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Oct 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 4, 2015 – Acts 1:1-5

Jesus Christ:
Words of Eternal Life

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day  when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:1-5

Intro: For the last five months we’ve been going over Travel Tips for the Spiritual Journey

This week I’ll be out of town, so I’ve asked Steve Beck to talk here at Reflexion next Sunday
– Steve has written a book on Christian spirituality, which he has allowed me to preview
• in the last chapter he describes “How Christian Spirituality Has Changed My Life”
• it fits the point we’ve come to in our current series and I know you will find it encouraging

Most recently considering the Person and work of Jesus Christ in regard to our progress
– in the passage above, Luke summarizes “volume 1” of his two volume work, Luke-Acts
• previously he had given an account of “all that Jesus began to do and teach”
◦ it turns out that the joining of Jesus’ teaching to his doing is critical to our faith
• sometimes the meaning of a miracle Jesus performed was unclear
◦ did he heal for sake of the person’s health? out of his own compassion? to make a point?
◦ on one occasion he healed a cripple to prove his authority to forgive sins (Mk. 2:5-12)
◦ on another occasion, exorcising a demon was evidence of the presence of God’s kingdom (Lk. 11:20)
– Jesus’ teaching explained his doing (i.e., his miracles) and his doing reinforced his teaching (Jn. 3:2)
• these two aspects of his ministry interpret each other
• both point back to the Person and become a revelation of this Son of Man, Son of God

Travel Tip: Explore, know and internalize the teaching of Jesus

There’s so much more in Jesus’ teaching than what we usually hear explained by preachers
– people who heard him were deeply affected–even in his home town

. . . and all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips (Lk. 4:22)

When a large group of Jesus’ followers deserted him, he asked if the twelve were going to leave too

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (Jn. 6:68)

– the objective of Jesus’ teaching: to reconcile us to God, enable us to know him and have life in him
• in his teaching, he invites people to a spiritual journey with him
◦ a journey that is defined and directed by the ongoing influence of his teaching
• so, with that in mind, let’s look into Jesus’ teaching

read more…

Sep 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 27, 2015 – 2 Corinthians, chapters 3 – 4

Jesus Christ:
Contemplation and Transformation

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Intro: Most of the New Testament letters were written by Paul

James, Peter and John wrote some of the other letters

Did Jesus Christ ever write any letters? Yes – he wrote us

you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Cor. 3:3)
Helmut Thielicke asked whether God’s message can be read in us or “are we just so much junk mail?” A thought-provoking question, but that was not Paul’s point

– the wonderful work God was doing in the Corinthians was proof of Paul’s ministry
• those believers were his credentials, his letters of reference
– every time I read this chapter, I stop at verse 18
• this may be the most amazing thing Paul ever wrote
• as we look at Jesus, we are changed into the same image

Today’s “Travel Tip” for our spiritual journey: Transformation occurs as we contemplate Jesus

The obvious challenge: how do we see the invisible?

We learn from Paul that we can come at this another way
– we can ask, Why is it we don’t see God’s glory in the face of Jesus?
• Paul’s answer is that either we’re blindfolded or blinded

But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 2 Cor. 3:15-16
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

In An Anthropologist on Mars, Oliver Sacks tells the story of “Virgil”
– after being blind for forty-five years, Virgil had surgery to remove cataracts from his eyes
• at first, it seemed like a miracle that he could see again
• but the gift of sight exposed him to an entirely alien world
◦ he found both distance and motion to be confusing
◦ he could identify letters, but not read words

Oliver Sacks explained that “his eyes seemed . . . to be incapable of the easy movement, the scanning, that is needed to read.”

