Chapter 5 - Reprogramming
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 “...The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” - Luke 18:27b


 There is an age old deception that God will not give us more than we can handle. Not only is that a misrepresentation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 but this can't be farther from the truth. More accurately put, God will not give us more than HE can handle. The Bible is full of stories of men who were pushed beyond what they could handle. For example, consider the Rich Young Ruler.


 The rich young ruler got a chance to ask Jesus questions directly. This is an opportunity a doubter would love to have. Here we will look at what crucial question he asks, and Jesus response to that question.


 The rich young ruler learned this first hand.


 "And someone came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?"


 "And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."






 "The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?"


 "Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."


 "But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. - Matthew 19:16-22


 I believe Jesus statement above was one absolutely full of love. Oh yes, it is the truth. The cold, no I take that back, the warm, hard truth. For you see, this rich young ruler was deluded up until this point.


 What do we know about this man? We know he was a ruler (Luke 18:18) which means he was one in authority with some measure of power. We know he was rich, not only that, but EXTREMELY rich as put in Luke 18:23. But furthermore, and I'm actually impressed with this next part if this rich young ruler is a man of his word. And that is that this rich young ruler has kept many of the commandments since his youth. His testimony before Jesus is that he has not committed adultry, he has not murdered, he has not bore false witness, he has honored his father and mother, and he has loved his neighbor as himself. Wow. I am indeed impressed, and since his youth even! A man who loves his neighbor as himself, and does not bear false witness? I would want this guy running in office as well. So why then is Jesus so hard on him? Let me stop there. Jesus is not. You see this man is what the world would label a "good man". He is still young yet he is rich, he is a ruler, and to some measure, he obeys the law. Why then if Jesus has plainly told us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and nobody comes to the Father except by and through Him (John 14:6), why then does Jesus tell this man something else.


 He doesn't. He commands no more of this man than he commands of us, that is, that we are to be perfect (Matt. 5:48). But the way he presents it to the ruler is a way this man would understand. Jesus met him on his level and gave him a sobering message of truth that, by the rich young rulers reaction, accomplished the very purpose Jesus' word was sent out to do, leaving the young ruler very sad (Luke 18:23) and literally grieving (Matthew 19:22). Do you recognize this grieving? I do. It's the grief of failure. Of the inability to measure up. It is the sadness of knowing what is required of you and falling short of accomplishing that requirement. It's justly being found guilty in the court of law. It is the nasty state of recognizing you're a sinner and you're wretched.


 Are you feeling Jesus love for the rich young ruler yet? If not, I hope to change that now. I'm convinced there is no other word Jesus could have given him that could be more to his benefit. For you see, similar to the apostle Peter, the rich young ruler needed to fail! He had accomplished so much up to this point. While still youthful he became rich, he became powerful, and he upheld the law, or at least claimed to. But I guarantee you he did not uphold them all (Rom. 3:23). Jesus knew his heart and presented him with an impossible scenario. I say impossible not because the task was impossible but because the man heart wouldn't allow it. What Jesus commanded of him went against the core of his being. Up until this point this man had accomplished all that he had on his own merit. But Jesus, knowing that nobody can get to heaven on their own merit, but through Him alone gave the man a task he knew he would fail. Why is this loving? Because never before had this man seen himself as a failure. Never before had this man seen his inadequacy.


 The first step in looking for a savior is understanding your need for one. Who searches out a doctor when they aren't sick? Who applies a bandaid when they aren't cut? (Well my niece does).Who asks to be saved when they aren't in distress? We are all in distress (Rom. 3), but not all of us see that. I'm convinced that up until this point the rich young ruler didn't see it either. He had deluded himself into thinking he could obtain righteousness by his own merit. It appears he had even deceived himself when claiming to have obeyed the mentioned commandments. After all he said he had loved his neighbor as himself (Matt. 19:19), however there were poor around him while he was rich (Matt. 19:21). Possibly for the first time in his life he realized he needed help. For the first time he realized he did not have it within himself to meet what was required of him. What a blessing this realization of our own truthful state is. For it is in this state when we reach out for a savior. It is in this state we cry out oh God help. And it is in this state we stand before the cross, and we say, Thank you Jesus!


 But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” - Luke 18:27


  For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. - 1 Cor. 1:18


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 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;
   but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
- Luke 22:31-32


 Notice it doesn't say if, it says when.


 It's the Lord's Supper, Jesus disciples are eating with Him including Peter. They are all very acquainted with each other having spent years thus far in the apostleship together partaking in the ministry and witnessing many miracles. They all share in the first communion with the Lord, followed up by a hymn. Then they part from there together to the Mount of Olives. (Matt. 26:26-30). 


   Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, 'I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.' - Matthew 26:31


   Peter having never witnessed Jesus tell a lie, having seen everything come true that Jesus had said to be thus far, does he heed Jesus words?


   But Peter said to Him, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away." - Matthew 26:33


   Hmm, perhaps if Jesus reiterates his point to Peter by giving him additional details.


   Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times."


   Yes yes, that should do it, now Peter will understand.


   Peter said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You." All the disciples said the same thing too. - Matthew 26:35


   Now I assure you Peter's heart here is gold, his love is genuine, and his zeal for the Lord goes unquestioned. But does he take to heart Jesus word? Well, lets just say this isn't the only time he's been stubborn. See Acts 10:9 - 17.


   Now back to our story. Some time has gone by, Jesus is arrested, and the events unfold as Jesus prophesied. Peter in three difference instances denies Jesus. (Matt. 26:69-75). But at the end of the third denial a rooster crows which was an anchor in Peter's mind to what Jesus had told Him. When the rooster crowed it brought everything Jesus had said to memory, and now the words spoken by the Lord strike home, now they penetrate to Peter's heart.


   And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, "Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly. - Matthew 26:75


   Perhaps you have read this like I and know all to well what it is to weep bitterly. Angrily crying with hurt that strikes the deepest parts of our inner being. Peter understands, and Jesus understands. (Luke 22:28, John 11:35, Heb. 2:18, 4:15, Isa. Ch. 53).


   Before I continue I want you to know this, God is not caught off guard by your failure. He is not surprised at the decisions you make. You have the freedom to choose, but God already knows that which you will pick. He knows this about you, and as we read here, He knew this about Peter. Knowing Peter would fail Him, did He still not save him? Most assuredly He did. Knowing you would fail him, did He not still die on the cross for you? Most assuredly He did. You see when God called you, He already knew the full package that is you. He was fully aware of all the failures that came with you, past, present, and future. And with Christ's finish work on the cross, (John 19:30) He was free to fully accept you as His child just the way you are, and to justly lavish His unconditional grace upon you (Isa. 30:18).


   What happened with Peter, which also happens with us is God's plan doesn't line up with our plan, or rather, our plan fails to line up with God's plan. When our circumstances do not coincide with our understanding of how we believe they should be, it feels "as though some strange thing were happening" (1 Pet. 4:12), and thus doubts arise. In Peter's case, he had something that needed sifting, and God was going to orchestrate this trial to work on that very thing. Luke records an aspect of this story that sheds light on this orchestration. This takes place just before Jesus informs Peter about how he would deny Him three times.


   "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." - Luke 22:31-32


   First let me point out that Jesus doesn't say if, He says when. Jesus never planned on setting Peter up for ruin though I'm confident Peter felt that way. Jesus was faithful in sustaining Him. (1 Thess. 5:24). Next I want to point out the prayer Jesus petitioned on Peter's behalf; that his faith would not fail! That said, I think it's safe to say his faith is going to encounter some hardship. It's interesting that during this agonizing trial Peter was about to go through, the petition the Lord would lift up on Peter's behalf is that his faith would not fail. Why not pray for Peter not to deny Him, or have the opportunity to deny Him removed and avoid this hardship altogether, because that would defeat the purpose and fruit this trial would produce. Next look how Satan, who intends only harm (John 10:10), is used as a tool to bring about the purpose that God has set forth in Peters life; that is the process of sifting. Jesus informs Peter of Satan's request to sift him like wheat. The process of wheat sifting consists of separating the undesired chaff from the edible grain of wheat. Because the two are so closely joined, it can be a long, painful and tedious process separating them but the end result is one that is a fruitful ingredient useful for a variety of dishes.


   You see Peter had to be sifted of something. He had to be refined, having the bad separated from the good. Was this an easy process to undergo? Absolutely not. Was it a beneficial process? Most assuredly. If you feel you have failed in this trial, take courage, so did Peter. (Matt. 26:75). But know that God has every hair on your head numbered (Matt. 10:30), and this trial you're going through has not escaped His notice. In fact, it has been filtered by the hands of the God who is your ally.


   And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? - Romans 8:28-31


   I've seen when engineers and contractors build a bridge, one of the first things they do upon completion is find one or more heavy pieces of machinery used to build the bridge and park it right in the middle. They often leave it there for several days with the purpose of testing the bridge. This isn't to bring about destruction of their long painstakingly hard work, but rather to identify any weak points that may need to be fixed before commissioning the bridge for public use. They do this to find out how strong the bridge is, and to identify and correct any weaknesses that could later turn into a major disaster if not corrected.


