Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Encounter Christ: The Name of Jesus Christ

by Johnny Wang

Key Verse: Acts 3:6
“Then Peter said, Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Throughout this conference we have listened to four messages that follow Peter’s encounters and progression alongside Jesus Christ, from the first moment where Jesus called him as a fisherman of people, to Jesus’ naming of Peter, Peter’s subsequent betrayal of Jesus three times, and then the reinstatement of Peter and his commitment to feed Jesus’ sheep to prove his love. We have studied the calling the of Jesus, the identity we have in him, the sacrifice he has made for all of us, and the charge Jesus invokes in our own lives.

This morning we learned more about Jesus’ reinstatement of Peter through Josh’s message. Jesus declares that he should “follow him!” with an exclamation point even. Following Jesus’ ascension to heaven, we see the Holy Spirit arriving at the day of Pentecost; the day when the disciples of Jesus were baptized with the Holy Spirit and embodied many gifts of the spirit, including tongues, healing, and prophesying. Leading into the passage now, in accordance to the calling Jesus had for him, Peter takes charge and initiative in leading the early church. Just as Patrick said in his message, Peter is the rock upon which the young Christian church is built following the events at Pentecost and throughout the book of Acts.

In this passage we will continue to follow Peter’s development and walk with Jesus through several miracles, transformations, and proclamations. We see a physical miracle in the healing of the lame man, followed by a message of truth, faith, and power spoken to the crowd in which we see the result of Jesus’ work in Peter’s life. At the center of all the things that go on, there is one central theme; the name of Jesus Christ. We often use the name of Jesus, perhaps more than we really realize. We end our prayers with“in the name of Jesus, I pray” or, something that I especially do, exclaim “Jesus Christ!” in surprise. But, how often do we comprehend all that his name truly encompasses? What faith in the name of Jesus truly means?

Acts 3 helps refine our answers to these questions. The passage defines the faith and belief in and through the power of his name; the quality and type of grace, forgiveness, healing, love, and deliverance that come from the Lord. We see that the name of Jesus is truly something we invoke and something that isn’t just said and put out into the stratosphere of the world without care, but something that is truly tangible and active with influence in all that we do. We see that it is not a possession to hide, not a light to hide under a bushel, but rather something that seeks to shine all around as something we live through and in. As such, this passage provides these distinctions about Jesus and his name through the miracle of salvation for a lame beggar and the living testimonies and proclamations of apostle Peter.

The Expectations of His Name:

In the beginning verses, we see Peter and John on their way to the temple at the time of prayer. For our purposes, this is significant as the presence of people at the court would be large at this time following the time of sacrifice. It is on their way to the temple gates called Beautiful that we come across a man who was lame for birth. This idea of being lame from birth is significant if we consider the state of the man’s mentality, particularly in the stigma and judgment that would have been directed toward him his entire life. He was even reliant on those around him to be desperate as he was carried to beg for money. This is key to remember for in verses 3-4, after the man asks Peter and John for money, Peter stops, looks directly at him, and says “Look at us!” It’s this eye contact that is rather striking. For one, he directs the man’s gaze to him just as Jesus did for those who he healed, but this action also incites a sense of expectation in the lame man.

V. 5 “So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.”

The man gave them his attention, expecting to receive something, which was certainly money or something with monetary value. But the personable touch of engagement that Peter had put forth had something different in store.

V. 6 “Then Peter said ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’”

Let’s take a second and look back at the eye contact from before. As we said, Peter’s method of engagement certainly heightened a sense of expectation to receive something from them. Whether it was money or something else, he was certainly made more receptive to receive what was offered through Peter’s words. In other words, it was quite necessary for him to expect something from him to receive anything from Jesus or God at all.

The same thing applies in our own lives. In order to receive anything from God, whether it be a seed of faith or great bundles of mercy, we have to expect something from him. It may not always be what we expected, such as in the case of the lame man, but there is certainly a value in the necessity of expectation. It’s the main idea behind prayer or coming to Jesus in any sort of way. To come with an expectation. Otherwise, we consistently live the same lives over and over without change as we lack in giving any actual real attention to Jesus as we conduct our lives. This idea of turning your eyes to LOOK at Jesus and God with expectation truly results in life changing moments of grace as I can personally attest to.

There are countless moments in the past few years where I’ve truly feel I emulated a similar spirit and mental state as the lame beggar must have been in. I’ve laid in bed awake for many long nights with no hope in my mind that my situation, whether it be due to stress, exhaustion, anxiety, or just pure defeat, would get better. I think there have been moments where I truly felt I had nothing to look forward to or to give in my life. I often looked back at my own actions with regret, shame, and anger, growing bitter with myself and those around me. My way of life appeared to be in conflict with my own happiness and wellbeing in my treatment of others and constant self-loathing. In particular, I felt moments of complacency, where my life grew stagnant in faith and overall depth of life. I began to grow weary in the awareness of my own weakness and areas of lacking. I stopped even desiring to dig myself out of these thoughts and moments, instead continuing to deepen the hole of perceived solitude that I lived, with the only thing I truly searched for were my own faults and weaknesses. Yet, there were always moments where I grew desperate for an improvement in my spirits and for growth as a person. It is these moments where my prayers were truly the most desperate. And it was those desperate prayers for something to hope for, prayers where I literally gave up any of my own will and would submit to any plan that God would bring, trusting that he would have a greater plan for me. And, these desperate prayers truly had the most resonance in my life. I still lost friends or felt lacking at times, but there was an ultimate comfort in laying it all in front of God and looking to him with expectation for something greater. I think that represents why many of those prayers had the most relief in my life. I can see myself looking through the beggar’s eyes of expectation for restoration and see the true power of those prayers loaded with expectation as with Peter’s healing of the beggar.

V. 6-8 “Silver or Gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles were made strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.”

Again, the very minute the lame man gave Peter his attention, a miraculous thing happened. At the very mention of Jesus’ name, physical strength literally comes flowing through him in order to make him strong. Peter himself knew in this fact and helped him up, with confidence that the man was healed in the definite power of Jesus’ name. The man rose up and not only began to walk, but jumped and praised God, shouting as he discovered strength in his legs he had never ever known in all his years of life.

At the same time, we see Peter in his new life with Jesus in this miracle. Look closely at what he says. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” He acknowledged the deficit he had in things of material value, but gives what he does have to offer in faith and hope. It’s not that anyone expected Peter to give silver or gold, but that he gave all that he did have; that is, the authority to speak the words of faith that the crippled man would be able to walk. Rather than the fear stricken to his heart at the thought of association to Jesus by a mere servant girl, Peter loudly proclaims that the name of Jesus is truly the only thing that is his, the only thing he has ownership of. He truly has taken the word of Jesus to heart and is working to not only follow him, but to care for his sheep here.

It is the care of love and hope that Jesus invested in Peter’s life, the faith he has inspired in him that he takes with him. He declares that what he received from Jesus is what he is able to give to others. In the same way, we can consider what we have received from God and are able to give to others. Freely you have received, freely you give the gifts we are blessed with. Perhaps it’s something as simple as offering a listening ear. Maybe it’s offering a word of encouragement, or praying for those who need it. Maybe it’s as simple of offering friendship and simply being there when you need to be.

