Unstuck (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

UNSTUCK (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the Newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 29, 2018)

“The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: ‘You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey. . .’” (Deuteronomy 1:6-7a)

 “So you remained in Kadesh many days. . .”(Deuteronomy 1:46)

“. . . and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. “And the LORD spoke to me, saying: ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward . . .’”(Deuteronomy 2:1-3)

Human beings are prone to getting stuck in a rut. Sometimes, it’s because we’re afraid of facing the challenges waiting ahead. Other times, it’s because we get comfortable in our misery. Either way, we fail to move forward in life and we miss out on the many blessings that God has for us. It’s easier to blame or feel self-pity than to accept responsibility for our inactions. We would rather complain and compare than confront our complacency.

This is nothing new. The people of Israel were stuck for 40 years in the wilderness. First, it was at Mount Sinai for eleven months. Here they encountered God, received the gift of the law, saw the holiness of God, and built the Tabernacle. This was not a waste of time. But, instead of moving forward with renewed faith, they decided to camp there indefinitely. God had to push them out. They made their way to Kadesh Barnea from where they could see the Promised Land. God helped them to organize themselves through Moses. They had seen enough wonders to know that God was with them. Again, instead of moving forward in faith, they refused God’s command to take the land. God condemned that generation to die in the wilderness over the next 38 years. Only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb survived because they believed God. As if all this was not enough warning to the next generation, they too decided to skirt Mount Seir for many days! God had to tell them what he had told their parents and grandparents 40 years earlier – “Enough going in circles! Move forward!”

Here are some questions to consider: Are you stuck? Are you wasting time going in circles? What is it that’s keeping you from moving forward? Would you rather skirt the mountain in your life than step out in faith? Do you blame others for your indecisions? Is crying and complaining easier than climbing and conquering? These are tough questions but unless you answer them honestly, there will be no progress in your life.

The place to begin is not by self-determination and self-will or even clarifying your goals or your strategy. Begin by clarifying who God is and whether you know him. Many times, our lack of movement is directly proportional to the size of our God. People who serve a big God attempt big things in life. But, it’s not enough to believe in a big God. You also have to know his heart for you. The only way to come to him is by first coming to his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said,“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.(John 14:6). If you don’t know Jesus, receive him today as Savior and King. If you do know him, it’s time to get unstuck from the rut and move forward!

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 7, 2017)

bef00a78-d76b-461a-be58-7037520c4569This is the time of the year when many people struggle to keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to some surveys, about 70% are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions like growing in Christ, reading the Bible, praying, serving in church, etc. Another year comes and goes and there’s zero progress. In Luke 9 Jesus met three such individuals who were buried in the graveyard of excuses. Let’s see if we can learn something from their encounters:

  1. Grave of Comfort – Verse 57 “…Someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple willing to follow Jesus anywhere. In actuality, he was a young man looking to tag along Rabbi Jesus for a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices. Jesus knew his heart and bluntly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not calling him to give up his Sleep Number bed or his Tempur-Pedic pillow and wander around and live under some tree like a hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble. Instead, Jesus was telling him – “To follow me, you have to choose the uncomfortable life. Previously, it was comfortable to tolerate some old sin, habit, grudge, behavior, or desire in your life but following me will require giving them up. How much are you willing to sacrifice?”
  2. Grave of Obligations – Verse 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” What a strange request! Was the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! No. What the man was really saying was “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I will follow you.” He was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s heart too and responded trenchantly – 60 “…Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How could Jesus be so harsh?! Was he actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Again, don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. But in this situation, the man was using his obligations to keep him from obeying God. Jesus was telling him – “Life will never settle down. There will always be another obligation. Follow me now or never.”
  3. Grave of One Last Glance – Verse 61 “…Another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’” This sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? – “At least my loved ones deserve to know that I’m leaving.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s real intention. He wanted to take that one last look to make sure that this was a right decision. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who took that fatal glance and like Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. What do they see? Some see pain and feel they can’t leave until they’ve healed; some see regrets and feel they can’t leave until they’ve fixed things; some see failures and feel their past would repeat again; and some even see the disappointed faces of their loved ones and feel they can’t let them down. Jesus warned him – 62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church told me that when he used to plow with a mule, he would find a fixed point in front and keep his eyes on it. When he looked straight ahead, he had straight rows behind him but if he turned back, he was all over the place. If your spiritual life is all over the place, it’s time to look ahead to Jesus.

