Mending Our Nets

How can we be fishers of men if our nets are full of the holes of prejudice, self-righteousness, unforgiveness, judgment, and pride?

A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40 

I realized as I read this verse recently that I have been taking it out of context for a very long time. Actually, kind of skipping over it because of the more dramatic content that is around it. But I realized that it is like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle that completes the picture. So, what comes before and after this verse? 

Before the verse Jesus asks, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” 

And then right afterward there is another saying that I have taken out of context: 

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? Luke 6:41-42 

I have been taking all of these verses as stand-alone and out of context. But what Jesus has given here are two verses about being blind sandwiching a verse about being fully trained to be like the teacher. What does this mean?  

The Greek word translated “fully trained” above is katartizo. It means to render, sound, complete, to mend (what has been broken or rent), to repair, to complete, to fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust, prepare, restore, make perfect. 

According to W.E. Vinei, the Greek word katarizo “is used of mending nets, Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19.” Wow, did you get that? Jesus is talking to his disciples here. “Looking at his disciples, he said:” (Luke 6:20). He was talking to learners, pupils, some may have thought “rabbis-in-training.” The underlying assumption seems to be that these disciples would go out and be leading – “can a blind man lead a blind man?” They would also become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17, Luke 5:10) – and they needed their nets mended. Jesus had just finished some hard sayings: 

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you ... Luke 6:27-35 

Be merciful … Luke 6:36 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 

I’m pretty sure that, like me, their thinking needed to be adjusted. Their nets needed mending. (Isn’t it amazing and symbolic that when Jesus called James and John, they were mending their nets?) When Jesus asked, “Can a blind man lead?” he was using the word tuphlos, which can mean physical or mental blindness. Significantly, it comes from tuphoo, which means to be enveloped with smoke (so as to render blind), to be puffed up with haughtiness or pride, inflated with self-conceit. 

How can we be fishers of men if our nets are full of the holes of prejudice, self-righteousness, unforgiveness, judgment, and pride? But what did Jesus say?  

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 

There’s a whole lot of judgment and condemnation going on out there. Let’s allow our Lord to adjust us, to repair and restore us, to mend our nets, so that we can be like Him in mercy and love and light. 

“The Lord is very ready to forgive; it is the church that is unmerciful sometimes, but not the Master. He is always willing to receive us when we come to Him, and to blot out our transgression.” — Charles Spurgeon, God’s Fatherly Pity

Read more about God’s net of everlasting love here (I will throw my net over them

Photo used with gratitude: Fish nets by John Levanen https://flic.kr/p/8yYErh  

Forgetting What is Behind

“Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.”

I have been struggling mightily with guilt and regret over past sins and their consequences that cannot be undone. And I have asked God to forgive me again a thousand more times, but still there is the torture. The past week or so especially I have cried out to Him. And then today this happened in my inbox. Blessed, blessed assurance (thank you so much all you wonderful, faithful bloggers!). Please, if you have been struggling too, may this minister to you.  

‘Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead’ ~ Philippians 3:13 

Paul stated this after a discourse of putting ‘no confidence in the flesh’ (Philippians 3:3). Paul came to the realization that perfection is not a thing to be obtained, but a thing we set our eyes to. Jesus says, ‘the Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak’ (Matthew 26:41). Paul realizing that he has not yet taken hold of perfection while in the flesh continues to say; ‘I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14). Only in forgetting what is behind, can one press on towards perfection. King Solomon admonishes, ‘Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you’ (Proverbs 4:25). Because by forgetting what is behind and looking on ahead, we see perfection. We see the Perfect One.  — blogged by Mulyale Mutisya, https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/forgetting-what-is-behind/  

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19).”  –blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2021/01/01/blessed-new-year/  

So what are we to do? First, we must send the foxes back to where they belong: in their foxholes. And then we must open our minds and our hearts to the voice that resounds through the valleys and hills of our life saying: “Let me show you where I live among my people. My name is ‘God-with-you.’ I will wipe all the tears from your eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone” (Revelation 21:2–5). — Henri J. M. Nouwen 

 
“The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you! He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid–do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 
 
As we launch out into another year, there is little visible prospect of a smooth and pleasant voyage. To the natural eye, the clouds are dark and fierce storms seem imminent. The very uncertainty of what the morrow may bring forth, fills many with uneasiness and trepidation. 
 
But how different should be the state of God’s children! An all-sufficient Object is presented to the eyes of their faith, from which unbelief derives no comfort. The poor worldling is concerned with what lies before him–but it is the blessed privilege of the believer to be occupied with Who goes before him–the One who is his Captain, his Guide, his Forerunner. “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you!” What a difference that makes! O that writer and reader may be enabled to lay hold of this grand Truth as we enter another period of time, and keep it steadily in mind throughout the coming days!    
 
