Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: March 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

God is Not in the Box!

God is Not in the Box!

“He is risen!  These three simple words have changed the world.  Believing in the literal and physical resurrection of Jesus is a defining factor of true Christianity.  If you are not willing to believe in the truth of the resurrection of Jesus (and it is a choice), you cannot be saved and “born again.”  The resurrection of Jesus is a critical aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the work of redemption is not finished.

When I say these three words have changed the world, most people have no comprehension of the way in which the resurrection of Jesus changes the eternal dynamic of human existence.  The theological, as well as the practical, ramifications of these three words are overwhelming.

“1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you” (Matthew 28:1-7).

The resurrection of Jesus is what makes Jesus the “door” into the New Genesis.  Therefore, salvation cannot exist apart from being miraculously placed into the body of Jesus, which body is the New Genesis “in Christ.” 

“7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:7-9).

The resurrection of Jesus refers to the resurrection of the human body of Jesus as the Son of God who was born of the virgin Mary.  Therefore, the resurrection makes Jesus the “firstborn” of the New Genesis.  Jesus’ resurrection provides an opening to escape from the cursed first creation for all those who will rest their trust in Christ’s finished work of redemption.  Jesus is “the beginning” of the New Genesis and the “door” opened “by grace” and entered “through faith” for “whosoever will” to come.   

“12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:12-18).

The words “who is the beginning” in Colossians 1:18 are words that should incite the passions of every true believer.  These few words are a promise to every believer that rests his faith in the finished work of Jesus.  The promise is that what has happened to Jesus will happen to every true believer who rests his soul in the finished work of Christ.  The amount of what we are capable of comprehending regarding the miracle of the New Genesis “in Christ” is minute compared to the scope of this new existence.
The religious apostates of Judaism attempted to seal the crucified Son of God in a tomb.  Unbelief prompts fools to try foolish things.  A huge stone had been prepared to roll into a trench dug into the earth that would require a small army of very strong men to move it.  Then, the Jews wanted a guard put upon that sealed tomb so no one could come and steal the body of Jesus.  Even after they had crucified their Messiah, they were doing everything they could to keep him from being known.  They wanted no one to believe in Him.
It is amazing to see the depth to which religious apostasy will stoop in order to continuing protecting their position of hierarchy.  Throughout Matthew chapter twenty-seven God reveals to us that even the pagan Roman Pilate and the “centurion,” along with the one-hundred soldiers under his charge, all recognized that Jesus was more than just another man.

Pilate said, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ” (Matthew 27:17)?  Then, Matthew 27:18 tells us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Pilate “knew that for envy they {the apostate priesthood of Israel} had delivered him.”  Even Pilate’s pagan wife was given a dream by God revealing that Jesus was something more than what He was being accused of being by the Jews.  Pilate’s wife sent testimony to her husband on behalf of Jesus, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him” (Matthew 27:19).

Any attempt to contain the infinite God in a finite space is a ridiculous premise at its best.  All that the unbelievers could see was a helpless man.  They were spiritually blind to the God-man in Jesus.

“57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. 61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. 62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matthew 27:57-66).

When reading these texts, we are reminded of the transition from the wilderness experience of God under Moses to the Promised Land experience of God under Joshua.  This is very similar to what happened with the Apostles after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  In the wilderness under Moses, the children of Israel had the visible presence of God in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  Every single day for their many years in the wilderness, they saw and knew the visible presence of God (except the time Miriam and Aaron “spake against Moses” recorded in Numbers chapter twelve and God “departed.”).  When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, the presence of God was thought to be in the Ark of the Covenant carried by the priests.  In Joshua chapter three, God instructed Joshua to have the priest carry the Ark of the Covenant into the swollen Jordan River.  As the feet of the priests carrying the Ark touched the flooding waters of the Jordan River, the waters of the river were backed up to the city of Adam.  The natural inclination of Jewish believers was to now think that God was in the box.  From this point forward, the children of Israel were to “walk by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7).  From the time they entered the Promised Land, they would know the presence of God, and the blessing of that presence, only by the outcomes of their victories.
There are two basic problems with the faith vision of most people.  First, many forget that God sees all things.  Second, many fail to see God working in all things (Romans 8:28).  Many are so ignorant of God’s will and expectation that they think almost anything goes with Him.  Joshua learned very quickly that courageous faith comes only to those who trust in the God that goes before us rather than in the numbers that follow behind us.  God’s promise to Joshua is the same promise Jesus gave to His disciples.  Notice the similarity in the promises.

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:7).

“18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Matthew 28:18-20 is the last statement of Jesus, other than the statement in Acts chapter one, where Jesus tells His disciples to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit before they attempt any ministry.  Again, the filling of the Spirit must precede any attempts at spiritual warfare.  Biblical faith understands this reality.  In both God’s promise to Joshua and Jesus’ promise to His disciples, we find three wonderful truths.

