Tag Archives: eternal life

Our Metamorphosis

After missing a post or two because of the death of a close friend, I’d like to resume a series of posts (loosely) based on a fine book called “In His Image” by Dr. Paul Brand with the whole process of life, and death, in mind.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die (Ecc. 3:1-2)

Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time for everything, including times to be born and to die. To help facilitate the divine plan for mankind, even The Word was required to go through the full life-process as a human being. For Him as well, there was “a time to be born” as “the One Sent” who provided an exact pattern to show us how we can be changed to His image. He had a time to live to show us how to live — to teach us how to submit to the will of both He and His Father.

There was also for Him “a time to die” and spend 3 days and 3 nights in the grave, and then there was a time of resurrection when His physical body was changed into a glorious Spirit body again. His experience in the flesh taught Him EVERYTHING about what it is to be human. He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He also “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” in the flesh (Heb 5:8).

During His physical life, “The One Sent” showed and told us what is expected of us in our physical lives, how to relate to our Father in heaven, how to communicate with Him, and how to use His example to arrive at real life. If we follow this template, Romans 8:16-19 tells us exactly what the future holds.

The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Rom. 8:16-19)

Our Metamorphosis | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comWhen we take the Great Baptist Jesus Christ up on His promise to “baptize with the Holy Spirit” (click here to review the “Baptism For Life” posts), He plants the “earnest of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 1:22) within us. It’s like a little bit of God’s own DNA, and we spend the rest of our lives going through a process of spiritual “DNA replacement,” growing little by little “from GLORY to GLORY” in a Biblical/spiritual metamorphosis from the old man to the new.

When we then die, we become like a chrysalis – – resting, waiting to burst forth into a glorious new life! For all of our remaining years after conversion, we are like a voracious feeding caterpillar devouring God’s word and “growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).

In our “caterpillar stage,” we should be “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) — living as though our actions have eternal consequences. Studying the word and living it so that when we die and come to that “chrysalis stage” of life, we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” as it says in Ephesisans 1:13.
And when God seals a promise, there is no force in earth or heaven that can stop it!

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psa. 116:15)

This verse from the Psalms gives us an assurance about good men and women who live their lives well. Those in the “chrysalis stage” awaiting their transformation into a spiritual “butterfly” are precious to God. And so, the death of a close friend who has “fought the good fight … finished the race … and kept the faith” as Paul said he’d done in 2 Timothy 4:7 serves as an inspiration to re-commit ourselves to the REAL goal of life — being re-created in God’s image.

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Children of Our Father

Remember the young guy in Matthew 19 that asked Christ what he could do to inherit eternal life? Christ told him to keep the commandments, and this young man was elated because he was already doing the lightweight stuff … the letter of the law things that human beings think make them “good people.” But then Christ gave him a heavy weight, and everything changed. “He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matt. 19:22). Isn’t that the way most of us are???

To Be Like Him

Christ used the example of the rich young man to teach His disciples that it is hard for a rich man to enter His kingdom, saying “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” This caused the disciples to ask a question that has often come to my own mind, “Who then can be saved?”

 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:18-22)

Do I want to lift that weight? To really be like Him? Verse 21 tells us the the reason we were called is to follow Christ’s example … not just to see it from afar and marvel at it!

who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:23-25)

Verse 23 has always been a killer for me, brethren, because I was raised to hate injustice. It’s almost automatic when somebody hits you, you want to hit back … only harder! When they yell at you … to yell louder … to hurl a more cutting insult … a more penetrating jab. But to follow Christ’s example, we have to give up the smart comebacks, the “reviling in return,” and the threatening. There’s only one reason I’d want to do that … to follow His example, and in so doing, to return to the Shepherd, Overseer and Guardian of my soul.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5:43-44)

This seemed so easy when it was just those faceless people out there in the mainstream persecuting us for keeping the Sabbath. It was more impersonal back then. During the last 20 years though, things have radically changed in the churches of God. We are a divided house, and the situation being what it is opens the door for some things to be said and done that we should never participate in.

