Tag Archives: Self examination

The Third Night

A question was posed to me a few weeks ago that I have been pondering ever since.  Do you ever have those biblical questions that you just want to sit on for a while and contemplate, wondering what it really means.  You think you know, but you are not sure, so you seek the Holy Spirit to guide you to an answer because it is He that will guide you into all truth.  You ask God for wisdom and your faith doesn’t waver so you know He will give you the wisdom you asked for.  This was one of those questions.  I gave my friend a quick thought, and the more I ponder it, the more I think the Holy Spirit spoke tome in an instant and gave me those words I shared with him.

In Matthew 12:38 the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask Him to show them a sign.  I found this a little funny, since he has already been ministering for over a year, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, making the lame to walk and the dumb to speak. Certainly they had heard of these deeds and maybe, upon giving them the benefit of the doubt, they had never been present to witness one of these miracles.  They wanted to see for themselves, much like Thomas did the night of His return from the dead.  After all, it would be much easier to believe Him if they could see and actual sign!

Jesus knows their hearts though. He tells them an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.  WOAH!  Wait a minute!  How often do we seek signs?  How often do we need a miracle to happen in our lives in order for us to believe he is the good and merciful God we have heard about?  I hear a lot of people praying to God for miracles all the time and when they don’t get them, they question God.  They wonder if He really hears their prayers, if He really cares about them.  Even though His word tells us He does, they still question.  Does that make us an evil and adulterous generation?  We should worship God for who He is, not for what He will do for us.  There is a huge difference there, and we should make sure we are praising Him for the right reasons.  That way our praise can be unceasing and our love will never die.  But that is not the point I am writing this about.

The next thing Jesus says is even more intriguing.  In Matthew 12:40, He says:

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 

Let me check my math here.  Jesus died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday, right? Friday, Saturday, Sunday – that’s three days.  But Friday night and Saturday night are only two nights, right?  He says three nights.  My friend misquoted the verse by saying Jesus was three days in the heart of the ground.  But it says earth here.  So, what happened to the third night?

I think Thursday night was the third night – the night of the Last Supper and the Garden, the several trials also.  It was then that He gave Himself up, that he was no longer a man of this earth.  How could any earthly man endure the suffering he went through?  How could anyone not want to atop Jonas from leaving the upper room and betraying Him?  How could any man not call upon all the power He had to dispel the Roman guards that came to take Him away?  How could He face the Sanhedrin and Pilate without defending Himself before the sun even came up?  My thought is that no living human could.  Only a person who had fully died to himself could go through this chain of events that happened Thursday night into Friday morning.  For all intents and purposes, Jesus really died Thursday night.  His power, His anointed preaching, His ability to call on His Father – all gone.  From that moment on, nothing could kill Him because he had already consigned himself to death.  Three nights in the heart of the earth.

We can learn a valuable lesson from this.  This world is going to come at Christians more and more in these last days.  We are seeing it now and will continue to see the persecution rise.  It started back in the 70’s, with the Bible and prayer being taken out of our schools.  But today it is so much worse.  Today, there is an all-out assault on the church by the LGBTQ+ coalition.  They are splitting churches wide open and are perverting the scriptures with their misinterpretation.  They are winning even the dearest of saints over to their side and indoctrinating our children even as young as kindergarten age.  Free speech will be next as they seek to stop us from reading certain parts of the Bible.  Oppression will hit us all eventually, and we must be prepared.

In my mind, the only way to be prepared is to die to ourselves.  We are supposed to crucify this flesh, let it die, so the Spirit can live within us in this world.  We are supposed to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  If my body can be offended and made weak by the attack of the enemy, what good will I be to the Kingdom of God?  We cannot allow ourselves to be offended, but rather to stand on the word of God when the enemy comes roaring in like a lion.  And he will come, you can depend on that.  He came against Jesus!  He certainly has no fear coming against us.  If we react in the flesh, we are doomed.  But if we react in the Spirit, as Jesus did, we will be victorious every time.  Jesus trusted God in the middle of the assault, and we should as well.   The third night shows us that.  It was in the third night, which actually came first, that all the enemy’s arsenal was used against Jesus.  He did not flinch.  He did not get offended. He did not complain.  He just did what God called Him to do.  And we should do the same!

The Order of Melchizedek

Hebrews 5:5-6

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.

