8-15-22 Lift Our Eyes Above

This week’s reading: Matthew 16:1-20

Hi Friends,

     Where we focus our attention, colors the way we experience life and all the various situations we encounter. One of the privileges of becoming born again is understanding that our lives are so much more than just what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch. We have a whole other, more powerful aspect to our being than just the physical things of this world. As we grow in Christ, we should begin to lift our eyes to the things of God, more and more. Our focus should become, what is God thinking, saying and doing here in the midst of this worldly circumstance. The more we do this, the richer our lives can become. Our reading for this week is in Matthew chapter 16, verses 1 through 20, but this richer life all starts with knowing who Jesus is. Listen to these great verses, then let talk about our reading:         

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” Mt 16:13-16 NIV

     More testing. Here come the religious, asking for a sign…again…but Jesus knows they are just trying to hurt Him, not seeking to believe in Him. He repeats the promise that only the Sign of Jonah will be given and walks away. Sometimes it is best to just walk away. The point to any conversation we have with unbelievers is not to win the argument, but to capture the heart for Christ. If we see we are getting nowhere, it may be much more powerful to pray for them in our own heart and leave them in God’s hands. This is what Jesus is doing here. Far from backing down from a fight, Jesus leaves them to their own guilty conscience and trusts the Holy Spirit to move them…if they will choose to be moved. They could have questioned, “What does He mean by ‘the Sign of Jonah,’” and gone to God with a sincere heart to want to know. Jesus had just told them, you can decipher the weather and nature, but you students of the Torah cannot discern what is happening right in front of your eyes spiritually? They should have sought the answer…but our actions speak louder than words. When we are going through any kind of challenging situation, what do we do? Do we seek God and His counsel? Do we surrender the circumstance to God, trusting He is working it all together for our good? Or do we, like these Pharisees, demand a sign, something tangible in order for us to believe? Listen signs can be helpful IF they will increase our Faith and so God in His Mercy sometimes allows for that. But if we are being mistrustful of God, if we are seeking only our own agenda, if we really do not care about His Kingdom or being a blessing to others, God will rightfully walk away and let the Holy Spirit convict us. These Pharisees ignore the Holy Spirit’s urgings…do we?

     Eyes on this world. Jesus is probably still thinking, and I believe praying for those religious He had just rebuked. I say this because Jesus is still talking about them as He warns His disciples about their “yeast.” Many times in the Bible, yeast is symbolic for corruption and compromise, so Jesus is trying to teach His followers that they must be on guard to remain pure and not allow the things of this world to water down, or worse, negate their Faith. And what do they do? They focus on the worldly issue instead of grasping the spiritual truth. You see they had forgotten to bring bread with them on their journey across the lake, so they heard the word “yeast” and immediately thought of food. We do this all the time too, don’t we? Something happens and we try to figure out the earthly answer instead of seeking God and the lesson He just might be trying to teach us. For instance, I am not a techy expert by any means of the term, so when something goes haywire on my computer, I too often, still, go nuts and stress out trying to fix the thing. But sometimes God is simply trying to get my attention. Instead of stressing out, I should run to Him in prayer, with an open mind hoping He will either fix the physical issue for me, or teach me a spiritual truth that can help me next time stress tries to enter my heart. Like these disciples, we humans are so earthly minded that sometimes we miss the bigger picture. And sometimes we get anxious about things God never meant for us to worry about. While we shouldn’t read into things way more than necessary, we should pray about everything and trust God to open our hearts to understand what we need to understand. In a recent computer malfunction situation, God showed me that when something is not right and we discover this and fix it, sometimes it takes some time before the fixed results show up. You see, I was not aware that my iCloud account had been signed off on my Mac so my documents were not synching to my iPad and I was, as per my usual, starting to freak out about it. When I did discover the issue, I signed on, but things were still not synching. It was not until several hours later that it finally all worked. In the meantime, I did choose to trust God and do other productive things instead of totally stressing…but the truth is, I was struggling with my Faith that it was going to work out. See what I mean? There may be a deeper lesson, something that can help us the next time an issue shows up in our lives, because it will. But if we only focus on the physical, the worldly, the earthly tangible things, then we may be missing an opportunity to reduce our stress and increase our Faith. If we learn the lesson then it can lead to more peace and joy in our lives, but if we miss it…well, then we will continue to stress about every little thing, like forgetting to pack bread for a journey. Jesus points to their little Faith and tries to lift these disciples’ eyes to the bigger picture, and He tries to do the same for us, my Friends. Jesus reminds them of the feeding of the 5000 and 4000. Bread was not a problem for Him. But the hearts of man? This is always the center of everything that is wrong in life and this world. So next time you encounter any challenge, stop and lift your eyes to God and pray for insight into any deeper lesson, then trust Him with the worldly things.

