The Adventures of Four

Adventures of Four

Daily Reading: (Matthew 17:1):

“After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.”

Today I want to look at Jesus’ inner circle and what this means for us in our pursuit of disciple making. So out of the 12 there are 3 who had the privilege of being with Jesus in some very special moments where the others did not. Peter, James and John. Every time in Scripture the three are mentioned always in this same order. Their names in this order communicated a message of what Jesus was here to do on earth.

The stone (Peter)—which the Law was written on was supplanted (James) and replaced by God’s grace (John). 

 “After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John…”

Matthew wants to let us know it has been six days since the last recorded detail of Jesus’ life. By doing this we are instantly connected to the past six days and the heaviness of Jesus’ words where He prophesied about His own death and the kind of things the disciples would experience. Jesus is preparing the inner three for more responsibility than the rest. Within the various individuals that you will disciple there will be some who you should spend more time with. Everyone is unique and different and some are going to take on more of a leadership role in the future.

Luke chapter 9 tells us that “Jesus brought them up the mountain to pray.” Luke shows Jesus’ dependence on God the Father. I can not, but He can and He did and in Him and through Him nothing is impossible. This is what the disciples needed to learn because Jesus was soon to ascend to Heaven.  In this time of God’s grace that we live in, we need to place our total dependence on God. The three disciples are taken to prayer because prayer is dependence on God, invoking His power, grace, love, and goodness.

Peter near the end of his life reflects back on this moment in his life and says in 2 Peter 1:16: “but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” What does the Mount of Transfiguration that the three disciples were privy to have to do with me? As you behold the glory of the Lord your life is forever changed. There is power for healing, freedom from addiction, and peace to a troubled soul.

When Jesus transfigured there were two well-known individuals that were there Moses and Elijah. “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” What did the three disciples need to hear that day? What do disciple-makers need to do for those they are discipling? Bring them to grace. Listen to the voice of grace only. The names of the three testified to what was on display on the mountain that day. The Law was supplanted by God’s grace.

Matthew 17:6 “And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one” (Matthew 17:6-8). The word “arise” (Matthew 17:7) is in the passive voice. What Jesus is telling His disciples is to “allow yourself to be lifted by God.” And when you are lifted, you realize that you stand on equal ground with Him because you have been given His righteousness. This is our job as disciple-makers to allow people to be lifted by God’s grace. Jesus died to give you His standing. This moment with the three is a beautiful picture of God’s grace.

What About the 9?

We know what was happening with the three who experienced God’s grace on the Mount of Transfiguration but what about the other nine who were not with Jesus at this moment in time?

Matthew 17:14-16: “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him.They were amazed to find the answer to their problems, not in themselves, but in the Lord” (Mark 9:15). The reason the nine could not drive out the demon is they tried in their own strength. The answer was always in the Lord, it is in His grace that we receive power and authority to drive out demons. It happens in the name of Jesus.

Have you wondered why the disciples were not able to heal this boy because they were successful in other places, driving out demons and “healing people everywhere” (Mark 6:13, Luke 9:6). Their past success puzzled even them when they failed on this occasion: Matthew’s Gospel says – “Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (Matthew 17:19).

Jesus’ answer to their question why they could not drive out the demon and heal the boy might answer questions you might have about why more people aren’t healed today. The answer is not their faith, but their unbelief.

Natural unbelief is fueled by what we see and hear. We get a bad report, x-ray or scan and believe the worst. We’re now walking by sight rather than faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Even if we have faith, our unbelief will send us to the Internet looking for reassurance and hope. We may be declaring the promises of God over our situation but at the same time we’re feeding our doubts by focusing on our circumstances. Some translators equate unbelief to having little faith, but Jesus clearly says right after this “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Little faith is not the issue. If little faith can move a mountain, it can surely heal one small boy. It’s not about the size of your faith but whether your faith is handicapped by doubt and unbelief (Matthew 17:21). How do we deal with unbelief? Starve our doubts and fears by feeding on the Word of God and through prayer.

Take Up Your Cross

Take Up Your Cross

Daily Reading: (Luke 9:23): Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   

How do you react to this text? “Whoever wants to be a disciple of Jesus must… take up their cross daily and follow Him.” The way I have heard this verse commonly and incorrectly used is in the preaching of self-denial. If this were true then the Gospel would not be good news. If we had a bad day or screwed up and didn’t properly deny ourselves, well I guess we’re just not a disciple of Jesus anymore. If this were the case it would mean that Christ’s death on the cross was not needed. It would also mean that the more you deny yourself the holier you’ll be. But go ahead and deny yourself from anything and everything and that won’t make you anymore righteous or holy, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that.

Another problem with this interpretation of preaching self-denial as a way of becoming righteous is that it will leave you anxious and insecure. “Have I denied myself enough?” Jesus suffered and die on the cross so that we might be free from this sort of religious way of life.

So, when we come to Luke 9:23 we must ask two very important questions if we really want to understand what Jesus is saying.

  • Question 1: Who is Jesus talking to in this verse?
  • Question 2: What Covenant are we now living in?

In verse 18 it says- “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” this progresses until we get into our verse.  If you want an even clearer answer where you don’t have to back up a few verses to understand who Jesus is referring to just read Matthew’s version (16:24).

The disciples were still living in the Old Covenant system. The New Covenant we live in was enacted after the death of Jesus. One purpose of the Old Covenant was to make it absolutely clear that no man is righteous before God and that no one can save himself (Romans 3:10–11, 20). “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There are no off days if you are living according to your righteousness. The ultimate purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to Christ: “The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (Galatians 3:24–25). The Old Covenant established our guilt before God and our need for a Savior.

