Thursday, February 24, 2011

You Have Faith For Today, But Will You Have Faith For Tomorrow?

Each of us has the potential to deny Jesus Christ. Perhaps that shocks you, but many of us are untested in our faith, never having been put into a situation where declaring Jesus could cost us our lives. This is happening daily around the world but seldom in North America, so we are good at playing the life of faith but can we do the real thing? Most of us continue to think that faith is no more than trusting God's provision to help us put food on the table and to pay bills for which we have no money. There is no denying that this too is a form of faith but our depth has to be greater than food and bills. Too many of us live in our own strength with Jesus on the side where we only call on him during the tough moments. We don't think we do but we do:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Understand, this is not hope as the world understands hope, a longing for something that there is a chance you won't receive, but instead a hope that is certain, of which we know we are guaranteed, that we lean on and put our trust in. So much so that when it comes down to choice we know the reality is that we have no choice because we are sticking to the one thing we are certain of receiving. We know that even if every single thing was stripped away from us and the world was turned upside down, we would still have Jesus, and that is all we need. But we are also capable of being traitors to our own faith.

We have to be very careful that our faith is not born out of our own determination and our own strength because that is not real faith but self-ability. We are capable people and when we put our mind to it we can overcome most things. This is why we should not despise the testing of our faith, when we are put into situations that are beyond us, taking us to the point of breaking. It is better to have our faith tested here then to find out that our faith is useless as we are standing before Jesus. There is no way we want to find out on that day that our faith is counterfeit. We may be praising Jesus today in the sunshine but will we be praising him tomorrow in the rain. Peter thought he was stronger than he was, but Jesus knew the truth of his heart:

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:33-35) 

Mere hours later we find Peter doing exactly what he said he would not do:

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. (Matthew 26:69-70)

Peter was lost, scared, alone and just trying to survive. The determination he had spoken before was real in the moment but he could never have imagined it would be like this. His whole world was gone, all his expectations were shattered, three years of his life just turned to smoke. All he had left was his life and now that seemed to be under threat. This was not just a casual denial, it intensified as it went along:

Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:71-72)

With an oath this time. He was really scared. Jesus was no longer there to fill him with courage. As long as Jesus was around he felt special, strong, overjoyed. But now Jesus was hidden away and Peter did not know if he would ever see him again. Now he was under attack and if this crowd could verify that he was indeed a disciple of Jesus he might just lose his life too; "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you."

After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.”
Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:73-74)

Calling down curses on himself and swearing that his lies were the truth. Peter had slipped back into his old ways. It had only taken a few hours to go from defender of his faith to a lying denier of it. What would it take to strip our faith away, if indeed what we have can be called faith? Are we much different then Peter? I hope so because there are some fundamental differences.

First, Peter has yet to encounter the resurrected Jesus. Even though he had confessed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God he did not understand the reality of this. The reality would come in a few days, in the meantime Peter was alone. We know the resurrected Jesus and his power and all the promises he has made to us. We are rich in the Word and are in a better place than Peter.

Second, Peter did not have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would not be given for a number of days yet. Jesus had to do a bit of work after the resurrection and before his ascension. It would not be until his return to the Father that he would send the Holy Spirit to live in all those who have confessed Jesus as Lord and Saviour. What a difference in Peter when he does send the Spirit. That is who we are today, those possessed by the Holy Spirit and the resurrection power. We are not a normal version of ourselves, but instead we are a transformed creation, fully possessed by the Holy Spirit, having the presence and power of Jesus with us all the time. We have no excuse for denying Jesus. But is this our reality?

If our faith is genuine we will be able to stand up in any storm, even in the storm to end all storms. Even if we are not here for the duration of the end times we are going to be here for enough of it. It is going to get bad and our faith will be tested on many levels. If it is not genuine then we risk being swept away by fear, worry, anxiety and the doubt these things produce. If we are strong in Jesus then nothing can touch our faith but if we have only been play acting then we will be in a lot of trouble. The days are really getting short now, the fig branch is tender, the season is upon us so now is the time to check your heart, check your relationship with Jesus, clean house, get rid of the garbage, submit to the love and direction of the Father. It is time to make sure that you have no hatred or bitterness in you, that forgiveness as a result of love has swept everything clean out of your heart.

It is time to make sure that you are anchored to Jesus. When the storm hits it will be furious and those who are not anchored will be swept away in an instant. There will be a great falling away from the faith and we need to do everything we can to make sure that you and I and the people in our sphere of influence are not part of that falling away. Check yourself and then encourage others. Do not be like Peter, self-confident one hour and in the next denying Jesus with curses. We are more than that and we have a duty to each other:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10) 

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