"But who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked His disciples. Peter answered, and he got it so right – until he didn't. When we grow in Christian discipleship and when we help others grow as disciples, it is our chief goal to simply get to the confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God"?
In episode 2, Rev. Dr. Jim Shaddix tells us there is a lot to unpack in Peter's confession and in Jesus's statements that follow in Matthew 16. And why does Jesus tell His disciples not to tell anyone? Dr. Shaddix's insights may bring you to a new level of understanding of discipleship.
Table of Contents
- Peter’s Confession
- Introducing Our Guest, Reverend Dr. Jim Shaddix
- The Impact of the Christian Commitment
- What Defines a True Gospel Based From Peter’s Confession
- Peter’s Confession Is About Accepting That Jesus Is Your Savior
- You Have a Cross to Bear
- The Seedbed of the Manifestation of the Call of God
Well, Peter got it right. In Matthew chapter 16, Jesus asks Peter, "There are a lot of people out there saying all kinds of things about me, but who do you say that I am“? And Peter looks at him and says, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." We call this Peter's great confession and Peter scores a hundred. He gets an A in the course and that's our confession too. Isn't it?
I mean, you're like me. We stand up, we say the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed. We confess that Jesus is Lord. I mean, that's the gospel, right? Well, maybe not exactly. Our guest today challenges you to think about what the gospel really is. What the gospel really means for you in your life. Do you really get it in its entirety? Do you understand what the gospel asks of you? Do you want a little inspiration for deeper Christian living? Then, stay right here.
Life-changing sermons, we've all heard them. They empower us, motivate us, breathe life into us. Exceptionally gifted preachers use their unique, deeper insights to uncover and present the scriptures in ways that are life-giving, life-altering. I'm Dr. Bob LeFavi, pastor, researcher, and you are about to be inspired by the best preachers in America.
Introducing Our Guest, Reverend Dr. Jim Shaddix
Our guest today has a seminary degree, master of divinity, and a doctorate of ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has a Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is presently the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository preaching and professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
That's in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He's pastored churches in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Colorado, and Alabama. He's also served as dean of the chapel and professor of preaching at New Orleans Baptist Seminary.
Our guest is the author of The Passion-Driven Sermon, Decisional Preaching. And he's co-authored with Jerry Vines, another great pastor, in Power in the Pulpit and Progress in the Pulpit. We're talking in this episode about his sermon entitled, Getting the Gospel, which we have a link to on InspirationalSermons.com. Today, we welcome one of the best preachers in America, the Reverend Dr. Jim Shaddix. Great to have you here, Jim.
Jim: Bob, thank you. It is an honor and privilege and quite humbling to be included in your project, and just be a part of the conversation. Thank you for letting me do it.
Bob: Thank you, sir. I'm not at all surprised by your humility there, but your preaching is outstanding, and this particular sermon, I think it's fascinating. Here's one of the reasons why.
To me, when I listen to this sermon, Getting the Gospel, it's not only geared toward, or wouldn't only apply to those seeking, trying to figure out what the gospel is. It's also to some degree, a bit of a wake-up call for those of us in the church who think, "Well, we're doing okay. We stand up, we say the creeds, we all agree who Jesus is."
Why We Don’t Revisit the Bible
Bob: And you take it one step further about what the gospel really is. That's kind of what I want to get out here. The thing that I think is interesting is, you start off by suggesting that there is a kind of trap in some of these great Bible stories that we know so well.
The trap is we know them so well so that when we hear them again, we just kind of go through it. We can almost recite it. And part of that recitation, it can become rote. And we don't get a chance to really sit and think, "Is there another level here? Is there another layer I can unfold here?" And would you agree to that happens more often than not?
Jim: Oh, no doubt it happens. And it happens for a couple of different reasons. It might be because we studied those passages or heard them as children. We were merely thinking on a concrete level and just a certain amount of depth that we could go to. So, sometimes, that's the culprit that causes us not to revisit them. Other times it is just the familiarity. We've heard it so many times, we've quoted it, we've recited it, we've referenced it. Our thinking is that, it is limited in this little box over here of our understanding and our knowledge. So, we don't go back to it and lean into it.
