Peter’s Sword

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
Why was Peter carrying a sword on the night that Jesus was betrayed? Where did he get it? Did he tell Jesus he had it or was he hiding it from him? What did he think was going to happen that he might need a sword? One thing you can be sure after reading John 18 is that he was not afraid to use it.
The other thing that intrigues me in this passage is Peter’s abrupt turn around after discovering that the plans he had for the future were obviously not Christ plans. One minute Peter is brandishing a sword in a spirit of courageous rage and the next he is calling down curses on himself to attest the fact that he never knew Jesus.
So what happened? The simple fact is that Peter had created a Christ that did not exist. Peter had done what so many of us do. Peter had picked out what he wanted of Jesus and left the rest. Peter had heard what he wanted to hear. He had chosen a sword when the way of Christ was a cup.

Luke 22:42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

I think that this is such a powerful message for us. Peter’s courageous faith was built on a lie. When considering this passage we must ask ourselves if we have done the same thing? Are there areas in our life where we have fashioned a Christ of our own understanding? We must always remember that Jesus is who he said he is, not who we always want him to be.
When thinking about Peter’s lie, we need to keep in mind the substance of all lies. Lies are always based on the truth. It is impossible for lies to subsist apart from the truth. In contrast, truth can stand independently. In this way, truth stakes a claim of dominance over deception.
One of the primary tools of the Devil is to get us as believers to buy into an aspect of the truth but then disorganize that truth so that it becomes a lie. When Peter realized that his faith in a rebellious and conquering Jesus was unfounded his knees became weak.
The truth in Peter’s lie was that Jesus had come to establish a new kingdom. While this kingdom would one day lay claim to the temporal, it was based in the eternal and had more important matters at hand then restoring Jerusalem. This is where Peter’s understanding failed him. This is also the place where Peter lost his faith.
As a believer I constantly need to allow the Holy Spirit to search me and purify the areas in my heart and mind where my picture and hope in Jesus do not stand up to scripture. The temptation to build a Jesus of our own understanding is strong, but in the end it is really a form of an idol. Unfortunately, too many of us continue to defend these images with a sword when God is asking us to drink of his cup. May we put down our swords that we might never lose our faith.

Mourning Over Sin

Should a believer mourn their sin? If so, who decides the appropriate amount of regret for each sin? Is a couple hours of regret good for a small lie? Would a year cover adultery?
What I have found is that many believers I speak with feel there is an appropriate amount of mourning and or regret that needs to be experienced before a person truly repents.
The process then works like this. Let’s say you commit a transgression. After the transgression, the Holy Spirit convicts you. Once convicted you begin to feel a sense of regret. Thoughts like, “Why do I keep doing that.” Or, “When will I ever change.” might permeate your minds. The next step is going to the throne of God to ask forgiveness. Once you have done that, you are free to no longer feel bad about what you have done. Believers who continue to feel guilt, shame and regret after this are considered to be in error. They have not experienced the true freedom of Christ work on the cross. This is at least what I have understood others to mean when they explained how true repentance works.
To illustrate the point further, let’s put this in context of human relationships. When someone wrongs you, most of us want that person to feel bad about what they have done. If they don’t feel bad about it, then most of us refuse to believe they have truly repented. Many believers feel this sense of regret and condemnation is a necessary component of the restoration process.

When searching the scriptures on this topic, I came across 2 Cor. 7:10. It reads:
2Cor. 7:10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Here, Paul makes a distinction in the type of sorrow believers are meant to experience when repenting. Paul points to the fact that believers can make a course correction without ever having to feel any sense of worldly condemnation or regret. By this he means regret that is expected under the law.