1. The unlimited availability of divine power
2. The continuing presence of God
3. Victory is sure since the battle is the Lord’s

The very nature of the spiritual dynamic of the New Genesis is that Jesus died vicariously for us so that He might live vicariously through us.  This is the spiritual dynamic behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus tried to explain the necessity of His going away in order for Him to remain with His disciples in the Person of His Holy Spirit.  In other words, Jesus’ departing from the believers in a physical way would cause them to lose the kind of intimacy they had known in the physical presence of Christ.  However, once Jesus departed physically, He released His Spirit to indwell each of them to empower each of them in a much higher level of intimacy than they could have experienced had Jesus remained physically.

“7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient {conducive or an advantage} for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment {He will accomplish what believers could never do}: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear {endure} them now {endurance would be a byproduct of the filling of the Spirit}. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you {show you the way or teach you how to live the truth} into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:7-15).

Understanding the spiritual and doctrinal ramifications of the reality of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus opens to our understanding the potential that lays within every “born again” child of God throughout the Church Age.  Living within the newly created spiritual dynamic of the resurrection of Jesus is exhibited throughout the book of Acts.  The book of Acts provides a powerful spiritual portrait of the Spirit-filled potential available to every true disciple of Jesus who lives separated from worldliness and in holiness before God. 

Before salvation, every person is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  Upon salvation, Jesus quickens (makes alive) the believer and indwells that person’s body in the Person of His Holy Spirit.  In His resurrection, Jesus emptied the tomb in which his body was laid in order to move into believer’s body in order to bring that body to be a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).  This is regeneration!
John 16:7-15 is a transitional text similar to Joshua chapter three.  In Joshua 3:7-13, we can see that the transitional issue is that the presence of the Lord will be known by faith.  The Ark of the Covenant was merely a token of His presence.  The knowledge of God’s presence would only be seen through the outcomes of His promises.  Therefore, when the feet of the priests carrying the Ark touched the waters of the river Jordan, then God would miraculously act.  The presence of God was visible by what happened.  His presence would be invisible until something happened.  The children of Israel knew of God’s presence only by promise and believed it by faith.  Faith acted upon the promise.  This is true of believers today.  We know of the presence of the Holy Spirit only by faith in the promise of Jesus.  We see the presence of the Holy Spirit when spiritual blessings happen or when the “fruit of the Spirit” is evident. 

“7 And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee {Joshua as a type of Christ} in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses {as a type of Christ}, so I will be with thee. 8 And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan. 9 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God. 10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. 12 Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap” (Joshua 3:7-13).

Most believers believe what Jesus said about the presence of the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit indwells us.  This promise is stated by Jesus in Scripture.  However, real faith acts upon that promise because they believe the promise is a reality.  Just as the Old Testament priests stepped into the flooding Jordan river at the peril of their own lives and waited upon God to act, so must the present day believer do the same.  Faith acts believing God will do what He says He will do.  Believing in the resurrection of Jesus, and understanding the theological ramification of what that resurrection effects, the believer should then live in expectation of realization the outcomes of that resurrection. 

Do you think there might have been some trepidation on the part of the priests carrying the Ark as they approached the edge of the rapids of the flooding river Jordan?  Some might say fear would be the opposite of faith.  Many would say, if the priests had trepidation or doubts, God would not do what He said He would do.  This is not the way it works.  The point is that their real faith moved them passed their real fear of the real danger to risk their real lives to obey what their real God said to do in a real way.  Faith moved them forward in obedience.  Then real faith caused those priests to stop in the midst of the flood waters where the soles of their feet came “to rest in the waters” (Joshua 3:13).  There are not many with the quality of faith that can “rest in the waters.”  The greatest testimony of a Christian’s life would be the words, “he was a person who could “rest in the waters.”  Think about this for amount.  Whether or not the whole nation of Israel would enter their Promised Land depended upon the faith of a handful of priests willing to step into the swollen flood waters of the Jordan River and stand there a moment waiting on God to do what He said He would do.  This scenario repeats itself every day more often than we will ever know.

The life of EVERY TRUE Christian, who seeks to be faithful to God’s commands to be holy and to make disciples, will always be lived in the midst of the flood waters that threaten our very lives.  The fires of trials will never wane when a believer is trying to change the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, the person of real faith always sees the forces of demonic evil as they are compared to the power and Person of God, who dwells within us and goes before us.

Every local church, regardless of how large, is actually led by a handful of people with real faith willing to risk everything in this world just to be used by God for some seemly insignificant moment.  They never now at that time the real importance of that single moment of their faithfulness.  Yet, their faithfulness at that singular and seemingly insignificant moment will be the trigger for thousands of other events that will follow, causing the cascade of the blessings of God.  The point is that none of us know of the continuum to which any moment of faithfulness connects us and those following us.  The only thing with which we should be preoccupied at any moment of life is simply doing what God has commanded us to do knowing that what we are doing connects us to that continuum.  Generations of faithful people are created by the treasure of real faith of tried in the fire believers who live the moments of their lives trying to be as faithful to God as they possibly can.  Don’t cut yourself short.  You are an important gear in that wheel.

