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Monday, June 28, 2010

Rebuke And Restoration

Jesus was masterful when dealing with people.  It didn't matter if it was disciples or Pharisees, he had precisely the right touch and the perfect words.  When I read the gospels and discover a new insight it makes me wonder what else am I missing.  Jesus was not afraid to rebuke and always desired to restore.  There are times when both of these objectives converge in a common circumstance.

John 21:15-17 is one of those remarkable places.
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.  He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.  He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Aside from the semantics involving the word "love" there are some other very compelling messages being conveyed in this short exchange.  It is important to remember some of the context leading up to this point.

Jesus had told the disciples they would all forsake him. (Mark 14:27)
Peter said he would never forsake him but rather would be willing to die for him. (John 13:37)
Jesus said Peter would deny him three times before the next morning. (John 13:38)
Peter did deny the Lord three times before the next morning. (Matt. 26:75)
Jesus was raised from the dead. (Luke 24:5,6)
He told the disciples to tarry at Jerusalem where they would be eunded with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)

This brings us to John 21.

At least seven of them, including Peter were not waiting at Jerusalem.  They were at the Sea of Galilee and, following Peter's lead, went fishing.  Peter was going back to his old trade.  Even though Jesus had seen Peter at least a couple of times nothing had been said about that fateful evening when Peter so forcefully denied the Lord, even cursing.

The events of John 21:3-8 are eerily similar to Luke 5:1-11.  The events of Luke immediately preceded the Lord telling Peter that from henceforth he would catch men and the bible says they forsook all and followed him.  Now here he was, after denying the Lord, back to his fishing for fish.  It was this similar experience that caused Peter and John to recognize that it was the Lord.

The Lord already had a meal prepared for them when they get to shore and I would imagine they ate in relative silence.  Then Jesus speaks to Peter.

When Jesus speaks he says, "Simon son of Jonas".  His address to Peter is ripe with rebuke.  Remember John 1:42 - And he brought him to Jesus.  And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.  Jesus effectively changed his given name from Simon to Cephas (Peter).  Peter having gone back to his old trade Jesus addresses him by his old name, Simon son of Jonas.  There is no way the significance could be lost on Peter.  Jesus was challenging his identity!  Who was he going to be; Simon or Peter?

It is also intriguing that Jesus questioned Peter's love three times.  This corresponds to the number of times Peter had denied him a few weeks earlier.  Again, I don't see how the significance could possibly be lost on Peter.  Peter had denied him three times, the Lord gave him three opportunities to profess his love.

Peter was rebuked by Jesus addressing him with his old name and by being reminded of his three-fold denial.  It was a subtle but stinging rebuke.  As these two men faced each other they both understood the purpose of this encounter.  It was a necessary reality check for Peter.  And, of course, Jesus was rebuking with the objective of restoring.  Jesus cut Peter with a double edged sword and in doing so sought to restore him to usefulness.  With each reminder of Peter's failure, (Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me) there was a corresponding offer of restoration (Feed my sheep).

I stand amazed at the skill of Jesus to weave together the necessity of rebuke and restoration.  Oh, how I long to be like him!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Come (Stay) As You Are?

Is there anyone who is really opposed to "come as you are".  Certainly, one comes to Christ as they are, there is no other way to come.  Most would even embrace the idea of come to church as you are except possibly for the most extreme possibilities.  But "come as you are" should not mutate into "stay as you are".

Ephesians 4:20-24 - But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

These few verses clearly set forth the principle that the redeemed are not to stay as they are.  We come as we are to be transformed into what we ought to be.  While the work will not be completed until the first resurrection we must bear in mind that we have, in identifying with Christ as pictured in baptism, been "raised to walk in newness of life."

Vs: 20 - Coming to Christ does not leave us to walk as other Gentiles.  Their walk is characterized by a vanity of the mind, a darkened understanding, an alienation from the life of God, and a blinded heart.  Thus the imperative of verse 17, "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk . . . ."

In verse 21 the Scripture sets the stage to remind us of the truths we have heard of and been taught by Christ.  It is not the teaching of men but the teachings of Christ.

Verse 22 reminds us of our responsibility relating to the old man.  The old man is corrupt according to deceitful lusts.  The old man is what dictated our former behaviour.  The old behaviour is to be put off because it is a reflection of the old man.  We clearly are being reminded that change is the expected result of coming to Christ as we are.

Verse 23 strikes at the heart of the transformation resulting from a renewal of the spirit of our minds.  There are two principles that effect this renewal.

Romans 12:2 - And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, . . . .
Colossians 3:10 - And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

We are renewed in the spirit of our minds as we choose to not be conformed to this world and choose to expand our knowledge of God and his Son.  As we suppress the carnal and worldly influences in our lives and embrace the spiritual influences in our lives we are renewed in the spirit of our mind.

Verse 23 addresses the issue of the vacuum created by the putting off of the former conversation, the old man.  We put on the new man.  I can't think of a stronger image of a changed life than putting off the old man and putting on the new man.  We come fully clothed in the old man with all of its deceitful lusts. We are redeemed by God's grace through the sacrifice of his son and then we are, by God's grace, not left the way we came.  We put on the new man which is characterized by righteousness and true holiness.

