Wednesday, April 25, 2012

human muscle

From Jim Meredith [emphasis mine - oh, and picture of me ... not]:

Matthew 16:21-23; After Jesus foretold his upcoming death, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “No way Lord, this shall never happen to you.” How human, how natural, and how wrong! How of the flesh and not of the Spirit! So Jesus gave the most intriguing rebuke imaginable: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” And then in verse 24, He follows up with, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Then verse 25, “for whoever wants to save his life, will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

Let’s be clear. Peter, well intentioned and not meaning any harm, and actually desiring good as he understood it, was responding totally in the flesh. Yet the Gospel, the “Good News” and how it was to unfold, was quite elusive, a mystery as to the “what” and “how”. Was not the Messiah to rule and bring back the glory days of Israel? How could he die? … have you ever tried to save Jesus (or a brother) from making a huge mistake? Peter wanted to save Jesus; so he needed to control his actions. He knew without a doubt what Jesus was supposed to do and how it was to be accomplished. He was committed! Had he not walked away from his nets and given his all to follow Jesus? But Jesus had to do “it” a certain way, Peter’s way.

“Muscle” is a powerful thing, but a man thing, “the things of men”. We “build up” muscle through achievement, knowledge and natural giftedness. But muscle has limitations … flesh cannot understand the things of the Spirit! The Spirit is mystery, originating always where man does not reside. (Read John 3 again… the Lord’s dialogue explains the dichotomy of flesh and Spirit.) “Who can know the things of God (the what and how) except the Spirit of God?” (I Corinthians 2:6-16 is equally insightful)

Today we work very hard for Jesus. We are in the battle. We do heroic things! We give money. We apply pressure. We use our influence. We think out of the box! We flail away (as Peter did a few days later, still not getting the message) and unsuspecting people often lose more than an ear! “Doing it my way” to save and serve Jesus is why Christ died … to save us from our fleshly desires, schemes and the need to “help” God. But God doesn’t need us. He chooses to use us.

Sadly, all this bluster is bottomless and led to Peter’s repeated denials. He had been prepped for denial, but didn’t have a clue till he flinched by the fire. Of course he could not follow Jesus; he didn’t first understand denial of self. He had forgotten so quickly the Lord’s challenge after the stern rebuke … “to deny himself, take up his cross and follow me”. [W]e must stop thinking about the right way to honor God with our influence and actions, and consciously accept the how and what he is doing in the lives of people for whom He died. As we die to self, we may and are more likely to simply marvel at what He is doing. Maybe we need to “show up” daily in honorable obedience, “shut up” about all our plans, and “stand up” at attention in respect and worship as the King comes passing by daily in our life and others. The mystery of the gospel (i.e. its success) is Christ in you (and in your neighbor), the hope of glory… not our muscle.

I’ve learned again ... that my greatest need is to discern what it means to follow Jesus to the cross. What a mystery to die to self daily. All temptation is here; we don’t want to die. We want to live, make a contribution, have people follow us and think highly of us. Oh, we must be careful! Jesus, too, was tempted to take the way of power and do great things; “give them bread”, Satan said, and they will worship you. God’s way, first death and only then life, is truly revolutionary. Is not the “get behind me Satan” anything (no matter how supposedly innocent) which might detract us from the Jesus way?

[O]f course, there is a place for “muscle” in the Kingdom. But don’t be muscle bound! Muscle must not replace the heart or displace the Spirit! We must walk in the Spirit and we will not fulfill the flesh, our brother Paul says (Galatians 5:16). God doesn’t want first our management “know how” or our leadership ability, or our wisdom… He just wants us. He enjoys us. And I am learning to just enjoy Him, too, as I grow out of my sins. There is hope! Peter became a changed man… so can we!

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