Bless means to speak well of … to wish good things for. Curse means to give one over to ruin … to wish evil upon them … A natural, human, and easy thing to do when someone is cursing you!

A Prayer Request

BaptismForLife.wordpress.comWe all hear many urgent prayer requests, brethren. There is much illness and suffering in the churches of God today, and many prayer requests each week, but I would submit to you that Christ Himself is giving us an urgent ‘prayer request’ here in the last sentence in vs. 44.

What Christ is doing here with this ‘prayer request’ is presenting us with a great opportunity to prove something to His father … that we want to be His sons and daughters enough to do whatever He asks us to do. Let’s look at verse 44 again, with the rest of the sentence going on into verse 45.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.(Matt. 5:44-45)

I’d like to examine this phrase a little more closely. “That you may be children of your Father” — The words, “you may be” G1096, ginomai mean: to come into existence, be made, to be ordained to be, turned into.   We are to be “formed in the image” of His firstborn son, who reviled not nor threatened, but committed His cause to the Father.

For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. (1 Cor. 11:18)

You see, there have been divisions and abuses and heresies in the churches of God from the start,  but it has always been allowed to happen for a purpose. It’s so that those who want to be children of their Father can rise above it and be made in the image of Christ.

And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34)

The first words He spoke after the scourging, and after the excruciating pain of being actually nailed to the stake were, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Brethren, in the midst of the turmoil and conflict that exists in the end-time churches of God, God is offering us an opportunity to distinguish ourselves as his children by answering a simple ‘prayer request’ from Jesus Christ: “Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” The reward for doing so is very great indeed … that we may be the children of our Father in heaven.

The Interactive Book: Working Out Your Own Salvation

We talked last week about the personal invitation God extends to each of us. In that context, we also looked at how Paul addressed the brethren in Philippi as “my beloved,” a name for Christians in fellowship with each other and God. Paul addressed the Ephesian elders in a similar fashion.

Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:28-32)

Knowing that he was going to be absent from them, Paul says that he commends these elders to God, meaning “to place alongside of … to deposit, as a trust or for protection.” Look at what God, and the Word of His grace, is expected to do for us according to Matthew Henery’s commentary.

I commend you to God, that is, to his providence, and to the protection and care of that. It is enough that, from whomsoever we are separated, still we have God nigh unto us, 1Pe_4:19. (2.) He commends them to the word of his grace, by which some understand Christ: he is the word (Joh_1:1), the word of life, because life is treasured up for us in him (1Jo_1:1), and in the same sense he is here called the word of God’s grace, because from his fulness we receive grace for grace. He commends them to Christ, puts them into his hand, as being his servants, whom he would in a particular manner take care of. Paul commends them not only to God and to his providence, but to Christ and his grace…
He commends them to the word of God’s grace, not only as the foundation of their hope and the fountain of their joy, but as the rule of their walking: “I commend you to God, as your Master, whom you are to serve, and I have found him a good Master, and to the word of his grace, as cutting you out your work, and by which you are to govern yourselves; observe the precepts of this word, and then live upon the promises of it.”

Let’s take note also that Paul tells them here Who is “able to build you up.” The word able is dunamai (G1410), a form of a word used to describe the miracle-working power that emanated from Christ. Hearkening back to Philippians 2, we see that in the absence of an apostle, minister, church leader, or corporate church organization, you and I are supposed to be busy doing something very weighty and important for ourselves, and for the family of God.

Working in You

Let’s re-read Philippians 2:12.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12)

The words“work out” are translated from katergazomai (G2716), which means to accomplish, work fully, finish or fashion. All of us independent macho Church of God guys are up for this, right ? Ready to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps? But have you ever tried that? Boy, you can reach down and grab those bootstraps, and yank for all you’re worth, grunt and groan and tug … and you might even clear the floor by a couple of inches, but you always end up with your feet right back on the floor where you started. Just about the same results you get from working out your own salvation on your own. It doesn’t take long to realize that you’re really not getting anywhere. And that’s why God immediately follows this phrase with verse 13.