By the way, before you can leave your grave of excuses to follow Jesus, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death by asking him to be your Savior. Happy Resurrection!

SECRET TO THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE (Article)

SECRET TO THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 10, 2015)

According to popular research, this year’s resolutions were no different than the years before – “Get More Sleep,” “Save Money,” “Quit Smoking or Drinking,” and, top of the list as always, “Loose Weight.” Oh yes – there was also “Flossing!” I guess nobody wants a “Bridge Over Troubled Molars!” But sadly, most people’s resolutions go in one year and out the next. Why is that? It’s because of a three-letter word that has all but disappeared from American Christianity. It only brings up images of Bible thumping preachers in tent revivals. It conjures up feelings of guilt and condemnation. I’m talking about the word “Sin.” Now before you throw down this paper, I urge you to suspend your judgment briefly and keep reading. This may hold the secret to the best year of your life! Here’s why –

  1. Our fundamental problem is Sin – We have renamed and redressed our problems but sin “by any other name” still reeks of sin: selfishness, pride, envy, jealousy, anger, hate, bitterness, lying, control issues, insecurities, bad habits, addictions, sexual sins, lust, pornography, lack of discipline (food, time, thoughts), lack of obedience, lack of commitment, and everything that’s anti-God. Unfortunately, we are both sinners by nature and sinners by choice. We are born in iniquity and sins (Psalm 51:5) and then we deliberately choose to go astray (Isaiah 53:6).
  2. Sin destroys our life – Initially, sin is not a big deal but “its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Take for example something as seemingly harmless as “time-management.” So many people have made resolutions to manage time better in 2015. Here’s a question: Why do we waste time? First, we think it’s our time. That’s a lie. It’s God’s time. He has given the same amount of time to the President and the man living on the street. When we waste time, we are wasting His time, which is a form of stealing. That’s a sin. Second, we spend countless hours in mindless entertainment, trolling on Facebook, sticking our nose in other people’s business, or fighting endlessly in marriage and relationships. We have lost sight of God’s purpose for our lives and do not care to seek first His kingdom and righteousness. That’s a sin. Third, we waste time because we presume that others will pick up our slack. In essence, we look down on other people’s schedules and lives. That’s a sin. Fourth, we take on too many things and then we cannot manage our time. Somehow we think too highly of our selves. That’s a sin. Fifth, we waste time because we do not value our own selves. As someone said, “If you value your self, you will value your time.” If you are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” then so is your time. Lack of self-worth comes from believing what we or someone else have said about us rather than what God has said about us. That’s a sin. Need I go on!

If you open your eyes, you will see that sin is destroying marriages, goals, success, health and everything that is wonderful.

  1. Sin needs a Savior – Even though sin is the ultimate culprit behind all our problems, it is ultimately against God. God is Holy and He cannot tolerate even a speck of sin. Hence, Jesus came and took the penalty of sin upon Himself by dying on the cross. By receiving Him as your Savior you don’t have to face the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9) But there’s more! Jesus “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age.” (Galatians 1:4) Of course, one day we will be permanently free from the presence of sin but even now we have been set free from the power of sin. As we look to the Holy Spirit, He helps us to reject sin and walk in righteousness (Romans 8:2-4). In the famous hymn “O for a thousand tongues to sing,” Charles Wesley writes, “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free.”

Repentance Anyone?!!

ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING

ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

One New Years Resolution Worth Keeping

We’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in Luke 3 for our message titled, “ONE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION WORTH KEEPING.” According to a recent research, here are the popular New Year’s Resolutions in 2015 – 10. Get More Sleep; 9. Volunteer; 8. Travel; 7. Floss; 6. Save Money; 5. Reach Goals; 4. Learn a Language; 3. Go Green; 2. Quit Smoking or Drinking; 1. Lose Weight. There’s one that I have a feeling is not on anyone’s list but it holds the key to all the rest: True Repentance.

Luke 3   7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Overall Background: The Word of God came to John in the wilderness. If you remember, it was not just a geographical wilderness but also political, moral, and spiritual wilderness. God hadn’t spoken to His people in 400 years and suddenly there was a voice crying in the wilderness. This voice was a lone voice, a simple voice, and a voice full of holy conviction. And people began to come. Matthew tells us in chapter 3, verse 5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. That’s powerful! What’s even more powerful is what these people did! They confessed their sins – they repented.