Earlier this year, I had this opportunity to give what I had to another. By some chance of fortune, I found myself awake at night, watching Netflix or doing something or other, and found that one of my closest friends throughout high school reached out to me. They had dealt with trauma from the recent tragedy of losing someone close as well as continual emotional and physical abuse from their mother. Although I certainly get that I did not have the right or qualifications to provide advice, I truly felt my heart pouring out for this friend of mine. I gave all that I had to listen in support, to tell them I would continue to be there for them, and prayed for the intercession of Jesus Christ to provide refreshment and relief. I find that as I have gone through high school, the more I have grown to realize how, just as you and I are, that everyone is just so broke, and I say that with as little judgement as possible. However, that night was truly a turning point for me in the way I looked at Christ not only in my own life, but the great benefits he can provide in the life of those around me, whether it’s through me or any other method of his working. Those words of support, although all that I had to realistically offer, were offered truly in the name of a Jesus Christ; spoken in which to find hope in Jesus name over anything else. This is my personal testimony in the power of the name of Jesus Christ in the activity and productivity in my friend’s life, the birth of a new hope in their life.

V. 9-10 “When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

There is an instant and immediate twofold effect of his healing. Of note, the people around them, for it would seem rather busy and bustling at the time of prayer, saw that there was something miraculous occurring here. As Peter declared the healing in the name of Jesus, there could not be any shadow of a doubt that Jesus was at work in this moment. It is key to look at this invocation of Jesus name. Names on their own are significant. They denote meaning and value to all that we know. In this case, it represents all that Jesus Christ is. The name of Jesus Christ embodies the fullness of his power and presence. The reality of who he is and what he has done, and continues to do. It identifies the actual Messiah. Peter isn’t simply stating the name of Jesus to invoke a miracle, he doesn't offer him silver or gold that he does not have, but instead offers him the actual power and assets of the name of Jesus. The people around them saw and heard all of this as well and Peter explains all of what this means in the rest of the passage.

The Glory of His Name

v.11-12 “While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”

The people in the temple came running from all over at the commotion that the man praising God with such joy was making as he held onto Peter and John. Peter looked at them and saw their astonishment, their amazement as they regarded the man they recognized as the lame beggar at the temple gates called Beautiful. He saw the wonder and reverence that they began to look at Peter and John with. He saw that, despite the miracles Jesus performed himself in front of these very people, they were ready to explain this particular healing with a false hero’s worship of Peter. He recognizes how quickly this moment could pivot, and takes the time to address the people to explain what had happened.

He says “Fellow, Israelites, why does this surprise you?” with an emphasis on the word you. You - we - should know better. Our God is that kind of God, to act in sudden and miraculous ways. That though we may live with expectation, he continues, time after time, to work in such mysterious ways that we have no way to expect or prepare for.

V. 13-15 “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.

Peter continues on with this personal conviction, referring to all those in attendance as you as he draws a contrast between the actions of God and the actions of humans. God, the God that you and those before you know, glorified his servant Jesus, but YOU handed him over to be killed. YOU betrayed him even though someone like Pilate who didn’t even know God had decided to let him go. YOU disowned the Messiah, a literal deity. YOU killed the author life, the one who opened up the heavens for us all.

It is almost as if Peter establishes the level of guilt that we all deserve to be laid upon us. For it is truly US that Peter directs these charges at. He lays these convictions of guilt to grip our hearts. It is upon the basis of fact that WE collectively have done this, we have killed the messiah Jesus.

Guilt is not a healthy thing. It is destructive, corrosive, and really damaging force in our lives. It’s a terrible and disruptive feeling that each and every one of us has experienced at one point or another. It dominates any other feeling and inflicts influence on whatever else we may feel. It leads to even more damaging thoughts and feelings and rears its ugly head in a couple different actions, whether it’s to run and hide like Adam and Eve after eating from the tree of knowledge, or to grow in bitterness, anger, and resentment which is perhaps one of the most damaging things of all, as Sam said that his dad, Dr. Ben Toh, always says “It gets better if you’re not bitter.” There’s truth in those words because ultimately guilt leads to escapism and denial, frustrations and destruction physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

So why does Peter invoke these feelings of guilt? Again, just as he did in verses 13-15, he draws the distinction between humans and God. God’s answer, which is truly the only answer, to our guilt.

V. 16 “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him as you can all see.”

Here we see the reaction that Jesus had in response to our guilt. The lame man is a part of these people. The very people who disowned Jesus before Pilate. The very people who yelled “Crucify him! Crucify him!” when Jesus was tried before Pilate and the same ones who mocked him as he hung from that rugged cross. He was one of us who lived under the weight of guilt from our own part in the killing of the savior god. He, just like us, was just as guilty as all of these people, but here he was standing whole and healthy. It was not anything he himself did or through any merit of his own but by the very faith in Jesus’ name. For just as Jesus said “Father forgive them for they do not know what they’re doing,” God responds to our guilt with overwhelming love and forgiveness. When he spoke the name of Jesus, the man believed in the power and authority and the work of that name, and immediately came strength and healing that he was lacking before. He stands before them as a demonstration of God’s answer to our human guilt.

V. 17-18 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer.”

God’s answer to our guilt in condemning his one and only Son is a forgiveness and complete restoration for he knows we acted in ignorance just as Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” We act blindly, stumbling around, pretending to understand how the pieces of our life hold together but still God pours out boundless grace and straightens it all out at a singular cost; his son. Peter’s desire for them to hold onto this promise is reflected in his next words.

V. 19-20 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed to you-even Jesus.”

When we turn to God, and give him our attention, there is an immediate and complete dealing with our guilt and sin. God, through the name of Jesus, wipes out our sins. Peter, and God himself, did not incite any guilt in us without a way out, rather they acknowledged our guilt because the solution to all of our sin is in front of us; faith in the name of Jesus. Faith in the name of Jesus wipes out our sins. His name is his reality, his identity, and the power to cleanse us and make us whole.

This faith in Jesus, and the subsequent wiping of our guilt, comes with times of refreshment. Times of peace and restoration to upkeep our faith.Ultimately, it will result in the return of Jesus Christ himself.

These times of refreshment, for me in particular, represent something so valuable in the walk of faith. As I said, there were many extended periods of time where I drowned in my own awareness of self, but was utterly decrepit in my awareness of the activity that the Lord had within me. Yet, even as I went through my own damaging ways, I found periods of intense relief and restoration that truly represent my own growth in Jesus. At the root of my desperate prayers were an intense desire to look towards Jesus with an expectation of his intercession. A reliance and trust that the way he would lead me is the ultimate way. No matter the sins I committed against others, against myself, and against Christ, that I would acknowledge all these things and submit everything I had to him. I recognized my own level of lacking, and saw that truly the name of Jesus was the only way to ever find what I lacked. I saw that I could do nothing if it was not done in the name of Jesus. These periods of refreshment not only lifted my spirits, but elevated the levels of my life in so many different aspects that I find myself forever thankful for. Truly, none of my clearing of my own guilt and self persecution was ever possible without the true power and meaning behind the name of Jesus Christ.

