"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

STUDIES in the LIFE of PETER – A CALL to ALL SERVANTS of the LORD

By James Fire

These articles are based on the teachings given on FEB 27, 2016 at The ETERNAL LIVING WORD Church: SERVANT-LEADERS Conference - STUDIES IN THE LIFE OF PETER.

WHY DOES GOD NEED SERVANTS? HE IS ALMIGHTY. HE DOESN'T NEED THEM, BUT HE WANTS SERVANTS. WHY?
HE ISN'T INTERESTED IN 'LORDING' OVER SERVANTS AS A TYRANNICAL GOD OF WRATH BUT RATHER, THE LORD DESIRES SERVANTS, WHO WHILE SERVING HIM, WILL LEARN OF THE LORD WHO IS HIMSELF The SERVANT! (the GOSPEL of MATTHEW reveals Christ Who is King; The GOSPEL of MARK reveals Christ Who is Servant. The KING Who is The SERVANT).

MATTHEW 26:40-41
40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.


The LORD and His disciples had just finished their passover meal, what we now refer to as the LORD's Supper and communion; a blessed practice that we engage in to remember His death until He returns.

They then followed the LORD Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane 

[a place of quiet where the LORD often went – a location in Israel that I myself have visited on two separate occasions (1998 and 2003). I'd love to visit Israel again, but things as they are prophetically speaking, we may ALL arrive their soon without the use of an airline ticket!]

Once they entered the Garden, He told His disciples to remain where they were; He then took Peter, James and John and brought this inner circle of saints further on. Then He went alone a bit further and fell to the ground and prayed [I see this as comparable to a model of the Temple – most disciples remained in the outer court; Peter, James and John were brought into the holy place; Jesus alone our High Priest, went into the Holy of Holies].

Here is where we find ourselves in this present text.

MATT. 26:40: 
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

The LORD came to His disciples and found them sleeping. Who does He address then? Was it John? No. James? No – it was Peter; probably because among the disciples he represented the top of the leadership, and its always the one in leadership that gets called into question, the one who should know better (who here represent the eldest of your siblings? When you all got into some mischief, whose name did you hear your parents call out when you were caught? Aha!).

Where did He just come from? Our Great High Priest and Intercessor came from the holy place of prayer:

HEB. 5:6-10
6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

What a tremendous servant our LORD is, Who ministers to us in this holy office of prayers and intercessions on our behalf, now at the right hand of GOD the Father (ROM 8:34)!
The LORD Jesus had already taught His disciples to pray in MATT. 6:9-13, including the petition regarding temptation and yet they need reminding to not “enter into temptation”. And He finds them sleeping – why are they sleeping? The LORD poses the question regarding His return to Earth in the last days: 

LUKE 18:8 
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

In what sort of spiritual condition does the LORD find us in, here today?

So, why are the disciples sleeping?
It was probably getting late (and they were probably always getting up early with the LORD to begin ministry). They were no doubt tired. But we have every reason to believe that they were also very heavy-hearted and even grieving. Ever been heavy-hearted? Grieving? In various kinds of hardships and trials as those who are serving the LORD?
Why are the disciples in such a state?

HEAVY HEARTED in HARD TRIALS

MATT 16:21-24
21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Now, we know how things go from here: we've read this before! WE know that the LORD is going to rise again and overcome sin, death and hell with RESURRECTION Power!! And if not for the shock of what the LORD just told them, maybe the disciples would have heard Him tell THEM as well. 

But let's place ourselves in the disciples shoes – or sandals – for a moment:

Picture this: 
You have been selected of ALL the people of ISRAEL by the Messiah King as one of His followers and subsequently, a leader in the coming Kingdom of Israel. But you're a fisherman! And this would be about the best you'd ever expect for yourself! 
But this is greater than any dream you could have possibly have had; an aspiration far higher than you would have ever thought possible! 

You've witnessed miracles, healings, deliverance from demons, the dead raised up to life again. Such bold declarations by Deity made flesh and teachings of truth from the very King Himself!

