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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Excerpt: When God's People Run

Full Notes, Click here: When God's People Run

After Jesus was crucified, and rose from the dead, He came back to Peter and the other disciples. When He first appeared to them, they were locked behind closed doors, afraid and in hiding. They feared the same religious authorities that came for Jesus would come for them. Suddenly, He was in their midst and said "Peace be unto you."

He wouldn't speak peace into their hearts if they were not very troubled. They were grieving over His death, over their failure to stand by Him. They had no peace with their own hearts, nor with each other. Peter had denied Him three times, when He was on trial before the Sanhedrin. The others had all forsook Him and fled, in fear. Judas had betrayed Him and hung himself. They were all shaken to the core at what had happened in such a short time. Everything looked bleak, and hopeless. What would they do without Him? They'd left everything to follow Him and now He was gone. Human nature being what it is, there had to be some finger pointing, at least in their hearts, and some hard feelings. They were blaming each other and themselves for failing the Lord. Suddenly, He's there in their midst and they are afraid, thinking He's a ghost come to torment them for their guilty consciences were troubling them.

He said again, as He showed His hands and feet to them, the scars, freshly visible. "Peace be unto you, As My Father has sent Me, even so I send you." He breathes on them, and speaks more things to them. But Thomas, he wasn't there. Eight days later, they had still been unable to convince Thomas they'd seen Jesus. Again, He appears in the room where they are still shut in. They had seen Him. Joh_20:30 tells us Jesus did many other signs in their presence which are not written down in the Book. Still, eight days later, they are still shut in the upper room, in hiding, still laying low. He appears again in their midst, and this time confronts Thomas.
Still, something was not settled in their hearts. They were still troubled and confused. Why else would 7 of the remaining 11 disciples decide to go fishing? Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two others, likely one of which was Andrew, Peter's brother. It was as if Peter couldn't take not doing anything anymore. They didn't know what to do with themselves. Without Jesus present to guide them, they had no direction, no cohesion. He was the glue that held them all together and directed their path. They went back to the only thing they knew to do.
Joh_21:3 Peter says I'm going fishing. The others follow his lead. They fished all night and caught nothing.
The next morning, Jesus was on the shore, He had prepared them a meal. He called out to them,
"Children have you any meat?" No, they didn't. There was nothing to show for their toil and effort. There was nothing to sustain them, nothing to feed them, no provision at all. He just simply calls out and instructs them to cast the net on the right side of the ship and they would find. I wonder what went through their minds? Did they remember that day when He first called them, and told them to launch out into the deep, and they would find fish? And they did..enough that it broke the nets and nearly sunk two boats. Again, when they cast the net at His instruction, they found so many fish they couldn't even bring the net in for it was too heavy.
Then, John, who refers to himself as the disciples Jesus loved, said it's the Lord! It was John who recognized Jesus first. It was John who believed He was risen first at the empty tomb. And Peter, when he understood it was the Lord calling to them, he grabbed his outer garment and wrapped it around him, and jumped into the sea, unable to wait for the ship to get back to shore, though it wasn't far out, and hurried to where Jesus was waiting.
Jesus tells them to come and dine. He already had fish and bread cooking over coals of fire. They have all these fish in the net and they draw the net to shore, and just come to where Jesus is. This was the third time He had appeared to them. You have the one who doubted Him, the one who denied Him, and the others, all of whom had run out on Him when He was being tried on false charges. I can almost see them sitting around the fire, their faces tired, and weary. Their hearts were discouraged, unsure what to do. He knew they were struggling with their guilt and confusion. He had appeared to them twice before since His resurrection, had done many miracles in their presence, but still they are struggling. He is not ranting on them, though He initially did reprove them for their unbelief.

