Tag Archives: faith

Impetuous Peter Walks On Water

peter walks on water.jpg

Today’s post is about the impetuous Peter.  The disciple who refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet, then wanted Jesus to wash his whole body which garnered a double-redirection from Jesus (John 13:6-10).  The disciple who rebuffed Jesus when he spoke of his death, earning him a stiff reprimand from Jesus (Matthew 16:22-23).  The disciple who cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest, which Jesus rebuked firmly (Luke 22:49-50).  The disciple who returned to his profession of fishing when he had been called to be a fisher of men (John 21:3).

The same disciple who professed that Jesus is the Messiah, God the Son (Matthew 16:16).  The same disciple who continued to follow Jesus, if only from afar, after Jesus’ arrest (Luke 22:54-62).  The same disciple who immediately ran to the tomb after the women told him it was empty (Luke 24:12).  The same disciple who jumped into the water to get to shore faster in order to see Jesus sooner (John 21:6).

Peter was impetuous, often doing things immediately without thinking things through.  After the miracle of feeding 5,000 men plus women and children (Matthew 14:13-21), Jesus sent his disciples on a boat to Bethsaida.  Jesus went to pray alone.  In the early sea-of-Galileemorning hours (between 3 A.M. and 6 A.M.), the wind had prevented the disciples from making much headway on the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus began walking on the water, intending to pass by them in order to make a demonstration of his deity.  Instead of being impressed by the power of Jesus over the fluidity and instability of water, they imagined him to be a ghost and became afraid.  You cannot really blame the disciples, though.  They had been in a boat all night on a lake that is only 64 square miles large, roughly the size of Liechtenstein.  There was a tremendous headwind preventing the sea-of-Galilee-2000px.jpgboat from making much progress.  Waves were buffeting the boat.  It is quite possible the disciples saw some supernatural force at work in the wind, preventing them from getting to where Jesus had sent them.  A mysterious image walking on the water must have confirmed their fears.

“But when tjesus_walking_on_waterhe disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear” (Matthew 14:26).  How soon the disciples forgot that Jesus had calmed the wind and the waves before.  “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41).  They had just seen Jesus demonstrate his power by feeding 5,000 men with just five loaves and two fish, yet now were trembling in fear at the sight of a ghost.

Jesus immediately calmed their fears by identifying himself “Take heart; It is I.  Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27).  Here is where Peter does something impetuous.  He insisted that he walk on the water with Jesus.  “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you onpeter-jumps-john-21 the water” (Matthew 14:28).  Now, I wonder what was going through Peter’s mind at that moment.  Wasn’t he afraid that some ghost imitating Jesus could have bid him to get out of the boat to his death?  Even though his eyes saw a ghost, his ears heard the voice of his Master.  His Master bade him “Come.”  So Peter got out of his comfort zone and walked on the water.  No other man on earth (who was not also God) can make that claim.  Peter was walking on water.

Then Peter took his eyes off of Jesus. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matthew 14:30).  “When he saw….”  To see.  The Greek word for saw is βλέπω (blep’-o) which means to look at, behold, beware, peter waterlie, look (on), perceive, regard, see, sight, take heed.  As impetuously as he was in leaping out of the boat at the voice of Jesus, Peter now was just as impetuous to regard the wind, and the way it made him feel emotionally.  Instead of regarding the one who commands the wind and the waves, his eyes told him “Beware of the wind and waves.”  He began to walk by sight and not by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).  He trusted what his eyes were telling him and not in who Jesus is.  Jesus reached for Peter, lifted him up.  Jesus labeled Peter one of little faith.  “Little faith” is translated from one Greek word, όλιγόπιστος (ol-ig-op’-is-tos), meaning incredulous, lacking confidence.  Taken from two Greek words, όλιγόπιστος implies “puny conviction.”

“Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).  “Doubt,” διστάζω (dis-tad’-zo) meaning to duplicate, to waver (in opinion), to doubt.  Peter doubted the power of Jesus.  Instead he believed the lie of the wind and waves.  Peter’s little faith was not that he required evidence in order to believe.  Jesus did not demand blind faith.  Faith is not believing in something without evidence.  Faith is putting trust in someone who is trustworthy.  Jesus, in fact, gave the disciples (and us) evidence of his power by calming the storm, feeding the 5,000, walking on water, resurrecting from the dead. 

Trust.  That is what faith is about.  Is Jesus able to make me walk on water?  Has he bid me “Come?”[1]  Then what am I waiting for?  Do I trust him?  Imagine if Peter had not lost confidence in Jesus and kept walking by faith instead of by what his eyes saw.  Which disciple would have been next to step out of the boat?  Andrew?  John?  Philip?  Could Peter’s demonstration of faith have inspired the rest to step out in faith?  They weren’t getting anywhere fast inside the boat.  Jesus seemed to be getting along just fine walking on the water.

