In 1992, Carolyn and I had the opportunity to travel and minister in Israel for seven weeks. We met new friends, saw many sites, and learned much about Israel and Bible history.
During that trip, we spent a few days in the northern Galilee region. We traveled through the Jordan River valley and the region of Caesarea Philippi to the top of Mount Hermon. The scenery is breathtaking, and the region is full of Bible history.
We took a wrong turn trying to get to the top of Mount Hermon, which took us to the Syrian border and an Israeli army checkpoint—they weren’t happy that we “wandered” into this contentious area! They politely, but sternly, directed us to the right road and warned us to be careful—warning taken.
On our way to Mount Hermon, we also stopped at the ruins of Caesarea Philippi, on the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Both Mark and Matthew mention this city in their gospels.
Last week, I wrote about “blurred perspective,” in my blog and message titled “I see men like trees walking.” I discussed the two-step miracle healing of a blind man in Bethsaida, a town on the north shores of the Sea of Galilee. From this miracle story, Mark’s gospel narrative has Jesus and the disciples leaving Bethsaida for the villages of Caesarea Philippi, followed by a discussion as to who Jesus is.
When Carolyn and I drove this route, it took nearly two hours by car from the north shores of Galilee to the ruins of Caesarea Philippi. Imagine how long it would have taken Jesus and the disciples to walk this route. Why would Jesus take the disciples away from the Galilee to travel to this mountainous region?
I believe Jesus wanted to remove them from their daily routine and give them a “higher perspective” on his kingdom mission and messiahship. Mark’s gospel has now reached a “turning point,” the emphasis now is upon Jesus’ role as the Messiah. (see Mark 8:27-33)
Who do men say that I am?
Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” “So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” (Mark 8:28 NKJV) The crowd had different revelations of who Jesus was. Some thought he was John the Baptist, a type of holiness preacher. Still others thought Jesus was Elijah, a miracle-working prophet. Matthew’s gospel adds, Jeremiah, the prophet who warned and wept over Judah. All different revelations of Jesus, partial perspectives as to who he really is.
Remember, the blind man saw people, but they looked like trees walking about; the crowds saw Jesus, but they had a blurred perspective of who He really is.
Mark continues with Jesus asking another question of the disciples, He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29 NKJV) You are the Messiah. You are the one, foretold by the prophets, who would lead Israel into a national revival of holiness and back to true worship of Yahweh. The miracles declare that you are the Messiah.
Matthews narrative adds Jesus as saying to Peter, “flesh and blood has not revealed this… but My Father who is in heaven…” (Matt. 16:17 NKJV)
Peter’s revelation of Jesus is profound, Holy Spirit has revealed this to him, and Mark’s narrative indicates that Peter is emerging from his spiritual blindness. BUT, Peter’s understanding of Jesus as Messiah is limited—he couldn’t see the higher perspective, nor the cross facing Jesus.
Jewish tradition held that the Messiah had to do three things when he arrived: 1) rebuild or cleanse the temple; 2) defeat the enemy that was threatening God’s people; 3) and bring God’s miracle power to Israel and to the world.
Jesus has done all these through his death and resurrection! The Jewish leaders of the day and most of Israel couldn’t see the truth of Jesus’ mission and nature.
A Blurred Perspective Rebukes Jesus!
Peter, the disciples, and even the crowds who followed had a wrong view of the Messiah’s role. They were expecting a political ruler who would overthrow Rome and restore Israel to its former glory.
Peter was unable to receive the openly spoken word that the Messiah must suffer many things, be rejected by the Jewish religious leaders, killed, and then rise from the dead after three days. (Mark 8:32)
BUT Peter rebukes Jesus for this revelation! After all, who wants a dead Messiah, when you are expecting the new King of Israel! That raising from the dead thing Jesus, it doesn’t fit my understanding or my theology!
Jesus responds by addressing all the disciples, “Get behind me Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33) Peter, you are being influenced by evil thoughts! Your reasoning is humanistic, not of God! Your understanding is still limited Peter, your perspective is still blurred.
21st Century View of Jesus
How does society see Jesus?
Perhaps as compassionate, caring, and inclusive? Perhaps Jesus is viewed as savior—but not as Lord? Perhaps society views Jesus only through the lens of social issues and care for the poor? Maybe as just another religious teacher, or perhaps as a former miracle worker.
