Denial and Acceptance

Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And so said all the disciples.
~ Matthew 26:35 NKJV

The real tragedy of Peter denying Christ three times is not so much that he publicly refused to acknowledge his friend, mentor, and Savior. No, the tragedy is that he DIDN’T deny himself. At the mid-point of His teaching and ministry, our Lord had told the disciples that if they truly wished to follow Him, they must deny THEMSELVES and take up their cross and follow Him (Matt 16:24). And yet, although Peter had said in today’s verse “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You,” when finally given the opportunity to claim his Savior and die for his faith, Peter still held onto himself and denied his Lord. Nonetheless, Peter had said something very true: we MUST die to ourselves in order to keep from denying Christ.

Alone, we are such feeble creatures, prone to pride and self-centeredness, fond of our own lives as they are. A holy, self-sacrificing, gospel-centered life is not “natural” to our fallen nature, and so fear and selfishness and pride drive us to cling desperately to sin and self. It took three denials for Peter to realize this, and when he had, he wept bitterly at his failure (Matt 26:75). How many times have any of us denied Christ by not denying ourselves?

The call to revival in Christ is not just a call to deny ourselves, it is also a call to stop denying Christ in our lives. Jesus offers us a new life, a better life, an eternal life, if we will but deny our sinful nature. Once we deny ourselves, a void is left that God, in His abundant love and mercy, has offered to fill with the fullness of His Son. As Peter himself later wrote, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. (1 Peter 2:24 ESV).” Let us therefore die so that we may truly live.

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Peace! Be still!

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
~ Mark 4:39 ESV

It’s a famous scene we all ought to remember: Jesus sleeping in the boat while the disciples panic at the storm that just arose. Then He calms the storm and He chides the disciples for having so little faith. We like to focus on the Lord’s power or on the disciples’ lack of faith in their Savior, but there’s a point we may forget: They were there in the storm because of Jesus!

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”

~ Mark 4:35

It was Jesus’ idea for them to take that path, to go out in the boats on the Sea of Galilee in the evening. And if it was His idea to go that way, would He not see them through to the other side? You see, their lack of faith was not just in their Savior but in the path He had set them on. They were afraid of the storm, yes, but their fear was that they would not reach the other side, that wind and wave would prevent them from ever seeing home again.

God’s call is often to go out on a path shrouded in darkness, to go where we do not see the other side. And storms will rise up, and waves of despair and doubt will come at us from all sides. Our path to follow our Savior and Lord will not always be a smooth road on solid ground. Sometimes He will tell us to go across to a different place, to forge a new path, to go where others fear to tread. To be His disciple and truly go where revival is needed most will undoubtedly involve going across to the other side, traveling on dark waters with no safety nor shore in sight. In those times, we should remember that the Lord of all creation says to our fears, “Peace! Be still!” It was our Lord’s idea to go that way, and He Himself shall see us through.

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You are worthy

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
~ Ephesians 4:1-3

Over and over again, Paul exhorts those who read his letters to walk worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27), worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10), or as he does in today’s verses, worthy of our calling. Why does he do that? He tells us to walk worthy because when we first heard the gospel and believed, when we first knew the Lord Jesus and were saved, when we first heard the calling of His Spirit, we were NOT worthy. In point of fact, we were ENEMIES of God (Romans 5:10)! Paul’s point is that, although our status as citizens of heaven and heirs of God’s kingdom has changed, our hearts and minds still need some work. Note, however that Paul also assumes that we CAN walk in a way that is worthy.

You see, whatever doubts we may have about our worth are not doubts that God has. If the Lord God had ever doubted our faith, He would never have sent His Son, would never have given us the gospel of reconciliation, would never have laid His Spirit upon us and called us to share what we know. And what do we know? We know that when we were still sinners and didn’t have the strength of will to repent and turn to God, in His great love He sent His Son to die in our place, so that we might be called sons and daughters of God. In short, GOD HIMSELF counted us WORTHY of the life of His only begotten Son. Paul is just reminding us that we are to continue walking worthy of that amazing gift.

In a world so full of despair, so in need of life and revival, we have this message of hope that is Christ Jesus our Lord. And our Lord has called us to share this εὐαγγέλιον (good message) with all creatures: “You are worthy.”

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From Rest to Miracle

Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.
~ Mark 6:30-31

The world may not see it, but ministry is hard work. On the surface, those receiving the Word feel refreshed, enlightened, and even energized. But for the ones giving the gospel, sharing prophecy, healing the multitudes, it is tiring and sometimes thankless work. Many are the times we read in the gospels that Jesus tried to go to a deserted place to rest, and the crowds followed Him, and so He had little if any time to rest. In today’s verse, it was the disciples who had been doing the work, and when they returned to Jesus, He tried to give them time to eat and rest. But a disciple’s work is never done, not until that day when our Lord calls us home to our final home, when we turn from work to worship.

After having gone out and healed the individual sick and lame in His name, the disciples likely thought they deserved a little down time, but the crowds didn’t see it that way. They were hungry for what Jesus had to offer, and Jesus saw they had no shepherd (v.34), so when they followed Him and His disciples wherever they went, Jesus had compassion on them. Just when the disciples thought they’d have a break from ministry, Jesus gave the Twelve a bigger task: feeding the thousands with virtually nothing. Yes, Jesus broke the bread and blessed the meal, but it was the DISCIPLES who fed the thousands, the tiny portions of fish and loaves multiplying in their hands as they handed them out to the hundreds and fifties arrayed on the hillside.

While it may seem like some ministries been doing a lot of God’s kingdom work in a very short time, we can be sure that just when we are ready to rest, Jesus will have an even greater miracle in store for us. The thousands are waiting for His Word, and our Lord is preparing the table for us to serve them. All He asks of us is the willingness to believe that what little energy and provision we have is enough to feed this thirsty and hurting world.

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And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
~ Hebrews 10:24-25

Revival must begin in the individual, but it must continue in community. The very first thing that our triune God noticed about man is that he was not meant to be alone (Gen. 2:18), and from beginning of the Bible, God’s promises were to individuals who were to become people, a race favored by God (Gen. 17:4-5). And once we reach the time of the Promised One, even then our Savior chose not one man but twelve to be the conduit of the good news (Mark 3:13ff). The Lord is in the midst of two or three gathered in His name (Matt. 18:20). Over and over again, God reminds us to live and do the gospel in community.

In calling for revival, let us not forget that we are calling communities, too. As the writer of Hebrews says, we are to gather together in order to stir up love, do good works, and exhort one another. We build each other up and continue revival when we function as one body, as one universal church. Yes, the individual must move and believe on their own part, but it is only in community that we fulfill God’s desire for us, which is to be a people call by His name. And it is only a people called by His name who can call upon the Lord to turn the tide of evil and despair so that our land may be healed.

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