◦ also, he could not see the difference between his dog and cat, until he felt them
– sight is not simply a matter of having normal healthy eyes

read more…

Sep 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 20, 2015 – 1 Corinthians 1:1-10

Jesus Christ:
Theological Reflection On the Person

Paul, called s an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:1-10

Intro: Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is theologically rich

Not a theology of abstract concepts, but of truth that is meant to be lived
– he gives an explanation and outline for celebrating Communion (11:20-34)
• he provides more information of the church as a living organism than anywhere else (ch. 12)
• he describes how a charismatic church is to conduct its meetings (ch. 14)
• he includes a lengthy discussion on the fact of resurrection (both Jesus’ and ours; ch. 15)
• and nothing else in any of his writings matches Paul’s lyrical exploration of love in chapter 13
– the highlighted words above indicate the way Paul filled the letter’s introduction with Jesus
• this was obviously intentional,– he could have used a pronoun more times than just in verse 5

Paul wanted to make clear that Jesus was the agent of God’s work in their lives
– in Jesus they were:

  • v. 2, made holy (“sanctified”), prepared to encounter God in worship
  • vv. 3-4, given access to grace – Jesus is the “conduit” of God’s grace (Ro. 5:1-2)
  • vv. 5-6, spiritually enriched and their Christians lives stabilized
  • vv. 7-8, equipped for service and held through life “to the end”
  • v. 9, kept in relationship with him, secured by God’s faithfulness
  • vv. 16-25, saved by the power of the cross, in which God’s wisdom and power are revealed

– verses 30-31 are a summation of this first chapter

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption . . .

• then in chapter 2, verses 1-16, we learn that Jesus opens the door to the Spirit
• this may seem like a lot, but it’s only the tip of the theological iceberg

Last week we reviewed Jesus’ role as the designer, guide and provider of our spiritual journey
– today I want to stress the necessity and value of theological reflection on Jesus 
• last week’s talk was intentionally relational; this week’s is intentionally rational

read more…

Sep 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 13, 2015 – Mark 1:14-45

Jesus Christ
The Author and Perfecter of the Spiritual Journey

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 

Intro: A couple weeks ago, I received an invitation to attend a conference outside the U.S.

– it seemed impossible until I learned that transportation and accommodations would be provided
• that’s better than I have it here at home!
– how do we poor-in-spirit people have any hope of making this spiritual journey?
• everything is provided by our Lord Jesus

Christian mystics have sometimes lost sight of Jesus
– a few got themselves trapped in trying to explain spiritual phenomena
• some created road maps and models of how people moved toward God in prayer by degrees
• for them, progress came by stages, such as an ascent up a ladder or mountain
– some probed so deep into mysteries, their references to Jesus became unintelligible
– more recent examples come from those who try to appeal to universal elements in all religions

The Book of Hebrews encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ
– Why? Because he is the “author and perfecter of faith” (12:2)
• this reveals the place Jesus occupies in our spiritual journey
• Jesus is the alpha and omega of our walk with God
◦ he is in charge of our progress, growth and development start to finish
– we have come to last of our “Travel Tips for the Spiritual Journey”
• and here we find that Jesus Christ is the foundation on which it is built (1 Cor. 3:11)
• he is the way, truth and life that ultimately brings us to God
◦ we travel with him, for him and to him

We catch up with Jesus after his baptism and temptation

Galilee was not only a body of water, but also a large district surrounding the lake
– there were a few big cities in Galilee and lots of smaller towns and villages
• the Jewish communities were connected by their familial and social networks
• as a result, news traveled fast through the gossip mill
(Bruce Malina, Social Science Commentary on the Gospels, pp. 45-46)
– not long after Jesus’ ordeal in the wilderness, people hearing about the rabbi from Nazareth
• he was announcing that the long-awaited time had finally come, kingdom of God had arrived
• people needed to adjust their entire lives to the new reality; they had to believe in it that much

One day as Jesus walked the shore, he saw two men throwing a large net into the lake. Perhaps he stopped and watched the burly brothers for awhile, casting and hauling, tossing the good catch onto a swath of burlap, then casting and hauling again. My guess is that if you and I were there looking for followers, we would have walked on. These men were not the type we would be interested in recruiting. Their career was wrong and they simply did not have the right look.

read more…

Sep 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 6, 2015 – Matthew 11:28-30

Virtue Reality

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Intro: No one person had more influence in deepening my life in Christ than Fr. Romuald