As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

There are some things that I just don’t understand.  Well, to be honest, there are many things I don’t understand.  I am a simple lay person whom God has given the gift to write, both these studies and poetry/songs.  He can craft a sermon using my mouth, but most of it comes from Him, not me.  I learned at one point in my life to listen to His voice and that is where the words come from.  People ask me all the time how I can write such beautiful poetry, and I ay that I don’t.  he speaks it to me and I just put it on paper (Or type it on my computer).  It flows like a brook that flows down a mountain after a rain.  I certainly don’t understand why He chose me to write these words, but He did. By the way, if you are not familiar with my poetry blog, you can find it HERE (psalmistpetegardner.com)

I don’t understand why everyone did not follow Jesus and leave John the Baptist the day Jesus was baptized.  After all, an audible voice came out of the heavens saying “This I my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11).  If I heard that voice from heaven, I would have followed Him right into the wilderness and been there for Him when He needed something.  I doubt I would have left His side for anything.  But He went into the wilderness alone right after that proclamation.  I don’t understand that.

Imagine if you will if that would happen today and you were present.  You see a man come forward to the altar in your church.  You’ve never laid eyes on him and you know he is a visitor here that day. But your Pastor looks at Him and sees something special about him.  Maybe he feels the anointing on the man – that is definitely possible.  Maybe there is some thing in the way he looks at the Pastor that grabs his attention.  Whatever the case, the Pastor believes something special is happening.  All of a sudden. A voice booms out of heaven and says “This is my anointed messenger, in whom I am well pleased.”  What would you do?  Me – I would be skeptical.  In todays’ society, with the high-tech sound systems we have, this could come from a sound system.  But you know the sound system, and this voice definitely did not sound like it came from there.  My tendency would be to listen to the man if my Pastor allows him to speak.  Hopefully, the pastor has enough discernment to now be distracted by the voice.  Hopefully, he will ask the man what he wants to say and weigh it against scripture.  And hopefully, I will weigh my response by that same standard.  If the words spent by any man do not line up with the scripture, it should be rejected.  In these times especially, we must be vigilant and know the word of God well enough to judge sound doctrine.

That is why Paul uses scripture to back up the claim that Christ is our high priest.  This was difficult for the Jews (Hebrews) to comprehend.  After all, Jesus never served in the temple as a priest.  He was not in the Levitical line, but the line of Judah.  He had no right to be a priest according to the literal translation of Old Testament law. Paul has to build His case that Jesus came as our high priest.  Jesus never claimed this position.  Jesus never claimed He would take away sin either.  But the scripture tells us these things about Jesus.  They tell us who He was and why He came.  They tell us the ministry that He represented.   He did not glorify himself.  He let His Father do that.  Even on holy week, he asked the father to glorify His name and God said (again in an audible voice) “I have bopth glorified it and will glorify it again” (John 12:28)

So, to help the people understand how Jesus could be a high priest, he draws back into the Old Testament and a man named Melchizedek.  This goes way back to Abraham’s time, before the law, before the priesthood was even thought of. The story is in Genesis 14:18-20.  Melchizedek was the king of Salem, but it also says he was the priest of the most High God.  The Levitical priesthood was not even established yet, so the priesthood of Melchizedek was directly from God, not from a human perspective.  Abraham, the Father of the nation of Israel, and the father in faith of all who claim to be Christians, paid tithes to this Melchizedek.  And Melchizedek blessed Abraham in return.  Paul equates the priesthood of Jesus to that of Melchizedek, and uses the prophetic words of Psalm 110:4 to make his case.  This verse would be familiar with the Jews, as they had all been taught from their youth that this verse was about the Messiah.  He would be their high priest forever.  But still to this day many do not believe. Paul gives us a great example here of backing up His preaching with the scripture.  We should always make sure what we written, say or do lines up with scripture.  That is the purpose of Gods word – to teach us and train us in God’s ways.  It escapes my why so many can be drawn away from the word be the deceitfulness of a false prophet or false teaching.  It has to be that they do not know the scripture well enough to discern the truth.  Don’t let that be you!  Know the truth of scripture, and the truth shall set you free!

Called Of God

Hebrew 5:1-4

For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:

Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.

And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.

