Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Who Do You Say I Am?" by Garris Elkins

We are at the beginning of an outpouring of God's presence that insightful voices are defining as the Third Great Awakening. This is an outpouring that will require us to be specific in our faith if we are to move in concert with the Holy Spirit. Heaven is waiting for the Church to profess our specific desire for Jesus' appearing in very clear and defined terms. Faith that is not specific has no testimony because it is a faith without risk.

When Jesus asked Peter the question, “But who do you say I am?”, Jesus was not asking Peter this question in the comfort of a living room or in the lobby of a church building. This question was asked in Caesarea Philippi, an area at the extreme northern end of Israel, almost at the border of Lebanon. Jesus had a reason to trek to this location to ask this profound question.

Caesarea Philippi had been a center of worship of false gods for thousands of years. The road leading to Caesarea Philippi was lined with shrines and idols of all the known false gods of the day. Roman, Greek and pagan gods stared at the disciples as Jesus led them into this region. In this area are the headwaters of the Jordan River. Mount Hermon rises nine thousand feet in the distance. Caesarea Philippi was a significant place.

In Caesarea Philippi there is a huge rock grotto that was dedicated to the worship of a false-god named Pan. Into the mouth of this grotto, Israelites sacrificed their children as they worshipped Baal. A huge rock wall rose above the opening of this cave-like natural space. Chiseled into this rock face were the nooks and openings where statues were placed representing every false god and political leader of that time. It was in this backdrop of religious and political powers that Jesus asked Peter, “But who do you say I am?”

Matthew 16: 13-17 reveals the conversation that took place that day between Jesus and Peter.

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am? 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah,the Son of the living God.”17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.”

With all the world powers and false gods looking down upon Peter from the rock wall above, Jesus asked Peter this question. Jesus was pressing Peter to define the image of Who He was to Peter in a very personal way.

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This was an accurate answer and one that still applies today, but this answer was also very specific as it related to Christ's ministry in that moment of history. Jesus was talking to a Jewish man and the word “Messiah” had a significant meaning to Peter and to the Jewish nation.

Years ago I remember a very popular Christian wall poster titled, “I AM”. This poster was multi-colored and contained some of the descriptive names of Jesus. These names appeared on the poster in descending order revealing Jesus as, “Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Holy One”, etc. The poster contained over 30 names for the Lord drawn from the scriptures. This poster is a collectors item today.

The name of Jesus is supernaturally powerful all by itself. When Peter was taken before the Council in Acts 4 to answer for the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate he commented on this powerful name;

Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene.” Acts 4: 9-10. In Acts 4 Jesus was depicted as, Jesus the Healer. His acts define His name.

When Jesus took the disciples to the northern most region of Israel I wonder if they might have asked each other along the way, “Why are we walking all the way up here?” This hike took several days to complete over dusty and difficult terrain. This question required that its answer be given in the unique context of Caesarea Philippi. Peter was asked this question with all the systems of darkness surrounding him and looking down upon him. His answer would declare that no matter what he faced in the coming days as he returned to Jerusalem that nothing, even his personal failures, would have power over his life. Death itself would soon succumb to the name of Jesus – Jesus, The Death Overcomer.

God has recently taken many believers to the farthest regions of their faith. This trek has been long and challenging. This has been a time of testing and, in some cases, doubt and discouragement. Could it be that God has brought you to this place and positioned you in the midst of all the world has to offer, so you can make a declaration about Jesus?

God brings us to these unfamiliar places to ask us a similar question, “Who do you say that I am?” How we answer is critical. If answered correctly, our answer will have a God-purpose attached to it that we will carry us into the future with expectancy. Our answer can literally change our entire perspective on life.

Who do you need Jesus to be at this time in your life? Do you need Him as your physical healer, then define Him as Jesus, My Healer. Do you need Him to be your provider, then call Him Jesus, My Provider. If you need Him to restore a relationship then call Him, Jesus, My Restorer. Invite a well-defined Jesus into your circumstance and your circumstance will begin to yield to His presence.

Recently, my wife Jan had a lot of things on her plate. Her to-do list was larger than normal. As I was writing this article, Jan said to me, “I was feeling overwhelmed early this morning at all the little things I had to do. I did not want to begin anything and just felt too tired. I thought about what you had just spoken concerning the words of Jesus, 'Who do you say that I am?' In my heart I heard 'The bright, Morning Star' and 'The Faithful One.' I responded, 'Jesus, You are the bright, Morning Star and the Faithful One.' Immediately the heaviness lifted, the tiredness was gone.”

Our lives are waiting for our profession of a clearly-defined Jesus. Life can feel like the formless void on the day of Creation. On that day all the elements were waiting for the Word of the Lord to come and bring order and assemble each of them around what God had spoken.

Jesus told Peter that the revelation of Who He was did not come from human intellect or speculation. Jesus was defined for Peter by the Father, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.” Peter heard this revelation from the Father and repeated it to Jesus in response to His question.

This kind of revelation is available to every Christ-follower because our Father has done everything in His power to insure that we hear His heart for our lives. The revelation of Jesus is waiting in heaven to be downloaded upon the earth and it is available for each of us in this unique time in human history. We will not receive this truth from the false gods and political agendas that surround us, rather, we will receive it from God, our Father. This revelation is ready to be released into our lives by the confession of our mouth. Our words, birthed from the very heart of God and empowered by His Spirit, will transform how we our see our future and how we respond to the present.

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