A Benedictine monk, living in a hermitage on the coast of central California
– our last conversation, two weeks before his death, meandered through several topics
• when we discussed Christian maturity and helping others along, he stated flatly:
“The virtues are fundamental to spiritual direction”
– this idea goes back at least as far as John Cassian (360-435 AD)
• he outlined “eight principal faults” at the heart of all sin
◦ each fault can be counteracted by its opposing virtue
• the point is this: A well-formed life in Christ has moral definition
◦ if my religion does not make me a good person, it is not Christian

Rather than teach a practice of the virtues (pl), I prefer to stress virtue
– that is to say, a distinct pattern of spiritual formation expressed in attitude, word and deed
• the sort of thing Paul had in mind when he listed the “fruit of the Spirit”
– virtue is not about pulling out a good deed when it’s needed
•it is a way of life – a life transformed in Jesus

I used to get irritated with my Calvary Chapel colleagues exclusive emphasis
– “Teach the Word” — meaning, verse-by-verse Bible teaching
• the truth is, few of them actually “taught” scripture
◦ they would read a verse or two, then preach, seasoning their sermons with personal opinions
• the “mature” Christian was a person who quoted Bible verses to support their doctrines
– I felt that we should be giving more emphasis to developing Christian character
• I was running into too many angry, hostile and self-righteous Christians
◦ knowing scripture without transformation results in distortion and misuse (cf. Mt. 4:5-6)
• we have not seen how we have empowered people with personality disorders
◦ an abusive person, will use scripture to abuse; a con artist will use it to pull scams; etc.

Virtue is about the struggle against our lower nature and unhealthy (unholy) thinking

There is a “gateway virtue” that leads to all virtues

Francois Fenelon, “All the saints are convinced that sincere humility is the foundation of all virtues.”
Abbot John Chapman, “All progress in virtue is progress in humility”

To the church fathers, pride was worst sin and the source of all sins

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. . . . Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (Jas. 4:6, 10)

read more…

Sep 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 30, 2015 – Galatians 2:20-3:1; 6:14

Cross My Heart

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.
You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 2:20-3:1; 6:14

Intro: I was twenty-two years old, traveling home from Israel with two friends

We a had three-day lay over in Switzerland and hoped to find our way to L’Abri
– while on a train winding its way through the Alps
• I opened my Bible to the gospel I had been reading
◦ I had come to the story of Jesus’ crucifixion
– perhaps it was I had a real-world perspective of the sites of Jesus’ sorrow, trial and suffering
• but I found myself being drawn into the story
◦ I was not merely reading it, I was experiencing it
• here was Jesus, this person that I knew and loved
◦ I knew his goodness, kindness, wisdom, generosity with healing–a wonderful man
◦ as he was dying, his grief and pain came so close that it broke my heart
• the story was so old and I had heard it so many times,
◦ I was surprised me that it could move me to tears

[shifting gears . . .]
Paul was upset with the Galatians

Without getting into the details, they had been sucked into rule-based religion
– that was not the message Paul delivered to them
• he had publicly portrayed Jesus Christ–crucified
◦ his death served to provide imperfect, sinful people like us new life in God
• “portray” translates a Greek word that was used for putting up posters
(like “missing person” signs families sometimes tack up in cities)
◦ the Galatians had been given a clear picture of Jesus’ death
◦ it was part of Paul’s “gospel,” that Christ died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3)
– we cannot complete our spiritual journey without a compelling vision of Jesus’ crucifixion
• one place where this is most likely to occur is in Communion
(also referred to as Eucharist or The Lord’s Supper–cf. 1 Cor. 11:26)

A lesson from Christian history

In Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill noted, “For the Christian mystics, the sacraments and mysteries of faith have always provided [a fulcrum]; and these often play a large part in the production of their ecstasies. For St. Catherine of Siena . . . the reception of Holy Communion was the prelude to ecstasy.”
Simone Weil, “There was a young English Catholic there from whom I gained my first idea of the supernatural power of the sacraments because of the truly angelic radiance with which he seemed to be clothed after going to communion.”

read more…

Aug 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 23, 2015 – John 15:14-15; Luke 22:28-30; Mark 14:32-24

Solitude, Community and Companionship

Intro: We begin with highlights from Jesus’ last night with his disciples

First, right after finishing the meal and the new covenant in the bread and the cup

