Extreme Grace, Part 1

Spending some good time in Acts.  I’m always amazed, encouraged, and sometimes shamed as I read what happened in the lives of the apostles and the Church as a whole in those early days.  They had such amazing boldness and courage, and experienced some crazy results.

Today I was looking at chapters 3 and 4 which is when Peter and John healed the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem.  Scripture says they fixed their gaze on the man…staring at him intently to capture his absolute intention…and talking to him with complete confidence and boldness to what Jesus was about to do through them.  Then Peter spoke complete, physical healing into this man’s life.  Dude, this is Peter.  PETER!  The guy that couldn’t seem to get anything right earlier, now totally transformed.  I’m thinking, “Man, I want to be like that.”  You know, to have the kind of power that pushes back and overcomes darkness like that.  Why don’t we experience that?  A question I’ve pondered a lot and don’t really have the answer, though I have some idea.  I will save that for another post perhaps.

What really struck me today was what happened after they went on into the Temple.  When confronted by the authorities, Peter started boldly preaching again.  Unless something really extreme had happened, what Peter said next was nothing less than hypocricy on steroids.  In 13 and 14, Peter said this:

13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, (15) and you killed the Author of life…”

Did you catch that?  Twice Peter said that they had denied Jesus.  Helloooo, excuse me, Pete, but do you not remember where you were at about the time these little people were denying Him??  Peter had run away like a scared little girl from, oh, yeah, a little girl who had accused him of being a follower of Jesus.  Three times he had denied knowing Jesus!  It’s like now he had totally forgotten what he, himself, had done.  How does that happen?  What right does Peter have to be accusing others of denying?  None…unless something had happened to him.  Perhaps Peter had experienced some extreme Grace.

Need some?  Check out Part 2 tomorrow.

PSI – 2 Corinthians 10

Personal Spiritual Insights [PSI] – September 9, 2008

2 Corinthians 10

Paul talks forcefully to the Corinthian people because of the sin that has crept into the church there.  They were ministered to by Paul, leading to the establishing of the church and, through his authority as the “church-planter” and spiritual father, he is direct. In chapter 10, he defends his authority over them, defining why he writes the way he does and to what end he strives.

He differentiates between those who might accuse him of walking according to the flesh because he seems to be inconsistent, writing forcefully yet speaking and appearing rather timid and humble when in person.  He makes very clear that he can be bold in presence also, but wants them to understand his power, authority and purpose.  In verse 3, he states that, yes, they do walk in the flesh (are ministering to humans as humans), but are not doing battle according to the flesh (for a contrast, think Crusades which sought to convert through coercion and violence).  Intead, Paul says that he and his fellow ministers are waging war according to and by way of the spirit.

He claims to have “divine power.”  He then describes, using terminology of warfare, that the power he has is to destroy (satanic) strongholds:
1.  Destroy arguments and lofty opinions raised against knowledge of God.  There is, then, a mental/intellectual battle through which he dismantles faulty views of and attitudes towards the Truth of Christ.  This is not by being arrogant and haughty in approach (since he earlier says that he is humble face to face), but through reasoning as he did on Mars Hill in Acts 17.  Loving people to the truth by listening to their views and lovingling pointing out the faulty reasoning and pointing them to Jesus.

2.  Take every thought captive.  This is an internal warfare, understanding that the warrior must be not only loyal to his commander, but trained thoroughly in the methods of the warfare and not out-flanked by the enemy, allowing defeat from within.  Countries that fight for a worthy and noble cause can be undone when they adopt evil practices of the enemy such as killing the innocent, being merciless to their captives, etc.  They may win a battle, but the honor is gone.  Paul knows that in the kind of warfare in which he is engaged, there must be purity of motive and method so that Christ will be honored in all he does, says and thinks.  He doesn’t want to win a battle only to lose the war.

3.  Punish every disobedience.  Here is where we see the moxy of Paul.  He may be gentle, but he can also be direct and strong.  For those who should know better, he holds accountable.  He understands that this is war and the enemy takes no prisoners.  The stakes couldn’t be higher as souls hang in the balance, so there is no room for compromise.  Too often, leaders today allow room for compromise for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.  Sadly, their “feelings” are left in tact while their souls are bleeding and dying from all of the attacks.  Paul was gentle when possible and commanding when necessary.  He was a man who understood balance.

In this war, Paul kept his eyes on the objectives:
1.  To build up the people God called him to minister to (verse 8).
2.  To grow up the Corinthian people so strongly that their faith causes the area of Paul’s influence with the Gospel to be expanded and more people will be reached with the Truth of Christ (verses 15-16).

Paul was a master warrior who understood the battle, had expert knowledge in spiritual warfare, knew the motives and tactics of the enemy, and relied on the commands and power of the Master.  Every Believer is called to spiritual warfare and every leader is called and equipped in the same way as Paul.  Unfortunately, we too often walk according to the flesh, not realizing how embedded the enemy is within the hearts and minds of people and we take our eyes off of the objective, being more content with making people happy than holy.

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