Unfortunately, repentance is a foreign word in American Christianity today. We talk about how to find God’s will and how to have our best life and how to be happy but repentance – no time for that. But this is where it starts. The closer you draw to God, the more you begin to see your sinfulness and the need for repentance.

Application: May I ask you – Are you tired of sin ruling your life? Is it the sin of a habit/addiction? Is it the sin of an attitude – selfishness, anger, control, or insecurity? Is it the sin of lack of discipline – food, time management, or thoughts? You say you are saved – is there a difference between you and those who are lost? Then, there’s one solution – Repentance. Here’s an important question – Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? If not, then you need Conversion not Confession.

This morning let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the truth about Repentance so this could really be your best year ever. 3 things we will see in this passage:

 I. SIN MAKES US AN ENEMY OF GOD.

7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

John the Baptist - crowdBackground: Good gracious! Why did John say something like that? Isn’t that what he wanted? Weren’t people (some Pharisees and Sadducees) responding to the voice crying in the wilderness? If it we’re me, I would’ve put together a welcome packet with all the ministries for every need in your family. I would’ve organized a welcome committee with the friendliest people to serve as ushers. Instead, he calls them “sons of snakes.” Because vipers throughout the Old Testament refer to God’s enemies. Imbedded in here is a powerful principle – Sin puts us at enmity with God. When you and I come to God (lost or saved), we are immediately confronted by God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Psalm 5:4 “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You.” Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you.” The closer to get to the light, the more you see the dirt in your life.

At the moment you are confronted, if you raise up your hands and say – “Guilty as charged. I need Jesus,” it’s good. At that point John 3:16 goes into action – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But if you come with anything other than the blood of Christ to cover you, now the wrath of God is upon you. Listen to verse 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.’ Meaning: Don’t trust in your pedigree. Don’t trust in your church membership. Don’t trust in the fact that you came. These people were sincere. None of that can save you from God’s wrath. Keep listening to verse 8 “…For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Application: How do you see yourself in light of God’s holiness? As a lost person, do you think God will excuse you based on some good you’ve done? As a saved person, you know God and that’s good but are you bearing good fruit or is there sin in your life? Do you realize how much God abhors our sin? These are very important questions. Unless you get this right, no amount of resolutions and promises will make the year blessed.

II. SIN DESTROYS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS.

10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”

John the Baptist - Tax CollectorsIf you noticed, each of these commands has to do with their relationship with fellow human beings. Let’s look at each of them for a moment:

  1. The first one – “People – If you have 2 coats and see someone who is cold, share.” Sin has a way of making us insensitive to others. Nothing wrong with wearing well and eating well but there’s something wrong when our brother/sister is cold and hungry. Sin makes us care for our own comfort and well-being. Now, don’t immediately run out and start clothing the homeless and feeding the hungry. Start with your own home. Wives – are you known as a selfish person? Husband – are you known as a self-centered person who always gets what he wants?
  2. The second one – “Tax Collectors – Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” Sin has a way of making us greedy for a little bit more. Nothing wrong with making a profit and doing better in life but there’s something wrong when we care more about stuff than people. Sin makes us dissatisfied no matter how much we have. Sin creates a bottomless pit in our heart. In fact, we are even willing to throw our husband, wife, and children down the bottomless pit of greed.
  3. The third one – “Soldiers – Don’t intimidate or false accuse anyone.” Sin makes us a bully and do whatever it takes (lie and cheat) to get our way. Bullying happens not just on the school playground but also in the home. Words are said and threats are used that have no business in Christian homes. The past is held over the head and the future is used as a threat rather than something to look forward to.

Bottom line: Sin is not just a subject for theologs. Sin is not just the quirk of some Ole Timey preacher. Sin is not just the junk on TV put out by Hollywood. Sin is with us everyday and it affects our relationship with our loved ones, neighbors, and co-workers. Instead of avoiding the subject, it needs to be preached more! It is the problem.

For e.g. We make resolutions to lose weight. Why do we eat more? It’s all right to eat because you’re hungry or the food tastes good but its not all right as an emotional need. Why do our emotions go out of whack? Because of our relationships.

Application: Have you realized how real sin is in your life? Do you see how much it corrupts your daily relationships? Do you see that you can’t go forward and make resolutions and set goals unless you deal with sin? Are you willing to deal with sin?

