"Then his master said ...I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'" (Matthew 18:32–33, ESV)
Offenses are sure to come in life. Repeat offenders bugged Peter so much that he asked Jesus, "How many times am I required to forgive someone for offending me?" To answer Peter's question, Jesus tells a story about a king who wished to settle accounts. This king kept track of what was owed to him. Jesus was teaching this: When it comes to forgiveness, we are way better off not keeping account of who offends us. To ensure we are clear, the Apostle Paul taught, 'Love keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Cor 13:5) Love keeps no account of offenses.
How do we do this? The answer is what Jesus is teaching in the parable. He is the King in the story, and He forgives a man a debt he could not possibly repay in a lifetime. Forgiven of his debt, and having his account cleared, he meets a fellow servant who owes him a few dollars. This man can't pay his debt either, and the forgiven man has his fellow servant thrown in jail. When the King finds this out, he is so angry at the first servant that he hands him over to the tormentors until his 'impossible' debt can be repaid.
The point of the parable is this. Having been forgiven a debt you cannot possibly repay, do not keep tabs on any accounts of those who offend you! You just keep on forgiving, no matter how many times!
April 29, 2023: Take A Load Off
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6–7, ESV)
Everyone is aware of what it means to be stressed. We become stressed when we carry burdens or loads we were never meant to carry. We also become stressed when we try to carry heavy obligations in our own strength. Fear causes stress too.
One of the biggest causes of stress is responsibility. Responsibility means 'the buck stops' with you. By nature, responsibility is weighty. It means that other people are counting on you to do something. Some people are designed to carry more responsibility than others. What is important is that we learn to recognize our limits and call upon God.
Ultimately the key to living free of stress is to trust God more. When we try to carry things in our own strength, we are operating in a spirit of pride. This is why Peter exhorts us to humble ourselves before God. When you humble yourself before God, you acknowledge that you need His strength.
What is needed is for us to cast off (throw down) what we are carrying. Some translations say, "Roll all your cares over onto Jesus..." The picture is that of a soldier rolling off his back the heavy duffel he has been carrying. Therefore I say to you today, "Roll all of your cares over onto Jesus because He cares for you!"
"(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this, he said to him, "Follow me." (John 21:19, ESV)
In John 21, Jesus asks Peter twice: "Do you agape me?" Agape is an unconditional, self-sacrificing kind of love. Peter could not answer Jesus, saying, "Yes, Lord, you know I agape you." He had already proven to Jesus that he could not love with a sacrificial Agape love. Therefore, he was limited to 'phileo' love which is brotherly love. Peter could not forget his three horrible denials of knowing Jesus. Thus he felt he was limited to loving Jesus with only brotherly love. So Jesus meets Peter where he is, and the third time Jesus asks, do you phileo me? Which Peter does.
In verse 18, Jesus tells Peter the kind of death Peter would die and how he would glorify God in it. We have to think about those words of Jesus for a moment. He is telling Peter, "You will die for me." You could only deny me before, but now you will lay down your life for me. For Peter to lay down his life for Jesus shows us that he would genuinely agape Jesus with unconditional, sacrificial love!
The conversation ends with these words to Peter: "You follow me." The story of Peter's restoration of relationship and ministry with Jesus is so beautiful and gentle. It reveals the heart of God to all of us. He is a God of second chances—and more if we need them.
"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." (John 21:15, ESV)
After the resurrection, the disciples saw Jesus two times. He sends seven of them back to Galilee, where a breakfast and a difficult conversation occur. Remember, Peter had denied Jesus three times.
Jesus asked Peter, "Simon, do you agape me more than these?" He does not call him Peter but Simon. That had to sting a bit since Jesus named him Peter. Now Jesus is calling him Simon. And the question, "Do you agape me more than these?" had to hurt, given Peter had this great boast that he would die for Jesus and instead denied Jesus three times. Peter answers, "Yes, Lord, you know I 'phileo' you." The difference between these words is vast. Phileo is a brotherly type of love. Agape is an unconditional, self-sacrificing kind of love.
The third time Jesus asks, "Peter do you love me?" He, too, uses the word Phileo. Jesus met Peter where he was. Peter says you know I phileo you! To which Jesus states, "Feed my sheep." The conversation ends with Peter hearing two times Jesus say, "Follow me.
Jesus did not have this difficult conversation with Peter to crush him. He had it to restore him. Jesus had to take Peter back to where he failed to demonstrate how much Jesus loved, accepted, and trusted him. Jesus restored, re-commissioned, and re-entrusted Peter, all after a hearty breakfast
April 26, 2023: The Starting Point
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7, ESV)
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." These words are so powerful and rich with understanding. The fear of the Lord is the foundation on which the entire Book of Proverbs rests.
What is the fear of the Lord? To understand the fear of the Lord, you have to see it as one unit. Like the word butterfly, if you study the word butter and then study the word fly and attempt to find the meaning of butterfly, you will not find it.