Our challenge is to reveal the grace of God in its fullness.  Accepting sinners as they are and pointing them to the Saviour and creating a culture of accountability wherein believers are being renewed in the spirit of their minds enabling them to put off the old man and put on the new.

The grace of God in accepting the sinner!
The grace of God in changing the believer!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In Christ Jesus!

Ephesians 1:1 - . . . . to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Ephesians 1:3 - . . . . who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Ephesians 1:4 - . . . . chosen us in him before the foundation of the world,

Ephesians 1:6 - . . . . wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Ephesians 1:7 - In whom we have redemption through his blood, . . . .

Ephesians 1:11 - In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, . . . .

Ephesians 1:13 - . . . . in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,

Ephesians 2:6 - . . . . made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

Ephesians 2:10 - . . . . created in Christ Jesus unto good works,

Ephesians 2:13 - . . . . in Christ Jesus ye . . . are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:21 - In whom all the building fitly framed together . . . .

Ephesians 2:22 - In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation . . . .

Ephesians 3:10,11 - . . . . might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God . . . which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Ephesians 3:12 - In whom we have boldness and access with confidence . . . .

Ephesians 5:8 - . . . . now are ye light in the Lord:

Ephesians 6:10 - . . . . be strong in the Lord

Thank God I am in Christ!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Accepted In The Beloved

Ephesians 1:6 - To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Why is an individual accepted by God?  Is it because they are a good person?  Is it because they have been baptized?  Is it because they are a good citizen?  Is it because they go to church?  Is it because the read their bible, or pray, or help others, or work hard, or haven't committed murder, or adultery, or robbery?  Why is an individual accepted by God?

It does not seem plausible that it would be a result of any personal merit (Ephesians 2:8,9).  We have all broken God's law (James 2:10).  That makes us a transgressor (1 John 3:4).  And because we have transgressed we are condemned (Romans 3:19).  Being condemned we are sure to face a day of judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  It is too late for us to do anything to alter our circumstances through a change of behaviour.  If we managed to life a perfect life from this point forward, which is highly unlikely, we still have all of our past sins.  Present righteousness does not atone for past transgressions!

Thankfully the Bible tells us "he" has made us accepted.  We are not accepted with God because of anything we have done or ever will do but rather because of what he has done.  He did for us what we could never do for ourselves.  It becomes important for us to identify who the beloved is.
Matthew 3:17 - And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Matthew 17:5 - While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
We get in Christ through faith!
Ephesians 1:12,13 - That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, . . . .

Trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for salvation (deliverance from the penalty and power of sin) is the means by which the Father makes us accepted in the Son!  Consequently, it is "to the praise of the glory of his grace, . . . ."
"On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand"
The beloved is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Father himself identifies him as the beloved.  The conclusion is that the Father makes us "accepted" in his Son.  How do we get in his Son?

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Little Leaven?

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.  Galatians 5:9

There is a profound and sobering truth contained in these few words.  A little effects the whole.  It is far too easy to justify our sin on the basis that it is a little one.  A little sin defiles the whole.

We are reminded of this basic truth again in 1 Corinthians 5:6 - Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

Consider Lot when he was driven from Sodom just before it was destroyed.  The Lord told him to escape to the mountains.  Lot's response to the LORD's instruction is classic, "Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live."

It was Solomon who warned us that it is the "little foxes that spoil the vines."

We stand in great fear of the "great" sins: fornication, drunkenness, murder and the like.  Yet we permit the presence of the more subtle sins for they are just "little" ones: bitterness, envy, covetousness, deceit, hypocrisy, and the like.

We fail to understand the pervasiveness of sin when we do not recognize that little sins effect the whole person.  A little bitterness makes us a bitter person.  A little envy makes us an envious person.  A little covetousness makes us a covetous person.  A little deceit makes us a dishonest person.  A little hypocrisy makes us a hypocritical person.

It is not so much the appearance of these sins in our lives but the harbouring of them that makes the difference.  Just as leaven needs the right environment to initiate the leavening process so sin needs the right environment to initiate the leavening process whereby the whole is effected.  Sin has no leavening tendency in a heart that is in a continual state of repentance and grief over sin.  The conditions are not right for the whole to be effected.  Thus the warning from Hebrews concerning being "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."

Let us be ever so careful about a "little" sin or what we might consider "little" sins.  If the truth be known they may be the most dangerous kind.  They are permitted to linger and at the last effect the whole.  Our consecration, our character, our complexion, our countenance, our commitment, our convictions, our entire being (the whole lump)  is colored by the presence of what began as a little leaven.

1 Corinthians 5:8 - Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Daughter Of Faith

The following is from James Smith's, The Pastor's Morning Visit

Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.  James 5:8

Our God is a God of patience.

The Lord Jesus is the great Example of patience.

The Holy Spirit is the Agent producing patience.