Bob: And I think that that almost then requires that we approach scripture, even those that we, and especially those that we know so well, with a different set of eyes. What is it that is embedded here that's new that I had not yet considered?
Preaching to a Group of Prisoners
Bob: What if I don't have everything this scripture has to offer? And you start this sermon with a great story. It's the story that you tell of when you were in ministry in Colorado. You and a group of folks were ministering and teaching and preaching to a group of prisoners in a prison in Colorado. Would you mind sharing the cliff notes of that story with our listenership?
Jim: Yes, so, we went to this maximum-security prison to do an evangelistic rally. We had a team that ministered there every week. This was a special event. They invited their pastor to preach the message. So, that's what got us there. And we had gone through security, gone out in the prison yard before they let the prisoners out.
Then finally, they open the gates and the prisoners came out. A young guy, I estimate just in his early 30s, somewhere around in there, came up to me. He introduced himself, and just said, "Pastor Shaddix, grateful for your radio ministry. Then he made the comment and he said, "I want you to know." And he mentioned one of my books. He said, "This book's had a big impact."
Well, I've written books, but I've written books on preaching. That just got my attention because here's a 30-year-old prisoner in a maximum-security prison that's read a preaching book of any kind, much less one of mine. So, I asked him to tell me his story. He told me how he came to Christ while he was awaiting trial for murder. And how his team tried to convince him not to confess to the murder.
The Impact of the Christian Commitment
Jim: They told him, "The judge will put you in prison for the rest of your life. So, do what we tell you to do, say what we tell you to say, and we think." This is what they told him, "we think that we can get you off in 20 years." But he said to him, "When they told me that," he said, "I told them, 'I've got to own this.'"
And he told them about how he'd become a Christian, someone had shared the gospel with him. Because he had the gospel, he had to confess to this because he did it. And here I was, talking to this guy, and this was the things that were going through my mind. "Man, he's never going to get out of here. He's never going to get married. He's never going to have a job, never going to go watch his kid play baseball. And he signed up for it because of the gospel." And this thing, that just, I mean, it floored me.
It was at that moment that I realized, "Jim Shaddix wasn't there for a bunch of prisoners that day. Jim Shaddix was there to get a picture of the gospel that he needed reminding about." Because it really caused me to stop and think, "What has the gospel cost me"? And Bob, that's what kind of compelled me and drove me is what God in his grace used to drive me into this passage of scripture. Because it's a passage, though the first part is very familiar to us in Peter's confession. The whole narrative, the context is a passage that is incredibly revealing about the nature of the gospel.
“Getting the Gospel” Focuses on Peter’s Confession
Bob: So, your sermon, Getting the Gospel, is really focused on Peter's confession, but you analyzed this confession. And you analyzed Jesus's response to it, which I think is really interesting.
And I think your reflection on that encounter in Colorado with that prisoner, it seemed that it drove home for you. The fact that "the gospel was much more than some theological idea that I assent to, or don't assent to, that it transforms, it informs my everyday living."
And I wonder if sometimes, we rely solely on the recitation of our beliefs, and the fact we all agree on who Jesus is. But too often, do you think, do you agree that perhaps we want a safe Jesus?
Jim: Yes, no doubt. And sometimes, limit our understanding of what it means to embrace the gospel, to a mere confession or an intellectual assent. Or even an embrace of a certain aspect of theology. And this is not a minimization of Peter's confession because he nailed it. I mean, Jesus affirms that he nailed it in his response of who Jesus is. But it's what comes after that, that becomes very revealing about what it means then, to confess that Jesus is the son of God and savior of the world.
Bob: Yes, Jim, can you talk about that? Because in your sermon, you really compare those statements. The statements of Peter's confession, his answer to the question, "But who do you say that I am?" to "What is to follow?" One of the most incredible statements from Jesus in the gospels.
Jesus’ Affirmation on Peter’s Confession
Jim: Yes and then he turns right around. We kind of leave off there with Peter's confession and Jesus' affirmation of his confession. But then, you got verse 20, where Jesus turns around immediately and strictly charges the disciples, "Don't tell anybody."