This continuum of spiritual life and spiritual blessings is the substance of God’s intention in the ordinance for the sanctified that we know as water baptism.  Water baptism is an ordinance of choice following a decision that wants to “walk in the newness of life” more than anything else in this world.  We need not read too far in Romans chapter six to understand that living separated from sin (sanctification) is the subject of the text, not salvation.  In fact, the text applies only to people who are already saved.

“1 What shall we say then {now transitioning from the grace that saves to the ‘grace wherein we stand,’ Romans 5:2}? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin {positionally ‘in Christ’}, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were {Spirit} baptized into Jesus Christ were {Spirit} baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by {Spirit} baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:1-11).

Perhaps one of the greatest failures of preaching and theology is the failure to connect Christians in a very practical way to the ramifications of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is what water baptism is SUPPOSED to do.  There should be some instruction along with the water baptism ordinance that connects the thinking of the person being baptized to the supernatural availability of the empowering of the indwelling Christ.  This empowering is resurrection power released through the believer’s life that allows Christ to live vicariously through the yielded believer.  The point here is that the ordinance of water baptism is intended to reflect a choice and an attitude about a righteous relationship with God.  To say we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and then to not live in the power made available to all believers through that resurrection is to practically deny the whole purpose of the resurrection of Jesus.

“12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).
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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Who Is This Jesus?

Who Is This Jesus?

Over the years, I have listened as many people make professions of faith in Jesus Christ.  I have witnessed most of those people go on and become great disciples of Jesus with a real love for Him and a real desire to live for Him.  I have also witnessed many people make professions of faith in Jesus and soon after begin to live as if He does not exist.  I have thought about those people often, prayed for them, and wondered how they can know Jesus and not live for Him.  Eternal security should never be used to prop up the corpse of a false profession.
We must conclude these people never knew Jesus in a real way.  They never knew Him personally.  They were fascinated with the idea of Jesus.  They were converted to Jesus the miracle worker.  They wanted a magic wand waved over their lives to erase all the messes they had spent a lifetime making.  As far as they were concerned, when all their problems were not immediately solved, this Jesus thing just did not work for them.  They were never converted in their heart by a real faith.  This is the scenario of Jesus entering Jerusalem in Matthew 21:1-9.

“1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. 8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:1-9).

I think one of the reasons people give up on living for the Lord (and in fact give up on faith) is because they have a knowledge of Jesus the Savior and they want to follow Jesus the miracle worker (as long as it doesn’t cost them too much), but they never invest the time and effort to personally know Jesus the God-man.  There is no intimacy to their relationship with Him.  They do not really believe He is Who they think He is.  Therefore, there is no real worship, praise, or adoration of the Jesus they profess to know.

In Matthew 21:10, we have a similar crowd of people following Jesus.  They believed Him to be the Messiah.  They knew Him to be a miracle worker, but only a few of them got close enough to Him to allow Him into the intimate aspects of their lives and them into His.  They are those who always will be asking the question, “Who is this?”  Until they are willing to invest the time and effort in knowing Him personally and intimately, He will never be more than a great teacher or another great historical philosopher to them.

“10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. 12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. 15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, 16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? 17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there” (Matthew 21:10-17).

Those unwilling to make the investment of the time and effort to know Jesus personally and intimately will never know Him in a life changing way.  They may know Him historically.  They may know Him intellectually.  They may even know Him spiritually, but they will never know Him personally as their Lord and Saviour.  As we study this text of the life of Jesus, I ask you one question, who is Jesus to you?
In Matthew 20:29, Jesus and His disciples had left Jericho to travel the 19 miles to Jerusalem for the Passover.  Jesus had spent the previous few days (chapters 18, 19, and 20) teachings His disciples about the Kingdom.  As the disciples walked with Jesus, their minds were filled with thoughts of the Kingdom.
There was also a large crowd of people following Jesus and His disciples (the mixed multitude).  Among the crowd were the thrill seekers.  For them it was a carnival.  They were following to see the miracles and looking for something exciting.  There were also the skeptics.  They were looking for evidence to convict Jesus of blasphemy.  They were looking for proof that Jesus wasn’t Messiah.
Most of those in this crowd were people with a great deal of emptiness in their lives.  They lived without hope.  They were seeking someone to give them hope and fill the emptiness of their lives.  This group of people believed Jesus was the Messiah.  They followed Him because they wanted to know Him personally.  So, they walked with Jesus.  They listened to what He said and watched what He did.  They were looking for proof that Jesus was the Messiah; that He was real.  This is for what most people are looking.
There was another group of people following Jesus.  They were His disciples.  Proportionately, there are always few of these true followers of Jesus.  They were not looking for proof.  They were following Jesus because they were confident He was Messiah.  They had committed themselves to serve Him, follow Him, and know Him personally and intimately.