Let’s go back to the human relational component. Would you feel satisfied if the person who wronged you turned from their error, made proper amends, but never felt any guilt, shame, condemnation or regret for having wronged you? Most of us would not, but why?
Returning to the theological aspect, Edward Fisher, in The Marrow of Modern Divinity says the following, “Nothing can be allowed in the believer for the mourning of sin, unless they (choose to) mourn for it as unbelievers, as persons under the covenant of works, who doubtless are under the curse and condemnation for their sin (Gal 3:10).”
When we mourn our sins or the wrongs we commit we are denying that Jesus death on the cross has removed all of our condemnation and shame. (Romans 8:1, 36-39). When we feel any sense of regret that moves us towards shame or “feeling bad”, we have then decided to repent in the method of those yet unredeemed. You are free to do this, but I believe that the scripture makes it clear that we can move forward without this component.
The reason we want to accept regret, as a part of repentance is that we are addicted to the law. Our flesh has a lust for the old covenant. Regret on the part of the believer allows them to feel that they have done some of the work of forgiveness. Regret is a work of the flesh that let’s many believers feel that God’s forgiveness is now available to them. Instead, grace is a free gift.

Rom. 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due.

Rom. 5:15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.

When the bible speaks of true freedom in Christ, this is part of what it means. We have been set free from all malice of our souls. Take a moment and think about what your life would look like if you lived in this way. If you walked in the light as He is in the light and left all sorrow, regret and condemnation behind. Let me affirm that this is available to you should you choose to receive it.

Continued next week: Repentance with Godly Sorrow

Do Believers Need Ask Forgiveness?

“I never ask forgiveness anymore,” said my friend as we drove up HWY 38 to Big Bear. The comment struck me. I asked him to continue. “Why should I ask for forgiveness when all my sins have already been forgiven?” I kept pressing the topic wanting to get to the bottom of this. “What I do now is receive the forgiveness that God has already granted me. I repent and move on.”
It was an interesting concept. Do we as believers need to ask forgiveness or just receive the forgiveness that God has already granted? Do our transgressions ever reach the throne of God? While this might seem like splitting hairs, I believe there is more to it.
For the last three months I have been pondering this question. The more I think about it, the more I am tending to agree that as believers we never need to ask for forgiveness in a way that assumes that our debt has not already been paid in full.

Check out Romans 6:10

Rom. 6:10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

This verse assures us that the death Jesus died paid for all the sins ever committed and uncommitted. His work on the cross reaches backwards and forward.

1 Peter 3:18 echoes this fact again.

1Pet. 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.

What this verse proclaims is that even the sins of the ungodly have been paid for. This means that people will perish with their sins paid for and surrounded the the loving work of God. They simply never accepted this free gift.

What the Bible proclaims is that the work is done. Sin is dead. All we need to do is receive forgiveness as a free gift of grace.

Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the past, when I committed a sin, I felt separated from God until I found the ability to ask forgiveness. Once I did that, I felt that the relationship was restored and accepted again.
That type of understanding of sin and forgiveness proclaims that sin still has the victory over forgiveness. Here is why. In this paradigm, Jesus is seen a forgiver of sins. He has a big bowl of His forgiveness that is always ready to forgive the latest sin you committed.
The problem is that forgiveness does not kick in until you ask for it after committing your latest transgression. Here the forgiveness of Jesus is at the beck and call of sin. Sin holds the power until the believer asks.
The other view, and I believe the scriptural view is that you come to Jesus who has already forgiven that sin and receive the forgiveness already completely granted.
This is how the bible can talk about being free from sin. If sin still has the power to separate you from the love of Christ, if it causes a break in the heavenly reality for even one second, then Jesus death on the cross was insufficient.
While Paul (Romans 6) and John (1 John 1:10) make it clear that we can still commit acts that are in the category of sin in the natural order of things, Romans 8 assures us that these acts never make it to heaven in a way that breaks our communion with the Father.
Here’s the take away. Stop wallowing in guilt and shame for the sins you commit. That kind of sorrow is worldly sorrow. Your sins are forgiven before you commit them. (keeping Roman 6:15 in view)
Instead, with Godly sorrow and repentance, that lacks regret (2 Corinthians 7:10) receive God’s completed forgiveness and pray for the ability to overcome this error in the future.