And Bob, this is one of those places where we have a tendency sometimes when we don't understand something just to blow by it. "Oh, there's something there we don't know." You can't just blow by verse 20. After Peter makes that confession, Jesus affirms the confession at least three different ways, but then says, "Don't tell anybody."
And we have to ask the question, why in the world would he tell them not to tell anybody this grand truth that really is at the heart of the gospel? So, that link, that command for him not to, it provides the link to what comes after it.
Bob: And it's interesting. We talk about Jesus's statement, not to tell anyone what they've seen and what they've heard, and he does that a couple of times throughout the gospels. But you're really the first preacher, Jim, that I've heard to really pick up on that, and to say, "Well, let's analyze it." Your answer, it makes perfect sense.
And I think that's what makes this sermon really unique. You point to the answer to that question back to the scripture itself. And you show how Jesus's admonition not to tell anyone was for a very, very good reason. It was really for the truth of the gospel. So, can you talk a little bit about that?
One of the Strongest Rebukes in All of Scripture
Jim: Yes, I think probably the most common answer that's given to "Why did Jesus say this?" was just, "Oh, the people weren't ready for it. The timing wasn't right." And we understand, there are places in scripture where both of those are reality. But if you read what comes after, which is Jesus beginning to talk to his disciples about going to Jerusalem, suffering, and dying.
And he mentions rising from the dead, which is really interesting. But because that idea of the Messiah suffering and dying was still so foreign to even his disciples, the apostles, a perception of what the Messiah was, Peter steps in. He rebukes Jesus, pulls him aside, "We're never going to let that happen to you." And then of course, Jesus rebukes Peter and says, "Get behind me, Satan."
One of the strongest rebukes in all of scripture, and tells him, "You're not a help, you're a hindrance to me." And the bottom line is, the short version is, Peter's confession didn't yet have a cross in it. This is where we see the distinction between just the great confession. Jesus is the son of God, and he's the savior of the world. "You're the Christ, the son of living God." And really, what that means for Jesus, what it meant was, that son of God and savior of the world came to go to the cross, to die there for the sins of the world.
What Defines a True Gospel Based From Peter’s Confession
Jim: For Peter and the other apostles, what it meant still was a knight in shining armor riding into town, wiping out the Romans, and restoring Israel to their rightful place, as God's chosen people, and that type of thing. And so, what you have here is two scenes, maybe.
They're in the same conversation, that you can't separate from one another, because Jesus affirms the confession. But because he knows that Peter's confession doesn't yet have a cross in it, he says, "You guys don't go tell anybody." Basically, "you're not ready. You're not ready to tell this because if your gospel doesn't have a cross in it, it's not the true gospel at all."
Bob: Yeah. It's fascinating. And it gets back to the idea of a safe Jesus, that we want Jesus our way. That who was it who said that in the beginning, God made humans in his image and ever since then, we've been trying to return the favor. So, we want to make God in our image. This is who my God needs to be.
Jim: Yeah, we do. We want him to be deliverer, especially if it means delivering us from an uncomfortable situation or a season of suffering, or some health issue or whatever. It's just a cosmic Costco. And so, just the ideas of being son of God and savior of the world, still, if they're not specified with regard to the cross event, they can take on meanings of their own. And they can mean things which oftentimes are limited to the kind of Jesus we want him to be.
The Gospel Isn't Just About Jesus as Messiah
Bob: Many of us in the church have come across, with that in mind, Jim. We've come across those outside the church who say, "Well, the bottom line is that all these religions are basically the same." But the cross is the uniqueness of Christianity. I mean, and you make this point in your sermon.
I mean, there's no other religion that has a suffering God. And so, why can't I just accept Christmas and Easter? Why do I have to even think about Maundy Thursday and Good Friday? Can I just take Jesus as this great savior and not really have to get into that bloody stuff?
Jim: Yes and this is where we misunderstand, I think, some other aspects of our theology that are so vitally important. The holiness of God, the righteousness of God, and that our sin separates us from him, and in his holiness and his righteousness, sin had to be paid for.
