This is post #7 of a series entitled Peacemakers for the Cause of Christ – Facilitators of God’s Peace in a World Looking for Peace. We hope you’ll enjoy these 31 podcasts and blogs that focus on our great need in today’s society for peacemakers; men, women, and children who are willing to step away from all the contempt, division, and hatred, and step in toward the blessed call of being Christ-centered peacemakers for the greater glory of God. Here you’ll find very practical and biblically-sound advice on building bridges instead of walls, offering hope instead of despair. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Click on the link below to listen to the podcast version of this blog!
Truth #2: Peacemakers Find Themselves in Christ.
Today’s Lectio Divina: When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some think He is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God Himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out. And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s Kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.” He swore the disciples to secrecy. He made them promise they would tell no one that He was the Messiah. Matthew 16: 13-20 (MsgB)
Do you remember the time that Jesus said…
If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8: 31-32 (NIV)
After 60+ years of walking with Jesus of Nazareth, and serving the Master as a pastoral shepherd for over 30 of those years, I’ve noticed something pretty significant in both myself and the many parishioners I’ve come along side. Today, allow me to offer you that deep truth.
If you can give me an honest answer today to two specific questions, I can give you a fairly accurate reading on where your life is headed.
Here’s question number one:
Who is Jesus for you today?
Question number two:
Who are you in Jesus?
You see, it’s no coincidence that Jesus had this conversation (see today’s Lectio Divina) with His disciples at this point of His three-year ministry. And please don’t mis-understand. Jesus wasn’t asking His disciples about who people said He was because He was curious about what others were thinking about Him. Nor, was He having a crisis moment, where He needed to hear some encouraging remarks about all He was doing. Sadly, I’ve heard both of these points being preached from pulpits, and in all honesty, neither premise could be further from the truth.
Make no mistake, Jesus is fully human and like all of us, has His occasional moments of self-doubt and uncertainty (see Matthew 26: 39 where Jesus asks His Father to remove the cup of death from His future); but folks, today’s passage in Matthew 16 is not one of those moments.
You see, Jesus always knows exactly who He is and knows with certainty why He is headed into Jerusalem. See John 13: 3 (NIV), for example…
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God.
So, when He inquires of His disciples…
“What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”
“And how about you? Who do you say I am?”
…there’s something going on here that’s much deeper than a brief identity-crisis on the part of the Son of Man.
As I see it, this moment in time is Jesus’ opportunity to draw out of His closest comrades important answers to the two specific questions I mentioned earlier:
- Who is Jesus for you today?
- Who are you in Jesus?
For Peter, and the others, this is a crossroads moment. So, when Pete responds with…
“You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God”
…we can tell from Jesus response here that this is Peter’s golden moment where now, in the light of the eternal truth found inside him, Jesus can now tell Peter who he truly is!
And now (Jesus replies) I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. Matthew 16: 18
When you or I can honestly put into words who Jesus truly is to us, that’s when the light bulb can go on for discovering our true identity in Christ.
In his classic book, New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton says it this way:
Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. … My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love — outside of reality and outside of life. And such a life cannot help but be an illusion. … The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God. … Therefore I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except in Him. … Therefore there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him, I will find myself, and if I find my true self I will find Him. (pp. 34-36)
For Peter, this is a day I’m sure he long remembered. For on this day, when he was finally able to spit out what he had been thinking about Jesus, it was that reality that allowed Jesus (the true Son of God) to speak back to him, who Peter was from God’s perspective! And it’s that truth, as Merton suggests, which sets us free from pursuing the ugly false self we’ve been so enamored with, and puts us on the pathway to discovering our truest essence, the man or woman Jesus has always seen us to be.
Let me explain this process by sharing my personal application of this truth.
For most of my life, I believed myself to be a servant of others. I often found myself imagining life situations where I could become some successful servant-leader who would lead people to greatness. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram personality tool*, I’m a #2 helper, one who gets his or her fulfillment in life by serving and helping others. So, over the years, I spent most of my time, energy, and resources positioning myself to a place where I could help others succeed. My job as pastor reflected that desire and through my false self, I became consumed with building a church where servanthood leadership prevailed. Now, on the surface, that sounds honorable, but it wasn’t until things started to fall apart for me about ten years ago, when I took the much needed time (as Merton suggests) to look honestly, once again, at these two questions:
- Who is Jesus for me today?
- Who am I in Jesus?
As I slowed down, opening myself up, once again, to Jesus’ personal interaction on these two questions, I discovered, with the help of Christ-centered spiritual formation tools, that my perception of who Jesus was and who I was in Jesus needed some tweaking. In truth, as an Enneagram #2, I was pushing way too hard, trying to make life and ministry happen, taking my fortunes into my own hands, thus reducing my day-to-day trust that Jesus could lead me to that place I wanted to go. Over time, as I sat with this dilemma, I realized Jesus was inviting me to a new place in life where I could walk with Him into being the Christ-centered #2 Helper He wanted me to become. And, when I finally came to that realization that I was not seeing Jesus as my primary provider for my deepest needs, and as I confessed that to the Master, I felt His gentle invitation to go on a new journey with Him where my #2 Enneagram Helper would stop revving up my “to do” engine, giving Jesus more room to lead while I became more content in simply following wherever He might lead.
So, what about you?
Who is Jesus for you today?
Who have you made Him to be out of your false self?
You see, this is why I believe if you and I are to be Christ-centered peacemakers, the Christ-centered work of peacemaking must begin with us!
It’s my premise here that if you and I can position ourselves more and more in Jesus’ presence, ( i.e. staying with Him, as we discussed last time) allowing Him to ask the important questions (like He did here with His disciples in today’s passage), He has much to say to us about who He is, and who we truly are, and the unique purposes He has for us in the days ahead.
Are you listening?
My Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for the time You sat with Your disciples and drew them into these deep waters, inquiring honestly of them who they saw You to be. Thank You, as well, that You’re not just looking for standardized pat answers to this question, but You’re looking for the truth, which You said clearly, will set me free. Thank You, as well, that You never walk away from me, regardless of my answer, or even, like most of the disciples here, didn’t seem to have an answer on that specific day. Holy Spirit, dwell deep within me, as You lead me into truth. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.
A Few Questions to Ponder: Knowing Jesus isn’t interested in what other people say, nor is He looking for the “right” answer, can I honestly tell the Master my deepest thoughts on these two questions today:
- Who is Jesus for me today?
- Who am I in Jesus?
And as I honestly respond, am I willing to take the time in reflection and silence, allowing Jesus to speak back to me about who He sees me to really be?
So, how are you experiencing God’s presence as you are becoming a peacemaker for the cause of Christ?
*This is the first in a variety of practical suggestions/resources we will make throughout this blog/podcast series. We call these exercises:
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 9 (NIV)
Tool #1: Who Are You? The Enneagram.
If you’d like more info on the Enneagram (a tool for determining the uniqueness of your personality) https://contemplative-activist.com/the-enneagram/
Peacemakers for the Cause of Christ – Facilitators of God’s Peace in a World Looking for Peace.
We hope you’ll enjoy these 31 podcasts and blogs that focus on our great need in today’s society for peacemakers; men, women, and children who are willing to step away from all the contempt, division, and hatred, and step in toward the blessed call of being Christ-centered peacemakers for the greater glory of God. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!