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Posts Tagged ‘Peter’

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Occasionally I read commentary in social medias (like Facebook) and come away with material for a blog. This is one of those instances. Recently I happened upon a posting that suggested we spend too much effort in denying ourselves and taking up crosses, when all we dislikereally should be doing is focusing on following Jesus. The poster continued that by merely following Christ, the first two actions would take care of themselves.

At first glance it seems to make a bit of sense, but then the Holy Spirit steps in and reminds us that there’s one huge problem with the concept:

“It’s not what Jesus told us to do.”

So the question then becomes what was Jesus talking about when He referenced denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily? Let’s look at the verse in context.

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”  Matthew 16:21-24

Peter’s Mistake

Without rehashing the entire episode, Peter had not yet grasped the Spiritual doctrine of self-denial and taking up a personal cross; his actions demonstrate this reality, and the words of Jesus confirm it (in Peter’s defense, Jesus had not yet gone to the cross, but let’s not digress). Peter still had an emotional foot in the world which caused him to utter nonsensical things. Peter’s world-based emotions had gotten the better of him. Our heart aches for Peter, because whether we realize or not, we can relate to the character flaw.

Jesus continued…

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:25-26

Self Denial

Denying ourselves speaks to repentance; that is the turning away from our illicit, worldly pursuits, and turning towards Jesus. It’s the attitude of being all in for Jesus and it envelops the idea of dying to ourselves and reckoning our ‘old man’ to be dead. The Apostle Paul wrapped-up the doctrine tidily when he wrote:

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24

In the Ephesians passage we clearly see what self-denial of the holy sort is supposed to manlook like. No longer do we walk like the rest of the world; that path is the way of darkness. We put off that sinful, corruptible conduct of our old ways (our old man), and put on the behavior of the new man; that which was not accomplished by human hands, but created by His hands. Nowhere in God’s word are we counseled to bypass this step in order to simplify the process of following Jesus. We cannot for it’s the very thing Jesus told us to do. And just so we’re clear, it’s not our work, it’s an acknowledgment and reception of His work.

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

Our Daily Cross

The notion of taking up our cross encompasses all the elements of self-denial, but without the toil. As we know, Jesus finished all the work, and it’s there for us to receive by faith. The daily hoisting of our cross involves remembering daily that which Christ has already done. We remember both His crucifixion and resurrection, and yes, our own baptism.

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works” Revelation 2:5

For me, it typically occurs every morning before my feet hit the floor. In one sense it’s Holy Communion, but without the bread and the grape juice. I remember what Christ did, why He did it, my receiving of it, and my gratitude to Him for it. I also remind myself that my old man has been crucified and is now powerless over me. Oh he still may taunt and tempt me, but he has no hold on me. I then ask the Father for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit to instruct me, guide me, and empower me to do His will. Essentially I remember to present my body as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is my reasonable service (as per Romans 12:1).

Simply Put

I liken self-denial and hoisting a daily cross to making sure my parachute is on securely each and every day. In contrast, following Jesus without doing these things is akin to believing in parachutes, but refusing to put one on.

At the end of the day just remember, the reason Christians spend so much time denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following Jesus is because Jesus told us to.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

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By Him In HimTherefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless… 2 Peter 3:14

Oh Great…

We read the passage and straight away lament, “Oh great—One more thing I am unable to do.” Peace…What’s that? Without spot…I don’t think so. Blameless…Only Jesus is blameless!”

Only Jesus

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33

Therein is our answer–Only Jesus is prefect in all areas, therefore (if we might be so bold), we can summarize 2 Peter 3:14 so it reads, “Be diligent to be found by Jesus in Jesus.” In other words, when Jesus finds us, may we be found in Him! We cannot achieve these things in our own strength; our righteousness is His righteousness.

Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.” Luke 12:37

I’m Goin Fish’n

Again, Peter is talking from experience. We recall a time in Peter’s life when he was so discouraged in his faith, that he went back to his old ways—fishing for fish (rather than for men). He certainly was not at peace, without spot, or blameless, but he still loved his Lord.  Jesus happens upon the scene and what takes places is a prophetic picture of what Jesus alluded to earlier in the Luke 12:37 passage…

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfastt.” John 21:10-12

Peter’s righteousness was not lost because, he was still in Jesus. Consequently there was no rebuke, but a demonstration by Jesus of the promise yet to come. Another expression declaring that no one can snatch away that which the Lord has provided and that we have received.

As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him… Colossians 2:6


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The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed… 1 Peter 5:1Peter’s Exhortation

First Peter was written only months before horrific persecution of the church was to occur, for on July 19, 64 AD, many scholars believe that Caesar Nero set fire to Rome so he could eventually rebuild the city in a grander style. Seeing an opportunity to multitask, Nero blames the Christians for the blaze, igniting a furor that would result in the annihilation of over six million Christians.

