Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. In Matthew chapter 16, Jesus revealed to Peter that he was the Son of the living God.
The same can be true for you and me. Following the crowd is not enough. Like Peter, we must answer the question, what do you think of Christ? From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win, with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, today we conclude our look at a pivotal moment for Peter, when he acknowledged Christ as the Son of God, and when Christ conferred on him the keys to the kingdom. There's no doubt that Jesus Christ gave special authority to the apostles. But thankfully, there's also evidence in the New Testament that that kind of authority has been passed on to other believers. And today we have the responsibility of representing Christ, and the good news is that he is always with us. And by the way, in answer to the question, who do men say that I am, if you listen to the ministry of Running to Win, you know that we always exalt Jesus as the Son of God, God of very God. Would you help us get this message to others? We're so thankful for the many of you who support the ministry of Running to Win. Consider becoming an endurance partner.
That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. Of course, that's all one word, rtwoffer.com.
And when you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now let us be reminded of the authority of Jesus given to his followers. But if the church is built upon Peter, he can't be the primary foundation, because elsewhere it says no foundation has ever been laid, but that which is Jesus Christ.
To build the church on a man would be to build on the sand, for sure. But also, even if we say that in some respects the church is built on Peter, two comments must be very quickly made. First of all, there's no evidence that his authority is transferable. And secondly, there's no evidence that it's been transferred to what is generally called today the papacy.
That whole stream of tradition grew up quite independently of New Testament teaching. But Jesus does give Peter a very important responsibility. He says in verse 19, I will give you the keys of the kingdom. Whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. What are these keys? Well, you know that the purpose of keys, of course, is to make sure that you can get in a door or you can close a door.
You can lock it so nobody can pass through it. And Jesus is saying, Peter, you are going to have some keys by which my kingdom is going to be opened and extended. And of course, we look at the Book of Acts and we can see how clearly this was fulfilled. There was Peter not just on the day of Pentecost preaching to a large crowd of people, leading them to faith in Christ. But in addition, when the gospel was going to go to the Gentiles, such as to Cornelius, God used Peter and showed him that now these narrow views that the gospel is only for the house of Israel need to be blown apart and that the Gentiles would be also heirs of eternal life. And later on, the apostle Paul became used of God as a minister to the Gentiles to show that from now on, the keys of the kingdom are worldwide. What does it mean when it says, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven? Whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven? By the way, that statement is not just made to Peter. It is made to all the disciples.
This was not something special. You say, well, how do you know that? Take your Bible and turn it just one page to chapter 18, verse 18.
18, 18. Notice that Christ is speaking now to all the disciples and says the very same thing. You know, in English, the word you can be either plural or singular. Here it is plural in Greek. Christ is saying 18, verse 18, and here the southerners have an advantage because they can take singulars and make them into plurals and we can understand it more clearly. Truly, I say to you, whatever you all shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven. And whatever you all loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
It's plural. It refers to all the disciples. And Jesus is saying that the disciples have the responsibility of binding, means to forbid, loosing means to permit, that they are given authority and this authority is extended to local congregations of being able to expand the kingdom of God through preaching, through teaching, and through witnessing, and also to exercise discipline so that those who are not approved by God may be told so and that they might know where they stand. It does not mean that we on earth have the ability to forgive sins as if to say we are taking the prerogative that belongs to God. But we do have the ability to preach the word. We do have the ability to give assurance to those who need assurance of salvation through faith in Christ and also to warn those who have not trusted Christ as Savior regarding their destiny. So this is really something that has been expanded not just to Peter but to the entire church.
First of all, the opinion of the crowd. Oh, he's this. He's a prophet. He's a great teacher. He's this and he's that. Peter, what is your opinion of Christ? Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Peter, you saw this insight because my Father has been at work in your heart. It isn't just because you were brought up Christian. You know, there's some people who think that the reason that a person is a Christian is because he's brought up in a Christian family. Well, that may help because God may use that influence, but nobody is ever born a Christian. You know, it is sometimes said here in the city of Chicago that the only way you can make sure that your car has a parking place is to buy a car that is already parked. And that might not be too bad an idea. And the same way some people think, well, the only way that you can become a Christian is to belong to the right family.
The answer is no. If you come back next week, we're going to be sharing testimonies with some of the new members who are going to join Moody Church, and you will find that there were many who were converted as adults from different faiths without a Christian background. And of course, all of us know that there are those who are brought up in Christian environments who have never savingly believed on Jesus Christ, because ultimately it isn't those influences, it is whether God has worked in your heart and you have responded to the work and the ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit. And that's why I now come to a third opinion.
