Morality Vs. Salvation

morality

Is Christianity just fancy moralism?  So many Christians today are known for what they do not do and what they oppose.  We don’t drink, we don’t party, we don’t wear skimpy clothes, etc.  And the most holy amongst us are known more for what we do do instead of what we do not do:  we go to church, we give money (or little bags with snacks and a Bible) to the homeless, we volunteer, etc.  Is that the foundation of Christianity?  Did Jesus die on the cross so that we can clean up our lives and feel better about ourselves?

Moralism is as old as creation. The very first people, Adam and Eve, had two sons – Cain and Abel.  Abel loved God and offered sacrifices from love and Cain was jealous because he wanted God to accept his sacrifices, and instead of getting his heart right he murdered his Abel.  As soon as God handed down the Law of His expectations, there were people who set out to keep it in their own strength for their own glory.  God has been exceedingly clear about His expectations of humanity:  both on the heart level and on the outward – or pragmatic level, and human pride has always lent some to the effort of self-approval through keeping the law.  Morality.

It is also true that the Old Testament is centered on the Mosaic Law of God, and the New Testament is full of commandments for Christians saved by grace.  There is no doubt throughout the entirety of Scripture that man’s problem is sin – we are all condemned to death and eternity in Hell because of our sin and when we come to God for salvation through Jesus Christ, we are still commanded and expected to stop sinning (Rom 6.23, Gal 5).

The end goal, however, is not moralism.  God is not primarily concerned with our actions, He is primarily concerned with our hearts.  This has been true since the beginning.  When Cain killed Abel and interacted with God, God was not primarily concerned about his actions of offering a poor sacrifice and killing Abel, He was concerned about his heart:

“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, [will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

– Gen 4.6-7

When God gave the Law to Moses for the Hebrew people to observe, the first and primary commandment was to Love God with everything and to not worship other gods or idols.  The first three of the ten commandments, in fact, deal specifically with this command.  He sums up the whole Law thus:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

– Deut 6.4-5

And the summary of the entire Bible proclaiming the truths about the end times lists those sinners who will be condemned to Hell, even in light of salvation by grace alone through faith alone:

“But for the cowardly and [unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

– Rev 21.8

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but we have similar lists throughout all of the New Testament which exhort Christians to stop sinning.

Compounding the issue of moralism is the prevalence self-acceptance and self-realization in western thinking.  Philosophy has lent us to believe that there are no true absolutes, that we all have autonomy to determine our own paths, and that there is truly no right and wrong.  Lying is acceptable in certain situations, murder in others, deceit against immoral persons or governments and even theft to care for the less fortunate.  No longer are there black and whites, but everything is a shade of grey and we are left to determine our own way.

Moralism, fundamentally, is looking to an outward standard and attempting to attain that standard in our own strength and power.  It can be based on aversion (avoiding certain activities) or action (preforming certain activities).  Either way, it is a person proving his righteousness by his actions.  Self-realization, fundamentally, is looking inward to realize who one is at the core and development of a life system based on one’s own valuation of right and wrong.

Salvation, however, is neither of these.  The Law was given to us to show that we can never keep God’s law perfectly and therefore never be moral or good enough to earn His favor.  Paul teaches us, in fact, that the entire point of the Law is to reveal our sinfulness and therefore the frivolity of trying to keep it in our own strength:

“What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.”

– Rom 7.7-8

Scripture also teaches us that the heart is deceitful above all else, that we are Spiritually dead apart from Jesus, that there is none righteous and none who seeks after God in his own strength and that we are all fundamentally wicked (Jer 17.9, Eph 2.1, Rom 3.10-12).  Therefore, self-realization and determining our own truth leads us only down the wide path of destruction (Matt 7.13-14).

What does all of this mean?  Simply put, it means that we – in and of ourselves – are neither capable of being good enough nor able to prove ourselves by our logic and making peace with our decisions.  We need a savior.

