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Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Adversary at Work in One New Testament Life

Job’s calamities all began with Satan challenging God concerning Job’s faithfulness. God gave Satan, the adversary, permission to take all that Job had, but not to hurt him, physically.

Satan countered Job’s victory to honor Almighty God above love of material possessions and family with yet another challenge.  The adversary declared that Job’s love of self would make him deny God when his health failed. God knew better. Permission was granted, but had limits, just as with the first challenge. The adversary could attack Job’s body but not kill him.

As we saw at the end of the two battles, God was pleased with how Job handled the trials. Ultimately, Job was much better off, materially, than before the calamities began.

The story of Job let’s us realize that Satan needs God’s permission to do anything at all to us. We see the adversary in the proper position here, but also in the relative size.

Somehow, folks get the idea that Satan can be everywhere all at once, attacking everyone in the whole world, if he wants. Satan can’t be in more than one place at any one time, just like you and me. He is a created being and is no bigger than any of the other angels God created.

No one thinks that Gabriel, the Archangel who announced that Jesus would be born to Mary and Joseph, can be in more than one place at a time; but, somehow, we can picture the adversary scattered all over the world. This is simply not possible; he is just one created being.

Equally, it is true that Satan does ask permission to attack God’s kids on those days when he is presenting himself before God in Heaven. One such example from the New Testament is found in the Gospel of Luke.

The time of revelation of the permission being granted was at the “Last Supper.” Jesus met with His disciples for the last time; they won’t eat together again until after his resurrection. Jesus said so many mysterious things to the men, but this one really hit home for Peter, who was also called Simon.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Within this brief statement we fine four things that Jesus reveals:

1. Satan has asked permission of Father God to sift Peter like wheat. That is to say, to prove that he is not faithful to God, in the same way that the dross falls through the sifting screen and only the pure wheat is left.

2. God has granted the adversary permission. So often our image of God is that he would never grant Satan permission for anything, let alone to attack us. If it’s in God’s plan to help us grow, or to reveal our own heart to us, God may actually grant that permission.

3. Jesus knows that Peter will fail the test.

4. Jesus is praying that Peter will not fall away because of this mistake, but will come back from that and end up being a strength to his brothers, all of whom will also have denied Christ.

Wow, all of that in just those three, short sentences. Yup, all of that.

Of course, Peter’s response is what we would expect of the impetuous follower of Jesus. I can so easily see myself behaving in exactly the same way! It’s Passover celebration. Jesus is there and all is well with the world. Nothing will change how I feel about Jesus; I’d rather die than leave Him.

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33)

Me, too, Jesus! Peter just knew that he was as loyal as the summer day was long. No way, even if everyone else abandoned Jesus, the Lord could count on Peter to hang in there and sit in a prison cell, chained with Him against a wall. Jesus knew better, which was why He was praying for Peter and the others.

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:34)

These must have been painful words coming from Jesus. How could Jesus say that to Peter? Did the Lord not realize just how much Peter loved Him?

That’s exactly the point; Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. Yes, Peter loved Jesus and wanted to be the person he thought he was already. Jesus knew that serious fear and danger would reveal to Peter just how much he still had to grow. Its little wonder that Peter cried such agonizing tears when, later in that very same chapter, Jesus’ words proved exactly right.

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.

A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”

And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22: 54-62)

When that rooster crowed, Peter had denied Jesus, not once, but thrice! He hadn’t even noticed the first two times.

Oh my, but I can see myself running away to cry my eyes out somewhere in the dark. I’d be unable to believe that I’d done that right after I had promised to even go to prison or die with Jesus and now, I couldn’t even admit I knew Him? Unbelievable, after all Jesus had done for me. Yup, I totally understood.

Many a preacher has said that the look Jesus gave Peter when the rooster crowed to mark the end of Peter’s denials was one of condemnation. An “I told you so” kind of look. I seriously doubt that this was the way Jesus, Who loved Peter so deeply, felt when he glanced over at Peter.

I believe that Jesus said, in His glance, “Remember, Peter? I told you what happened here. Satan has asked permission to sift you. The adversary sifted you and you’ve fallen through. But, remember Peter, I’m praying for you. I knew you’d not be strong enough to resist this trial, and I’m praying for you. It’s okay. You’ll make it; just repent. And, when you do come back to take your stand for me, strengthen your brothers. They will have all denied me, just as you have, so they will need you to strengthen them. I love you, Peter. It’s okay.”

Jesus made the effort to tell Peter ahead of time that Satan was at the bottom of this; that Peter would lose this battle, but there’d be others. Jesus would pray him through. Don’t give up, Peter! The Lord’s pulling for you!

Think back to what Job went through at the adversaries attacks. That’s the kind of intensity that was hitting Peter to deny Christ at that very time. That helps us to understand better just how Peter could have turned away so soon after declaring his allegiance to Jesus, doesn’t it? This time, the power of the gates of hell did prevail against Peter, but the reason the permission had been granted proved true. Peter did return and, definitely, did strengthen his brothers.

Reading this account, we see the very Person Job longed for when he was going through his own trials. A mediator. At the end of Job Chapter Nine, Job is stating what he needed, but didn’t have; what Peter had, but didn’t know he even needed.

When Job pleaded for someone to “lay his hand upon both of us…to bring us together,”a vivid picture formed in my mind.

God stood on one side of a vast chiasm, and I on the opposite edge. No way could I jump across that gigantic hole. Then, a rugged, wooden cross dropped down to fill the chiasm, one arm rested on each edge.

As I stared at the cross, it changed and, was replaced by the outstretched arms of Jesus. Jesus the Mediator, bridges the gap sin made between God and me; the picture was clear.

Jesus formed that bridge across the chiasm. Jesus is the Mediator Job longed for.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. (I. Timothy 2:5)

Jesus says the same to us today. Yes, the adversary will ask permission to sift us like wheat, but God won’t always grant that permission. No permission, no attack.

However, on those occasions when God does grant Satan permission to sift us, we can be certain that Jesus, our Mediator, is praying for us, too! We might prove strong enough to endure the hardship, as Job did, but most of us are not there yet. Most of us will be more like Peter; we believe that we are faithful and solid in our commitment to Christ, until a trial of temptation comes that knocks us off our pins. Then, we will be devastated, as Peter was, and run from the shame of our betrayal of the Lord. May we also do as Peter did, repent, come back to Jesus with an even stronger loyalty, knowing that we are capable of falling; but that Jesus is willing to receive us again. May we be strengthened by the experience, not bitter that we had so underestimated our fleshly weakness.

Remember; God wants you to succeed in every trial. He’s not out there with a large stick waiting to beat you up when you fail. Jesus is praying you through…either to victory like Job, or repentance and strength as for Peter. You can make it! Jesus is praying for you!

 
This post marks the final episode in the “The Question of God and Abandonment” series. It is also the last post of this summer. I’ll be devoting my writing time to the completion of the first draft of a nonfiction manuscript. Now’s the time to get caught up with some of the old posts you’ve not yet checked out.

****Have a terrific summer!

2 comments:

  1. WOW! I have shared several from you in this study on facebook...

    Keep Winging His Words
    Pam

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  2. Amazing as always. This was fabulous, you truly have the Spirit flowing in you in all that you do...and most notably in your writing style. Thank you for this awesome post.

    May the Lord bless you abundantly, and I pray that your book is a HUGE success!!!
    And, that it becomes the HIT of the century!

    God wants your story to be told, and so He is! Praise God for bringing you through adversive and exceedingly difficult times past, and present. He is a powerful and loving God, and so I thank Him for everything, and for being blessed to have a friend like you.

    Blessings & Love,
    Camille~

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