As I was reading this week I came across in my studies stories of people that Jesus had a personal relationship with. We read of the twelve disciples, of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and of the countless people He fellowshipped with over meals. What would it be like to have that ability to have that close contact with Jesus? That is what I look for when I read my Word.
What really stood out to me what that none of them were perfect people. They all had some sort of flaw. There are some very notable flaws that we refer to like ‘Doubting Thomas’, ‘Workaholic Martha’, ‘Peter the Denier’, ‘Saul the Persecutor’…kind of sounds like the labels we put on people that have flaws. Why do we label people with their flaws? I talk out of someone who has done the same thing. I have labeled people as ‘Negative Nellie’ or ‘Mouth of the South’. I am not proud of it and had to come this week with a repentive heart.
Doubting Thomas was a man that loved Jesus. He asked questions, that Jesus happily answered. Thomas received deep revelation from the mouth of Jesus. John 14:5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” The response of Jesus is what we have laid much our of Christian foundation on, the importance of Jesus being the only way… (verse 6) Jesus said to him, “I am the the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” We might refer to him as ‘Doubting Thomas’, but Jesus thought He was the perfect person to reveal this revelation to personally.
What about Martha? Martha is the sister of Mary and Lazarus. This was a very dear family to Jesus. He showed great love to them as revealed in the writings of John (John 11:5). We read the story of when Jesus comes to the house, Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus and Martha wants Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus tells her that Mary is do the most important thing (Luke 10:38-42). Could you just feel pride swell up inside of you if you were corrected instead of getting your way? I know I have that flaw myself. Then we get to Lazarus dying. Jesus knew he was sick but did not come right away (John 11:6), but He did come.
John 11:20-27 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would have died.” A lot of people like to stop here and take this conversation out of context to prove the heart of Martha, that she liked to scold, but read further. “But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is it to come into the world.”
Another amazing foundational statement made to someone so very ordinary, someone we have seen have flaws. She received such a revelation that we stand on to this day. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. She received this because she knew who Jesus was personally. Although she knew Him in a way we could never know. She did not just know Him as a person, she knew Him as Lord, and that is how we know Him.
Why is this so important? Let’s look at Peter. Remember, he was the one who denied Jesus three times. He had flaws, but that did not mean he did not have revelation knowledge. Jesus would often test his disciples knowledge in forms of questions or in actions. There was the time He fed the 5000, when He walked on water, when He slept during the storm, when He healed, etc. Here is a time He wanted to know what they knew about Him personally. Matthew 16:13-15 When Jesus came into the region of Caesara Philippi, He asked the disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I , the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said t them, “But who do you said that I am?” Some great answers right? None of which were true, but they sounded good.
Matthew 16:16-18 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” On this revelation knowledge, Jesus the Son of the living God, is the foundation for the church. There is a difference between head knowledge and revelation knowledge. Until we seek Jesus on a personal level, all we will have is head knowledge. Things we say can sound good, but we really do not take it to heart to transform us.
There is grace in our flaws. Now I want to be clear that grace does not give us permission to stay in our flaws. Grace is not a free pass to do as we please, to not have consequences and not to be disciplined. Grace is there for when I need Him most. I have used these verses before with the words of Paul: Romans 7:18-24 (MSG) But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I ca will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in the delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
Have you ever felt that way? I know I do sometimes. I mess up and say harsh words. I watch a movie that I should not have watched with my kids. I put off an assignment until the last minute (like this blog, I just could not bring myself to write yesterday). Paul is not saying that we should surrender to living in constant defeat of our flaws. The enemy wants us to look at our imperfections as failures. What he is doing is expressing frustration. His words demonstrate that he longs to be free from those imperfections. Let’s look at the next verse (verse 25 in the Message translation), The answer, that God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
The enemy wants us to look at our imperfections as failures.
This is grace. Jesus can and does. Through this revelation knowledge Paul (as we do) has the energy to keep going. He did not just give into his sin, the influence of sin, he stood on the revelation knowledge of who Jesus is. Paul wanted to serve God with all of his heart and mind. He desired it. I believe that Martha, Thomas and Peter desired that as well. We may know them by their flaws, but He does not. People may remember you by your flaws, you may still be labeled by them. Do not give up hope. Jesus knows, but Jesus does. He is the resurrection and the life. He is the way, truth and the life. He is the Son of the living God. Nothing can separate us from that knowledge. Ground yourself in those words. Do not give up. You are not a failure just because of your imperfections. It just means we have a greater opportunity to have deeper revelation knowledge. To have more of a personal relationship with Jesus.