Trials, troubles, and disappointments, are the means which exercise and strengthen patience.

The patience that God requires, is a disposition to bear all that He has appointed for us, without complaining; yes, with resignation and hope; to wait God's time for the mercies we need--or for answers to the prayers we put up.

Patience is the daughter of faith.  It is only as we believe that God has appointed, overrules, or commands all things for our good and His glory--that we can be patient.

Patience . . .

produces reliance on God,
shuts the mouth from complaining,
keeps back the heart from seeking revenge,
and is a principal point in self-control.

Are you impatient?

Then confess it, and mourn over it before God!  Impatience will make you miserable, and lead you to dishonor God.  Watch against it!

Look at the patience of the Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs--of Jesus!  You, too, must be patient.  And take courage, "for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Right Circumstances For Praise

Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD.  Praise ye the LORD.  Psalms 150:6

I read this verse last week and have been pondering it since.

What is necessary to praise the LORD?  A church building?  A hymn or spiritual song?  A sermon?  A spiritual victory?  A financial blessing?  An improvement in our circumstances?  An answered prayer?  A new friend?  Restoration with an old friend?  Nice weather?  Sunshine?  Trouble free day?  People treating me right?  People not treating me wrong?  The birth of a child?  A good report from the doctor?  No family problems?  A good meal?  What is necessary to praise the LORD?

Could it be that just having breath is all that is necessary to praise the LORD?

The scripture does not say:

let everyone that hath a house praise the LORD
let everyone that hath clothes praise the LORD
let everyone that hath a good day praise the LORD
let everyone that hath a good job praise the LORD
let everyone that hath no family problems praise the LORD
let everyone that hath health praise the LORD
let everyone that hath friends praise the LORD

It says, "Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD."

All I need to praise the LORD is breath!  If I have breath I should praise the LORD with it.  I could mummer and complain with it.  I could criticize and revile with it.  I could moan and groan with it.  I could whine and gripe with it.  I could scoff and ridicule with it.  I could pout with it.  I could accuse with it.  I could growl with it.  I could snarl with it.  I could fuss with it.  I could grumble with it.  I could fret with it.

But why would I want to do any of those things when I can and should praise the LORD with it!

We don't need a lot to praise the LORD, just breath and as long as he is giving breath it seems appropriate that we would praise him with it!

"Praise ye the LORD."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another Gospel?

Galatians 1:6 - I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

Another gospel?  There are two...or three...or more?

The phrase "another gospel" is used to create a perception that is immediately addressed in the first few words of the following verse, "Which is not another;"  The perception is created in order to dismantle it.  There is only one gospel!  It is the gospel of grace (vs:6), the gospel of Christ (vs:7), an exclusive gospel (vs:8,9), and it is not a gospel of man's making (vs:11).

The gospel of Christ is clearly identified in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.  It is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If the message is altered in the slightest degree it is perverted and ceases to be the gospel of Christ.  If baptism is added it is perverted.  If speaking in "tongues" is added it is perverted.  If any human effort is added, no matter how slight, it is perverted and is a "gospel" of men and not of Christ and grace.

It is by the gospel that men are delivered from the power and penalty of sin.  Romans 1:16 clearly states that it is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation.  Don't be duped by "another" gospel that is in reality a perverted gospel.

When a sinner believes the gospel of Jesus Christ he is immediately brought into a covenant relationship (John 1:12) wherein God accepts Christ's payment for the sinner's transgressions (1 Peter 3:18) and imputes the righteousness of Christ to the sinner (Romans 4:5).  By this transaction the sinner is made accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6) and the sinner is, by the judge of the universe declared righteous before the law, he is justified (Romans 5:1).  All of this is done for the sinner when he believes that it might be by grace (Romans 4:16).

The message of the gospel is primary truth.  To be wrong on the gospel is to be wrong about how to get to heaven.  It is not as we hear so much talk about today, unessential truth.  It is the most essential truth!  A man can be wrong about many, many things and go to heaven.  But he cannot be wrong about the gospel and expect to go to heaven.

In fact before we get to the end of the first chapter of Galatians the Holy Spirit has doubly emphasised just how important the gospel is by pronouncing a curse on all those who would pervert it.

Galatians 1:8,9 - But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Have you believed the gospel?  Not a perverted gospel but the gospel of grace and of Christ!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Never Heard A Warning

From C. H. Spurgeon's message, The Sinner's Refuge.

"A member of my church said to me lately, 'I heard such a one preach; a sound doctrine man he is called.  I heard him preach for nine years, attending the theater all the time.  I could curse, I could swear, I could sin, and I never heard a warning from that man's lips the whole nine years.'  Ah! my God, my God, let this world hiss me; let me wear the coat that sparkleth, and the cap that garnisheth a fool.  Let earth condemn me, and let the fools of the universe spurn me; but free me from the blood of my hearers."

May God always give his ministers courage to, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, . . . ."  May the unpleasant and lonely task of being a watchman be rewarded with the joy of seeing men flee to Christ for deliverance!