Peter’s desire was to spiritually prepare the church for what ultimately lied ahead. We should find these directives as appropriate today as they were for the fledgling church of two thousand years ago. Going over the main points, Peter’s exhortation is for us to:

Feed the flock, serving as willing overseers, not for personal gain, nor as lords, but as humble examples to those we serve, while being submissive to all. He adds that we are to be sober, vigilant, and steadfast in faith, because satan seeks to eat us alive.

A Tall Order

“I can’t do that, ” you might say, “I am such a failure.”

God might say, “That is precisely why I directed Peter to write it, ” for we see that on every single textual point Peter failed miserably.

Peter certainly was a witness to Christ’s suffering—a ‘far off’ witness the Bible records. And he did witness the glory of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, but he wound up spouting off inappropriately. He sleeps lazily when Jesus told him to stand watch; he pridefully won’t allow Jesus to wash his feet, and wasn’t very submissive when he took Jesus aside to rebuke Him (Matthew 16). Needless to say that chopping off the ear of Malchus wasn’t a very good example either. Finally we discover a discouraged Peter has gone fishing. It is then Jesus reminds him that he has been casting his cares on the wrong side of the boat and later encourages him to feed the sheep he loves.

In light of his failures, what in Heaven’s Name qualifies Peter to exhort us? As he ends this section of the epistle, Peter tells us it is by God’s grace alone that he is qualified and that by this same grace we too are qualified.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 1 Peter 5:10

Impeccability vs. Teach-ability

God uses us in our brokenness—He always has and He always will. What better person than Peter to drive home that point. While Peter failed in every instance, we discover that to the same degree he was imperfect, he was teachable–in every single case Peter learned his lesson. Our lesson is that it is our failures that make us best suited for the job—that is if we are teachable, for if we are teachable we are usable.


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Choosing the Right TreeFor Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God…There is also an antitype which now saves us–baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. 1 Peter 3:18a, 21, 22

The Perfect Tree

Does anyone remember going Christmas tree shopping as a child? Regardless if we went into the woods to chop one down, a parking lot bursting with pre-cuts, or to the mall for the latest artificial model, we can all agree on one thing—the tree had to be perfect. (Unfortunately, dad’s idea of a perfect tree–combined with the perfect price, generally resulted in an inferior conifer).

Peter understood the significance of choosing the perfect tree, for he believed that what Christ Jesus did on the tree—the cross of Calvary was fully sufficient for all sin and thus provided a clean conscience. In darkest contrast, Judas did not believe, although the option for him to choose sensibly was there. Instead his guilty conscience led him to a tree imperfect. Judas was hung-up with guilt.

What Jesus did once and for all on the cross not only cleanses us of all our sin, it also cleanses our consciences. Does that mean we never recall the rotten things of our pasts? No, of course not—it is those very things we share in our testimonies that give God the glory and what Peter is indirectly doing here. The difference is the guilt is gone; the sins of our past now represent the bumpy road that brought us to salvation in Christ Jesus. Without faith, that road just serves to remind us of our guilt and our shame (and likely) the path we currently tread.

Baptism

When we allow ourselves to be baptized, essentially we are declaring by faith that what Christ did on the cross is sufficient, that the blood of Jesus cleanses (not the water), and satan (and his demonic henchmen) have no power over us…A Christian can never truthfully say, “The devil made me do it.”

But I Still Feel Guilty

Revelation 12:10 reminds us that satan goes around night and day ‘accusing’ us of our sin. Take note; ‘his lips are moving and that’s all’—satan and his demons have been made powerless by the blood of Christ—talking is all they can do in this regard. If you struggle to know the difference between the voice of evil and the voice of God, know that conviction from the Holy Spirit draws us closer to the Lord and condemnation from the enemy drives us further away. Your baptism experience is retroactive.

…How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14


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…Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 1 Peter 3:15-16Conscience Decisions

Without a doubt, experience is the best teacher…But no where is it written that it must be your experience. The Bible after all is an experiential-record of other people’s mistakes presented in such a manner that we might not repeat them. Like the good parent who desires to spare a child the horror of their own bad experiences, here we see Peter acting similarly in his counsel to the church.

Do you recall Peter having three occasions to offer a good defense, but because of a bad conscience, wasting those opportunities?

Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Matthew 26:74-75

Defiled Conscience

Titus 1:15 tells of the conscience defiled. That occurs when we habitually allow impure things to enter in. Over time, like soot building on a window, clear vision is impaired. A defiled conscience is likened to cataracts on the lens of your soul. Gone untreated, a defiled conscience leads to a…

Seared Conscience

Look at what 1 Timothy 4:1-2 declares in regard to the seared conscience.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron

Whether or not Peter had reached this stage is open to speculation, but we certainly see this quality displayed today in the voice of many a false teacher. Un-repented sin leads to defilement and prolonged corruption leads to a seared conscience; with that seared conscience being unable to distinguish between light and dark, right and wrong, or good and evil.