You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:28-30

– Luke reports more examples of Jesus’ table fellowship than the other gospels
• relations are forged (and broken) around the table (Lk. 7:36-50)
◦ communities are formed around the table (Lk. 5:30-32; 15:1-3)
• instances of him eating and drinking with others anticipates his future kingdom (Lk. 13:29)

Second, before Jesus and his disciples left the upper room

You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:14-15

– Jesus changed the disciples’ status
• slaves did not need to know their masters’ plans, but only to obey
• as friends, Jesus brought the disciples to a new level of trust and intimacy

Third, on the Mount of Olives

They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. Mark 14:32-35

– Jesus’ ordeal of grief and suffering isolated from everyone else, even his closest disciples
• in this hour, he needed to be alone with God
• his work began with his ordeal in the loneliness of the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-13)

In these passages we see Jesus’ activity in three socially defined environments
– to consider all three environments requires three different texts
• there’s no example where Jesus is seen in all three at the same time
◦ that’s the nature of these environments; each one is distinct and only rarely overlap
• we may observe transitions from one to another
◦ but every story unfolds within a single, specific context
– socially defined, the environments are solitude, community and companionship
• God gives us these gifts to assist us in our spiritual journey
◦ three unique spaces where God meets us — each one meeting specific needs
• this week’s travel tip for our spiritual journey:
◦ know these spaces, settle into them and discern when you need to move into one of them

Let’s consider solitude

From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus sought solitude

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place and was praying there (Mk. 1:35)

– this became his regular practice

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray (Lk. 5:16)

read more…

Aug 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 16, 2015 – Deuteronomy 6:4-13

Contemplative Prayer, Part Seven
Praying Non-stop

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of you house and on your gates.
Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.
 Deuteronomy 6:4-13

Intro: Do you see what God is doing here?

People, as individuals and in society, need a stable center
– a center enables us to orient the diverse pieces of our lives in a cohesive whole
• in a narcissistic culture, each person things, “I am the center of my universe”
• you cannot construct a healthy society around a center like that
– God’s first gift to Israel, after their liberation from Egypt, was his law
• the goal was to use the law to implant himself in them as the stable center
◦ he was to be everything to them — all your heart, all your soul, all your might
◦ through daily practice of specific activities, they would write his words on their hearts (v. 6)
• two key concepts emerge and we need to see how they’re fused
◦ “love” – that to which person commits his or her whole life — evidenced in behavior
◦ “fear” – the natural human response to the sacred (deserves the commitment of one’s whole life)

The plan is easy enough to understand, but its achievement is near impossible
– it is a precarious process, to fix belief, love and commitment in human consciousness
• and to do this without the use of force or violence
• the risk: before these are firmly set, the person forgets to follow, or abandons the process
◦ Israel had to place reminders everywhere and observe them
◦ otherwise, God’s place at center would not hold
– Israel’s history was a record of the collapse of this program
• cf. Ps. 78 and 106 — “they forgot . . . did not remember . . . they forgot God their Savior”
• in forgetting who God was, they forgot who they were

We tend to think of memory as “information storage”
– in scripture, to remember is to bring into awareness
• God knew he would be remembered on special occasions — festivals, weddings, death, crises, etc.
• what he wanted was for Israel to live with a continual consciousness of him
◦ over and over again he reminded them, “I am with you”
– and this brings us to our a last look at contemplative prayer
• we want to take our experience in prayer everywhere and into everything we do
◦ to maintain a constant mindfulness of God’s presence
• before we explore this constant state of prayerful awareness, I need to tell you something
◦ I am not there – I wish this was my experience, because I could serve you better
◦ but let’s be content to begin where we are and go forward together

read more…

Aug 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 9, 2015 – Luke 10:38-42

Contemplative Prayer, Part Six
The Distraction of Many Things

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
 Luke 10:38-42

Intro: Toward the end of the fourth century two young men went into the deserts of Egypt

John Cassian and his companion, Germanus, visited monasteries and interviewed monks
– the first of those interviews Cassian’s recorded was with Abbot Moses
• they asked him what was the goal that inspired him to suffer the deprivations of the desert?
◦ he said his ultimate aim was the kingdom of God, but his immediate goal was purity of heart
• since it is the “pure in heart” that see God (Mt. 5:8), he wanted to hold himself to this goal

