Sunday, January 06, 2008

Would you agree to die for Christ?

What I learned from the Word tonight impacted me so much that I couldn't fall asleep, and just had to get out of bed and write about it.

The book of John opens, in verse 1:35-42 with the calling of Peter. It's at this point that Peter realizes that Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel, and chooses to do as Jesus says, "Follow Me".
Jhn 1:35
Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples,
Jhn 1:36
and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and *said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"
Jhn 1:37
The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
Jhn 1:38
And Jesus turned and saw them following, and *said to them, "What do you seek?" They said to Him, "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?"
Jhn 1:39
He *said to them, "Come, and you will see." So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
Jhn 1:40
One of the two who heard John {speak} and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
Jhn 1:41
He *found first his own brother Simon and *said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which translated means Christ).
Jhn 1:42
He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).

What Jesus was doing by changing Peter's name from Cephas, was making a covenant with him. In a covenant, one party agrees to live and die for the other party. So, Peter was making this agreement to live for Jesus, and die for him if necessary. Jesus was doing the same.

Yet, as we know, Peter wasn't perfect. His humanity failed him over and over again, even though I believe his heart wanted to follow Christ faithfully. It's just my opinion based upon Scripture, but I believe Peter was not yet clear on how his flesh could never sustain him in a walk with Christ...that it would always fall short.

Praise God that we aren't called to follow Him by the power of our flesh, and that God has so graciously demonstrated that to us through Peter's life.

(However, I learned Peter's lesson in my own life this past summer. I learned it at a deep heart level, that my love for Christ will never be enough to carry me through the dungeon times. I MUST rely on the power of His Holy Spirit...and you know what? When a believer does that, GOD is the one who gets the glory. No one who saw me through this summer could praise me...they saw me and knew that ONLY GOD could have pulled me through it.)

For,after having failed repeatedly when trying to be holy of his own power, and then being clearly told by Jesus in John 21:14-17 what his new job description was, Peter's whole walk with Christ was about to change dramatically.
Jhn 21:14
This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
Jhn 21:15
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, "Simon, {son} of John, do you love Me more than these?" He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He *said to him, "Tend My lambs."
Jhn 21:16
He *said to him again a second time, "Simon, {son} of John, do you love Me?" He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He *said to him, "Shepherd My sheep."
Jhn 21:17
He *said to him the third time, "Simon, {son} of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus *said to him, "Tend My sheep.

This is the part, though, that really stood out to me tonight. This is what propelled me out of my warm bed at 2:30 in the morning because I just HAD to share it with you...

Jhn 21:18
"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to {go.}"
Jhn 21:19
Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, "Follow Me!"

Do you see that? It's powerful, and it speaks VOLUMES about Peter's commitment to following Christ now I mean now that he's on the other side of his failed humanity. By now, Peter has been humbled and broken. He has seen how his own power is so weak, and that it would never be enough to make him a faithful follower of Christ.

He MUST have the indwelling Holy Spirit in order to truly Follow Jesus. He MUST, for his flesh is weak, as is ours.

Peter had just seen his Savior crucified on a cross, and now Jesus is prophesying for Peter that the same will happen to him.

The next line is so powerful: "Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would GLORIFY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Do you ever think about that? Tradition and History teach that Peter was crucified under Nero's reign. History says that Peter refused to be crucified upright,saying he wasn't worthy to hang as his Savior did, and rather was hung upside down.

The thing that was so huge to me in this statement of Jesus' was that He was clearly telling Peter that his DEATH would glorify God. We forget that sometimes, don't we?

We spend our time crying out in anger, "WHY HIM, GOD?! WHY HER, GOD?!"

Instead of asking God, "HOW are you going to be glorified through her death God? Show me LORD, how his dying will bring you glory!"

It's hard to remember that God can and is glorified even through the death of the believer, especially hard when those who don't understand the full counsel of God tell us that God wants us alive. That He wants us healthy. That He never wants us to die.

That's just not Biblical teaching.

If Jesus prophesied to Peter, his cherished friend and disciple, His apostle, that he would die on a cross....and then the very next words that He said to Peter were, "FOLLOW ME", it seems to me that Jesus was calling Peter to a standard that didn't weigh Peter's personal comfort into the equation.

It's as if Jesus was telling him, "Look...there are lives to be saved. There are mass millions who need the good news of the Gospel. You're going to have to die to self and be real willing to Tend My Lambs, Shepherd My Sheep, and Tend My Sheep. Then, after you do that, you'll die a horrid death so that God can be glorified through it. So, FOLLOW ME. You'll be doing the things I did here on earth."


That's a high calling, don't you think?

No promise of fame or fortune.
No guarantees of winning the Roman popularity contest.
No hope that all his Jewish brothers would love him.

And no living to a ripe old age and dying in his sleep to comfort him.

So now, how about you and I?

What kind of followers of Christ are we?

Are we willing to stand on the truth of God's Word, even when it means that others will call us zealots?

Are we willing to put all in God's hands, full knowing He can take it as His leisure?

Do we ask God, "Lord, be glorified in my life..whatever it takes....just be glorified in my life, today!"

What might our walks with Christ look like if our prayer life changed and we aligned it with God's will and God's designs for our lives?

Just think...even at that point, Peter could have walked away. Instead, he chose to follow Christ, and at Pentecost, not much later, about 3,000 souls were added as new followers of Christ.

You can read about it in Acts 2.

But, Acts 1 makes it clear that Jesus told the disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them. It was at THAT TIME that they'd have all they needed to be His witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

But they had to WAIT for the Holy Spirit.

Good lessons here tonight.
1. Will power will fail us in our walk with God.
2. God can be glorified in anything He chooses to be...even the death of one of his saints.
3. To be in the center of God's will, we must wait upon the leading of the Holy Spirit, and then we must follow....period!
4. Following Christ may mean giving up things that are dear to us...either in the here and now, or in the future. Will we love him enough, trust him enough, and wait on the Holy Spirit enough to follow Him through even the painful times?

Will we be like Cassie Bernall when faced with our future, or lack of it? Will we stand firmly and say, "Yes. I believe in God", no matter the possible outcome?

Will we live our lives in such a way that we are cities on a hill, as Jesus told us to be in Matthew? Will we let our light so shine before men that they will see our good works and glorify (NOT US!) our Father Who is in Heaven?

I encourage you, if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, to talk to Him. Talk to the Father. Be honest about where you need help, about where you're failing, about what your fears are.

Tell Him you want to be faithful, trusting, and trustworthy.

Ask Him to put you up on the potters mold you into the you He designed you to be.

It may take refining fire. It may take molding and shaping.

I promise you, though, as one who has been through a LOT of God's maturing work, and continues to go through will come out on the other side with a deeper love for your Lord, and an excitement to be used of Him, as He desires, for His glory.

There is no better life than that, if you ask me.

In Him,

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