Do Not Be Afraid

Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side of the sea,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Matthew 14:22-27

This passage is so powerful for anyone who struggles with fear and anxiety from time to time, or perhaps all the time. The full passage goes as far as verse 36 in this chapter in Matthew’s Gospel, but this is as far as I made it this morning.

Spend a bit of time actually imagining this scene. See if you can enter into the boat with the disciples and be tossed around with them by the sea. It’s pretty scary. There is something about the waves and wind that can make it seem as though the sea has a mind of its own, a personality of its own. This personality of the sea – the sea god, we might say – is out to torture these men in the boat. The fear caused by this sea god can be crippling, even for these men who call themselves disciples of Jesus Christ.

It’s almost as though this scene provides for the disciples a test of faith: Who is your God? Is your God Jesus, as you say he is, or do you believe this body of water has more power to control your life than the person of Jesus? If it weren’t for the storm, I’m certain the disciples would quickly and easily claim Jesus as Lord of their lives, but this storm seems so powerful here and now. It doesn’t seem to be such an easy decision anymore, even though they have encountered such powerful grace from Jesus Christ. This is something I think we can all relate to: Fear so easily distracts us from keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. We need so much more faith! When fear is not present, we know the decision is clear and obvious: Jesus Christ is Lord. Nothing and no one comes close. But when fear is present, things become cloudy. Yet look at what Jesus does.

Jesus comes to them in the middle of their fear and speaks to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” He allows the struggle to go on and then speaks his divine Word into the situation, his Word which brings new life and new faith in him. How often, when we are afraid, do we try to run from the fear? Yet Jesus wants to speak to us in the midst of the fear. He wants to build our faith in him by destroying the false god our fear has createdHe doesn’t make the storm go away, but instead destroys the false god by revealing his overpowering presence in the midst of it.

This is powerful. Spend some time today praying in those areas of greatest fear; see if Jesus has any words of encouragement or consolation for you. Ask him to build your faith in his divine power by destroying any false gods your fear has built up.

Be Accountable!

bible

Perhaps you’ve heard this story before:

John heard something good in the sermon on Sunday and it changed the way he looks at life. He gives his life to the Lord and commits to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He’s going to spend time in prayer each day – he decides 20 minutes of silent prayer is a good place to start and he can build from there – and read at least one chapter of the Bible each day as well. He’s going to strive for the Kingdom of Heaven and so give up this sin or that. Everything is going to be different from now on. His friends wouldn’t really understand where he’s coming from, so he decides to keep it a secret between him and God, though he still plans to keep his friends – they’re not really bad guys anyways, but just unchurched. Maybe someday they’ll have a conversion moment like John did, and then they’ll be able to talk about things like this openly. Until then, John will stick to his private commitment and go from there.

A week later, things are going pretty well for John. He’s stuck to his 20 minutes of prayer and he even read two chapters of the Bible instead of one a couple times this week. Then one evening after work John sits down to watch his favorite TV show, but remembers that he hasn’t yet spent his time in prayer for the day. He was looking forward to this TV show all day, though, and really wants to watch it. Besides, he can pray after the show; it won’t make any difference. During the show, the advertisements for the next show are very enticing and pique John’s interest. He’s got to see what happens! Pretty soon one show turns into three. As he’s getting ready for bed John remembers that he still hasn’t prayed and read the Bible like he committed to. He thinks to himself, “It’s been a long day and I really need to get some sleep. Besides, God won’t mind if I miss one day of prayer. This is between him and me anyways, so it will be alright.” John makes sure to pray the next day and read his chapter of the Bible. The day after that, though, John and his friends decide they’re going to go out for a little entertainment. Again, John forgets to pray and decides not to pray when he remembers before bedtime. Pretty soon, John starts to forget more often and starts to lose the habit of prayer he had been trying to form. Everyday he justifies his actions: “I think of God all throughout the day. He doesn’t mind if I don’t sit down for 20 minutes to pray. If he wanted me to pray like that, he would remind me. I hear passages from the Bible at church on Sundays; I don’t need to hear any more than that. God would tell me if I needed to change the way I’m doing things.”

How easy it is to fall away from the Lord! Soon enough John won’t find it convenient enough to go to church on Sundays, so he’ll justify his absence by noting the Lord’s apparent desire that he get a little extra sleep on Sunday mornings. If only he would have told someone else about his commitment to be a disciple! We need to have other disciples in our lives to keep us accountable to our commitments to the Lord! Imagine what it would have been like if John would have told a fellow disciple about his commitment to follow Jesus. This other disciple would have asked him periodically whether he was holding strong to his commitment, and would have encouraged him to persevere on the way to Heaven. Instead he so easily slipped away from the narrow path and ended up on the broad path that leads to the wide gate, which leads to destruction:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14.

