The Rock

Matthew 16 13-23

 

When Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” the disciples answered Him, but when He asked, “Who do you say I am?” only Peter had the courage to answer. And what an answer!  He got it right and received much praise from Jesus.

What rock is Jesus to build His church on?   I have heard two different views on this passage. One is that Peter is the rock, and verse 19 seems to support that view.  The other is that Jesus is the rock and when He speaks here, He is referring to Peter’s statement that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God!  And on this the church has its founding.  As the Christ, He is the one who will take away the sins of the world.  As the Christ, He will restore Israel.  As the Christ, He will restore all mankind to the Father.

In Revelation 21:14, it is clear that the apostles are the foundation with Jesus as the cornerstone, so I do believe in this case, both views are accurate.  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!  This is the bedrock of all our beliefs and yet God has chosen us to do the work necessary to communicate the gospel message.  We are ambassadors for Christ. We, like His disciples, are His witnesses to the work He has done on the cross and the work He continues to do.

Peter and the other disciples built a firm foundation in the early church, and each successive generation builds upon the previous.  This is why it is incumbent on each new generation of the church to continue to build upon the word that was established by Jesus Himself and to not stray from it, that the next generation of believers will be able to build upon the strong foundation and weather any storm.  The question is, has the last Generation met its obligation to the next?

Walking on Water

Matthew 14 22-31

When I read the scriptures, sometimes I come away with more questions than answers.  Why send them away?  God often puts us in position to be tested and this is what we find here.  We are tested, not so that God can find out how we will react, but so we can see how far our faith has come, so we can grow. By sending them away, Jesus set up an opportunity to test His disciples.

How strong are they?  Well, not very, they were afraid that Jesus was a ghost.  They were following Jesus because they believed He was the Christ, the Son of God and yet they were afraid of a ghost?  Jesus calmed their fears.  He continues to do the same for us.  There is no shame in being afraid.  It is not good, however, to let your fear keep you from doing the will of God.

Peter makes a request of Jesus, “If it is you, command me to come to you.”  Wow!  If it is you? Command me to come to you!  Really?  A definite lack of faith and trust is shown by Peter and yet I give him kudos for stepping out of the boat.  That took faith.  And what happened next?

Peter walks on water! Well, at least for a few steps any way.  He takes his eyes off of Jesus and looks at the waves, and starts to sink.  How often do we do the same thing?  You know God does not expect us to always succeed, but He does expect us to try.  And as we move closer to God, as we grow in faith, we will get stronger in our faith and will succeed more often than not, but we need to keep our eyes on Jesus (on the spiritual) and not on the waves (on the physical).

Gone, but NOT Gone

Acts 1 1-12

This is the account of Jesus last moments with his disciples.  He leaves them with a promise that they will not be without Him.  In fact, what He is doing will ultimately leave them better off than if He had stayed.  There are a few things in these scriptures that I’d like to highlight today.

First:  They were commanded not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait on the Father’s promise. Too many Christians use “waiting on the Lord” and “praying” as an excuse for their lack of service and consequently miss the blessings of service to the Lord.  There are times, however, when the Spirit does hold us back and require us to wait.  Moving forward at these times will leave us working in our own strength, outside the will of God, and that is NOT where we want to be.  When He does tell us to wait, it is usually not for long and it is for the purpose of preparing us for the work.  In other words, He is not inactive in our life during the waiting time.

Second:  There is a difference between water baptism and Spirit baptism.  Water baptism is a wonderful representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  It is done in obedience to God’s word. John was unwilling to baptize Jesus, but Jesus said “Permit it at this time; for in this way, it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Baptism of the Spirit is the indwelling of Jesus in us, to perform His work and will in the world.  You can receive water baptism and not be saved, but you cannot receive the Spirit of God and not be saved!

Third:  We are called to be witnesses of the work of Jesus Christ in our lives!  Have you experienced God working in your life?  If you have, you need to share those experiences with others, so that through you they will see Christ working and know that He is still alive and acting through His servants – the Church.

True Love

John 21 15-17

Jesus asks Peter the first and second time, “Do you agape Me?”  Peter’s answer is, “You know I phileo You.”  Our English language is insufficient to convey what is really going on in this passage.  In the original Greek, we have agape:  an unquestioning love, such as the love God, revealed in His Son, and phileo:  a brotherly love, such as that between friends.  These can also be described as agape:  love from your heart, and phileo:  love from your head.  Jesus asked for agape, but Peter professed phileo.  The Lord was asking for more than Peter could give at that time.  The same happens for us today.

Just as Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus now offers him three opportunities to confess his love for Him.  But this third time, Jesus changes His question to, “Do you phileo Me?”  Peter is grieved!  Not because He has been asked three times, but that Jesus is now asking him for LESS.  God is willing to use us just as we are!  If we are willing to be used, He will work His perfect will thru our sin stained lives!  Is that not amazing? He will, however, always call us to more than we are currently giving, in order to grow us. Peter wanted Jesus to continue challenging him and leading him to a greater love and closeness to God.