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13)

This is one of those verses you can just breeze past, if you’re in a hurry to get your morning Bible study in before work … but this is one of the most encouraging and important verses in the entire Bible. And it is a grievous mistake to try to “work out your own salvation” if you ignore verse 13. Just think about this Being – who and what He is, and let the goose bumps run up your spine. I’ll quote from Matthew Henry’s commentary again.

“And because it is God who worketh in you, do you work out your salvation. Work, for he worketh.” It should encourage us to do our utmost, because our labour shall not be in vain. God is ready to concur with his grace, and assist our faithful endeavours. Observe, Though we must use our utmost endeavours in working out our salvation, yet still we must go forth, and go on, in a dependence upon the grace of God. His grace works in us in a way suitable to our natures, and in concurrence with our endeavours; and the operations of God’s grace in us are so far from excusing, that they are intended to quicken and engage our endeavours. “And work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for he worketh in you.” All our working depends upon his working in us.

This is the phrase I want to focus on: “all our working depends upon His working in us.” Going back to the Bible verse, this word “works” is energeo (G1754), and it means “to be mighty in,” active, efficient, effectual. It is one of four closely related Greek words – energeia, energeo, energema, and energes (G1753-1756) – that describe the absolute power of God and Christ over the flesh. The thoughts conveyed in these words speak of a God who is fully engaged with His called-out ones to work His divine miracles in us and bring us to the desired end. The Greek word eudokia (G2107) adds shades of meaning to the phrase “His good pleasure.” It means benevolence, gracious purpose, and good will.

Operation of God

Let’s look at another place where it would not be wise to ”work out your own salvation” without faith in the working of God. This verse uses the word energeia (G1753), which means “inner working.”

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, (Col. 2:9-13)

The King James Version translates as this phrase in verse 12 as “faith in the operation of God.” This passage paints a picture of a fully engaged, hands-on God who has given us life in Christ, and is ever-willing to interact with us to bring us to the full realization of eternal life in Christ. The word appears again in Ephesians 1, speaking of an engaged God, who is as eager and willing to interact with and help us as He was to work with His own son.

making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Eph. 1:16-21)

To enhance this interactive work God is trying to accomplish in us, one of the things we ought to do is “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:125, KJV). So, one of the things we can do to work out our own salvation is to study God’s words and thoughts, and assent to them, submit to them, and be approved of by God for doing so.

Christ’s Work

For an example of this, let’s look at what a guy named Steve Buchanan called the “specific purpose statement of the entire Bible” in a sermon some years ago.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)

The end product, the goal of God’s word in us, is to accomplish God’s pleasure or purpose. That purpose is to give us eternal life, and the way for us to get there is through knowing these Two great Beings. In John 17:3, Christ defined the goal and showed us how to get there. And, as an example to us, He put Himself through the same process that we must go through.

who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” (Heb. 5:7-10)

If you and I are going to “work out our own salvation,” it makes sense that we need the Author of eternal salvation “working in us to do and to will of His good pleasure.” This Being is a huge key to us being able to “work out our salvation.” God the father has empowered Him to help and assist us in every way by making Him the Head over all things to the church, by making Him Lord and Christ, Apostle and High Priest, King of kings, Lord of lords, and Shepherd and Guardian over our souls.

We are to be intimately interacting with both the Father and Jesus Christ, the One sent, and with the written Word of life – studying, reacting, responding in obedience, discussing it with Them in prayer, and “working it out with fear and trembling,” not wanting to fall short, to disappoint them.

So to wrap-up this blog series on “The Interactive Book,” God has sent the Word of life into this world for a purpose. He admonishes each human being on this planet to handle the Word of life responsibly, and to give Him a profit on His investment of the Word in their own lives. He provides us with the most personal help, aid, and encouragement that He can through His own son, and He Himself is at work within us each day to will and to do for His good pleasure … through the interactive book.