And YOU are a part of this! Feeling honored? Blessed? You've got it made now, you're in tight with the Messiah. But . . .

Now He is talking about being killed? And about any who wants to follow Him, to carry their crosses and follow Him – He isn't talking about jewelry here, or an ornament to place on an altar, or something to top our steeples. He is talking about crosses - the kinds that were used as the means of capital punishment of that day. 

His is the declaration to His disciples, not to dream but to die (to self, sin and Satan's world)!

Today – we have gas chambers and electric chairs. What if Jesus came for the first time today? We wouldn't treat Him so brutally as to crucify Him! No, we would have treated Him far better: we'd gas Him or electrocute Him! And our hymns would certainly be changed had this been the case, right?

"There's room in the gas chamber . . . for you!" and "At the electric chair, at the electric chair . . .  where I first saw the light . . . " bbzzzzzzzzzzt!!

But back in chapter 26, our present text, we see the following:

MATT 26:1
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,
2 Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

BOMB SHELL! IN JUST 2 DAYS!!??

And again: He is dining in the house of Simon, a man healed of leprosy and in comes this woman Mary with a box of alabaster full of preciously expensive ointment (about a year's wages worth!) that was probably a dowry for Mary's potential marriage, but she sacrificed it for Christ instead.
The disciples reaction? Indignation! WHY was such a waste made when this could have been used to feed the poor! Yet the LORD rebukes them and says:

MATT 26:12
12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial

BOMB SHELL!!

Now it's the passover meal; a time to sit and dine with those loved ones most dear to us, and rejoice in the LORD Who is our Passover.

MATT 26:20-21
20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

BOMB SHELL!!!

Talk about your dreams being destroyed: and even more so, the LORD that you love and are dedicated to, has declared that He is going to be killed, and not just killed, but crucified : the most vile, excruciating, agonizing, torturous means of death that is so hellishly painful that it could literally drive people insane! And this is going to happen to the KING of ISRAEL?? (And this is just talking about the physical aspects. What about the spiritual side to all of this: the very sins of the entire human race being shoved into the righteous and pure soul of Jesus, and then the full brunt of GOD's Holy Wrath in judgment upon our Sin-bearer!!)

And this is where we find the disciples, in the Garden of Gethsemane with this knowledge in their hearts and minds . . .

RETREAT or RECHARGE? 

Have you ever known grief so deep rooted in your soul that it feels as though it's never going to leave? Such a dark time that you've forgotten what the light looked like? Such desperation that it leaves you breathless in a cold sweat without a clue about any kind of solution?

At such times like this, it's a sore temptation to want to retreat, to not face such terrible circumstances; the disciples had only one refuge that they could think of – to sleep. To numb themselves with oblivion and not face up to this doom.

As servants of the LORD, while prone to such fear and doubt by the threats and challenges of life, and ministry we have only two options: to allow such things into our minds and hearts, and be overcome by them OR to seek the LORD Himself the only source of salvation that can really help. 

And as servants of the LORD – be assured: if you haven't encountered opposition, hardships, struggles, lack and doubt – you will! As servants of the LORD we are engaged in spiritual warfare against the enemy who wants to destroy our service to the LORD; as well as we ourselves, His saints and wayward sinners too.

At such times, what can we do? Again, seek the LORD and pray – and not give into the temptation to turn back and flee. 

One might say:
“This 'cross business' and 'dying to self' and fighting Satan and this world, it's just too hard, I can't do it!”
 Right! This is why we can't go forward in the work without the LORD before us, with us, within us and behind, empowering us by His Spirit of grace!

May we walk with the LORD, in lock-step with Divinely inspired punctuality! We need to get alone with the LORD of All Authority and Power and recharge spiritually; for we know the Spirit of Truth Who dwells within us (JOHN 14:17; MATT. 28:18-20) is the same Spirit that grants to us the power to be CHRIST's witnesses (ACTS 1:7-9)

Again, Servants of the LORD are to be prayer warriors too, they are to Mirror our Master and pray as He does! He is our great example and He has granted us the example of prayer in model form (MATT. 6:9-13).

