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Entries in Test (2)

Friday
Feb192016

Jesus Warns His Disciples

Although the disciples are arguing over which of them should be considered the greatest, in truth they are all about to do something quite the opposite of greatness.  They are about to fail in their trust of Jesus.  Yes, they had successfully followed Jesus so far.  However, in the next 24 hours they would flee from Jesus and hide, broken and fearful.  It is this universal rejection of Jesus by enemies and friends that ought to help us understand why the Lord does not accept good works, but instead will only accept faith.  He is not looking for those who are “great” neither as the world defines it nor as his followers define it.  Instead he is looking for those who will believe in his greatness regardless of the circumstances and to the end of their life.  Even this, the disciples all fail.  Yet, the Lord isn’t looking for a faith that has never fallen, but one that has been through storms, ups and downs, and yet returns to him.  The Lord is warning us in this passage to quit looking at our greatness and pay attention to the battle that is waging all around us.

Satan Has Asked To Test Them

In the next 24 hours Jesus will be arrested, run through a bogus trial, and publicly executed.  Jesus knows this and is speaking in order to prepare them for their own failures.  The disciples do not understand the gravity of what is happening, but the Lord does.  It is here that we need to remind ourselves that our strength is not in what we are, but in what the Lord is building in us.  We need to remind ourselves that even in our failures (perhaps especially so) the Lord is building up our faith in him.  Satan is moving to attack Jesus and destroy all that he is trying to do.  Yet, notice that Jesus reveals that Satan has asked to do this.  Who is he asking?  Although Jesus doesn’t say, it is apparent he means the Father.  Satan must ask permission to test God’s people.  This is revealed in the first two chapters of the book of Job.  Why would God allow such tests?  He does so to prove that our faith is genuine.  So what about the times people fail?  Even this can take a faith that is either disingenuous or weak and help it to be rebuilt on a proper foundation.  No matter how difficult we are tested, we are not at the mercy of the Devil.  If God is allowing you to go through a trial, He will bring you out the other side, and there is a way for you to be stronger.  It is in letting go of you and clinging to him through faith.

Satan has asked to sift them like wheat.  This metaphor is used to picture the process of testing their faith.  When wheat is sifted it is first beat and pounded in order to break apart the hard shell that surrounds it.  This chaff is then removed in one way or another.  Here a mesh of sorts would be used that would allow the small pieces of chaff to fall through, but the good wheat would stay on top.  Humans sift wheat in order to make its cooking and eating a better experience.  However, the Devil has a different purpose in mind.

He intends to prove that they are nothing but chaff.  He is going to pound and beat their faith through the circumstances ahead and he believes that they will all turn out like Judas.  He is going to keep at it until he wins or you die.  We see this in the book of Job.  After failing to get Job to quit trusting God, Satan complains that Job is only serving God because God has protected him physically.  “Skin for skin,” Satan accusingly says to God.  He goes on to declare, “But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”  He hates faith.  He wants nothing to be left for the Lord at the end of this testing.  He comes for nothing but to steal, kill, and destroy our faith.  This warning is not just for Job or Peter and the disciples.  It is for all who will try to follow Jesus.  If Satan thinks there is a chance that you have true faith in Jesus, He is going to come after you one way or another to try and destroy it.  “Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  1 Peter 5:8-9 (NKJV).  You do have chaff in your life.  But, you are not all chaff.  The Lord will bring you through all your times of testing and reward your faithfulness, if you keep turning back to him.

Jesus Has Prayed To Help Their Faith

Jesus has told Peter that Satan has asked to test them all.  But then Jesus tells Peter what he has asked for them.  As opposed to Satan, Jesus is not asking the Father to test us.  Instead, he is asking in prayer for our souls to endure all the tests that Satan brings our way.  He is asking that we will not fail even though we may have times of falling.