And we couldn't provide a righteous sacrifice, a perfect sacrifice, but God in his grace did it. He came looking for us in Christ. And the Easter and the Christmas, incredibly important events for our faith. But it is that cross event that we see the demonstration of God's love in Christ, stepping in between us and the wrath of God.
That was the most costly endeavor of all time, when the son of God took our place, in our stead. And for him to do that, for him to do that tells us, obviously, among other things, but it tells us that this was, this gospel is a costly endeavor. It's something that is priceless from the standpoint of its worth.
Understanding the Nature of the Messiah Through Peter’s Confession
Bob: Yes, sure. You recite the scripture on this being a stumbling block and foolishness. And it seems like, Jim, to even today, it's the cross that can be a stumbling block and foolishness for many people. But you make a point in this sermon that the gospel isn't just about Jesus as Messiah, it's about the cross. And it's difficult for us to really stand up and recite the things that we recite without really understanding that really getting that.
Jim: Well, we use the word Messiah and we've used it before already in this conversation. I don't know that the best way to say it is that it's more than he's Messiah. It's understanding what Messiah actually is, the nature of the Messiah.
Because it's the misunderstandings of Messiah that chop off the cross event and limit it to other aspects of the Christian faith. In God's mind, Messiah always involved the cross. That's where this whole thing was headed. And it's got to be our understanding and our concept, but you're right.
I really appreciate you bringing out that, just that distinguishing factor or quality between Christianity and so many world religions. You try to have a conversation with someone who embraces Islam about the idea of a God who leaves heaven. And comes in pursuit of the object of his love and dies for them, takes their place. And that is just a concept that is really hard for most belief systems to get their arms around.
Bob: Sure. Well, and our God is a personal God.
Peter’s Confession Is About Accepting That Jesus Is Your Savior
Bob: The gods that I read about in world religions are aloof and not engaged. And would never descend to earth, much less to live, but certainly not to die. So, yeah, that is the uniqueness. And then, Jim, in your sermon, you go further. When you analyze this passage from Matthew 16 on Peter's great confession, you say, "Look, it's really not just even about understanding intellectually who Jesus was, accepting that he was your savior and even understanding the cross.
But it's more than that too." And so, we get around to verse 24, "If anyone would come after me, deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
That's so important because we like to talk about how a person enters the kingdom of God. How they get saved, the essence of salvation. And so many times, we say, "We'll just come forward to this altar and kneel and fill out a card.” Or just say that, "Ask Jesus into your heart. Trust in Jesus."
And that's all, listen, those are all great things. No question about it. And I would never attempt to understand what a person is feeling in their heart when they do any of those things. But you say that this is really key for us, to deny ourselves. For the average person hearing that, what might denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following Jesus, look like?
Jim: This is actually another one of those verses that, kind of like Peter's confession that is very familiar to so many Christians, this is a quotable verse. It's a tweetable verse. I know it's one that most Christians, if they haven't read it themselves, they've heard it before.
An Upper Tier of Following Christ
Jim: But oftentimes because it is treated out of context, we put it in the category of this idea of following Jesus, denying oneself, taking up the cross, that's kind of an upper tier of following Christ. So, you become a Christian and you follow him. But then at some point, you get serious and you do this.
And I think that's the way a lot of Christians have looked at this. But what is missed, or one of the things that are missed is, once again, and Luke, by the way in his account is even clearer about this being the same conversation. This is not the next day, it's not a different location. This is all part of the same conversation.
And so, Jesus is just taking this to the next part of, okay, here's what this gospel that has to involve a cross means for those who would sign up for it and say yes. You were asking about, what a lot of people think about-
Well, a lot of us in the Western church almost don't have the ability to think about this. Like we have to if we're going to understand it correctly, because the idea of martyrdom, of losing your life for your faith is so foreign to us.
And I, just as a side note, I think that's changing.
And I think it's coming to our shores. But for most of our lifetime, living in America, martyrdom was something we read about in our missions magazines. Or we heard about in a story secondhand.
Life Under the Sentence of Death
Jim: We don't have it and consequently when we do that and then we look at applying something like this. The only thing we know to do is to spiritualize it, make it a metaphor for an inconvenience. So what it means to take up your cross is just to live with an inconvenience of some kind of burden.
Bob: It's a burden.
