The Art of Denying Jesus

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Peter weeps

“Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.”

Matthew 26:75, NLT

Three denials are followed by three reaffirmations.

A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

John 21:17

The apostle Peter was a fervent disciple. He knew who Jesus was before most. He was always included in special times (e.g. the transfiguration, Gethsemane). He was favored by Jesus throughout times of ministry. I also believe that he was Jesus’ friend. Peter is known for:

  • being called on the shores of Galilee, Matt 4:18-19
  • ‘almost’ walking on water, Matt 14:29-30
  • finding the tax money in a fishes mouth, Matt 17:24-27
  • having his feet washed, John 13:6-7
  • in Gethsemane– cutting off an ear, John 18:10-11
  • his remorse at denying Jesus, Matt 26:75
  • at the empty tomb with John, John 20:3-8

Peter’s own denials were of a serious nature effecting who he was, and who he was to become. Jesus astutely intervenes as they ‘breakfasted’on the seashore. There would be three affirmations; one for each denial. Peter needed to meet the resurrected Jesus, and speak with him about what he had done. Peter needed this.

Out of our own confusion, we realize that we deny Jesus. Perhaps frequently. A denial has different intensities and different situations. And none of us have an immunity as of yet. We deny the Lord when we refuse to speak of him to others. We deny the Lord when we fail to do what is right. Sometimes we deny him flagrantly, other times it is a more subtle attitude. At best, we’re still inconsistent, and at worst, apostate.

We’re not punished or abandoned for this behavior. Human logic would suggest that we should be. But instead we are gently restored. Given the opportunity, Peter the fisherman, would eventually become a wise shepherd to the young Church. I would also suggest that Peter’s personal weakness would serve him well as a gentle, and caring pastor.

Peter, near the end of his life, goes ‘full circle’ and uses a very precise Greek word found in only two places in the New Testament. It is the specific form of the word “shepherd.” It is only used in John 21:16-17 in Peter’s restoration, and in 1 Peter 5:2. Peter encourages the Church with the same words Jesus himself spoke to him on the beach so long ago! Peter wrote:

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing.”

1 Peter 5:2, NIV

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Wolves at the Front Gate

Be very careful!
Be very careful!

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” 

 Matthew  7:15, NIV

I use my channel changer and I flip through the enormous darkness that exists in the world.  Jesus clearly warns His flock of the cold, hard realities of deception and deceitfulness that we will be dealing with.  Trickery abounds and things simply are not what they seem to be.  Darkness has a brutal grasp on so many.

There should be an alertness for the inevitable. Sometimes, sheep will not really be sheep.  This is astonishing.  Our senses are not always adequate or capable to identify counterfeit Christians.  We get confused by the outside (it looks like wool to me).  But it is a lie.  The wolf has deliberately taken on the dress of the believer.  He has a real, definite sinister agenda.  (Can you say, “lamp chops“?)

Jesus alerts us to what is really taking place.  He wants us to discern.  He wants us to become adroit observers.  Every believer needs a holy skepticism of outward displays of faith.  This is not cynicism or negativity.  But it is a cautious faith– one in which we can discern the realities of a world that regularly deceives.

“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” 

Corrie Ten Boom

Ferocious” in verse 15 is a sobering word.  When I read it, I think of Alaska, or maybe the grasslands of the ‘Serengiti.’   A dangerous carnivore that is hidden by an outward covering.  It is a ‘predator’ word, a word that intensifies. It patiently stalks and then ambushes its victims. There is only one focus, a single purpose, and that is to destroy. It is Satan’s ‘calling card.’

wolf-sheeps-clothingFor us who are accustomed to an ideal of love and peace in our walks, we are disturbed and perhaps almost pulled off balance by this disturbing revelation of evil in our midst.  Jesus tells us that we must possess a reality of deception, for that is the real world.  He gave us plenty of warning.

“Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”

Luke 10:3, NLT

Do you know what wolves do to lambs? But yet He still sends them. That is interesting.

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Sheepy Wolves

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“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.”

Matthew 7:15, NLT

The old King James Version says, “which come to you in sheep’s clothing.”  There is something to be said about both translations.

Being aware.  Jesus commands this awareness, this discernment that our world is a dangerous place and dark things come out of it.  Deception is always working, the true believer must keep learning.  We must identify sheep, who are not really sheep after all.  They look like sheep, unless you get close.  They smell like sheep.  They appear gentle and kind.

But inside they are malignant and treacherous.  Jesus chose the word, “dangerous.”  We pretty much avoid anything dangerous. If there is a sign on the beach, and if it says “Dangerous Undertow,”  most of us will comply and our time in the water is alert and quite aware.

There are people in the world who should have that sign, as they are treacherous and deceitful.  They say many things, and there is enough there to seem authentic.  As simple believers, we feel we should trust without questions. We avert our eyes to anything unseemly or aberrant.  Isn’t this what a loving Christian is supposed to do?

