And Peter

Our prayers are with the LaFrance’s.

Yesterday’s post highlighted the tearing of the curtain and the final price that was paid in full for our sin. It represents an opportunity for closeness to God.

In today’s reading (Mark 16) the angel has a message for Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James to carry. He tells them to go and tell it to Jesus’s disciples ‘and Peter.’

When I read this I thought to myself ‘what an interesting way to address a group.’ Knowing that the selection of words was precise I began to wonder why ‘and Peter’? My thoughts went to the message. It’s my understanding that ‘angel’ means messenger. So I can presume this angel had a message. Further, that every message has intended recipients. Also, that carrying a message includes seeing it is received. Could it have been, to ensure the task was completed and all the intended recipients received the message, that special note needed to be made for Peter to know the message was for him as well? that the angel knew Peter would not include himself in the category of the disciples without this special inclusion?

If so, considering how Peter must have felt, reminds me of so much scripture that had yet to be revealed calling us to hold fast, (Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 10:23, 1Thessalonians 5:21, Revelation 2:25, Revelation 3:3) remain salty, (Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34) and overcome in the face of trails. (Romans 12:21, James 1:21, 1John 5:4) Praise God for His Word! It encourages me that we need not be perfect to be useful to God more that we need not try to do it on our own. Such a burden would certainly leave one feeling like they had fallen from the graces of God at the slightest misstep. Knowing that perhaps, Peter struggled with a lie that his poor performances may disqualify him from God’s service is a good reminder that I need to cling to these scriptures.

Indeed we have been purchased in our imperfection. God, knowing the future value, decided on the price and it was highest. By His grace and mercy we are made useful to Him. I’m reminded of a study on the armor of God. Specifically, the shoes.

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; – Ephesians 6:15

To make ready for battle in the good news that we have made peace with God. We have made peace with God and so we are on God’s side. God is with us! He will not leave us. We should not be without this peace when working for the LORD and fighting the good fight. (Ephesians 6:10) The truth stays us and gives us firm footing to complete the work God has given us to do. (Isaiah 41:13, Psalm 27:1, John 16:33, Romans 8:17-18, 1Corinthians 15:57, Philippians 4:13)

God has given us His armor. May we all use it well. Amen.

 

Photo: Raphael – Christ’s Charge to Peter

Salvation On A Curve

Today’s reading: Luke 13

Jesus is an incredible teacher. He has so much to reveal but it always seems that He waits for the perfect time to do it. Often in response to a question. His ‘answers’ to questions seem to get right to the root of what is really going on. I feel like the space between the question and the answer is often where I find a lesson.

In today’s reading Jesus was asked, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” 

In my estimation, in the space between the question and the answer here Jesus redirects the questioner’s thinking away from comparison and towards personal faith. Almost as if to say, ‘look, it doesn’t matter how many will be saved. What matters is that you be one of them.’ Comparison is empty. Salvation has nothing to do with out doing anyone. Salvation is not on a curve with our peers. We can not gauge salvation by looking to the culture. Praise God, He has revealed to us the truth and the truth stands alone as the standard, unchanging, never moving, the rock of our salvation.

Glowing Box

Imagine a box in a dark room. Inside the box is a source of light that makes it glow. Now a pinhole is made in the box. The pinhole in the box gives off a thin beam of light piercing through the darkness of the room. You move to align your eye with the beam of light to peer inside the box. What you see, you see clearly, yet you can not see all the contents of the box, only what is within your field of view from the hole. What is shown is shown clearly but not all is shown. This is how I have come to understand a parable to reveal the truth. John 16 tells us that while Jesus revealed the truth in parables, He will send the Spirit that will open up the box completely and reveal truth plainly.

John 16 tells us that while Jesus revealed the truth in parables, He will send the Spirit that will open up the box completely and reveal truth plainly.

I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. – John 16:25

The word here translated as ‘figures of speech’ is paroimiais in the greek. Some versions translate this word as figurative language, some as allegories, some as proverbs and some as parables. A paroimiais is a pointed but veiled statement. Throughout His entire ministry, Jesus spoke in mashal which is the Hebrew word for the same veiled but pointed statements. These parables are very clear illuminations of the truth but they purposefully leave much hidden. (Luke 8:10)

An interesting fact, Jesus taught in parables, but from this point forward, from the end of the Gospels on, no one else ever gives a parable. After the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, and after the coming of the Holy Spirit, everything is unveiled. Everything is given to us plainly.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. – John 16:12-13

When I think of the disciples being given one parable after another, I think of our glowing box and their having another hole made for them to see in. Their box had many holes from all of Jesus’s parables. So much truth yet so much truth still veiled. 

