The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak ~ A lesson from a conversaton between Jesus and Peter

I did not write this, it is written by Mike Bickle out of IHOP in KC. It touched my heart in so many ways and I sure can relate to it. This is such a HUGE truth!! I had to share it.

 Peter’s early struggles: dark but lovely or weak but willing (Mt.26:41)

Jesus warned Peter that he would deny Him (Lk. 22:31-34). Later that evening, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus gave Peter a significant twofold description of how the heart of the redeemed operates in God’s grace. Jesus told Peter that his spirit was willing but his flesh was weak. 

41“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt. 26:41)

Peter stumbled because of his “weak flesh,” yet he longed to obey God with a “willing spirit.”  Most Bible translations use the phrase “the flesh is weak.” However, the NIV translated “the flesh is weak” as “the body is weak.” Jesus was referring to the principle of sin operating in Peter’s heart, not his fatigue because it was late at night.

What is God thinking and feeling about us when we discover the weakness of our own flesh? This is essential in understanding the grace of God. This is where the crisis of our faith begins.

Peter’s despair because of his failure when he denied the Lord

Why did Peter go fishing? He was not fishing because the apostolic team ran out of money so soon after Jesus’ death (this is only eight days after the crucifixion). They had enough money that Judas stole from the fund without being caught. They fished all night; thus, we know Peter was not fishing for recreation.

3…Peter said…“I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. (Jn. 21:3)

Peter was resigning from his God-given leadership role as an apostle to return to the family fishing business. He was changing back to his former occupation. An occupation that he had been successful at before Jesus called him to apostolic leadership. Why? If he could not stay faithful to Jesus before the pressure of a young servant girl, then how would he stay faithful for a lifetime? He was saying, “I can be faithful to God as a fisherman without the added pressures of being faithful as an apostle.” 

He didn’t feel qualified to be an apostle. His heart was wounded by his failure in denying Jesus three times. Peter felt that he disappointed Jesus. He could not face the Lord because of this. When we feel this way, we run from God instead of to Him.

In the crisis of discovering our sinful flesh, some determine that it is too painful to reach for the highest things in God if they believe they will constantly fail. As those who have a high vision to love God with all our heart, we face coming short many times. Some would rather resign once than face failing over and over. In other words, they lower their vision so they do not feel the pain of failing. It is easier to settle for living with a “second class relationship” with God than to face the pain of failure that goes with having a high vision of loving God with all our heart.

Such people become accustomed to a second rate relationship with the Lord. It is not because they do not love Him any longer. It is because they cannot face relating to God with so much shame. The truth is that we do not have to live with this shame in the grace of God.

They imagine that God is angry, disappointed, grieved, and even exasperated with them. They give up on walking in wholehearted obedience and devotion to Jesus and live in condemnation.

Jesus asked Peter the same question, three times. He said, “Do you love Me?” 

15Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon…do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” 16He said to him again a second time, “Simon…do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon…do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” (Jn. 21:15-17)

When God asks us a question, it is not because God needs information. Why was God asking Peter this question? He wanted Peter to discover information about himself. The Lord already knew that Peter loved Him. But He wanted Peter to have confidence in his sincere love for Jesus. Jesus was calling Peter back into the same quality of relationship with Him that Peter had before he denied Jesus. The Lord was revealing to Peter how much he loved Jesus.

The Lord was in essence saying, “Peter, You do love Me. In the garden eight days ago, I told you that you had weak flesh and a willing spirit. You didn’t believe your flesh was weak. You need to understand that you do have a willing spirit. You do have a ‘yes in your spirit’ to Me. I saw it in you before you stumbled. When I see you, I don’t only see your weak flesh, I alsoseeyoursincereloveforMe.IsawyourwillingspiritwhenIfirstcalledyouandIstillseeitinyou.”

Jesus sees our willing spirit more than we do. The Lord was breaking shame off of Peter’s heart for three denials of his faith. Jesus washed his spirit with these three questions. Jesus wanted Peter to say, “I love God.” Shame is broken off of Peter as he is restored to confidence in God.

AMEN!! For me….I want it ALL…His love…His everything…

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I am dark but I am lovely

I am doing a study in Song of Songs and I must say it’s life changing and I suggest it to everyone, especially men! I came across something in here that has touched my heart on many levels….actually 2 Scriptures

Song 1:5 “I am dark, but lovely…”

Matt. 25:41 “The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” (Jesus speaking to Peter)

The scripture out of Songs I must say I’ve never really looked at, I really had NO understanding of this book at all and no interest in it. I am now understanding and LOVING it…..the Matthew scripture I’ve read a thousand times, I’ve taught it, I’ve preached it and today I see it as “new” and life changer for me.

