philippians 12 the Apostle Paul writes:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul writes::
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12,1-2)
On the cross, Jesus paid the price of our sin.But he also made it possible to be free from sin. Our conversion to Christ is not complete until we submit our souls and bodies to him for his cleansing.
The psalmist writes:
Who can tell how often he offends?
cleanse me from my secret faults.
Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me;
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14)
As we grow in Christ, more and more we love him and we love his Word. Do we love Jesus enough to give ourselves fully to him? This is the second most important question of all.
Who do we say Christ is? Who do we love and serve above all else?
Both James and Isaiah are writing about teachers. Isaiah writes:
The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,[b]
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught. (Isaiah 50:4)
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. (James 3:1-12)
In some ways all of us are teachers. What type of teachers we are has to do with what words we speak. James writes:
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue– a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. (James 3:1-12)
What comes out of our mouths reveals what is in our hearts. The Gospel tells us that God can can cleanse our hearts