When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:13-18
When I was an early teen, my older sister came out of the closet as being a lesbian. We lived in a very, very small town - in fact, our entire county had one stoplight. We were in the heart of coal country in the mountains. It was the type of place that when something happened, everyone knew about it, so everyone quickly learned about my sister.
As you might imagine, what they said about my sister and my family was not kind. For this reason and a few other reasons I will not get into, it is safe to say that I felt like an outcast. They were on the inside; I was on the outside. I felt like I didn’t belong within the confines of my small town. Like most teenagers, I had a lot of angst.
After my baptism at 15, I started attending youth group regularly. I loved it. I loved being with friends and I loved hearing more about Jesus. He seemed to be a friend of sinners and I fit that description so, in my mind, it was a good fit. One night at youth group, the youth pastor began talking about AIDS. It was the 80’s. AIDS was a scary virus and not much was known about it except that it was deadly. He went on to say that AIDS was God’s way of ridding the world of homosexuals.
As you might imagine, because my sister was a homosexual and because everyone knew about it, my face turned 50 shades of red. I felt so much shame in that moment; tears began to fill my eyes. I could feel the eyes of everyone staring at me and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I thought that Jesus and I were cool but obviously I was sorely mistaken.
I walked out of that church and didn’t step foot in one (aside from obligatory funerals) for a long, long time. I believed what my youth pastor had said about God and because of this I thought that He must be angry, disapproving of me, and, if he wanted to kill my sister, I didn’t think I could follow Him. I loved my sister, no matter what.
“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”
This question that Jesus posed to the disciples is the most important question that we will answer still today. For too long, I let others tell me who Jesus was. Instead of finding out for myself by spending time with God and reading His Word, I believed what others said. Because of this, I spent years of my life doing everything I could to avoid Christians.
Being connected to a church community, attending regularly on Sundays, and studying God’s Word with others are crucial parts of coming to know Him. But nothing takes the place of our time alone with Him, sitting humbly in silence with His Word before us, learning for ourselves who Jesus is and who He is not. Even people that we trust can be wrong about Jesus. It’s important to measure everything that we hear against what we find in God’s Word.
Please don’t let anyone tell you who God really is. Find out for yourself.
As we walk with God and mature in Him, we can unconsciously come to believe that we know everything there is to know about God. We wouldn’t admit this, of course, but this attitude often comes across as we deal with others. Ask God to humble you and to reveal new things about His character.
Anne Lamott wrote, “You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Think about a person or group of people that you do not like. (Come on, we all have them). Confess your hard feelings to God and ask Him to bring you into a meaningful relationship with someone who is part of this group. Couple this prayer with an action to make this a reality in your life.
Lord, thank You for loving me enough to pursue me and to show me who You are. God, I never want to believe things about You that are not true but I recognize that I am human and that I’m prone to deception. Please continue to show me the truth of who You are and protect me from false beliefs. Also, Lord, I pray for all of those people who are actively believing things about You that are keeping them from You. Thank You for Your pursuit of them as well. In Jesus name. Amen.
PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.