Posts Tagged ‘Peter’

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The Kingdom of God is: Greater than its Current Appearance…

April 8, 2013

msHe put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
(Matthew 13:31-33 ESV)

As believers we live life in light of a promise.  A promise found in the very beginning of time and recorded in the very beginning of the Bible which speaks to the inevitable rise of God’s kingdom on earth. Genesis 3:17 is known to some as the protoevangelium, or “first gospel.” In this verse The Lord God speaks to the serpent and foretells the demise of the serpent’s reign over the surface of the earth.  The offspring of the woman Eve would be at odds with the offspring of the serpent.  The seed or offspring of the serpent would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed; and the woman’s offspring would crush the head of the serpent. This tiny phrase contains within it a promise of One who would come and be the One, bruised and beaten, but One who would crush death and defeat the serpent by His death and resurrection through the power of God. This promise had come to those fallen in the garden, but to them, it was not yet fully realized. This promise courses through the entire scripture all the way to Matthew 13, and like leaven lifts the entire word of God.  It’s truth of the kingdom’s rise and evil’s demise is declared in the garden, finished at the cross, and yet evil is still prevalent.  What are we to make of this reality that has already occurred but is somehow not yet completed?

This passage in Matthew is ripe with meaning and nuance.  One of the greatest mysteries surrounding the kingdom of God is that it has appeared with Christ, and yet it is not fully here.  Apologetically this is a huge conundrum; If Christ the King has come, and He has proclaimed that the kingdom has arrived then where is it?  Is he talking about a mere heavenly reality or a true earthly dominion.  The disciples themselves asked this same question to the risen Christ in Acts chapter 1.  As they stood on the mount called Olivet, their minds awash with thoughts of the kingdom they asked, “is now the time the kingdom will be restored?”

Many of us, as we read this passage in Matthew, are prompted to question its meaning.  We are prompted by general biblical curiosity to be sure, but also something by deeper.  The paradox of tiny seeds and mighty kingdoms, minute yeast and massive loaves speaks to a larger discontinuity we all face.  We are citizens of Christ’s kingdom but residents of Satan’s world.  So we ask, If the kingdom is here then why is there still suffering, injustice, sin and tumult?  Like the disciples, each new generation of believers face the risen Lord and ask “is now the time?”

The answer to these reasonable questions is found in this passage in Matthew.

The kingdom is already present, though not yet fully consummated. The technical term for this is inaugurated eschatology, the kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet fully consummated.  Jesus alludes to this truth in both of the examples he provides in verses 31-33.

The mustard seed, while the smallest known seed at the time, contains within in it all the potential for a mustard tree.  In essence, it is already a mustard tree, but not yet fully developed.  It is greater than its physical appearance.  It is teaming with potential, give it the right conditions and it will blossom beyond every tree in the garden.

The yeast speaks to the same metaphor.  It is tiny, almost insignificant, and yet it activates and causes growth and increase. Yeast is alive, and has an impact greater than its physical appearance.

God’s kingdom is found on earth in the form of his followers, in the body of believers known as his church.  In every captive heart, and in every renewed mind, there resides the measure of kingdom impact.  We experience love, family, fellowship, and loss through the experience of this kingdom community.  To those who undergoes this divine naturalization, the reality and the presence of God’s kingdom on earth is overwhelming.  And yet there is something lacking, something not yet present.  Think of all the good the church accomplishes, think of all the love that you experience in the fellowship of believers, think of all the service done on the part of the church attempting to make the world right; now consider the following: The millions of believers across the globe, and the love of the believers across this country, are but a minute expression of the kingdom that is to come.

So what are we to do with this truth? I believe the answer comes from Acts 3:19-21.  Peter and John are speaking to a crowd on the Temple Mount, following the miraculous healing of a lame man at the gate called beautiful.  This instance is a perfect example of kingdom living, through the proclamation of God’s love and the power of His Spirit, the lame are made whole and the Word is proclaimed.  Immediately after this, Peter and John proclaim the following to the crowd of witnesses:

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that the time of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Acts 3:19-21

Peter and John acknowledge the arrival of the kingdom through their actions, but they also call on the listeners to hope in the kingdom that is to come.  Our response to the signs and proclamation of God’s kingdom is to repent, turn from sin, receive Christ and wait until the time that he will return and restore all things.  Christ has come, He has come in power, He has deployed His Spirit that we may proclaim the kingdom of Heaven.  While some are restored in the present, He will restore all things at a future time.  So we preach.  So we act in love to a hurting world.  And we relish the joy of His calling on our lives, knowing full well that as great as that joy is, it will pale in comparison to what is to come.