Peter missed the opportunity to inspire his fellow disciples because he regarded what his eyes saw, instead of the one who bade him “Come.”  His impetuous nature led him to a place where he could have demonstrated great faith.  Instead, he exhibited little faith.  Thankfully, Peter’s story of faith did not end here.  The power of the Gospel transformed him.  He became a man of great faith, even to the point of preaching the resurrection of Jesus though he knew it would lead to his death.

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[1] Although I am not one who believes that miracles ended with the Apostolic age, I do believe that they are less frequent.  God used miracles as evidence for his authority and power. Now that his Word is complete, there is no need for miracles to demonstrate his authority and power.  Do we really trust God who has already spoken, or are we like the Pharisees who constantly sought signs, doubting, wavering?  Though Jesus has the power to make us literally walk on water, he has not bid us “Come.”  My point above about us walking on water is metaphorical, not literal.  Let us be careful not to turn Jesus into a glorified magician, who can wow people with parlor tricks.

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Are You a Cretin or a Cretan?

Epimenides1
Hint: Don’t be either.

To call someone a “cretin” is to insult him as a person who is stupid, obtuse, or mentally defective.  Even the world’s most famous composer was insulted by his employer with the epithet.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote to his father in May 1781 about a conversation he had where the Archbishop of Salzburg.  During a heated

Mozart1

Mozart is sacked by the Archbishop and kicked in the backside by Count Arco.

exchange while in Vienna, the Archbishop had called him a “cretin” because Mozart had not made plans to return to Salzburg as ordered and was unable to deliver a package in Salzburg for the Archbishop.  This insult likely derived from the medical condition called cretinism.  This medical condition is a congenital disease due to absence or deficiency of normal thyroid secretion, characterized by physical deformity, dwarfism, and mental retardation.  Most etymologists believe the word cretin is a derivative of the Swiss-French Alpine dialect word créstin, which comes from the Latin word christianus or christianum.  The use of “Christian” to describe people with such physical deformity or mental disability was probably as a reminder that those suffering from the unfortunate medical condition were still human creatures, created in the image of God, deserving respect.  The term has become a pejorative now, that has been far removed from its original usage.

Some people mix up calling someone a “cretin” with calling him a “Cretan.”  A Cretan is Cretans1simply someone from Crete.  However, in antiquity to be identified as a Cretan was to be linked with the moral decadence the ancient world associated with the people of Crete.  Cicero wrote “[T]he rules of life are so contradictory that the Cretans…regard robbery as honorable.”[1]  Ancient Greek historian Polybius had a more biting estimation of the virtues cicero3of Cretans. “Now it would be impossible to find except in some rare instances personal conduct more treacherous or a public policy more unjust than in Crete.”[2] 

The Apostle Paul gets in the game of insulting Cretans when he wrote to Titus whom he established as the bishop on Crete to oversee several newly planted churches there.  Paul counseled Titus against false teachers that were infiltrating the churches on Crete.  “They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”  (Titus 1:11).  Paul then likely referred to Epimenides when he continued “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons’.”  (Titus 1:12).  Paul then affirms this accusation “This testimony is true.  Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith….” (Titus 1:13).  Paul, of course, meant this as a generalization and not that all Cretans cannot speak the truth, ever.[3]  These particular Cretans were leading the people of the Church astray.  They claimed to know God but their behavior demonstrated their claims were a lie.  “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.  They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” (Titus 1:16).

Paul called these false teachers liars and unbelievers because of their deeds and false teachings.  He was not the least bit hesitant to make such a judgment.  Defending the Church from such wolves evoked a strong response from Paul. 

The Church is filled with both cretins and Cretans.  There are those Christians who reject church idiotsthe intellectual side of Christianity for an emotional, if not lazy, faith that is easy.  It takes no effort to feel.  Feelings just happen to you.  There is no work, no study, no diligence required.  “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.  I don’t need to know why what I believe is true.  I just believe it.  If I have the evidence, then I lack faith.”  Such cretin Christians make the job of Cretan Christians easy because they lack the knowledge of the Word of God.

“Cretans” profess faith in God, but teach false doctrine and live lives that betray their profession.  “Cretans” may be in leadership, or they may be merely laymen, but they teach a foreign gospel that makes light of sin, and shuns sound doctrine.  They say things people want to hear.  “Jesus is all about love, not judgment.”  “He who is without sin cast the first stone means we are not to be judgmental.”  “God wants us to be happy, so do good for yourselves.”

Faith is always linked to actions.  Belief is always associated with behavior.  A true confession of faith will ALWAYS be demonstrated by righteous living.  Not that Christians never sin, but that the vector of their lives are always more holy, more righteous, more obedient.  The process of sanctification is evident in a true Christian.  We are known by our fruit. (Matthew 7:20).