The scripture out of Song is an amazing word. It speaks of when we realize/see that we are beautiful to God even though we are sinful…even in our weakness, failures and sin. We are not loved more or unloved because we are weak, dark and struggling. God loves us even in our weakness, and as we grow more in love with Him he sheds more light so we can see the darkness within our hearts.

In many churches, denominations etc we are taught either about how dark we are or about how much he loves us and the balance is thrown off. Both ends of this are wrong to focus on! We either become hopeless or we become fearful or shamed in our weakness in front of God. If you know me you know I do not preach, teach or believe that we can sin and act like nothing is wrong or God doesn’t see it…that He is OK with it and understands!! There is a beautiful balance in all of this that can only be fully understood by God himself.

It is essential for our spiritual growth to see that we are lovely as we see more of our sinfulness. These two truths causes us to grow in confidence and gratitude in our relationship with Jesus.

Some streams in the body of Christ focus on the darkness of our heart or on how sinful we are. To emphasize this without emphasizing how lovely we are to God destroys our confidence before the Lord and produces shame driven believers. They are sincere in their repentance but are emotionally paralyzed in their relationship with Jesus by shame.

We walk in the light in different measures. We are to walk in the fullness of the light that we have as God dwells in the fullness of the light that He has. As we walk in the light, God increases it so that we see more of the darkness that is in our heart. Our most sincere efforts to love God are flawed and fragile. Those who sincerely seek to obey Jesus need not fear that they will be disqualified from their calling because of weakness. We are lovely to God even in our weakness. He is tender towards us in our spiritual immaturity. 

Jeremiah had revelation of the depth and deceitfulness of sin in the human heart. We have a greater capacity for sin than we comprehend. No one fully grasps the depth of our unperceived areas of sin. They are below the surface like hidden fault lines before an earthquake.

9“Theheartisdeceitfulaboveallthings,anddesperatelywicked;whocanknowit?”(Jer.17:9)

 22…put off…the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. (Eph. 4:22)

Knowledge of our weak flesh is an important aspect of the truth about who we are, although it is not the whole truth of who we are. God knows about the depth of our sin before we are saved. He does not discover our sin because we do. He is aware of it when He declares His love for us. God did not overcommit Himself to love us without first understanding the gravity of our sin.

The Scripture out of Matthew when Jesus spoke to Peter in the garden…. “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”

CONTINUED TOMORROW …..

SEVEN principles about God’s heart for you!!!

This is from my study of Song of Song by M. Bickle. I loved this and thought it was worth sharing.

  1.                 Principle #1: God loves and blesses unbelievers
    1. God loves unbelievers even when they rebel against Him and have no regard for Him (Mt. 5:45).

16God so loved the world that He gave His only…Son, that whoever believes… (Jn. 3:16)

 

8God demonstrates His own love…in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

    1. God blesses evil people. We are not to mistake His blessings on them as His approval of them.

45“…makes His sun rise on the evil and…the good…sends rain on the just and…unjust. (Mt. 5:45)

    1. God is angry at their rebellion and refuses to forgive those who will not repent (Esau, Saul, etc.).

22“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name…?’ 23…I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me…’” (Mt. 7:22-23)

  1.               Principle #2: God enjoys and delights in immature believers
    1. God loves unbelievers, yet He only enjoys believers. Jesus immediately rejoices over us at the time of our repentance. He smiles over us when we begin the growth process with sincere repentance, long before we attain spiritual maturity.

4“What man…having a hundred sheep…does not leave the ninety-nine…and go after the one…? 5…when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6…he calls together his friends…saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents…” (Lk. 15:4-7)

    1. Jesus feels compassion over the prodigals on the day they repent. God revealed His enjoyment of the prodigal son by the father giving him the best robes (Lk. 15:22). This newly repentant, yet immature prodigal son had many areas of his life that still needed transformation.

18“…I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned…’ 20…he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 22…the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet…’” (Lk. 15:18-22)

    1. God enjoys us even in our immaturity. He delighted in David on the day of his repentance.

19He delivered me [David] because He delighted in me… (Ps. 18:19)

    1. Our most sincere efforts to love God are flawed. We are lovely to God even in our weakness.

5I am dark [in my heart], but lovely [to God because of Jesus]… (Song 1:5)

    1. Jesus walked in the anointing of gladness more than any man in history. Gladness is at the center of His personality. Many think of God as being mostly mad or sad when they relate to Him. 

9Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions. (Heb. 1:9)

    1. God delights in showing us mercy. He wants us confident that He enjoys us (even in our weakness) as we walk in sincere repentance. Then we run to Him instead of from Him.

18He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. (Mic. 7:18)

 

24“I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment…for in these I delight.” (Jer. 9:24)

    1. God gives a repentant believer a new beginning as a “first class citizen” each time they repent.

22Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:22-23)

    1. God remembers and understands our weaknesses far more than we do. He does not discipline us to the degree that we deserve, nor does He change the way He feels about us in our weaknesses.

10He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him…14For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. (Ps. 103:10-14)

    1. Summary: God smiles over our life in a general sense, while He deals with particular sins in us. Several areas of immaturity do not define our entire relationship with God. We are defined by God’s passion for us, receiving the gift of righteousness and by our heart cry to obey Jesus.

  1.             Principle #3: God’s enjoyment is not the same as His approval
    1. The fact that God enjoys us does not mean He overlooks the areas in us that need transformation. God’s enjoyment of a believer is not the same as His approval of all that they do. He corrects areas that He disapproves of so that He might remove all that hinders love (holiness) in us.

10…He [disciplines us] for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. (Heb. 12:10)

    1. God has tender patience for a season with believers who do not repent. They must not confuse His patience with His approval. Jesus gave Jezebel and her disciples in Thyatira time to repent.

21“Igaveher[Jezebel]timetorepentofher…immorality…22…Iwillcastherintoasickbed,andthosewhocommitadulterywithherintogreat tribulation,unlesstheyrepent…”(Rev.2:21-22)

 

11Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Eccl. 8:11)

    1. When we neglect to honestly and thoroughly confront sin in our heart we are not loved less by God, but we do suffer loss in several ways. We minimize our ability to experience the joy of our salvation, the spirit of revelation, godly fellowship and to receive eternal rewards.

    2. God patiently suffers long with us in His love as He works to lead us to repentance.

4Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Rom. 2:4)

 

4Love suffers long and is kind…7bears all things…endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

  1.             Principle #4: God’s discipline is not the same as His rejection of us
    1. God’s correction is not His rejection, rather it is proof of His love. God hates the sin yet delights in the person He disciplines.

12Whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. (Prov. 3:12)

 

6Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives… (Heb. 12:6)

    1. Jesus rebukes, yet loves believers that are in need of repentance.

19“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:19)

    1. To be disciplined means God cares and has not given up on us. It is a terrible thing to “get away with” sin long term because that means God is giving that person over to their sin. God’s discipline is proof that He has not given up on us (Rom. 1:24-28).

24God…gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts… (Rom. 1:24)

 

32When we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. (1 Cor. 11:32)

    1. God did not give up on His people Israel when even when they were in a season of disobedience.

37For their [children of Israel] heart was not steadfast with Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant. 38But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; 39for He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away… (Ps. 78:37-39)

  1.               Principle #5: God is grieved over the persistent sin of His people
    1. Jesus will vomit lukewarm believers out of His mouth. This does not speak of God casting them away, but of Him feeling sick at heart or grieved over their lives.  

16“Because you are lukewarm…I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Rev. 3:16-17)

 

30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. (Eph. 4:30)

 

19Do not quench the Spirit. (1 Thes. 5:19)

    1. God feels the pain of those He disciplines and continues to consider them as His dearly beloved.

9In all their affliction He was afflicted…in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old. (Isa. 63:9)

 

7“I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies.” (Jer. 12:7)

    1. When we neglect to thoroughly confront sin in our heart we are not loved less by God but we do suffer loss in several ways. We minimize our ability to experience the joy of our salvation, the spirit of revelation, God’s power, fellowship with God and others, and receiving eternal rewards. We can only fulfill our highest calling and destiny in this age and the age to come by walking in faithful obedience and with a history of diligently seeking God. Faithfulness does not earn our calling for us but it positions us to receive more grace that we might enter into it. The Spirit calls us to diligence that we might enter into our fullness of authority in this age and the age to come.

11We also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power… (2 Thes. 1:11)

    1. We must be confident that God in His love for us will manifest His zeal or jealousy over us. God jealously requires that we live in wholehearted obedience. He zealously insists on that which deepens our relationship with Him and results in our greatness.