Jesus never told us to be tolerant, at least not like this.  He understands that wolves will tear apart sheep, ripping them into ribbons, if given half the chance.  He commands us to exercise caution.  But already there has been way too much “sheep dismemberment” in our generation.  The flock has been chased and separated, many have already been devoured.

Jesus is encouraging us to become discerning  and aware,  and teach it to our children and friends.  We shouldn’t be paranoid, or frightened by the world that swirls around us.  And there will always be people with mixed motives and confusing thoughts.  If we are honest, we ourselves have these same things, as we are His work in process.

Exteriors are always a big question mark.  The main issue is the delicate art of observation.  The more we get to know Jesus, the more we will identify what is a lie, a trick or a deception.  The Secret Service of our country, in learning to understand counterfeiters will study at length the real currency.  It’s interesting, they don’t study the false bills, but the real ones.

Be encouraged.  He is standing right in front, making intercession for you before the Father.  The Word is ours also, and there are pastors and teachers, who are shepherding the flock.  You are targeted, but never forsaken.  Our enemy is defeated.  Do not fear, never ever fear.  We have angels in high places who are our friends.

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The Voice

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“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

John 10:27, NLT

Do you hear him? He is always speaking to his own; with many things, some pertaining to guidance, and other issues. He delights in teaching us– through words of wisdom that encourage us to follow, or how to really love your neighbor.

He desires to point out things as we encounter them; your curiosity in the natural is meant to be spiritual as well. His soul is that of a teaching shepherd, and he delights in his ministry to us. And we need his instruction.

Regular time with him can not be separated from our daily routine. I have learned that he accommodates himself to us, the ‘grist’ of life is his blackboard. The events that I encounter are his ‘lessons.’ As I move through my life I ‘hear’ his voice. I begin to sense the need of those who I encounter.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

I have learned the joy of praying in the moment with 10 second prayers. Praying continually as I see the needs. I pray for the man who bags my groceries; and lift up the young mother pushing a stroller. I believe his voice prompts me to lift each need I encounter. When the Bible tells us to ‘pray continually’ this is what Paul has in mind.

He becomes my teacher– compassionate and kind to those I meet.

He ‘tunes me’ to see people from his viewpoint. He shows me of their struggles, hopes, and aspirations. I try to never judge what I’m shown; actually the opposite is true– I’m learning to love like he loves. I’m seeing what he sees.

I’m a work in progress. Very often my cares, sins, and disobedience nullify the voice of Jesus, Sometimes my personal issues hijack me and I swirl down into depression or paranoia. I am intensely flawed, but the Holy Spirit is gracious. He always meets me where I am. Slowly, I’m learning to hear his voice.

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A Finder’s Fee of Joy

New Testament 3 Production Still Photography Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!” (Luke 15:1)

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? ” (v. 4)

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.” (v. 8)

“For this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” (v. 24)

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The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the ‘lost son’ tell us that this is a time for recovery. This is a unique period for the Church. It is a season of special grace that allows us to seek and find things that are valuable to us. It is a time of finding out things about ourselves as well.

What is precious to you? With the woman, it was a lost coin (probably a part of her dowry) and she made a substantial effort to get it back. With the shepherd, what was valuable was a lost sheep, and he would take a calculated risk to find it, and rejoin the flock. And the father lost his son, and he had to wait for him to return to his senses.

These three parables were directed to the different issues that effected the “notorious sinners.” But they also spoke to the pharisees who were present. Both groups understood and there were plenty of implications for everyone.

It’s a funny thing, Jesus never minced words. No one could be neutral around him. That is still the case today. I think God is seeking His lost children. This is what He is up to, this is His passion. Understanding this salient fact should enlighten us,

  1. to His will,
  2. to know His passion and love, (His pleasure in finding what was lost)
  3. and the true purpose of His Church.

As the Parable of the Prodigal Son develops, we see the pharisees equated to the ‘grouchy’ older brother. He begrudges his newly returned brother, and he really can’t see what is happening all around him. The idea of grace eludes him. Perhaps that is far more common than we think. Whenever ‘religion’ exerts control over a person or group, duty is almost always elevated over joy.

The Church is only as relevant as when it’s seeking out the lost.

The Church is meant to extend to the lost ‘sons’ of Adam, and the ‘daughters’ of Eve. This is God’s passion, and we must find out what He wants us to do to share His heart. It’s almost as if He wants to give us a chance to taste His joy.

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Together, for Each Other

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“The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.” 

–John Wesley

There isn’t really a place for the individual in our walk of discipleship.  This is a most exceptional truth.  You might say that our society here in the U.S. is expressed in the ‘Marlboro Man’ who rides alone.  “High Noon,” (my favorite Western) is based on a solitary man who stands when other won’t.  The message of individualism saturates this movie. Like Gary Cooper, I think I have to face the bad guys alone.

