Christianity 201

December 20, 2016

God’s Power and Peter’s Sin

Today we’re paying a return visit to Enoch Anti from Ghana. His blog, Truth Publication may not be currently active, but this, the last article posted, makes for good reading.

Depart From Me…I Am A Sinful Man

Have you ever thought about it? What is the greatest need of humankind? This question will generate a lot of response. Probably, for the majority, top of the list will be eradication of poverty and disease. Others will put forth world peace, eradication of drug and sex trafficking. To others, equal rights for all humankind will top the list. These indeed are commendable, but they are not the greatest need of humankind. The Bible gives us the answer:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

This is the divine verdict from God. All humankind have sinned. Not only that, but by our sins, we are estranged, alienated and separated from God. We are enemies of God and liable to receive the just punishment for our sins. Paul describes our hopelessness in Ephesians 2:1-3 saying ,

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”.

The above is true of every human being. It is the present reality of the unbeliever and it was the reality of the believer who has now come to Faith.

Now the reality of sin as our greatest need came home to me again very strongly today when I read portions of Luke’s gospel for my devotion. In Luke 5, the story is told of Jesus using the boat of Peter to preach and afterwards, He issued a command saying

“Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (v.4).

Here is an experienced fisherman who has toiled all night and caught nothing, so he might have been surprised by the command from Jesus. Indeed he was and his response tells:

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!”(v5a).

However, I suppose having heard Jesus preaching, his heart might have been convicted to obey. So he didn’t stop at questioning Jesus’ instruction. He responded positively afterwards:

“But at your word I will let down the nets.”(v.5b).

After they heeded Jesus’ instruction, we are told a miracle happened. They had a great catch to the extent they had to signal other fisherman to assist with bringing their catch (vv.6-7).

Simon’s report in the narrative is what caught my attention:

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”(v.8).

A miracle has taken place. But it seemed the miracle didn’t matter to Simon. We are looking at a great breakthrough for that day. They have a great abundance. But in the midst of that abundance, the state of Simon’s heart was laid bare. He was convicted: “he fell down at Jesus’ feet”. He was broken. He lost himself. Before Him was no ordinary man but Jesus, God incarnate.

In that moment of a great miracle, his sinful heart all played before him in front of a Holy God: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”. Anyone who encounters the holiness of God is always struck with the wretchedness of their soul (Isaiah 6:5, Romans 7:24). Sin is our greatest predicament (Psalm 51:5, Jeremiah 17:9, Isaiah 53:6) and until we are reconciled to God, nothing else matters that happens to us. A miracle or breakthrough is of no significance to a heart dead in sin.

Like Simon, we must all fall on our knees at the feet of Christ and plead for forgiveness and reconciliation. Our sin must not drive us away from God, rather it must drive us to Him. Jesus didn’t drive away Peter, but He spoke forgiveness to the need of his sinful heart:

“And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”(v.10).

Here is the mercy of God in action; a man not only forgiven, but his life takes on a new direction. A sinful man cleansed and reconciled to God and commissioned to be a soul winner – fisher of men. Our greatest need is to be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God. That is the foremost reason Christ walked this earth (Ephesians 2:14-17).

March 18, 2014

Things That Hinder Worship and Service

Genesis 35: 1-15

Genesis 35 4Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”

So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

The word Bethel means house of God, and verse 15 of this same passage tells us,

Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

Bethel is the place where God meets us, and hopefully the modern application of house of God is also a place where God meets with you each time you are there.

Many times however we see Genesis 35 in this context, and miss what’s going on in the first five verses, especially verse two. Today’s title is taken from the Reformation Study Bible which comments on this passage:

Repentance involves renouncing whatever hinders or tarnishes the worship and service of God. The covenant’s primary requirement is exclusive allegiance to the Lord.

What the Jewish people call The Ten Statements in Exodus 20 reminds us

“You shall have no other gods before me.

Matthew Henry — available in the Show Resources tab on BibleGateway.com — is particularly helpful on this passage:

Before solemn ordinances, there must be solemn preparation. Wash you, make you clean, and then come, and let us reason together, Isa. 1:16-18.   Masters of families should use their authority for the promoting of religion in their families. Not only we, but our houses also, should serve the Lord, Josh. 24:15.

He then asks what you might be asking: What strange Gods were present within his family?

They must put away the strange gods. Strange gods in Jacob’s family! Strange things indeed! Could such a family, that was taught the good knowledge of the Lord, admit them? … In those families where there is a face of religion, and an altar to God, yet many times there is much amiss, and more strange gods than one would suspect. In Jacob’s family, Rachel had her teraphim, which, it is to be feared, she secretly made some superstitious use of. The captives of Shechem brought their gods along with them, and perhaps Jacob’s sons took some with the plunder. However they came by them, now they must put them away.  (emphasis added)(link to Wikipedia added)

And then he gets to the second verse, our key verse:

They must be clean, and change their garments; they must observe a due decorum, and make the best appearance they could. Simeon and Levi had their hands full of blood, it concerned them particularly to wash, and to put off their garments that were so stained. These were but ceremonies, signifying the purification and change of the heart. What are clean clothes, and new clothes, without a clean heart, and a new heart?

Verse three foreshadows the rest of the passage, and then in verse four the act of repentance takes place:

His family surrendered all they had that was idolatrous or superstitious, Gen. 35:4. Perhaps, if Jacob had called for them sooner, they would sooner have parted with them, being convicted by their own consciences of the vanity of them. Note, Sometimes attempts for reformation succeed better than one could have expected, and people are not so obstinate against them as we feared. Jacob’s servants, and even the retainers of his family, gave him all the strange gods, and the ear-rings they wore, either as charms or to the honour of their gods; they parted with all. Note, Reformation is not sincere if it be not universal. We hope they parted with them cheerfully, and without reluctance, as Ephraim did, when he said, What have I to do any more with idols? (Hos. 14:8), or that people that said to their idols, Get you hence, Isa. 30:22.

And those things which hinder their pursuit of God are buried:

Jacob took care to bury their images, we may suppose in some place unknown to them, that they might not afterwards find them and return to them. Note, We must be wholly separated from our sins, as we are from those that are dead and buried out of our sight, cast them to the moles and the bats, Isa. 2:20.

I loved that final verse he references. There are places in your attic perhaps only known to bats, and places deep in your basement only known to moles. That’s how far we are to remove these attachments from ourselves. Here is the verse in full:

20 In that day people will throw away
to the moles and bats
their idols of silver and idols of gold,
which they made to worship.

Do you have anything you need to get rid of? It may not be something you wear, it might be something as simple as a bookmark in your computer, or indulging in a weekly trip to the cinema or a Netflix movie. It could just be a very small thing that is somehow reminiscent of something God would like you to be free of.

Verse 4 (NKJV) indicates earrings. Could something that small be a hindrance to worship in your life?