Jesus asks each of us, “Who do you say that I Am?”
The answer we give marks us for eternity. If we say with our mouths, “You are the Christ,” then we know the truth, and this truth sets us free — free from sin and death.
If we say, “You are a great teacher,” then we do not know the truth, and the lie we believe does not serve us well. Believing Jesus is only a great teacher may comfort us, but this lie does not save.
The Pharisees in an attempt to test Jesus demand a sign from heaven. “But sighing deeply in His Spirit, [Jesus] says, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I assure you: No sign is given to this generation!’ ” (Mark 8: 12)
Jesus asks His disciples who the people say He is. Some people say, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the prophets.” (Mark 8: 28) In other words, the people recognize Jesus is an extraordinary man, but miss the obvious truth that He is more than just a man.
When Jesus asks Peter, Peter responds rightly, “You are the Messiah!” (Mark 8: 29)
Jesus does not deny Peter’s statement. Instead He warns His disciples to keep this truth to themselves for now.
Paul commands you to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” (Philippians 2: 12 – 13)
God works in you because His Holy Spirit dwells within you as within a temple. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because your body is God’s dwelling place, how can you unite yourself with those who hate God? You can’t. For what you love, that person despises.
Paul says not to be yoked with unbelievers for it is an uneven bonding. “Don’t you know,” says Paul, “that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you are bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20)
Seek someone within the body of Christ to join with you, knowing that God is your primary focus, that He strengthens your relationship and literally makes it holy.
Yoked with a believer, you know that both of you have God at work within “to desire and to work out His good purpose” for your lives. You both must continue to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” lest you fall away from one another, fall into lust for another, and dishonorably into unfaithfulness and adultery.
But thanks be to God, you are not one to fall away. You are the Lord’s and His power is at work within you. Rely upon Him; He takes you to the prize — a holy relationship with another Christian.
“Desire pure spiritual milk,” commands Peter. After all, says Peter, “you taste that the Lord is good.” Now that you taste the goodness of God, why do you continue in “all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander”? (1 Peter 2: 1) “Rid yourselves” of these weights. Be, instead, “like newborn infants,” desiring more of the goodness of the Lord God who is your salvation.
Grow up into Christ, who is your head. “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1: 17 – 18)
Put and keep Christ first in your life. “Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3: 12) Remember that “once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him.” (Colossians 1: 21 – 22)
“Take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.” (Ephesians 4: 22 – 24)
God “leads [us] in paths of righteousness,” says the psalmist. Noah, “in reverent fear constructs an ark for the saving of his household” when he is “warned by God concerning events as yet unseen.” (Hebrews 11: 7) He is led by God into a path which “condemns the world” and causes Noah to “become an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” (Hebrews 11: 7)
God marks the paths we are to travel, asking us to follow Him in faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11: 1) Noah believes God, that the flood is coming, that the ark can be built, that he and his family are able to gather representatives of every living thing, that the ark is able to save. Therefore, he acts righteously in this faith. And his faith is based in his trust of God — in the God he knows.
James writes, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” He firmly presents Abraham as a man who is “justified by his works,” writing: “You see that faith is active along with his works; and faith is completed by his works, and the Scripture is fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believes God, and it is credited to him as righteousness.’ ” (James 2: 22, 23)
Moses asks, “Lord, who is like You among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, revered with praises, performing wonders?” (Exodus 15: 11)
The wonders to which Moses and the children of Israel refer include the parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh’s charioteers and armies, the plagues designed both to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go and to harden his heart, the pillar of cloud and the Angel of God moving between the children of Israel and the forces of Egypt.
Moses sings, “The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.”
Moses recalls his own rescue from death at birth. The midwives tell the king of Egypt who desires to curb the growth of Israel by killing all newborn sons that “Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before a midwife can get to them.” (Exodus 1: 19) Therefore, Moses’ mother has time to hide her son for three months before placing him in a papyrus basket and setting him among the reeds along the banks of the Nile. The basket is found by Pharaoh’s daughter, and Moses as a result grows up in the household of his enemy after being nursed by his own mother.
Moses praises God: “You lead the people You redeem with Your faithful love; You guide them to Your holy dwelling with Your strength.” (Exodus 15: 13)
“All things work together for good,” says Paul. Paul does not say that only some things work together for good, but all things. He includes those events which, on the surface, appear and feel terrible – the death of a loved one, the abandonment and betrayal of a spouse, the loss of employment, the straying of the heart, the end of good health. None of these happenings are welcome. No one seeks them.
God is the ultimate weaver, taking the broken painful bits of our lives and weaving these in with the less broken, even joyful bits to make a beautiful tapestry. Through all things, He perfects us.
We who belong to Christ are “led by God’s Spirit.” (Romans 8: 14) As His sons, “[we] do not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but [we] receive the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ ” (Romans 8: 15) Because God calls us “according to His purpose,” we know that He foreknows us, predestines us, conforms us to His image, justifies us, and glorifies us. (Romans 8: 28 – 30)
Since God does all these things for us, what have we to fear? asks Paul. Nothing. We have nothing to fear for God is on our side. “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus sets [us] free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8: 1 – 2)
We are free. Jesus says that He is the truth, and that as the truth, He sets us free.