21 From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised again.  22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “May you receive mercy, Lord! This will never happen to you.”  23 But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a snare to me because you are not thinking the things of God, but the things of men.”  24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 In fact whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 After all, what will it benefit a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what can a person give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew 16:21-26

“You always get your way!”  When you hear this statement it probably is said with a bit of excitement in their voice.  But, if you are working with people to try and “get your way,” there are a couple of positive approaches you might consider. 1) Ask nicely—when you ask the one your love in a nice way it will make getting what you want much easier.  2) Give what you want to receive—if you want more attention, then give more attention.  3) Remember to smile—the first person to get angry loses.  Now imagine what would happen if you would use just these three little helps in trying to “get your way.”  If you’ve ever stuck your foot in your mouth because you’re bold, boisterous and leaping before you leap to try and get your way, you probably only opened your mouth only to exchange feet!

Peter had this problem plenty of times.  Yes, last week we heard Peter make a fine confession that Jesus is the Son of God and the Rock of our salvation.  But as soon as Jesus began talking about going to Jerusalem to suffer and die, 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “May you receive mercy, Lord! This will never happen to you. Jesus shocked his disciples by his reply, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a snare to me because you are not thinking the things of God, but the things of men.  We get Jesus’ point!  Peter wanted things his way, but Jesus wanted things God’s way.  If Peter was going to block Jesus’ path to the cross, then he was working for the devil.  Or putting this into our way of talking, Peter wanted things to go his way instead of God’s way.  Jesus illustrates for Peter, the disciples, and us this important Christian truth for us to know: 

Follow the Right Way—God’s Way!

That Offers Security  

Do opposites really attract one another?  I attended a meal in Chicago last January at the Leadership Conference.  Those invited to this meal took a bus from the hotel to a wonderful restaurant.  During the time we spent in mixing with each other I noticed how those who enjoyed hunting all seemed to gather together to share their hunting stories.  I have hardly given hunting a thought my whole life, but being with this group of men I realized that I had to totally change my normal way of thinking in order to “fit in.”  So, I told some amazing fishing stories. They weren’t impressed.  Jesus said something so life changing, so totally different from the way people usually talk and think, we can hardly comprehend how opposite it really is. 25 In fact whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  Did you see what Jesus just did?  He took his divine spatula and flipped over everything the world tries to impress you with.  He turns weaknesses into virtues, losing into finding, darkness into light, and down is up!  How can there be security in putting aside everything that we would use to improve our condition?  How can we give up status, possessions, our place, our energy and our ego in exchange for humility?  Those who want excitement in life, who want a challenge, who want to move up in the world would tell you that humility is a lack of courage and strength!  It would sound like this, “You’re crazy to lie down and let people walk all over you!”

So, are you ready to believe and confess that Following God’s Way can indeed come from security and not weakness?  Luca Doncic is the new Mavericks all-star.  If he decided to show up at Calvary Lutheran School to put on a basketball clinic for the upper grade boy’s basketball team, he would not have to take on each student one-on-one and drive them into the ground to prove what a great player he is.  He would not have to slam dunk the ball 10 times on top of their heads to prove how powerful he is.  All he would have to do is show up and show kindness and humility—not out of weakness, but out of security knowing who he is and what he can do.   That would make a huge impression!

That’s what Jesus wanted his disciples to learn:  Going God’s Way is the courageous act by which we give up all claims of our own way of thinking, our own natural way of doing things, in order to be more firmly grounded on God’s way of doing things. 25 In fact whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  Your life is securely saved in heaven! Lose the hold you have on this earthly life!  When you let loose of the earthly things of this life, you will have a whole new outlook on the purpose of having the things we have—that is to use all things for Jesus’ sake.  Such a life from Christ, in Christ, and for Christ is a life that is secure.

Look at Jesus for the perfect example.  The 5,000 who he fed chased after him to make Jesus their bread king.  A year later they were willing to march up to Jerusalem with Jesus to take it over from the Romans.  Given a choice of a cross of shame or a crown of glory, which one would you have chosen?   Our sinful nature always picks the crown so it can have its own way.  But, Jesus was committed to only one thing—doing things God’s way—the way of humility to the cross.  His humility did not come from weakness but from the security of knowing exactly who he was and what he came to do.  Jesus Followed God’s Way—the Right Way—that offered complete security. 