Servant-hood absolutely includes spiritual warfare; consider the children of Israel in Nehemiah's day: They served in the work and helped to build the wall around Jerusalem, but the enemies of Israel were full of wrath and greatly desired to destroy God's people. So while the Jews built the wall, they also  girded weapons upon themselves (See NEHEMIAH Ch 4:16-18; read the whole chapter!). 

These saints were ready for battle, even as they were intent on building. As servants of the LORD, where has the LORD called YOU to build? Then prepare in that same place, for battle!

Likewise as we serve the LORD, we must recognize we are graciously invited to the work by the LORD Himself and as we are so engaged, there is the great enemy Satan who will want to stop us in that same work. Be prepared to do battle. Gird on your spiritual weapons of the Word, and prayer and armor and be Ready for Resistance! Expect your Enemy!

On the subject of spiritual warfare, see the following Four-Part series of teachings provided by The ETERNAL LIVING WORD Church (that hosted this current conference as well!).

The WHOLE ARMOR of GOD by Sonny Islas - Part ONE

The WHOLE ARMOR of GOD by Rick Carrasco - Part TWO

The WHOLE ARMOR of GOD by Jesus Alegria - Part THREE

The WHOLE ARMOR of GOD by Danny Islas - Part FOUR

We live in such a day of growing spiritual darkness that our expectations for spiritual attack and satanic resistance should also be growing. Again, in the face of such opposition, there is the temptation to stumble  in our faith, to fall asleep spiritually, to fail in our steadfastness in Christ. Let us not give into such temptations, but remain watchful.
This is not the time for murky sleepiness but to be spiritually militant!

2 PETER 3:17-18
17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

ROMANS 13:12-14
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

The LORD asked His disciples:

“COULD YOU NOT WATCH WITH ME ONE HOUR?”

The Servant of the LORD Must W.A.T.C.H., Always:

Wise in the Word
Alert in Prayer
Trials Welcomed
Christ-likeness - Note that this is near the end, not at the beginning*
Holiness

*We must begin with the LORD always, and any one who is born into the kingdom of God has come through Christ. He is the Door into the Kingdom of God (JOHN 10:7,9).

Yet how many are continuing? 
How many are turning back? 
How many are leaving their first love, their first calling? 
How many are forsaking the culture of God's kingdom and instead 'going native' and returning to the culture of this sinful world? We are pilgrims traveling through this world of sin that we no longer belong to (2 PETER 2:11)?

It's not enough that we begin with Christ, we must by God's grace alone, press on to the end with Christ and find the work of holiness completed when we are found of the LORD on the day of His return remaining – once again – by God's grace, diligent and faithful as good servants of the LORD.

MATT 26:41
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak

The LORD admonishes His disciples to “watch and pray” . . . watch and pray – where have we heard this phrase before from the lips of our LORD Jesus? After addressing the issue of His Second Coming and the signs that would precede that Blessed Hope, He said the following:

MARK 13:31-33
31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

In JOHN's first epistle we read:

1 JOHN 3:2-3
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Watching and praying then against the temptations of spiritual lethargy and sleepiness, and slothful sinfulness is akin to remaining diligent in our expectation of our LORD's RETURN and watching the prophetic signs He gave to us of that day: 

Of that servant who remains faithful, the LORD states:

MATTHEW 24:42-43
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

QUALIFICATIONS for RULE in GOD'S KINGDOM

The criteria and qualifications for ruling in God's Kingdom are based on servant-hood. Who is the greatest in the Kingdom? Jesus Christ. Why? Because He is the Supreme Servant, the One Who laid down His life as a ransom for sinner's redemption (ISAIAH 42:1-3; 52:13-15; MATT. 20:28).

MARK 10:42-45
42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

The disciples often quarreled among themselves about who of them would be the greatest, but the LORD throughout His ministry, and in the Garden of Gethsemane itself, continued to teach them what real servant-hood is all about: To die to self in the service of ministering to the needs of others, even our enemies, all according to the will of the Father.