Evil Conscience

Can it get any worse than having a seared conscience? It most certainly can. Defilement leads to searing which leads to evil—and the truth be told, that is where the majority of us began our spiritual journeys; in the pit of an evil conscience. It was there that our Lord found us and placed within us the desire spoken of in Hebrews 10:22.

…Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Cleansed Conscience

Anybody ever told you as a Christian that you are brain-washed? Peter harkens that we are desperately in need of brain-washing, so much so that regular cleansing should be a daily (if not more frequent) ritual. Then and only then will we be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks the reason for the hope we possess.


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Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.   Romans 5:1-5No Joy in Knowledge

The term we commonly use for a collection of useful facts and data is ‘knowledge’. Honestly, the word is over-rated and, while it does have a magnificent and dignified ring to it, we often come away with the notion that gaining ‘it’ is sufficient unto its self. That is a concept flawed.

The beauty of God’s Word (the Bible) is that He not only provides us with knowledge, but ‘understanding’—the catalyst that gives life to knowledge. Peter reminds us in his first letter to the mission-ed church that the Old Testament prophets were abundantly blessed with knowledge (given directly by God), but they had very little understanding of the things they knew and shared—abundantly informed, yet deficient in perception.

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things which angels desire to look into. 1 Peter 1:10-12

The Joy of Understanding

The prophets knew of two God-given truths: the suffering of Mount Calvary and the glory of Mount Olivet. Through them we learned prophetically of our Lord’s first coming (and His consequent torment on Calvary) and His second coming when He returns as our glorious and conquering King. What the prophets missed was the valley in between the two—the valley the Apostle Paul refers to in Romans 5:1-5. Through Paul’s explanation of God’s refining process we have understanding.

Paul explains (as does Peter) that Jesus wants nothing more for us than to be eternally blessed, just as He was. We read about an attribute of Christ Jesus (in Hebrews 1:9) that is often over looked.

You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

There is no one happier than Jesus; He truly was, ‘The Man from Glad!” And that is what Jesus desires for us. The route to this eternal bliss is found only through Him and via His refining process. When we understand the progression (as prescribed in Romans 5), the motivation behind it all (Christ’s love for us), and the glorious destiny that awaits, it is only proper that we rejoice through it all. It is then we can declare with all confidence…

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Something is Missing

There is a piece missing. We have knowledge and we have understanding, but if we are not utilizing that which we have, we lack wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to apply, with understanding, those things which we know to be true. It has been my experience that as I proceed ‘wisely’ with that which the Lord has provided, He provides more. In contrast, when I sit on my wisdom, the flow ceases.


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Let Go of the Rope

Let Go of the Rope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials… 1 Peter 1:3-6

 

Relax

 

In Peter’s letter to the field, he is essentially telling the missionaries to relax, let go, and lighten up.  Ironically the secular world also prescribes the same thing, but their position is a twisted one, for it offers no hope—they merely advocate relaxation for relaxation’s sake, after all (they would say), “You do deserve a break today!”

 

The passage reminds us that we can rest in the knowledge (that) our Jesus is alive, our eternal inheritance waits, and we are preserved by the power of God through faith.  When we endeavor to keep these truths in the forefront and our focus upon our risen Savior, celebration of all things and in all things comes naturally.

 

Oh Well

 

Let’s face it; most of what we worry about never comes to pass anyway.  I experienced that last week when I was actually worried about meeting my Compassion sponsored child, Allison Juan.  “What will I say…what is he’s shy…what if he’s bored…” I fussed.  None of that ever came to fruition and my distress proved to be unwarranted.  

 

Pastor Jon Courson tells a story of a fraternity prank that left a young man hanging–literally.   The fraternity to which the lad was pledging took him to a well and lowered him into the dark abyss on a greased rope.  He was instructed to hang on until his ‘brothers’ lifted him out.  Of course you know that they left him there.

 

So there he hung in the dark, unable to climb the greasy cord.  After several moments his arms began to throb and he feared if he lost his grip he would plunge to the water far below.  More time past and he began to shout for help and then succumb to tears knowing he was going to fall.  Finally, the boy loosing his grip plummeted to the bottom of the cistern…a full 12 inches below his feet.  Standing firm on the bottom of the dry well all he could do was laugh at the inanity of his behavior.

 

Paul Was Right

 

“If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”    1 Corinthians 15:17-19

 

But what Christ Jesus did on the cross is not a charade, nor is His resurrection a hoax perpetrated by deceived followers.  Christ did die, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.

 

There is no doubt that trials will hound us, but hope and joy comes in knowing that our future glory in Him is secure.  Given a choice, which airline would you fly: the one that promises a turbulent journey with a smooth landing, or the one the promises a smooth flight with a crash landing.  We ALL can endure the turbulence when we know we are going to touch-down safely.

 


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