The Blessing of Contentment

Phil. 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I have come to expect getting the best parking spot in the lot. I don’t pray for them, they just appear. Out of nowhere they materialize, and there I am with another premier spot. If Jesus would quit giving me parking spots it would be a lot easier not to expect them, but there it was again today as I pulled into Rubio’s during the storm of the century. I was content, at least for the moment.
The secret of contentment is expecting nothing more than Jesus. When we are satisfied with knowing Christ, we can be satisfied in all situations. Jesus is either everything or nothing. There is no middle ground. The pure Christian life equals Jesus plus nothing. Most agree to this when it comes to sin and our fleshly desires, but what about in the arena of blessings? What about all the good things we want God to lavish on us – like parking spots, spouses and the new iPhone 4? The things we feel entitled to as a follower of Christ?
While I want blessing in the temporal, blessing beyond knowing Jesus is always icing on the proverbial cake. To be sure, God takes great pleasure in blessing his children in the temporal. He regularly messes with my personal theology by giving me parking spots. I don’t remember the last time I had to look for a stall to park. It is almost like God is saying, “Hey, don’t forget that I love taking care of my son.”
What I want to steer clear from is feeling this type of blessing is a foregone conclusion to knowing God. This is the essence of the prosperity gospel: We are due a certain amount of worldly blessings because we are children of God. I personally prefer to stand with those who have preached Jesus as crucified, risen, coming again. This is all I need, and all I need to know. Do I want that parking spot, Yes! But, my hope is to have a faith survives devoid of temporal blessing. Am I the type of believer that is content when these things don’t materialize?
The central question then stands, “is Jesus enough?” Is Jesus and cancer enough? Are Jesus and an unfair lifetime prison sentence enough? When it is not – when God’s path leads to a life of suffering instead of plenty – how will we stand? How will we not question why? How will we cling to our faith?
The deeper I submerge myself into Christ, the less I am caring about blessing on this earth. The greater glimpse I get of the true extravagance of Jesus’ worth and the ultimate blessing that is knowing him, the more all temporary forms of lesser blessing seem. The blessing of knowing Jesus nullifies all others. This is not to say that they are not good, even given by God. Rather it is to point out that they fail the test of eternity. They all will pass away.
Nonetheless, the fact still remains that God is a God of rich blessings in the temporal and eternal. As the apostle John say’s:
John 1:16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
So I guess I am going to keep getting my parking spots while doing my best not to put my faith in their appearance.
Be blessed,
More scriptures on contentment:
Phil. 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
1Tim. 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
Heb. 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

So How is your kingdom going?

Psa. 16:6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
As a pastor I deal with people and their kingdoms. Granted, most are not lavish in regard to worldly kingdoms, but nonetheless, they are still kingdoms of a sort.
I meet very few people who have a grasp of the boundaries of their realms. Many complain that they want a greater kingdom (and strive to attain it) while others are in the process of losing what they do have. Some are even having their kingdoms divinely increased. In the case of Bathsheba (1 Sam 12), David wanted something beyond his ordained kingdom. When Absalom usurped David from the throne his kingdom was protracted. Thus, David experienced both of these scenarios in a very short period of time. One argument key to this post is that if you are not stewarding well over the kingdom you have been given, it is very possible that someone else will soon be doing it for you. We see this in the case of adultery all the time. One spouse or both begin to neglect the kingdom of their marriage and someone else comes in to assumes the throne. This definitely happened with David when Absalom slept with his fathers concubines for all Israel to see.
The obvious question then is, how is your kingdom going? Are the things you are currently possessing truly part of your kingdom. Have you attained things in your own power that are not ordained within your kingdom boundaries? I would argue that many people do this with their careers. They take a job to maintain a lifestyle that they are not called to. Like I said in my talk on 10.8.2010 (See Speak). Some of us might be called to never live above middle or low income. Still, much of the church encourages believers in the idea that we should all be wealthy and that this is a sign of God’s blessing. I don’t think Mother Theresa or St. Francis lacked any blessing and they were called to be poor.
Here an example from another area of life of what I mean. Recently, I have gotten back into endurance sports. Back when I was 25, single and working as a personal trainer, I was pretty fast.
For that last few months (now at the age of 41) I have been trying to recapture the old glory. I counted every supplement, did not miss a workout and was spending about 5-7 hours a week on the road either running or biking.
About two weeks ago, I felt the Lord tell me that I was trying to capture a kingdom that was no longer in the boundaries of what God has for me now. Yes, as a single guy who was a personal trainer, that lifestyle was right. God used me in that then and it was within the flow of my kingdom blessing and business.
The thing is that I am just not that guy anymore. My wife and kids can’t afford me to be that guy even if it is attainable for me. Basically, God told me to measure my kingdom. The point is that when we live within our kingdom boundaries we will live in peace and blessing. When we don’t we move into a place of striving.
I think that this relates to all areas of our life. Like Nehemiah (Neh Ch. 2) we need to walk the wall of our life, looking at each gate measuring the boundaries of each and decide if they are in need of repair. In some arenas we might need to step our game up and assume our kingship. Some parts of our life might need to be backed off so we can live within our kingdoms boundaries, so we can live in true blessing. While there is grace when we live outside of our kingdoms, there is not the same blessing.
The word of God calls us to steward no more then we have been given from heaven. Any increase of that territory, whether relational, financial or territorial needs to be given by God. That increase only comes when we live in submission to our current set out boundaries and steward them well.
This is how David claimed his greater kingdom. He submitted to a jealous Saul, served him faithfully, played his harp and dodged spears. As soon as David tried to assume a kingship that was not his (Uriah’s wife), David lost his kingdom.
So how is your kingdom going?