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Casting upon a Caring God…

August 27, 2012

1 Peter is one of my favorite books in the Bible, so rich and so full of powerful applicable theology.

One of the most powerful verses or sets of verses in the book come as Peter is concluding his letter to the elect exiles in Pontus, Galatia, Capadoccia and Bythinia, Chapter 5:6-7.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.”

Believers must humble themselves under God’s might hand, regardless of how that hand is made manifest.  They might experience that hand in judgment through persecution, or deliverance through protection.  Regardless of how His hand is experienced, the believers response is one of humility.  They accomplish this act of humility by casting their anxieties on God.  Peter has provided the reader with the “what” (humility), and the “how” (casting), but now he moves in short order to provide the “why.”  Believers approach God and rely on Him because He cares for them.  This simple profound truth animates the entire text of 1 Peter, indeed it is seen through out the scriptures.  This type of care is seen in the gospel of John 10:13; where Jesus tells of the hired hand that abandons the sheep because he does not care for them.  In contrast, the shepherd would leave the flock to pursue even one lost sheep.  This caring and concern is in view in this passage.

God cares for His people from beginning to end, throughout all circumstances.  We do not rely on an unsympathetic God, or one who is distant or emotionally uninvolved.  No, Peter systematically displays the myriad of ways in which God cares for His people.   Listing them below grants us the ability to grasp the scope of Peter’s depiction of God’s manifold care for His people:

-1:3 God has caused us to be born again to a new hope.

-1:4 God has given us an inheritance

-1:5 God guards us

-1:9 God grants us the salvation of our souls

-1:18 God ransoms us from futile ways

-2:5 God Builds us up

-2:8-9 God calls us out of darkness and into marvelous light

-2:10 God makes us His people and gives us mercy

-2:21 Christ suffered for us, providing us an example

-4:11, 13 God allows us to take part in the glory of Christ

-5:4 God will give us an unfading crown of glory

-5:7 God cares for us

-5:10 God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.

In the face of this litany, Peter asks his readers to cast their anxieties on God; this is an ultimate act of humility.  We are to be humble because God cares for us.  We are to display our humility by casting our anxieties on Him.  These truths form the essence of 1 Peter.

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The Dangers of Doubt…

April 10, 2012

“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.'”

-Matthew 14:22-31

Is doubt a sin?

Yes. Doubt is an expression of our weak belief and a manifestation of our lack of faith. David Wilkerson states, “of all the sins we can commit, doubt is the one most hated by God.” Doubt is not natural, it is a function of our fallen sinful state. We were created to trust God, rely on Him for everything, and cast our hope on Him. Doubt springs from pride and forgetfulness, it grows in isolation from God, and it ultimately will drive us to seek what we need from someone/thing other than God. Throughout the whole of Scripture God is constantly acting, displaying His command of events and history giving us examples of His care for us and reasons for us to trust Him. He displays Himself as sufficient to deliver the Israelites out of slavery, provide for them in the desert, and deliver them into the promised land. And at every turn and every opportunity the Israelites express doubt and fear and turn to idols for consolation. To be known as a prophet in the Old Testament was to be one who had faith in God and did not doubt. Prophets would call to Israelites mired in doubt and fear to return to God, and put their hope and trust in Him. God is utmost concerned that His Glory be displayed in the universe. We do not display His glory when we doubt.

That is the message behind Matthews passage in Chapter 14. The account of Jesus walking on the water is sandwiched between tremendous acts of faith and provision. Crowds are pursuing Jesus seeking healing from illnesses. When they hear that he is near, they all surround him by the thousands and he heals them, feeds them and send them on their way. These hordes of sick and wounded people had faith, they overcame their doubts and turned their eye and their hope upon Jesus and he saved them. Thousands believe, but Peter doubts. It is by the grace of almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ that He has mercy on Peter and has mercy on us. He comes to us amidst our doubt with one message, “it is I, be of good cheer, FEAR NOT.” (Fear Not! For behold I bring you good news of Great Joy that is for everyman Luke 2:9, “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” John 14:1) our doubt is overcome with one prayer, cried out in faith, “Lord, save me!” At which point, he is faithful to “stretch out His hand and catch us” and rescue us from drowning.

