My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:1-10)
If any man on earth kept God's commandments, it was the man Jesus of Nazareth. But how is it then that He did not receive the blessings promised in this passage? His life was not long but short, even by the standards of the day. He knew not peace, but strife: civil leaders, spiritual authorities, and even His own family were turned against Him. Though He certainly had favor with God and at times with men, at His crucifixion He was reviled and abandoned by all. His material wealth consisted of the clothes He wore, which in the end were gambled off so He had nothing left.
Though Jesus by right should have obtained all of the blessings of Proverbs chapter 3, instead He willingly suspended His rights (2 Cor. 8:9) He chose to share the degradation and suffering of the lost, that through Him they might find the way to God. A true follower of Jesus must do the same (1 Peter 2:21-24). There is no other way to bring full salvation to the lost. We cannot lure them with promises of health, prosperity, and success, for this yields at best an infantile and self-serving faith. Peter before the Crucifixion had this immature faith. He was zealous and bold, he was devoted and obedient. However, he lacked the life of Christ within, for it is only by dying with Him that we shall be raised with Him to new life.
Let us examine Peter's immature faith more closely. As a disciple of the man Jesus, Peter knew that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16-17). He understood that Jesus knew everything, and could do anything (John 16:30). Still, there was a great hole in Peter's faith, which only Jesus' death could fill. Peter lacked the revelation of the enormity of his own sin. To be sure, Peter knew he was a sinner (Luke 5:4-11). Long before the Crucifixion, Peter realized that he desperately needed Jesus, that his life was meaningless apart from serving Him (John 6:68). What Peter did not realize was that his defective nature made it impossible for him to truly serve Jesus. He considered himself a reformed sinner, because he had left his former life to follow Jesus. But notwithstanding his change of life, Peter remained a congenital sinner. The cancerous sin living within him was the same as Cain's, the same as Adam's, the same that was responsible for the corruption of the entire world.
It took Jesus' forfeiture of His rightful blessings to burst Peter's bubble. Peter's betrayal of Jesus forced him to confront his own faithlessness and bombastic pride. For the first time, Peter really grasped what he had said several years earlier: "I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8). Similarly, it is only through our forfeiture of our rights and willing endurance of abuse at the hands of sinners that we may bring them to a deep conviction of sin (2 Cor. 4:10-12).
Sadly, many who consider themselves "born again" have only a surface conviction, and not a thorough grasp of their own sinfulness. Their faith is immature, just as Peter's was during his years of following Jesus. This is why, by and large, Christians are unwilling to suffer for their faith and shun suffering at all costs, rather than rejoicing at the privilege as the apostles did (Acts 5:41).
Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV)
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Last Revised: March 20, 1999
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