I truly think it’s an understanding of what the name of Jesus truly means to me. That I look to him as the one who brought me out of my own weakness. The one who waited for me to be bold enough and courageous enough to say “Lord, I need you. I can’t do this on my own.” He is the one who not only expressed his love for me, but literally died, over and over and over for me all the while saying “here i am. Look at me! Follow me!”. Jesus is the one who has the authority as the one who CONQUERED death and all my sins and fears. The one whose power is validated through his unjust death and ultimate sacrifice for us all. He is the one who reached out his arm for me in my freshmen year, when I felt like I was sinking all the time, when I truly felt that I was all alone in this world. The one who held me close after I completely failed in my own pursuit of happiness through the gratification of other people. He was the one who continued to be patient with me and whose spirit stood with me in my sophomore year when I struggled to remain faithful to the tasks I was charged with in church, at home, and especially at school. Jesus was truly the one who died for me in my junior year as I turned so far in my view of him, and instead sought to run away from him in a denial of my own sins and guilt in my deep thoughts of anger and revenge to the ones who I felt hurt me. And still, he was the one who was resurrected, waiting all along for me as I returned with my tail between my legs, ready to submit everything I am, and everything I have to his name. And he is still right beside me, empowering me, strengthening me mentally and physically when I need it, humbling me at times, but ultimately displaying his great grace, mercy, and joy in my own life. Thus, when I claim his name with a full understanding of his death and resurrection, I can truly see the way he works in and through me.

We see the power of Jesus’ name in Peter’s life as well. A man who had once said “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” stands tall in this passage, whole and completely wiped of his sins, just as the lame man stood with newfound strength. Although he once expressed such cowardice before, his courage and boldness to declare the power of Jesus through the spirit of the living God with none of his former hesitance. His boldness in this regard truly mirrors the boldness of the sacrifice and revival that Jesus himself had. He leads the young Christian church, performing miracles and wonders in the name of Jesus, addressing the Israelites and Gentiles alike in order to declare the power of Jesus’ name. Peter travels the world, proclaiming the amazing word of life that Jesus had planted in his life. His work at this point lays out the groundwork and foundation to the state of faith to do this very day, with the word of God having taken root in the lives of countless souls. At the end of the day, just as he is confidently able to invoke the name of Jesus to heal a lame man, he confidently lives as the fruit of Jesus’ words over and over, remaining constant, consistent, and empowered in his faith.

The progression of Peter’s journey leaves us with many questions for our own personal process and walks of life. Will we turn away from whatever is distracting or prohibiting us from turning to God? What are we currently doing in our relationship with Jesus? Can we turn to Jesus and speak with intentionality to proclaim our faith in him? Will we wipe away our burdens of guilt through the power of Jesus’ name? I hope this conference truly resulted in a conviction to seek our own answers to these questions. I encourage you to take the time and reflect on these things and find your own personal journey to not only meet Jesus, but to progress in a relationship with him just as Peter did, to be completely restored and confidently and deliberately declare the glory of his name. That when we are able to truly take to heart the implications of his death upon the cross for us and live through and for his name in regards to that sacrifice, we can do anything. I urge you to take heart, for when we claim his name, through his death and resurrection, we can truly see that power of Jesus in and through us. It is beyond a doubt in my mind that each and every one of us can encounter Christ as Peter did, grow in a relationship with Jesus, and truly live new lives through the name of Jesus Christ, to do things in his name and declare the victory we find in his name.

V6 “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Monday, April 9, 2018

Encounter Christ: Peter’s Restored Relationship with Jesus

by Joshua Lee

John 21:1-25

Key Verse: John 21: 17
“The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said Feed my sheep.”

Good morning everyone! Hope you guys are enjoying the conference so far. So let’s just look back on what we’ve learned so far about Peter’s walk with Jesus through these past few days. From Peter, we learned about Jesus calling upon Peter to be his disciple and beginning a relationship with him. Then in Patrick’s message, we learned about Peter receiving his name through Jesus. Then in Paul’s message, we learned about Peter denying Jesus three times, but how Jesus forgave him. Through this passage, we will learn about Jesus’s shepherd heart and his amazing grace, and about Peter’s reinstatement as a follower and lover of christ.

Let me pray first: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for really blessing this conference so far and letting us to really just have a good time of fellowship while learning about Peter’s Journey of really encountering you. Please help me to be able to deliver this message through your grace, and please fill me with the holy spirit so that I may be able to really speak your word.

I pray in Jesus’ name Amen.

Now in Paul’s passage we learned about the crucifixion of Jesus. But between Paul’s passage and my passage, Jesus Christ is resurrected. Three days after his crucifixion, Jesus conquered and rose from the death.

After his resurrection Jesus also made appearances to certain people. He first appeared to Mary Magdalene. Jesus also appeared to his disciples. He first appears to them in Luke 24:36, where he says “Peace be with you”. Now all the disciples were frightened and even thought they saw a ghost. The disciples were so amazed and filled with joy that they couldn’t believe what they just witnessed. Then Jesus appears to them again as we see in John 20. Now Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples wasn’t there when Jesus first appeared to his disciples and he doubted that it even happened. But he was with them now, when Jesus came into the disciples’ house even through locked doors. Again, he said Peace be with you. Jesus said to Thomas “stop doubting and believe”, which then led Thomas to declare Jesus as his Lord and God. Now Jesus appeared to his disciples twice, which means that he appeared to Peter twice. But even after these two appearances, Peter still felt guilty and conflicted. Which leads us into this third appearance of Jesus.

Part 1: Jesus’ grace and shepherd heart

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.”

In verses 1-3, we see that the disciples had now gone back to their hometown, Galilee. This is where the disciples were, when Jesus first called them to be his disciples. Now after following Jesus, the disciples went back to their old lives as fishermen. They were just sitting around, when Peter decided that he was going to go fishing, and the other disciples tagged along. This was the default action that the disciples were used to doing. When the didn’t know what to do, they decided to fish. Do you guys have any default activities? Maybe watching netflix, browsing the interweb, or maybe trying to get swole like Peter. We get this feeling that the disciples were in a state of having no direction and were lost.

Can someone read verse 3

Through this verse, we see that the disciples weren’t even able to succeed at their old job as fishers or even get food for themselves. Now fishing is not an easy task and can be very hit or miss, but they fished for the whole night and into the next day.

At this point in their lives, the disciples probably felt like complete failures. Not only did they fail Jesus, but they couldn’t even catch one fish.

Let’s look at verses 4-6.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Now after a whole night of failure, the disciples were probably exhausted and hungry af. Jesus called out to them, but the disciples were too tired to even recognize their lord. Jesus clearly noticed the disciples failure, and was willing to help as he always did. The disciples went from catching absolutely nothing to catching a boat load of fish, all because of Jesus. All he did was tell the disciples to throw their net on the right side of the boat, and considering that the disciples were fishing all night, I assume that they already tried fishing from all directions on the boat. This was not the first time that Jesus performed a miraculous catch with the disciples. Jesus also performed this when he first called his disciples in Peter’s passage:

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.