Jim: We can reduce that to anything. But look at the passage, we interpret it in its context. You've got to ask the question, "What did it mean to those people?" And the short answer is, it meant what it was. The Romans had crucified some 50,000 Jews by this time in history. They had watched crucifixions, they had watched relatives and friends. They knew what it meant.
And even more specifically, Bob, Jesus is actually just using part of that whole journey. That is the requirement. The practice that a prisoner that was about to be crucified was required to carry their crossbar. And when they picked up that crossbar of the cross and carried it from the prison cell to where they're going to be crucified, that journey, that segment of time was characterized by the reality that their life was over. In other words, they were living under the sentence of death.
And they were living their life under the sentence of death.
Bob: They were already dead.
Jim: Yes and that's what Jesus points to and says, "For those who would come after me, who would follow me," this is what this means. It is a death to self.
Peter’s Confession Reveals that I Have a Cross to Bear
Jim: It is living out our lives,the rest of our time on this planet, under the sentence of death. And I, not to get too far ahead of the game, but that really is the full-circle connection back to this young brother who was in this prison. He had… He knew what the gospel was going to cost him, and he said yes to it. And here he was living out his life. The rest of his life, under the sentence of death, really, in two respects.
In two respects, and Jesus, he says, "Okay, this is what it means. This is what it means. If you're going to follow me, you come to the place where you say, you are ready to live out your life under the sentence of death."
Bob: Right. That's very powerful. And I think that many people listening to this probably would agree. That the common interpretation is that, "Well, I have a cross to bear. Well, I'm working for this terrible boss. I have a cross, that's my burden. I have a cross to bear”. But what I hear you saying is, that is simply not your cross to bear.
It's your obligation to change it, or to leave, to die to your life's agenda. To go where God is leading, because that's always a good place. You follow that up with verse 25, "Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it. Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it”. You make the point that, with that as a backdrop, Jesus is not something that you just add to your life.
The Gospel Becoming My Life Versus the Gospel Replacing My Life
Bob: You can't just say, "Look, I believe in Jesus. He's my savior, but I still want to live the life that I want to live, the way I want to live it. But I will go to church on Sunday and worship."
So, can I just add Jesus to my life?
Jim: Exactly. That is so right. That is so characteristic of so much of the cultural Christianity that we have seen, especially in the South in our country. I know I grew up with, but that really is one of the defining aspects of it. It is the difference between just adding Jesus to your life. Yes, I want the son of God and savior of the world. I want the son of God and savior of the world that went to the cross for me.
I want him, and I want him to be a part of my life, and I want the forgiveness of sins. I want to know I'm going to heaven. And I want that. I want to add that to my life. And then, just continue to live out my life according to my plans and dreams and agenda, as opposed to the gospel becoming my life, the gospel replacing my life, that there is a difference in those two things.
Bob: But it's the heart condition that drives all of this, I think. And it's the heart condition that plays itself out in actions.
Finding Life and Living It
Bob: So, we don't judge by those actions and God sees the heart but it's that sacrificial life that gets back to that prisoner. And the kinds of things that we do and the decisions we make to follow or to not follow. I keep getting back to this image of dying to self and living life under the sentence of death. That is not limiting to me, Jim, that's freeing. That's freeing me when I know where my life is, right?
Jim: You mentioned a moment ago, verse 25. "Whoever would save his life would lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." This is not heavy. This is not a downer. This is not Jesus putting a burden on us. It's not a description of the Christian life as something to dread, "Oh, denying self." I mean, he says in here, this is when you really get life. This is when you really get to experience life to the fullest.
Bob: And it's all a bonus.
Jim: And I'll tell ya, I'm just standing there looking at that 30-year-old prisoner. And seeing the joy and the peace on his face and hear it in his voice. I think he found life and he was living it.
Bob: That's wonderful. Jim, this is just a powerful sermon. I hope that everyone listening goes to InspirationalSermons.com, clicks on your box, and listens to that. But I do have a question about, or two, about you. The story of the preacher, Jim Shaddix.
The Manifestation of the Call of God
Bob: So, all your life, you knew you wanted to be a preacher when you were four years old. And all the kids were talking about being a fireman and a police officer and an astronaut. You said, "I want to be a preacher." What brought you into ministry?