He speaks to Simon, and His Word confronts something in Peter's heart. It was always Peter who had spoken up. In the storm, it was Peter that asked Jesus to bid him come to Him, and Peter walked on the water, too. It was Peter who asked for Jesus to explain the parables He was teaching the people. It was Peter who had received the divine revelation that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. It was also Peter who got rebuked when he told Jesus 'far be it from you' when Jesus said He had to be betrayed and die. It was Peter who asked more questions. It was Peter who swore, 'though all men shall be offended because of You, I will never be!' 'I'm ready to go to jail, even to death for You.' 'I'll die before I would deny You!'. The others agreed they would too, but they didn't. Lord, I'll lay my life down for Your sake! Peter had said. But he had run, instead. Now Jesus' Word I believe pierced His heart for it addressed something I believe Peter thought secretly-that he of all the disciples loved Jesus the most. Peter also had a tendency, like we do, to trust in our own strength and confident ourselves in our ability and zeal to serve the Lord. Peter had failed the Lord miserably. Satan had asked for and been granted permission to sift Peter as wheat. I believe this was allowed by the Lord to deal with Peter's confidence in himself. Human wisdom and strength can never be used to accomplish spiritual and divine work. What is carnal cannot produce spiritual results.

When Jesus had fed them, when they had dined, He looks at Peter.."Lovest thou Me more than these?' The word for love Jesus uses is agapao (G25) This is a sacrificial love. It's a love that puts others first and self last. It's the same word for love used in the Scriptures when Jesus said you must love your enemies, and love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength. It's the same kind of love Jesus commanded us to have for one another. Love one another with a pure heart heart fervently (1Pe_1:22) Peter says, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you". The word for love Peter uses is phileo (G5368) and it means to be fond of someone, having personal attachment or affection for based on sentiment or feelings. This kind of love can be very fickle. It's the normal human selfish love. We love what benefits us, and is convenient. Unlike agape love, this kind of love can turn to hate quickly when wounded.
Jesus says
"Feed my lambs." Tend carefully My little ones. Make sure they are fed what they need to grow. I got curious about sheep and lambs as I read this, and so did a little research. For the first weeks of a lambs life, they need only their mother's milk. Gradually, and soon after birth, they begin to nibble on grass, grain, or hay, whatever is available where they are. But they are heavily dependent on the mother's milk at first. Their digestive system must grow and mature, like an infant's, to be able to handle more than milk. You can't feed young or newborn Christians the same hard truths you can more mature Christians. It will choke them as surely as a piece of steak or a hamburger would choke an infant. God help us learn this too, when He saves our children. We can't expect them to be little cross bearers from their conversion. We must let the Lord show us how to nurture them and guide them as lambs. First the Lord fed His disciples, He fed them spiritual truth, and physical food, all the while showing them the way but they were slow to understand. Can you relate? I can...
Again, Jesus looks at Peter.
"Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" When referring to feeding the lambs, the word for feed was bosko (G1006) and it means keep watch over them, provide them pasture that is suitable for lambs. The word for feed concerning the sheep is different in the Greek. It is poimaino (G4165) and it means tend them as a shepherd-feed them, but keep them in line. Nourish them, feed them, and govern them.
Peter's response was the same, "Yes, Lord, You know I love You."

For the third time, Jesus says "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" One thing I noticed here, the repeated referral of Simon, son of Jonas. Simon means one who hears. Son of Jonas-in the original Hebrew this was translated as John, not Jonas. John means mercy and grace of the Lord or Jehovah's gift-which mercy and grace most definitely are His gift to us. This time, Jesus uses the same word for love, that Peter used, phileo. Are you really fond of Me? Are you really My friend? It's a less intimate, less sacrificial form of love. Oh, the painful memories that had to be running through Peter's mind. He surely remembered how he boasted he would never deny Him. He was ready to go to jail, or die for Him, more than the others. Lord, they might be offended, but not I. Though all (meaning the others) be offended I won't be! Oh, but I believe he was the most deeply offended of all because he did deny Him three times. Seeing the Son of Almighty God submit to wicked men's hands and abuse offended him. Seeing Jesus stand accused of outrageous lies, falsely accused and yet not try to defend Himself offended Peter. Seeing Him go through such suffering, when Peter knew He who had commanded demons and winds and waves and could stop this at any moment if He chose, but would not, offended Peter. He was offended, like many by the cross, and its working because of a lack of understanding why it must be this way. I believe Jesus used the phileo form of love to remind Peter, that kind of love will fail, Peter as you well know. I believe Peter understood because he was grieved when Jesus asked him the third time, and he said Lord, you know everything. You know me with an absolute knowledge better than I do. You knew I would fail you when I thought I could stand.
Another point I gleaned on these Scriptures, this one from reading a few of the commentaries on this was Peter's leadership among the disciples had been severely damaged in the minds of the others by his denial of the Lord. Jesus was addressing Peter, probing at his heart's deepest feelings and while also reaffirming him as the Shepherd-or leader of the sheep. You feed them, you tend them, you keep them in line, Peter. You care for them as I have cared for you. This was not a private but a public conversation, and all the others, knowing of Peter's failures, heard Jesus tell Peter to shepherd His sheep.

