Focusing on Jesus
It is interesting that this virus, and the slowdowns and shutdowns surrounding it, has caused all of us to pause, take a deep breath and consider what matters most in life. There is a lot of talk these days about what is essential business; but I think we are all discovering that, in trying times like these, faith and family are absolutely essential! I am hearing from person after person that they are embracing this season to enjoy time with the ones they love most - God and family!
I am confident that the Lord is using this time to hone our focus - to help us to zero in on what matters most. When asked what the greatest command was, Jesus said something like this... love God and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-38). This is a wonderful time to do both!
With Holy Week now just days away and Easter fast approaching, it is also an essential time to set our eyes on what matters most. God is clearly helping us to do that! It is easy to lose focus in troubling times, especially when we are filled with fear - even blinded by fear. But God doesn't want us to live in fear. He wants us to be fully focused on Christ and the perfect love He revealed to us on the cross. That perfect love drives out our greatest fear... punishment, wrath and spiritual death.
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18. The great for Believers is that when we are focused on Christ and His perfect love for us, we will not live in fear. When you set your eyes and heart on the sacrifice Christ made for you on the cross, there is nothing to fear! Fear of punishment is gone! We have been justified or declared righteous by Christ's work on the cross. The result is no fear! (Romans 6:23)
In the days leading up to His crucifixion and death, Jesus began to prepare His disciples for what was to come, because He knew they would be facing some serious fears. He wanted them to be focused on Him and His work on the cross. (Matthew 16:21-24). We need that same focus. In this text, Jesus helps us answer a vital question: What does it mean to be focused on Jesus, the cross and His perfect love for me?
1) Recognize that what Jesus did on the cross was a "must" for me! (Matthew 16:21) Jesus wanted His disciples to begin to understand what was going to happen to Him. He wanted them to begin to fully focus on what was to come... the suffering, the sacrifice and the cross... all born out of His perfect love for them and for us!
Peter didn't like what he was hearing though. (Matthew 16:22). But Jesus made clear that He "must" go to Jerusalem and he "must" be killed and on the third day raised to life. This was a "must!" Why? So that our sins could be forgiven, our death penalty paid, our fear of punishment relieved. When we recognize this, we don't live in fear, but rather, in His perfect love!
2) Shift my eyes from myself to my Lord, Jesus Christ! (Matthew 16:23). Why did Jesus call Peter, Satan? Because at that moment, Peter was attempting to thwart God's sovereign plans. He intended to stop what Jesus said "must" happen. And by trying to stop what "must" happen, Peter was actually aiding Satan! He was getting in the way. He was thinking only about his concerns, his desires, his wishes; not God's plans. So Jesus called him out! In this moment, Peter was focused on himself, not on Jesus Christ and not on the sacrifice that had to be made on the cross for us.
3) Focus my faith fully on Jesus! God had a plan! Jesus knew that plan. Satan would have loved to stop it. At that moment, Peter was on Satan's side and didn't realize it! When you take your eyes off God, His sovereign plan of salvation, His perfect love demonstrated on the cross, you are siding with Satan! When you doubt His love for you, you side with Satan. When you doubt God is in control, you side with Satan. When you allow fear to overwhelm you, you side with Satan. In that moment, Peter was siding with Satan. He was revealing a lack of faith in Jesus. He was not focusing his faith fully on Jesus.
This wasn't the first time this happened for Peter. He had taken his focus off Jesus in the past, and things did not go well for him. (Matthew 14:22-31). God wants us to be fully focused on Him!
After a long day of ministry, Jesus sent his disciples on ahead in their boat to their next ministry stop while He spent time alone in prayer. While they were in the boat that night, far from land, a fierce storm rolled in and began to pound their boat with wind and waves.... How do you think they were feeling? Seasick? Afraid? Will I drown; will I survive; when will this end? 'Sound familiar?
Fully focusing on Christ gives me courage in the storms of life! (Matthew 14:27)
I wonder if some of you are feeling like your boat is being rocked these days? Like you are in the middle of a storm with winds and waves pounding you? Maybe you feel like you are just holding on for dear life, wondering when it is going to calm down again, hoping you can make it without drowning! Do not be afraid! Christ is present in the fierce storms of life. He is very present right now!
Fully focusing on Christ involves taking big faith steps! (Matthew 14:28ff)
I have to hand it to Peter. He was willing to get out of the boat and take some big faith steps! He had the courage to step out of the boat... Do you think you could do that? Maybe you are hunkered down and afraid... no need to fear! Christ says put your eyes on me and take big faith steps- Find your courage in me- Find your strength in me- Find your purpose in me. That doesn't mean to take foolish risks; but it does mean to hone your faith and focus on Christ. No doubts! (Hebrews 12:1-2)
After Jesus rebuked Peter for siding with Satan,... 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24.
Use this season, this week, to redirect your focus on Christ, the cross and His perfect love revealed there for you! For much more, listen to Perfect Love - Part 1 - Focused!