Peace Beyond Understanding

Phil. 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Everyday is a battle for peace. On days when things are going my way, when there is a breakthrough at work or my wife and kids are happy and content, I have peace. On other days, for no apparent reason, I wake up with the world on my shoulders. Peace is nowhere to be found.
This is the kind of peace that is based on control and fear. It is peace based on our own understanding. The problem with this kind of peace is that it is elusive. It comes and goes like the tide. All it takes is one phone call or perhaps a look at your waistline and you are unsettled.
When our wife or partner is upset, we fear that we will lose them and we lose our peace. When we don’t hit our number at work we fear that we will be fired and so we begin a mad dash to get things under control. We strive to make things right in our own power. We continue doing this no matter what the cost until we have regained our temporary peace back.
People’s perceptions of us is one of the most cruel robbers of our peace. I counsel with so many people that seem like a dim phantom of who they are called to be due to fear of what others thinks. This is why some people who are true extroverts become painfully shy, forgoing their true identity because of fear. They have decided they will control other people’s perceptions by blending in, by becoming who they think people want them to be.
I know that I have fallen back into this type of peace when my mind becomes tense and I start reaching for things I can control. My usual plan of attack is to furiously clean the house or organize the bills or garage. The odd thing is that these usually have nothing to do with my loss of ballast, but still, they give me a sense of temporary control.
The peace that Jesus offers us is not based in any kind of control. Instead, Jesus says let me have control and I will give you a peace beyond understanding. This is the kind of peace that is content in all situations and allows others to live freely without the desire to control anything or anyone. I would argue that we are never called in God’s word to control anything other then ourselves. Instead we are to steward faithfully, but never control.
The word of God tells us that we are to derive no peace or satisfaction of mind from the world. Rather, our peace is to be found only in things that are unchangeable and eternal: God Himself. (2 Thess 3:16)
The only way to come to this type of peace is to begin a journey into God’s love. Remember that perfect love cast out all fear (1 John 4:18). We control and lose our peace for only one reason. That reason is fear. Whenever you are stressed, it is based in a fear. If you don’t believe me, the next time you find yourself stressed, stop and ask why. I am sure that you will find it has to do with some-thing you are afraid to lose. This could be another’s love of you or your temporary membership in the club of beautiful and respected people.
When we begin to accept that we are truly loved, and that God works all things together for our good and benefit (Romans 8:28) then we will begin to finally live in true peace. It is this type of peace that weather storms. It is this type of peace that lets you act our your life in love as opposed to fear. Acting out of this center is what finally allows our lives to become authentic.