Biblical Text: Matthew 16:13-20
This sermon is an attempt to talk about what it means to convert – to come to an authentic faith in Jesus Christ. There are three parts to the sermon. The first part is simply a reflection that the way the church converted people for a very long time was baptism, Christendom and Christian families. For all the worries over cultural Christianity (paging Soren Kierkegaard), it was a lot better than the worries. But big chunks of Christendom let it go. And so the church is confronted with a different type of conversion problem. What is necessary to bring a pagan into the faith. The second part reflects on Jesus’ initial question and the disciples answers. “Who do people say that I am? John the Baptists, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” This is Jesus as true man. The convert has to have a sympathy with Jesus as true man. But that isn’t the fullness if it is necessary. The third part reflects on Jesus’ refinement of his question. “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter’s answer “you are the Christ the son of the living God.” That is an encapsulation of the need to confess that Jesus true man is also true God. This also includes the wrinkle that we can’t force this recognition. “Blessed are you Simon bar-Jonah…”. Conversion is a work of preparation that the church needs to be about. But conversion is also solely the work of the Spirit.