Building A House

Upon what do you build a house? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As Jesus finishes the Sermon on the Mount, He talks about how to build a house. He says if you hear His words and obey them, you build your foundation on the rock. If you hear and do not obey, you are building on sand.

Listeners would think of the temple.

The temple had that kind of strong foundation. Jesus is telling His listeners then about how to build a new temple. What will the new temple be founded on? The words of Jesus.

Take a moment to consider how Jesus is speaking. He doesn’t say “Thus sayeth the Lord” or anything similar. He speaks on His own behalf. We could understand if someone like Isaiah or Elijah gave this message and ended it with hearing the words from God. Jesus doesn’t do that. He says “My words.”

As discussed last time, either Jesus has a massive ego trip, or He’s severely deluded, or again, He is claiming to speak as God and He means it. God is the one responsible for the temple ultimately and Jesus is now claiming authority over a temple structure. This temple structure won’t be something physical. The language is metaphorical and the temple is built on His words instead.

This is why when the message ends, the people are amazed. Jesus speaks as one who has authority. The teachers of the law could teach, but they did not speak on their own behalf. They would reference numerous others to back their opinions and authority. Jesus didn’t do that, save for when He pointed to God Himself.

Just picture what you would think if a new nominee for pastor of your church got up and spoke the way Jesus did. It would be seen as super egotistical or severely deluded. Jesus did speak this way. Every thing He says and does leaves us with a reminder that we must question who He is at every point. What manner of man is this?

As we end the sermon and go on to see eschatology in the Gospels, that is the question we have to ask ourselves.

What manner of man is this?

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

How Many Will Be Saved?

How many are going to make it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

42.

Hey. We all knew the answer to the question had to be 42. Right? That’s the answer to every question.

But now to be serious. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to make sure to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life instead of the wide gate that leads to destruction and few will find it. This relates to eschatology since some people think a more postmillennial idea of Revelation is untenable since who would say the world is going to get better and better. Have you seen the news?

Yes. I have. I also know the news only emphasizes the bad news. In a hypothetical situation, 100 planes take off in America in one day. One crashes. Nothing is said about the 99 safe flights. Only something is said about the one that crashed.

Of course, many of us would not watch the news if it was bland and boring. “Tonight, we report that there were no murders or rapes in our city.” Hardly breaking news. Bad news just sells.

But here we have Jesus. Is Jesus saying that most people aren’t going to make it? Not necessarily. I think it’s quite likely Jesus is speaking to His immediate audience. That would fit since few embraced Him as Messiah in His time. It’s also in line with what we see in Revelation, that a great multitude from all over the world is in front of the throne and the Lamb enjoying the presence of God.

That being said, many people are sharing a story about a problem in the church where 30% of evangelicals don’t think Jesus is God. That would actually be false. If they don’t think that, they don’t qualify as evangelicals. Let’s keep in mind though that this is in the Western Church. Go to the East where people actually have to be willing to die for their faith and they take it a bit more seriously.

When we get to Matthew 13, we’ll look a bit more at the idea that things will get better for the Kingdom based on the parables there, but for now, we need to comment on this. Jesus is speaking to a group of people at one time and there’s no indication that He means all people for all times. Of course, all people should seek and strive to enter into the Kingdom. Keep in mind also that when Jesus is asked in Luke how many will be saved, He refuses to answer. (Even though the answer would be 42)

Jesus is not interested in a numeric account, although we can easily say the number of people who replied positively to His immediate message were few. Still, even in Acts we see the number growing. Luke before too long describes the number as multiplying. In the end when Paul reaches Rome, there are already Christians there waiting for Him.

There are several cultish groups out there that want to have you think that only a few select people are going to make it. (Consider Darwin Fish as an example. Yes. That’s not a joke. That’s the actual name of the man.) There are plenty of discernment ministries out there convinced everyone is a heretic except the person running them.

