Hello Church Family, this is Pastor Phil.
Our reading today is from Matthew 16:13-19–
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
When I wake up in the morning, I believe the sun will rise in the east and then set over the horizon in the west. I also believe that when I walk on the ground I’ll stay on the ground unless I jump off of a cliff, then I’ll fall down and meet the ground again!
Every single day and every single moment we live our lives based upon what we believe is true. From both a practical and reasonable standpoint if you have too. You cannot live and function without believing some things are true and acting upon those beliefs. If you don’t believe things are true you will go crazy and you can’t function in any reasonable sense of the word. Making truth claims and acting upon those claims is normal and healthy.
When we take this concept to the question of faith and belief, it is absolutely the same. Often times, I’ve heard it said, that Christians are so intolerant because of their belief in the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the Living God and that salvation is found in Him. How can Christians make such a claim about truth! But every belief system or religion makes claims about what is true.
Atheists make an absolute truth claim that not only is there no god but there is no spirit at all, and that everything is one great big accident that came from nothing and is nothing and means nothing. While a Muslim would find that belief abhorrent because they believe in spirit and God, but their belief is that you come to God and salvation by following the 5 noble truths. Compare that to someone that says I believe in Science, which is a strange statement because science is a tool to understand the natural world not a belief system. It is a lot like saying I believe in my hammer or power saw, which just doesn’t make sense. The core of science is experimentation and making mistakes to find out what is an accurate description of the natural world. You don’t believe in science you use the scientific method to explore the natural world. But someone that says they believe in science has taken a hammer and made it into a god and worships the hammer.
Even someone that says I believe there are many different paths to know God and that God is whatever you want God to be, that’s trying really hard not to make a truth claim is, actually, yes making a truth claim. Is it a very good truth claim, not really, because you end up with a schizophrenic god that hates you, loves you, doesn’t care about you, and doesn’t even know you exist, all at the same time!
All of these are truth claims. Christianity does not hold the market on making a claim about the truth.
Even in our Gospel reading today, when Jesus asks the question, “who do you say I am?” The disciples were all making truth claims. Some say Elijah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then Peter says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
How do you know what is true? Here is probably one of the toughest pills for us to swallow. We, in and of ourselves can’t. Not really. In this vast universe to the mysteries of the sub-atomic world and the miracles of the spiritual realm, we can’t know everything or be everywhere. We simply can’t. We are limited in what we can know. For every discovery these are 10 more mysteries
That is why truth cannot come from us but has to come from outside of us from the one who does know everything and can be everywhere, and that is God. God created truth and is truth. We come to know the truth, by God coming to us and revealing that truth to us. That is why Jesus says to Peter when he makes the confession that Jesus is the Christ the son of the Living God, that truth was revealed to Him by God, it didn’t come from Peter.
God comes to us, in Jesus, to reveal what we cannot know for ourselves, what is true, about God and salvation and the life we are to live.
But notice, while Jesus calls Peter blessed for this being revealed to Him; He doesn’t stay but he invites his disciples to taste, see, work with, try to understand, and experience the truth in their lives. Jesus spent three years with them so they could live with and experience the truth.
God does the same for us. He comes to us in Jesus and reveals to us what is true, about God, and salvation, and our lives. But God also invites us to use the gifts he has given to us to work with that truth and know that it is real. Christianity has never been about checking your brain out when you enter the door. Never. Instead, it has been about using all of the gifts and tools we have, science, religion, math, history, intellect, intuition, imagination, reason, using all of our resources to taste and see, work with and understand, and experience the truth in our lives.
Using all of our gifts and abilities, being able to then tell what is in alignment with the truth and what isn’t. What makes sense and what doesn’t. To explore and learn, and then trust. God gave us the greatest gift in Jesus to be able to know that we can trust that what Jesus says is true, because of Easter morning and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. That showed us that Jesus is who He says He is, the Christ the Son of the Living God, and that we can trust that what He says is true.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,Proverbs 3:5-6
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.