In this passage Jesus specifically tells Peter that he has prayed for him.  However, in John 17:9-11 we see that Jesus has and will pray for all of his disciples, including us.  Yet, here he zeros in on Peter.  Why?  Most likely because Peter has been the most vociferous in defending his own greatness.  Let me emphasize that this is speculation.  But, one cannot avoid the clear rebuke that is given to all the disciples, but especially to Peter.  Yes, Satan has asked for Peter by name so that he can test him.  But, Jesus has prayed for Peter by name.  We may not have Satan personally trying to test us (remember he is not omnipresent).  However, we do have evil spirits that are in league with him and do his bidding.    More than this, Jesus Christ is able to pray for every single one of His disciples, even now interceding on your behalf before the Father.  He is praying for your faith to endure.  As it says in Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Clearly Peter’s faith is going to fail, but it will be for only a short time.  Jesus is not praying that our faith will be an invincible, superman-like faith that never even blinks.  I am not saying that Jesus could care less if we fail.  Yet, he knows that we will all have our times of doubt and fear in this flesh.  In fact, it will be in his failure that Peter learns to trust in the power of God rather than in the power of Peter.  We cannot give mere lip service to this.  We are made stronger when we listen to the words of Jesus and repel the attacks on our faith.  However, we are also made stronger when after failure, we humbly cast ourselves on the mercy of the Lord.  Jesus lets Peter know he will fail.  But then gives him the task of strengthening his brothers when he returns (back in faith).  Jesus know that Peter will return and even has a job for him.  The word “return” is connected to repentance and conversion.  Peter will turn from the Lord out of doubt during the crucifixion.  But he will also return to him in faith after the resurrection.  His brothers are going to go through the same tragic failure.  They will need to encourage each other.  Not make comparisons among them in order to determine who is greatest.  We need to help each other overcome the world by strengthening each other’s faith in Jesus.  Our times of failing the Lord and returning to him can be helpful to others.  Do not hide your failures in shame.  Rather, boldly declare to others that the Lord brought you through your failures.  Peter’s pride still resists what Jesus is trying to teach us all, and most likely so does mine.

Verses 33-34, puts the period on this lesson.  Peter tries one last attempt to declare how great his faith is.  Perhaps here we see why Jesus focuses on Peter.  His flesh is truly great.  But it is not that kind of greatness Jesus is seeking.  Peter has to quit clinging to the greatness that he wants to see in himself, and surrender to the greatness that the Lord wants to make in him.  None of the disciples wanted to follow a messiah who was going to be crucified.  They did not want to be the inner circle of a messiah who left the earth.  They did not want to be men who would travel the world teaching people to believe in a crucified Lord.  But this is his call.

Jesus puts the death nail in Peter’s pride by declaring that he will deny Christ within the next few hours.  Reality versus fantasy.  Perhaps you too cling to a fantasy that somehow you are different.  Let it go.  Hear the warning of the Lord.  Today the Gospel is being tested in our society and Jesus along with it.  Our Lord and His way of living is being crucified publicly by our culture and many others around the world.  Some are falling away from the Lord.  Others retreat from the real Jesus and create a fake Jesus so that they can feel strong in their faith.  However, our strength is not in our inability to fall.  Our strength is in the mercy and grace of our Lord.  We can repent and turn to him and he will receive us.  This is the type of Lord that we serve, and this is what we must hold out to a lost and dying world.

Jesus Warns His Disciples audio

Tuesday
Jan142014

Lord of the Sabbath II

Last week we saw how Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, which means He is the authority on what it’s purpose was about.  Jesus rejected the “splitting hairs” tradition of the rabbis because they were dead wrong on what Sabbath was all about.  Today we are going to see a second issue that led to complaints to how Jesus kept the Sabbath.  This begins in Luke 6:6.

Often the differing schools of interpretation within Judaism liked it when Jesus contradicted or disproved their opponents.  However, Jesus had an ability to do this to all of them.  That is why they scrutinized him so much.  They needed something they could use to discredit this “dangerous man.”  Let’s see how Jesus responded to this scrutiny.

Jesus is Scrutinized

In verses 6 and 7 we are given a scene at a synagogue, much like a church is today.  In this scene the Scribes and Pharisees are watching Jesus like a hawk.  What would he do?  There is a difference from watching out for a brother and watching someone like a bird of prey.  This scene is similar to the political maneuverings we see in our own day.  In fact, the “smart” politicians take out their opponents before they can get any following.  Yet, this is not the Spirit of the Lord. 

There happens to be a man there who has a paralyzed hand.  It is called “withered” because the paralysis had shriveled and curled the hand up leaving it useless.  Most likely this man heard Jesus would be there and had come hoping to be healed.  It is possible he is there because the religious leaders are creating this trap.  Either way, they are hoping Jesus will heal the man because then they can accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath Law.  It is almost surreal that they could on one hand know that He could heal and yet on the other hand still accuse Him.