Jesus tells Peter, when you were young, you dressed yourself as you wanted, went where you wanted, and lived the way you wanted. But when you are old, you will reach out your hands and another will dress you with what He wants, and will bind you with His Word, and His love, and He will take you where your flesh will not want to go-you will die to everything you are and My life will be lived out through you. That old boastful, self-reliant nature will die, and you will live dependent on Me. In the end, you will surrender your life rather than deny Me again and they will crucify you physically who will by then have already been spiritually crucified by Me.

Jesus knew Peter would fail Him, He knew they all would run away in fear. Yet in spite of their failures, He did not take back His calling on their lives. No, He continued to visit them, and call them back to Himself. He recommissioned them before He left.
Luke 24, He reminds them it was written that He would suffer and die and rise again. This, with a message of repentance and remission of sins would be their message they would carry because they were living witnesses of these truths. He told them to go all over the world-not just to Jews, not just where they were comfortable, but to step out of their comfort zone and take His message, His life, all over the world. But before they would be qualified as witnesses of these things, they needed His power to carry the message, to be the message He was. You wait in Jerusalem, until you are endued with power from heaven before you try to carry this message or be my witnesses. You must have the Holy Ghost before you can do this-more than you received when you were born again. You must be filled with Him. He must replace your natural self life with divine life-else you can not partake of My divine nature. He will tell us no different.

If you have failed Him, if you ran when the fire got hot, and made a mess of the testimony He gave you, take hope in these Scriptures. He is no respecter of persons. Sometimes God's people can be struggling so hard so long, dealing with family problems, health problems, financial problems, marriage problems, or problems with their children. It could be a combination of any of these. People get tired, they get weary, and when they love God and have tried their best to serve Him but things don't seem to be getting better, instead they get worse, we can make mistakes and we can run, seeking relief from the fight. It is a constant warfare in these last days to pray and love and serve the Lord. The devil is spewing out a flood of lies against the Bride of Christ, against His own, to deceive them into giving up hope and casting away their confidence. He wants them to forget God said "Don't be weary in well doing, for you will reap if you faint not." He wants them to forget Jesus said "I will never leave you, nor forsake you. No matter how it looks, He won't for He's not a man that He should lie. It's impossible for Him to lie-so we can take comfort in His promises and hold onto them and never let go. Don't surrender His promises to you to the doubt and fear and pain that might be plaguing your life right now. It's in such times we can fall but He said He'd pick us up. Indeed, He has ministered hope to my heart through His Word, through these Scriptures about Peter, for I too have failed, and I too have run. Sometimes when we are sifted hard, that's what happens. We want to run from the very thing (or One) we are being sifted about. It's an attempt by the enemy to cause such an inward agitation to overthrow our faith and confidence in the Lord-whom we should always trust. Take hope-he has to seek permission to do this to us, and the Lord prays for us before it begins, and stands by us through the whole process. He allows this to destroy our confidence in ourselves and our own ability to serve Him. It's a painful, spiritual circumcision of the heart. But remember, it's Him who is doing the cutting and He knows what He is doing. This is not a job He delegates to others. He does it personally and love for us is His motivation in so doing. He knows where human nature will take us so He has to destroy that dependence and confidence in it. This will leave us humbled and dependent on Him. So if you are being sifted, and if you are struggling, remember He knows, He granted permission for this to work in you and I a total, intimate trust and dependence on Him alone. That's a good thing, is it not? Trust His love is true and He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is faithful who is promised.

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