Tuesday, January 5, 2016, 5:22 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind this song: Refiner’s Fire / Doerksen, Brian Refiner's fire, my heart's one desire is to be holy; set apart for You, Lord. I choose to be holy; set apart for You, my Master, ready to do Your will. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 16:21-27 (NASB). A Stumbling Block (vv. 21-23) From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” This same Peter, a disciple of Jesus Christ, had just declared Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus told him he was blessed, because this was not revealed to him by man, but by God the Father in heaven. Peter was sensitive to hear God’s voice speaking to him. He listened, and he believed what God said. Jesus said to him, “You are Peter” (which means rock), “and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (See: Matt. 16:13-20). Although Jesus Christ is the true rock of our salvation upon which the church is built, Peter was instrumental of God in laying the foundation of faith for the early church (See: Ac. 1-4). In other words, although human and subject to failure, Peter was a follower of Christ who loved the Lord and who desired to serve him. Yet Satan, who is our enemy, will use human beings as his instruments of his deceptive messages, even sometimes those of us who are followers of Christ. So, how does he do this? He gets us distracted with what is of this earth and is worldly and thinking like the world, and having our minds focused on the things of men (of humans) instead of on the things of God. We may be well-meaning in the advice that we give, but if we offer it without first seeking the counsel of God, we might unwittingly be used of Satan to spread his messages to people rather than to spread the messages of God. We may baulk at this idea and think, “NO! Not me!” yet when we get our minds focused on what is worldly and we begin thinking like the world around us, we will be subject to give worldly advice, too. Peter was probably thinking about himself here. He had just started following Christ, and had left everything behind to go after him. I am not sure the timing of this, but maybe a year or so had passed since he began following the Lord. Now Jesus was talking about being persecuted and killed, and of being raised up on the third day. Peter’s mind was on earthly things. He was thinking about his life with Jesus here, in this world. I am most certain that the thought of Jesus now leaving them and dying was more than Peter was willing to accept. He did not want to lose his Lord. Maybe he thought Jesus was somehow being misled and so he aimed to correct him and to try to convince him that certainly he must be mistaken. And, so Satan used Peter’s weakness to try to convince Jesus that he did not have to go to the cross and die for the sins of the world, so that was a stumbling block to Jesus and to his calling, so he had to rebuke Satan’s insinuation, and hold on to the truth. Satan tries to get us to doubt God, to doubt God’s word and his voice to us, and to doubt our relationship with Jesus Christ and/or God’s calling on our lives. He likes to try to make us feel weak and helpless and to convince us of such in order to get us to not obey the Lord. He likes to try to make us question our dependency on Jesus Christ and to even suggest we are listening to him instead of to Christ. He will say some things that are true, but he will mix lies in with it and will twist and distort the truth. He will try to show us that belief in Jesus Christ and the true gospel, which removes idolatry from people’s lives, is “legalistic” and that he can provide a church and faith that is “fun” and free from the concern of sin. Satan will try to get us to compromise our beliefs and convictions by trying to shame us into a compromise. He will try to talk us into bringing ourselves back under the slavery of sin and of men, when Jesus Christ came to set us free. The devil will even try to convince us that he hears from God and his followers will even pretend to be believers in Christ. He preys on our weaknesses and tries to convince us that we are helpless and that we need him. He tries to persuade us not to trust in the words of the Lord but to trust in the words of man instead, and to let men give us the counsel and direction we need, and to let human beings be our gods. He tries to influence us not to believe in the promises of God nor to believe the Lord’s servants when they remind us of those same promises. When Satan throws his fiery darts at us, we must know the truth so that we can put on the full armor of God with which to fight off his evil attacks against us. We, as well, need to be setting our minds on things above and not on things on the earth. If we are spending 5 to 10 minutes a day reading the Bible, if that much, but we spend 4 hours or more a day watching TV or movies, surfing the internet, or chatting with people on social media, etc., then our minds are going to be filled with the values, interests, belief systems, philosophies and thinking of this sinful world, and that is what is going to come out in our attitudes, behaviors, thought patterns and speech. Even if we are bathing ourselves in the word of God, if we have previously spent a lot of time taking in the junk of the world, we may have to fight off the temptation to give in to wrong thought patterns from time to time. So, if we are going to get our minds set on God’s interests, and not on man’s, so that we have the mind of Christ in what we share, rather than the mind of the world, then we may need to radically alter our lifestyles to be in conformity with the will of God for our lives instead of us being in conformity to the ways of this sinful world. This will mean cutting out of our lives all that hinders our walks with the Lord, and all that is contrary to God’s will for our lives, and instead filling our minds, hearts and lives with the things of God, i.e. with what he approves, and what is in accord with his word, his values, and moral purity. Then, we should give godly counsel to people instead of the counsel of this fallen world. If Anyone Wishes (vv. 24-27) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. I believe one of the greatest ways in which worldly counsel has replaced godly counsel these days is in the teaching of the gospel of our salvation. The worldly church has altered and has diluted the gospel according to Jesus Christ and his NT apostles to where it barely resembles the true gospel anymore. Most people who call themselves Christians appear to have held true to the part of the gospel which tells about Jesus’ death and resurrection, that he died for our sins, and that it is by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ that we receive this great salvation, are forgiven of our sins, and have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. Yet, so many leave out the other half, i.e. the part which applies to us. Jesus said that if anyone wants to come after him, he must deny self, die daily to sin and self and follow him in obedience. Some people ignore Jesus’ teachings altogether, stating that they are not relevant to us today. These folks teach that we don’t have to repent of sins and that we don’t have to obey Christ and his teachings but that we can still have the hope of heaven when we die. And, yet scripture contradicts that over and over again. We have to remember that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that he is the foundation of our faith, our cornerstone for the church. We can’t ignore him and his teachings. He told his followers before he left the earth that they were to go throughout the world making disciples of Christ of people of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything Christ had commanded them. Who is Satan after? He is hotly pursuing those who “obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17). So, Satan is out to destroy the true gospel, and to convince people that becoming followers of Christ means nothing more than an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when they die, with nothing in between. Just like he tried to convince Jesus that he did not have to die for the sins of the world, he tries to convince us that scripture does not teach us that, to follow Christ, we must die with him to sin and live with him to righteousness. Yet, scripture says that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us; and that he died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who walk according to the Spirit. If we live our lives according to our sinful flesh, we will die. But if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh (dying daily to sin), we will live (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Jn. 1:6). So, we need to reject Satan’s lies. We need to put them off, and put on the truth. In order to do this, we need to stop entertaining ourselves with what is worldly and is of the devil, and we need to focus our minds, hearts and attention on what is from above, i.e. on what is of God and is holy, righteous, true, and pure. Refiner's fire, my heart's one desire is to be holy; set apart for You, Lord. I choose to be holy; set apart for You, my Master, ready to do Your will.