“The Interactive Book” series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Key To Scripture

Part 3: Fellowship With The Word Of Life

Part 4: Judgment and Friendship

Part 5: A Personal Call

Part 6: Working Out Your Own Salvation

The Interactive Book: Judgment and Friendship

In last week’s post, we saw how “the twelve” were confronted with a choice in John 6:67 in the form of a question, “Do you also want to go away?”   Many other disciples had heard some hard to understand truths from the mouth of Jesus Christ, and “walked with Him no more” (vs.66).   Peter’s answer revealed a Spirit-led recognition of the One source of real spiritual truth.    Peter recognized that Christ was the One who had “the words of eternal life”.   In this post, we will see how our response to these “words of eternal life” establishes us as true followers of Jesus Christ by setting the standard by which we are judged.

In Acts, we find Paul and Barnabas preaching these words of life in Antioch. The Jews here were being shown favor by God. His word was offered to them, free for the taking, and they rejected it.

Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:46-48)

Notice how important it is to seize every opportunity to embrace the word of God, and take it in. Also, note how this is worded – the Jews judged themselves unworthy of eternal life. During this Feast of Unleavened Bread, I asked myself a question. How am I judging myself in the way I view and respond to God’s Holy Word – to His son, the One Sent, personified in print?

Judging Ourselves

I’m sure we all spent some time in 1 Corinthians 11 prior to the passover. Let’s look at verse 31 in light of what we just read about the Jews in Acts 13.

For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Cor. 11.31)

The word “judge” here is diakrino (G1252). It means “to separate thoroughly,” to distinguish ourselves (by self correction in the light of God’s word) to give evidence in the way we respond to God’s words, His loving correction, and to His teachings that we are “worthy of life.”

He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.” (John 12:48-50)

Christ told us here in John what the judgment of mankind is based on. In one sense, when we all come up before the throne, there isn’t really going to be anything for Him to do because we judge ourselves by the way we respond to His words. That can sound scary, but the thing to really keep in mind is that every word of God is given for our benefit.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

God wants this for all of us. His words are freely given in the Bible to do us good, and also to equip us for doing good. The words Christ spoke are “are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). This is an incredible opportunity if we listen to Him, but there is also a great danger in ignoring His words.

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. …

Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:39-40, 47)

Here is what Moses wrote about Christ, as He recorded the Lord’s words about the coming Prophet: I “will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him” (Deut 18:18-19).

In the end, we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and be judged by the word of God as delivered to us through Jesus Christ. We are judged by His words, His character, His personality, His worldview, and nothing else. And that judgment is taking place right now, as we interact with the words of the Bible. In effect, we are bringing our own judgment upon us day by day … good or bad.

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)

Brethren, there’s a whole world full of people out there who reject and despise this One who is called “the word of God,” but there are only a few that He calls “My own” and “My friends,” to whom He reveals a little bit of His true greatness and character.

Friends of God

Abraham, the “father of the faithful” was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23). Can we, the called out ones, be that as well? Are we called out of this world to have an “arm’s length” relationship with the Father and the “One Sent,” or will our response to the Word of life lead to a true friendship, just like Abraham had? His life wasn’t easy … we can’t expect to get through this thing trial free.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:1-4)

These words were spoken that we might have joy. And we can go on from this Feast of Unleavened Bread knowing that the door stands wide open for us to true fellowship with God the Father and the Word of Life. I can think of no better example of embracing the Word of Life than David.

Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. … This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life. … Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. … Your word is very pure; therefore Your servant loves it. … The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word. I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure. (Ps. 119:1, 50, 105, 140, 160-162)

Nowhere in the scriptures do you get a more personal view of God than in the psalms of David. What made David a man after God’s own heart?

Concerning the works of men, by the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer. Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip. … As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. (Ps. 17:4-5, 15)

David was not living for this physical life, but for real life. We’ve always taught that what made David “a man after God’s own heart” was his readiness to repent of sin … but why was he so willing to repent of sin? Because he valued his relationship with the Godhead more than anything else!

