Scorched, But Deeply Loved

“Then Jesus said to Peter, “Go away from me, Satan! You are not helping me! You don’t care about the things of God, but only about the things people think are important.”

Matt. 16:23, NCV

Principles of the Kingdom will often will sound like a simple conversation to an outsider.  Things are often established or nullified with a ‘face-to-face.’  In this chapter of Matthew, we hear Peter extolling the divinity of Jesus (vv. 15-17).  Peter exceeds the norm with his analysis of what is real.

It is as perceptive as it is supernatural.  “You are the Christ,” Peter proclaims, “the Son of the Living God,”  Jesus responds to this and He praises Peter for this amazing insight.

One of my personal problems is that I am way too spontaneous.  It gets me in trouble. I have become a fool more times than I bother to count.  I will do something that is outrageously amazing– and in a short time, I am flirting with apostasy.  Often this is indicative of bipolar disorder, a mental illness of some significance.

I’m not sure why Peter does what he does. 

But just a short time after he makes his astonishing pronouncement, he is taken apart by Jesus, being solidly rebuked face-to-face.  In one clear moment, he expresses an awesome and wonderful faith, and suddenly his personal stock suddenly and precipitously crashes.  He is now a pariah that needs to be avoided.

I think that every disciple will eventually be scorched. But intensely loved.

This is always quite bitter. It seems that in the light of this chapter (which actually seems like a bright glare), Peter is quite devastated.  In three years of discipleship, it seems that all he merits is a brutal ‘dressing-down.’

The rebuke is bitter.  Peter is being compared to Satan!

In a blur of just a few minutes, he moves from “hero-to-goat.”  I suspect that Peter was ashamed.  He most likely wished he had a rewind button.  His Savior, Jesus– has given him a new label.  And it hurts.  Many times, we would become resentful, maybe a bit bitter.  It could cause some to walk away, developing a fit of anger that solidifies into something very scary. Thank God, Peter doesn’t do anything that stupid.

 The correction in the rebuke gives him life and hope.

But who’s to say we would be as correctable?  One thing to add, earlier we mentioned the ‘conversational approach’ of discipleship.  Peter was rebuked in the presence of the other disciples.  The publicity was embarrassing.  Too many people were watching and listening. Peter will survive this, but he has learned something valuable.

Our daily commitment to Jesus hinges on our willingness to be “undone.” 

His heart and plan pretty much preclude any “secret or hidden” agenda.  Jesus pretty much rakes us over the coals.  He will insist on uncompromising obedience to His faithfulness.  Every true disciple will be scorched— but loved.

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The Terrible Plight of the Impulsive Christian

 

“Unstable as water, you shall nimpulsivetiggerot have preeminence.”

Genesis 49:4

“Walking on water is easy to someone with impulsive boldness, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is something altogether different. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he “followed Him at a distance” on dry land.” 

Oswald Chambers

Peter was bold, brash, and impulsive.  

That explains much. He did good things for sure, but he also could be weak and vacillating. This quality also describes those of us who are fairly often morally and spiritually out-of-control.

The impulsiveness symptom describes much of our actions, and our personal direction. We are something of a “loose cannon’ and we can deeply frighten people who know us. We love God deeply, (at least some of the time).

Those of us who struggle with mental illness must often deal with impulsiveness.  We find ourselves turning aside so quickly.  We do those things which will later destroy us.  Self-destruction comes so close. It’s like we are playing some kind of spiritual ‘Russian Roulette.’ I wish that this wasn’t so.

But our soul is constantly loved and watched over. 

He cares for us as a Father cares for His son.  As mortals we make a lot of choices. Many are godly, some are not.  We sometimes find ourselves out of control, mostly because we choose so poorly. We know it’s wrong (so much cries out against it)  but we do it anyway, no matter what. We are often ashamed of our impulsiveness.

There is a lot out there, much that can side-track us. So many choices, and many opportunities.  And the Deceiver will parade them all in front of us. I suppose that sin is as seductive as we let it be.  I remember a friend saying, “It can’t take me if I don’t want to go.” That makes some sense I think.

We must try to develop a commitment to what we know is true.

Impulsiveness will tear us apart.  When it resides in our heart, it’ll eventually destroy us.  It’s like uncontrolled nuclear fission within, it takes over and it seems I can’t stop it.  When I find myself out-of-control, it seems to take me  beyond human help.  Once we are in this state, we are completely unreasonable. It seems only God can intervene.

