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Monday, November 13, 2017

The Reset Button

Get behind me, Satan,” said the Lord Jesus to an entirely earnest Peter.

It sounds a little unkind, but Peter was in need of serious correction. In that moment he was thinking naturally rather than spiritually: all his standard defaults had kicked in. In the realm of ordinary human logic, death and suffering are things to be avoided under virtually every circumstance.

Peter could not conceive of any higher good such things might make possible.

From the Top to the Bottom

The Lord’s rebuke directly follows what may have been Peter’s finest moment, the declaration that “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That was not “natural” thinking at all. Flesh and blood had not revealed this startling truth to Peter, but God himself. It is surely no accident Matthew sets these two incidents back to back.

God cannot lie and he cannot be deceived since he knows everything. If, as Peter declared, Jesus is indeed his Anointed — his message to mankind, his Son and therefore possessed of his Father’s very nature — then it follows logically that everything he said was true and that nothing he told his disciples was mistaken. Everything. Even the stuff from which we initially recoil. It cannot be otherwise.

But Peter was not “setting his mind” on the things of God. He needed to push the reset button.

Higher Than the Earth

Peter is not alone in this. The things of God are alien to us in our fallen condition. It is not merely that we are wicked, but that we are “flesh and blood” — creatures of time and space whose fear of suffering and death is perfectly reasonable if God is even for a moment counted out of the picture. So the things of God may appear unnatural, inscrutable, irrational and even appalling. They clash with both our instincts and our cultural conditioning.

This is to be expected. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

So if turning away professing Christians who practice wickedness from church fellowship seems harsh and unloving to us; if faith seems intangible; if leadership seems like a job for someone else, and submitting ourselves to “unreasonable” authorities seems risky and unpalatable; if sacrifice seems superfluous; and if maintaining a public testimony seems showy and impractical, not to mention embarrassing … well, that may simply be a function of the distance between our thought processes and God’s.

We need to reset ours.

Up the Mountain with no Explanation

Abraham undoubtedly experienced intense fear for his beloved son Isaac when called by God to offer him as a burnt offering in the land of Moriah on a mountain to be named later. More importantly, he had no earthly frame of reference within which such an instruction made a lick of sense. I’m quite sure his rationality winced, his heart sank like a stone and his will flirted with rebellion.

Then he set his mind. Hebrews says he reasoned that God could raise the dead. He made a choice to ignore everything “flesh and blood” were telling him.

My first reaction to a crisis of faith is rarely the right one. That being the case, it had better not be my only one.

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