We can see more parallels between David’s life and our relationship with God when we look at the battles David had to fight. In these physical wars, David said,

It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip. (Ps. 18:32-36)

In much the same way, God arms us to fight battles, not against physical enemies, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Like David, when we find ourselves in a tight spot, we should be looking to God and saying, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1; see also 1 Peter 2:25). This is why David was called a man after God’s own heart – because of thoughts like this toward God and His son.

The same door stands wide open for us right now today. Each of us can say “the Lord is my shepherd.” We have the words of the Word of God in greater fullness than David ever had, and with that a chance to learn about Christ as our shepherd from the Shepherd Himself. Reading John chapter 10, we see that Christ wants an intimate relationship with His sheep, and offers that chance to each one who hears His words.

“The Interactive Book” series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Key To Scripture

Part 3: Fellowship With The Word Of Life

Part 4: Judgment and Friendship

Part 5: A Personal Call

Part 6: Working Out Your Own Salvation

God’s Threshing Floor, Part 2

Since we talked about the church as God’s threshing floor in the previous post, I’d like to take a look at how the winnowing process took place in the personal life of Peter. In Luke 22:31, Jesus tells Peter “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The Greek word for “sift,” sineadzo (G4617), means to agitate, and prove by trials and afflictions.

It’s interesting to note what Christ does NOT say in the following verse. You would expect our Shepherd to just stop Satan from sifting Peter. “Don’t worry about Him Peter, I’ve got your back, man” … but instead He says, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” What He does NOT say speaks volumes about what He is willing to allow Satan to do. Let’s not forget that in Matthew 4, Jesus Himself was “sifted as wheat” by Satan, and it was a part of God’s plan. The process of spiritual winnowing involves separating the spiritual being (wheat) from the body of sinful flesh (stalk, husk, chaff, and weeds). It’s a tough process to go through, but it’s worth it.

Winnowing Peter

So then we see in verse 33 how Peter responded to what Christ had just told him, by saying “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Christ told him exactly how Satan would sift him, before it even happened, yet Peter failed this test 3 times as he denied Christ before the cock crowed to “save himself” (Luke 22:54-62). We can only imagine what might have gone through Peter’s mind that very night after he had denied his LORD three times, but I should think for this night and many after that, the words of Christ from Matthew 10:33 would echo in his thoughts: “whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

Now Peter strikes me as being more of a “hard-shelled” guy than me … my conscience would have been accosting me unmercifully as Christ appeared to the disciples after His resurrection twice, during which, it seems He had no direct, one-on-one interaction with Peter until the third meeting with them in John 21.

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 21:15-18)

Boy, after denying Him three times just as He predicted, that question – “Do you love Me?” — must have really stung! Notice, He asked variations of the same question three times, one for each denial. And then Christ followed the whole ordeal with vs. 18. He might as well prefaced this with “Satan still wants to sift you, Peter.”

Words Of Eternal Life

Let’s take another look at the winnowing, purging process as it took place during Christ’s own ministry, and how it effected those who weren’t quite as committed as the 12 disciples. In John 6, we find a discourse of Christ’s that took place after one of Christ’s greatest miracles – the feeding of the 5,000 with five Barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:8-14). By the time we get to verses 14 and 15 the people want to make Him KING because of a free meal (much like the US today … free cell phones, food stamps, welfare). So He starts to teach them a lesson about who and what He actually is to the church He will build.

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:26-27)

In verse 34 the people seem to be saying, “As long as it’s easy and straighforward … we’re IN!” But it’s not as easy as they hope and expect. You can read John 6:34-56 for His full reply. Here’s a few verses:

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. …

Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. …

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:35-37, 43-44, 53-56)

Following this discourse – an explanation of some of the deep things of God – many of His disciples said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (John 6:60).