Now let’s look at verses 7 and 8: Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[c]

Now after Jesus performed this miracle, one of the disciples finally realized that the man who was standing on the shore, was Jesus. In verse 8, it says peter put on his garment and jumped out of the boat. The disciples hadn’t even reached shore, yet Peter jumped out and swam to Jesus. This shows that Peter still had a love and desire for Jesus. Even though Peter denied Jesus in times of threat and trouble, he still wanted to show that he loved Jesus the most. Peter’s respect for Jesus is also shown. When you go swimming, you usually take off your garments before you go in the water, however before he jumped in the water Peter wrapped his garment around himself.

In verses 9-12, Jesus cooks a meal for the disciples and eats with them. Not only did Jesus just help the disciples catch an immense amount of fish but he also cooked a meal for them. This really shows Jesus’ shepherd heart and his care, almost like a parent cares for their child.

When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.

In verse 12a, Jesus says to his disciples “Come have breakfast”. Even after his disciples had failed him, Jesus still wanted to eat with them. Through this we see that Jesus just wants to have a close and intimate relationship with us. Also the fact that Jesus just wants to have a meal with us is significant. A meal eaten with family or family is a way to reconnect with each other, and just to share fellowship. I don’t usually spend that much time with my family, but I always have a meal with them everyday which is one of the ways that I maintain a relationship with them. Jesus wanted to reconnect with his disciples and just wanted to be in each other’s loving company. At this meal, the grace of Jesus is shown upon his disciples. Jesus lifts us up whenever we fail him, but he just wants us to come to him. The disciples all failed Jesus, yet he didn’t try to rebuke them. All he said to them was come.

Part 2: Peter restored in Jesus Christ

Let’s look at verses 15-17. “ When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Now you all probably have heard these verses before, and feel like it’s simple and easy to understand. That’s also how I initially felt, when first reading through my passage. But after studying it and reading it over, I realized that there are so many things that we can learn from just these three verses.

First, let’s look at how Jesus addresses Peter. He calls him Simon son of John. Now this was his name before Jesus gave him the name Peter as we learned about in Matthew 16. It’s kind of like how are parents call us by our full names when we are in trouble. This gave Peter a sense of guilt and made him realize that he had failed the named that Jesus had given him. This alone was enough that Jesus didn't even need to rebuke Peter.

Next we look at what it means to love Jesus. Here Peter was, one of Jesus’ greatest disciples. And yet, when he confessed his love for Jesus three times, it wasn’t enough. In Luke 22:33, Peter even says “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”. Yet Peter ended up denying Jesus three times. This really shows the extent to which we love Jesus with our own power. It shows there are limitations to human love. Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me?”. Three times to represent the amount of times that Peter denied Jesus but also three times because Jesus really wanted Peter to ask himself if he truly loved Jesus. In verse 17, it also says that Peter was hurt, because he thought that he actually loved Jesus. But as Jesus asked Peter three times, he actually became convicted and realized that he is a great sinner and that he is weak without Jesus. Peter realizes that he wasn’t truly loving Jesus and in this way he restores his relationship with Jesus because he realizes that he needed to do more in the relationship. The transformation and restoration of Peter happens right before our eyes. As you can see from verses 1-16, Peter is referred to as Simon Peter, which symbolizes his old self. Yet after his exchange with Jesus, he is referred to as just Peter through the rest of the passage. Peter’s relationship with Jesus is restored. As we learned in Patrick’s message, Jesus gave Simon the name Peter, so that he would be a rock for his church. When Peter’s relationship was restored with Jesus, he would be able to carry out this name.

Now when you usually ask someone “Do you love me”, it’s because you love them and want them to love you too. Now Jesus also asked Peter this question, because he wanted Peter to know how much he loved him. He wanted Peter to know that even though he failed him, literally denied even knowing Jesus, and even denied his own identity, that Jesus still loved him. Jesus wanted Peter to realize how great is love actually is. That it can cover any sin and all guilt. Jesus wanted Peter to know that even though he was not at the greatest point in his life at that moment, that he was still with Peter and that he would never disown him. Jesus is constant and is with us through every trial and every success in our life.

Next we look into Peter’s higher calling as a shepherd. In verse 15-17, Jesus says to Peter, “Feed my lambs”, “take care of my sheep”, and “feed my sheep”. This is interesting because when Jesus first called Peter to be his disciple, he said “from now on you will fish for people.” Let’s look at the difference between a fisher and a shepherd. A fisher goes out and catches numerous fish and then brings them back to shore. However shepherds have a much closer relationship with its sheep. It knows each one by name, tends and cares for each one. In this way, Jesus was giving Peter a higher calling and a bigger responsibility. Jesus almost promoting Peter in a sense, but what’s interesting is that it wasn’t in the sense of a reward but in times of failure. Jesus has a way of coming to people in times of failure, and it’s at these times that his grace really shines through. From this we see that Christ is really constant. When we have a loving relationship with Christ, we are really able to thrive and glorify God. And even in times of failure, Christ is there to lift us up and bring us back to him.

We should also pay close attention to what Jesus said to Peter. Jesus says “Feed My Sheep.” First, we must know who Jesus’ sheep are. We are all Jesus’ sheep. Jesus is the greatest shepherd and cares for all of us, as a good shepherd does. Now Jesus wanted Peter to feed His sheep. Jesus wanted peter to take care of his flock. Peter was also Jesus’ sheep, but now Jesus wanted him to be a shepherd. Now what exactly does this mean. To feed a sheep, is to give it food. Matthew 4:4 says ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’. The food that Jesus is talking about is the word of God. One of the biggest ways that mother show their love to their kids is through food. In the same way, if we feed Jesus’ sheep, we will show them the love of Christ, but also show that we love Christ. Now Peter takes this heart, and we’ll see through Johnny’s passage, how he uses the Word of God to reflect Jesus’ love.

From these verses, we know that Jesus really wants us to feed his sheep. And that through feeding his sheep, we are loving him. Whether this means to reach out to others and really bring them to Jesus and help them grow in christ. Or even just reevaluating your own relationship with Jesus, so that you can bear fruit.

Now even though Jesus wants us to truly love him, he makes it very clear that it is not easy. Look at verse 18-19 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” This shows the struggle that we will face, when we love Jesus. We might not always be able to do what we want to do, and we will have to deny our selfish desires to follow Jesus. Our selfish worldly self must die in order for us to be able to glorify god. It really is an all or nothing situation, where you either follow god or you don’t. Simply identifying as a christian, going to church, and thinking that you love Jesus is not enough. In verse 19, Jesus says “Follow me!” You can see that an exclamation point is used. Jesus really put an emphasis on this point of following him. Peter had just restored his love relationship with Jesus, and just received a higher calling as a shepherd. Peter must have felt uplifted after he was restored with christ. He also must have felt honored that Jesus had just gave him a higher calling. But with all the responsibilities that come with being a shepherd, Peter probably also felt very overwhelmed and uncertain if he would be able to handle it. And although Jesus claims that it will not be easy, he tells Peter to follow him, because we learn that without Jesus we can’t do anything and will fail every time, so we truly need him.