However, I believe God’s grace is greater than we think. I am not advocating anything like universalism or something like that. I am saying though that God would rather save than condemn and would rather show mercy than to judge. This should give us all hope. This could extend to some who never hear the gospel at all through no fault of their own.

Yet as I have said many times, we have no guarantees and we are not given details. Matthew ends with the Great Commission. Those are the marching orders. God never gives a Plan B. He never tells us what happens if we fail at the Great Commission. He just assumes that we do it.

So let’s do it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

Why is worrying wrong? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jesus tells us next not to worry. He points to how flowers and birds are provided for. Your Heavenly Father knows what you need and is willing to provide it and you are worth more than many sparrows.

Of course, this is a general principle. God is not obligated to provide everything for everyone and it wouldn’t happen forever as aside from Elijah and Enoch, the death rate has still been consistent.

Jesus’s words are also given to people who were more often day-wage earners. They had to work every day to make sure they had food every day. They couldn’t just go to a supermarket and buy something. There weren’t department stores around where they could buy clothes. Not even water was always easy to come by.

So why does Jesus tell us not to worry? Worry is a way of saying you have to look out for yourself because no one else is, including God. It is doubting the goodness of God. It doesn’t mean you be lazy, of course. Jesus is not telling people to avoid working for food or clothing and sit back and have God do everything for them. Jesus is telling people that they need to trust God as Father to provide for them.

Worry is acting like there is no God to look out for you or else that God is evil and doesn’t really care. If you say God is good, but you think you have to look out for yourself, then you are calling God into question. God cares about you more than the flowers and the birds.

Jesus ends on a note telling us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. If God is #1 in our lives, truly everything else will somehow fall into place. It doesn’t mean life will be perfect. God was #1 for Jesus and yet He still went to the cross.

Yet even still, Jesus was provided for. He was raised from the dead and we are promised the same. We are promised that everything will work out for us in the end if we are seeking the Kingdom of God first and His righteousness. That needs to be our priority.

There was someone who once said that when we experience the joys of being with God, the worst day here will seem at most like one night in a bad hotel. Everything will be made up for. There will be joy for all who have sought the Kingdom of God and strove to be righteous.

Be one of those people.

Don’t worry.

Be happy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Forgive Us Our Sins

What does it mean to forgive? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

C.S. Lewis has a brilliant essay in the Weight of Glory where he talks about our idea of forgiveness and what it means. When we talk about forgiveness, he thinks we more often mean not forgiveness but excusing. We want God to understand the circumstances behind what we did and say, “No big deal. You’re off the hook.”

It is a big deal though. Every sin to some extent is a form of divine treason. It is a denial of God’s knowledge because you act like He doesn’t know it. It denies His omnipotence because you say He doesn’t have the power to judge. It denies His omnipresence because you say He doesn’t see it. It denies His goodness because you say He won’t do anything against you. It denies His truthfulness because you think He’s holding out on you. We could go on through the list. Every one of them is this.

So what do we want God to do? We want God to say “I know you didn’t mean any of that. Let’s still be friends.” Now there are unintentional sins to be sure, but let’s face it. We all have times that we do the wrong thing and we know it’s the wrong thing and we do it anyway. Those times, we don’t really care. There are times we want to do the wrong and then ask for forgiveness later.

But there is no excusing what we do. It cannot be done. There is no justification ever for doing the wrong thing. That’s why it’s the wrong thing. There are circumstances where it’s understandable why one did it and one can always point to good motivations or good results from doing it, but if it is wrong, then the good that can come and the good motivations do not matter.

Not only that, there will always be something seen to be good in it. “Well, my wife wasn’t fulfilling my sexual needs, so I turned to pornography.” “Well, my family was going broke, so I decided to mess with the books a little bit when doing our taxes.” “Well, I’ve been incredibly lonely in my marriage, so I decided to have an affair.”

Having needs met or providing for your family or overcoming loneliness are not bad things, but there are good ways to deal with those issues and wrong ways and if you go the wrong way, then it is a sin. There is no excusing it. There may be things around it that can be excused, but the sin itself is still wrong.

