SBTS chapel live blog: Gospel clarity and the call to suffer

Communications Staff — February 17, 2009

Chapel message

Preacher:Denny Burk, dean of Boyce College

Text: Matthew 16:13-28

Burk recounted a story of an encounter his wife had in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. There, she entered into conversation with a man who began to declare false things about God, calling Him a woman, among other things.

This man obviously has a false understanding of who God is and who Jesus Christ is. Burk noted, however, that all too often the people in our churches have a faulty understanding of God and Christ, not just those we encounter in waiting rooms.

Gospel Confession

Jesus asks His disciples who people say the Son of Man is (v. 13). This is simply Jesus’ favorite self-designation for Himself. Jesus is saying ‘who do people say I am?’

Many people said Jesus was a prophet. Prophets spoke for God. So what is wrong with concluding that Jesus is a prophet? Burk said it would be like him introducing President Barack Obama as a renowned African American man, or as a former United States Senator from Illinois, instead of identifying him as the president of the United States.

The first two things are true, but they are not the most important and distinguished things that are true of President Obama. Anyone who did not first recognize him as President Obama is either belligerent or ignorant. The same is true of simply calling Jesus Christ a prophet.

We should not preach Christ simply as moral example, or as someone who can make our marriages better. We must either preach Christ as the sacrificial Lamb and risen Savior or dishonor Him.

For Peter to call Jesus the Christ meant He believed Jesus was the one true King who would reign over all other kings. For Peter to call Jesus the Son of the living God, meant Peter believed Jesus was the Messiah sent by God in the line of David (2 Sam 7:14). In the Old Testament, the Davidic king was known as the son of God and Israel was looking for the Son of God who would come as their King and Savior.

Jesus’ response to Peter’s confession shows us what the crucial factor is in someone understanding who Jesus is and submitting to Him. The crucial factor is the Father’s work in a person’s heart (v. 17, also John 6).

The crucial issue is not how we sell the Gospel. We will not sell it as well as Jesus, the best preacher who ever lived. We will not transform hearts. The crucial issue is that we present the Gospel with clarity.

We don’t try to make the Gospel look better or dress it up to make it what it is not, like MacDonald’s trying to dress up a hamburger on a billboard. We don’t try to work around tough elements of the Gospel to make it more acceptable.

Gospel Clarification

Jesus is going to tell His disciples that He has not come to conquer the Romans now. Instead, He is going to tell them that He must die. Jesus tells His disciple that He will suffer and He will die, and then and only then, will He be glorified when He is raised from the dead.

Jesus is going to begin to show His disciples that they have a Messianic vision that is far too small. The disciples expected Jesus to come in and overthrow the Roman Empire. Overthrowing Rome is small potatoes compared to what Jesus came to do.

Jesus came to cut the root out from under God’s enemies. Jesus came to accomplish atonement, forgiveness of sins and victory over death. If we are not clear about what Jesus’ messianic vision was and is, our people will go to hell, along with every other sinner who fails to understand and believe in who Jesus is.

Gospel Call

The disciple of Jesus must die too. What Jesus says about Himself has an immediate implication about anyone who would claim to follow Him.

Jesus says that anyone would come after Him must take up their cross and follow Him. This would have evoked visions of blood, public humiliation and your whole family being shamed because you were crucified. This would have evoked visions of death. What it means to be a disciple of Jesus is be willing to follow Jesus to the point of death.

Jesus says whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, while whoever loses his life for His sake, will find it. What he means is this: Whoever wishes to save his earthly life shall lose his eternal life. But whoever gives up his earthly life, for my sake, will receive eternal life. For what shall it profit it a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?

Disciples of Jesus have come to the conclusion that the sufferings of this world are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. Disciples of Jesus have concluded that death is gain.

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