How does society see the Church?
Perhaps as loving and caring? Maybe, but most people don’t see the church in this way—polls support this. Society largely views the Church as hypocritical, unloving, and non-inclusive.
The Church has a responsibility to represent Jesus as He truly is. But if our perspective of Jesus is blurred, we may misrepresent Him to others!
How do you see Jesus?
Is he just a teacher, a prophet, or a miracle worker? Perhaps he is a savior, a chance for heaven? Maybe you see him as Lord of your life?
Is your vision of Jesus one of love and compassion? Or do you see Jesus as harsh and judgmental? Are you prepared to follow the “actual Jesus” at all costs?
How we perceive Jesus not only determines if we are born again, but determines whether we are walking in victory or defeat, walking in grace or legalistic religion.
Jesus is the Exact Representation of the Father
Jesus said, “if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” “I and My Father are one.” Jesus also said to Jewish leaders in John 5:19, “I assure you that the Son can’t do anything by himself except what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” (CEB) Jesus did great works because of His relationship with and knowledge of the Father.
Real faith is loyalty to Jesus and grows through the revelation of His word and true nature. Imperfect knowledge of Jesus creates imperfect faith that is full of doubt and unbelief.
Our revelation of Jesus must be based on the truth of God’s Word and what is revealed to us by Holy Spirit. Our encounters with God further illuminate the true nature of Jesus.
However, negative life experiences may shape our view of Jesus. Life experiences may be demonic in origin and filled with human reasoning that attempts to understand God and life—must be based on God’s Word and revelation by Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit has the latest news from the Godhead! God’s revealed truth is not “fake news!”
The Battleground for Satan is our Minds!
Paul stated, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe.” (2 Cor. 4:3-4 NKJV) Satan and demonic powers attempt to blind our minds to the true revelation of Jesus and nature of God.
Paul elaborated that followers of Jesus have a responsibility to, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5 NKJV) The battleground for demonic powers is our minds and emotions! Your thoughts create belief systems that affect your emotions. Godly beliefs are life-giving, ungodly beliefs create spiritual blindness to truth and hinder faith.
You are to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Thoughts and beliefs can be strongholds—positive or negative!
In Paul’s letter to Roman believers, he wrote of the necessity of transforming our minds to think and view truth from God’s perspective, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2 NKJV)
Paul exhorts us to renew our minds! “transformed by the renewing…” The enemy wants to keep you from knowing God as loving, compassionate, caring and all powerful! Religious doctrine, wrong teaching, and life experiences hinder our revelation of the true knowledge of the triune God.
Paul wrote to Colossian believers to, “…put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:10 NKJV) That is to say, a “continual renewing” of the “intimate, relational knowledge” of God. The truth of God’s nature is discovered through intimacy with him. We are renewed by the true knowledge of the image and nature of God!
Healing in a Jacuzzi!
While on vacation a view years ago, I was relaxing in a hot tub at the vacation resort we were staying at. An older gentleman came and got into the jacuzzi next to me. He seemed to struggle with his right leg as he was stepping in. I asked him if was having a problem with his leg. He said, “Yes, my right knee is badly injured, and the doctor says I need a knee replacement.” He went on to say, “I was really hoping the knee would be strong enough that I could play golf on this vacation.”
I explained to him that I had prayed for several people over the years with knee problems and saw many of them healed, and then asked him if I could pray for him. His response was one of shame and guilt, that God wouldn’t want to heal him. I assured him that no matter what he had done, or not done in life, God was loving, compassionate and that Jesus still heals today. After a few more minutes of dialogue, he agreed to allow me to pray for him—in the jacuzzi. After a short commanding prayer, I asked Raymond to stand, and try to do something with the knee that he couldn’t. So, he did, and then loudly exclaimed, all the pain is gone in the knee and I can bend it normally! He was shocked, and I encouraged him to thank Jesus for his wonderful grace. I then told him to go play golf tomorrow!
I saw Raymond a couple of days later, and he hurriedly made his way to me across the pool deck. He said, “After you prayed, I went and played golf the next day and was able to play 18 holes pain-free! Thank you so much!” Once again, I directed him to Jesus, and he said, “I have been thanking God for his grace and mercy since you prayed!” This is the true nature of Jesus; the world longs to encounter his love and power!
