Saturday, October 27, 2018

Lord's Day 26

Thoughts on Devotions – LD26

Q. 69 How does baptism remind you and assure you that Christ's one sacrifice on the cross is for you personally?
Q. 70 What does it mean to be washed with Christ's blood and spirit? Q. 71 Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?

DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, titles this chapter “Clean! Clean!” He points out that the Great Commission has one imperative verb – make disciples. Often people, mistakenly, assume that the main idea is “Go!”, but the emphasis is on developing and building up the church, the body of Christ. Baptism is part of the command and important in marking and helping us remember what baptism signifies – that we are washed by the blood of Christ and that, as part of the Body, we rely on the Spirit and on brothers and sisters to combat and flee sin in our lives.

Monday: The spiritual changes that God makes in his people are invisible, but baptism is something we can see. Baptism reminds us that God's promises are real and that the spiritual blessings are for the person receiving the outward sign. One important use of water is washing. Christ came to cleanse our hearts of sin. He alone can do it and he promises to do it by his blood and by his spirit for all who come to him in faith. Baptism is the seal of that promise.
Matthew 3:11-12 “I baptize you with water, for repentance, but the one coming after me is more powerful than I am - I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clean out his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguishable fire.”
1 Peter 3:21-22 And this prefigured baptism, which now saves you - not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God - through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who went into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels and authorities and powers subject to him.

Tuesday: The prophets looked for Jesus' coming and the promise God's people would be cleansed of sin. The fountain mentioned by Zechariah is the blood of Christ poured out on the cross. Those “in Christ” are cleansed by that blood – it cleanses completely and God sees us as though we had never sinned.
Zechariah 13:1 “In that day there will be a fountain opened up for the dynasty of David and the people of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and impurity.
1 John 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.

Wednesday: The prophets not only promised that people would be washed from their sin, but also that they would given new hearts – to love God and to want to do his will. They would be given the holy Spirit so that they would be able to resist sin and to obey God. The catechism points out that Christ cleanses us by his blood and by his spirit. Once our sins are forgiven, the Holy Spirit enables us to live lives no longer controlled by sin. Baptism is a picture of how we have died to sin and are raised to a new life, pleasing to God.
Ezekial 36:25-27 I will sprinkle you with pure water and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations.
Romans 6:3-4 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.

Thursday: The catechism asks where Christ promises that we are cleansed from sin as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism. The answer – in the Great Commission – in which his disciples are instructed to call others to faith and discipleship, and to be baptized. The apostles baptized people as soon as they trusted in Christ.
Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Acts 2:37-41 Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What should we do, brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!” So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.

Friday: In Paul's defense in Jerusalem he told of his conversion and Ananias' invitation to be baptized, washed from sin. He also mentions in a letter to Titus the washing of regeneration and renewal. We again see Jesus' promise of making his people pure and giving them a new life and lifestyle by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 22:16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.ʼ
Titus 3:4-7 But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”

Saturday: We receive the Lord's Supper often, but baptism only once. But we witness the baptism of others and we recall our own baptism. Watching a baptism is not only a reminder, but also an assurance that Christ's sacrifice is for each believer personally. It reminds us of our cleansing, of our continued need for repentance – that we are certainly forgiven – and can go forward in joyful thankful living for God.
Acts 11:15-16 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ʻJohn baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.ʼ
1 Corinthians 6:11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Reading between the lines...

What is “allowed” in public space – consumerism and marketing are everywhere, but preaching Christ is frowned upon – it is expected that this message should remain inside the church or inside the home. Jesus said to proclaim it from the housetops – the home becomes a pulpit and we are to proclaim the Gospel into the streets. We are not to have a private faith, but a proclaimed faith – good news is for sharing. God's Word is always seeking an audience, it has always been outgoing. The Truth will out – if we don't feel something of the outgoing impulse of the Gospel we haven't yet heard it as we should. We have a faith that is to be shouted from the rooftops. George McCloud: The cross should be raised in the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves on the town garbage heap at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write his title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek, at a place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse and soldiers gamble, because that is where he died and what he died about, and that is where churchmen ought to be and what they should be about. When you know this Gospel how can you not shout it from the rooftops?
Matthew 10:26-27 “Do not be afraid of them, for nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops.
Psalm 19:1-2 The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness.