So. the correct translation of what Jesus is saying in Luke 9:23 happens as we continue moving forward in the text in the next two verses, verses 24 and 25.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self” (Luke 9:24-25)?

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he’s saying the way to salvation is through Him and His cross. In the New Covenant taking up your cross daily doesn’t make sense and is impossible to do because you were already crucified (Galatians 2:20). I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me… (Gal 2:20a). The reason most Christians struggle to live the Christian life is they look at Luke 9:23 and are trying to die daily, they do not know they have already died with Christ.

“To deny yourself” (Luke 9:23) means to trust Jesus instead of self. Live each and every day out of the glorious relationship you have with the Lord. This Greek word “deny” (aparneomai) is to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests. This denial of self is the same thing for all Christians that the cross was for Jesus, namely, the submission to God’s will, not one’s own will.So, in our text Jesus made the cross central. Our Lord’s death was an absolute requirement and precondition of human redemption. As long as the will of man opposes the will of the Lord, salvation for that individual remains impossible.

Take Up Your Cross

Take Up Your Cross

Daily Reading: (Luke 9:23): Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   

How do you react to this text? “Whoever wants to be a disciple of Jesus must… take up their cross daily and follow Him.” The way I have heard this verse commonly and incorrectly used is in the preaching of self-denial. If this were true then the Gospel would not be good news. If we had a bad day or screwed up and didn’t properly deny ourselves, well I guess we’re just not a disciple of Jesus anymore. If this were the case it would mean that Christ’s death on the cross was not needed. It would also mean that the more you deny yourself the holier you’ll be. But go ahead and deny yourself from anything and everything and that won’t make you anymore righteous or holy, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that.

Another problem with this interpretation of preaching self-denial as a way of becoming righteous is that it will leave you anxious and insecure. “Have I denied myself enough?” Jesus suffered and die on the cross so that we might be free from this sort of religious way of life.

So, when we come to Luke 9:23 we must ask two very important questions if we really want to understand what Jesus is saying.

  • Question 1: Who is Jesus talking to in this verse?
  • Question 2: What Covenant are we now living in?

In verse 18 it says- “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” this progresses until we get into our verse.  If you want an even clearer answer where you don’t have to back up a few verses to understand who Jesus is referring to just read Matthew’s version (16:24).

The disciples were still living in the Old Covenant system. The New Covenant we live in was enacted after the death of Jesus. One purpose of the Old Covenant was to make it absolutely clear that no man is righteous before God and that no one can save himself (Romans 3:10–11, 20). “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There are no off days if you are living according to your righteousness. The ultimate purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to Christ: “The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (Galatians 3:24–25). The Old Covenant established our guilt before God and our need for a Savior.

So. the correct translation of what Jesus is saying in Luke 9:23 happens as we continue moving forward in the text in the next two verses, verses 24 and 25.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self” (Luke 9:24-25)?

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he’s saying the way to salvation is through Him and His cross. In the New Covenant taking up your cross daily doesn’t make sense and is impossible to do because you were already crucified (Galatians 2:20). I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me… (Gal 2:20a). The reason most Christians struggle to live the Christian life is they look at Luke 9:23 and are trying to die daily, they do not know they have already died with Christ.

“To deny yourself” (Luke 9:23) means to trust Jesus instead of self. Live each and every day out of the glorious relationship you have with the Lord. This Greek word “deny” (aparneomai) is to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests. This denial of self is the same thing for all Christians that the cross was for Jesus, namely, the submission to God’s will, not one’s own will.So, in our text Jesus made the cross central. Our Lord’s death was an absolute requirement and precondition of human redemption. As long as the will of man opposes the will of the Lord, salvation for that individual remains impossible.

What if I Look Back?

What If I Look Back?

Daily Reading: (Luke 9:62):

“Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

 

The way the enemy likes to work is to get us to doubt our salvation, what we possess in Jesus, so that we miss living in the abundant victory that we have and the security in belonging to and being in Christ. The enemy will try to use your past to condemn you in your present and make you worried about your future.

If you question your fitness for kingdom service you are less likely to be involved in the blessings of kingdom building (Luke 9:62). That’s the enemy’s goal.

Is Jesus calling you to a life of unrelenting service or you are not in? It might seem that Jesus is just looking for an all-star work hard team for Jesus. The few, the proud, the…. no that is the slogan for the Marines.

If it was all about the work, work, work, work, work then Jesus would be contradicting himself when he says:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28).

See the problem? In (Luke 9:62) Jesus exhorts one to “plow” and in (Matthew 11:28) he says “rest”. Plowing is hard, back-breaking work. You can’t plow and rest at the same time, so which is it?

Why does Jesus say “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”? These words about plowing are not for us. Read the verse in context and you will see that He is speaking to people who are not following Him (Luke 9:57-61). Your fitness for the kingdom comes when you follow Jesus, when you first believe.

If you look at the verse again you will see that it says “fit for service.” The words “for service” aren’t in the Bible! Fit or well placed (euthetos) (basileia) kingdom.

“Fit for the kingdom.” What Jesus is saying is the one who receives His grace is going to participate in the supernaturally abounding life of God. The takeaway is not “work hard for Jesus, prove your worth in the kingdom through acts of service.

The takeaway is, “Are you ready for the adventure of life shared with Christ?” Jesus is offering you His life.