“. . . let us direct our course as straight towards it as possible, and if our thoughts wander somewhat from this, let us revert to our gaze upon it, and check them accurately as by a sure standard, which will always bring back all our efforts to this one mark, and will sho at once if our mind has wandered ever so little from the direction marked out for it.”
He later explains:
“We have an excellent illustration of this state of mind and condition in the gospel in the case of Martha and Mary: for when Martha was performing a service that was certainly a sacred one, since she was ministering to the Lord and His disciples, and Mary being intent only on spiritual instruction was clinging close to the feet of Jesus . . . [Mary] is shown by the Lord to have chosen the better part . . . .”

– the motive for Christian service is not always devotion to God
• it is possible to do right things for wrong reasons (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3)

Abbot Moses, “You see then that the Lord makes the chief good consist in meditation, i.e., in divine contemplation . . .”

• although every other activity is useful and good, this is the heartbeat of our spiritual life

I have a reason for beginning with John Cassian’s writings
– a number of Christians are self-appointed watchdogs
• because they do not understand contemplative prayer, they condemn it
◦ it has been described as New Age, Eastern Religion and Roman Catholic
• but it’s hardly “New Age” if monks were practicing it as early as 380 AD
– early in Christian history, devout believers realized they had a hunger that was not being met
• Christianity had been legalized, but Roman society in general was still corrupt
◦ from the time of Constantine, the church entered politics and internally became more political
• monks felt they had to leave their pagan cities and the institutional church to be alone with God
◦ they devoted long hours to scripture reading and private and communal prayer
◦ eventually they became recognized as guides to a deeper spiritual life

Cassian’s writings demonstrate the importance of the contemplation of God in Christian prayer
– it is a practice that was largely lost to the hyper-rational, modern era Protestant churches

Our topic is expressed well in a question Germanus raised

“How is it then, that even against our will; [yes] and without our knowledge idle thoughts steal upon us so [subtly] and secretly that it is fearfully hard not merely to drive them away, but even to grasp and seize them? Can then a mind sometimes be found free from them, and never attacked by illusions of this kind?”

The struggles of those saintly followers of Christ were the same as ours
– distraction is one of most common and most difficult challenges to prayer

read more…

Aug 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 2, 2015 – Matthew 16:13-20

Contemplative Prayer, Part Five
The Soul’s Mirror

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”Matthew 16:13-20

Intro: This is the fifth week in our study of Contemplative Prayer

Today we are going to venture into one of its personal difficulties

You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret in the light of Your presence. (Ps. 90:8)

Some remarkable things happen in this story of Jesus and his disciples
– we notice the unfamiliar Aramaic expression Bar-Jona–most likely Jesus’ actual words
• that Matthew did not translate this into Greek draws more attention to it
◦ Jesus referred to Peter as “son of Jona” — it was an insight into his identity
• previously, Jesus referred to himself as the “Son of Man”
◦ an insight into his identity (his solidarity with humankind); he was that, but more
◦ that Peter saw the more is evident when he identifies Jesus as “the Son of living God”
– Jesus congratulated Simon for the insight that had not come through “flesh and blood”
• that is, Peter could have learned or made this discovery by any natural means
◦ it is not the sort of knowledge that enters us through our intellect (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6-8)
◦ a person receives it in his or her soul through an encounter with the truth

Jesus went on to tell Peter, “I also say to you” – why “also”? I see two possibilities:

  1. “I’ve told you, you’re blessed, I also say to you . . .”
  2. or, “You’ve correctly identified who I am, I also will tell you who you are”

– in effect, Jesus was saying, “As I am Son of Man, yet more, so you are the son of Jona, yet more”
• this step up required a new identifier, so Simon son of Jona becomes “Peter the Rock”
• Jesus has revealed to Peter his true self – the “new creature” he is in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)
◦ Peter’s challenge is not to act like a rock, but to become this person
◦ his destiny requires him to slough off the old self and become his true self
• and this is where Peter immediately screwed up

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

◦ the old self thinks like everyone else, but the new, true self is God-minded

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