And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron

The writer of Hebrews now starts to explain the role of the High priest.  This is essential to our understanding of our salvation.  God’s plan started way back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned.  It was not just a haphazard thing God threw together as He went along. In the garden, God had to cover Adam & Eve with the skin of an animal, and sin has had to be covered by a blood sacrifice ever since.  Abel offered from the flock and his sacrifice was accepted.  Cain did not and his was not.  Abraham offered sacrifices to the Lord, and was willing to give his son if God required him too.  Moses listened to God in the wilderness and set in motion the reason for and type of sacrifices at God’s command.  The book of Leviticus spells this out.  But even before that, God required a blood sacrifice to keep the death angel from destroying the Israeli first born during the first Passover.

Once the nation of Israel was in the wilderness, God gave Moses the design for the temple and the types of sacrifices needed.  The book of Leviticus spells these out in great detail.  The burnt offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering, the peace offering and the meat offering were all required from the people.  I won’t go into detail on these, but it would be good for you to read about them if you have not.  The first 10 chapters of Leviticus are hard to read, but so fundamental in our understating of the price Christ paid.  Jesus fulfilled all of these sacrifices for us on the cross.  What a Savior!

Then Moses gave instructions for the high priest, his garments, his anointing.  This was Aaron at the time.  His job was to oversee all the sacrifices given, and there were plenty.  It was a bloody place all the time, and the aroma of the sacrifices went up through the camp at all times.  He had the rest of the priests and the Levites to help him carry out this task.  These priests were chosen out of the tribe of Judah because the firstborn was spared in the land of Egypt.  God required the firstborn, yet He allowed the Israelites to offer the Levites instead of their firstborn.  Thus, the tribe of Levi became the priests and servants of the temple.   This was there calling from the day they were born until the day they died.  And one man was chosen high priest, for he was the one who would offer that special offering on the day of atonement, which we will discuss at length in a future study.  The duty of the priest was to have compassion on all and to accept their sacrifice to God for whatever reason they were giving it.  He offered for all the people and for himself.

This position was not one that the priest just one day decided he would take up.  It was a calling from God.  In Old Testament times, the priest was from the tribe of Levi.  Today, the priesthood is a calling from God as well.  In fact, any ministry is a calling from God.  We tend to look at some ministries as les important than others, but God only looks at faithfulness to what He has asked us to do.  Are we doing what he asks us to do?  This was the duty of the [priest then, and it is the duty of every Christian today because Peter tells us we are a royal priesthood.  It is our duty to bring the gospel to others, and to let them know their sins have been forgiven by the bold of Christ.  As we continue through Hebrews this whole picture will unfold. What are you called to do?  Some are sowers of seed, and pass out tracks, and witness endlessly.  Some are worship leaders, or Sunday School teachers or VBS helpers.  Some are janitors, or cooks, or dishwashers.  Some sell, some make things, some fix things, some observe things.  No matter what your calling is, you were given the ability and the desire by your creator, and should always keep that in mind when carrying out your duties.  We could do nothing without Him.  The more we can tune into His voice, the more He can show us the way through the problems and adversities that will come up while we carry out our calling.  They are bound to come.  Jesus told the disciples that in this world they would have tribulation.  He knew they would face difficulties and would be rejected and laughed at.  But then He said that He has overcome the world, and that we should not be afraid to do what He asks us to do.  What am I waiting for?

Hold Your Confidence Steadfast

Hebrews 3:14-19

14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;

15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

16 For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.

17 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

There is a growing surge of those who think that once they kneel at an altar, confess their sins, and recognize Jesus as Lord, they cannot lose their salvation.  Once-save, always-saved is the usual way we say that.  They believe whatever they do after that moment at the altar does not matter.  Grace will cover any sin.  All I have to do is ask forgiveness again.  Jesus will forgive us over and over.  After all, He told the disciples they must forgive unendingly if someone sins against them!  Would not God do the same for us?  Of course, He would.

The passage here indicates the opposite though.  This passage tells us that if we do not believe, if we do not hold onto the confidence we have in Christ, we will not enter into His rest.  He will not taste the fruit of the promised land.  How many did that entail?  If we look at the sheer numbers, we find that the population of Israel was fairly constant in the wilderness.  There were only 1,820 less men of war who entered Canaan then who left Egypt.  That is astounding after a 40-year period.  But we also know that, because of unbelief, all the men of 20 years old and upward when they left Egypt, died in the wilderness except Joshua and Caleb (Moses died just before crossing Jordan). Why did they die?  Because of unbelief.  They had murmured against God enough.  Several times they wanted to return to Egypt because of the hardship of the desert.  Several times Moses interceded for the people and Gd spared them.  But when the spies came back from the promised land and brough a bad report, that was the last straw for God.  He had told them they would enter the land, and that the land was theirs.  Joshua and Caleb said they could take the land.  But the other ten put fear in their hearts, and they did not believe the two, or God.  This unbelief caused God to say all those 20 years old and upward would die in the wilderness.  This was right at the beginning of those 40 years.  If they had only listened to God they would have avoided those 40 years in the wilderness and the promise would be theirs.  How sad!

