From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:21-23)
You are Peter.
You have been hand-selected by the Messiah, not only to be one of the twelve apostles, but also one of His closest friends. You are part of the inner circle. You’ve left everything you know to follow Him. You walk with Him and sit under His teaching, day in and day out. If any human being has an insight into the things of God, it’s you. In fact, not too long ago when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” you are the only one who answered the question correctly. Jesus, Himself, affirmed you in front of all the apostles by declaring that His Father in Heaven gives you special revelation…AND THEN…Jesus says He will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven! (Matthew 16:13-20)
Things are looking pretty good for your ministry right now, huh, Peter?
In the very next conversation you have with Jesus, He begins to explain to you and the others that He must suffer many things…die, even…and then be raised to life again.
What? Die??? How can that be? Jesus can’t die. You love Jesus. You would give your life for Him in a heartbeat. You absolutely refuse to receive this negative confession, even if Jesus Himself is saying it.
And with your special discernment into spiritual things (Jesus told you you had it!), you decide it’s time to pull Jesus aside and counsel Him a little. After all, you hold the Keys to the Kingdom. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven.
Oh, so very, very wrong, Peter. Not only does Jesus rebuke you, but He calls you SATAN! And as if that isn’t bad enough, He says you are a stumbling block to Him! Oh, and by the way, you don’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.
Can you say, “OUCH”??
The Bible doesn’t tell us what Peter said or did in response, but something tells me he found the nearest rock and crawled under it. And I bet he cried like a baby.
Did Jesus have to be so harsh? I mean, seriously…Peter was one of His dearest friends, and only wanted what was best for Jesus. Why did He have to go off and call him SATAN?
Well, before we answer that question, let’s get our first point from this text:
Point One: Satan can speak through any person. Even people who love you. Even well-meaning people who don’t want to see you suffer. Even people who have heard God clearly in the past.
Several years ago, my husband and I made a very difficult decision to leave our church and our denomination, and look for another. This was the church where most of my family attended. The church where we gave our hearts to God, got baptized and married.
Up until that point in my life, it was quite honestly, the most difficult decision I had ever made. I did not take it lightly, to say the least. Over the course of months, I fasted, prayed, sought counsel, prayed some more…. The more we sought God, the clearer it became to me and Jon that God wanted us to leave. During that time, some of the most difficult conversations I had were with people who loved me the most. People who loved God. People who had spoken God’s will to me in the past. People who didn’t want to see me and Jon make a huge mistake.
Some of those conversations became downright confrontational. Several people warned us that we were leaving God’s protection. Some people predicted that if we left our denomination, we would fall away from God completely. Others questioned our motives, our heart-condition and our salvation.
It was painful.
So confusing, in fact, that Jon and I nearly divorced over this issue.
While I totally understoond and appreciated their concern, and also respected their confidence in their opinion, they were wrong. They were sincerely wrong. They were absolutely speaking the exact opposite of God’s leading and direction in our lives.
You’ll be relieved to know I didn’t call any of them Satan. Well, not to their faces. But I certainly did a lot of rebuking in my private prayer time.
My point here is to be very careful even with those who love God and love you. Check everything anyone says to you against the Word of God, against what you know to be the Truth, and against what God is speaking to your heart.
Point Two: Be aware of how Satan has spoken to you or tempted you in the past.
I think one of the reasons Jesus was so direct with Peter was because Jesus clearly remembered a similar conversation He had with Satan in the desert during His forty-day fast. (Matthew 4) Satan tried to convince Jesus that He could achieve greatness without suffering. But Jesus knew the word of God. He understood His mission. He knew He was the Sacrificial Lamb. Without the shedding of His blood, there would be no remission of sins.
Though Peter’s words sound pretty innocent–even somewhat noble–they were anything but. Peter was suggesting something that was completely against God’s plan. If Peter would have had his way, his salvation and the salvation of the entire world would have been compromised. That’s huge.
Point Three: Satan’s voice most often appeals to the flesh. Therefore, discerning between Satan and your flesh may get fuzzy.
Looking again at Matthew 4 where Satan tempted Jesus, he tempted Him with food, power and kingdoms. All of these things appealed to Jesus’ flesh. Satan did the same thing when he tempted Eve in the garden by appealing to her desire for knowledge. (Genesis 3:5)
This makes sense, really, if you think about it. It wouldn’t technically be “tempting” to us if it weren’t appealing to our flesh in some way, whether it be our pride, our desire for material things, our need to be loved, etc. Don’t get too hung up on who’s saying what (is this my flesh or the devil?).
Remember the most important thing: when you know the Truth, you’ll be able to recognize the other voices as “False,” no matter who they are or what they are saying.
Point Four: If you aren’t sure who is speaking (God, your flesh or the Devil), just wait and continue to seek God.
I know there are decisions that need to be made within a certain time frame. Job opportunities, purchase and sale of homes, education, relationships…God totally knows all of that. Don’t worry.
And don’t feel pressured to make a big move in the name of missed opportunity.
If you truly don’t know that God told you to move forward, and especially if you are hearing conflicting voices, don’t do anything.
I am a firm believer that God is more concerned with the condition of our hearts than He is with the particulars of any decision we make.
He is more concerned with the refining of your faith than He is with the house you live in.
He is more concerned with the conforming of your character than He is with the job you take.
His main goal for our lives is to draw us closer to Him, conform us to His image and lead us to others so they can draw closer to Him.
And God is big. Really, really big. That doesn’t just mean that we can believe Him to perform big miracles like healing and financial rescues. But it means that the way He works is WAY outside our box.
Way, way, way outside our realm of human reasoning.
God specializes in do-overs. If you miss an opportunity because out of a pure and sincere heart you didn’t want to miss God’s will for your life, then I firmly believe He will use that missed opportunity for your good.
And I believe God is able to create new and better opportunities for the pure-hearted. I like to say, God’s got a plan B, a plan C, a plan D…a plan Z, if we need it. He’s not confined by the same human restrictions that we are.
He sees everything from a perfect perspective.
He owns everything.
He controls everything.
He is certainly able to work with a pure-hearted follower whose heart’s desire is to hear and obey the voice of the Good Shepherd. The humble servant who doesn’t want to follow the wrong voice.
That’s what grace is all about. Not just grace to save you, but grace to keep you. Grace to help you as you pursue God and purpose to follow Him and obey what He says.
P.S. You’ll also be happy to know that Jon and I DID leave that denomination, maintained healthy relationships (and boundaries) with our friends and family, did NOT walk away from God (EVER!), and just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. God is big.