It doesn’t need to be excused because it can’t be. It needs to be forgiven. It needs to be seen that first off, it is a big deal. It needs to be shown that real damage has been done to a relationship. In human terms, it could be marriage and family, friendship, co-workers, or just your neighbor you don’t even know.

You did something wrong. That’s it. No justifying it. It needs to be faced that you have caused harm in a way that has no justification for it. You have done something against God Himself and undone the goodness of redemption in some way.

You participated in what led to the crucifixion.

Yes. This sin needs to be seen in all of its wickedness. Only then can you realize what forgiveness means. Forgiveness means you realize God could throw the book at you. He could sentence you to hell forever. He could banish you from His loving presence. I don’t care what your doctrine of hell is at this point. Everyone who is a Christian agrees that whatever happens, it’s something you don’t want. God does not owe you forgiveness like that. He does not owe you His loving presence. You owe Him everything.

And yet, that is what makes forgiveness so incredible. God still looks at you and makes it clear that you don’t deserve forgiveness. He is not improved by forgiving you. If anything, forgiveness was a cost to Him. Still, despite all of that, He says He’s going to forgive you and restore you to proper relationship with Him. You are still a child of His.

Forgiveness means that God is telling you you are still in the family. There may be consequences still, but none of those consequences include you losing your place in the family. You’re still one of His. You are forgiven. God does not owe it to you, but He has promised it to you if you come and sincerely repent.

It’s still there today. You can be forgiven. It is truly a big deal.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Daily Bread

What does it mean to ask for daily bread? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My family and I aren’t rich. Growing up, we never were either. Today, I know what it definitely means to live on a balanced budget more than ever. We have money that we can store up to an extent, but it’s still very rough. Any time we get a donation, I get personally very excited.

That’s probably nothing compared to the average person in the times of Jesus though. You were to ask for your daily bread. In that day, you didn’t have plastic to wrap your bread in. The temperature in your house could not be managed by a thermostat. You didn’t have any freezers to preserve food or any refrigerators.

Want some food? Sorry. You have to work. There’s no going down the street to the local supermarket where there’s an abundant supply of food. I grew up in a rural town, but not too far from us was the city where we could go to supermarkets. My roommate in seminary was not like that. When he first walked into a supermarket in Charlotte, he was shocked at all that he saw.

In Jesus’s day though, you had to work things off and if your neighbor gave you some food, well, you were in his debt then. You would owe him. There was no give for the sake of giving like that. If only honor was expected back, that was a big deal and the person would get honor.

Jesus still tells us to ask for daily bread. We don’t ask for weekly or monthly or yearly bread. We ask for daily bread. We trust in God to provide for us day by day.

Does that mean we can’t store up things today or have savings or manage wealth? Not at all. Yet even still, we have to realize we could lose it all at any time. The richest man in the world could possibly have all his money hacked away from him.

Regardless of how rich or poor you are, you are still to rely on God. You are to trust Him. Jesus tells us this later in the sermon. Birds get fed and the flowers are dressed. Seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness and we’ll get everything else.

Daily bread reminds to rely on God daily. I may go and get bread from on top of our refrigerator today to fix a sandwich, but I should be grateful that today I don’t have to go out and do all the work to make that bread. It’s a gift and I should be thankful to God who provides all the knowledge to make bread and the resources and for the people willing to do the work.

Tomorrow will take care of itself somehow.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

How does God rule? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When Jesus finished the sermon, either a centurion in Israel or his servants, and I suspect the latter, came to Jesus. The centurion wanted a paralyzed servant to be healed and requested Jesus to do it. Jesus offered to see him, but if my suspicion is correct, this guy had told his servants what to say. He’s not worthy to have Jesus in his house, but he is a man of authority and understands how authority works. If he says something to a servant in his house, it gets done.

What does this man understand? He knows what Jesus’s house is. Jesus’s house is all of creation. If He says something, it gets done. If He says “Be healed”, Jesus doesn’t have to be present. It just gets done. This is truly a very high view of Jesus and Jesus rightly says this is greater than even the people of Israel.