Today we loom back and see what happened to these Israelites, and we forget the lesson that is there.  Many go about ignoring God’s commands and living life the way they want to live it.  They don’t listen to the words of the preacher, but harden their hearts (see yesterdays lesson) and go about doing their own thing.  I would venture to say the most rampant sin in the church is unforgiveness.  Did not Jesus say that if we do not forgive our fellow man, God will not forgive us?  How often do I ignore that, holding grudges and saying awful things about those who wrong us? Then there are the words of Paul that we should not grumble or complain.  I hear these two things constantly from other Christians.  Paul tells us we should not allow corrupt communication proceed from our mouth, but our words should always minister grace to the person we are talking to.  How often do my words hurt others, even if spoken only to my wife?

We are all in the process of working out our salvation, and we should do so with fear and trembling.  Heaven is not a given, it is a gift.  A gift of God’s grace that we should not take lightly.  We are serving a holy God, and he asks us to be Holy like Him.  We deem that impossible, so we figure some sin won’t hurt us.  I know I do.  Maybe you do not.  I am far from perfect, and I do things that I should not do.  Paul even had that problem.  At one point he said he does the things he should not do, and does not do the things he should.  I can sure identify with that!  But he follows it up with thanks to Jesus for the gift He has given us in salvation.  Paul’s heart was always in the right place and he walked a walk similar to David’s, a walk of repentance.  He made sure he was always right with God by asking forgiveness every time he took a wrong turn. I need to stop taking God’s grace for granted.  We all must.  Our missions is to show others the light of Christ.  When I sin, my light dims a little and my witness is affected.  When I walk in integrity, I also walk with a confidence like I first had when I got saved.  This is the confidence God wants us to have.  The Ephesian church was scolded because the left their first love, the love of God.  We put aside God’s love when we take Him for granted.   We think He owes us forgiveness.  He does not owe us anything.  He already gave His all when he gave His son.  Now it is up to me to walk out the grace and mercy He has placed inside of me when I asked Him to be my Savior and Lord.  I must treat others the way He treats me.  That is what we do when we truly believe!  That is how we enter his rest.

Maintain Good Works

Titus 3:8

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

We use to sing a song that said “We’ll work ‘til Jesus comes.” The sentiment of the song was that we needed to be busy about the Father’s business right up until the time the trumpet sounded His return.  Right up until we were caught up to meet Him in the air.  It seems to me that today people want to sit back and wait until He comes.  They want to study and study and study the word, but not do the word.  They sit with their commentaries and concordances and multiple translations to pick out key verses linking Revelation, Daniel and Ezekiel all to try and figure out exactly what is going to happen and when.  They listen to teaching by David Jeremiah and get the prophecy bible of John Hagee so they can claim to have a handle on the prophetic end of the age.  They are all wrapped up in what is to come and forget about the day at hand.  All the while, what Jesus wants is for us to work until he comes.

Why is it so important to know what Heaven will be like?  Why must we know when He is going to come?  Shouldn’t our every day be lived as if it were our last?  Shouldn’t our lives reflect His love every moment of every day?  Yes, Paul told us to study to show ourselves approved unto God, but James said the faith without works is dead.  We can study and learn and quote scripture (with the address of course) all we want.  But if we are not going about doing the Father’s business, we are not doing what we are supposed to.  We are not living the word.  James told us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only.  Here, Paul tells us that we must affirm constantly that we are careful to maintain good works.  Constantly.  In the NIV, this verse says to affirm confidently.  A rarely used word, it means to be emphatic until the end, to se it all the way through.  That tells me that I must be sure I am doing good works all the way through my life.

