Sunday, March 1, 2015

THE ADVANTAGE LEADS TO ACTION - WHEN JESUS PRAYS FOR YOU!

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)
We know from Scripture that the Lord Jesus, Creator of the world, our Master, Redeemer and friend HAS prayed for His disciples and all future believers (John 17). This is from His High Priestly Prayer where He is recorded, for all time, praying for those of us who follow Him to be protected by the Father IN this world (while we are alive) while not being OF this corrupt and evil world system. The Word of God also tells us, wonder of wonders, that He prays for us even now! (See Hebrews 7:25 "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them"). In other words, we have an Advocate with the Father - at all times.

In case there is any question about the methodology of this, we read in Romans 8:26 that "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words". This is the Spirit of Christ Who lives in us and is our conduit to the Father, and is the prime example why we MUST pray in Jesus' Name. 

These two verses above from Luke 22:31-32 are powerfully relevant to the Christian in that many are like Simon (Peter), to whom Jesus is declaring this stunning statement! How many of us, if told by the Lord, that the devil was after us, would brush it off? If Satan is after a Christian/follower of Jesus Christ, we can guarantee it is to destroy us, destroy our relationship with God and destroy our families. But there is something else going on in this short passage, which we need to take a hard look at, in terms of our own lives and journey with Jesus.

After studying the original language of this text and its context, these two verses are stunning for us everyday believers in the 21st century. Looking at it under the following headings, we see:

JESUS ADVISES:
"....Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat" (verse 31)
THE ADVERSARY: What Satan, the accuser of the brethren, the father of lies and destroyer of souls knows very well is very own character flaws. Simon Peter, Jesus' boldest and closest disciple, was a fearless man of the gospel who was also not afraid to shoot of his mouth first, and think later. When this happened, Jesus had already walked on the water, and Peter had tried - and succeeded - because of his brash spontaneity. Some would describe what Peter used to be (pre-Resurrection) as extreme self-confidence, even pride. The devil knows how to use our pride against us, causing us to fall. Satan should know. It was pride that caused his - Lucifer's- fall from heaven (Isaiah 12-17). 
THE ATTEMPT: Secondly, the "sifting" which Satan is demanding about Peter from Satan's creator - Jesus - is the same kind he used against Job. Satan basically told God that Job was only faithful to Him because God blessed Job. Satan was going to take the chaff from Peter here and use it to attempt to destroy Him, while when God uses His 'Refining Fire" on us, He uses it to purify us and bring us closer to Him. So Jesus is warning His disciple here, that he is in real danger. Likewise, when we step out of fellowship with Him, due to our sins of omission, commission, disobedience and pride, we basically put the same bullseye on our backs.

JESUS ADVOCATES:
"but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail" (verse 32a)
When the Lord intercedes for us, we cannot fail. First, we have to BE in a position where He would even want to pray for us! That is, we must and have to be one of His - i.e. born again, saved and a follower. This is also shows us that once we are born-again and saved, once the Lord Himself pray, for us, we stayed prayed up.
However, look at this again - Satan is going after Peter (and us) for destruction...knowing our weakness and failures as human beings. Then Jesus says "BUT" I have prayed. This "BUT"means A LOT! It means that no matter how dark and dangerous our situation or circumstances are, the High Priest of Heaven overrules! No matter how deep in despair and down we are, the Holy One of Heaven overrides. No matter how devoid of hope and even faith we feel, the Almighty I AM - Yahweh - is on our side. Just like Job, who said "though He slays me, I will trust in Him....I know my Redeemer lives", we can look over all our dark despair and apparent emptiness and realize - we do not have a problem with Faith, our current situation is a temporary valley AND we are just walking through a shadowy valley, where it is darkest before the dawn! With Jesus as our Advocate, Intercessor and Friend, we lack nothing, NOTHING!

JESUS ADVANCES
"and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers" (verse 32b)
THE ADVANTAGE: Now this may seem confusing on the surface. That is, what does it mean "you have turned again"? A closer study of the original language causes one to search the soul....as it accomplishes a primary purpose of Scripture! Remember now, Peter had boasted that he would lay down his life for Jesus, even though "others" may abandon Him. So at the first chance to test it in public, Peter not only denied Jesus THREE times, but did so with loud cursing and foul language! Once Peter had come to his senses and repented, relented and become forever changed and humbled, he was restored. When Jesus rose from the grave on Resurrection morning, He told Mary to go tell the Disciples AND PETER, that He had risen! God does not waste anything in His Word. He said AND Peter for a reason, just as the Paul mentioned that Jesus appeared to over 500 AND JAMES after the Resurrection! James went on to lead the Home Church in Jerusalem while Peter dictated the First Gospel to the great Mark and literally wrote the books of Righteous Living for God in 1 & 2 Peter!
Therefore the Advantage you and I have as Christians is that even when we mess up as, even to the point of blasphemy (not recommended by the way), He restores us because we are His and He loves us!  The Advantage is He has given us the gift of repentance and that if we are truly His, the Holy Spirit will reveal even unknown sin and our immediate confession will restore us just as it did for Peter.


THE ACTION: We are thus restored to then help a fellow believer - a sister or brother - come closer to Him. There are so many of us out there, full of guilt, shame and worse because of both imagined and/or real sin or difficulty.  What could be worse than denying Jesus three times with loud curse words....within His earshot?! Still, that man became Peter the Rock, the primary messenger of the Doctrine of Righteousness to the western world before Rome crucified him upside down during the first round of persecutions. When we are restored by the Lord, whether it be spiritually, physically or other wise, it is our divine duty to reach out to another.
I know people with ministries to orphans, or breast cancer victims/survivors, autistic kids or more. The argument against The Action we are called to is: "I can't do that"...or "I don't have the resources, money or anything to do that kind of thing"....or "I don't know anybody else going through this. Some or all of this may or could be true. The divine call still remains. If we know how to speak in love to another person, can afford a spare cup of coffee or can invite just one person to break bread in your home - that's a ministry. If you can just meet consistently with someone who is hurting or is now experiencing the same pains, hurts, fears and cares you just had - that's a ministry. If you can then multiply that to two, three or five people with similar issues and to top it off, show them how to persevere with Prayer and the Scriptures - that's YOUR ministry! You don't need a 501 C 3 tax exemption, a Board of Directors, a website, multi-media etc. What is recommended is staying in touch with a private blog open to only the group or a Facebook private support group - things that cost almost nothing.

The wonderful thing about Christianity is it is liberating. It is devoid of commands from our Leader to hurt and destroy people who do not believe like us...in fact, the opposite is true. We are supposed to pray for those who hate us, because they may see the error of their ways or not. Either way, they will be accountable and not you. The other wonderful thing about following Christ is that it is so peaceful, joyful and full of hope. It is for Freedom that He set us free (Galatians 5:1). 

The Advantage is ours in this game of Life because our Advocate (King Jesus) has defeated our Adversary (the devil) and He has advised us to advance the Kingdom with Action. This is the essence of the Redeemed of God, through all generations. Amen.
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