III. SIN NEEDS A SAVIOR.

15 Now as the people were in expectation,

Background: What were they expecting? After all, they’ve been baptized, they’ve been confronted with their sin, and they’ve been told what to do and not to do. What more is there? Listen to the next line – “and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not.” They were still expecting the Christ! Why? Because the Christ was going to do something more for them. Listen to verse 16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. What exactly is John saying? He is drawing a line of demarcation between himself and Jesus. The people were starting to look at John as their hope. But John quickly put an end to that. Sometimes people start looking at pastors and teachers with adoration. Don’t get me wrong, there should be respect but don’t worship the man.

What will this Mightier One do? Listen to last line of verse 16 “…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” What does that mean? What is the difference between the baptism with water and the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire? They had been saved from the wrath to come but they had not been set free from the power of sin. By receiving Jesus as your Savior, you don’t have to face the penalty of sin but unless you truly appropriate what Jesus did for you, you will still be in bondage to the power of sin. That’s why some Christians keep going back to old habits and old attitudes and old sins and old hang-ups. They are going to heaven but it’s like hell all the way there. They’re still selfish, self-centered, greedy, intimidating, liars, and cheats. They feel guilty for their behavior and feel condemned. They make promises to do better but go back to the old ways.

So what’s the solution? Baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire. Paul explains to us a little bit more in Romans 8 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. Being baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire means that now I am under the command and leadership of the Holy Spirit. He is in charge over me. In order to sin I have to get permission from Him. I daily submit myself to Him and He leads me in right way. Listen to Romans 8:6 “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

And he also brings fire. What does that do? 17 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” For the lost, the fire is hell but for the saved person, the fire is a purifier. It refines us and cleanses us. It is just like the fire at the landfill versus the fire at the silversmith.

Illustration: Charles Wesley’s hymn illustrates this well –

O for a thousand tongues to sing,

My great Redeemer’s praise,

The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace!

…………

He breaks the power of canceled sin,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean,

His blood availed for me.

Are you saved? Has the power of canceled sin broken in your life through the Holy Spirit?

HOW TO CLOSE OUT 2012?

HOW TO CLOSE OUT 2012? by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Today is the last Sunday of 2012 and in two days we will enter into 2013. How you begin 2013 will depend on how you end 2012. With that in mind I want to preach a message titled, “HOW TO CLOSE OUT 2012?”

 John 13:33-38 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” 36Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.

Overall Background: The passage we just read took place in the final hours before Jesus was betrayed. He was sitting in the upper room with His disciples. They had just finished the Passover meal. Jesus had just informed the disciples that one of them would betray Him. You can just imagine the atmosphere of the room. As they say – “you could cut the air with a knife.” It was tense; it was sad; it was confusing. Occasionally, you could hear “Lord is it I?” – “Am I the one who will betray you?”
After the real betrayer—Judas Iscariot—walks out of the room, Jesus says to His disciples in verse 33 “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come….’”
That’s a loaded statement. In other words – “I have to walk down the road where you cannot follow me.” “I have some work to do but you cannot help me.”

For e.g. Growing up like any little boy, I wanted to help dad. Most of the time he would let me help him and even teach me how to do it. But sometimes, if the work was dangerous—electrical work, heavy work—he would tell me to step back. I remember distinctly – we were clearing out an old shed and from the looks of it, it was the perfect hideout for snakes. I remember my dad telling me – “Don’t come back here. I am going to go in.”

Jesus was telling His disciples – “You have followed me this far and that is great but now I need you to step back.” Why did He need them to step back? You and I who are living on this side of the cross, we know the path that Jesus was about to take. He was about to go to the cross. He was about to do what was purposed since the beginning of time – the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He was about to do what all the prophets had prophesied in the Bible. He was about to do what He left His throne in heaven to do. Jesus was about to go to the cross and give His life as a sacrifice for our sins. No one could follow Him there.

Application: Let me say this as clearly as possible. You and I cannot go down that path. We cannot die for our sins. We cannot earn our own salvation. We can do all the nice things in the world—help people, feed the hungry, visit the sick, volunteer at the homeless shelter—but it will not take us down the path of salvation. Not only that but no one but Jesus can walk that path for you. I cannot walk that path for you. You cannot walk that path for me. Your parents cannot walk that path for you. The church cannot walk that path for you. No great personality–past, present, or future–can walk the path for you. All you can do is step back and see Jesus walking to the cross, being nailed to the cross, and dying on the cross for your sins. All you can do is accept His sacrifice for your sins and thank Him for walking that path for you. Have you done that?