Maybe the centurion heard about the Sermon on the Mount.

Maybe the centurion heard that Jesus had said that God’s will should be done on Earth as it is Heaven. What that means is in God’s domain, what He says goes. No angel talks back to God or offers a rejoinder. “Did you think about this part?” Nope. He says it. It’s done.

When we pray for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, we are saying we want the same thing. We want it to be that if God says it, it happens on Earth as well. Now here’s the concern. When we pray this, do we really mean it?

Let’s face it. If we’re Christians, we all know the “Christian answer.” We all know what we’re supposed to say, but talk is cheap. I recently saw someone on Facebook said that they are honestly scared to suffer even if it means suffering for Christ. I admired that. It’s honest. It’s easy for us to say, “If I had to die for my faith in Jesus, I would do it.” It’s easy to say that until the gun is pointed at you or you’re about to be thrown to the lions or something of that sort.

Want an example? Consider Peter. Peter bragged that he was willing to die for Jesus. What happened a few hours later? “Never heard of Him!” Peter had the talk, but he didn’t have the walk and he suffered for it.

So when we say that we want God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, let’s see if we really want it. Do we really want to sacrifice our sins so God’s will can be done? Do we want to be willing to give up everything for God’s will to be done? Do we want to do the work of loving our neighbor as ourselves so God’s will can be done?

If we don’t, then when we say God’s will be done, then we do not really mean it. What we might mean is we want all the goodies that come with a Christian life, but we don’t want the pain and sacrifice required on our end. We don’t want to have to make ourselves uncomfortable or exert ourselves where we don’t have to. Please let the will of God be done, provided it doesn’t interfere with my Netflix time. Okay?

But if you want the will of God to be done, you will have to demonstrate that. That means sacrifice on your end. It means forgiving your neighbor even if they don’t deserve it, and they don’t. You don’t either. It means loving your neighbor even if they’re often a pain, because you’re often a pain as well to those around you. It means going through suffering regardless, because Jesus went through suffering for you and He definitely didn’t deserve it. It means not thinking about what you deserve, but thinking about what is good for the kingdom first.

If you can’t say those things, and that applies to me as well as it’s a struggle, then you don’t want the kingdom to come on Earth as it is in Heaven. Perhaps you are still more invested in your own personal kingdom. Perhaps you want your will on Earth more than you want God’s will.

Only you know that one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Your Will Be Done

What does it mean to do God’s will? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So many Christians today want to find God’s will for their lives.

Should I get married? Who should I marry? What job should I take? Should I go to college and if so, what should I major in? So many decisions are about finding the will of God.

Is this what the Bible means when it speaks about the will of God?

No. This is a highly personalized idea. Let’s consider the first one about marriage. Assuming marriage is even for you, the Bible in a book like Proverbs lays out criteria. Since one should marry in the Lord, a Christian should marry a Christian. When speaking of a wife, the book mentions the kinds of qualities to look for. Don’t marry a nagging wife is one example. Marry a woman who fears the Lord. (Or a man if you are a woman)

Somehow, we got this strange idea that when we got to the New Testament, God decided to jettison wisdom and was going to tell us all what to do and we needed to find a way to get these secret messages from God. We are to look for clues, often ones that reside in our feelings and emotions, and from there try to determine what God is telling us. Scripture may be used, but apparently, it’s not as reliable as those feelings and emotions.

As you can imagine, I think this is a bunch of bunk. I see nothing in Scripture about it and it only showed up in our time of individualism. This kind of thinking really makes us very self-centered Christians.

Not only that, if God has a specific will for our lives like that, we’ve already screwed it up definitely. Also, if any one other person has screwed up their lives, they’ve ultimately done it for everyone. If you are to marry one specific person, then that means that if you marry the wrong one, both of your intended spouses have to marry the wrong one and then all their intended spouses have to marry the wrong one and on and on it goes.

