Tag Archives: reconciliation

What To Do When You Fail

Do you ever feel you have failed your Lord? Have you felt you have denied Him by your words, deeds, inactions—even your cowardice? Let Jesus’ redemption of Peter in John 21 encourage you.

Like Peter, we set high standards for ourselves in our discipleship. We have the best of intentions. We will succeed where others have failed. Yet not only do we fail, but our failure is miserable, humiliating, wretched.

Look at Peter, boasting of his loyalty and bravery. But when the test came, he crumbled. He denied Jesus Christ three times, with curses, cowering even before an unnamed, powerless slave-girl.

Now, even after he witnessed the resurrected Christ, he felt like a failure, unworthy of his calling as a disciple of the Lord of Glory. In consternation and confusion, he went off to fish, joined by several of his fellow failed disciples. They caught nothing. Another failure.

Enter Jesus, who first reminds Peter of His original calling by giving Peter another miraculous catch of fish (see Luke 5). Then comes a remarkable confrontation. “Do you love [agape] me?” Twice, Jesus asks Peter, using the word for perfect love. Peter can only say, “I love [phileo] you,” a lesser form of love. Can any of us honestly do any better than Peter? Then Jesus comes down on Peter’s level and asks a third time, “Do you love [phileo] me?”

Remarkably, Jesus accepts Peter’s imperfect love. It is not perfect, but real. Peter reveals himself as a “flickering flame.” His love flickers, but it still burns, and Jesus is a master at fanning flickering flames (Matthew 12:20).

Jesus responds to Peter in three ways. His responses in the Greek reveal that His call on Peter’s life has not changed.

Tend my lambs” suggests his future care of immature and vulnerable people in need of special attention. “Tend my sheep indicates Peter’s role as an overseer, a shepherd. The third response should read, Pasture the sheep,” indicating Peter’s role in preaching and teaching from the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s failures have broken him and given him humility, the very quality he needs (and we need) to perform his (and our) calling. We know from history that Jesus fanned Peter’s “flickering flame” into a refiner’s fire through the coming of the Holy Spirit. Days later, filled with the Holy Spirit, he stood before thousands, boldly preached his first sermon, and saw 3,000 people follow Christ.

Later, he stood before the same religious authorities who crucified Jesus, now threatening him with prison or worse if he continued to preach Jesus. Peter fearlessly responded, “It is better to obey God rather than man.” Jesus indicated that Peter would give his life for Him with a rare courage.

It is good for us to confess and grieve the times we deny Christ by our words, deeds and inactions, but it is better for us to remember how He has also filled us with the same Holy Spirit that filled Peter. He still says to us, as He said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

In our families, communities, workplaces, schools, creative activities, governments, and around the world, we have opportunities to do just that. Jesus has even told us as He told Peter, “Greater works than I have done, you will do.”

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Ants in His Garden

Colorful-garden-flowers-hd-wallpaperAnts are highly organized, hard-working creatures who know nothing about the larger world around them. They work oblivious to planes, barking dogs, passing people. They care only about their little world. But that world can change in a second with the introduction of earth-moving equipment, or gardeners or builders. What means nothing to their world can change their world forever.

Many times, we humans think like ants. For the most part, we humans pay no attention to God. Yet God’s larger world can overrule our lives in a second, causing great terror for those who never think of Him.

Most of us never see God, but some people get glimpses of Him. Moses saw His back parts. Isaiah saw God’s holiness and said “Woe is me!” John saw Jesus’ divine nature, and he fell down as a dead man. Three disciples glimpsed Jesus divinity on a mountain, and the sight overwhelmed them.

Every person who glimpses God’s holiness is overcome by a sense of sin and shame. Even the smallest sin becomes a mountain next to God’s holiness. When God intervenes, nothing remains the same.

What is the holiness of God? Someone has described holiness as a distinct class by itself with no rivals or competition. It means to possess transcendent purity, surpassing all others. God’s holiness relates to every other part of His character and nature.

Dr. R.C. Sproul says, “The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that he is merely holy or even holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.”

Too easily, we say that “God accepts us as we are.” His holiness should make us re-think that casual idea. God never compromises His holiness. When Moses disobeyed God before the people of Israel (Numbers 20), he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because He insulted God’s holiness. Irreverence toward God’s holiness can exact a heavy price upon those who take it lightly. God’s holiness is why we are told to fear Him.

None of us measures up to God’s holiness. Yet in His holiness, God in Christ has reconciled us to Himself and clothed us with His righteousness. In Christ, we have no need to stand in terror before a holy God, apart from stubborn irreverence.

The holiness of God transforms even people like Karla Faye Tucker, a hatchet murderess, who heard the gospel and repented before a holy God. Her life changed so radically, she led many of her fellow prisoners to Christ, and a Christian man became so impressed by her Christ-like character, he married her. She paid an earthly price of execution for her crime, but she died praising the Lord for His holy and eternal deliverance.

