Session #110 I Got In The Way
Scripture Matthew 16:21-27
Summary It’s always easier to blame something or someone for getting in the way. Drawing from Matthew 16:21-27, learning from Peter’s rebuke of Jesus, this teaching will reveal that the “I” in each of us is usually the barrier that keeps us from kingdom purposes and assignments.
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offence to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Matthew 16:21–27
In this teaching, we will learn how we can deal with the “I” issues so that they do not impede us in fulfilling our kingdom assignments.
Identity Issue: Who Am I?
When we do not know who we are, we find our identity and value in the goods we purchase, the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the crowd we mix with, the restaurants we patronise and the church we attend. The lure of self-worth, self-esteem, destiny and purpose only shows how lost and dysfunctional a generation and people we are.
We need our egos stroked and pandered to. I am loved! I am blessed! I can achieve it! Can you detect the emphasis on “I”? When the “I” is very much alive, beware of Christianised individualism.
God loves every individual but frowns on Individualism. Each individual is unique, fearfully and wonderfully made, special in God’s eyes. God knows each by name and calls individuals. But when the individual is placed above God, we have individualism. Each individual only has meaning and purpose when it is aligned with God and His purposes.
Image Issue: What Do I Represent?
Churches project an image, traditional and boring, loving and caring, trendy, hip and relevant, youthful and entertaining, professional, sleek and business-like; or multi-faceted and caters to all shapes and sizes.
The problem is when churches begin to think like marketers. We project the image that people like and gravitate to. We pander to the “I” so that people feel good about being in church A or church B.
Importance Issue: Who’s The Focus?
I am the centre of attention when Jesus should be the Centre. Church programmes, activities, ministries must cater to me. If I am not happy, I will leave.
Do you expect the same treatment in the church? Do you expect the same of God because you tithe? Bless Me or I will give up on You, God; but have we forgotten that servants and bondservants have no rights?
The wrong focus can lead to pride and self-centeredness. The Pharisees were jostling for the best seats in the synagogue. Disciples too were jostling for power, position and prestige. In church, this would affect relationships, it hurts the unity of the body and ministries.
Is the disciple following the Master or the Master catering to the disciple?
Indulgences Issue: What Do I Want?
The pandering of self is the focus of many advertisements and slogans today. Since you are so important and nothing and no one else matters, go ahead, indulge yourself. The church must indulge you too, God wants you to be happy, rich and comfortable. If you are not, then something is wrong.
The church must be fun and entertaining. The message must not be boring. Speakers must entertain and tell good jokes. I must “feel” and “experience” God all the time. Faith is about getting what I want when I want.
Sacrifice? Suffering? Silence? Solitude? Oh wait, I sense God calling me to another church, it is called the “Ichurch”. There is nothing new under the sun, it happened in the garden of Eden. We are also warned in 1 John 2:16 and Galatians 5:16-21 to walk in the Spirit and not indulge in the “I”.
Idolatry Issue: Who Is Worshipped?
When the “I” is left unchecked, it wants to become God. “I will” statements of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12-15 is a reminder of what happens with the elevation of self above God. Entertaining the “worth-ship” of self.
What is an I-dol? When “I” becomes God. The conflict is that I want to worship God but I also want to protect my interests, desires and wants. The solution then is to make God into an image that I am comfortable with (Exodus 32:1-4).
We have idolised ourselves and we have made God serve our desires and cravings. Catering to tastes and styles, it is all about me and my wants.
You do not have to change. You can stay the same. Jesus died for you. God exists for you. We can easily make God into an “I”-dol” (Psalm 115:5–8).
Notice how subtle these issues are, that these even affected Peter. After being praised by Jesus, Peter’s “I” Quotient (IQ) must have shot up sky high. Let’s look at how dangerous the “I” is if not dealt with.
Impact of the “I”: how it impacts and affects us
Ideas of Success (Matthew 16:21-22)
We have our ideas of what Christianity or how kingdom assignments should be. Everything must be smooth and easy-going. No possibility of difficulty or death. “I” can get in the way of receiving kingdom assignments.
Ignorance of the Things of God (Matthew 16:23a)
The things of men. The ways of the world. I. Me. Myself. These conform to the world but we are to be transformed to know God’s will. It is easy to talk Christian but not so easy to live the kingdom life.
Instincts of Self-Preservation
Peter had an understanding of what it means to be a disciple. Peter left everything to follow Christ and he had followed Jesus faithfully all this time. If Jesus was going to suffer and die, what did that mean for those who were following him? It meant that they would possibly suffer and die (John 15:20).
Impediments to Kingdom Assignments (Matthew 16:23b)
Our misaligned ideas of success, our ignorance of the things of the kingdom and our instincts of self-preservation are all impediments to the purposes of the kingdom. Not just impediments to our assignment, but also the assignments of others.
Jesus used two strong words, Satan who is the adversary or opposer and Offence (skandalon), a trigger of a trap that causes entrapment. Peter’s response would have blocked and trapped Jesus from His kingdom assignment. That is why Jesus told him to “get behind”, to step aside, to get out of the way. The “I” has to get out of the way.