Thankfully, salvation is the answer.  Salvation is that work of God whereby we are Spiritually awakened, we are changed at the core level and transformed into new beings.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

– 2 Cor 5.17

Once we have been Spiritually awakened and empowered by the Holy Spirit indwelling us, the Spirit begins changing us such that we keep the commandments of God because we love Him and want to please Him, rather than trying to prove ourselves or simply be good people.  We are no longer students, sitting in class learning a lesson and proving ourselves on a test, we are now children who love our father and long to please him by obeying what he says to do.  We do not fear a bad grade, we fear disappointing our father.

This reality teaches us that morality is not our internal realization – God has established a perfect standard and He expects us to obey, but He enables us and drives us to obey it by transforming our hearts to be willing to submit to His leadership and direction.  We are therefore compelled by the Spirit within us to please God, not driven by our need of approval or self-validation.

It is by this reality only that we are given commands.  And Paul clarifies for us beautifully that the works of the flesh are sinful, but our obedience is purely the works or “fruit” of the Spirit living in us:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

– Gal 5.19-23

People who practice the sinful deeds will not inherit the kingdom – because they are sinful and sin deserves damnation.  But we will only truly discontinue these sins and live in righteousness when we have been transformed at a heart level and given Spiritual life, and thus the Holy Spirit can live through us and exemplify all of those righteous attributes.

So what does this mean practically?  How do I get Spiritual life and live by the Spirit?  How do I stop trying to prove myself and live in freedom, aiming to please my Father?

Jesus teaches us that our Spiritual and eternal life begins at the moment we are born Spiritually (John 3).  When we hear the Gospel and long to be made right with God, we confess our sins, begin the process of repentance and are given the Holy Spirit.  If you have had a longing to be made right with God, have confessed your sins and are experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit in your life, then you have Spiritual life!  The Holy Spirit is alive within you.  It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict us of sin and righteousness (John 16.8).  Therefore, as we are reading the Scripture, understanding God’s hearts and desires, the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin in our lives and push us on to change.  We will know at a heart level that God is displeased with our laziness, with our lying, with our selfishness and with our pride.  He will then, through promises in Scripture, enable us to change.

This will be a lifelong process.  As long as we are in our human bodies, our sinful nature and our flesh will wage war against the Spirit.  Sin is pleasurable and desirable, and we will give in to it.  But the Spirit will convict us of it and the love that we have for God will drive us long for change and obey.

“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

– Gal 5.17

We will fight sin on the heart level, on the actions level, and we will need tools to help us along the way.  Replacement tactics work very well:  when we are tempted to sin, we purposefully turn to God instead.  When we are tempted to look at pornography, we stop and pray or call a trusted friend to chat.  When we are tempted to go out drinking or partying, we call our Christian friends and gather together for wholesome entertainment.  When we are tempted to have an affair or fool around with a girlfriend before marriage, we turn to our spouse or go out on group dates to hold us accountable.

We can also utilize fighter verses when the sin is mental or emotional.  Are you fighting fear?  We can claim the promises of God that we have nothing to fear – even if we should die we would be in the presence of God and the troubles of this world will be over!  Are you fighting depression?  We can claim the promises of God that we are His beloved children and He has given everything so that we can be saved.  Are you fighting doubt?  We can claim the promises of faith, provision, or whatever specific doubt we might have.  Thus it is important to be in the Scripture daily and to have accountability in wise friends and mentors who can push us on in these truths and disciplines.

God is ultimately concerned about our hearts and the drive to please Him because of our Spiritual transformation.  Our morality is worthless because we can never be good enough.  Our self-realization is also worthless, because apart from Him we are Spiritually dead.  God Himself will give us Spiritual life and when He transforms us from the inside out, we will be driven by a love for Him to please Him by obeying Him.  We cannot obey Him, however, if we do not know the Scriptures and understands what He wants from His children!  So let’s get busy about loving and knowing God.  Let’s be transformed and work on pleasing our father, not trying to earn His approval.