5Do you think the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit…in us yearns jealously?” (Jas. 4:5)

  1.             Principle #6: Spiritual disciplines do not earn us God’s favor
    1. Spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, meditation, etc.) are ordained by God as a necessary way to posture our heart to freely receive more grace. These activities do not earn us God’s favor. The power is in the “bonfire of God’s presence” not in our cold hearts that are positioned before it.

    2. God gives to our heart on the basis of how much we hunger for relationship with Him not on how much He loves us (Mt. 5:6). God honors the value we put on the relationship by giving us more according to our spiritual hunger (Gal. 6:8) but He does not love us more. God will not enjoy an obedient believer more in a billion years than He does now (Mal. 3:6).

  1.          Principle #7: maturity allows us to receive more (not be loved more)
    1. God loves us all yet He entrusts a greater measure of power to the mature. He determines the measure of power that He has planned for each to walk in. This measure is different for each believer (Mt. 25:15). Our obedience positions us to walk in whatever that full measure is.

    2. People with greater power in ministry or influence in business are not loved more by God. He will entrust more to us as we mature because it will not damage us nor others. The gifts of the Spirit are given to us by faith (Acts 3:11-12; Gal. 3:5). They are not earned by our discipline. However, our spiritual maturity provides added protection from the counterattack of Satan (Lk. 14:30-32) on those operating in the anointing. Four things increase as we experience more of the Holy Spirit’s power (God’s zeal, Satan’s rage, man’s demands, our emotional capacities).

Are Christians Narrow-Minded and Intolerant?

This was written by: Michael J. Kruger

When it comes to modern religious discourse, there is no greater sin than to claim your religion is the only one that is true. You can believe just about anything and receive a shrug of the shoulders from an unbelieving world, but say that you believe in one way to heaven and accusations of narrow-mindedness and intolerance are inevitable.

Years ago, there was a well-known interview between Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise about Scientology. Oprah was clearly skeptical of Cruise’s religious beliefs, but she then asked the million dollar question: “You don’t believe Scientology is the only true religion, do you?” It was easy to tell that the question was loaded with a mountain of implications; answer this wrongly and the floodgates would be opened.

Cruise, of course, answered the question as Oprah would expect. He denied that Scientology claimed to be the only true religion (apparently only evangelical Christians are that foolish). After clarifying this, one could sense the tension in the room immediately lessen.

Given this cultural context, how should Christians deal with the inevitable confrontation over the Christian claim that Jesus is the only way to heaven? For one, we need to clarify that this is not simply a claim that we are making on behalf of Christianity. It is not as if Christians enjoy their religion so much that they decide to make extravagant claims about it. Nor are the exclusive claims of Christianity merely a fear tactic designed to recruit more converts.

Instead, we need to remind folks that this is a claim that Jesus himself made (John 14:6) and that we, as followers of Jesus, are simply upholding his teachings. For this reason, I like the answer that RTS Charlotte professor James Anderson gave to this question in a recent interview for The Gospel Coalition:

It’s narrow-minded and intolerant to claim Jesus is the only way to God. No religion has the whole truth—including yours.

If it’s narrow-minded and intolerant to claim that Jesus is the only way to God, then Jesus himself must have been narrow-minded and intolerant, because that’s exactly what he claimed about himself (see, for example, Matthew 11:27 and John 14:6). Jesus also claimed to be the Son of God from heaven and that only those who believe in him will have eternal life. Yet when we read the four Gospels, we don’t encounter a narrow-minded, intolerant, arrogant man. Rather, we see a wide-hearted, selfless, and humble man, full of grace and compassion toward others.

When you say, “No religion has the whole truth,” I have to ask: How do you know? How could you know? Have you thoroughly investigated every world religion? And wouldn’t you need some kind of access to the whole truth yourself in order to make the judgment that no religion has the whole truth? The more pertinent question isn’t whether any religion has the whole truth, but whether the central and defining claims of any particular religion are in fact true.

Christians don’t claim to possess the whole truth. Only God could make that claim! But we do believe God has revealed the most important truths through Jesus, and that Jesus has more credibility than anyone else in his claim to know—indeed, to be—the way to God. Is there anyone in history who has a more credible claim to know God? Is there anyone who showed greater insight into the human heart and our deepest spiritual needs? Don’t take my word for it. Study the Gospels for yourself and draw your own conclusions!