   Understand that God is for you in this trial, much like the bridge analogy above, James applies a similar model to our lives;


   Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. - James 1:2-4


   Consider it joy means count it as a blessing, not necessarily feel it as a blessing, at least not right now.


   After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.- 1 Peter 5:10


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 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” - Matthew 11:2-3


 We discussed Peter already who wept bitterly (Luke 22:62), The Rich Young Ruler who left Jesus grieving (Matt. 19:22). Now let's take a look at John the Baptist.


 For John the Baptist things were a bit different.


 We aren't the first to wag our heads at God. Remember John the Baptist? The very name John in hebrew means “God is gracious” and it was divinely given to him (Luke 1:13). John was “great in the sight of the Lord...and...filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:15). John was a forerunner making straight the way of the Lord (John 1:23). John was a champion of Christ and yet John was overwhelmed by his circumstances; his circumstances didn't make since to him. Imprisoned and confused by his present observations John sent a crude message to Jesus.


 We touched on this a bit earlier but this is worth stopping and taking a closer look. In the first part of Matthew 11 we see John the baptist, challenged by his present calamity, questioning God. John, who had seen miracles performed by God on countless occasions has been brought to circumstances that apparently got Him thinking. At this point in Matthew John had been imprisoned (11:2) and was soon to be beheaded (14:10) so I'm not surprised at John re-evaluating his trust object.


 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” - Matthew 11:2


 I'm actually encouraged by this. Not that John questioned God but that even a champion of Christ could have his doubts. Remember, doubt is not unbelief. Doubt is questioning what one believes while unbelief is choosing not to believe despite the evidence given. John obviously believes in Christ. That fruit is evident in His ministry and is actually shown here as He questions nobody else but Christ. But take note of the tone of his question he sent with his disciples, especially given John's intimate relationship with Christ since before he was even born (Luke 1:41).


 “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”. (Matt 11:3b).


 That's a bit callous. I suspect John's been stewing on this as all of us would in his situation. And if you're reading this book, You may have had some callous thoughts towards God as well and maybe like John a callous word or two. Let's look at Jesus' response.


 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. - Matthew 11:4-5


 What if Jesus, knowing John's current situation, dropped everything to go rescue him? For that matter, why didn't He? It wasn't a disdain for John, that's for sure, look at how He addressed the crowds after John's disciples departed.


 As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,


 ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’


 Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. - Matthew 11:7-11


 I love that Jesus addressed the crowd with such a high praise of John. “...among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!” (John 11:11a). Notice this message was not given directly to John's disciples. It was as John's men “were going away” that Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John (Matt. 11:7). This message was for the crowd, for me and you, but not for John, not at that time.


 Why not send that message with John's disciples? Since He's not bailing John out than at least He could send some encouraging words, right? Why didn't Jesus send that message of encouragement to the one whom He ranked higher than any born of women? Because it wasn't what John needed.


 More than encouraging compliments or even being bailed out of jail, what John needed was far more important than either. The undiluted truth that God is sovereign. God is doing exactly as He should be doing; God is doing exactly what He purposed to do. In John's case God was doing the very thing that John was sent as a forerunner to prepare the way for. (Matt. 11:10). God most definitely took note of John's situation, as the Bible tells us, not one sparrow falls to the grown without the Father's notice. What John needed more than a temporary rescue was a spiritual reprogramming.


 It's now been over a decade since the doubt and fear storms came in my life. While I wouldn't want to go through a crisis like that again I also wouldn't trade having gone through it for anything else. I can honestly say I'm thankful for those times of crisis in my life (notice past tense). It's not that I'm asking for more of them in my life (Eesh), that's not the point. Given the relationship I have with God now that wouldn't have been otherwise, I find it a heartfelt prayer in my life that God's will be done, whatever His will entails.


 Regardless of what is going on in your life know that your situation hasn't escaped God's notice. As God was for John, God is also for you and He has an eternal perspective. Others have learned much needed lessons through tears. The Rich Young Ruler learned he doesn't have it within himself to earn his way into heaven (Mark 10:22). Peter was sifted by Satan resulting in His reliance on Christ to save (Luke 22:31). While imprisoned John was reminded that God is good, God is sovereign and God's perfect will (Rom. 12:2) is being carried out. (Matt. 11:4-5). This lesson wasn't limited to just these three, the Apostle Paul was quite familiar with reprogramming.


  For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; - 2 Corinthians 1:8-9


 Temporary peril producing eternal benefits.


 For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come. - 1 Timothy 4:8 (Amp).



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