Now this leads up to the issue.  There is nothing wrong with testing teachers, prophets, and healers.  The Bible tells believers to “Test all things.”  God’s children are not called to be gullible sheep who are easily duped.  Not everything that purports to be a miracle from God really is.  However, we must learn to test properly.  These religious leaders have created a improper test.  They do not test Jesus against the Scriptures themselves.  But rather, they test Him against their own traditions based off of the Scriptures.  This is a dishonest test.  It is not just that they had a different interpretation.  But at the heart of it, they had added things you couldn’t do on the Sabbath because of their own wisdom.  All things must be “properly” tested against “Scripture alone.”  We shouldn’t test it against one verse pulled out of context.  Nor should we test it against a twisted and tortured understanding of a text.  Often, we might find ourselves coming to the conclusion that we don’t have enough information.  It is not clear.  In those cases it would be better to leave it between that person and God, rather than making a public judgment.

Jesus Responds with Teaching and Healing

Verses 8-11give the response of Jesus.  It is important to notice that, in the Bible, Jesus is not a rebel who was always trying to “stick it to the man.”  Rather, He was interested in Truth and rescuing Israel from the path that their religious leaders were taking them down.

Now we are told that Jesus knew their thoughts.  Whether words had been said, He knew what they were hoping for.  Remember that the same is true today.  Christ knows what is in your mind and heart.  He knows whether you are looking for excuses to walk away from Him or if you are hoping for a miracle.  You most likely aren’t struggling over whether Jesus should heal on the Sabbath or not.  However, you might have things against Jesus and His Word that are unspoken in your mind and heart.  Jesus could have not healed the guy, or did it later when they weren’t around.  Instead he boldly met their challenge.

First Jesus challenged their biblical understanding.  Just like Isaiah 1 has God calling out to Israel, “Come let us reason…” so Jesus takes time to reason with the “wise men” of any age.  He does so to draw us away from lies and towards a love of the Truth.  He asks two questions.  “Is it lawful to do good or evil on the Sabbath?”  Now doing evil on the Sabbath is clearly wrong because it is wrong on any day.  The Sabbath law was given, in part, as a check against the “evil” of working 7 days a week trying to increase yourself without acknowledging a need for God’s help.  This law helped to check the evil heart and point man to his greater need and greater supply.  We may not be under the Sabbath law today as Christians, but we still need to listen to the wisdom of God behind this law He gave Israel.  However, on another level this question begs another question.  If it is in your power to help someone in need and you do nothing, isn’t that evil?  Jesus could heal.  How could he walk by a man who wanted healed and do nothing because it is the Sabbath day?  Clearly he should do something.

Now there are many who use this line of reasoning against God Himself.  “How can God sit in heaven and not fix the bad stuff in this world?  If He exists then He must be evil.”  Of course this line of reasoning would be true if God had done nothing.  But the testimony of the Scriptures and of many throughout history is that God has helped us, just not in the way we demand he do it.  A common problem in helping people is that sometimes people don’t want to be “helped.”  God has helped mankind, but most won’t receive it.  What a tragedy.  He asks the same question again but used the word heal.  Which is lawful to heal or destroy?  The word translated as save in some versions would mean to heal in this context.  Jesus did not come to destroy men, but to bring healing and salvation to their lives.  This is the heart of God, especially in the Sabbath law that He gave Israel.

Jesus has the man come and stand by Him.  Apparently no one wants to debate with Jesus.  So Jesus then tells the man to stretch out his hand and it is healed.  They don’t care about the reasoning of Jesus.  They are convinced that they are right and only watch the outward actions of Jesus so that they can condemn Him.  Jesus is not only the justifier of His disciples, but He is also the healer of them too. He courageously steps forth and heals a man even though He will be maligned for it.  In fact this is a hallmark of Jesus and God.  God has the courage to stand by the weak and poor of this world who will embrace Him.  Even though the strong, rich, and wise mock such a band of people.  Whose side are you on?

The last verse of this section says that the Pharisees and Scribes were filled with madness.  Literally they lost their mind and tried to figure out what to do with Him.  When we contrast this with the passage in Acts 2, it begs another question, “What are you filled with?”  Am I filled with a madness or with the pure, Holy Spirit of God?  When God is doing a beautiful and wonderful work of salvation or healing, what am I filled with?  At the Red Sea the children of Israel were filled with joy and praise as a way was made through the waters.  However, Pharaoh’s heart was filled with rage and rushed into the trap bent on destroying Israel.  Today, God is drawing together a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  He is filling them with His Spirit and faith.  However, others are becoming more and more maddened by such archaic beliefs.  We live in a mad world, but in the midst of that madness we are called to be a bold and courageous healer and savior with Jesus.  Let’s stand with the Lord of the Sabbath and rest in His peace!

Lord Sabbath II audio