When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. (John 6:61-66)

breadIt’s verse 66 I want to focus on. These people who refused to continue following Christ were drawing conclusions based on what they knew to be true up to that point in time. They knew Christ only as a physical man with a physical body, but Christ was pointing ahead to a symbolic spiritual concept that they weren’t even aware existed at this time.

Then Jesus Christ asks the disciples the same question we could imagine Him asking us each time we go through a spiritual crisis of the faith, when we run into things in the Bible that we can’t find easy answers for, when we go through another church split, when a good friend or relative or a minister departs or does/says something that wears down our faith. “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67).

But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69)

Peter’s answer told Christ all He needed to know about Peter. Let’s also not forget that this is the same guy who was later sifted as wheat by Satan, who denied Christ three times, had to re-affirm his love for Christ three times, and then to REALLY die for Christ in a most excruciating way.

A few years back, a guy named Steve Buchanan described John 17:3 as “the SPS of the entire Bible.” A Specific Purpose Statement is a brief nutshell phrase or sentence that conveys exactly what you want to tell your audience during a speech. That description rang true when Steve said it, and it still rings true for me today. The verse reads “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Here, Jesus Christ is giving us the same thing that He had given Peter that provided his answer in John 6. This defines our life goal, and what should be the aim of every Bible study. The answer to ALL of the really big questions in life lies in our understanding of these two beings. Who and what are they? What is their purpose in creating us? What do they want us to do? What do they want us to become? How do they relate to each other and to us? How do they want us to relate to them?

Peter gave a similar answer to a question Christ asked in Matthew 16. When Christ asked, “’But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matt. 16:15-16). This answer wasn’t just something Peter came up with on his own, for “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’” (Matt. 16:17). Peter’s answer didn’t come from Peter, and it didn’t come from any other man or woman on earth. The Father in heaven implanted this in his mind. The ability to see Jesus Christ for what He really is – to see His ultimate value – comes from GOD!

Entering the Barn

Now after going through all of that, I’ll just remind us what we’re talking about today. The main topic is that Jesus Christ is baptizing us “with the Holy Spirit and fire” and that “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:11-12). No matter how hard the fan blows, no matter what obstacles are in the way, no matter how difficult the sifting or purging, the wheat is going to remain and He will remain to gather it into His barn.

Brethren, no matter how much we would like for the obstacles in our path to go away, they are only there to prove that you and I are wheat instead of chaff or weeds (Matt. 13:24-29). Ever drive by a wheat field that has just been harvested? All the wheat in the field is put into a few wagons and trucks off in the corner of the field to be hauled off to the grain elevator. But the whole field is covered with stubble, weeds, straw, and chaff. The lives that we have left behind and forsaken are the stubble and straw left out there in the field. The chaff that clings to us are stubborn sins that are hard to get rid of, but the winnowing fan is in His hands. He is thoroughly purging His threshing floor.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt. 7:13-14).

It can make us feel pretty insignificant to realize that we are just one grain of wheat among an innumerable multitude in a semi-truck in the corner of a field, – but the good news is that you ARE one of the grains of wheat IN that truck, or on the threshing floor, and God Himself cares enough about you to winnow, and purge you. And just like Christ said to Peter, He has prayed for us that our faith fail not.

I worked with my Dad in a grain elevator when I was still in high school, and harvest time was when we got all our overtime pay. The farmers would all bring their wheat in as they took it off, and we were there to run the tests for weight and moisture on it, and run it up into the big bins, and load it onto railroad cars.

Brethren, we want to be wheat so heavy with good Christian works, that no matter how many times the winnowing fan is used, we fall back to the threshing floor. We allow Him to purge away the chaff of sin, the refuse of our worldly, fleshly lives, and through it all, we remain faithful to Him, and we try our best to encourage other grains of wheat to do the same so that in the end, we will all be gathered into the spiritual grainary and barn … the Kingdom of God!

God and His Son are doing all of this work looking forward to a great harvest. He wants to bring all of His wheat into the barn, every last grain … and He’ll do everything in His power to bring that about. It’s very re-assuring to know that “His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor.”