Surveys. Opinion polls. Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite to know what other people think about... fill in the bank.
For all the mining of opinions and the flood of information available, what do we really know? Are we truly the most informed generation in history?
We know a lot of minutiae about a lot of things. This helps us in trivia games, but doesn't answer life's big questions.
A valuable question
At the beginning of this story (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asks His disciples a question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” He wanted to know what the disciples heard among the people.
Yet, He was far more concerned with what the disciples thought, as seen by His second question to them.
In sharing the gospel with others, we need to be mindful of what people are thinking and saying about who Jesus is. It is valid to ask people what their perception of Jesus is before launching into a presentation of the gospel.
Knowing how other people perceive Jesus should be a factor in how the gospel is told or related.
The wrong approach
When zealous believers approached me during my spiritual search, I would hear, “you can become a Christian and still have fun!” One time I was approached while in an altered state of mind and told I could still “own a sports car and become a Christian.”
Having a sports car was the farthest thing from my mind at the time! It did not attract me to Christianity.
Although well-intentioned, this approach to share the gospel was off target. My biggest need was getting my eyes off what I wanted, or what I thought could bring fulfillment in my life.
A frame of reference
Genuine questions can reveal where people stand on spiritual matters, and their opinion about Jesus.
Asking about a person’s life can open them up to hear God’s Story. If a person’s life story is full of difficulties, or reveals a searching for spiritual truth and significance in life, it opens an opportunity for connecting them with God.
Presently in America, more and more people, especially young adults, have a limited understanding of Jesus. They may know more about Buddha or Mohammed than Jesus. Everyone needs some frame of reference, a touchstone, to understand spiritual truth.
Spiritual truth is conceptual, abstract, and intangible, yet we live in a material world. If we don’t perceive what their perception is about Jesus, the Bible, or other spiritual truth, we give them information they can’t process.
We need to know
In contrast, we may pay more attention to what others have to say than we should. Many people are intimidated to share their faith story, fearing rejection. Others are unsure of what to say or how to say it.
Every believer needs to know what he or she believes about Jesus, and why it’s believed—an understanding rooted in a genuine personal relationship with God.
When the gospel is shared with sincerity of heart and in simple words, it is more apt to be heard.
Who do You say Jesus is?
Then Jesus asks His second far more pointed and important question, “Who do you say that I am?”
It was a question of progress for the apostles. Were they grappling with the same question, or were they sure in their hearts? Ultimately, everyone must answer this question. One day, all people will answer this question in God’s presence.
What is your belief?
Other opinions aside, what is your belief? What others say may be of interest, but what is your own belief? How would you answer the question of who Jesus is?
If you are a Christian believer—that is, you have a personal relationship with the Lord, and you’ve experienced a spiritual rebirth—you should be able to answer this question. But, how would you answer? How would you describe who Jesus is to someone else?
Truth is revealed by God
Spiritual truth can only be conveyed if a person understands it in his or her own spirit. As the apostle Paul says, “ . . . not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Cor 2:13).
It is not knowledge of words, written or spoken. God through the Holy Spirit must reveal spiritual truth. It is expressed in words, but understanding and acceptance is God’s work in a person’s heart and mind.
What are your thoughts about Jesus? Do you know who He is?
Do you know Him personally and tell others about your relationship with Him?