The Diabolical Nature of Worldly Self-centeredness

Matthew 16:21–23 21From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

It is incredible how quickly our hearts can turn. One minute we are sensitive to God affirming the truth He reveals to our hearts, and the next our hearts are captivated by self-interest that is governed by what we believe is best for us in the context of our present earthly life.

The background of the confrontation presented in the passage above shows how fickle and self-centered the human heart can be. So much so, it can turn on a dime from God-centeredness to man-centeredness.

Jesus just asked His disciple about the opinion of the people as to His identity. The response is, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asks His disciples the same question and Peter immediately responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus affirms Peter’s response as a divine light shining into Peter’s heart and mind saying, “…flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

With these words fresh in Peter’s memory, Jesus tells His disciples He is going to Jerusalem and will be put to death and then resurrected three days later. Peter is dumbfounded and rocked by the prediction of Jesus. The fisherman, just declared the recipient of heavenly insight, feels empowered to rebuke Jesus for His disturbing announcement. Peter thinks his understanding of future earthly significance, power, and prestige are the determined course that has his blessing. All interference must be rebuked and redirected.

Without hesitation, Jesus turns Peter’s rebuttal on its head. The response of the Lord is not a mild correction. He calls Peter’s defense of self-centered and worldly comfort, communication with Satanic origin. Wow! How quickly Peter turns from light to darkness. How did this happen?

Peter’s reversal reveals the age-old tactic of our enemy the devil. In the Garden of Eden Satan accuses God of holding out on Adam and Eve. Satan says eating the fruit will grant them a God-like understanding of both good and evil. It will give them a divine perspective God doesn’t want them to have, but it is one that will grant them earthly wisdom and worldly satisfaction. What is Satan’s lie? God’s holding out on you. Choose self-satisfaction.

The lie Adam and Eve believed, is the lie that Peter believed. Trusting the word and plan of God will cause earthly discomfort but trusting God’s will and ways will be more delightful and satisfying than any short-term worldly pleasure.

Be warned. There is a diabolical nature to worldly self-centeredness. We don’t have to look hard. The application of this truth is right where you and I live day after day.