Opinion of the crowds, the opinion of Peter. What do you think of Christ? What is your opinion? What do you say of him?
I want you to grasp something of the total unavoidability of Christ. Nobody can be neutral about him. Now, there may be some politician and you're neutral about him.
Are you for him or against him? And it's a little bit of both, right? With Jesus, it can't be that way. And the reason that it can't be is because he made such fantastic claims that no one can avoid those claims.
As C.S. Lewis has pointed out, either he is a liar when he said, no man comes on to the father, but by me, and he has the ability to forgive sins. Think about that. You know, if you have wronged me and you come to me and ask forgiveness, I can forgive you for the sins that you have done against me. But let us suppose that you have wronged someone else. Can I forgive you the sins that you have done against someone else?
I don't think that you'd accept that for a moment. Yet Jesus did that. He could say to people who had wronged others, thy sins be forgiven thee because he recognized that all wrongs ultimately are wrongs against God.
And he had the right and the authority to clear their record. So what is he? Is he a liar? Is he a lunatic making these astounding claims? Is he just a legend? Is all this just made up? Well, we have too much historical evidence for anyone to accept that. Or is he Lord? Those are your options.
Those are your options. But that doesn't mean that confronted with all this, you can't find some way to wiggle out from under it. Because as I mentioned a moment ago, it is not simply a matter of argumentation. It is a matter of the work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart because all the evidence in the world cannot convince someone who is absolutely determined not to believe.
And why is it that we by nature are determined not to believe? It's because we know that if Jesus is Messiah and if Jesus is Christ, the son of the living God, we now have no option. We must worship him. We must come to receive salvation. And our only response is to yield to his authority and to his will and to recognize his exclusivity that there can be no other allegiances, no room for other religions, no room for contradictory beliefs. Christ is who he says he is and he becomes the focus of our thoughts, of our minds and of our hearts. And if you're here today and you've believed on him, you know the words of the song, I need no other argument.
I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died and that he died for me. Do you confess him today as Messiah, as son of a living God? I'm not talking about the words just because there are many people who say, yes, that's the faith in which I was brought up. And so Jesus Christ becomes a part of a creed or he becomes a part of a vague, undefined theological commitment.
That's not what I am talking about because I want you to know that I'm speaking about your personal faith in this Messiah so that he is not only the Christ, the son of the living God, but he is the Christ for you personally because you have seen him to be yours and to be your savior. Benjamin Franklin. You remember the great revivalist Whitfield became a friend of Franklin's and they spent many hours together. Sometimes when Benjamin Franklin was interested in Whitfield, he actually went to hear Whitfield preach in places like Philadelphia and walked away just to see how far Whitfield's voice would actually carry because he spoke to crowds of up to 20 and 25,000 people without a microphone. One day near his death, Benjamin Franklin said, Whitfield often prayed that I would be converted, but he said, Whitfield has not lived to see his prayers answered. Just before Benjamin Franklin died, a man by the name of Ezra Stiles, who was the president of Yale University, asked Franklin what his opinion was of the divinity of Jesus. And Franklin said, I do not believe that he is really divine, though he said, I shall not take out time now to investigate it because soon I shall know for certain, referring of course to his impending death. You look at a man like Benjamin Franklin and you say, what a brilliant man, but also what a fool. What a fool. No time to investigate on the very issue where your eternal destiny forever and ever depends.
And you're saying you don't want to be bothered with investigation. How wonderful it would have been if he would have investigated and through that investigation, God would have worked in his heart and he would have confessed with Peter, thou art the Christ, the son of the living God. But I need to stress again, I'm not talking about a verbal confession of the creed.
I'm talking about a heartfelt, affectionate, life changing belief. Helmut Tillichy, the great theologian, said that as a boy, he was driving through Southern Germany on a bike trip and was very hungry, ravenously hungry because he did not have breakfast and at mid morning he came to a little village and there was a shop and on the window was written hot rolls. He thought, oh, you could hardly wait to get off of his bike. Already his gastric juices were beginning to develop within his body. When he got in, he discovered that they never sold hot rolls at all.
It was just a print shop and they had the sign out there to show the various kinds of lettering they were able to produce. You know, that's the way some people are. Oh, yes, Christ. Yes, the son of the living God.
