Fr. Philip Eberhart
And who do YOU say that I AM?
There is a verse in the Bible, the book of Proverbs, where Solomon wrote, “Death and Life are in the Power of the Tongue.” This morning I want to look into the truth of that statement in the light of our readings.
The “tongue” in our bible is a powerful force and a lot of ink is given to comment on its power and its force in our lives. Just in the psalms and proverbs are nearly 70 references and in the NT another 50, most notably 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul is laying down the rules for those who “speak in a tongue” in church and James 3, our reading for this morning. Almost half of the references in the NT are accounted for in these two chapters about two very different applications of the power of what we speak.
To set the stage I want to simply make reference to a single quote of Isaiah 45:23 that appears twice in the NT:
Rom 14:11 For it is written, "AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD."
And Phil 2:10 actually 9-11
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Every tongue will confess – Every tongue will give praise!
What is the big deal about the tongue?
Well James captures it I think in the two illustrations he uses in this reading this morning.
The BIT and the RUDDER.
The tongues, he explains, is a small member in the overall scheme of things in the body, but it “boasts of great things.” The bit and the rudder are small parts of the grand scheme but they enable a control far beyond their relative size. Likewise the tongue, enables – it enkindles a flame, as James puts it, that sets the very world on fire.
Have you seen the news this week? A world on fire, set by the tongue?!! A video was the match, but the wind is driven by the tongues of thousands around the world, and flames are everywhere on our nightly news. I’m not making a judgment here on who is right or wrong but just drawing attention to the power of our speaking.
James really pulls no punches here as he talks about the vile evil that is found in the power of our speech – listen:
The very world of iniquity
Defiles the entire body
Sets on fire the course of our life
Is itself set on fire by hell!
No one can tame the tongue
It is restless evil
Full of deadly poison
With it we both bless and curse
We praise God and curse men!
Are you listening?
We must allow the Holy Spirit to change – to transform the power of our tongue! To transform what is described above into something that He can use for the good of the Kingdom… is that possible?
Step One: Confession
It begins in our hearts, with the turning from slavery to self, to the acknowledgment of God and of His Christ, Jesus, as Lord! Those verses from Isaiah are not an idle threat,
that God made one day – they are a promise to be fulfilled across all the earth – EVERY
How many is that?
This is where it begins as our hearts turn to Jesus. Paul reminds us in Romans 10:10
Actually lets read from verse 8
But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
What does it mean to CONFESS?
If you take the word that Paul uses, that is translated “confess” – it means to “say the same thing as another, ie. To agree with.” Paul actually uses a compound Greek word that literally means “SAME WORD.”
We confess with our mouth “Jesus is Lord!” The most simple and the first Creed of the Church! And the first creed of every believer must be those same words.
THE GREAT CONFESSION
Now let’s turn to Jesus question and Peter’s answer in the Gospel reading this morning.
"Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah.
Confession is to say WITH JESUS, what He has said about Himself. That is what happened here with Peter. He said with Jesus, what Jesus was saying about Himself.
Confession is the first step, but there are more steps! Confession is a sacramental reality.
Do you remember last week’s sermon or the definition of a sacrament from you catechism? A Sacrament is an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” Confession is an outward and “audible” sign of our inward and spiritual faith in Jesus! Paul says we are to confess with our mouths, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead. Isaiah says that every tongue will confess AND ???? Every knee will bow!
Our confession leads us to greater and greater action, both inward in our heart and outward as we bow in worship of Jesus as Lord and Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God and God in the flesh, who has come to dwell among us!
In this action we come to know by our experience what Jesus has said about himself and about the Father, “I and the Father are ONE.”
But there is more!!
Jesus goes on to explain the mission and ministry of the Son of Man to his disciples, and in almost the same breath, Peter denies all this, and he rebukes Jesus, for not doing it their way!! Of course the disciples had something completely different than a Cross in mind for Jesus! And again, almost in the same breath, Jesus, rebukes Peter with strong words,
“Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
How easy it is for us to get our vision off the ways and means of Jesus alone, and to begin adding in our own!! So Jesus began to teach his own three point sermon, to the disciples and to all that were standing around him at that moment:
A. Deny Themselves
B. Take up their cross
C. Follow Me.
Jesus here, challenges his disciples and those who were following him as Messiah – one of their own making, their own imagination and their own expectations –
In the synoptic Gospels, Matt, Mark and Luke, where these are paralleled, this story is the first mention by Jesus of His Cross to the disciples.
Imagine, you think that you are following a great Rabbi, perhaps even, you let yourself believe for a moment, as Peter did, that he might be the Messiah, the Christ…
And then he asks you, WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
Well, we think you may be the one who we have been waiting for… but…
Peter said it though… YOU ARE THE MESSIAH – THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.
And Jesus did not correct him! In fact Jesus blessed him and told him that such insight was not from him, but from the Father.
Then Jesus goes on to paint the full picture of who He is… and what He has come to do and how he has come to do it …
And Peter says, NO! NOT THAT.
Have you ever?
You do know that the words NO and LORD don’t – can’t – go in the same sentence!
They are an oxymoron – words that don’t fit together
Let me end with just the quote from Mark 8:35
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
Step One: Confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord!”
Step Two: Believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead
Step Three: Bow your knee in worship to Jesus, who is God and Lord of your life
Step Four: Give your life to Him to do with as He chooses – you have His permission to “lose it.” Lose it for HIM and for His Kingdom.
May we pray…
Please repeat phrase by phrase:
Almighty and eternal God,
So draw my heart to you
So guide my mind
So fill my imagination
So control my will
That I may be wholly Yours,
Utterly dedicated to You
And then use me, I pray You,
As You will
And always for Your glory
And for the welfare of Your people.
Through the Name of Jesus Christ,
My savior and My Lord.
(Book of Common Prayer, P. 832: A Prayer of Self-Dedication)