Honestly when I first started writing my message I just expected to get through it without putting much effort or thought into it. But through studying this passage, it made me realize how much of a sinner I am. Here I am, picking at Peter’s flaws and mistakes when I am much worse than Peter. Even though peter had many shortcomings, he still had a burning desire for Jesus. Which I can’t exactly say for myself. I often find myself in the state that the disciples were in before jesus appeared to them. Not really having spiritual direction. I actually think that I was in a better spiritual condition earlier in my life, because I actually had a desire to have a relationship with Jesus which led me to be baptized during my sophomore year. But during the past two years, especially with school becoming more challenging, I really pushed God aside and went on my daily life without any spiritual growth. Whenever I am questioned about my religion, I always just say that I am a christian, and in my head I say to myself that I love Jesus so I’m fine. But through writing this message, I learned that my thoughts of loving Jesus were not actual love. I realized that I really need to restore my relationship in Jesus.

Through writing this message and learning about how Jesus is constant and is always with us, I realized that Jesus is also really constant in my life even if I don’t feel like it. He’s really been with me through the high and low points in my life. During the beginning of my senior year and through the whole college process, I honestly was starting to feel like a failure. I really had no expectations of getting into the school that I wanted. With so much pressure and stress, I truly felt like I was at a low point. I started to prepare myself to go to a different college, not saying that anything is wrong with that, but I just felt disappointed because I was given so many opportunities and benefits throughout high school. So when I got my acceptance letter to Northwestern, not only was I shocked but I also really felt God’s grace and mercy. At a time where I should have really been depending on him, I failed to acknowledge him and still he really came through in my life and blessed me.

Now that I’ve been accepted to Northwestern along with four of my closest friends, and have really looked at Jesus’ command of Feed my Sheep, I’ve realized that this is honestly a really good opportunity to build upon this blessing. The student ministry will really grow next year with the new freshman, and living near the Northwestern campus I can see that a lot of students need Jesus and need to know his love for them. As I work to restore my own relationship with Jesus, I hope that I can make an impact on the Northwestern student ministry and also really pray to reach out to Northwestern students.

To love Jesus means so much more. It means to deny ourselves and our worldly desires, and to actively seek christ to build a relationship with him. It also requires us to realize that we really need Jesus in order to love him, and that we cannot love him by our strength alone. Jesus is waiting for all of us to just come to him even if we feel like failures.

To recap, we learned of God’s amazing grace and shepherd heart for us in times of trouble. Christ is with us during all times. He is constant. Even in our low points of life. And he’s always ready to accept us and begin a relationship with us. All we have to do is come to him. We also learned what it means to truly love Jesus and how important it is to have a loving relationship with him. To love Jesus, we must feed his sheep and find out what that means for our life. And sustaining a loving relationship with Jesus is so important because if we don’t invest in Jesus, we really can’t do anything that bears fruit. Two questions that I want everyone here to think about is

How has God been constant in your life?

And how is God calling you to feed his sheep?

And in Johnny’s message we will learn about how Peter lives his life after being restored in christ, and how he feeds Jesus’ sheep.

Can we read the key verse one more time

Prayer: Dear heavenly father,

Thank you for really allowing me to speak your word and I really hope that everyone here was able to take away something from this message. Lord thank you for letting us learn about how you really are constant and how great your love is. Lord really bless the rest of this conference and be with Johnny as he gives the closing message. Also please help this conference to not just be a spiritual high for all of us but for all of us to really build on our relationship with you.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Encounter Christ

by Paul Won

Luke 22: 54-62 and Luke 23:26-49

Key Verse: Luke 23:34a- “Jesus said, Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Encounter Christ

Hi everybody, I hope everyone is having a good time at the conference and had a good time paintballing. hopefully you won’t be too tired to listen to God’s word. I’m going to start with a quick prayer.

Since arriving here last night, we have listened to two different messages. First, we heard a message from Peter about the calling of Peter, where we learned about the building of his relationship with Jesus. Secondly we heard a message from Patrick about the identity of Peter in Jesus Christ, where we learned how Jesus gave Peter a new identity as the future of his church. My passage is no different than these except, I want to focus on a different aspect of Peter’s relationship with Jesus, or you could say breaking the relationship with Jesus. Through this passage I want to look at how Peter betrays the relationship with Jesus, but moreover I want to look at the forgiveness of Peter.

Part 1: Peter’s Denial; Luke 22: 54-62

My passage starts at Luke 22 verse 54, but I want to start by looking at the beginning of the chapter to set some context for what is to come. Luke starts of by writing about the festival of unleavened bread. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is the celebration and commemoration of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. As we learned in Exodus, God told the Israelites to commemorate the exodus, with a week long festival in remembrance. Passover starts on the 15th day of the 7th hebrew month and lasts for 1 week. And if we look at chapter 22 verses 7 -10 we see the disciples and Jesus celebrating it together in Jerusalem.

During the passover meal with his disciples, Jesus says to Peter in verses 31 and 32, “ Simon,simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you SImon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back strengthen your brothers.” However in verse 33 Peter says that he was ready to follow Jesus to prison and death, but rather jesus continued to say that Peter would be tested and would deny him 3 times before the rooster crows.

Later, Jesus then left to the mount of olives to prepare for his arrest. As Jesus was praying at the mount of olives Judas came with armed guards and religious leaders to come and apprehend Jesus to be lead away.

Now let's look at the the passage, Luke starts his account of Jesus’s trial with verse 54, If someone could read this for me?, “Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.”

During this trial 2 disciples had followed Jesus: Peter and John. According to John’s gospel Peter had stopped in the courtyard and John went into the house of the high priest. However, I want to focus on Peter and what happens with him. In the second part of verse 54, Luke mentions that Peter followed at a distance. I want to take a little bit of time to look at the significance of this action. For the last 3 years since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Peter had always been with Jesus. As we heard in Peter’s message we see Simon Peter being called along with James, John, and Andrew as the first disciples. And since, then they had been with Jesus ever since. Peter had walked alongside Jesus, slept next to Jesus, ate with Jesus, and even worshiped with him, but in this instance Peter followed at a distance.

For someone to follow someone this closely for three years, you would think they would be with him at the pivotal time before their death,

Why would Peter be following Jesus and a distance then?

Let us examine Peter’s attitude at this moment in time. Peter experienced the emotion that we know to be fear. This fear appeared as indecisiveness in Peter’s commitment that he had made to Jesus. Peter’s fear impeded his ability to follow Jesus as his disciple. Many times when we are faced with difficult circumstances, we make decisions based on our emotions and especially fear. And it is no different when you are following Jesus. There will be times when you will experience fear, but a lot of the times we will just dismiss following jesus because it pulls us out of our comfort zones. It seems as though Peter only wanted to follow Jesus closely when it was convenient for him. And that is the same for many of us. When difficulties come our way, can we say that we were following Jesus? If you can answer yes, are you really following Him, closely, even today?

As we learned in Peter’s message Peter dropped everything to follow Jesus, because Jesus does not want someone who follows him half heartedly instead he wants them to drop everything to follow him. Key word Everything. Jesus wants full commitment. Following Jesus is not just a thing that you can put some effort in, but it takes your all effort and sacrifice to follow him.

