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Mt 16:21-28 · Ro 12:9-21 · Ex 3:1-15 · Ps 105
This Week's Sermons

The Lure of the Easy Way
Matthew 16: 21-28

I like the story of the young man, eager to make it to the top, who went to a well-known millionaire businessman and asked him the first reason for his success. The businessman answered without hesitation, "Hard work." After a lengthy pause the young man asked, "What is the SECOND reason?"

We want to deal this morning with the lure of the easy way. Jesus and His disciples were at Caesarea Philippi. Their ministry to this point had been a stunning success. Crowds pressed in on them everywhere they went. People eagerly reached out to touch this attractive young teacher from Nazareth. The disciples themselves were caught up in the excitement of it all. Jesus asked them, "Who do you say I am?" and Simon Peter answered enthusiastically, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" It was one of the most dramatic moments in the disciples' pilgrimage with Jesus.

Then Jesus changed the subject. He began to tell them that the crowds would soon turn against Him; He would be crucified, on the third day he would be raised. The disciples didn't know what to make of all this. Simon Peter took Jesus aside: "Forbid it, Lord, that these things should happen to you." Jesus' response to Simon Peter is as harsh as any words in the New Testament: "Get behind me Satan! You are not on the side of God but of man."

Perhaps Jesus called Simon Peter ‘Satan’ because of Jesus' experience in the wilderness immediately after His baptism by John. In today's parlance, it was there that Satan revealed to Jesus the way to make a million dollars in three easy steps turn stones to bread, leap off the pinnacle of the temple, "Bow down and worship me!" I see Satan not as a red caped figure with a pitchfork but dressed in a $900 suit and offering in a glib and polished tongue instant success, instant glamour, instant gratification. We can see Satan almost anywhere today. Jesus encountered him this time in Simon Peter: "Forbid it, Lord, that you should have to suffer and die."

If there is any doubt that Jesus is resisting the lure of the easy way, listen to the words that follow: "If any man would be my disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

We are the devotees of the easy way even though everyone in this room knows two important truths.
  1. The Path to Personal Success Is that of Self-Denial.
  2. Self-Denial Is Essential to the Salvation of the World.
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Leonard Sweet's Sermon

Five Mission Killers
Matthew 16:21 - 28

Although autumn does not officially start until September 23, we all know that this weekend, Labor Day Weekend, signals the end of summer. The "holiday" season is over. It is time to "get back to work" Tuesday morning. And we all, all generations, know it — whether we are in kindergarten class or on a corporate totem pole. After Labor Day it is "business as usual." No more holidays.

Holidays used to be "holy days," times to mark the moment by calendar days which paid special attention to historic happenings, commemorated special events, and celebrated significant milestones. Instead of acknowledging the sacrifice of the saints, this weekend is all about one last barbecue, one last swim in the lake, or maybe one last packing up a kid heading off to college. It is a "holiday" that is important, but not really a "holy day."

One of the least celebrated, but most participated in "holidays" in the United States falls on April 17, although it is "moveable feast," depending on who is in office and how active our politicians. It will probably get pushed back a few days more in the next several years, but right now the "holiday" of note falls on April 17.

Anyone know what I’m talking about? It is "Tax Freedom Day." From January 1 through April 17 all the income you earn goes to pay your taxes. Not a fun fact. But as of April 17, or 18, or 19, depending upon your tax bracket, you are free. For the rest of the year you are working, and earning a living, to support your own family, to pay down your own mortgage, to keep your own bills from taking over your life. But for 107 days of the year, everyone is working to pay off their taxes. And we’re not the only ones. Someone described London as filled with "the exhausted, the timid. The burgled, raped, assaulted. Overtaxed. Under­rewarded. Choked on thin air. Allergic to everything."

Not good. Yet that is definitely NOT the biggest crimp in our lives. The tax crunch is not the biggest elephant­in-the­room blocking our creativity and missional life. We might spend 107 days or almost one third of a year paying off our federal tax bills, but we spend the rest of the year, except for a few brief "holiday" moments, paying "time taxes." Life imposes "time taxes"...

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