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.'”

– John 14.23

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Do people reject your gospel?

conversation

Many people today are terrified of talking about their faith with others – especially when they know that the listener does not share a common faith.  We have been indoctrinated by society to believe that faith is personal, it should be kept separate from the workplace and schools, and since religion is only a crutch everyone should find what works for himself and we are all right in our own way.  This worldview has paralyzed many believers who truly do care about other people,their Spirituality and eternity by handcuffing them from being open in conversation and able to communicate truth.

But this worldview has developed a greater evil and danger within the evangelical community:  we have rewritten the Gospel such that very few – if any – would ever reject it.  Paul and Pascal eloquently argued that if Christians are wrong about Jesus we have only wasted our lives – but if everyone else is wrong about Jesus, then they have wasted their eternity.  We have skillfully manipulated that logic to our advantage, urging people to simply “give God a chance” or “say the sinners prayer”, just in case.  Cover your bases.  Get baptized so that when you die, if Jesus happens to be the judge, you will know the right answer to get into Heaven.

Unfortunately, that is not what Jesus had in mind when He introduced conversion and Spiritual life.  Jesus gave radical warning about admittance into Heaven:

“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

– Matt 19.24

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

– Matt 10.34-36

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

– Matt 10.37

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

– Matt 10.38

Jesus promises Spiritual peace and peace with God, but He also promises to set family members against one another.  He promises to bring a sword.  He promises that anyone who follows Him will suffer and be hated, just as He was.

We, however, have candy coated the Gospel.  Campus Crusade for Christ’s four Spiritual laws begin with “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”.  The prosperity Gospel states that God desires for us to be happy, healthy and wealthy – we only need to claim it and have enough faith.  We use logic to convince people to “give Jesus a chance”, and “If I am right then you have wasted your eternity” – just to get people in the door.

The Gospel, however, is offensive.  Jesus had entire towns come out to meet Him and follow Him, and when He preached the hard truths, everyone went away except the 12 (John 6.67).  He regularly made people so angry that they sought to murder Him – even in the wake of healing their sick (John 8.59, 10.31).  And Paul teaches us clearly that the Gospel is foolishness to those who are not being saved:

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

– 1 Cor 1.18

So we must ask ourselves, is our Gospel the power of God to some and to others foolishness?  Or is it palatable to everyone?  Do outsiders examine your life, your habits, your finances and think you are crazy?  Or do we look just like the world, with a few major vices exempted from our lives?

Salvation and godliness is not avoidance ethics or covering our bases.  Being a Christian is a having revolutionary and all encompassing God-centeredness whereby we draw our daily strength to live from Him and pour out our everything before Him to His glory and for the salvation of all people.  Yes, that is undoubtedly rooted in the truth that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives – and also that God causes everything to work together for good for those who love Him, but it is so much more than that.  It is our soul wrenching understanding of the fact that we are desperately wicked and deserve damnation, but Jesus loved us enough to take our place on the cross and in Hell so that we might become His righteousness before God.  When we believe that and accept it into our lives, Jesus begins the process of purifying and perfecting us, causing us to look foolish in the eyes of the world.

In short, we cannot take the forgiveness offered by the cross and resurrection without being transformed and made righteous by it.  John Piper says we cannot have Jesus as our “pardoner and not as our purifier”.  If we are not being purified, we were never pardoned.

Apologetics and logic are good.  God has given us science, reason and philosophy – and those disciplines should all be utilized to His glory and honor, and those disciplines will all point us back to Him and His praise when understood rightly.  But our evangelism technique must be so much more than systematic argument.  It must be the power of God.  If your Gospel has no power, it is not the Gospel at all.