The Servant of the LORD will watch out for the saints, in prayer and supplications and NOT give up in their intercessions! This is a LABOR of prayer, which is a BLESSED labor!

After listing all of the spiritual armor in EPHESIANS 6, the apostle Paul refers to this method of spiritual long range artillery:

EPHESIANS 6:18
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints

The LORD makes the remark, that “ . . . the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Note that the word “spirit” has a small 's' which indicates the spirit of the person, rather than the Spirit of God. This speaks of how we would desire to be faithful inwardly, but how to actually live faithfully is, sometimes, a struggle.

Peter was utterly sincere when he said that he would NEVER be offended because of the LORD. I believe in his spirit, he was entirely sincere – he LOVED Jesus! So did all the others, but Peter denied Him three times; the others fled and forsook Him, just as He said they would (MATT 26:33-36).

Paul knew of this dilemma as well between his flesh and his spirit:

ROMANS 7:15-18
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Our flesh is weak, for we are nothing more than common clay in ourselves, made of the dust of the Earth. And yet we are not helplessly weak if we have the glory and grace of God's Spirit in us:

2 CORINTHIANS 4:7-9, 16-18
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal

As the servants of the LORD, we may have to endure troubles, distress, perplexity, despair even – persecution, certainly; we may feel forsaken – but remember prayer in that secret place of the Holy One: and remember to pray for one another . . . 

Did Peter finally learn his lessons on what it means to be a true servant of the LORD and remain spiritually watchful over the flock and even his own heart? YES! Consider these verses as we return to this acronym:

W. A. T. C. H.
  Lessons Learned by Peter 

W. ise in the Word –  2 PETER 1:16-21;3:13-18
A.lert in Prayer – 1 PETER 3:8-12;5:6-9
T.rials Welcome* – 1 PETER 1:3-7;4:1-2,12-13
C.hrist-likeness – 2 PETER 1:2-4,5-7
H.oliness – 1 PETER 1:13-16;2:9-12

* Consider something as common and cheap as coal; yet when you subject it to extreme heat, pressure and darkness, as is the case when found in the lower reaches of our planet, these elements work upon this substance, and by these means, turns that coal into precious diamonds!
The same with gold ore: it's full of impurities and baser elements but if you apply extreme heat, those impurities rise to the surface and are skimmed off by the goldsmith. He will continue this process until he can see his own reflection in the molten gold.
Also consider the pearl. It starts out as a grain of sand or some other tiny object that has worked its way into the oyster. This extreme irritant is then covered by mother of pearl, a substance secreted by the oyster to coat it and prevent further irritation.
Look at the grape vine - in order to produce the maximum amount of fruit, the vine dresser must prune it back until what remains of it is virtually just a stick!

In trials, do you feel like you're in the dark, under extreme pressure? Are things beginning to really heat up? Are you finding yourself irritated and enduring suffering of one sort or another? Do you feel like your life is being stripped down to virtually nothing? These are trials, and while unpleasant, should be welcomed - because they will work in us, by the enabling Spirit of God's grace, a stronger, purer and enduring faith that otherwise could not be possible (JAMES 1:2-4; 1 PET 1:6-8).

And consider the Cross of Christ as seen by the apostles prior to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. To these eleven, this was perceived as the Tragedy of all tragedies; the greatest Cataclysmic crises ever; the worst thing that could have ever happened!

They did not understand the purpose in the death of Christ; they couldn't see any hope in the future!

Trials are often like that: we cannot see God's purpose in them; we are bewildered by tragedy in our lives, in the crises we face, in the worst things we could possibly imagine: these things too often leave us hopeless - we cannot see any prospective future.

Yet that very same thing that the apostles saw as RUIN, wrought for them, and for all of us saints, the RIGHTEOUSNESS of GOD via the RESURRECTED LORD of GLORY! What was seen as TRAGEDY was actually our TRIUMPH In Christ! 

Let us view our present - and future trials in this light! By the power of God's miraculous hand, He can and will transform such perilous tragedies into profound triumphs through Christ Jesus our LORD (2 COR 2:14).

1 PETER 4:7-8
7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

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