Monday, April 18, 2011

Do Not Fear Failure

When Judas and the soldiers came for Jesus in the garden, Peter was a warrior. He swung his sword slicing off an ear. Within minutes, though, he was following Jesus from a distance. Within hours, he denied he even knew him. Before the rooster crowed, he was a cursing coward. Just fifty-two days later, on the day of Pentecost, he boldly stood before the crowd that had crucified His Lord, the Lord He had denied so vigorously, and preached Christ. For Judas, there was no such restoration, no redemption. Within hours of Judas' betrayal, he was dead by his own hand.

Why is failure fatal for some and a turning point for others? The answer does not lie in personal strength. Men and women who have accomplished incredible feats in life have ended life in the gutter. Peter was not a better man than Judas. He proved that on the night of Jesus' arrest. The only difference is Jesus. Peter belonged to Jesus. Judas did not.

Jesus knew Peter would fail, and since Peter belonged to Him, He said, "Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32)  Jesus never prayed for Judas like this, because He had always known that Judas heart never belonged to him.

The fear of failure leads us to deny Christ. Our denial may not be as spectacular as Peter's, but we do it. We do it every time we are silent about our faith. We do it every time we agree with a worldly joke or comment. We do it with our lives when we live hypocritically like the world during the week.

Child Of God, Do Not Fear Failure. You cannot make yourself stand. It has never been about your ability to endure criticism, to live righteously, to say the right thing. You are not the one who will make you stand, for only "The Lord is able to make you stand." (Romans 14:4)

Do Not Deny Him Today. He will make you stand.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Worship Jesus Despises - Part 2

And He said to them, "It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a den of thieves!" The blind and lame came to Him in the temple complex, and He healed them." (Matthew 21:13-14)

The Jews had built the Temple and then had walled it in. They built a short wall around the outside of the Temple that was inscribed with threats to all nonJews. The inscriptions said that any nonJew who walked beyond the wall just to touch the outside of the Temple walls would be killed. So, the traditions of man made it impossible for nonJews to get close to God's presence.

This wall was not God's idea. It was a misinterpretation of God's command for holiness. They forgot that Isaiah wrote,"And the foreigners who convert to the Lord minister to Him, love the Lord's name, and are His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it, and who hold firmly to My covenant - I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." (Isaiah 57:6-7) 

The Jews then filled this Court of the Gentiles with money-changers and vendors. This made it easier for the Jews to worship, but it moved the Gentiles farther away. Any of these outsiders who wanted to worship God were now even further from His presence and Jesus despised this. He was the One who had come to be near man, to bring all people who believed to His Father, and zeal for his Father's House filled Him to drive these vendors out.  Once He had done so, He began to heal the very people the Jews had excluded from their Holy Temple, "The blind and lame came to Him in the temple complex and He healed them." (Matt. 21:14)

The gospel is a separator. Faith in Christ alone will separate father from son, mother from daughter and life-long friends from one another. So, don't misinterpret Jesus. He was not advocating allowing nonbelievers into the Temple. He was not dumbing down His own requirements. He was fulfilling them. He was revealing the Father's heart, that whosoever will may come.

There are two places of worship in our lives. The first is our own hearts and lives. We are the tabernacle of the Lord. The second is our local church, where we come together to corporately worship the One. 

Is there anything in your heart that keeps others from hearing the gospel and coming near to God?  Is there anything in your church that keeps others from hearing the gospel and coming near to God?

Let the only thing in your heart and in your church that separates people from God be the gospel of Jesus Christ. Despise anything else that keeps people from God.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Worship Jesus Despises - Part 1

Late Monday or early Tuesday before Jesus was crucified, He apparently got upset. "Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers' tables and the chairs of those selling doves." (Mt. 21:12) At face value, these booths were set up to facilitate worship. Worshippers required clean sacrifices, and these people provided them from booths set up in the court of the Gentiles.  Apparently Jesus was more than unimpressed.  Why?

"And He said to them, 'It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer. but you are making it a den of thieves!" (Mt. 21:13) He was far less concerned with their ritual than with their relationship. A millennium before, God impressed King David to buy a piece or property from a farmer named Ornan. As the King approached Ornan about selling the property, he first refused to sell it, instead wanting to make it a gift to the king.  David said, "No, I insist on paying the full price, for I will not take for the Lord what belongs to you or offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing." (1 Chron. 21:24)  This was the very piece of property upon which the temple was built. Why did God honor David's purchase and not what these men were doing? 

David was a man after God's own heart. He refused to allow someone else provide for His sacrifice. For David, the worship of God was personal, not ritual.  For the people Jesus drove from the temple and for their patrons, worship had been made convenient, a business interaction, and impersonal, and Jesus despised it. I have often said, "I really enjoyed worship today."  I have rarely asked, "I wonder if God enjoyed my worship today?"

Is your worship an act of receiving, or is it an act of relationship, pouring your life out in encouragement of others and praise to God? Do you come to bless or be blessed? Is it a ritual or a relationship? Does Jesus look forward to your worship?