Are we Cretans whose profession of faith is a lie?  Are we cretins when it comes to sound doctrine because we have been following the teaching of “Cretans?”  Perhaps our pews would be filled with fewer cretins when it comes to biblical orthodoxy if Christians would take a more manly approach to the teachings of Cretans, and expose them publicly like Paul did.

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[1] Republic, Cicero 3.9.15.  To be fair, Cicero was comparing several contradictory moral principles in the world at the time, and not just denigrating Cretans.  The complete quote in its context reads “How many, such as the inhabitants of Taurica along the Euxine Sea—as the King of Egypt Busiris—as the Gauls and the Carthaginians—have thought it exceedingly pious and agreeable to the gods to sacrifice men. Besides these religious discrepancies, the rules of life are so contradictory that the Cretans and Ætolians regard robbery as honourable. And the Lacedæmonians say that their territory extends to all places which they can touch with a lance. The Athenians had a custom of swearing by a public proclamation, that all the lands which produced olives and corn were their own. The Gauls consider it a base employment to raise corn by agricultural labour, and go with arms in their hands, and mow down the harvests of neighbouring peoples. And our Romans, the most equitable of all nations, in order to raise the value of our vines and olives, do not permit the races beyond the Alps to cultivate either vineyards or oliveyards. In this respect, it is said, we act with prudence, but not with justice. You see then that wisdom and policy are not always the same as equity.”

[2] Histories, Polybius 6.47. “So just as when we observe the laws and customs of a  p377 people to be good, we have no hesitation in pronouncing that the citizens and the state will consequently be good also, thus when we notice that men are covetous in their private lives and that their public actions are unjust, we are plainly justified in saying that their laws, their particular customs, and the state as a whole are bad. 5 Now it would be impossible to find except in some rare instances personal conduct more treacherous or a public policy more unjust than in Crete. 6 Holding then the Cretan constitution to be neither similar to that of Sparta nor in any way deserving of praise and imitation, I dismiss it from the comparison which I have proposed to make.”

[3] Some skeptics use this verse to discredit Paul, the New Testament, and the entirety of Christianity.  Theirs is a rather silly argument, however.  They say it is self-defeating to quote a Cretan (Epimenides) for the truthfulness that Cretans never tell the truth.  The argument goes the Bible is supposed to be without error, but to say have a Cretan say “Cretans are always liars” is logically impossible to defend.  Yet, Paul says “This is a true testimony.”  Therefore, the Bible is not inerrant, and the truth of the resurrection is now in doubt.  See this lengthy, silly argument here http://www.jcnot4me.com/page37.html.  It is amazing sometimes the lengths people will go to try to discredit Scripture.  They blind themselves with vain, and silly objections to soothe their consciences from the guilt they feel for preferring their disobedience to surrendering to the sovereignty of Christ.

Leaping to Embrace the Faith of Lady Gaga

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Recently, I read an article about Lady Gaga’s “radical faith.”  The author of the article extolled her for standing up for “her faith in Jesus, and for every person Jesus related to.”  The author assumed she is a Christian, but then curiously relegated Christianity somewhere beneath the “Gospel.”

Before extolling Lady Gaga’s bravery for standing up for her faith, perhaps we should delve into what her faith really is.  We are commanded to test the spirits to see if they are of God. I John 4:1.  First, her “radical faith” appears to begin with some form of Catholicism. lady-gaga-instagram Lady Gaga, born as Stefani Germanotta, posted a picture on Instagram of her with her priest.  She lauded his homily and highlighted a quote she connected with.  Her priest supposedly said “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but the food that God gives us.”  This comment is somewhat silly and does not come near describing the spiritual significance of the Eucharist.

Jesus first instituted this event just before his crucifixion and resurrection.  He used part of the Passover Seder to memorialize his sacrifice that was for the remission of our sins.  See Matthew 26:26-29 and Luke 22:19-20.  The Eucharist is about remembering Jesus Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection that our sins necessitated.  It is not about “the food God gives us.”  Lady Gaga’s priest either taught it wrong, or Lady Gaga misunderstood what he said.  Either way the comment and her approval of it demonstrate, at best, an immaturity in Christian doctrine.

What about what Lady Gaga says about her faith?  She said she believes in Jesus.  Mere belief in the existence of Jesus, however, is not enough to have a saving faith.  A saving faith is one that confesses with the mouth that Jesus is LORD and believes in the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. Romans 10:9.  Making Jesus LORD of one’s life goes beyond saying “I believe in Jesus.”  It requires a surrender of our thinking and our behavior.  We agree with Jesus about our sin and our need for a savior.