However in the case of Peter, he had this self confidence, this hot shot attitude that he could do anything. He said in verse 32 that he was ready to follow Jesus to prison and even death, but he was not. His confidence in his worldly abilities blinded him from being able to see what Jesus was telling him. Peter was weak and fell to the traps of Satan. He succumbed to fear and when the servant girl had asked him if he was a disciple he denied it, and then denied it again, and denied it again. He fell into a pattern of fear because no matter confident and proud he was, he could not fight satan; he could not fight the power of fear by himself. Peter’s pride was his downfall. He did not realize that what Jesus had predicted was going to be true because he thought he was invincible.

Once Peter was accused, he went into survival mode. He just wanted to look after himself. His mindset was about himself and himself only. Even after Jesus had told him exactly what happened Peter still did not realize what happening. He did not remember that jesus told him he was going to deny him 3 times. You would think that he would remember the words that Jesus spoke but he didn’t. If someone could read verse 61 for me.

“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”

That’s right, Peter did not remember what Jesus had said until he had looked at him. Many times we don’t realize our sins until it's too late, or many times we dismiss them completely. Jesus’ look reminded him of what he had done. I feel like, many times as Christians we do not realize what is wrong until we see ourselves in relationship to Jesus. We do not realize notice our sin until we see the holy Jesus.

Now, I want to ask you what do you think Jesus’ look was like?

As I read this passage for the first time, I remember thinking about what this look was. I first thought it could be like a chastising or rebuking look, but now it seems as if Jesus gave a look of love and reconciliation to Peter. For in verse 62, “he went outside and wept bitterly.” Peter had realized what had just happened and wept bitterly because at that moment he realized his own sin of pride. Peter’s pride in his strength had failed him. However, Jesus showed the ultimate act as a good shepherd. Even through his pain he still managed to help his disciples to realize their sins and and struggles.

The assurance of Christ’s knowledge of Peter’s sins melted his heart, and this assurance paved the way for his love and forgiveness. The tears that Peter shed, which are out of regret do not wash away the sin, but they come from the assurance that Christ’s love, that like a flood, has swept the sin away.

I myself if this context am just like Peter. Throughout this year, I was blessed with so many different things especially being able to get into college. I saw this triumph not as a blessing but rather I worked so hard for this. I saw getting into Northwestern as my own accomplishment. My sinful nature told me don’t thank God, but praise yourself. I am just like Peter, I think that I can just put my head down and not listen to what people are saying and things will come out alright but God humbles the proud and I realized that the hard way. Through Peter’s denial I saw God’s grace to humble me even through my pride. Jesus gave me that look that allowed me to see my faults and sins clearer. And Jesus had forgiven me through his death that we will talk about next.

Part 2: Jesus’ Forgiveness; Luke 23:26-49

Now we get to the crucifixion of Jesus.

So, according to Luke 23 verse 32, Jesus was lead from pilot’s house to be crucified. As Jesus was taking this journey, I want all of you guys to close your eyes and picture it.

Imagine this, not sleeping the previous day, and you have puncture wounds on your forehead and bruises and cuts all over your body from being flogged and whipped. Then you’re forced to carry a cross that weighs around 165 pounds, up a hill thats a quarter of a mile. Imagine this for a second.

And finally in verse 33 when they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. I don’t think any of us could really picture what this looks like

So, I just want to show you a video about Jesus’ crucifixion. I think this is as close as we can get to seeing Christ on the cross. This video is really graphic. So if you don’t want to see what will happen, then you can cover your eyes.

This video is from the movie “Jesus”. As you can see in the video, Jesus is going through so much pain. I don’t think any of us could imagine what this is like, but then Jesus said in verse 34 my key verse,

“Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

As we saw in the video, He was going through the hardest and most painful thing He’s ever had to endure. Yet He was praying. What’s even more impressive is that He was praying for, our forgiveness.

When times are good and you’re healthy, maybe you’ll look at others’ needs and try to help them. But when times are bad, when we feel wronged, persecuted or feel pain, we have a “woe is me” mentality and focus on ourselves. We want to be at the center, with the whole world revolving around us.

It might not be a surprise to you to see Jesus praying in the midst of this trial, but to see what He’s praying for should. We could understand if He was praying, “Father, they nailed me to a piece of wood. I came to save them and now they’re trying to kill me! Father, strike them dead and let’s start all over.” That would be understandable, but very unlike Jesus. Or maybe, “Father, I know I have to endure the cross for the salvation of your people, but it’s so difficult and painful, so please help me to endure it.” That would be a really understandable prayer. But He doesn’t pray that either.

During the time when it would be understandable and expected for even Jesus to be self-focused, He was being utterly others-focused. His focus was on God and those around him. And in the end he said, “Father, forgive them.”

I know we’ve probably heard these three words many times, but I want to take some time to really break each one down, and the significance that they hold.

So first there’s Father.

Obviously whenever we pray, we pray to the father, however that is not what I want to look at. I want to look at why would Jesus say it on the cross. Why would Jesus cry out to god only on the cross?

When Jesus was on the cross, He now became the atonement for the sin of the world. So now Jesus could ask his father for the forgiveness of the world because he had taken it upon his shoulders. His sacrifice allowed him to ask for the forgiveness of the world because Jesus took the wages of sin on himself, which is death.

The second word in this phrase is forgive.

A lot of times, I feel like we all, including myself take this word for granted. Jesus did not have to ask God for forgiveness for us, Jesus didn’t have to die for us, . He didn’t have to do anything for us but yet he did. Jesus’ infinite love and mercy was poured out for us because We are all sinners but he bore the whole sin of the world with his death.

The last word is them.

Jesus wanted to forgive not only those who had wronged like the religious leaders and the centurions, but everyone there. Also He wanted to forgive Peter and the even the whole world and this forgiveness had and has no exceptions. Anyone can experience God’s forgiveness if they ask for it. Jesus is holding his arms open to welcome you if you just ask. For in 1 John 1:9, he says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

All three of these words are shown in action in one of the most beautiful stories in the bible: The forgiveness of the penitent criminal.

It doesn’t say much in the bible about who these two criminals, but I want to look at their words and actions, next to jesus on the cross.. Now let's look at verse 39, if someone could read this for me?

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

This criminal who hung there was trying to survive. He wanted to somehow escape this death. But the other criminal who hung there said in verses 40 and 41, “But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

This criminal had accepted his punishment and realized the holiness of Jesus Christ, he saw the perfection of Jesus and through his perfection he had seen his sins. The criminal hanging on the cross recognized his sins, and asked jesus for his forgiveness. And the most beautiful thing happened. Jesus said Today you will be with me in paradise. Jesus had forgiven his sins. And in this short time he went from a criminal to a citizen of heaven.