Jim: So, no, it wasn't that way. First of all, let me back up and say, I was blessed to be raised by two godly parents, who are still alive, in good health, serving the Lord in East Texas.
That was the seedbed. My dad was not a preacher, he was a public school administrator. But my parents raised me to love the Lord and love the gospel. And so, that was the seedbed of the manifestation of the call of God. I think God was calling me to preach when I was in high school but I wasn't listening. I actually have some Bibles today that I used when I was in high school that I could go back to and show you where I wrote in the margin, "call to ministry" with a question mark.
Along the way, I had some other people speak into my life, "Oh, you're probably going to be a preacher." There were things like that. But I was living for a dream of my own. I wanted to play college football. It's all I could think about. There's nothing wrong with playing college football, but there is if it becomes the most important thing to me. And I think that is part of my story.
Responding to God’s Call
Jim: Fast-forward, long story short, I got to live that dream for a few years, but I got hurt my third year in college. And God used that to basically bring me to the places saying, "What are you going to do now? Are you going to listen to me?" And that's when I responded to God's call.
I think he was calling before that, but it wasn't until my latter years in college that I yielded to that. And I tell people all the time. I used to think there wasn't anything more thrilling than running out on a football field in front of a crowd and throwing the ball around. But the first time I ever stepped in the pulpit, God gave me a joy and a thrill that has never gone away in 30-something years.
That's probably more than you wanted.
Bob: No, no. No, no. It's interesting that you're a better preacher now because maybe you took that time and you didn't enter as a freshman in college with this plan, "I'm going to get this Bible degree and I'm going to go to seminary. I'm going to do all these things" and it was all planned out. Do you think that helped?
Jim: Man, it helped, I would say. I want to fence it in with my theology. It helped from the standpoint that God is sovereign, and he is gracious, and Romans 8:28 is in the Bible. That is even in the midst of things we didn't sign up for like our suffering. He still orchestrates things to accomplish his purpose of shaping us into Christ's image.
The Most Important Thing That Preachers Ought to Consider
Jim: From that standpoint, I pray that I'm a better preacher. I would never say that disobedience makes me a better preacher, so.
Bob: You might've had a Jonah episode there for a little bit, but it's okay. A question or two more, if you don't mind.
What do you think? And you've written about preaching. You're a professor of preaching. You're obviously very powerful in the pulpit, and very talented and have these God-given gifts. But what is the most important thing that preachers ought to consider? Or at least, the one question they should ask that perhaps they don't when they're approaching scripture?
Jim: Am I looking for the voice of God in any given text of scripture? That has to be the quest.
I was thinking about this just in relation to this conversation when we think about great preachers. And it prompted me again, as a preaching professor, I've thought about that question. What is it that makes preachers great or makes a great preacher?
And I'm convinced that the only thing that makes a great preacher is a great Bible, a great Bible rightly interpreted. In other words, the truth of God's word is what is great. And the only thing that associates us with that, with greatness at some point is that we rightly interpret. And then rightly apply and communicate what God intended to say.
So, I think that has to be the question, every time we come to the text is, what is God saying? Why did he put this text in the Bible? What was he intending to say to his people? And that's what we've got to pursue.
Bob: Well, that's powerful and very important and something every preacher needs to keep in mind. So, Dr. Shaddix, this is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for this podcast. And so, I want to thank you for your time today, and your insight.
I hope we get a chance to chat again. I want folks who are listening to see if they can't pick up The Passion-Driven Sermon, Decisional Preaching. And then along with Jerry Vines, Power in the Pulpit and Progress in the Pulpit, and certainly, get the link to Getting the Gospel and listen to pastor Jim talk through this scripture again. So, Dr. Jim Shaddix, thank you so much for your time today, and God bless you.
Jim: Bob, it's been an honor. Thank you, my brother.
Bob: Love this episode of Inspirational Sermons? Join us at InspirationalSermons.com. We'd really appreciate it if you head over to wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe, rate, leave us a review. See you next time, as we continue to explore epic life-changing sermons by the best preachers in America.