Now imagine our box again. The four vertical corners of the box are split. The box now completely opened up, lays flat on the ground. Everything inside the box is now perfectly visible and accessible.

The Spirit has given us the perfect account of Jesus ministry in the Gospels, the beginnings of the delivery of His promises in His Church from Acts, the clear and plain explanation of His teaching we get from the theology from the epistles, and the complete unveiling of the future from Revelation. This is Jesus delivering on His promise to unveil all the truth. (John 14:26) This is the perfect and complete testimony of God revealed to us in Scripture. This is the box, the truth, completely opened and accessible to us.

God this morning we thank You for the gift of the New Testament and for revealing all the truth to us in plain ways. We praise You LORD God! God, we confess to not placing the proper value on Your revealed truth and ask that you would give us a strong desire to arm ourselves with your revealed truth and use it to Your glory. May Your Kingdom come LORD. On earth, as it is in Heaven. Amen.

 

A Lesson from the First Missions Trip

Some believe there is a reason that in this account of the first great missionary move of the church there is both the presence of a false convert and a true believer. Perhaps one of the lessons here is that this is a reality of ministry. (Matthew 13:24-30)

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them. (Acts 8:5) After hearing and seeing the miracles, Simon, the Sorcerer, having in the same city proclaimed to be great and having been given heed as the same, believed and was baptized proclaiming Christ. (Acts 8:9-13) Simon the Sorcerer, after witnessing a new miracle, the laying on of hands by the apostles that the believers might receive the Holy Spirit, desired this power for himself and offered to pay the disciples to procure it. (Acts 8:18-19) The Apostles exposed him as false and rebuked him. (Acts 8:20-23)

Here we see the intention of Simon’s heart. Apparently he was not interested in God because solely because he loved God in the true sense of the word, that is; loving someone for what you can do for them, but instead, for a selfish, lustful desire, that is; “loving someone” for what they can do for you. He seemingly was not interested in God except that he might procure the power of God. Except that he might then use this power for himself and sow to the flesh more and more. (Galatians 6:7-8) In this case, Simon the Sorcerer seemed interested in the power of God to fuel his prideful quest of being great among the people. It was found out that is was really all about him and not God.

Perhaps some good questions to reflect on and return to:

  • Do we love God for what we can do for Him (serve Him) or are we more interested in what He can do for us? Are we more interested in God or His stuff (blessing, etc.)? In your heart (your deepest and most subtle desires); Are you for God or is God for you? ‘For’ here being in the useful sense of the word. 
  • Do we love others for what we can do for them or what they can do for us?

Painting: Rembrandt, The Baptism of the Eunuch, 1626

Testimony 101

During Paul’s time in Israel, the law was that capital punishment was reserved for the Roman government, except for one condition. The Jewish religious leaders could execute a prisoner if the prisoner desecrated the Temple. Now Paul did not do anything to desecrate the Temple but since this was the only way to kill him they manufactured an accusation that he did.

Even though it was not the law that inviting a gentile into the temple was a capital punishment crime, their accusation that Paul had done this was a way to extended the requirements for capital punishment to Paul by association. That is, he brought a gentile into the Temple and the Gentile desecrated it so, therefore, Paul caused the Temple to be desecrated and so we can kill him. To put it simply they were out to take Paul’s life.

This is a tough situation to be in, yet Paul’s heart focused on the mob and desired to see them saved. To this end, he delivered His testimony.

And from this account we find a playbook for how he gave his testimony:

  1. He accepted the situation was from God.
  2. He created an opportunity to give his testimony. 21v37 & 40
  3. He did what he could to create common ground and win his audience.  22v1-5 &12
  4. He exalted the LORD so that if the people rejected, they were rejecting God, not him. He made it all about God, not him. 22v6-11
  5. He avoided suffering. (this was a particularly interesting point. 22v25 (The sermon below talks about how Paul didn’t have what the pastor called a ‘martyr complex’)
  6. Love governed his attitude. Throughout he was focused on what he could do for the mob.