     Who is Jesus? This is the question every single human being must answer and come to terms with. Here Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do PEOPLE say I am?” But then a moment later He asks them the real question, “Who do YOU say I am?” You see, we cannot make others believe in Who Jesus is. We can tell them. Right in front of them, we can live out the Christian life, being more and more filled with peace and joy no matter what is going on. But we cannot change their minds or hearts. This is the individual work of the Holy Spirit. Praise God, we are not responsible for making others believe, but we are responsible for ourselves. So who do YOU say Jesus is? Is He your Savior? Then stop trying to do good works to earn Heaven. Is He your Lord? Then stop trying to make your own decisions apart from Him. Is He loving, gracious, kind, understanding? Then stop running away from Him when you mess up, but instead come humbly to this God Who is Forgiveness and receive His Grace. Do you see? Who we believe Jesus is changes everything about what we think, say and do. Simon Peter is the first to proclaim, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (v16) Peter probably did not even understand the depth of that statement, yet Jesus points to his Faith and makes it the foundation of His Church. This Faith, like Peter’s, is simply to believe that Jesus is Who He claims to be, that God so loved the world that He sent Jesus, is the core of every believer. Without this Faith, we do not belong to the Father. Without this Faith, we cannot follow the Son. Without this Faith, we are not one with the Holy Spirit and have no access to the weapons to help us live the Abundant Life. The Faith Peter is displaying here must be the basis for everything else we think, say and do in this life, and of course, int he next. The Church is not founded on anyone else by Jesus. To elevate any fallen human is a problem. It takes our eyes off of God and places them, once again, in this broken world. Please understand Jesus is not placing the burden of the Church on Peter, but He is lifting up his Faith as an example to us all. The next time you begin to question, “Who is Jesus?” be like Peter and openly confess He is the Christ and let that answer all your questions. 

     The keys of Heaven. The moment any human surrenders their lives to Jesus because He is the Christ, Heaven is ours. Not because of anything we have done, but because of everything Jesus has done. He opened the doors of heaven to us and the “keys” are now to simply place our Faith in Him. But while we are still on earth, we must work with Him to bind and loose whatever is bound and loosened in Heaven. To bind means to forbid…so anything that is not of God, we must get rid of in our lives. To loose means to permit or allow…so anything that is of God, we must increase in our lives. And why? Because this worldly life is all about getting us ready for our Heavenly destination. If we have surrendered to Jesus, of course, because that is what grants us admission into Heaven. So Jesus is now talking to those who have this Faith that Peter just displayed. He is talking to all believers and encouraging us to follow also. God told me a long time ago, another term for this world is “University Earth.” It is as if we are all in a  college, learning to become who we will be forevermore. This is why we must lift our eyes and learn to see the bigger picture. This is why we must be on guard about “the yeast,” any corruption or compromise to our Faith. This is why we must know that we know that we know, Who Jesus is to us, personally. This is why Faith is the ground on which we must learn to walk. Yes, our five senses are important to function in this world, but ask any blind or disabled person, they are not required. Humans can live a full life without their sight, hearing, smell, taste or ability to touch. But to live a life without Faith? That is not a real life, and it is certainly not an Eternal Life either. Let me encourage you all my Friends, lift your eyes to God, seek His meaning and purpose for all things, then live by Faith, not by sight. Your life will get increasingly more peaceful, joyful and rewarding. I know this continues to be my experience. Do you want this Abundant Life too? Then won’t you join me?

     Until we meet again, keep lifting your eyes to God, He’s closer than you think.

<>< Peace, Diane