Anderson’s response also highlights the problems with the well-worn analogy that all religions are like blind men feeling different parts of an elephant. As the blind men try to determine what an elephant is like, one feels the trunk and says, “An elephant is like a snake!” Another feels the tail and says, “An elephant is like a rope!” Another feels a leg and says, “An elephant is like a tree trunk!” And so, the argument goes, they are all right because they are only seeing part of the truth.

The core problem with the elephant analogy is that the person using the analogy is assuming that they themselves are not blind! The person using the analogy is basically saying, “Let me tell you how all religions really work.” But that is an enormous (and arrogant!) claim that requires near-omniscient knowledge. How would this person know how all religions work? And why should this person be exempt from the very analogy they just gave?

This is precisely Anderson’s point. As soon as the non-Christian claims that no one has absolute truth, then he himself is making a wide, sweeping, all-encompassing truth claim that must be justified.

It is as this point that the distinctiveness of Christianity stands out. Christians don’t make exclusive claims on the basis of their own knowledge, but on the basis of Christ’s knowledge. If he is the very Son of God, it is reasonable to trust what he says about the way religion works.

To put it simply, if a person is going to make absolute, all-encompassing truth claims, they better have access to some source of knowledge that is absolute and all-encompassing. And, of course, this is the very thing that the non-Christian lacks.

Psalm 19: 1-4 — some thoughts

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
    The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
    night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
    their voice is never heard.[a]
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
    and their words to all the world.

As I read these verses my spirit jumped – something deep within me moved and I have been trying to figure out why. Why would these words hit me like this? I have read them a thousand times, I have probably preached them and taught on them in small groups. So why this day? Why is this day different than any other when reading these scriptures? It’s like God telling me to STOP – don’t just read them and move on….chew on them, meditate on them….I have something for you here.

So for the past 24 hours I’ve been doing just that….I must laugh because I am sure in MY MIND I’ve come up with a thousand reasons why God wants me to meditate on these scriptures, just like any human trying to figure out God and what He wants…. I think that way too often we figure things out in our heads that will make everything make sense when it comes to the “things of God” For a moment yesterday I thought maybe God wanted me to get alone in nature, without my Bible, without my phone or any books. Just sit high on a mountain top and HE WILL SPEAK something amazing to me!! You know one of those amazing moments that changes not only my life but gives me a message for the world to hear. Come off the mountain top and write a book, go on a speaking tour and lives are changed for eternity!! (I am exaggerating a little bit here….carrying it to the extreme) By the end of this though I could build a retreat on that very mountain top and people from around the world could find a place to “hear” the living God!!!

LOL I did have the thought that God wanted me to get away alone to hear his voice — the rest I just kind of rolled with and had some fun… SO bottom line on all of this stuff….man is to quick to try and “get” God – the mind of man tries to makes sense of the mind of God and usually we just mess it all up! We create “doctrines” from our minds…. we create entire institutions about God from our minds… we write books, hold seminars about the mind of God…and well the list goes on and on. Sense when does the mind of man understand the mind of God?

Why all of this? These scriptures are so very deep and yet so simple. I can spend hours trying to convince, writing sermons, blogs, post, or even books that God is real, that God created all things…..but through these simple 4 verses it says it all…..God’s GLORY is on display even in nature, salvation is possible even through nature!! God does NOT NEED ME TO try and convince anyone who He is. His very creation can do this!! I HAVE heard stories and met a few people who have been saved through nature and it’s an incredible thing to behold…. a POWERFUL truth that God is GOD.

To me God wanted me to see this…. that He has called me to preach the Word….but when it comes to His Glory, Salvation, proving who He is….I don’t need to figure that out…..I don’t really even need to preach on it or teach on it. All I need to do is be an Obedient Servant that speaks what He wants me to speak. He is NOT asking me to go to a mountain top and meditate (he may do this) He is letting me know that I have nothing to do with salvation, stop trying to figure out ways to help people “find Jesus” and allow God to be God… my calling is deep and is where He has me right now….I believe He has called me to equip the “body” and help prepare the Bride for the Bridegroom. Even if it’s just my family!!!

Salvation is not easy, it’s not cheap and it’s NOT as simple as raising your hand and saying yes to an emotional plea from a speaker. And yet at the same time Salvation is EASY and it’s FREE!!!!

Do I need to explain this statement?

I am loving this Psalm and plan on moving through it slowly.