“67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:67-69).

In Matthew 21:1, the Lord Jesus and this mixed multitude come near the city of Jerusalem to Bethphage, about half mile away from the Mount of Olives.  We can only imagine what must have been going through the minds of these Jews following Jesus?  The previous three chapters tell us that Jesus had been teaching them about the Kingdom.  They were all familiar with the prophecy of Zechariah.  (The Tomb of Zachariah is on the Eastern slope of Kidron Valley on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives.  You can see the city of Jerusalem looking West from the Mount.)

“1 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:1-4).

Imagine the murmuring and excitement in this crowd.  It was five days before the Passover.  The thousands following Jesus were joined with thousands more already on the way to Jerusalem for the Passover.  The crowds of people filling Jerusalem during this time of the year was always immense.  Most of the faithful Jews were knowledgeable of prophecy regarding the coming of Messiah.

“12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:12-13).
Israel was looking for their Messiah.  They were looking for their Messiah to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth and deliver them from Roman oppression.  How their hearts must have raced when they heard this great miracle-working prophet of God was coming to Jerusalem, this man who commanded the wind and the seas, this man that healed the lame and gave sight to the blind, who cast out demons, and even raised the dead.  And now, as He approaches Jerusalem, the adventure escalates to an even higher degree.  Jesus was going to enter Jerusalem riding on the colt of an ass.
He didn’t ride a horse because a horse was an emblem of war (a military animal used by military men).  A mule, donkey, or an ass were all emblems of peace.  Kings and princes commonly rode them in times of peace signifying their rank and dignity.  The crowds knew exactly what this meant.  Jesus was claiming Kingship over Israel, and yet they were as wrong as they were right.

“33 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? 34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? 35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. 37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:33-37).

The Kingdom Jesus came to establish during the Church Age is a Kingdom of the heart.  His Kingdom on earth will not exist until the Kingdom of the heart is conquered by His grace through faith in Who He is and what He has accomplished for us on the Cross of Calvary.

  • The crowd wanted a political King and a physical deliverer.  He will be that one day, but not yet.
  • They were looking for a King, and instead they found a Servant.
  • They were looking for a Victor, and instead they founding a willing victim.
  • They were looking for a deliverer Who would fight for them, and instead they found a Savior Who would die for them.
  • They wanted freedom from Roman bondage, and Jesus offered them eternal deliverance from the bondage of sin.

It was this same crowd that shouted “Hosana to the son of David . . . blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord; hosana in the highest” that betrayed Him and turned Him over to the Romans for execution.  The fickleness and spiritual shallowness of selfish professions never ceases to amaze me.  This is why many will do what they need to do to get some hope of salvation from Hell.  However, few of those will ever really love Jesus, obey and live His commandments, and truly become Hs disciples.  This fickleness of faith has been the way it has always been from the beginning of time.  The faithful have always been a minute minority.

“1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. 2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, 3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. 4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him” (John 19:1-3).

Most of those shouting Hosanna to the Lord wanted nothing to do with Jesus a King of hearts and a Savior of souls.  So when the crowd had a choice between Jesus and a political zealot name Barabbas, they shouted for the crucifixion of Jesus and the release of Barabbas.
Jesus wore a crown, but it was a crown of thorns.  Yet, the real thorns that tore at Jesus were the piercing thorns of rejection of many of those who had earlier professed to be His disciples.  The crowds mocked Him with the pretense of a purple robe of royalty shouting, “Hail the king of the Jews” while at the same time pulling out His beard and slapping Him in the face.  Those who profess to believe in Jesus, but who never really live their lives to His glory, never considered the hurt they cause to Jesus with their pretentious hypocrisy.
How typical this is of people who profess to know Him, but live as if He is nothing.  How typical this is of people who call Him Lord and live their lives as if He doesn’t exist.  Read John 19:13-16 and notice the use of the words they and them.  These words refer to the hypocritical crowds that followed Jesus.

“13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! 15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. 16 Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. 17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: 18 Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (John 19:13-18).
Who did Jesus die for?  He died from them.  He died for those that hated Him.  He died for His apathetic, cowardice disciples that hid in the shadows, denying they knew Him.  Yes, Peter is the one record we have of this, but it was true of the vast majority of those that called Him “Lord.”  It is true of the vast majority of those that call themselves believers in modern day Christianity.
Who were the disciples that stayed with Him through the end?  The Gospel of John records six of them. (John 19:25-26 and 38-39); three Marys, John the Apostle, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus.  Everyone else either left or became part of the crowd that crucified Him.

