The Art of Denying Jesus

deny

“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 affecting 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.

A denial has different intensities and can be used in many different ways.

Out of our own confusion, we realize that we can also deny Jesus. Perhaps frequently.  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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Your Love Will Define You

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“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”

1 Peter 1:22, NLT

Love defines us as believers. I’ve recently been sharing God’s love to Steve, a backslidden Christian who sleeps in the woods behind our local Safeway. I’m aware that Jesus loves him so much, and that love just seems to burst out of me. I can hardly contain it. The Father loves Steve, and I hope to share that same love the next time I talk with him. He introduces me to other homeless people, “Here’s my pastor,” and that is an encouragement, but it often embarrasses me.

Love takes on many different forms. But it always is giving. It simply can’t be thinking of itself; it exists for others and takes no thought of itself. That magnificence that is God’s love gets funneled through us, and we are compelled to share it. Perhaps we are simply called to be ‘the transfer point.’

“And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.”

1 Thess. 3:12

God initiates the love to be shared. Some of us are weaker than others; perhaps we are physically or mentally handicapped. But as believers, we are to turn to God to fill our hearts. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how flawed you are, what matters is the vast ocean of God’s love. Weakness only makes it easier, because we’ve quit relying on ourselves to love others.

 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:35

Our calling is to be ‘naturally supernatural.’ And that will take the dealings of God.

But please remember the joy that is present when you get to communicate His love. The book of Philippians is saturated with Paul’s joy at sharing God’s love. He sees it as his privilege to share it with the Church. And oh how God loves His Church! The Holy Spirit can teach you, how to do this if you’re teachable. IF…is a big word.

Faith makes all things possible… love makes all things easy.

–D.L. Moody
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Picking Up a Stone

“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

(John 8:7, NLT)

“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”

-George Herbert

Definitely we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty? We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgement, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.

But ‘judging’ dear one, is His exclusive jurisdiction. It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly.

It becomes imperative that we understand this; that any real discernment given is only to intensify and escalate the calling of every ‘saint,’ intercessor, or pastor. We discern, not to pass judgement, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.

And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to ascribe a penalty on someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in the terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)

(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger. Please consider this–it’s never easy, is it?)

“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.

“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)

We are broken people. We struggle with many different things. Some of us are mentally or physically ill. We are not whole yet. Some of us must take meds to help us be ‘normal.’ We deal with issues that would devastate someone else. And we don’t have it anywhere near together. And yet out of our ‘hot mess’ we think we can penalize someone else? Really?

We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgive us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.

But in the light of this, isn’t strange that almost all of our judgement is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body . In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!

“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”

–Jake Colsen

It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.

Granted, “we are to be wise as serpents,” But that same verse instructs us “to be as harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16.) A loving meekness and gentleness, needs to be combined with intense spiritual power. We must embody “the fruits of the Spirit.” These things are the characteristics of the Spirit-saturated believer. I

Jesus washing the feet of His disciples

“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”

–John Owen

Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we have any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (Again, these are awfully hard questions.)

“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes. )

Certainly, I intend to confront darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this black night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in the position to Judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.

Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore. I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now, is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be that; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.

Your terribly sick ,’ rock-slinging’ brother,

Bryan

Can a Mother Forget? [Love]

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Yet Jerusalem says, “The Lord has deserted us;  the Lord has forgotten us.”
Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible,    
 I would not forget you! 16 See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins.”

Isaiah 49:14-16, NLT

Some of us need to be persuaded of God’s love. We are unconvinced. But Isaiah understands. We grasp the theology, but not the meaning. Our own native ideas keep us in disbelief. Perhaps the greatest liability we have as believers is this doubt that God really feels this way about us. But, He does.

Isaiah claims the impossible, yet grounds himself in what is real. The Father loves us and we’re His very own. Even if we don’t seem as holy as we ought to be. In His out reached hands, we discover scars.  This is the price He has purchased us with. We once were blind, and very lost— but now we are His own children.

We are given the impression that He more than ‘loves’ us; He ‘likes’ us. That dear ones, is not a point I’m prepared to support with scripture— it doesn’t exist except in my own thinking. I know that He theologically loves me.

But I also believe God also likes me as well. Surely, there is such a fine line here, between ‘like’ and love. The more I walk with the Lord, and it’s been almost 35 years now, the more I do love/like Him. I have learned to like Him as much as I love Him. And if God doesn’t like me, I think it diminishes His love.

Some of us must be persuaded again and again of God’s love.

Regardless, Isaiah speaks for the Lord with tender things. Among the people they had the mindset that God had somehow forgotten them. They thought that they were ‘the lost ones.’ God uses the analogy of a mother. A nurturing mother. This metaphor is strong and sure. No, God hasn’t forgotten His people. Look at His hands, your name is ‘tattooed’ on them. You’re His, forever.

“In math, if you divide an infinite number by any number, no matter how large, you still have an infinite quotient. So Jesus’ love, being infinite, even though it is divided up for every person on earth, is still infinitely poured out on each one of us!” 

Charles Spurgeon

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