James said that mere confession is nice.  Even the demons believe in Jesus, but they are smart enough to tremble. James 2:19.  James stated that a confession of faith is useless unless there are works that prove a true confession. James 2:20.

Can we know if Lady Gaga has a true confession?  Isn’t that judging, and aren’t we supposed to avoid judging?  These questions, you’ve probably all heard, and perhaps uttered, betray a misunderstanding of scripture.  Matthew 7:1 is offered in isolation, usually by people who have not read any other part of Scripture, in order to condemn “judging.”  They fail to read the entire chapter to where Jesus warned us to be discerning (i.e. to judge) when people come to us with doctrines that are false.  “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:19-20.

We can often know if someone has a true confession. True confession is accompanied by good works.  Also, someone’s belief in their heart can be measured by the things they say.  Jesus said “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”  Luke 6:45.

What are some things Lady Gaga has said that indicates what is in abundance in her heart?  She said “I am spiritual, I pray.”  A lot of people are spiritual. Hindus are spiritual.  Atheists are spiritual, although they would deny it.  Praying may indicate an inclination to the spiritual, but to whom does she pray?  What does she pray about?  Being religious or spiritual does not make one right with God.

She said that all religions, which presumably includes Christianity, teach hate.  She laments that all religions practice bigotry against racial groups, other religious groups, even sexual groups.  “I’m a very religious woman who is confused about religion.”  Even the most mature Christian has questions about the faith from time to time.  However, Lady Gaga’s confession demonstrates she really hasn’t considered the truth of Christianity.  She seems to be forging her own spiritual path that includes only what is convenient.

Lady Gaga goes gaga for gay rights in Washington DC

She is a loud voice for the championing of homosexual behavior.  Her song “Born This Way” is an ode to the lie that homosexuality is an inherent, natural trait.  It celebrates the sin of loving a “different lover” but insists it’s not a sin because “God makes no mistakes.”

She used the example of the woman caught in adultery to show that Jesus loves and protects people and does not judge them. She misunderstands Jesus.  Jesus demonstrated love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, he died for us. But, he had to die because of our sin.  That is a pretty serious indictment on mankind.  Our sin cost us the death of God the Son.  Lady Gaga’s understanding of Jesus does not seem to grasp him in his totality. Jesus didn’t just love the woman caught in adultery.  He did in fact “judge” her by recognizing her sin.  What Lady Gaga left out was Jesus saying to the woman “Go and sin no more.”

The love of Jesus did not leave the woman caught in adultery unchanged. In fact, it is the love of Jesus that compels our change.   Yes, Jesus offers forgiveness, and his blood paid for it.  But what I did not read in the comments from Lady Gaga or in the article by Carlos Rodriguez was the word “repentance.”  There is no forgiveness without repentance.  Repentance is agreeing with God about the nature of our sin.  Repentance sees our sin for the wickedness that it is.

The pastor who wrote the article misses the mark in trying to embrace the “radical faith” of a celebrity.  He warns us not to question her faith because Jesus “said to focus on the log in our eye and not the splinter in Gaga’s.”  This pastor, who admits his confusion about religion and insists the “Gospel” and Christianity are different, ignored the point Jesus was making.  This pastor paraphrases Matthew 7:3-4 without finishing Jesus’ thought.  In verse 5 Jesus said to first take out the log from your own eye, then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. The point Jesus was making was not to never be concerned with the splinter in a person’s eye.  Jesus said that we must remove the similar obstacles in our own lives in order to clearly help those who are struggling with their issues.  The point is about being right with God in order to help others get right with God.

The pastor applauded Lady Gaga’s “experience with God’s tender love and mercy.” I have been a Christian a long time.  In my nearly 40 years of being a Christian, I have matured in the faith.  In that maturity I have discovered Christianity is not about having an experience with God. Experiences are emotionally driven and wear off.  Experiences are of little value unless they transform our minds.

Christianity is about us recognizing our depravity and our utter incapability to be righteous on our own. It is about understanding our need for a Savior. I do not hear that in Lady Gaga’s comments. I do not see the surrender to Jesus in her public life. AND, Jesus in fact did tell us to judge a person by their fruits. See Matthew 7 (the entire chapter, not just verse 1). Her heart might be tender toward Jesus, but she appears to misunderstand who he is and why we need to have our sins forgiven. Her “radical faith” seems to miss the mark as does Carlos Rodriguez’s praise of it.

I know this post is not an emotional, feel-good word.  It’s not meant to be harsh.  But, it is the truth.  It is offered in love.  We are not to be transformed by the renewing of our hearts, but of our minds.  Romans 12:2.  Let us not be too hasty in leaping to embrace the professions of faith from famous people and pop culture icons.  Understanding right doctrine and who Jesus really is will keep our hearts from deceiving our minds about the “radical faith” of celebrities.