PUTTING HIM FIRST PLACE
John 21:15-17 -
"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep."
I - like most of you - have spent the past few weeks reflecting on 2009, while anticipating the future of 2010 with all of life's decisions, plans, twists and turns. Now that I am 47, I feel the need - more than ever - to press into life's most sacred journey; the path that God has specifically ordained for "my" life. I don't want to waste one minute of my days on fleshly goals that lead to perpetual dead ends of momentary bliss; all the while, lacking any real inner peace of knowing that I am doing "exactly" what God has planned for His Kingdom and for my best interest. I want to leave a legacy; I want to hit the mark.
So in my deepest thoughts and prayers, I am sitting quietly, seeking to hear the voice of my Lord to know what direction He desires for me to move in as I begin my expedition into the year... 2010. As I proceed into the new calendar, which rolls ahead - ready or not - my first Sunday of the New Year brings me to a wonderful time of worship at my local church where I diligently sought the Lord's presence: to hear His voice; to sense His direction; to clearly see Him like never before. I love to worship the Lord.
Then it happened! I heard a Rhema Word from the Lord that thrilled my innermost being. As I was listening to our Life Group Teacher on being and ensample and not an example (ensample = being a vessel of Christ who shows forth godly fruit; example = being a billboard of worldliness) and as we were reading some text from John 21:15-17 about Peter being questioned three times by Jesus concerning the depth of his love for Him and subsequently being instructed to "feed the Lord's sheep", I stumbled across a passage that God illuminated to me for such a time as this. I found the answer to my New Year prayer that was so deep within my heart.
As I began (silently) reading ahead to verse 18 which says:
John 21:18-19 -
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst wither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, FOLLOW ME."
I wondered, "What does this verse have to do with Peter understanding the importance of loving Jesus with an agape love? What does it have to do with Peter learning to feed the Lord's sheep?" That's when the Lord answered my question and supernaturally revealed to me His direction for my life. He explained to me that it is the immature - or, as the text says "young" - who continually insist on doing things their own way. They forge ahead with their own plans and then hope - and even pray - the Lord will bless it. On the other hand: those who really love the Lord with a deep agape love (a love that stays faithful through thick and thin); those who desire to do His will (feed His sheep); and those who are willing to follow Him; they are referred to as "old" because they are more mature in their understanding of the Kingdom of God. The text reveals that these "older ones" (more mature ones) must "stretch out their hands" to be "carried" by another.
So what the Lord is saying is, "Don't go into 2010 doing fleshly 'good works'. Instead, enter into this New Year with your arms outstretched and your eyes (spiritually speaking) closed. Trust me (Jesus) wholeheartedly to lead you into the perfect destiny designed specifically for you. As you do this, I will use you to 'feed my sheep'." Notice the verse says He will carry you where you "wouldest not." God will carry us through new, unfamiliar, territory where we would not ordinarily adventure to travel as we trust Him. The Lord wants to show us "new things." He wants to break us away from the mundane and give us a life of fresh, new, fate that brings with it joy and abundant peace.
So then, as I am reading verse 19, I am still having trouble understanding the significance of Jesus speaking of Peters death as being glory to God. That's when it hit me. Jesus was not speaking of Peters natural death, but rather, teaching him the importance of "dying to self." It is only after we learn to put to death our personal agenda's, fleshly desires, and carnal works that we can ever expect to glorify God. Once we truly "die to self", we are then positioned to "follow Jesus" the way that He desires to be followed. Just as Peter was exhorted to LOVE DEEPLY, FEED THE SHEEP, DIE TO SELF and FOLLOW JESUS, we too, are to do the same.
That's it! The Lord's instructions for 2010 are LOUD and CLEAR. Putting Christ first is so much more than "saying" this is a New Year's resolution. Yes, putting Christ first requires laying everything else down... EVERYTHING. Once we get to that place in our spiritual journey where we "really" lay it all down, we step into a mature position of "following the Lord" in such a way that the Kingdom of God is revealed in our every step.
So my prayer for 2010 is, "Lord, help me to die to self. Teach me to follow you... and only you. Help me to not be moved by the arm of the flesh or great ideas that are not part of your plans for my life. This year, I want to LOVE DEEPLY, FEED THE SHEEP, DIE TO SELF, and FOLLOW YOU. I want to put You first, not in word, but in deed. May my life be an 'ensample' to a lost world as you lead me through unknown territory and new adventures that bring ultimate peace and purpose to my life on earth. Amen."
Would you join me, by laying down your life and taking up your cross... daily? The Lord is good (Psalm 118:1). He has good things in store for His children (Matthew 7:11 & Luke 11:13). His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Hallelujah!
Matthew 16:24 -
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
Speaker / Singer / Author / Choreographer
Strengthening Families & Encouraging Women