  • Who is this Jesus to you?
  • Do you know Him personally?
  • If so, how do you know Him personally.  In what way do you know Him personally?
  •  Are you as involved in His life as He is in yours?
  • What sacrifices did you make for Him this week?
  • Would you describe your relationship with Him as being faithful to Him?
  • Did you talk with Him personally this week? (prayer)
  • Do you walk with Him personally every day?
  • Do you know and experience His presence with you personally?

The crowds follow Jesus because they want something from Him and want to use Him for their own selfish purposes.  Disciples follow Jesus because they want to be like Him and to be used of Him.
Are you one of the crowd or are you a disciple?  I have learned that people who quit on Jesus do so because they never get to know Him personally and intimately.  They never learn to love Him.  They really do not believe He is Who He says He is.  True disciples never abandon Jesus.  They may fail occasionally, but they get right back to where they left off and they do so quickly.  Disciples never get enough of Jesus and His expectations are never a burden.

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).

It is always in this arena of obedience to Christ’s commands where genuine faith is tried, purified, and proven.  This obedience is not tested merely in the things that are obvious, but also in the areas that are not clearly spelled out in Scripture.  In other words, what is our attitude when it comes to questionable things.  For instance, the Bible does not come right out and say, thou shalt not smoke marijuana.  The point of questionable things is to ask yourself the question, “Am I willing to risk my fellowship with Christ over something that is morally questionable?  This is the substance of what Paul addresses in Romans chapter fourteen.

There are two basic approaches to the text of Romans chapter fourteen.  The way in which a believer approaches questionable practices really defines his love of God and the reality of his walk with Christ.  He is concerned about his testimony for Christ before the world and as a model of the Christ-life.

1. There are those who see questionable things of which the Bible is not clear and they take liberty to the point of license.  This type of believer is willing to walk as close as possible to the edge that transcends into disobedience.
2. Then there are those who see questionable things of which the Bible is not clear and they make the choice of abstinence or avoidance lest they risk breaking their fellowship with God.  This type of believer desires to walk as far away as possible from the edge that transcends into disobedience

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Characteristics of Christ Denial

Characteristics of Christ Denial

          In Matthew 26:23, Jesus said to all of His closest disciples, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night.”  The word “offended” is from the Greek word skandalizo (skan-dal-id’-zo), which means to cause to stumble or trip.  Christ is referring to a natural characteristic of the human nature – FEAR.  Fear is an emotion built into our psyche as a defense mechanism against danger or harm.  The point is that fear is to be controlled.  Fear is not to control us.  As Christians, each of us are being tried daily regarding the reality of our faith in Christ by situations of life that generate fear within us. 

“31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. 32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. 33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. 34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples” (Matthew 26:31-35).

          There are just two types of Christ-followers in the Bible; those who DO and those who DON’T.  However, the division is much more defined within these two categories.  We find Christ dividing the multitudes that followed Him into these two categories constantly throughout the Gospels.  In fact, this is exactly what is taking place in Matthew 26:69-75. 

1. Those who are totally surrendered disciples – cross bearers
2. Those who, at some level or some degree, deny Jesus’ full control of their lives.

The fact of the matter is that most of the followers of Jesus, including most of the Apostles, abandoned Jesus once He had been taken captive by the Sanhedrin.  Even Peter, by this time, had now abandoned Christ.  Just a few hours earlier, Peter had almost cut off the right ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest, as Malchus accompanied the Temple guard to arrest Jesus (John 18:10).  Then, this humble fisherman called by Jesus to become a fisher of men, was willing to fight and die for Jesus.  Therefore, we know he was not a coward.

However, the test with which Peter was now being tested was not a test of Peter’s courage, but of Peter’s faith.  Be careful to never confuse these two things.  If your faith is real, there is nothing in this world that can threaten you, including death.  If your faith is real, there is no fear that can cripple you, because real faith cannot be touched by the mere physical dangers to our bodies.  Faith secures our souls in a position that can never be threatened.  Real faith lives in this reality!

“69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:69-75).

          In these few verses of Scripture, we see a man (and it could be any of us) crippled by fear.  Because the man is impetuous Peter, the text is especially puzzling.  We would think that Peter would be the last of all the disciples to deny Christ.  However, the defining factor is that all the Apostles denied Christ, but one.  According to the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion, only the Apostle John is present at the crucifixion.  We should learn something from this – “perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:48).  Why will parents run into a burning house to rescue their child?  A parent takes no consideration of the danger because “perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:48).  What we must learn from all of this is that the main issue in avoiding denial of Christ is not about the quantity of our courage.  If we want to avoid denying Christ, it is about quality of our love.

Peter denies the Lordship of Jesus over his life on three different occasions revealing numerous levels of denial.  Although denial always has a beginning point, denial’s cause is captivation by fear.  Then denial cascades downward revealing innumerable levels of compromise.  It is amazing how people can be blind to what they are doing when acceptance by their peers, or the cultures in which they live, captivate their thinking and become their motivating factors for decisions.