 

I often listen to sermons to prepare for these posts. These 6 points are from Paul’s Arrest Part Four: the Attitude of Paul by John MacArthur

A Believer’s Battle with Sin

Sanctification is the separation of the believer from his sin.  This separation is a believer’s ongoing struggle and a battle with himself.  It is internal.

In chapter 7 of Romans, Paul’s internal struggle with sin reveals how sin wages war against the Christian.  Do you struggle with sin?  (God’s word says you do. Romans 3:23, 1John 1:8, Isaiah 53:6)  If you are ready to admit that, the next step is to accept it.

The peace that comes with accepting how we relate to God (we are sinners that have turned away from Him and if we believe in Jesus our sins will be forgiven) will feel like a heavy load being lifted from you.  Remove the expectation that you need to be perfect to become a Christian or that once you become a Christian you will no longer battle with sin.

It is not about you being perfect – it is about Jesus being perfect.

Those who follow Christ hate sin because they remember what it did.  It crucified Christ.  In a way when we sin it is like taking part in that.  This is the Christians motivations to hate sin and flee from it.

Here are some notes from a sermon (first link in the resources below) on how sin battles with a believer:

  1. It is within us. James 1:14-15
  2. It is a battle of the mind, of our thoughts. Romans 7:23, 1Peter 1:13
  3. Victory is in Christ.
    1. Confess your sin to the LORD and ask his forgiveness. (1John 1:9, Proverbs 38:13)
    2. Ask the LORD for the strength to refuse to entertain sinful thoughts.  (2Corinthians 10:5, 2Timothy 1:7)
    3. Avoid evil. (Psalms 1:1-6, Matthew 18:7-9)
    4. Draw nigh to the LORD, pursue His Word.  (Philippians 4:8, Romans 8:6)

Here are three great sermons that will arm you with the truth regarding separating from your sin:

  1. Sanctification and Sins of the Mind
  2. Spiritual Stability, Part 5: Godly Thinking
  3. Breaking Sin’s Grip

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

Today’s picture is from a lesson to the Unit 5 Innovative Entrepreneur class. It was drawn to deconstruct a chapter on the leadership from Chief Hanna’s book Mastering Self: to Lead Self and Others.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul helps us understand the responsibility and power of leadership.  As I read through today’s chapter, Chief Hanna’s principles on the power of leadership continued to surface in Paul’s life.  

Challenge: See if you can draw any similarities from Paul’s account and the image above as you read through the chapter.  If you find any that you’d like to share, or any other scripture that comes to mind, put them in the comments.  

I’ve included some takeaways from the reading below along with some other scripture that came to mind when reading it.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.- 1Corinthians 4:1-2

A follower of Christ is a steward of the truth.  The mysteries of God have been revealed plainly to us in the New Testament. (John 14:26)  The steward’s job is to protect the truth from perversion and proclaim it unfettered. (2Timothy 1:14, Romans 1:16)  The Word of God saves souls so I can see why it is important to steward it well, (James 1:21) but what does it mean to be a faithful steward?

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. – 1 Corinthians 4:3-5

Perhaps the first step in being faithful is to recognize who we are to be faithful to. We are not men pleasers but God pleasers. (Ephesians 6:6-8)  We are slaves of God and we seek our Master’s glory.  We trust his Word and are not ashamed of it.  God is the only one fit to judge.  Comparison is empty if left to us.  Only One can compare rightly.  The Sprit compares us to God’s word.  This is a personal gift to help us each individually.  In the same way, we should not try to unwrap a friend’s birthday gift, we should not attempt to unwrap the Spirit’s gift of comparing others to the Word.  We only need protect the Word and proclaim it. 

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. – 1 Corinthians 4:6-8

Perhaps the second step in being faithful is to admit our position.  We own nothing but that which God has given us.  God has given us everything to steward for His glory.  

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 1Corinthians 9-13

Paul’s proper view of himself places him at the bottom which gives him the personal power to minister, save souls, and bring glory to God.

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? – 1 Corinthians 4:14-21

Paul’s example is faithfulness.  Words would not do, therefore Paul sent Timothy as a reminder of the power of a life.  Wisdom is not knowing things.  Wisdom is shown in a life lived well. (James 3:13)  Paul warns that he will inspect lives and discern the presence or absence of the power of God.