When Jesus said, 25 In fact whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it, Peter didn’t get it right away.  But, he did after Jesus hung on the awful cross and rose again on Easter Day.  Then he realized Jesus gave us his life to gain eternal life for us all.  Peter recalled how he had betrayed Jesus, trying to force his way instead of Jesus’ way—Oh, what a rat he’d been! But, the risen Lord wrapped his arms around Peter and said, “You’re sins have all been paid for.  I did this all for you.  It was God’s way that gives you complete security.  Peter was a new man.  Now he lived what Jesus had said, “Losing his life and for Jesus’ sake finding it.”  Now he had security in knowing exactly who he was—God’s own dear child.  Do you see the irony?  When you lose you gain!  Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you!” So, go ahead and lose to gain!

How would you describe an insecure person today?  You can usually see who they really are a mile away!  They bully and push and fight to get things done their own way.  According to Psychology Today, insecure people 1) Try to get you to question your own self-worth—they try to make you feel insecure, too.  2) They showcase their own achievements—Bragging about their own achievements in order to convince themselves that they have self-worth.  3) The “Humblebrag”  You’ve all seen these on Facebook—when someone complains about all the travel she has to take (due to the importance of her job).  4) Things are never good enough—asserting their high standards as a way saying they’re better than everyone else.  But, our true security comes from knowing and believing in God’s verdict: So then, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).  Those who are insecure will constantly attack our security in Christ, for taking our faith seriously, making decisions that are in line with God’s Holy Word, to give up personal gain in order to remain in God’s family because we know and believe God’s Way is the Right Way that Made Us Secure!  And that

Leads to True Service

When it came to Following God’s Way, Jesus didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk!  21 From that time, Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised again.  Jesus showed his disciples what it means to Follow God’s Way that Lead to True Service.  While there may be some benefit in service to others, true service does look to serve yourself, or serving just how we want to serve.  True Service means serving those around us and recognizing that we are ultimately serving God.

Many people know what these words Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage mean. But how often do you see someone actually live up to them, or commit to them as their core value system? Soldiers learn these values in detail during Basic Combat Training (BCT), from then on they live them every day in everything they do — whether they’re on the job or off. So, what does it look like to be a soldier of God?  Listen to Jesus, 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Jesus’ selfless service was always for the benefit of others.  He lived his perfect life for you.  He died for you because he was thinking about you more than he thought of himself.  If ever the values of this world have been turned upside down, it happened in the selfless service of Jesus Christ whose throne was a cross and crown was made of thorns for all for you!

Likewise Jesus calls to us.  Now is the time to repent for the times when we did not take up our own cross, but wanted to go our own way.  Now is the time for us to take up the cross of Jesus and confess, “Dear Jesus, you went God’s way for me and now I want to go God’s way for you!” What does this look like?  It’s not simply promoting little acts of self-denial: giving up a $5 cup of coffee and putting it into the offering plate; rather than going out to a movie, come to church and do some deep cleaning.  No, taking up our cross and following Jesus is a whole way of life.  It is trusting that our security comes from Jesus, who loved us to death!  Trust in Jesus who made your life secure!

This security stirs up our hearts on the inside so that we can reflect that security to others.  This security gives parents the patience to put down Facebook in order to have face to face time with their kids to talk about Covid-19, school and the future secure in Jesus.  God’s gift of security gives people with hurt feelings the patience to say, “I won’t retaliate.”  God’s security gives people in positions of leadership the confidence to lead by giving of themselves to others and knowing their selfless service will gain the confidence, respect and support of others. 

“You always get your way!”  Rather than a complaint this statement can be a fine confession of faith!  Truth be told, God does always get his way.  The question that remains is this:  will you follow?  It took some time for Peter to learn that following God’s Way is way better than following his own way.  But, after he Followed the Right Way—God’s Way, he gained true security as he served others.  The same Peter who said, “May you receive mercy, Lord! This will never happen to you, is the same Peter who was inspired to write: 1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another. Show sympathy, brotherly love, compassion, and humility.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. Instead, speak a blessing, because you were called for the purpose of inheriting a blessing. Imagine that!  Peter telling us to have humility!  Perhaps Peter was recalling his denial at Jesus’ trial, and his reinstatement into ministry when he wrote in 1 Peter 5:6 “Therefore humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand so that he may lift you up at the appointed time.  Peter learned what it means to Follow the Right Way—God’s Way, and he gained true security as he served others.  What a difference following God’s Way made for him.  What a difference it has made for you.  Keep going God’s Way, because God’s Way is the Right Way!  Amen!