But I think we need to understand that we are connected to other believers.  In fact, I believe that the Holy Spirit works quite distinctly in ‘generations.’  Whether we like it or not, each of us is connected to our generation.  We are responsible for our own time and place. I’m a child of the Sixties, it’s what makes me tick.

Stellar individuals like Charles Spurgeon and D.L. Moody spoke directly to their generation.  They were voices in the late 1800s.  They connected to their particular milieu, but were surrounded by many praying believers.  Their ministries and sermons, were founded upon the prayers of many saints.  Their ministries were an extension of many people. They were surrounded by other believers.

We are connected with others who are also connected. We are organically related and that needs to be understood.  It’s funny about that, we are called a “body.”  This is a difficult concept for us to understand.  But we need to know that you are not so much solitary, but woven into the life of others. The Church is plural and it happens when believers join together.

We need to understand that the Christian life is not solitary.

If this makes you curious, check out the word “together” in New Testament.  We can reflect on this, and think out what that really means. Just a few scriptures:

“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  

Ephesians 4:16, ESV

“For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part.”

1 Corinthians 11:17-19

“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:24-26,

And there is at least a dozen or so more.  The idea– ‘together,’ is only a start, and we need to understand that the Christian life is not solitary. The Father melts our independence, and then molds us with each other to make us into something new.  Whether we like it or not, we are “together.”

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CT Interview with Brennan Manning

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The Dick Staub Interview: Brennan Manning on “Ruthless Trust”

http://www.brennanmanning.com/

Many Christians are still afraid to let God love them as they truly are, says the former priest, sober alcoholic, and author. This is just a small excerpt of an interview given by Mr. Manning to Christianity Today.

What is premise of this book about trust?

The basic idea is in one sentence: The splendor of a human heart that trusts and is loved unconditionally gives God more pleasure than Westminster Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, the sight of 10,000 butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom. Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it.

It’s what Jesus said we need to bring into the relationship.

Yes. Childlike surrender and trust, I believe, is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship. The supreme need in most of our lives is often the most overlooked: an unfaltering trust in the love of God no matter what goes down. I think this is what Paul taught when he wrote in Philippians 4:13, “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the one that gives me strength.”

But how do we know if we’re really trusting? Most people would say they trust God.

The dominant characteristic of an authentic spiritual life is the gratitude that flows from trust—not only for all the gifts that I receive from God, but gratitude for all the suffering. Because in that purifying experience, suffering has often been the shortest path to intimacy with God.

I’d also add that biblical trust grows out of love. My trust in God flows out of the experience of his loving me, day in and day out, whether the day is stormy or fair, whether I’m sick or in good health, whether I’m in a state of grace or disgrace. He comes to me where I live and loves me as I am.

In John 17:26, Jesus says, “Father, I have made your name known. I continue to make it known. And I pray that the same love with which you love me may be in them and I in them.” The very same love that the Abba has for Jesus is the same love he has for us when he’s in our hearts. The problem is most of us aren’t aware of it.

So part of this is an attention problem?

I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, nor between Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware.

When somebody is aware of that love, the same love that the Father has for Jesus, that person is just spontaneously grateful. Cries of thankfulness become the dominant characteristic of the interior life, and the byproduct of gratitude is joy. We’re not joyful and then become grateful, we’re grateful and that makes us joyful.

But there’s suffering, too. In your book, tucked away between talking about gratefulness and beholding God, you talk very personally about how, if we’re truly going to learn to trust God, we can’t avoid the personal suffering.

When I was outside an alcohol and drug rehab center in New Orleans, and I was clutching a pint of Taaka vodka, what I did not want was the lifesaving treatment of detox in a 28-day program.

I kept on drinking, a drunken child crying out, “Jesus, where are you?” How do we experience trust in the midst of pain, suffering, heartache, and throbbing despair? I mean, is it possible to endure and eventually move beyond the bleak and melancholy landscape of evil and destruction, back to the experience of God as unconditional love? That’s the problem I ask Christians. Do you trust that God loves you? Everybody says, oh yes, I’ve known that for a long time. Then just watch the way they live. There’s so much fear, so much anxiety, and so much self-hatred. The best definition of faith I ever heard was Paul Tillich when he said, “Faith is the courage to accept acceptance.”

Meaning? Faith is a code to accept that Jesus knows my whole life story, every skeleton in my closet, every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty, degradedness darkening my past. Right now he knows my shallow faith, my feeble prayer life, my inconsistent discipleship, and he comes beside me and he says, I dare you to trust. I dare you to trust that I love you, just as you are and not as you should be, because you’re never going to be as you should be.

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Source/To read more, go to:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/decemberweb-only/12-9-21.0.html

http://www.brennanmanning.com/

For more Broken Believer teachings:  https://brokenbelievers.com/category/brennan-manning/

 

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