“Do not be afraid–for I have ransomed you. 
I have called you by name–you are Mine! 
When you go through deep waters–I will be with you. 
When you go through rivers of difficulty–you will not drown. 
When you walk through the fire of oppression–you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 
For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!” Isaiah 43:1-3  

– Arthur Pink, “New Year’s Comfort” 1943, blogged by Steve Rebus https://steverebus.com/2021/01/01/as-we-launch-out-into-another-year/  

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  blogged by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/12/31/hope-for-today-gods-plans/  

You shall not go out with haste,…for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.  Isaiah 52:12 

Security from Yesterday. “…God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise when we remember our yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present. 

Security for Tomorrow. “…the Lord will go before you….” This is a gracious revelation— that God will send His forces out where we have failed to do so. He will keep watch so that we will not be tripped up again by the same failures, as would undoubtedly happen if He were not our “rear guard.” And God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience

Security for Today. “You shall not go out with haste….” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. 

Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him. — Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

The uphill climb that is still ahead is not daunting, because I know that the darkness cannot maintain its grip on children of the Light (1 Thess. 5:5) … So press on, yes, but not into oblivion. Press on in faith because those who trust in Christ have a greater hope than this world has to offer. His name is Jesus, and He came to set you and I free.  — blogged by A Grateful Life Lived  https://agratefullifelived.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/hardest-year-of-my-life/#like-2787  

Photograph by Jack Bair

Enough

If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.  Psalms 66:18 (NKJV) 

I always looked at this verse as saying that if I coddled some unrepented sinful act or thought in my heart, the Lord could not listen to my prayers. And it does mean that, but I think God is saying something more to me. The word in the above verse translated “regard” is the Hebrew word ra’ah. It means to look at, see, regard, gaze at, behold, perceive. Derek Prince had a slightly different take on this verse: 

“If I ‘regard iniquity in my heart,’ it means that I come to God with a consciousness in my heart of something that condemns me.”  

I have been having a hard time in prayer. I have been feeling like the Lord did not hear. Suddenly, I realized that I had not been coming to God in prayer with a clear conscious. I was always under the burden of some kind of guilt. Guilt about not being a good enough friend, a good enough wife and mother, not serving God enough, not praying enough, not calling my elderly parents enough — not being enough. I had been listening to those accusing voices in my head and had been feeling a closed door, a heavy curtain, between me and God. My heart was condemning me. I was gazing at my failings and not at Jesus.  

Then I read this from J. Vernon McGee. He was describing the tabernacle in the wilderness and its three parts: the outer court where the sacrifices were received and their blood shed, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies, where God dwelt between the cherubim. About the articles of furniture in the Holy Place of the tabernacle, he writes that it included “the table of showbread and the golden lampstand. Then, in the background was the golden altar, the altar of incense, which speaks of prayer – no sacrifices were ever made there” [emphasis mine]. 

No sacrifices were made at the altar of incense, the place that symbolically represented the prayers of the saints (see Revelation 8: 3-4). Why? Because the sacrifice had already been made out in the courtyard on the brazen altar. The sacrifice had already been made. Therefore, the priest could go into the Holy Place and offer the prayer-incense without further sacrifice.  

But these Old Covenant sacrifices, made over and over, “were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper” (Hebrews 9:9). It is only the once-and-for-all sacrifice of the Lamb of God that can clear our consciences. 

I was bypassing the altar where the Blood of the Lamb has been shed. Should I (in pride) be surprised that I am weak and sinful? No, I should throw away all expectation of ever being “enough.” I can never be enough for anyone, and it’s not my job either. It is not my wonderfulness that helps or saves. Only God can be enough. All I can do is offer my love, serve with the strength he gives and trust him for the rest.  

“We have to get rid of any attitude that suggests some kind of righteousness in ourselves. We have no righteousness of our own. We must come to a place where we are trusting in God’s faithfulness, and that produces confidence … There must come a time when we lay side every attempt to justify ourselves and say, ‘I receive by faith the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to me by my faith in Him according to the Word of God. I will not worry about my merits. I will not worry about my sins. I will not parade my good deeds. I will not blush for my bad deeds. I will not examine and analyze my own heart all the time to see if I am good enough. I will trust God that the blood of Jesus has cleansed me from all sin. And now I am going boldly right to the throne, right into the holiest place of all.’” Derek Prince, Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, chapt. 2, Basic Conditions for Answered Prayer [emphasis mine] 

Instead of beholding, gazing at my real failings and unrighteousness and listening to the accusations of our enemy, I need to fix my thoughts and eyes on Jesus, Our Righteousness (Hebrews 12:2). As the Holy Spirit points out sin, I repent of it and give it to the One who washes it away with his Blood as if it never happened and forgets it. 