It also causes the wrong focus. What we should be looking at the most is what kind of spouse we are going to be. What kind of employee are we going to be? What kind of student are we going to be?

“But how will I know what God wants for my life?”

It’s very easy. I can tell you definitely what God’s will is for your life and I have no hesitation in doing so. God’s will is to conform you to the likeness of Christ. The best thing to do when examining an action and if you should do it is to ask if it will conform you to the likeness of Christ.

When we pray for God’s will to be done, we are not praying that we will find some specific individualized will, or at least we shouldn’t pray that. We are praying that God will make the universe the way He wants it to be. How He wants us to be is to be conformed to the image of Christ. He wants us to be like Jesus.

You have plenty on that in Scripture.

Go try following that instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Your Kingdom Come

What does it mean to want the Kingdom to come? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Do we really want the Kingdom to come?

I mean, let’s think about it. If we’re Christians, we know the right answer we’re supposed to say is yes. We want God to rule this Earth. We want Him to be the one in charge. We want Jesus to be acknowledged as king. We say we want that.

Do we really?

To pray for His kingdom to come also means something else. Ours doesn’t. Most of us struggle with an inflated view of ourselves and that can be even if we’re really negative. We are often not just moderately dumb or ugly or unlikable or anything like that. No. We are the worst of the worst. If anything goes wrong in our lives, it’s our fault.

When we pray this prayer though, we are supposed to be willing to forsake our own little kingdoms. This is God’s kingdom. We don’t want to be the ones in charge of our lives anymore. We want God to be in charge.

That also means we have to be willing to get rid of the sin in our lives. We have to drop that pornography habit. We have to stop that overeating. We have to be willing to give up gossiping about our neighbors. We can’t keep on thinking about that woman who isn’t our wife.

Do we really want that?

The truth is, our actions will answer for us. If we really want the kingdom to come, we will be willing to sacrifice those actions that we know are opposed to the kingdom. If we do not want the kingdom to come, we will keep acting like we are the ones who determine right and wrong and we are the ones who will see our own will be done.

This also is not a Democracy or a Republic coming our way. This is a monarchy. This is not something that we will vote on or campaign for. Jesus is a king and what the king says goes. It is absolute.

Today, our every action will show in some way what we want. Do we think our way is best or do we think the way of Christ is the best? We can say with our lips the right answer all we want, but actions do speak louder. I hope mine will show I want the Kingdom the most, but I fear too often they will show the other way. Perhaps that is where we need to encourage one another.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Hallowed Be Thy Name

What does it mean for God’s name to be holy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Hallowed is simply a way to refer to something as holy, and holiness is something we have lost sight of. In our world today, the question “Is nothing sacred?” is entirely relevant. Most people today seem to live just for the next pleasure high, and that doesn’t necessarily mean drugs, though it can. Casual sex is all too often and apps like tinder can exist to pretty much just give a hook-up to someone.

Sometimes I look at our society and wonder what people think is worth living for. What is the true greatest good in our lives? For we Christians, we would say it’s the goal to see God one day, but while we say that, we often live like the greatest good is something else, myself included.

Holiness refers to something being set apart. It’s not just something common and normal. It’s to be reserved for a specific usage and time. God’s holiness means He is set apart from creation and refers to His goodness and purity. He is unique.

We can honor His name best by how we live our own lives. Do we live lives of service and gratitude to Him? Do we seek to love our neighbor as ourselves? Do we seek to do good to those around us even when they wrong us?

Also, do we treat God way too flippantly. Do we seek to speak for Him when we have no business doing so? I think about this when I hear so many people convinced that God is speaking to them. God gets treated in a casual manner. I don’t really care for John MacArthur, but I think he was 100% right when he talked about the guy who told him that God talks to him every morning while he’s shaving and MacArthur asked “Do you still keep shaving?”

