This past Friday evening we focused in on the cross work of our Savior by considering Mathew 16:21-23: The Cross, God’s Interest:
From that time Jesus 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. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 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.”
From these verses we saw that the cross was necessary, it was and remains repugnant to the non-understanding heart, and it was and remains opposed-ultimately by Satan Himself. In these verses those of us who worship Jesus as Lord see Peter being transparently foolish. He takes Jesus aside after Jesus explicitly refers to the cross as a necessary part of His mission and rebukes Him. The response from Jesus is understandably firm, but nevertheless shockingly stated: “Get behind me Satan.” Jesus clearly shows that anything that obstructed the way of the cross, which was the predetermined plan according to the foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23), was at some level Satanic because it was opposing the necessary plan of redemption occasioned by the love of God for sinners like us (John 3:14-16).
Peter was guilty of opposing God’s interests because he was focused on man’s interests (Lit. “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but man’s”). Peter was guilty of this before the cross. Here is the question: Are we ever guilty of this same type of situation post the cross? No doubt, this situation with Peter is unique to anything in our lives, but is the underlying principle analogous with our lives in any way? We need to ask some questions to help us determine the answer.
Though the work of the cross is finished (John 19:30) is the mission of the cross still in operation today? Yes! In this age there is the “word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18) there is the “foolishness of the message preached” (1 Corinthians 1:21). All throughout the epistles we are told that the finished work of Christ on the cross not only provides for the justification of sinners before God, but also that all those who are justified are sanctified. So for example, in Titus 2:11 we are told that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” and verses 12-14 explain that this grace of God (which was provided for on the cross of Christ) instructs us in three ways: (1) Grace instructs us to deny a sinful life; (2) to live a righteous life; and (3) to look for the return of our “great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Clearly sanctification (Godly living) is integral to the continuing mission of the cross.
Is it possible for true followers of Jesus to become distracted from “the things of God” and focus on “their own things?” Sadly the answer is clearly yes. The exhortations in the New Testament explicitly state this and warn against it. Consider what Hebrews 12:1-2 exhorts us:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
In the words of Matthew 16:21-23, let us also lay aside ‘the interests of men’ or ‘a focus on the things of men’ that so easily entangle us and in contrast we are to be fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross….
In the words of Colossians 3:1-4:
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Given these realties we need to be willing to go to the Lord and honestly ask Him to search our hearts and see if there is anything that is in the way of this mission. We need to have the heart of David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23). So here is the third question based on this: Is there anything in your life right now that Jesus would rightly say to you “get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to the mission of the cross today because you have your mind set on man’s interests rather than God’s?”
In order for us to truly grasp this we have to consider the fact that Peter really thought he was justified in his focus. It looks utterly foolish to us, but to Peter in that moment it made all the sense in the world to be focused on his own view of the messianic mission of Jesus. Until we are willing to truly ask God to reveal to us these areas in our life we will remain like Peter: focused on the things of this world that are hindering the mission of the cross of Christ all the while convinced that we are living in accordance with the mission of our Savior. Only the Spirit of God can authoritatively and effectually convict and grant repentance in our lives about such things, and He will do so for all those who truly want to know. We can all be assured of this; there are areas in our lives right now that need to be sanctified which are currently antithetical to the continuing mission of the cross. Because God loves us He will discipline us about these things. How much better to humble ourselves before Him under His mighty hand and ask Him to reveal these areas so we can turn from them? Here is this heart in prayer: Lord, please show me what my mind is currently set on and give me the grace to set it fully on the continuing mission of the cross.