We have been looking at Matthew 16:21-23 – we cannot be a disciple of Jesus and avoid the cross on which all of our selfish interests must die. Let us continue to look at this event and learn more about true discipleship.
Get behind me Satan
The devil takes on various forms in the New Testament:
He can attack us in fearful power like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8)
He can mislead us by coming as an angel of light, that justifies an unforgiving spirit towards the past sins of others, even after they repent (2 Corinthians 11:14)
He can be an accuser who condemns God’s people (Revelation 12:10)
He can seduce us through the glories of this world (Matthew 6:24; Matthew 4:8)
He can deceive us with a religious spirit by preying on our own selfish interests to influence how we respond to God’s Word (Matthew 16:23)
We don’t typically recognize the devil in all of these ways above. But to me, the most deceptive of all is the one that mixes the sacred and selfish.
There are only two occasions where Jesus rebuked the devil and asked him to leave immediately. One is recorded in Matthew 4:10 when the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of this world and their glory in exchange for His worship. And the other is here in Matthew 16, when the devil tempted Him through one of His closest disciples. Now my sense is that most of us all quickly understand why Jesus rebuked the devil so strongly in Matthew 4. But I wonder if we recognize the same seriousness of pursuing our own interests at the expense of God’s interests – and even when it comes from people who are serious Christians.
You are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s interests.
Jesus talks about two masters – God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
We see a similar distinction described here – between God’s interest and our own interests. So I could re-purpose Matthew 6:24 in the context of Matthew 16:23 to say this: No one can serve God’s interests and man’s interests; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God’s interests and man’s interests!
I do not know if we see our own selfish interests as being diametrically opposed to God’s interests. Maybe that is why so many claim to be Christians but continue to do fulfill their selfish desires without remorse? The Bible is clear: The human heart is “more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9); and in our human flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18).
Also, even though Jesus was pure and without sin, He too had the choice to do His own will. But Jesus gave us the overall purpose of His life in this statement: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me (John 6:38).So it is clear that His own human will here on earth was not always automatically aligned with the Father’s will. So Jesus had to LAY DOWN His own will for the will of the Father – and He did that consistently and without fail all His life.
In my own life, I have found that the hardest fight is to always lay down my selfish will. I find that it is hard to constantly go to God throughout the day and be fully open to offering up what I want to do. Maybe I’m sitting on the couch reading some articles on the Internet. But when I ask the Lord what He would have me do, I seem to hear Him tell me to call a brother in the church and encourage him. In such little things like that, I find that it is very difficult to lay down my own desires and do what the Holy Spirit seems to be telling me. It is very hard to be a servant.
This is a very simple example of where my will needs to be fully flexible for the Lord. Yes, I can justify myself that there is nothing wrong in my idle surfing on the Internet, and I can be correct in that. But the question is not about right and wrong, but whether I will deny what I want to do, and obey what the Holy Spirit telling me to do.
Blessed are the rebuked
We saw how Peter went from being blessed to being sternly rebuked, more sternly than anybody else in history – because he was reproved from the most reliable Speaker of Truth, and nobody else got quite that harsh a rebuke.
But maybe the best part of the story is what is not written in the text but that we know to be true: That Peter did not get offended and leave Jesus.
Here, even in Peter’s gross failing, we find the heart of a disciple that we don’t see in a couple of other impressive-looking people:
The rich young ruler is gently rebuked for the wealth that possesses and controls him, and he is asked by Jesus to give it all up to follow Him. But the rich young ruler leaves Jesus forever, grieving because Jesus identified the one area that the rich young ruler didn’t want to let go off (Matthew 19:22)
Judas was gently rebuked by Jesus when he tried to correct the woman for pouring the alabaster vial on the feet of Jesus. This incident caused him to get so offended, that he then sought to betray Jesus (John 12:1-8; Mathew 26:6-16)