Let’s go back to the story – you can imagine the look of confusion and doubt in the faces of the disciples. What do you mean, “Where I am going, you cannot come?” So Jesus tells them what to do in the meantime. Go to verse 33 again: “so now I say to you. 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Jesus knew that in His absence the disciples would turn on each other. They would launch an investigation into who betrayed their Master. They would split into groups and factions and divisions. They would blame each other and tear each other apart. What’s more? They would even blame themselves. In the end, there would be nothing left.

So he says again in verse 35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus is saying – “This is the test. People are watching you. Don’t try to come after Me. Don’t try to tear each other apart. Satan wants to tear you apart. Just show the world the love you have for each other.”

By the way, what is the standard of this love? “love one another; as I have loved you,”

  • What  do you do when you feel angry, bitter, jealous, frustrated with someone? Insist on loving them the way I have loved you.
  • What do you do when you find yourself at the point of speaking hatefully, critically, and angrily to someone? Overcome evil with good. Overcome hatred with love.
  • What do you do when you cannot stand someone? Do not wait to feel kindly towards that person. Act kindly and do it immediately. Go out of your way to show love.

In other words, show each other the I Corinthians 13 kind of love – 4Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never fails.

Application: May I ask you – What was your standard of love in 2012? Was it “I will love you as long as you do this?” or was it “I will love you as long as you don’t do this? Are you ready to close out 2012? Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? Is there someone from whom you need forgiveness?

Let’s go back to the story – instead of obeying Christ’s commandment to love each other, Peter insists on following Jesus. Listen to verse 36 onwards. 36Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” In other words, Jesus says, “Don’t follow me.” Peter says, “I will follow you anyways.”

In a moment of passion and emotion, Peter did not stop to think about what he was saying – “I will follow you now.” “I will lay down my life for Your sake.” This was not a mark of great discipleship. This was a mark of the flesh. This kind of thinking did not seek to glorify Christ. It was speaking in the power of self. It was seeking to glorify self.

What was Jesus’ response? Jesus did not commend Peter for this. To the contrary, listen to Jesus’ words to Peter in verse 38 “Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.’” In other words, “Peter – you think you will do the best you can to follow Me. Before the night’s over, you will deny me three times.”

It happened exactly the way Jesus said it would happen. Peter not only denied Jesus three times but he also cursed Him in front of everybody – “I do not know the Man!” Right then the rooster crowed and Peter remembered the words of Jesus. Matthew tells us in Matthew 26:75 that “he went out and wept bitterly.”

That is the picture of every believer who tries to do things in the flesh.

Application: Look back at 2012. I can guarantee that every one of your low moments were moments when you tried to do things in your flesh – in your own power. I will do this. I will make it happen. I will do the best I can for the Lord. You fell flat on your face. You did completely opposite of what you started out doing. It brought out the worst in you. You ended up with mud in your face.

Back to the story – Did Jesus disqualify Peter? Did He demote Peter? No. Why? Because Jesus already knew what Peter was going to do.

Application: Your low moments, your weak moments, your failures in 2012 did not surprise Jesus.

The Holy Spirit through Luke gives us some additional information about the conversation between Peter and Jesus. Listen to Luke 22:31-34 31And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”

Jesus not only knew what Peter was going to do but He gave Satan permission to sift Peter. He allowed him to fall on His face.

Application: God was not only aware of your failures in 2012 but He also allowed them. Like Peter you may weep bitterly and look back at your low moments with regret but God is not looking at you with condemnation.

Jesus allowed Peter to fall on His face to reveal to him the failure of the flesh. Now when Peter returned, he was no longer trusting in self but in Christ. Jesus never gave up on Peter. In fact, He knew what Peter was going to do one day.

Application: So also with us. God takes us down the path of defeat to reveal to us the failure of the flesh and the need to rely on Christ. He builds us up in faith and get’s us to rely on Christ instead of self.

Some of us are looking at 2012 with regrets; some of us are looking at 2012 with shame; some of us are looking at 2013 with hopelessness and despair. God wants us to revise our outlook on the past year. There might be places that we need to seek His forgiveness—sins that need to be confessed; wrongs that need to be made right; attitudes that need to change. Having said that, know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Make a resolution to step into the New Year – not to be a better person or do the best we can but make a decision to rest in Christ – to see that the Old Self has been crucified, buried, and resurrected in Christ; to walk with our eyes set upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; to trust Him more; to seek Him more; to love Him more.

When Jesus returned to the disciples after the resurrection, He asked Peter three times. Do you love Me? That’s exactly what He wants from us today and in 2013.

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