A holy God has made a way for all who would take it. There are still many people oblivious to His great salvation, like ants in our gardens. Let us pray that the Spirit of God will awaken them to hear the Good News of what He has already done for them in Jesus Christ.

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Behold

UniverseWhat is the glory of God?

The truth is, we don’t know. Sinful humans cannot look upon His glory and live. However, the Bible declares in Psalm 19, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”

The “heavens” are what astronomers call the “observable universe.” It refers to the “limit created by the speed of light. Any object further away than light can travel in the age of the universe (about 14 billion years) has not even reached us yet.”

This “observable universe,” we are told, is now about 46.5 billion light years in radius, or 93 billion light years in diameter. One light year, the distance light travels in a year, equals about 6 trillion miles. Early in 2017, an English team of astronomers estimated that within this observable universe are at least 2 trillion galaxies, each with billions of stars—10 times more than previously thought. The human mind cannot fathom such numbers.

All of these stars and galaxies, however incomprehensible their numbers and sizes, still represent only 4% of the total mass of the universe. The remaining 96% comprises other matter that the astronomers haven’t even been able to identify yet!

All of this represents only the “observable universe!” Most parts of the universe are simply too far away for any of us to observe with any telescope no matter how advanced because we live in a universe that is expanding faster than the speed of light.

None of us can fully comprehend the universe, but the Bible tells us that the very size and complexity of the universe declares His glory. The God who created it all holds this universe in His hands.

In His hands. Think of it—the vast universe in which we live only hints at the glory of God. In the heavens, God has left us a big hint of His glory, so obvious that none of us can miss it.

As Christians, our growing knowledge of the universe’s expanse should declare to us that God is even greater than our godly forefathers knew. His love and grace are more boundless than we thought, His incarnation more miraculous, His humbling of Himself in Jesus Christ is more stunning. His sacrifice is more sacrificial, His character more outstanding, His trustworthiness more pure, His Word holds greater value.

In your spirit, enter the Bethlehem stable with its pungent smells of hay, straw and animal dung. Listen to the bleat of sheep and goats, the lowing of cattle. Note the young woman who lovingly watches over a red-faced infant, fresh from her womb, wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Look again at the newborn baby lying in the straw. This male-child is the creator of all the stars, planets, galaxies, dark energy and expanding universe. He is the Lamb of God, soon to bear your sin and my sin, the sins of every person who ever lived or will live. He is about to enter us into a new humanity that will one day astound the angels of heaven.

Behold the love of God that will not let us go. Then fall down and worship Him.

Behold the glory of God. He is the one Person whose relations with us makes every difference. Let us make sure that others know Him.

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He Welcomes You

Reconciliation does not equal intimacy. Two enemies may reconcile but never become true friends. They no longer fight, but they have little contact.

How many Christians secretly live lives like this? They know Jesus has reconciled them to God, but in heaven, they believe, they will dwell on the outskirts because they fail so miserably.

Is this a common Christian experience? Is this why many Christians judge others for their sins as they try to deal with their own uncertainties? Is this why so many Christians feel no joy, become over-involved in “church work,” or hang around the “fringes of faith?”

Many people are convinced that only certain special individuals can achieve true godliness. Catholics have their “saints,” but in different ways, Protestants do, too. These misled brothers and sisters are reconciled to God, but do not believe intimacy with Him is possible because they know their many flaws and failures.

How foreign to the Good News! In Romans 5, Paul tells us that we who are of Christ belong to a new kingdom, a new human race—now! We no longer belong to the kingdom of the first Adam, the kingdom of sin and death. Through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we are “in” the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.

That means whatever is true about Jesus Christ is true of us. We have a new standing with God. Christ is forever, once and for all, dead to sin and death, so are we. Though Christ died, death did not have the last word. So it is with us.

He-Welcomes-YouChrist enjoys eternal fellowship with the Father. So do we. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul tells us that we have “access to the Father.” The Greek indicates the highest possible intimacy with God the Father, like Jesus has with Him. It doesn’t depend upon what we do or how we feel, it depends upon Him and what He has done on the cross.

All this requires us to dramatically rearrange our thinking. The Welsh preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, compares our new position in Christ to that of a newly freed American slave. The laws changed, but many former slaves had difficulty accepting their new freedom. They didn’t know how to relate to their old masters. Only when they learned new habits of thinking did they live in the freedom the law said they already had.

Like Abraham, we must believe because God said it, not when we feel good about ourselves. In one of the most remarkable passages of scripture, Paul tells us to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). In other words, regard it as accomplished fact.

Paul tells us to become transformed by the renewing of our minds—by changing our habits of thinking—so we recognize that God already loves us and welcomes our company as He welcomes the company of His Son.

When we see Him face to face, we will be like Him. We will not live on the fringes of heaven, but become part of His inner circle. When we learn to see ourselves the way God already sees us, we will live in the freedom that is already ours.

This is Good News for everybody who will hear it! Let’s make sure they do!

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