Narrow-Gate

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must find other disciples who will keep us from slipping away from the narrow road. It’s so easy to slip away! We must find other disciples who will earnestly hold us accountable in our errors, not out of spite but out of love for us.

Resolutions usually only work if I tell someone (in addition to the Lord) what I’ve resolved to do or not do, and if he or she holds me accountable. I might resolve to cease complaining about the weather, but that won’t matter if no one else knows. I’ll start to see how hard it is and so allow exceptions. Pretty soon those exceptions become the norm and I’ll find myself back where I started. My will power increases if I know I’ve got to report to someone who will prick my conscience if I mess up, or who will genuinely encourage me after I’ve messed up. Sometimes the Lord feeds us through other people, especially when we would rather take the easier road.

Psalm 16 and What Jesus Knows /// A Deep Thought with a Simple Example

What was in the mind of Jesus, when He walked around Israel in our human flesh?
He was God before He came.
He is God after He ascends.
But what about when He came and walked around on earth?

Did He know everything that was going to happen for Him?  Did He know that He was going to suffer and die and rise on the 3rd day?

jesus praying

This huge question has been asked for centuries, since Jesus is a divine Person, with a divine nature and a human nature: Did Jesus possess divine knowledge, since He took on everything it means to be man, except sin.  “Therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people” Hebrews 2:17.  So, did He not know the things that God knows?

Did Jesus know what God knows, or only what man can know?

In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, Peter gets up and speaks.  He quotes from Psalm 16 and talks about David.  This is a very profound, and very simple, place to dig up a lot of awesomeness.

Peter Preaching

Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2: A breathed upon text, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who with the Son and the Father is God.

Psalm 16, verses 8-11: A breathed upon text, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who with the Son and the Father is God.

Jesus: The 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity.  Before taking on Flesh and the name Jesus, He existed forever with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and who, after dying and rising, took this Flesh with Him back to the right of the Father, to exist with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever.

OK, let’s break this down more.  When using the name Jesus, which He received in time, I am referring to the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, even though He didn’t have the name Jesus before he took on Flesh.  He has always been and will always be the eternal Son of the Father, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

That means that Jesus was with the Father and the Holy Spirit before He took on flesh.  That means that Jesus is with the Father and the Holy Spirit while He is in the flesh.  That means that Jesus will always be with the Father and the Holy Spirit after ascending to Heaven.  That means that there is no time when Jesus is apart from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Let’s break this down another way, using these Scriptures as an example.

Before Jesus took on Flesh, He breathed with the Father the Holy Spirit upon David, who wrote Psalm 16, verses 8-11.  So, Jesus knew this passage as He inspired David to write it.  “I keep the LORD always before me; with the LORD at my right, I shall never be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure, for you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit.  You will show me the path of life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever” Psalm 16: 8-11.

bible-open-on-psalms

After Jesus ascended to the Father, taking His seat at the right of the Father, He breathed with the Father the Holy Spirit upon Peter, who took again these same words from Psalm 16, and applied them explicitly to the resurrection of Jesus. cf. Acts 2:25-36.

Jesus knew what Psalm 16 was going to be about
when He breathed it through David.
Jesus knew what Psalm 16 was going to be applied to
when He breathed it through Peter.
Jesus has never not been united to
the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus read the Psalms when He was in the Flesh.  Jesus read Psalm 16 when He was in the Flesh.  Is there any difficulty in thinking that since He had always known what that passage would mean from all eternity and that He would again in Acts refer to what that passage meant for all eternity, that Jesus knew what this passage meant when He read it in the Flesh?

Maybe this is a no-brainer for you.  But, for many who have reflected on what it means that Jesus became like His brothers in all things, they have been trying to figure out what Jesus knew in the Flesh.  Did He have Divine knowledge or only Human knowledge.

Jesus knew what Psalm 16 was going to mean from all eternity, all the way back, prior to creation.

Jesus knows what Psalm 16 means in reference to His resurrection, after He ascended to the Father, forward for all eternity.

Jesus knew, when He was in the Flesh, what Psalm 16 meant in reference to Him.  He inspired David and was going to inspire Peter.  He Himself is Inspired.

One passage: Psalm 16: 8-11.  A whole lot of realities.  Before, during, and after.  So much to absorb for us.  Thus it is with God and His Word!

“Who is and who was and who is to come” Revelation 1:4.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” Hebrews 13:8.

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