Thursday, September 9, 2010

Peter's Problems

Mathew 16:13-19; 22-23 He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

……… Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

Can you even imagine the excitement and pride that Peter must have been experiencing when he was first highly commended for answering Jesus’ question correctly,
and then to be told that God would be using him in an extremely important role; and then fast forward a few days later ... the shame as he is told; "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

Now think about this for a minute. Are we guilty (just like Peter) of rebuking Christ when we consciously or unconsciously choose to not follow God but rather to run after "the things of men" ... the priorities of the world.

Can you relate to Peter? I sure can. One moment I am a devoted disciple of Christ,
studying, praying, teaching and following; and then without warning … the next thing you know, I’m back to my old foolish self-centered ways. "The things of men" are lurking ... waiting to seize the moment, to take over, to control our speech, thoughts and actions. Christ always brought Peter back in line, and He always brings you and I back in line also. But the question is: "How can we transform our mind to alter this inevitable moment? Answer: prayer and meditation on the Word and listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Paul was no different as he made it clear when he said;
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” and then concluded ... O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose Peter, considering his obvious flaws?
God clearly could have moved upon and chosen anyone He wished to fulfill His purposes and build his church upon. Well the truth is that for the most part, Jesus chose everyday ordinary people. Peter’s problems were very similar to yours and mine.

So, if we want to see our flaws and change, we just need to look at Peter or the others more deeply. God will show us our flaws. What were Peter’s problems? Focusing more deeply on a specific person or topic is a form of meditating on the word … are you looking deeply for truth and application? We can do this on basically any person or topic in the Bible. This is how God speaks to us and brings growth. We are called to meditate on the word. A good sermon or Bible study is another form of meditating on the word, but unfortunately quite often the teacher is regurgitating worldly ideas, and being "mindful of the things of men" rather than meditating on God's Word. But even great teaching or sermons should never replace your personal meditation time with the Lord. The primary reason that we become too busy to meditate is that from a human perspective, we do not want to see our flaws … we do not want to change, we want to unconsciously hang on to control of our lives and do, or not do, as we please. Our old nature is very powerful.

It would clearly take a hundred pages to search the depths of Peter, but let’s take a deeper look and see what we uncover. Peter did not have the benefit of the Holy Spirit at this point as we continually do, but Jesus makes it clear that God revealed to Peter the answer to His question. So at that moment God spoke to Peter in his spirit, or maybe got the truth directly from Jesus previously … but the key here is that Peter was listening. Have you considered the fact that you have the ability to call upon the Lord in the Spirit every minute of every day, and He will speak to you? He will give you the steps ... He will make your path straight. Are you asking God for the answers, and for the steps He wants you to take, or are you just unconsciously plowing ahead as Peter did much of the time? Interestingly, in this verse, Peter apparently waited as others answered. Could it be that he was meditating for an answer from God and got a quick reply? The good news is that listening to God brought not only the desired answer, but also praise and rewards.

Another key point to this verse has been set up by Jesus. Note that he asks two questions. The questions could be paraphrased like this: “what does the world say about me? And the second could be; “what is the truth about me?” Do you see what a difference it makes when we look deeper? Peter was focused on the truth … not on what the world thought about Jesus. Later, when Jesus predicted His own death and persecution, Peter’s defense mechanisms immediately sprung into action. His man of flesh jumped into the conversation. He was no longer listening to God, but rather the voice of Satan. Can you imagine: one moment, recognizing Jesus as God, and then turning around and rebuking Him? Peter must have taken the praise that he had received earlier, very personally. We are all guilty of this … God provides success or wisdom, and we somehow unconsciously conclude that it is our own doing and our pride takes over. Do you see the subtle transition here? The unconscious transfer of focus is often instantaneous. The same thing can and does happen to you and me … every moment of every day, as long as we are still here in our human form. Our enemy Satan is a cunning stalking lion, waiting patiently to seize the moment, and to make us look or act foolish. But unlike Peter, we have the Holy Spirit and the written Word to rescue us. We have a way of escape from our old habits, and lust and pride, and our enemy and his demons.

Six days later, Jesus chose Peter and a few others to go on a walk up the mountain. Wait a minute you say; why did he choose Peter? Wasn’t Jesus angry with Peter from the few days before? … no, of course not. Jesus wasn’t speaking to Peter literally when he said “Get behind Me, Satan, you are an offense to me.” He was speaking directly to the spirit of the devil who was attacking Him through Peter. He was ministering to Peter as He rebuked the spirit of evil. Jesus had forgiven Peter. Now he is taking Peter on a lesson walk. At the transfiguration, Peter is humbled to the point that he wants to do something … although His plan was typical of our old nature. Rather than watching, listening and learning from the things of God; a natural tendency is to take charge and do something. In this case Peter was ready to start building before He even clearly understood all of the facts. God will make it clear to us ... what we need to do, and when we need to do it. We need to release leadership to Christ. He is God and perfectly capable of leading and guiding our lives.

There is so much more here but let’s finish this post at the “Last Supper” Jesus had brought the disciples together to teach them all of the most important things they needed to know and remember before He was to be crucified. The first lesson: Jesus washed the disciple’s feet. Why didn’t any of the disciples offer to do the foot washing or to assist Jesus? Obviously, Jesus knew they were still prideful men. Peter once again, rather than following Jesus’ lead; challenged Jesus … in a more respectful way. Peter saw the foot-washing from a human perspective … he did not understand that the washing was a symbol of spiritual cleansing, and that Christ was modeling humility … the first lesson. Instead of asking; “why is Jesus doing this and what is He saying to me?” All Peter saw was: Jesus washing feet ... and thought: NO. He certainly did not see the real message: Peter washing feet. Are you the humble man or woman God wants you to be? Will you stand in your pride until God humbles you for your own good, or will you humble yourself like Peter finally ... sort of, did when Jesus made the truth clear to him? If you are not meditating on the Word, your answer to God is: NO.

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
God Bless you my friends, Bob

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