Why did Peter doubt?

Peter doubted because Peter was a sinner and was fearful. He did not understand yet who Jesus was and why it mattered. This is clear in the next major passage of the text and throughout the gospel of Matthew. Peter is constantly acting with a sort of schizophrenia. In this chapter, he calls out to Jesus as Lord, but sinks into the water because of doubt. In Chapter 16 he will confess Jesus as the son of God, but then will oppose Jesus’ prophesy about the cross. After saying that he would never deny Him, Peter denies Christ three times in Chapter 26. It is clear throughout that Peter had an idea of who Jesus was, but he never fully understood. Peter wanted to put Jesus into a mold. He ha a conception of who Jesus was and who He was supposed to be, his Jesus was the messiah who would lead the people of Israel in rebellion against the Romans; not the man who was to be crucified between two criminals. His Jesus was the king to be served, not the Servant who would wash the feet of His disciples. One would argue that it was not until after the resurrection that Peter, endowed with the Spirit of God, fully understood who Jesus was and why it mattered. As he preached at Pentecost the doubt and trembling is gone and is replaced with certainty and power. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know FOR CERTAIN that God has raised him from the dead– this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36) He doubted because he was a doubter; but the resurrection of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit transformed his doubt into unwavering belief. So it is for us, as it was for him. Faith without doubt is able to move mountains; Faith with doubt will barley keep us afloat.

What causes us to doubt?

Doubt is rooted in our failure to accurately understand who God is. God properly apprehended removes doubt. There are really two kinds of doubt; Emotional doubt and intellectual doubt.

Emotional doubt is and can be experienced by believers and followers of Jesus. This is the doubt we see on display in Matthew 14. Peter’s doubt arose out of fear, “he saw the wind was boisterous and he was afraid.” God created us with emotions, and the ability to feel fear. Fear was a reflex meant for God alone. The beginning of Biblical wisdom is the fear of God. Jesus’ message in the gospels is that we are to believe in God and fear not; and if we are to fear then we should fear only God, “the one who has the power to cast both body and soul into hell.” When we fear God, we reflect an absence of doubt and a fullness of faith in Him. When we are motivated by fear for anything other than God, we allow doubt to take over. When this happens our only response should be one of repentance, and reorientation toward God, fixing our eyes on Him, from whence cometh our help.

Intellectual doubt is less common, and more dangerous than emotional doubt. Intellectual doubt is being faced with the command of God and failing to follow Him because of your own reasoned disbelief. It is not reaction out of fear, but rather the fruit of a proud heart. This doubt is the rich young ruler who approaches Jesus seeking everlasting life. He begins to reason with Christ as to the costs of discipleship, ultimately when faced with the choice of following Jesus or keeping his stuff, he doubted the truthfulness of Jesus’ command and left in despair. Intellectual doubt is Romans 1:21, “for though they knew God they failed to honor Him as God.” Intellectual doubters see God, are faced with Him, and reason that what they see cannot be true or affect their lives. When this happens absent repentance, the consequences are dire and permanent. The only hope for this doubter is a grace given radical understanding of who they are in relation to God. This removes pride and eliminates doubt in who God is and what He has said.

When is doubt deadly?

Doubt is deadly when it is uncontested and given in to. Doubt is no residence for the Christian, a Christian may visit from time to time, but he/she cannot stay. Jesus commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind. There is no room for doubt in our pursuit of God. But doubt does happen. When doubt creeps in and begins to crowd out our view of God we begin to sink. Doubt leads to death when people choose to place their faith in any alternative other than God. Christ is our hope, He is calling out to us and when we have faith we can walk through the greatest storm; and even if we doubt, we must repent and cry out to the Lord, and He will be faithful to take hold of our hand and save us.

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Redemption Accomplished

June 18, 2011

I was so grateful for the opportunity to teach from God’s word last week for our Bible Fellowship class, Kingdom First at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.

Here is the link to my lesson from last Sunday on Christ’s Redemption Accomplished in 1 Peter 1:13-2:10

Click Here