So let us reflect today.  Have we known the power of the Gospel?  Or did we buy in on a logical argument aimed at securing our salvation without impacting our lives?  Has the Holy Spirit taken up residence in our lives, giving us new, Spiritual life?  Or are we going through the motions hoping to make ourselves better people?  Is the word of the cross the “power of God” in your life?  And if so, let us start boldly proclaiming it as such.  Let us lay aside the minimization of the Truth, let us expect that people will have bold and profound reactions to the Gospel.  If some people do not hate it, if others are not radically transformed by it, then we are not proclaiming it.

Reformation of Manners

slavery

I am just a few chapters into a new (old) book, written by William Wilberforce – the man who led the fight in the abolition of the slave trade in England – which he entitled:

A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes of This Country Contrasted With Real Christianity

I am convinced that it is human nature to consider one’s own culture as the product of all of history, the most advanced, the most informed and the most enlightened.  Anthropologists call this disposition “ethnocentricity”.  Christians in America and other long-standing traditions of cultural Christianity, however, have a tendency to see developing and increasing depravity and think that our culture has been spiraling downward, away from God and reaching new depths of wickedness.

But one thing that regularly catches my attention is the normality of this cycle.  18th century England (and United States) believed themselves to be at the apex of culture and civilization, while living off the slave labor of Africans and many making a hefty living off the slave trade itself.  Wilberforce, as a member of Parliament, sought to redeem England from,

“the torrent of profaneness that every day makes more rapid advances”.

He also encouraged King George III through the archbishop of Canterbury to issue the Proclamation for the Discouragement of Vice which would prosecute one for

“excessive drinking, blasphemy, profane swearing and cursing, lewdness, profanation of the Lord’s Day, and other dissolute, immoral, or disorderly practices”.

Wilberforce fully believed, however, that the “reformation of manners” would only come through spiritual transformation.  Thus he wrote this book.  It immediately became a best seller and was a tool that God used for a revival in England.

No culture is beyond the power of God.  God brought revival to 18th century England.  He brought revival to the entire Church in the early 26th Century through the Great Reformation and the leadership of Martin Luther.  But perhaps the most substantial work that God did was begin the first church through twelve men.  The Christian Church, which now is innumerable if you consider the generations past since Christ, began with twelve men.  They started their culture in the face, they were persecuted unto death.  And God used them to change the world.  Literally.  He can change our culture.

What if we took a practical view of our systems of Christianity and contrasted them with what the Bible defines as true Christianity?  Where would we fall?

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress,and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

 – James 1.27

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

 – Luke 9.23

…for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 – Rom 8.13

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:  immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 – Gal 5.19-23

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

 – James 4.4

Are we unstained by the world?  Do we deny ourselves daily, take up our crosses and follow Jesus?  Are we putting to death the deeds of the flesh?  Do we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit?  Are we friends of the world and therefore enemies of God?

Let’s take a moment and examine our cultural dispositions.  Let’s take a moment and evaluate our priorities.  Let’s purposefully make ourselves friends with God and not the world.  Let’s examine our religious system and habits, even if we call it a “relationship” and emphatically “not religion“, because no matter what we call it, if it’s not Biblical, it’s not salvation.  It’s not true Christianity.  If we are of the world, we are not of Christ.  If we are not dying to our flesh and putting away our sin, we are not walking in the Spirit and we are not saved.  But reforming our manners alone does not reform our hearts.  Reforming our hearts will reform our manners.  Let’s start at the very beginning.

“Is it not the great end of religion, and, in particular, the glory of Christianity, to extinguish the malignant passions; to curb the violence, to control the appetites, and to smooth the asperities of man; to make us compassionate and kind, and forgiving one to another; to make us good husbands, good fathers, good friends; and to render us active and useful in the discharge of the relative social and civil duties? ” 

 – William Wilberforce

How shall I be saved?