In my awful impulsiveness, I can see His faithfulness.

We often think we are just spontaneous people, and we consider it to be a plus.  But our decision-making is dangerous. (Some will understand what I’m saying, but many others won’t).

It seems when we choose the worst we’re degraded us the most.  We make these sudden decisions without the Spirit’s guidance.  They take us to places we otherwise never dare to go.  We find ourselves in an ugly and lost place.  We chose wrongly, and usually without considering the results of our choice.

When we are impulsive, we are like a ship without an anchor.  We go with the wind and the current, pushed along and directed by no one.  We think we are spontaneous, when all we are is desperately foolish. We’ve chosen to sail into forbidden waters. We’re really in spiritual danger.

We now face the reality of being shipwrecked!

As a physically and mentally ill person, I simply can’t direct myself in a God honoring way apart from His active hand.  I’m a just ‘a kid out of school’– unable to understand the eternal issues at stake. When I abandon myself to the vacillating foolishness of my heart, I bypass the strength and solidity of the Spirit. I sail into forbidden waters.

If I could pass anything on to others, it would be the ability to say “no.”

I really don’t want to degrade and destroy myself by my wrong choices.  The Holy Spirit keeps comforting and encouraging me, all with an endurance and persistence far beyond my reasoning. For some odd reason, He is very much in love with me, (isn’t that strange)?

Truly His pursuit of me is relentless. He won’t give up.

But even in my impulsiveness, I can still see His faithfulness. He wants to free me from these awful forces that would tear me apart. He isn’t sitting on a comfortable throne, passively watching to see if I survive. No, not hardly. Instead He comes alongside, and holds me in place. “Thank God!” 

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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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Especially Peter

Peter and John Running to the Tomb, Burnard, c. 1898

And now go and tell his disciples, and especially Peter, that he will go ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.”

Mark 16:7, CEV

Poor Peter. Despairing over his personal darkness he has become completely undone.  His wound is beyond any human remedy.  No one can help him at this point. We do well to mark the fall of the ‘Rock.’

Jesus had called him, the ‘Rock.’  This would become  a bestowed nickname of a future transformation.  We use granite and marble when we want something to last for ages.  It is as permanent as we can make it. Peter is definitely ‘a work-in-progress.’ His character is sand.

Visiting a working quarry, you’ll find large machinery.  Men scale the walls with heavy drills.  At just the right spot they begin to bore a hole.  It is hard and intense work, but they are persistent.  The rock is unyielding, but they work relentlessly. Dynamite is used to move rock fast.

Soon they take the hole to the proper depth.  Explosives are hauled up, and the hole is carefully packed with dynamite.  The word used in the New Testament is the word “dunamis.”  It is translated from the Greek into English as “power.”  Our word for “dynamite” is also a translation of that word.

Peter needs the dynamite power of the Holy Spirit. It is explosive. 

Dynamite breaks and blasts, moving many tons of rock in just seconds. These particular verses read differently when translated like this:

 “But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the dynamite of God.” Matthew 22:29

“And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory with dynamite and great glory.” Matthew 24:30

“Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the dynamite proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” Mark 5:30

“And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous dynamite are at work in Him.” Mark 6:14

“And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with dynamite.” Mark 9:1

“But you will receive dynamite when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8

Jesus looks after each disciple before his resurrection.  He kindly gazes at Peter. Especially Peter.  He will need this new power to overcome his weaknesses. The dynamite of the Spirit will explode all over the Upper Room. Shifty Peter us about to become a rock.

His disciples, in just 50 days are going to meet the Holy Spirit.  All of them will find that explosive power that moves mountains.  And the world is about to change forever.

Peter was so transformed on Pentecost he would preach and 3,000 would believe and be baptized. He went from cowardly denier to bold preacher. The dunamis of God changed him that day (Acts 2).

As a broken believer I see the image of Peter morphing into my own face. I have denied Him before others. I am ashamed at what I have done. My depression flares up and my heart goes down in a downward spiral. I must have the Holy Spirit’s authority to be free.

Where is the ‘dynamite’ of God?  Oh come Spirit of God to our broken hearts. Fill us, change us today.

Your amazed brother,

Bryan

 

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