“Get away from me, Satan! … You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Jesus to Peter when Peter tries to talk Jesus out of the cross, from Mark 8:33, NLT)
In August, I preached on this passage of Scripture where Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is. In Mark 8:29, Peter nails it with “You are the Messiah.” The next verse shows that Jesus immediately told them not to tell anyone else about it. Then, in what seems like a change of subject, we read that Jesus begins to teach them that the Son of Man has to actually suffer and face death. The disciples, who have heard him confirm that he IS the Messiah, are upset because they’ve been taught all about the Messiah all their lives: The Messiah is supposed to come and destroy Israel’s enemies. The Messiah reigns as conqueror! The Messiah can’t die at the hands of the Romans… It’s not supposed to work that way!
So when Peter tries to reprimand Jesus (Yes… it says “reprimand”), Jesus denounces him. He actually uses the word “Satan” to describe Peter because the word “Satan” is not just a name, it’s also means “accuser” or “opponent” in Greek. Peter has set himself against Jesus and is tempting Jesus to be the human idea of a Messiah… There’s no reason to suffer or face death on a cross. Peter is opposing Jesus and trying to get Jesus to do things the way everyone expects him to.
My point that day, which apparently threw some folks off, was that we, like Jesus, need to see things GOD’S way, not just the way our traditions have taught us. Far too often we in the church are like Peter and the disciples who have trouble seeing things the way God sees them.
To illustrate that, I tried to talk about how people have become concerned that Christianity’s numbers of worshipers and members have fallen since the 1950s. Simply put, there are less people in the pews. My contention that day was that those falling numbers don’t really tell us the spiritual story the way God sees it. You see, back in the ‘50s, it was a socially acceptable and expected thing that people who were worth anything, of course would go to church. Even non-Christians went to church because it was expected and people thought less of them if they didn’t attend. So Christianity’s numbers were much bigger. Now-a-days however, if they don’t really want to go to church, there really isn’t a social expectation that they will go. You go because you want to. I tried to suggest that going to church because you want to, because you love Jesus Christ and want to worship him, is a much better reason to attend. And so the statistical numbers that say Christianity is fading aren’t real. Yes, we have fewer people in the pews, but hopefully they are people who are really Christians, not just people who were shamed into attending church. In fact, we’re better when we’re NOT shaming people into church worship services.
Seeing church attendance as something you HAVE TO do is seeing things the way the world sees (or at least saw) it back 60 some years ago. But there is a better way… seeing things from God’s perspective. God wants people in church because they love him and WANT TO worship him. That’s why there are texts like these, clear back in the Old Testament: “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (David to God, from Psalm 51:16-17, NLT).
Let’s make sure we look at things from God’s point-of-view, whether it’s about church attendance, responding to God when he wants us to do something different than the way we planned, or anything else that comes our way.