God knows us intimately and deeply cares about our every need. Jesus urges to know God's wisdom as we go out into the world, but also assures us of God's love. God knows us better than we know ourselves.
Matthew 10:30-33 Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows. “Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.
1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.

We know of losing ourselves to a larger group (e.g., a soldier as part of a unit), but these are only echoes of what Jesus is talking about. The original pattern is from before time – Jesus says that the Father loves him because he lays down his life, only to find it again. The eternal love of God is cross and resurrection shaped. Losing your love to find it is an ancient path. The generous giving and service is found in the love within the Trinity – a community of persons that finds their lives in losing them. The Father sends the Spirit filled Son into the world – and Jesus calls us to join in. In this life there are many things that offer life, but we end up losing our life. Jesus calls us to follow the path of the cross, to lose our life for him; he promises to raise us up again. Die to self and receive new life.
Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.
John 10:17 This is why the Father loves me - because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again.

What is Jesus' identity - “who do people say that I am”? We should see Jesus' outgoing love for the sick, for sinners as something positive – the Pharisees saw it as a slur - “friend of sinners”. Jesus owns the title with pride. How you see yourself will have a massive impact on how you see Jesus. If you don't see your own indebtedness you won't get Jesus and others' affection for him will seem strange. If you, like the women in the story, know your indebtedness you will love Jesus and won't care who knows it. Glen Scrivener (paraphrase from here to the end): I don't picture my self as Simon, and I don't picture myself as Jesus – but I don't picture myself as the woman either. I see myself as just another dinner guest observing the scene – as a neutral bystander. I need to repent! I am this woman. I am in debt up to my eyeballs. If I knew a fraction of my spiritual bankruptcy I would be on the floor kissing Christ's feet and wouldn't care who saw me... do we really know Jesus? Do we really know ourselves? We must come to Jesus and hear his pronouncement “your sins are forgiven, your faith has saved you, go in peace!”
Luke 7:34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ʻLook at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!ʼ
Luke 7:39, 44-50 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” ...Then, turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Can people really change? We are tempted to consider the man with the Legion as a different species to us, but Mark presents this as an extreme example of the human condition common to us all. Our struggles are reflected in those of this man in Matthew 5. If Jesus can bring peace and order to his life he can do it for any life. This is presented as a battle scene, but when it comes down to it the powers that confront Jesus do not oppose him, they prostrate themselves before him. As Jesus commands the wind an the waves, he now commands these evil forces. They rush into the abyss. Both in the NT and in modern encounters evil is not confronted with potions or incantations, but with the Word - “in the name of Jesus”. The world is afraid of Jesus' commanding confrontation, preferring to stay in darkness they ask him to go. But the healed man wants to go with Jesus, but Jesus says - go to your family and tell them of the mercy of the Lord.
Mark 3:27 But no one is able to enter a strong manʼs house and steal his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can thoroughly plunder his house.
Mark 5:6-7 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him. Then he cried out with a loud voice, “Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I implore you by God - do not torment me!”
Mark 5:15 They came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man sitting there, clothed and in his right mind - the one who had the “Legion” - and they were afraid.
Mark 5:20 So he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him, and all were amazed.

Go and do likewise... it is often assumed that Jesus is saying “go and do likewise”, but what is the point of the parable? What is the question being asked? What must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus asks the man what the law says and he answers well - “love God and love your neighbor” - and Jesus says that is correct, do this and you will live. But he wanted to justify himself and asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus is telling the parable to deflate the pride of a self-justifier. In the story, the hearer is the man fallen into the hands of the thieves (the fallen man) and must determine who is the neighbor. We are fallen and religion is of no help (i.e., the priest and the Levite). A stranger is the only one who can help; he is described in the same words that usually describe Jesus. He cares for us and pays for it all. The innkeeper is given 2 denarii – implies that Jesus will come on the third day to complete the work that he has begun. Have I put myself in the shoes of the fallen man? Have I appreciated the love of the good Samaritan? Now, go and do likewise. First experience the love of the good Samaritan, then go and do likewise.
Luke 10:28-29, 37 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But the expert, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
...The expert in religious law said, “The one who showed mercy to him.” So Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

The simple, child-like trusters will understand the things of God while the wise and learned will have it hidden. Where will God hide the truth? It is hidden on full display in Jesus. The good news is that the Son reveals the Father. Coming to Jesus means that we will be coming into true knowledge, coming into the true family and coming into true life. We're already yoked to something that burdens us – Jesus says lay it down and become yoked to him.
Matthew 11:25-30 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Lord's Day 25

Thoughts on Devotions – LD25

Q. 65 It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all His blessings: where then does that faith come from? Q. 66 What are the sacraments? Q. 67 Are both the word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation? Q. 68 How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?

DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, titles this chapter “Visible Signs of Invisible Grace.” He points out that the sacraments “do not 'accomplish' anything, because Christ's work is already finished.” - but they are signs and seals. Sacraments do not add to, earn or secure our salvation – they are signs and seals that confirm our faith and help us to understand the Gospel promises more clearly and assure us of salvation. The whole point as signs and seals is that we can see the sacraments – they are a visual proclamation of the Gospel that we hear preached.

Monday: Faith is the means by which we receive the blessings that Christ has earned. If salvation is a refreshing drink, faith is the cup. The Holy Spirit produces faith in our hearts - we were dead in our sins and needed regeneration (the work of the Spirit). The Spirit uses the preaching of the word, prompting us to respond in faith. The sacraments are tools that the Spirit uses to confirm our faith.
Romans 10:14, 17 How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? ... Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.
1 Cor. 10:16 Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ?
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;

Tuesday: What are the sacraments? They are the preaching of the Gospel in visual form. They are also a seal and a visual assurance that something is true and has actually taken place. The sacraments are ordained by Jesus – they provide a mark of authority. They also are something that we experience when we participate in them. We remember our own baptism when we see a baby or believer baptized; we taste the elements of communion and ingest them – the elements are real, the promises are real. We are assured of what we cannot see by that which we see, hear, touch and taste.
Luke 22:19-20 Then he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday: The promises of the Gospel are for those who are in Christ. When we are in Christ God sees us as though he is looking at Jesus – through Jesus' payment for our sin he sees us as without sin, and in the righteousness of Christ we are seen as perfect, even though we continue to struggle with sin all our life. It is a gift that we have in spite of what we deserve, not because of what we deserve.
Acts 10:36-43 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all) - you know what happened throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John announced: with respect to Jesus from Nazareth, that God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of all the things he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him up on the third day and caused him to be seen, not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses God had already chosen, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. About him all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Thursday: Both the Word and the Sacraments are “intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation.” Faithful preaching of the Word, no matter where the Bible text comes from, will focus on and proclaim the good news of what Jesus has done and what this has accomplished for us. This is good news for all people – even if we have heard it a thousand times we need to be reminded, we need to be called back from our wandering – it is so amazing that we tend to doubt that it can really be true, or begin to think that we must somehow do something to be worthy of this gift or add to it. The preaching of the Gospel must convince us again and again that it is true and that it is freely given. The Holy Spirit uses the preaching of the Word to strengthen our faith and to help us to respond with thanksgiving “doing the works that God has prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
1 Cor. 1:18-24 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent.” Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching. For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Friday: The Holy Spirit focuses our faith on who Jesus is and what he has done for us. In baptism water symbolizes cleansing, it also is a replacement for the OT practice circumcision marking a child as being in the covenant of God's people, and in immersion symbolizes burial and rebirth, death and resurrection. It also hearkens back to Bible stories in which God saves his people by taking them through water – Noah and the flood, Israel's exodus from Egypt, crossing the Jordan into the promised land. In the Lord's Supper we are reminded of Christ's broken body and shed blood, and that his sacrifice is for me (each of us) personally. The preaching of the Gospel, in word or in sacrament, points to Christ alone as the one who has accomplished all – and is a guarantee that we can confidently trust.
Colosians 2:12-15 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
1 Cor. 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lordʼs death until he comes.

Saturday: Why do we have 2 sacraments? Because that is how many Jesus himself instituted.
Luke 22:14-20 Now when the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table and the apostles joined him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Reading between the lines...

