The Evil Heart

Matthew 15 15-20

 

Peter asks Jesus to explain the parable.  Is it just Peter that did not get the parable, or is it more likely that he was the only one willing to look foolish and ask?  The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.  I will add that when answering a question that’s been asked, there is no wrong answer.  If you believe something is true and by answering a question, find out that what you believed was wrong, that’s a good thing right? It’s called learning.

Jesus is making a point here about food and ceremonial washing. The Jews have a strict dietary law and to eat what is forbidden makes them unclean. The Jews also made their own laws, such as washing before eating, which is a good thing, but does not hold the same weight as God’s law.  God’s laws are there to protect us and to train us to follow Him!

Jesus teaching was that the food we take into our mouth is not what defiles us, but what comes out of our heart is.  So, if a Jew was to eat what God had forbidden, it would not be the food itself that defiled him, but the fact that he disobeyed God’s law, and that choice comes from his heart.  All this started because the Pharisees questioned Jesus about his disciples eating bread without washing their hands. The Pharisees often put their tradition before Gods law, and Jesus used this opportunity as a teaching moment.

I would caution you not to take this scripture out of context and say that anything we eat or drink is OK, and that everything that comes in from our eyes and ears, as well, does not defile us, so everything goes.  Many things we eat or drink can be harmful to us, just as things we see and hear, so we need to be discerning of what we allow, so as not to take God’s grace for license to sin.

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Transfiguration

Matthew 17 1-9

Six days after Peter professed Jesus to be the Christ, the son of the living God, he, James and John find themselves on a mountain top witnessing Jesus’ transfiguration.   Although His face shown and His garments became white as light, this was not a physical transformation.  What these disciples witnessed was the unveiled glory of the Son of God shining through His physical form.  Genesis 1:3 says, “And God said, ‘Let there be light; and there was light.”  Also, John1:4-5 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

Jesus is the light of the world and He lives in us.  As believers, we need to let His light shine through us. His love, His grace and His works are manifested through and by His followers.  As His followers, we need to let the Spirit of God guide us in our lives, making an inward spiritual change that affects us outwardly so that people can see the change in us.  What is this change you might ask?  A transformation of our person; that is, less me and more Jesus

Peter attempts to erect a tabernacle to Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  However God, Himself, interrupts him with his praise of Jesus and His admonishment to listen to Jesus.  What was Peter’s mistake here? Putting Moses and Elijah on equal footing with Jesus!  We are to keep Jesus first in our walk and allow nothing to get in the way of that.  No person, no matter how holy, nor any thing in our lives, should we allow to take Him off the throne.

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.