If the “I” is not dealt with, it impacts and affects not only the individual but there are adverse and disastrous implications for the entire church.
Implications for the Church
Gospel is Perverted
The gospel, or good news, must sound good regardless. If you believe in Jesus, everything will be fine. If you tithe, your bank accounts will be overflowing. If you have faith, your mountains will disappear.
We want the gospel to be non-confrontational but in essence, the gospel is highly confrontational. We do not want it to be offensive, but it is very offensive. Otherwise, why would Paul say “I am not ashamed of the gospel”? What is there to be ashamed about if it is not offensive?
The good news of salvation is no longer a deliverance from sin, from the “I”. Instead, it is now touted as a ticket to get what “I” want. The good news of the kingdom is that there is a God and King who can run my life better than I possibly can by myself. For that to happen, “I” have to get out of the way.
Messages are Diluted
Messages cannot be too tough or demanding because people do not come to church for such challenges, especially after a hard week at work and home. Absolute truth is not proclaimed because people must be given space for their interpretations of what truth is to them.
The Bible is no longer the standard by which we live. Instead, we look to other “expert” and “secular” teachings for material and merely use a verse or two to Christianise it. Sin is no longer mentioned or preached because people do not like to hear it. We prefer to “thin the biblical language of sin and redemption to an idea of Jesus as the friend who helps us find happiness and self-fulfilment.” Robert Bellah, Habits of the Heart.
Heaven and Hell are not actual places but merely a state of the mind. Even the discussion of the possibility of missing out on eternal life is avoided – let us not rock the boat since we all believe we will die and go to heaven. Messages are packaged and titled to draw the crowds.
Authority is Stripped
When we begin to indulge the “I”, the church hands authority over to the congregation. They begin to dictate what they want to hear and to do. If not, they will find another church, and membership is affected; and we cannot have that.
The church is no different from any other religion or ideology. Christianity is reduced to a system of morals, no different from other religions or moral systems. These also promise the same perks. Even better, no need to acknowledge sin nor to repent of anything. Pastors have to compete with management gurus, life coaches, motivational speakers, or positive thinkers.
Many Christians believe in Jesus but also practise new age, yoga and other occult beliefs. The truth that is relative or subjective is no longer authoritative. “I” believe and do what I want.
The church loses its say and its ability to speak into the lives of its congregation and to hold them accountable to God’s standard. Poor and compromising behaviour is tolerated in the name of love and grace.
Spiritual Health (Growth and Maturity) is Questionable
Needs, felt needs actually, maybe met and numbers may grow, but it does not necessarily mean spiritual growth nor indicate a healthy church. The church becomes a service provider, vying for the attention, time and resources of the individual, competing with other distractions and entertainment; and with other churches too.
Numerical growth is more important than spiritual growth. The focus is on feeding the “consumer” in each of us. The church can end up “spoiling” the believer, which leads to stunted growth and spiritual immaturity.
Discipleship is Compromised
Discipleship is another product offering to be considered and not a command of Jesus Christ. So we choose other “products” and “services” that sit better with us and our schedules. The standards and demands of discipleship are lowered. No one wants to put in any effort, nor has any more time to spare.
A disciple must be held accountable, but the “I” answers only to himself. The “I” refuses to be held accountable in any way. After all, “it is between God and me.” Discipleship requires a denial of self, and the “I” is not willing to consider that at all.
Instructions of the King (Matthew 16:24-26)
Deny the “I”. Before you followed Christ, you were number one. As a disciple of Christ, you now have a new Master, and it is no longer about you. It is all about Jesus.
Take up your cross is dying to self and living for God. No longer “I” who live.
Follow Me, not I but I AM. When you follow Jesus, all the issues will be dealt with,
Identity: My identity is found only in Jesus. I am identified by who I AM is.
Image: I represent the King and His kingdom.
Importance: It is all about Jesus. I point to Him. He gets all the glory.
Indulgence: I want only to please my King and Saviour. I want what He wants.
Idolatry: No other God. Only Jesus and His kingdom.
No longer will the “I“impede the kingdom but will be an impact on the kingdom,
Impediments to Kingdom Assignments: Get the I out of the way.
Instincts of Self-Preservation: Ready to Die for the king
Ignorance of Things of God: Be kingdom-minded, be transformed.
Ideas of Success: Faithfulness and Obedience
If you do not get the “I” out of the way, you cannot understand or accept the possibility of losing your life or not gaining the whole world.
Incentive (Matthew 16:27)
Jesus provides the incentive and motivation to give up the “I” and follow the “I AM”. Live for the king and the rewards of the kingdom. If you lose your life for Jesus and the gospel, you will store up treasure in heaven that will never fade away.
How is your spiritual walk and kingdom journey? Do not blame others or the situation, start with the “I”. Instead of seeing the Issue in others, take a hard look in the mirror. It is easier to see the speck in others and miss the plank in our own “I”. Give up the “I”. Live for I AM.