My wife and I attend Celebrate Recovery together and normally, you introduce yourself as a faithful believer in Jesus Christ. I don’t say that. I try to remind myself of something else with my introduction and say “Servant of King Jesus.” Jesus is a friend for sure, but He is not just any friend. If you were friends with the president, regardless of what you think of him and if you don’t like Trump replace him with someone you do like, you would not treat that friendship casually. You would treat the president still with the utmost of respect.

Clay Jones in his latest book Immortal argues that one of the reasons we might not have such a Christian drive in our country is we have lost sight of what happens when we die. We try to not think about the fact that one day all of us will. When we lose sight of that, we also lose sight of the fact that we will be judged.

Think about that. You will give an account for every deed that you do. Really think about it.

Every deed.

So what have you done? Did you get snippy with your wife? Were you berating your husband? Did you scare the kids by being harsher than you should have been? Did you give your neighbor the cold shoulder? Did you rejoice over the suffering of a personal enemy?

Every deed.

Most of our sins against God are not directly done against God. They’re done against His creation, mainly other people. Jesus tells us this in His parable of the sheep and the goats. C.S. Lewis reminded us that we have never met a normal person. Every person we meet will one day either be a creature we would be tempted to bow down before and worship, or a creature that would come out of our nightmares.

And a lot of this starts with a low view of God. If God is treated casually, then we are missing out on Him. Most Christians don’t have a clue about the Trinity, for example, and what a difference that should make to our lives. God is really no different than Zeus to most of us. He’s just a superpowered human being.

Seeing God as holy will require a revolution in our thinking about God. We will need to take doctrine seriously and our own holiness seriously. We will need to seek to banish evil not just from the world around us, but from our very selves. Fair wager here, but I suspect most of us spend more time complaining about the evil of others around us than the evil within us. To refer to Lewis again, he said that we often seek to excuse our sins, but not the sins of others. When we sin, that is different, but the other person? They really ought to know better!

If we are going to be Christians who say Jesus is #1, our lives had better be different. Our marriages had better be different. Our parenting should be different. Our job performance should be different. Our entertainment should be different. Everything. We should be different people because we serve a God who is really different from everything else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Who Are In Heaven

What difference does it make where God is? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When we pray, we pray to our Father in Heaven. What difference does that make? What is Jesus wanting us to think about when we say that we pray to our Father who is in Heaven?

Let’s start with the dangerous extreme. That would be Islam. Most sects of Islam have a version of deity that is so extreme that God is totally transcendent. The thought of Him interacting in a way such as in the incarnation is repugnant.

This is something we experience when God seems distant in our lives. Consider the idea of the saying that, “If you feel far from God, who moved?” It sure wasn’t God after all. That message could have been brought by one of Job’s friends to “counsel” him.

Of course, in suffering there is nothing wrong with examining our lives and seeing if there is anything we need to repent of. That’s something that we should be doing regardless. The point here is that our emotional experiences are not indicators of where we are in our Christian walk and too often, we make them just that.

So if that’s not what is meant, what is meant? Why not think that Jesus is trying to remind us who is in charge of this story? Heaven is the base of operations. It is where God reigns from. To pray to God is to remind yourself that He is in charge and He rules.

This is something we easily forget. Too many people think that if God is ruling right now, why is there so much evil and suffering? As we go through Matthew and look more at eschatology, we will see that that is issued directly. This is also a mistake Jewish readers often go with thinking that if the Messiah came, then shouldn’t there be love and world peace throughout the Earth as a result?

No. If anything, in Scripture we see just the opposite promised. YHWH says in Psalms 110:1 that the Messiah is to sit at His right hand while His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. The Messiah will have enemies during His reign and it will take time for them to be made a footstool.

Today, saying our Father in Heaven is meant to be a source of comfort. Whatever is going on, God is in charge. That He asks us to pray to Him tells us that He is not distant. He really cares about us. Not only that, we have the incarnation where the Son dwelt among us. God in human flesh walked around us and one day we will be with Him forever.

When you pray, pray to your Father who is in Heaven. He does hear. He does care. He will respond.

In Christ,
Nick Peters