Prodigal Son Restored through Truth of God’s Nature!
The prodigal son in Luke was renewed and restored by the true knowledge of his Father. (see Luke 15:11-24) He realized his father would take him back. But, he had to return to his father in humility, based upon knowing the truth of his father’s heart and nature.
In Luke 15:20, we read of four verbs about the prodigal son’s father. This parable illustrates how our Heavenly Father feels towards His children when we are restored to Him.
The father saw him and had compassion, the father ran to him, the father fell on his neck, and the father kissed him. This would have been inappropriate for a middle-eastern father to do this toward a son who had caused such shame. All of these verbs, however, demonstrate God’s great affection and tenderness toward us! He is ready to forgive, pardon, restore and heal the moment we turn toward him!
The robe, ring, shoes and party in this story are all assurances of the Father’s love! Robe – used for birthdays or festival times. Ring – a mark of honor and dignity. Shoes – captives had shoes taken, shoes restored when liberty granted. Party – a celebration of his homecoming!
Repentance began with an understanding of the Father’s love! The son had a new revelation of His Father. He no longer saw Him as a hard taskmaster or judge. Many, like the lost son, stay distant from the Father; they don’t realize how loving He is.
“Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6 NLT)
Our view of God must be based on the knowledge of His loving, merciful, compassionate nature. Through faith in Jesus, our sin is covered, and his righteousness and holiness imparted to us. The judgment we deserved was dealt with at the cross, through Christ. God sees us as desired, loved, and accepted through Jesus.
Our view of the Father is often based on our experiences with our earthly fathers, mothers, or other authority figures.
Four common types of fathers:
Authoritarian Father. Only interaction is to correct. He is a legalist, and there is very little love in legalism. The Law was designed in love. If we have an authoritarian father, we might believe that God is harsh and impatient. As a result, we may operate in shame; blame others when things go wrong. We can become intolerant of others and their mistakes.
We may become performance-based—love is conditional upon meeting the expected standard and performance. We become strivers, want people to notice us. We want to become valued for what we do. We may believe that we never pray enough or “do enough.” We may try and earn God’s love and become legalists. Love is a gift! Performance-orientation is a major cause of depression. Our identity is as sons and daughters, not in what we do!
Abusive Father. Physical or verbal abuse, unjust punishment, and deliberate affliction of pain. Motivates through shame and or accusation. Any kind of abuse distorts our image of God. Destroys our trust in male authority. We won’t draw close to God, or to those in authority due to a lack of trust. Matt. 23:37 “Gather you … but you were not willing” Why? Lack of trust, afraid of rejection, pain.
Absent Father. Not there for them. Always working or gone. Perhaps divorced or left. We can feel orphaned. We can take on too much responsibility and become angry and resentful. God is a Father to the fatherless! (see Psalm 139)
An absent father may also be passive. Can be preoccupied, indifferent, or won’t tell you he loves you. He only loves from a distance; we think that God is the same—distant, passive. Sometimes we can’t experience His love, so we just cope. Until healed, can cause us to have a tough time experiencing love & intimacy with others and God.
Some secular sociologists have pointed to the 20th century as being the “most fatherless century in the history of mankind.” Demonic powers attempt to destroy and render fathers (parents) useless—unable to function in God-given parental authority. This assault on “fatherhood” has left millions of men “Missing in Action” when it comes to marriage and parenting. It is a tender partnership: see 1 Pet. 3:7
A 2011 Pew Research poll indicated that the number of children living apart from their fathers more than doubled from 11 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 2010. “We see that the share of children living apart from their dads has more than doubled and at that same time, we see that three-fold increase in divorce – clearly the trends fit together.”
Affectionate Father. This father is loving and attentive. He is interested in training and equipping his children and setting them up for success!
Paul admonishes, “Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]” Col. 3:21 AMPC
Your revelation of Jesus must be based on the truth of God’s Word and what is revealed to us by Holy Spirit.
Don’t allow negative life experiences or unmet expectations blur your vision of who Jesus really is.
Allow God’s word and Holy Spirit to renew your mind and heal your heart of ungodly thinking that is contrary to the truth of God’s nature.
The revelation of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness sets us free!