Peter’s response says, “I love (phileo) you as much as I can for now, but I know and you certainly know that love (agape) will grow as we work side by side for the kingdom.  How does Jesus work with believers side by side today?  Look forward to next week!

One last thing:   Jesus has in the three and a half years of His ministry removed the stone from around the diamond that is Peter and now starts the process of cutting and polishing, so that He may shine through Peter.

Diamond in the Rough

In HIS Strength

John 21 10-12

This is not the first time Jesus gave his disciples directions to cast their nets after a fruitless night of fishing.  Luke 5: 4-8 says,

                 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

Before they became followers, their nets were breaking and their boats were sinking because of the weight of fish they caught.  Now they are followers and their nets are not breaking and they need no help from other fishermen to bring the net in.  God provides miraculously for those who follow Him!  We, as followers of a risen Lord, need not ever forget that truth.  We can work for Him, in His strength and not our own, and He will supply and sustain us.

A Diamond in the Rough

John 21 7-14

Peter is so impetuous.  He often speaks or acts before he thinks of what he is doing.  Peter also has huge blind faith.  You can go so far as to say he has more faith than brains.  I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.

I would like to look in on this, as an observer to see how this story looks from that perspective.  You watch as Peter quickly dresses and then jumps into the water.  “What is he doing?” you might ask.  Now you see him swimming to shore and running up to Jesus on the beach, clearly glad to see Him.  If you watch their faces, Peter has an earnest look, but Jesus is smiling.  You can imagine that Jesus is laughing because of Peter’s appearance and his exuberance.  The Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus said to Peter, but we can guess, “Peter, I love your impetuous nature.  That is the very reason I called you.”

We are called in our sin!  We are not told to clean up our act, and then God will call us, are we?  Sure, God wants us to stop sinning!  He wants to change us from physical beings to spiritual beings.  But He does not want to change who we are.  After all, it is He who formed us in the womb (Isaiah 44:2.) and gave us our personality, and He loves us.  At the same time, the Bible tells us that we are conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5.)  Before our birth, the flesh and the spirit begin in war, and that war continues all of our life, until Jesus perfects us at the last.

That which God formed in us is covered by sin, much like a diamond covered by rock.  God must remove the rock of our sin from us, in order to reveal the precious diamond within.  That is the work of sanctification.  It is a difficult, two step process.  Peter underwent the first part of the process in the three years that he followed Jesus, and now he stands before the Lord ready for the next step in the process, the cutting and polishing.

Diamond in the Stone

In all this God did not waste Peter’s life experiences, nor change who he was at his core.  He continued to be impetuous in his work for the Lord, which made him a bold witness for Christ!

The Sabbath

Matthew 12 1-8

 

As we look at the Sabbath, we do need to start at the beginning, literally.  In Genesis 2:1-3, God worked six days and on the seventh day he rested.  Did God need to rest from his work?  Was He tired?  I think not!  Nevertheless, he sanctified the seventh day as a day of rest.  Now we see its beginning and know that when God gave the law to Moses He commanded the nation Israel to continue to honor the Sabbath.

This passage starts with Jesus and His disciples walking through a grainfield.  Nothing wrong with that, but His disciples were picking the grain heads and eating them.  The Pharisees saw them and questioned Jesus as to the lawfulness of their actions.  In fact, the Pharisees were correct.  The letter of the law, in its strictest sense, forbids any labor on the Sabbath.  If they had they picked the grain on Friday and put it in their pocket, and then taken it out of their pocket to eat on the Sabbath, that would have been ok. The distinction is that harvesting the grain is work, but eating it is not.

Look at the way Jesus handles their questions.  He goes to the Scriptures, asking “Have you not read what David did?” Or, “Have you not read in the law…?”

God made the law.  He is the law-giver.   The laws are set by Him and upheld by Him.  We, being part of God’s creation, are under the law.  God, as the law-giver, is not.  And yet, even He follows the laws that He has set by His own authority.

Only two times has God worked outside His laws.  The first was when He stopped the sun in the sky to allow the Israelites to defeat an enemy.  See Joshua 10:12-15.  The second was the immaculate conception.  See Luke 1:34-35.  Some would add the resurrection, but I do not.  We are eternal beings. Sin caused our spiritual and physical death in accordance with God’s law.  So, God made a way for us to be resurrected: believers to life with God, and unbelievers to a life without God.  He, himself, paid our sin-debt.  In this way, the law is not broken, but fulfilled.

The Pharisees missed the point of the law of the Sabbath. It is not all about what you shouldn’t do, but about what you should do. It is not so much a Sabbath FROM work as it is a Sabbath FOR worship!  We, as Christians, do not observe the Sabbath.  We observe the Lord’s day.  Jesus came not to bring an end to the law, but to fulfill the law.  He provides that way for us to have fellowship with God.  He takes away our sin nature and implants His nature within us by giving us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. It is for this reason we celebrate the Lord on Sunday.