The fear of the Lord concerns God's law, statutes, precepts, commands, ordinances, etc. They come out of His nature and are directed to humanity for their well-being and prosperity. They are not forced on one's behavior; they are highly motivating when understood.
Consider Psalm 19:7-9 "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether." (Psalm 19:7–9, ESV)
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)
How we see time and how God sees time are two different things. God was—before time was. And God will be after time is no more. Time is just one little segment within the scope of eternity where God dwells. To God, a thousand years is as a day; but to us a day is often as a thousand years. We often find ourselves trying to hurry God along because He is moving too slowly. But Peter helps us to see from a different perspective.
Peter's statement reveals to us God's heart of love for the whole world. And at the same time, he shows us His compassionate sorrow towards those who do not have a relationship with Him. We hear it in Ezekiel 33:11 "... As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live;”
I am so thankful God does not want anyone to perish but all to come to Him. He is not slow. He is patient. His patience reveals His tender mercy towards all people. It also calls us to be patient, especially as we seek to lead others to Christ. Lord, help us to be patient with others while at the same time urgent with this Gospel.
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8, ESV)
It is so good to know that God is watching out for us! His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. He will keep us from dashing our foot against a rock. He is good and does good. But just as God watches over us, Peter informs us that Satan is watching too, but he does not have our good in mind. He is watching for that opportune time in which he can devour us.
Therefore Peter says to be sober-minded. If one is not sober or is 'buzzed,' they no longer operate with a clear head. They are not as 'sharp' as they would be if they had nothing to drink. Peter's point is that we stay sharp, knowing that an enemy seeks to kill, steal and destroy. My introduction to African life meant I had to be aware of Hippos, baboons, cobras, and other things that can eat you. It did not mean I could not go out—it meant when out, I had to be aware of what was around me.
Peter reminds you and me that the devil is seeking whom he may devour. As long as we stay sharp and are watchful of his schemes, there will be nothing to eat when he knocks on our door!
April 23, 2023: Count It All Joy
"For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow." (James 1:3, NLT)
The word used in this passage for 'testing' is the Greek word 'dokimion.' It is a unique word because it means to be under the watchful eye. For example, a coach oversees his players. He does so not for the purpose of pointing out what is wrong but for the purpose of making adjustments in his players so they will do better. We live our lives under the watchful eye of a very good heavenly Father. He does not watch over us to find things wrong so he can condemn us. He watches over us, with His watchful eye, to help us improve.
James is encouraging the church by letting her know that she lives under the watchful eye of the Father, who is helping to perfect and strengthen her faith. Our endurance grows as our faith is tested, evaluated, and shaped by the Father!
Endurance means to remain in place, not to be moved, to hold out, and to stand against opposition. It is not just patience. It is actively successful in resisting opposition. The word for endurance also implies a motivation that comes from within because of honor and not from without, like public opinion.
James says we are to count it all joy when we encounter trials of various kinds. He says this knowing we are under the eyes of a good heavenly Father and are motivated by the honor of serving and pleasing Him.
"Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you" (2 Thessalonians 3:1, ESV)
In church history, there are times when the Word of God seems to really advance quickly. People have the favor to share the Gospel with other vital people who happen to be in the right place at the right time. These 'open doors' allow the Gospel to move swiftly in multiple directions and with great results.
As Paul is preparing to conclude his second letter to the Thessalonians, he asks them to pray for several things. He asks them to pray for him and his team. He asks that the Word of God would speed quickly ahead. May it be received promptly. He asks that the Word be honored and esteemed highly by those who receive it. He reminds the Thessalonians how they received the Word. Meaning, pray that how you received the word is how everyone gets it where we go.
Paul's request to them should be a part of our daily prayer lives. Every day we should be praying, "Lord, let your Word run swiftly through my city." If you are praying for missionaries, ministries, or churches, pray: "God, let your Word move swiftly through them! We also pray that your Word would be honored by all who hear it, and may they respond with hungry hearts in search of truth." Prayer is vital to advancing the Kingdom. And so is 'heart' preparation of those who will hear it. "Lord prepare their hearts for the entrance of your Word!"
April 21, 2023: But One Thing I Do
"...But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead" (Philippians 3:13, ESV)
In a world of many things to do, many options to try, and many things to be done, Paul does one thing. He forgets what is behind him, and he pushes for the prize. The past is passed! Do not look back. Keep your eye on the prize! And lean into it. Those who have run in races for their school or team have heard their coach scream, "Do not look back; what matters is the finish line. Keep your eyes on that!"
He who looks back is distracted by what is behind him, concerned by what is behind him. A runner knows his concern is to be the first over the finish line. The finish line is what is in front of him. He strains to keep pushing ahead and leaning into his race.
As believers, we must remember that God took hold of us for a specific purpose. That purpose is our mission; to be like Jesus. Like Paul, we live to obtain the resurrection from the dead, and everything not connected to that goal is cut off. We toss it aside like rubbish, never to be picked up again.
Do that often enough, and you will be found running the race, winning the race, and obtaining the prize! It is a high calling to all who are in Christ Jesus!
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