Salvation is so simple.  Scripture teaches us that God is perfect and His standard is perfection.  Unless we keep His Law perfectly, we cannot enter into Heaven and eternity with Him.  If we fail in even one small point, we are damned to an eternity of suffering in Hell, because God is perfect and will not tolerate or excuse sin.  God, knowing that no human being is capable of keeping His Law without failure, sent His son Jesus who did live a perfect life on this Earth, keeping the entire Law.  In His perfection He died and took the punishment “for all who would believe” (Rom 3.21-22).  Those who believe are not counted innocent before God, they are counted as redeemed.  Their punishment has been paid in full.  Their wicked deeds do deserve death and Hell, but Jesus paid the penalty and served the time.  There is nothing we can do to earn this substitution of His payment for our’s, and there is nothing we can do to un-earn it once it has been granted (Rom 8.38-39).

Paul says, quite simply,

“…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

– Rom 10.9-10

Simple, right?

But what do these terms “confess” and “believe” really mean?  Is it an academic exercise?  Do we believe that Jesus died and was resurrected the same way that we believe that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492?  Do we confess “Jesus as Lord” the same way that we say the pledge of allegiance before school every. single. day?  (Do schools still do that?)

The terms are explained in part by the results defined for each:  Belief results in  righteousness and confession results in Salvation.  Belief is of the heart, and confession is of the mouth.  We cannot have a salvation that is in our heart about which we never speak or confess, and we likewise cannot earn salvation by verbal affirmation alone.  Our hearts and our mouths must be fully engaged.

But engaged in what?  We must confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead.  Sometimes our Gospel is so caught up in the cross that we forget the victory came with Christ’s resurrection.  If Jesus simply died on the cross as an innocent man, He is just a good guy.  But God raised Him from the dead!  He defeated death from its belly.  He descended into the abyss and conquered death, paid our punishment and returned.  God did not abandon Him in Hell (Acts 2.27)!  Jesus is the firstborn of the resurrection to which we will all be party – either unto salvation or damnation (Col 1.15).  No one else has yet been resurrected unto eternal life.  All who have been revived from death by Jesus, the prophets and even modern day doctors, have or will die again.  But Jesus is alive, forever.

So we believe, with our hearts, that Jesus came to Earth, lived a perfect life, died for my punishment and your’s and rose again to reign.  This results in righteousness (Rom 10.10).  Why does this result in righteousness?  Because the moment that you realize your guilt deserves what Jesus endured and the weight of the reality hits you that you do not have to pay it because He paid it for you; that belief and understanding transforms you.  You realize that your sinful actions put Him on the cross (Heb 6.6), and because you love Him so much for what He did, you do not want to shame Him or add insult to the burden He already bore.  The Spirit who indwells you through this belief says, “Don’t do that” when you entertain sin in your mind.  You cannot tolerate that which cost your Savior His life.

And we confess, with our mouths, that Jesus is Lord.  What in the world does that mean?  Jesus is Lord.  In order to understand sin, its consequence and Jesus’ offer of salvation, we have to believe the Bible to be true; for in it we find God’s heart, history and expectations.  When we affirm the Bible as God’s written word, we realize that is has mandates for our lives.  We, as believers, are commanded to love God (Matt 22.37), love our neighbors (Matt 22.39), die to all forms of sin (Rom 8.13), and live holy, godly lives (1 Peter 1.16).  Jesus is the one who commands these things of us, and when we confess Him as Lord, we are submitting to Him to be in charge of our lives.  He sets the standards, He makes the rules, and He gives direction for how we live.  Confessing Jesus as Lord means surrendering our lives to Him and dying to sin.  This results in salvation.

If the result of our belief and confession is not a transformed life, then the belief and the confession are false.  A transformed life does not earn salvation, it merely is the proof that one understands, believes and has been granted salvation.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

 – 2 Cor 5.17

Salvation is so simple.  But yet it is so profound.  It will transform your lives.  Our old man will die.  We will seek to honor God with every fiber of our beings because we realize our guilt, we realize from what we have been saved, and we realize the value and weight of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We will grieve to do anything that dishonors Him or breaks His heart, and we will allow Him to rule our lives.  We will get off the throne and worship Him.  Mental assent is not enough.  Verbal confession is not enough.  Going to church, teaching Sunday School and being a good person are not enough.  It must be a transformation of the heart resulting in righteousness and a boldness of the tongue resulting in salvation.

repent

What am I missing?