As I was going through the passage and reflecting about the penitent criminal, I struggled to grasp the thought about what it was talking about. Because whenever people talk about the crucifixion they always have this big grand story about how Jesus’ forgiveness changed their lives just like in the criminal story. But as i wrote, I had such a hard time to think of something like that. But it’s not about the ending, it’s about your desire to ask for forgiveness. And that’s what we see in all the miracles that jesus performed, the desire to come to Jesus, and many of the times they came for forgiveness. Jesus wants us to have that desire, that’s why i believe he looked at Peter, he wants us to have that desire for forgiveness. I honestly repent for not having this desire. I replaced my desire of Jesus with the chase of worldly pleasures. I wanted to fill my life with the love and recognition of others, but really it prevented me from really seeing that Jesus just wanted me to come to him in repentance. I crucified Jesus, because I tried to fill Jesus’ forgiveness with my own desire. And as I writing this message, I realized that I needed to have that desire to come to Jesus and be forgiven.

Now we come to the end of jesus’ life where he finally takes his last breath .If someone could read verses 44 and 45 for me?

“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.”

These events are huge, but they would never happen without his death and forgiveness. If you guys weren’t here for our exodus study, I’ll explain the significance of these verses. First of all in the temple in jerusalem, there were 2 rooms. The holy place, and the most holy place. The curtain separated the two rooms because the most holy place was the dwelling place of god. No one could come into the room except the high priest. But Jesus tore this curtain.

Jesus is the bridge now, he filled the gap between man and god. He is that mediator between us and God because Before in our dirty and sinful lives, we were not allowed in god’s presence but by his death we are cleansed and are allowed into the presence of Holy God.

This is the fullness of the Gospel. That even though we sin, Jesus died on the cross for us so that we may be forgiven of those sins when we repent and believe in Him. We don’t deserve this grace, because we are all sinners and in fact don’t deserve anything. And, That is what easter is about, not all the easter bunnies and the things that people secularized it as but it is about the death of Jesus christ and that he has forgiven our sins through his death. Jesus’s death is the most important event in history. His death gives everyone life if they choose to believe in him and We are able to be with Jesus in paradise. I pray that as this easter season comes into full swing that we may be able to have that moment to see Jesus on that cross and come to him in repentance, that moment where we can all weep in realization of our sins. For the real reason of easter is to celebrate Jesus’ death and reflect on what it really means to you personally.

I want to challenge you guys to think about, what is hindering you from coming to jesus in repentance, what are your excuses, maybe social pressure by the crowd, fear like peter’s, or just plain ignorance by the people around.

Whatever the reason is, let us hear the prayer of Jesus on the Cross and receive forgiveness today., because there’s forgiveness everytime we come to the cross of Jesus.

Can we read the key verse all together.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Encounter Christ: Identities in Christ

by Patrick Timlin

Key Verse Matthew 16:16- Peter replied “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Identity is an important part of every person’s life. It can be how you see yourself, or how others see you. It is what truly defines us as a person. Identity is formed by our actions, beliefs, and words, along with our backgrounds. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different answers for the question “Who is Patrick Timlin?” My Academic Decathlon coach might reply “A hard worker who inspires the rest of the team to be better, while always being the catalyst of fun times.” On the other hand, my English teacher will reply “That kid who’s rarely in my class, and when he is there, he’s on his phone.” Or if you ask my mom, you’ll hear “My gift from heaven who loves God, his family, and gets straight A’s.” The closer the person we ask this question, the deeper response we expect to receive and it frankly is closer to the truth. In this passage we will dive into the idea of identity, dealing with Jesus and the people of this earth.

Jesus starts off his discussion with the disciples in verse 13 by asking “Who do the people say the son of man is?” Can someone read their response in verse 14? Here Jesus is talking about “the people”. In this case the people are all those throughout Israel who Jesus and the disciples have encountered during their travels. The people who have seen Jesus perform miracles, along with those who only heard about his wonders. Through their responses we can see how foolish they are. John the Baptist is alive at this point in time and is preparing the way for Jesus, therefore Jesus cannot be John. Elijah had last been seen on earth 900 years prior, being lifted into Heaven on a chariot of fire. Malachi prophesies that Elijah would return, saying (Malachi 4:5-6) Elijah would come back on the dreadful day when the Lord comes. Yet that day would not come until after Christ comes the first time. Furthermore Jesus could not be another one of the prophets because he is fulfilling the exact prophecies that the Prophets proclaimed. Here Jesus‘s identity is being misunderstood by some people, denied by others, and the chosen few understand it.

Then in verse 15 Jesus asks the disciples a different question. Can someone please read verse 15 aloud? (“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”). This question is much deeper. It requires thought from the disciples on who Jesus is to them. It’s much easier to describe someone’s opinion or words because it has no impact on us, really we are just passing the information along. A common use of this is gossiping in high school. Spreading the words of someone else happens everyday in the halls of Whitney Young, and I guarantee it happens everywhere else in the city. Whether it’s the passing period, in a group chat, or over snapchat, it is so much easier to gossip about what other people say. Yet here Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is, to find the answer, they will have to deeply think about who Jesus is to them. Their answer will show the heart of themselves, and much more importantly, that they know who he actually is.

Here our hero steps up. Peter is the first to answer. This is where our key verse comes in. Lets read all together: Simon Peter answered “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter’s answer could not have been any better. It perfectly sums up Christ in 10 words, those 10 words are enough to save a person’s soul, and portray Jesus’s identity that is most important to us.The story of Jesus’s identity starts long before any miracle that he had performed. The little baby Jesus had a controversial birth, with his mother being a virgin, yet becoming pregnant with child. This alone leaves to types of persecution amongst community circles when viewing Jesus as a child born out of wedlock. At Jesus’s birth he is just a little baby being born in a manger, yet at the same time he was worshiped by wisemen from far away lands. Then for a short time Jesus is raised just like any other boy, as the son of a carpenter. At these early points of Jesus’s life, it is hard to define his identity by his actions, rather we have to look at what he is fulfilling. He is fulfilling prophecy after prophecy about what the Son of Man would be. When he starts to perform miracles and teach the law to those around him, it becomes more and more clear to those who listen that Jesus is our Savior. Yet saying such a thing is a powerful statement.

This proclamation of faith is an important of not just Peter’s journey, but in every person’s walk of faith. Jesus makes it clear to us that this proclamation is a blessing because it was not something that Peter came up with on his own. Can someone please read aloud verse 17? The main part here is “not by Flesh and Blood, but his Father in heaven”- or in other words, the Holy Spirit. We as humans cannot truly understand Jesus’s power by ourselves. His ability to heal others, provide wisdom beyond our own, and conquer death are too much for our simple minds. In this moment Jesus’s identity is revealed to Peter through the Holy Spirit, something that we should all pray for. Peter’s declaration will provide him with eternal life in the kingdom of heaven and let him live freely on earth because he can trust that the Lord is his savior forever. The last important part is that Peter calls Jesus the Son of the Living God. Up until this point, Jesus was called the Son of Man (by himself and by the people). In Peter’s answer he shows that Jesus comes from God who is living. Rather than coming from an idol that is dead or inanimate, God is alive, constantly watching over us and blessing us. Since Jesus comes from God he has the same power and strength.