Yes, sounds good. Now, who's going to win the primary? Words without heartfelt affection, without understanding that not just that Jesus died as Messiah, but that he died for me and that I am his because he has redeemed me. Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.
Pilate asked, what then think ye of Christ? And I ask you that today because I want you to know that if Jesus is Lord, your destiny in hell or in heaven is forever irrevocably determined by your relationship to him. No church can save you. No creed can save you. No religious commitment can save you.
No desire to do better can save you. Only the miracle of God, thou art the Christ, the son of the living God. Have you believed like that? Are you willing to let God work in your heart to show you the truth? Let him speak to you right now and let's pray. Our Father, we thank you today for the revelation of your truth in the scripture. We thank you for Peter who saw the light and because he saw the light, his name belongs to you forever. Lord, we think of those who are in this congregation who have heard your word over and over and over again. Oh God, remove the blinders.
Remove the rationalizations. I pray that you might take from all of us the natural stubbornness and reluctance of the heart and help us to see you for who you are. Grant us that Lord because we are needy.
Now before I close this prayer, I want you to pray whether you're listening by radio or here in this auditorium. Have you grasped Christ for yourself? Would you open your life to him and say, Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief. I want your Holy Spirit to save me right now.
Would you do that? Why don't you talk to him, pray to him, open your life to him. Father, the word's been preached. The miracle's up to you. I've done what is possible.
You must do the impossible. We leave every single person who has listened to this message in your hands. From here on, we are helpless. We have come to the edge of the abyss and now it's your turn. In Jesus' name, amen. So my friend, if you've never savingly believed on Jesus Christ, this is the moment to do so. Right now, you bow to receive his forgiveness and his lordship.
Become a Christ follower. What delights my heart, among many other things, is the fact that running to win has a very wide reach. You might not know, but we actually are in Arabic all throughout the Middle East. We're in some of the countries in Africa.
As I frequently have mentioned, more than 20 different countries in four different languages, all because of people like you. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That means that you are, in effect, joining the running to win family, holding our hands as together we continue to expand this ministry. Of course, you need info, so here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com. And when you're there, click on the endurance partner button. Or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. I hope you had an opportunity to write that information down. If not, let me give it to you again. Go to rtwoffer.com. Of course, rtwoffer is all one word.
When you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Today's question, Dr. Lutzer, comes to us from Eileen, and she lives in Illinois. She asks, were demon-possessed people in Jesus' day more obvious than today? Were people with mental illness lumped into the demon-possessed category?
Well, that's a very good question, and the answer, I think, is yes. I have no doubt that when Jesus was here on earth, there was really an extended amount of demonic activity. Just think of it from the demonic point of view, okay?
Jesus comes, the devil knows that he is the Son of God, and he wants to oppose all that Jesus is doing, and so I have no doubt that the devil began to concentrate his activity in Israel where Jesus was, and maybe that's why every time Jesus turned around almost, it seems as if there was another demon. But having said that, in answer to the second part of your question, was mental illness lumped in with this? Yes, to some extent it was, and the biblical diagnosis is correct. When we read that Jesus cast out a demon from a man who was demented, such as in Mark chapter 5, that actually did happen. Now, I'm not prepared to say, of course, that all mental illness is demon possession.
In fact, I think we ought to back away from that because we're beginning to discover that there are many different causes of it. But I do think that if we were more sensitive to the work of Satan and recognized him with discerning eyes and ears, we might be able to help a lot of people who appear to be mentally ill. That's an area in which, of course, there is a tremendous amount of concern and discernment that is needed. Now, the thing that you must recognize, Eileen, is that Satan can do a lot more damage to sinning saints than most people realize. You know, there is a debate as to whether or not demons can inhabit Christians. Well, it appears probably not since we are also inhabited by the Holy Spirit. But let us never underestimate the amount of influence that Satan can have in the lives of Christians who toy with sin. And God uses Satan to discipline us when we stray.
So all the time, we need to come back to the Father, back to God, back to yieldedness, and put on that armor that we might stand against the wiles of the devil. Thank you, Eileen, for that question and Dr. Lutzer for that answer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to rtwoffer.com on the web and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Many inviting rabbit trails try to pull us off the main track, but believers know not to be sidelined by lesser matters. Next time on Running to Win, we focus on a defining moment for Peter, the point where he acknowledges that apart from Christ, there is nowhere else to go. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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