The Pilgrim: Confession of Sin, not Commendation of Self

The Pharisee, therefore in commending of himself, makes himself never the better. The Publican also, in condemning of himself, makes himself never the worse. Nay, contrariwise, the Pharisee by commending of himself makes himself much the worse (v. 14). And the Publican, by condemning of himself, makes himself much the better. ‘I tell you, (says Christ) This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’ —John Bunyan, The Pharisee and the Publican

Matthew 16:13-20 & Damnation by Imagination

When asked who people say Jesus is, the disciples only give the “good answers.” They don’t include the bad ones; they don’t mention the Pharisees’ blasphemous accusations of Jesus’ casting out demons by Beelzebul. Yet, none of the “good answers” are good enough. You can’t get partial credit on this test. This is a true or false question. Jesus is a prophet, but saying He is Elijah or Jeremiah doesn’t count for even 33%. The crowds are in awe of Jesus, and they flunk. “Who do you say Jesus is?” This is the one question test that everyone either eternally passes or fails.

There is a contrast here, but not between the crowd’s awe-filled speculations and the Pharisees’ jealously-filled accusations; it is between the crowd’s opinions and the disciples’ confession. It does not matter how great you think Jesus is, if you think Him to be less than He is. Drop Him the slightest notch and you will find yourself falling endlessly into a bottomless pit.

Imagine you are talking on the phone with your wife. You use the most flowery language to express your endearment to her, you press the limits of poetry to convey her beauty, but you do this using another woman’s name and attributes. It matters not how highly you praise her blond hair when it’s brown. Think Jesus less than He is, and He is not flattered.

Do you believe in Jesus, or do you believe in the Jesus you believe in? An imaginary Jesus produces only imaginary salvation. This ain’t Peter Pan; just because you believe it don’t make it fly. We do not preach faith in faith. We do not preach, “believe and you can fly.” We do not preach, “believe and you will be saved.” We preach Christ and Him crucified. We preach, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!”

“Oh, I believe in the Jesus of the Bible. I believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Ok, let me push a bit. What does that mean? If you can’t fill in the lines, you’re still trying to fly using your own magic fairy dust.

If you rebut that Peter didn’t understand everything his confession meant I would retort, “You can be confused with Peter, but can you understand with him?” Sure, Peter didn’t understand everything this meant, but he did understand truth as to what it meant, and this truth was being given to him by Jesus’ Father. The confession that saves is a confession that is understood, and it is understood because it is revealed by the Father. Any thing less than this, is at best, damning.