Peter’s pronouncement leads to something very peculiar, and really only something that Jesus has the power to do, a change in Peter’s identity. Jesus has already done this before when he changes Peter from someone who fishes for fish, to someone who will fish for people. Simon, son of Jonah, brother of Andrew, was a fisherman in Bethsaida, until Jesus called out to him while he was on the lake and turned him into a disciple. Look at verse 18. “18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Now Simon is being changed into Simon Peter, “The rock on which Jesus will build his church.” The blessings that follow Peter are endless. Whatever Peter bounds on earth will be bound on heaven. Peter will be instrumental to the faith and conversion of tens of thousands of people. He will be blessed with wisdom from the Holy Spirit, and courage to fight the good fight.

Peter starts to be this rock when the early church is forming, and we get a good image of this in Acts. At the Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter begins to build the church upon his own faith and showing it to others. He baptizes the entire congregation and Acts 2:41 says “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.”. Later in Acts 3, Peter heals a lame beggar, something that we will touch on more with Johnny’s message. Then in Acts 4, Peter goes before the Sanhedrin and defends his faith. Acts 4:4 says that those who believed is increased by 5,000. Then finally Peter and John lead a prayer throughout the entire congregation in Acts 4:29-30 saying “29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” This prayer for God’s help in leading the early church members would start the spread of Christianity for centuries to come. Many of the early missionaries and believers looked to Peter for guidance and answers, and by God’s wisdom and strength provided through the Holy Spirit, Peter is able to continue with his identity as the rock on which the church is built.

As with everyone else, there are some downfalls to Peter that are apart of his identity. Peter is almost always the first one to answer Jesus’s questions or respond to his teachings, which is actually very similar to myself in elementary school during class. When Peter says the right thing, he comes off as fearless and wise. However Peter can also be perceived as rash and impulsive. In verse 21, Jesus tells the disciples about the suffering he will endure, that he would be crucified, and on the third day be raised to life. This idea is hard for the disciples to understand. For quite some time they had been traveling and teaching with Jesus and nothing had been able to stop them. They had fed 5,000 people, healed the sick, and even raised a dead man back to life. At every turn, the pharisees tried to criticize Jesus, yet he always had the correct response. Really anything bad happening to Jesus seemed impossible. Peter’s impulsive behaviors get the best of him when he rebukes Jesus for saying such things. First off, we should never rebuke Jesus. I mean how could we even rebuke Jesus, he is perfect and blameless. Second, Peter is thinking of only human concerns, not the concerns of God. Peter focuses more on the suffering and death of Jesus rather than the promise that he will return again, being raised to life on the third day. This joyous promise of Jesus’s return leads to the cleansing of our sins, and the central doctrine of Christian faith. Believing that Jesus was raised to life is what helps us identify as Christians.

Part two: Our Identity
So far we have learned about the identity of Christ, as our Messiah and Son of the Living God, along with the identity of Peter, the Rock on which Jesus built his church. As a christian, there are no identities greater than this. Yet if we all want to identify as Christians, Jesus has very specific instructions for us. It is not enough for us to attend church on Sundays, have a bible verse in our bios on instagram, or awkwardly raise your hand in class when the teacher asks if anyone is religious. Jesus says in verse 24 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Taking up one’s cross is no small feat. The journey that Jesus endured while dragging his cross, being prepared for crucifixion, and ultimate death that he would suffer was something that he himself did not want to endure. Matthew 26:39 describes Jesus turmoil as it says: “he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” An interesting side note is that Peter died by crucifixion in Rome. However at his own request he was crucified upside down, because he said he was not worthy to have the same death as Christ. The literal action of taking up one’s cross is impossible, it is a suffering that Jesus endured for all of us and Peter himself knew that it was something only Christ could do.

Has anyone here ever tried to see who their real friends are? Or been apart of a group where they want to see if everyone is committed? An example of this that I have encountered recently was with my volleyball team. Just to clarify for everyone, there is very little running involved in volleyball. At most, you will shuffle from one side of the court to other a few times on a given play. Thus I wouldn’t call anyone on my team a track star. Yet this year, our coach made us run around 10-15 suicides during the first week of practice. He said he wanted to build up our endurance, yet some kids disagreed with him, thought it was dumb, and quit the team. When starting the second week of practice, the remaining 13 of us anticipated another week full of running. Yet our coach simply told us he was trying to weed out the kids on the team that weren’t full devoted while also building us up as players with stamina for games that go to 3 sets. This simple strategy used by my coach to figure out which kids did not fully want to be on the team while also making the rest of us better, is similar to denying ourselves and taking up our cross and follow Jesus.

Jesus wants us to deny things of this world that may keep us from fully following him. Are we willing to take up our cross and follow him if it means losing a couple friends? Are we willing to take up our cross and follow him if it means messing up our reputation? Are we willing to take up our cross and follow him if it means losing our life? Honestly it is hard to do these things. I feel like all my friends now I go to church, because whenever I wake up from a sleepover on Sunday morning, they know that I’m going to take the train to church or that my friday nights are typically booked. Then recently one of my friends was caught off guard, and asked “Wait you believe in God?” I had to hesitate before I replied yes. I thought “wow something must be wrong here if my close friend had to ask that question. I must not be truly living the life as a believer that I thought I was.” This instance made me think harder about my faith and if I’m living it correctly. To be christians, we cannot simply just say yes, strictly read the bible, and pray before we eat. To conquer the things of this world and live our life of faith we need the Holy Spirit, just like Peter. Through deep prayer and faith, we too can receive the Holy Spirit, be able to declare that Jesus is the Messiah Son of the Living God. After we receive the Holy Spirit, we become stronger and rooted more in our faith. Taking up our cross leads us through trials that allow us to grow closer to God and struggle with Him.

To declare ourselves as believers and Christians, it has to be apart of our identity. It starts with encountering Christ, experiencing his glory, and living life with him. Christ will be there through all our struggles, regardless of how small or big they are. In the end, living our life as Christians is built in our eternal hope for life in the Kingdom of Heaven. As Jesus says in verses 25&26: 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Here Jesus clearly tells us that living our life for him is the only way to save our soul. Giving our soul and living for God leads to gifts better than what we have here on earth.

By proclaiming ourselves as Christ followers and doing his work there are rewards to look forward to. Can someone read verse 27 aloud? (For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.) When Jesus comes again, what will you have done? Do these things call for gifts from God? I believe that everyone of us here has the ability to do something warranting a gift whether it's praying for someone else in our life, sharing the word with a friend, or being a servant for HBF whenever something is needed. Personally I feel that I am most able to live out my life as a Christian and believer in Christ by showing his love to all those around me. First off, Christ’s love is unconditional and is for everyone. Thus to all my friends and family I try to be someone they can count on, along with doing unwarranted acts of kindness to make their day better. I also make an effort to become friends with people who may not have someone around to talk to them. Sometimes this may push us out of our comfort zone or be unwanted, but we can happily show Christ’s love to other because he showed it to us when he died on the cross. All of us here can definitely show Christ’s love to other because God promises to reward us with eternal life in heaven. What a glorious life we have to look forward to when we declare Christ’s identity as the Messiah and our savior. I pray that we may all encounter Christ through the Holy Spirit and be able to identify as believers in Jesus through the rest of this conference.

Let’s read our key verse one more time.

Matthew 16:16- Simon Peter answered “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Difference between Son of Man and Son of the Living God.