In Matthew 26:69-75, Peter did not want to end up on a Roman cross condemned to death for blasphemy just because he believed Jesus was the Messiah.  This had been Peter’s testimony before Christ in Matthew 16:16; “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  This same testimony would be the foundation of upon which Jesus would begin to build His living Temple of the Church one living stone at a time.  Jesus said to Peter, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  Peter’s testimony was being tried by the test of fire.  Peter’s testimony was certainly a true statement.  However, if it was going to be a statement considered true by those hearing it, that testimony might require the ultimate sacrifice.  Peter had to be willing to die rather than compromise this testimony of truth.  A true testimony becomes a part of you like an arm or leg.

To die by crucifixion was the most humiliating, degrading, debilitating, and disgraceful way any Jew could die, because the Law said, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).  Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 21:23 in Galatians 3:13.  

“22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: 23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

Under the Law, if a Jew committed a crime worthy of death, he would be stoned to death and his dead body would be hanged up in a tree for all to see.  The name of the person killed and hung in the tree would be disgraced as well as the name of his family and relatives.  It was the worst possible scenario for any Jew to disgrace himself and the testimony of his family name.  This is what is going through Peter’s mind at the time of his denial of Jesus.  He did not consider that, in his attempt to protect his family name from disgrace before the world, he was disgracing himself and his testimony before God.  To call one’s self a Christian is to take on a new family identity to which we become accountable to never defile.

Peter was unwilling to be identified with Christ by testimony

We would think this would be something no true Christian would do.  However, this form of Christ denial is rampant in Emergent Christianity and in the Mega Church growth movement.  In these types of churches, it is appropriate to use the Name of Jesus and to talk about loving one another.  However, it is taboo and considered legalistic to talk about sin, moral responsibility, tithing, fornication, pornography, homosexuality, abortion, separation from worldliness, and an innumerable host of other issues that make sinners uncomfortable.

In these circles of discussion, we often hear such platitudes as, “the church is not a sanctuary for the saints, but a hospital for sinners.”  This sounds great and is true to many degrees, but how can the church be a hospital for sinners if it never addresses the sins of which sinners need to be cleansed to be cured by the grace of God?

Bible doctrine is especially taboo in these circles. Teaching the doctrines of Jesus (what Jesus taught) is dry, boring, and irrelevant to the New Age Millennials.  For these people, making the teachings of Jesus relevant to the culture demands redefining the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God regarding sinful practices that the modern culture has now justified.  Jesus simply becomes a vehicle to justify a worldly gathering that has very little identification with the Person of Jesus or the teachings of Jesus.  The point here is that this type of Christianity is NOT Christianity AT ALL!

In Matthew 26:69-75, Peter did not want these unbelievers that surrounded him to know that he believed that Jesus was the Christ of God.  He feared similar ridicule and the mocking like which these same people had given Jesus earlier.  He did not think to persuade them that they were about to crucify their promised Messiah.  He feared their derision and wanted their social acceptance!  

Peter was willing to be identified WITH the deniers of Christ

The first level of Peter’s denial of Christ is simply silence.  He sought obscurity sitting at the fire of the Christ-haters by simply trying to hide behind his own silence.  After the events of the day and what these people had witnessed, we can only imagine the conversation that was going on around the fire.  The mocking and ridicule of Jesus certainly would have continued to be the brunt of inappropriate jokes and remarks.  Crude, vulgar, and brutish people joke about things like death and holiness, as they mock the defenseless.

How could Peter set there in silence as this was going on all around him?  This reveals the subtlety of the sinful human nature and it simply shows how easily a person can slip into being a traitor if he does not guard his spirit and the emotions coming from it.  There are mechanisms for self-protection built into our psyche.  Fear is one of those mechanisms.  Muscle reflects is another.  When our hand gets too close to something hot, reflect action automatically jerks the hand away from the heat.  Peter was not able, or willing, to control these self-protection mechanisms.  He sat in the midst of the very people who cried out for Jesus to be crucified and was silent.  Peter would rather be identified WITH those who sought his Saviour’s crucifixion than put himself at risk for similar consequences.  Peter could have gotten away from the crowds and gone into hiding somewhere.  He purposefully sought to obscure his identity as a follower of Jesus by joining himself with the crowd that had sought Jesus’ death.

Peter was willing to verbally deny his identity as a Christian

On three separate occasions and in three different degrees, Peter verbally denied he was a follower of Jesus.  Each level takes on a tone of increased agitation and vulgarity.  The reason all of this was happening was that Peter was doubting that Jesus was who He said he was.  Peter was doubting his own testimony that he had so quickly asserted before the other disciples. – “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).  He was learning that such a testimony in the midst of the hostility of religious prejudices and apostasy would not be so readily accepted as it was in the midst of other believers.  It is easy to shout out an amen agreement to a testimony of Christ in the midst of the amens of other believers.  It is another thing altogether to do so in the midst of unbelievers with stones in their hands.

