Fear and Shame
There is something profound about Peter's confession in the Scripture that Jesus is 'the Christ, the Son of the Living God.' (Matt 16:16) It seems so simple on the lips to make this confession, but when you think about it, this confession is contrary to our nature. It goes against the ways of the world. It goes against the schemes and plots of Satan. Making this confession is, as Jesus says, something that can only be done when the Spirit of God works in the heart of a person and reveals this truth to them (Matt 16:17).
This message is not natural, but it is a message in which all of nature rejoices. To confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, is to proclaim to the world a message of grace, peace, joy, and salvation. It is a message that God himself has given all of himself to his people in the person of his son. It is a message that gives us everything while demanding nothing of us. Yet, everything in our nature rebels against making this confession because we want to have a part in it. We want the glory for saving ourselves and this world from the mess in which it finds itself.
The opposition to this confession of Jesus as Christ and Lord sometimes looks obvious and at other times it looks hidden, yet that opposition always exists. We are called to make this declaration not just once but everyday and at every moment. We must make it again and again. However, too often we fall short in our confession of Christ. One need only look to Peter in the hours before Christ is crucified. Peter had made the foundation confession of Christ earlier, declaring before Jesus, the disciples, and a watching world who Jesus is. Nevertheless, in the hour of testing as he is in the courtyard of the high priest and questioned about Christ, he denies him three times. Out of the fear of the world, Peter takes his eyes off of Christ and falls. This pillar of the church falls, and what a fall it was!
Making a faithful confession of Christ is something against which the world, the flesh, and the devil fight. They place in us a sense of fear and shame about the confession of Christ. We know that being a faithful witness to Christ might mean we lose respect, honor, or position in our society, and that is scary. It is easier to fit in with the group with which we identify ourselves rather than call them to godliness. Bavinck puts it well when he says:
We are afraid that by siding with Christ we will lose entirely our name and honor as a person before others and will become an object of scorn and derision, of abuse and persecution. We fear, that through the confession of Christ, our dignity, personality, humanity will be injured and suffer loss.
The irony of this fear, is that before we come to Christ we have nothing. Those things are just illusions. It is only in having Christ that we have something. When we confess Christ, we actually only give up an illusion of having respect, honor, and glory. We give up a delusion. So, daily we are called to confess Christ and to give up a delusional vision of ourselves. It is only in doing this that we find true freedom from fear and shame. Bavinck again is helpful when he says:
The Word of the Lord upsets that delusion of ours. We must deny that fancy if we desire to be saved by Christ. For Christians—that means, to count our own opinion and that of others as of no worth and worthiness, and instead, to accept the judgment of God over our own and hoping only for his grace and mercy. The confession of Christ implies that we lose ourselves and everything, our name and honor, our possessions and blood, our soul and life. It is precisely against this that the false shame protests. The desire for self-preservation, in appearance, compels and drives man, with all his strength and power to oppose the gospel.
When we try to preserve our lives, we lose them. Only when we surrender our lives, do we find life. Everything in us and around us fights against this, but when the Holy Spirit works on our hearts, we are able to declare with Peter and all the saints that have gone before that Jesus 'is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.'