What can we tell by the gift given? If we give generously, it is often because if is not costing us a lot or impinging on what we normally do. The other option is that we greatly value the recipient – the gift expresses great emotion or great thanks-giving. We give cautiously or to the well deserving. God is diffenent – he gives profligately and only to the undeserving. He gives his very best to the very worst. Think of the way John 1 describes Jesus: 1) God's Word, 2) the everlasting expression of the Father's heart, 3) the co-creator of the universe, 4) the light of the world, 5) the glorious grace and truth of the Father, 6) the beloved one, eternally abiding in the Father's arms. The Father is father because of the Son – this further defines the magnitude of the gift. That the Son and Father are closely related in the Trinity expands on the relationship and the giving of the gift. God not only gives us a piece of himself, he gives us himself. God gives his Son to the world. John describes the world as organized opposition to God. The world hates the light and ultimately murders God's Son. God is giver though it cost him everything. In his incarnation Jesus became one of us – and eternally maintains that close connection with us. God does not love us because of what we are like, but because of what he is like. Do you feel that God loves you? Don't look within, do not examine whether you have been a worthy Christian – we have not, we are unlovely and rebellious, and yet God loves us. He gives his very best; God so loves me.
John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things under his authority.

What does God want from you? We spend a lot of time thinking about what we want, but if God exists what he wants must be one of the most important questions of life. This answer will depend on who you think God is. Many of the world's gods are takers – wanting humans to do their dirty work. The God of the Bible is a giver – his being is found in giving. If God is giver, how do we relate to him – as recipients. God is sender of his Son – we must be welcomers of his Son. God is lover – we must be beloved. That is what it means to be a creature of the giving, loving, sending God. If we are not receivers of the Son, then we cannot relate to this God. If we think we correspond to God but envision that we are his benefactors, always giving to him, it is not this God we are relating to. If we define ourselves as giving our lives to god, then it cannot be the biblical God. Only the empty handed child knows the heavenly father – we can relate to him only by faith alone. By receiving him we become children of God. To receive him is to believe in his name – this is how we become children of God. God sends his Spirit filled Son into the world and any who receive him receive life and adoption into the family. Jesus is the center of John 3:16 and defines all of the terms. What is it to believe? Accepting the Father's gift. What is it to perish? To exist apart from Jesus. What is eternal life? Having and knowing the Son of God. It begins now and stretches on into eternity by receiving his Son. What does God want from us? We are not in a position to give anything.
John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things under his authority.
John 1:12 But to all who have received him - those who believe in his name - he has given the right to become Godʼs children
1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life.

God is giver; we then must respond as receivers, to trust and believe. But Jesus is frequently found in the NT saying, “Oh you of little faith.” Only 2 people are described by Jesus as having great faith – the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman – neither are disciples or even Israelites. Usually his disciples are described as having little faith, characterized by fear. An example is Jesus walking on water, Peter's tentative steps and need for rescue. The story is a picture of the suffering and chaos of life. What does Jesus do? He joins us in the storm to lead us out. Christ treads on the abyss. Peter does not simply get out of the boat, he asks Jesus to command him – he knows the power of Jesus' word. He does the impossible because Jesus' word commands it. But he takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to sink. Even Peter after seeing Jesus walk on water and doing it himself has little faith. Do we have little faith? Yes! What should we do? In Jesus' calling out Peter's little faith, it is in the context of reaching out his hand to save him. It is not Peter's faith that saves him, it is Jesus who saves him – despite doubts and faithlessness. It is only after they have been safely carried through their faithlessness that they can rightly respond. Faith does not come by trying to be faithful. It comes when we take our eyes off of ourselves and look to Jesus.
Matthew 14:30-33 But when he saw the strong wind he became afraid. And starting to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matthew 14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them: “Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” -> alternate translation: Don't be afraid, I AM.
Matthew 14:32 When they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
2 Timothy 2:13 If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.