How often do your actions and words shout out to the world, “I know not what thou sayest” (Matthew 26:70)? Peter steps out of the shadows of his silent denial and into the darkness of his verbal denial.  Peter was unwilling to taste the shame of social rejection within the cup of Christ’s death.  Often, the disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying to them.  They thought He was speaking in spiritual platitudes without practical applications in this world.  They could not have misunderstood what He said in Matthew 20:20-22 more than they did.

“20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons {James and John}, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with” (Matthew 20:20-22)?

Jesus was saying that the pathway to greatness and position for believers in the Kingdom Age would be through suffering, anguish, affliction, and persecution during the Church Age as they sought to bring lost souls to faith in Him.  The intent of the question is, if these men really wanted these high positions, would they be willing to be rejected and hated by the majority of the world’s populace?  The “cup” is the covenant Jesus made with the Father in the Abrahamic Covenant, which meant His life-blood would be poured out for the sins of mankind.  Both the “cup” and the “baptism” to which Jesus refers speak of death.  We testify to our understanding of that covenant responsibility to live and die for Christ through our water baptism.

Peter, according to Scripture, was the first to be tested regarding this willingness.  We can assume others were being tested elsewhere in similar circumstances because their presence is not recorded at the crucifixion.  We know that, after the crucifixion, six other disciples had given up on their calling as had Peter because of the events recorded in John 21:2-3.

“2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee” (John 21:2-3).  

In this text, we have seven of the remaining eleven abandoning Christ and His Great Commission to go back to their old professions as fishermen.  Judas had already betrayed Christ and killed himself.  We are not told who the “two other” are, so we cannot know with surety those who remained faithful to their calling to be Apostles.  The point is that desertion was characteristic of the majority.

Faithfulness will always be in the minority.  If you are part of the faithful, be sure you will be part of the minority.  However, it is the faithful who call the faithless back to their mission.  So it will ever be throughout the Church Age.  There will be a constantly diminishing faithful remnant within numerous levels of compromise and doctrinal corruption as history repeats itself into apostasy.  You will not find the faithful standing with the large crowds of compromisers.

Peter then denied Christ by Oath

In Matthew 26:71, Peter gets up from the previous crowd, before whom he has just denied Christ, and goes to another place and another crowd of Christ deniers.  Here, a young woman (“maid”) points out Peter and proclaims to the crowd, “This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 26:71).  The substance of Peter’s denial goes something like this: “I swear to God that I am not a follower of Jesus.”  We do not know if this is exactly the substance of Peter’s oath, but it could be.  The point is that Peter took his disobedience to another level.  He did something Jesus had commanded Christians to never do. 

“33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear {commit perjury} thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all {do not make truth conditional upon an oath, because your trustworthiness should be based upon moral integrity and proven character}; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication {the words you say as a witness and accounting of the events to which you testify} be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matthew 5:33-37).

Peter knew his testimony was false.  He sought to reinforce his lie by swearing that the lie he was telling was actually the truth.  By this time his condescension into his own corruption considered only the possibility of deceiving those he feared.  A liar is a deceiver and operates under the dictates of the curse.  To swear by oath that the lie you are telling is actually a truth is the epitome of deception.  By this act, Peter denies the very essence of his new nature in Christ.  By this act, Peter denies Jesus by denying these people the truth of the testimony they absolutely need.  Peter refused to compromise his own safety by compromising his testimony and relationship with Jesus.  Peter was in the midst of a crowd of people that needed him to tell them the truth.  Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Peter had been present at the house of the High Priest Caiaphas, when Peter and John attended the inquisition of Jesus by Caiaphas (John 18:14-15).  This inquiry and the presence of these two men with Jesus would have been widely discussed and publicized.  There certainly would have been a great deal of public conversation by those who saw Peter almost cut off the ear of Malchus and then to see Jesus simply touch that almost severed ear and heal it back to his face (Luke 22:51).  Malchus would certainly have talked about this miracle as well as the other soldiers that were present.  It was hard for Peter to hide.  He needed the darkness of perjury to cover his deceit.  

Peter denied Christ by vulgar worldliness

The word “bewrayeth” in Matthew 26:73 is from the Greek word delos (day’-los).  We naturally think the word means to “betray.”  However, the meaning of delos (day’-los) is to manifest or make evident.  Therefore, the meaning is the exposure of Peter’s hypocrisy and deception.  The point is that Peter’s choice of words originally did not include the vulgarity that was common among the heathen and the Hellenized Jews.  The Hellenized Jews had been absorbed into the Greek culture becoming worldly and losing the distinction of holiness and separation from worldliness.  These were the descendants of those holy Jews that had returned under Ezra and Nehemiah.  Most of these once holy and separate Jews had become just like the culture in which they now lived.