I love the Bible.  It is full of amazing stories, God working in unfathomable ways and using real people.  God chose to use people who were marred by sin, weak, destitute, proud, pious; pretty much any ugly characteristic that we can imagine.  He kept it real so that we can understand that He is a God who saves sinners, who uses the weak and who works all things together for His glory.

Sometimes I wish that I were able to have lived when Jesus lived and heard Him speak personally.  Surely the disciples had a greater ability to hear and follow Him, when they personally walked with Him for three years, right?

During His ministry, the twelve had already been gathered and Jesus had sent them out to proclaim His coming and they were enabled to heal disease, cast out demons and work miracles.  They had listened to much of His teaching, and spent much time with Him.  One day they were out in the wilderness and Jesus had been teaching a crowd of 5,000 men plus their wives and children, and had fed all of them with just five loaves of bread and two fish.  That evening they sailed across the Sea of Galilee without Jesus, and He walked out on the water to meet them and He calmed the storm while getting into the boat.

Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.

– Mark 6.51-52

They had watched Jesus heal people daily.  They themselves had been given power to work miracles.  They watched Jesus calm another storm while they were all in the boat.  That very day they witnessed Him feeding thousands of people with just two fish and five loaves of bread.  But they had not gained any insight as to who Jesus was, or the nature of His power.

Do you know that God is rocking our world every day?  Miracles like what we see in the Bible are happening all around the world in correlation with the pioneering of the Gospel into un-reached areas.  He is radically transforming lives and saving people from addiction, selfishness, meaningless lives and sin right here in our own backyard.  He can give you new life, if you have not yet repented and turned to Him.

What is Jesus doing in your life about which you have not gained any insight?  What blew your mind when it happened, but has quickly slipped away into just a story that you tell when you are on the spot or get into life comparison with others?  What Scripture have you read that gave a direct command or revelation of the character of God, but has not effectively impacted or changed how you think or live?

Shortly after this incident, Jesus fed another 4,000  people with just a small amount of food – leaving seven baskets full of excess.  That same evening, the disciples were in a boat with Jesus and they had only one loaf of bread with them, and they were concerned about what they would eat.  They could not grasp and trust Jesus and His power on their own.

But then Jesus confronted them with the simple question, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8.27).  They told Him that some were calling Him the reincarnation of John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets.  Then Jesus asked them directly, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8.29).  And Peter answered “You are the Christ” (Mark 8.30), and Jesus answered him,

“Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

– Matt 16.17

Simon (Peter) answered correctly.  He, at this point, finally understood that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised one of God.  But he did not fully understand the person and mission of Jesus.

God has to reveal Himself to us.  In our flesh and worldly minds, we cannot grasp who Jesus is and repent.  We can see the things that God does, but we will not understand, it will not impact us, and we will not change.  We will see Jesus feed thousands of people twice, out of nothing, and that very same day wonder where our next meal will come from.  In our worldly perceptions, Jesus can be a good teacher, He can be a heretic, He can be a lunatic, or He can even be the Son of God.  But God has to reveal Him to us as the savior, and the forgiveness of our sins.  He has to indwell us to give us the strength to repent, change and honor Him.

What is right in front of your face that you are missing?  What lessons are not sticking?  Let us reflect on what He has done in our lives and what He is doing in our lives.  Let us chew on the Scriptures every day and petition the Lord to write them on our hearts and change who we are.  Let us meditate on the Truth and let it sink into our beings.  Let us seek His guidance and leadership, let us love Him earnestly.  Let us not ask from where our next meal will come.

five-loaves-and-two-fishes