I am not writing to condemn, but to admonish.  Isn’t it time the church start to do what the church is supposed to do?  The church was not a social experiment.  It was not designed to feed the full, but the hungry.  It was not designed to give solace to the well, but to heal the sick and broken.  It was not designed to have million-dollar budgets to operate, but to distribute the money of the rich to help the poor.  I’m not saying that we should be a socialistic nation as some are saying this would be a scriptural society. What I do believe is that the church should be socialist in a way.  The New Testament church described in the first few chapters of Acts acted as a group of people who took care of each other’s needs.  They did not give because they were promised it would be returned pressed down, shaken together and running over.  They gave to help each other by having a common pool through which to bless the members.  The apostles were charged with distributing to the necessity of the saints (Romans 12:13).  This same verse also says they were given to hospitality.  They actually had group meals and fed each other regardless of social status.

In today’s society this would be quite a church.  A mechanic who works on people’s cars in the church and does not charge.  A plumber who will help someone without fee in an emergency.  A snow remover taking care of a church member who does not have the ability or the means to get his snow removed.  Doing whatever we can to help each other.  Giving all we can to help each other and not holding back.  Look at what happened to Ananias and Saphira!  They both died because they did not give what they said they were giving.  They only gave part of what they had the ability to give.  I am guilty of that quite often.  What else can I do for God’s kingdom?  I’m not talking here about witnessing and sharing the Gospel, although that is a piece of our works. Some people are more gifted with that ability than others, and it is important that we share the word whenever we are given opportunity.  I am talking about our ministry to the needs of others.  The needs they have today, not what might come tomorrow.  Today is what counts to these people.  Right now they need a touch from God, and I believe God wants that touch to come from us.  We are His workmanship, created for good works (Ephesians 2:10).  Some translations use the word masterpiece instead of workmanship.  I love being thought of as a masterpiece, but a masterpiece that does not do what is intended to do is of no use.  It will wit collecting dust.

Jesus said that He had to be do His Fathers business (Luke 2:49).  We must do the same.  By now you are probably saying “Okay Pete.  We get the message.  Please tell us what we are supposed to do!”  I’ll be happy to.  Don’t think for a minute that I have all this down pat.  I have a long ay to go to be able to ay I am doing the Father’s business all the time.  But I always try to do my best when a situation presents itself.  And I am not going to get into a long diatribe of what each thing is, nor will I supply a comprehensive list.  But I will give you some food for thought which will lead to action, I hope.  I am just going to give a few scriptures that tell us what we should be doing.

First, Let’s look at Luke 4:18-19 (or Isaiah 61:1-2).  18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,  19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.  Jesus said this was His mission.  Is this not ours as well?  Jesus places the Holy Spirit within us when we are born again, soi the Spirit is upon us.  We don’t do these things, the Spirit within us does.  But we should be praying these things for others all the time, and proclaiming the year of the Lord.

Next, I take you to Matthew 6:14-15.  14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  We are not to bear grudges or keep anger inside us.  We are to forgive and put the matter behind us.  This is a hard work but it is a very good work.  Do you have someone you need to forgive?  I suggest you do it quickly and constantly!

Now, Matthew 7:12   12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”  Jesus said it was all summed up in this verse.  Treat others like you would want to be treated.  Very simple, yet so profound.  If only we would all live like this every day.

I could actually just take the whole Sermon on the Mount.  It is full of ways we can do good work.  But I will move on to a few other places.

Ephesians 4:29 says 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”  Do I speak grace at every occasion, or do I fall into the trap of being angry, or complaining, or grumbling?  Another verse that coincides is Philippians 2:16 “Doall things without grumbling or complaining.” Oh my!  How many of us follow this sage piece of advice?

Then there is Romans 12:6-21.  I am not about to put this whole section of scripture into this blog, but I will give you a snapshot of the good work that can come out of following these words.  Prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, showing mercy, show love that is pure, hate evil, not slothful in business, bless them which bless you, rejoice with them that rejoice and weep with those that weep, live in peace with all, don’t take vengeance, treat everyone equally, don’t be conceited, don’t return evil for evil but overcome evil with good,

That’s a mouthful! All of these things out to be a part of our lives.  They ought to reflect who we are as children of God.  I could use a good dose of many of these things in my life how about you?  I think a majority of the time we think of good works as doing something tangible and we stop at that.  But how many of the things on this list are intangible?  It’s the attitude of the heart that is the greatest work of all.  We can give, attend, lead, socialize and do deeds all we want, but if we don’t get these things down right, we miss the mark.  Which brings us to the greatest work we can do – Love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8a.  “13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth

Do this, and you’ve done good work!