Three occasions on which Jesus said “Be of good cheer.” 1) to storm tossed sailors about to sink, 2) the night before he died and had predicted terrible trials for the disciples, 3) to a paralyzed man who needed four men to carry him. It seems that “cheer” would have been the last thing on people's minds. Why would he say “Be of good cheer” to a paralyzed man? What reason does he have to cheer up? - his sins are forgiven. We may be shocked because we focus on the physical – the man needs to be able to walk. Jesus' priority is forgiveness. The crowd is shocked because Jesus claims to be able to forgive sins – blasphemy! How can Jesus offer forgiveness? Only the offended party can offer forgiveness. The authorities were outraged because Jesus was essentially claiming to be God. The man probably appreciated being able to walk for many years. But ask him today and he would be able to say that the gift of forgiveness was the more valuable gift. Jesus backs up his divine claim with a divine act. Be of good cheer! Jesus message of forgiveness is for us too! If you have that you have everything.
Matthew 9:2 Just then some people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Have courage, son! Your sins are forgiven.” i.e., "Have courage" -> "be of good cheer" KJV

Many people feel too sinful to enter church – what would Jesus say? He enjoyed going to the homes and having dinner with some of the most notorious people of his day - a very unchurchy environment. The Pharisees complain about this – Jesus says it is the sick who need a doctor. The doctor will not spend much time with those who are well. Jesus is, similarly, for sinners. We all are sick with the same disease. The symptoms may look different – sometimes more obvious or more gross, but the underlying issue is the same. It is sin. If we do not come to Dr. Jesus that sickness will go on forever. Hell is allowing the sickness to go on, never taken to the doctor and healed. Hell is for the righteous – for those who consider themselves healthy, for those who refuse the doctor's care. The gateway to heaven could have a sign: Sinners only, the righteous need not apply. Thinking that you are too sinful for Jesus is like thinking that you are too sick for the doctor.
Matthew 9:10-13 As Jesus was having a meal in Matthewʼs house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this he said, “Those who are healthy donʼt need a physician, but those who are sick do. Go and learn what this saying means: ʻI want mercy and not sacrifice.ʼ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

What's it like to reach out with the good news of Jesus, to share your faith? Jesus sends his disciples/apostles out on mission. They have no earthly power, money or accommodations. They are like the the Lord who sends them. They have access to heavenly power but they are weak – their mission is not one of force or coercion. They go with a simple message that their listeners can either take or leave. If the message is not received they are to move on. Christianity is spread by faith, not by force. Therefore Christ's missionaries do not go out from a position of strength, but from a position of weakness. Jesus sends his witnesses as sheep among wolves. This is the pattern of all ministry. That is why it feels so difficult. But we have been warned. Actually there is power in this weakness – Revelation tells a story about a battle between a lamb and a dragon. What hope does a lamb have in that situation; what hope does the Prince of Peace have against the violent forces of hell; what hope do we have against principalities and powers? Revelation tells us that we have great hope – the lamb who was slain conquers the world. He was still slain – he triumphs through weakness. In the end he slays the dragon with the sword that comes out his mouth. The word of Christ proves victorious over the powers of evil. What about his people? Revelation 12:11 tells us that we triumph over the Dragon through the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. In the battle between the Dragon and Lamb there is no contest; in our battle, sheep among wolves, with the Lamb on our side an with his word on our lips we cannot lose!
Matthew 10:5-16 Jesus sent out these twelve, instructing them as follows: “Do not go to Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town. Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ʻThe kingdom of heaven is near!ʼ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not take gold, silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for the journey, or an extra tunic, or sandals or staff, for the worker deserves his provisions. Whenever you enter a town or village, find out who is worthy there and stay with them until you leave. As you enter the house, give it greetings. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not welcome you or listen to your message, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or that town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town! “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
Revelation 12:11 But they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.

Sheep, wolves, serpents and doves, oh my! The weakness of sheep, the ferocity of wolves, the wisdom of serpents, and the innocence of doves. “Witness” is the same word as “martyr” in Greek. Witnesses, to Jesus, are martyrs – they do not love their lives so much that they shrink form death. If it is that dangerous to be public about Christianity, what advice does Jesus give? He says, “be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” The only place where serpents are held up as positive role models, and its pairing with the dove is surprising. Be clever, think! But at the same time be pure. Both the serpent and the dove are wise – need for careful thought when speaking up for Jesus. We don't need the cunning underhandedness of the serpent, but we do need the purified wisdom of the Spirit. Jesus had this wisdom, but it did not prevent him from being torn like a sheep among wolves. The wisdom Jesus prescribes is not a way to avoid suffering – often Christians think that is the case. There is no trouble-free course for sheep among wolves. Since we can only be martyred once, let us sheep pray to the good shepherd that we may know his dove-like purity in the midst of our trials and his serpentine wisdom to pick the right battles and make them count.

Matthew 10:16 “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."