The humble find the Holy One. Just when the consciousness of sin and weakness, and the discovery of how much of self there is, makes you fear that you can never be holy, the Holy One gives Himself. Not as you look at self, and seek to know whether now you are contrite and humble enough—no, but when no longer looking at self, because you have given up all hope of seeing anything in it but sin, you look up to the Holy One, you will see how His promise is your only hope.” — Andrew Murray, Holy in Christ [emphasis mine] 

But you know what the really wonderful, amazing, grace-filled thing is? We don’t have to stop at the altar of incense in this new temple. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we can go all the way into God’s very presence and talk to him in person. Let us go there with assurance. 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a Great Priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. Romans 8:1 (Message) 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14  

But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Passion Translation)

Photo copyright Jack Bair

Wonderful One

God lets me know that his power is made perfect in my failures.

Last night I was talking to God and saying that I felt like a total failure. That everything I had done in my life had been a failure. That I had failed my kids especially. Then this morning this verse was in my daily devotional.

No one whose hope is in (who waits, looks for, hopes, expects, is bound together with) you will ever be put to shame (be put to shame, be ashamed, be disappointed) … Psalm 25:3

That word translated “put to shame” is buwsh. The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament says this about the word:

The primary meaning of this root is “to fall into disgrace, normally through failure, either of self or of an object of trust.” TDOT, II, pp. 50-59 [emphasis mine]

God is always there with us, isn’t he? So this verse says that, as long as my hope is in Him, I will never fall into disgrace or be shamed because of my failures.

And then another verse came to me from a fellow blogger, and then again in a novel I was reading, and then again on a bookmark left in a used book by a former owner:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (astheneia).” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Guess what astheneia means?

Definition:
1) want of strength, weakness, infirmity
1a) of the body
1a1) its native weakness and frailty
1a2) feebleness of health or sickness
1b) of the soul
1b1) want of strength and capacity requisite
1b1a) to understand a thing
1b1b) to do things great and glorious
1b1c) to restrain corrupt desires
1b1d) to bear trials and troubles
      

At that I was completely undone because God knows me. Want of strength to do things great and glorious. Want of strength to be the Wonderful One. That has always been a weakness of mine – thinking I have to do wonderful exploits, that I have to be the Savior of the Word. And I am learning that this trying to wrest control from God and be the wonderful one always ends in failure.

But God (but God!) is the One who has the strength and capacity requisite to do the great and glorious things. And even more wonderful, God lets me know that his power is made perfect in my failures. He is the One who turns failures into victories, he is “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17).

He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not (that lack, that never, that cannot, that are nothing, that are without)—to nullify the things that are … 1 Corinthians 1:28

He chose and loves the failures of the world – the weak and frail ones, the ones who lack, who cannot, the nothings, without the capacity to do great and glorious things. What God is saying is that even when it seems like your failures have ruined your life and you have let everyone down – God and your family and your friends – his grace is sufficient. Give him your failures. Keep waiting, looking for, hoping, expecting, keep being bound together with the One who loves you more.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

And His name will be called Wonderful … Isaiah 9:6

Image by Jack Bair

The Snake

“… faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”

So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. Numbers 21:9

Snakes kill in lots of ways. Some inject a poison that quickly or slowly paralyzes its victim. Some use constriction, squeezing the life out of its prey. Others just swallow their victim whole, headfirst to immobilize them and lessen the chance of resistance and escape. Sounds like sin to me, especially the headfirst part. So often sin starts with wrong thinking.

In the Bible snakes are symbols of both sin and the consequences of sin. Numbers 21:5-9 the people grumbled against the Lord and he sent poisonous snakes among them. They cried out to Moses and God instructed him to make a snake image (or substitute) and raise it up on a pole for the Israelites to look at. If they looked at the snake, they would be healed/delivered. By looking at the snake in obedience to the command they were putting their faith, not in the snake, but in God who provided this way of salvation.

Pointing to this event, Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Moses’ snake was a foreshadowing or picture of Jesus on the cross. The snakes were what was killing the people – a snake was lifted up on the pole. Sin is/was what is killings us – Jesus became that sin and was lifted up on the cross. When we look to him in faith we are healed and saved. A.W. Tozer commented on these verses.

Our plain man, in reading this, would make an important discovery. He would notice that look and believe are synonymous terms. “Looking” on the Old Testament serpent is identical with “believing” in the New Testament Christ. That is, the looking and the believing are the same thing. And he would understand that, while Israel looked with their external eyes, believing is done with the heart. I think he would conclude that faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.–A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

It is hard to think of Jesus as a poisonous snake, but that is what he did for us. He became that poisonous snake of sin. He did this so that sin could receive its righteous and just consequence from God in Jesus’ body. The consequence of sin – death and separation from the God who loves us. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he cried (Matthew 27:46). He was separated from God hanging there on the pole. He became our sin; he took our consequence. The people in Moses day were healed/saved temporarily – we are healed/saved eternally.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” Galatians 3:13

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:14-17

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn, but to save.

 

The Snake is also available as a Bible study which you are free to print and use at The Snake Bible Study

 

Image Death in the Afternoon, Common/Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) swallowing an American toad (Bufo americanus), by Sarunas Burdulis, https://flic.kr/p/chmx5S

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