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Archive for April, 2011

The Worth of a Broken Man

April 29th, 2011

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

   Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

   Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:17

 

It began to dawn on the apostles after the resurrection that the center pieces of Christ’s work on earth were the cross and the resurrection. In the early days of Jesus’ public ministry John the Baptist had said of Christ, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Christ also often taught them these things. But it took three years, the cross and the resurrection, before they began to grasp the central theme of the ministry of Christ was to die for the sins of the world and to be raised by the power of God, as He had said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).

 

It must have torn at their hearts that at the critical moment of His ministry they had deserted Him. They were there when He taught and fed the multitudes. They were there when He calmed the waters. They had been there when He healed the sick and when He raised Lazarus from the grave. He had sent them out on missions and even the demons had been subject to the disciples. And though they had failed to cast the demon out of a young boy, they had at least been present trying to do so. But at the cross they had deserted Him and, despite His teaching them, they failed to believe in the resurrection at first.

 

It must have torn at all of their hearts but none more so than Peter’s. Three times Peter had denied Christ, denied that he knew Him, denied that he was a follower, the last time calling down curses on Himself. So the fact that He had been unfaithful and the way that He had been unfaithful in Christ’s most important hour of ministry haunted him.  

 

Christ, of course, knew this. When God confronts us with our sin He does so that we might be assured of His forgiveness, and that is what He did with Peter. Peter needed to be dealt with lovingly but firmly, so Jesus asked him three times if he loved Him “more than these.” The phrase “more than these” is as curious in the Greek as it is in any other language. But the most likely meaning was whether Peter’s love was superior to the love of the other apostles, whether Peter loved Jesus more than the other disciples loved Jesus. Remember on the night of Christ’s betrayal Peter had pledged “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matthew 26:33). And in light of his betrayal of Christ he realized that his love was not spectacularly greater than the others.

 

It is hard to translate the words from Greek to any other language – the conversation almost certainly occurred in Aramaic, not Greek, but all we have is the Greek translation of this encounter. We are tempted to make too much of them or too little of them – but let us take the simplest idea included in the passage, that Jesus spoke of a higher love than did Peter. Peter was honest with his short comings, with his weaknesses, even with His love – Christ’s love for Peter was purer and higher than his for Christ. Peter was a man who, like all men, was best when he admitted his weaknesses. The more we brag and boast about what we will do for God, or about our giftedness, the further we are from becoming that person or achieving those things. It is a rule of faith that the people God uses must be broken people – no other type of human will do. The proud, rash Peter had been tamed, humbled, even humiliated – and made so by his own failures.

 

So Christ gently, but straight forwardly asked this question three times, to mirror the three denials that Peter had made. God searches us to expose us to ourselves, in order to restore us to Him self and to ourselves. Sin blinds us to realities. It makes us proud when we should be humble. It makes us arrogant and critical of others when we should be honest and self-effacing. Peter could not stand for Christ for even one night in his own will power and neither can you nor can I.   

 

How many times in our own lives at the critical moment we failed? Christ points these things out in our lives by His Holy Spirit that we might have the forgiveness that He wants us to have and that we need to have. Spiritual cleansing by the Holy Spirit can be painful, but the process leads us from the muddy waters of failure into the clear waters of grace. The Lord disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), so He points these things out that we might be forgiven.

 

We stand in grace and this is the only way we can stand for Christ. It is childish desperation to promise to do better next time, when we know how often we have failed. We do so because we have not yet learned another way. But the way of God is the way of grace, and if we will follow Christ we can only do so as broken people who must stand in the power of another, in the power of God, by His grace and in His Spirit.

 

In this sense it is a very true statement that the way up in the Christian life is first down. God delights to exalt the truly humble. By His grace He assures us of forgiveness and leads us forward to serve Him.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, we have each failed You are critical times, and we confess and forsake our sins. We come to You, broken and weak, to be made new by Your grace and through Your Spirit. Amen.

 

 

Evening Devotionals ,

Do Not Be Troubled

April 28th, 2011

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.

John 14:1

 

Circumstances can seem to conspire against us and our hearts can become troubled. The word used here conjures up the idea of agitation, a stirring within the soul, causing that which was once calm to be foaming and impulsive. It is the idea of a sea that had been calm and placid, suddenly becoming stormy, windy, and unpredictable.

 

We cannot control the outward events, but we can do something about what goes on within us. Christ specifically called on His disciples to put their hearts at rest. These words were uttered at the table of the Last Supper, when the disciples’ hearts were troubled over the words of Christ about His betrayal, His coming death, and Peter’s pending denials. John 13:21 says that Christ was also troubled in His spirit about the betrayal of Judas, and we can surmise from this that to be upset by the events around us is a normal part of being human. The verb was an aorist in 13:21, “Jesus was troubled in his spirit,” emphasizing a singular point in time, the sudden attack upon the heart of Christ of the reality of the betrayal of Judas. It was, by contrast, written in the present tense in 14:1 which would mean “Do not let your hearts continue to be troubled,” a bit of an awkward English translation but it conveys the idea of the original.

 

Sudden events will come upon us which will disturb us – just as His betrayal and His crucifixion disturbed Jesus – and we would assume that there is no sin involved in the initial reactions to the onslaught of trouble. There is a difference between a boat at sea that is temporarily destabilized by being hit by a wave, and a boat where the destabilization comes from people within the boat moving around from side to side, upsetting the balance of the craft. Christ was saying that within our hearts we need a calmness that will enable us to endure the storms of life. If we could only limit the destabilizing factors in our lives to those things that happen to us on the outside, and do not come from within, we will be prepared to face whatever life may throw at us.

 

This inner calmness comes through faith in God and in Christ. Some religions emphasize a detached attitude, one of aloofness and apathy to the problems around us. This, however, is not Christianity. Rather our anchor and stability in times of trouble come from faith in the One who cares for the world more than any other. The words are not to suggest there are two Gods in which we are to believe – Jesus and God – rather the point is just the opposite: Just as the disciples had believed in God, they were to take that faith and invest it in Christ. In the same chapter we read Him saying, “If you really knew me, you would know the Father as well” (John 14.7). This means that we are to believe in His power, in His goodness, in His victory, and in His love for you and me, that to believe these things about Christ is to believe them about God.

 

We have very little control over the problems that will come upon us in life, but we can have great control over how we handle these matters within our hearts. Trust in Christ. This is the answer of our souls to the challenges of life. Trust in God no matter what, and we will find a heartfelt, calming peace will begin to stabilize our souls. Inner peace is the consolation Christ gives to the believer, but more than an insignificant token, it is to be prized and cherished more than outwardly calm surroundings.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, teach us faith in troubled moments, so that we will not be stuck in panic mode but be able to rest in You, in Your love and in Your power. Amen.

 

 

 

Evening Devotionals , , , , ,