This lack of Peter’s crass vulgar language caused people to identify Peter as one of those holiness guys that followed Jesus around.  However, Peter was willing to abandon this quality of character and become crude, profane, and vulgar in his language in order to be accepted by this vulgar crowd.  This is what happens when people want the acceptance of the world.  The world DEMANDS that we become like them.  The worldly demand absolute tolerance of anything they say or do while being absolutely intolerant of people wanting to do God’s will.

Much of what has become the Emergent Church, New Evangelicalism, and even much of Evangelism has begun to incorporate various levels of the profane and vulgar into worship these days as if God simply does not care.  In many cases, one could find little difference in appearance between church goers and night clubbers.  Even the atmosphere of many of these so called churches is more like a night club.  These types of churches propagate a shopping mall Christianity where one can find about anything he wants and can quietly bypass anything that does not fit his taste.  This is the same thing Peter did when he used vulgarity to be accepted by the crowd.  He had no burden to reach their souls with the Gospel.  Let’s be honest.  When gathering a crowd becomes your objective, the willingness to become vulgar and profane will become a necessary part of your methodology.  The world does not find holiness attractive.  It never has and it never will.

“And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75).

Some people see Peter repenting in this verse.  It is common to mistake remorse for repentance.  The difference is that remorse cries tears, while repentance changes actions.  Peter felt bad and guilty about what he had done, but he did not turn around and say, “yes, I am a disciple of Jesus.”  He did not tell them that they needed to repent and trust in Jesus as their Messiah and Redeemer.  He did not begin to do what Jesus had trained him to do for three long years.  In fact, Peter ran away from his calling.  He did not return to follow Jesus.  Jesus had to come find him.

Learn from this.  If you are genuinely saved, you are commissioned to win the world to Christ.  You cannot run away from the omnipresent God.  It is not enough to feel bad about our failures, if that conviction does not determine to never allow that failure to happen again.  There have been many at the altar of the mourner’s bench under the conviction of their failure to live right and to seek to win the lost.  Yet they have left their tears at the altar but never altered their lives to become what their Saviour needs them to become.  God does not want your tears if those tears do not result in change.  God wants you crying out to the world and become a living translation of the Word of God.

Mark 14:54 tells us all the events of Peter’s denial took place in the “palace of the high priest.”  Peter was in the lower chamber “beneath in the palace” (Mark 14:46) of the high priest.  There is a strong possibility he went there because he could hear what was being said regarding the accusations of Jesus.  The point is that Peter’s denial of Christ was taking place during the mockery of justice taking place just above him (Mark 14:53-72).  While Jesus was being prepared to die for Peter’s sins, Peter was sinning against His Lord.

The good news is that this event of Peter’s radical drop to the bottom of the faithful bucket is not the end of Peter’s story.  Failures can cripple a person for life, or failures can become stairways to successes.  The latter is the case with Peter.  He had another failure at Galatia for a while about which Paul had to deal with him.  He again was unwilling to offend the Jews by confronted the Judaizers with their intermixing the works of the Law in with God’s gift of salvation.  Paul had to confront Peter and Barnabas for their “dissimulation,” or pretentious hypocrisy compromising a Biblical response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:11-21).  Peter and Barnabas were not preaching a false way, but they were tolerating a false way.  Such toleration is another form of denial of Christ and it is compromise.

Personally, we all can rejoice that God has not left us on the pathway of our many faithfulness failures.  God meets us right where we failed and picked up right where we left off.  Peter thought God was done with him because of his thrice denial of Jesus.  So it must have been with the other six disciples listed in John 21:2.

Sometimes, when Christians fail, all they hear is condemnation for their failure.  They do not hear the necessary words of encouragement that calls the failing person to repent AND BEGIN AGAIN!  This is sad.  This is a sad state of affairs because such a person does what Peter and the other disciples did.  They quit on Christ!  No faithful believer should ever allow another believer to quit on Christ because of failure.  The faithful must call the unfaithful back to faithfulness and the church must begin again with such people after they have repented.

Shortly after the encouragement that Jesus gives to Peter, and the other disciples within hearing of those words at the Sea Tiberius, they are all back and in the upper room in the Temple.  They had been directed by Jesus to wait in an upper room of the Temple for the promised Comforter in the Person of the Holy Spirit as promised in Acts 1:8. After the Comforter had come, Peter preached the great message on the Day of Pentecost, where “about three thousand souls” trusted in Jesus as their Messiah.  He preached that message from the very steps of the Temple where he had trembled in fear to be identified with Jesus just fifty days previous.
Although it is difficult to overcome a bad testimony, such disasters do not end one’s life.  God forgives and His grace affords His children unending new beginnings.  Because of the wonders of God’s gracious forgiveness, you need never live in yesterday’s failures.  

Begin again!
Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.