Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

I first wrote this and blogged it July 13, 2005. And this is the revised version.

Being sifted like wheat

Since October 17th 2008 I have been thinking and reflecting about the difficulties we have in life and that we face as Christians. It seems that there are times we are constantly under spiritual attack and no matter what we do; our courage fails us right at the time it is crucial that it does not. How often does it seem that we hear the voice of God in what ever way it is that he is talking to us, and yet we don’t do as he has told us; instead we do exactly the opposite?

  • Peter the Apostle knew all about this, Luke records the warning, exhortation and encouragement of the exchange between both Jesus and Peter.

Luk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you[1] as wheat.
Luk 22:32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Luk 22:33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Luk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Here we read that Satan has asked God permission to sift Peter and that he has been given permission to do so. There is another story in the OT about a man called Job who also was sifted by Satan with Gods permission.

Have you ever watched wheat being sifted? With todays society and the readily availability of instant food, I would say probably not. A normal sieve was round about 30 – 40 cm across with sides about 100 mm – 150mm high, and a fine mesh type bottom, some sieves were bigger made of a mesh type material, about the size of a blanket and took two people to operate.

What happens is that you put the harvested wheat with the stalk etc into it and throw it up and down, shaking it, tossing it, so that the wheat is separated from the rest of the plant, and ready for use, either for storage, sowing or grinding into flour. The sifting process is a much-needed process for the grain to be any use.

So we see here that Jesus is telling Peter and though he is talking specifically to Peter, I believe he is also talking talking to the rest of the disciples; that he and they are going to be sifted, to be thrown about, that they will be going through some tough times, but not to worry, he has prayed for Peter / them that they will not fail. John 21:15-17.

Jesus tells us that he has prayed their faith will not fail them, that they will turn back, and in doing so strengthen many. Peter now argues with Jesus, protesting that it would not be so. Jesus declares, it will be so, and this is how it will pan out! And as the story progresses we know that indeed all the disciples bar John deserted Jesus and after the resurrection Jesus also reinstates them all, especially Peter.

How often have we been in the shoes of Peter and the other disciples, our boldness and confidence fleeing from us? Our faith becomes shaken, we get tossed and turned. Perhaps we don’t quite reach the stage Peter and the others did in denying our Lord. Yet for what ever reason we find we are going through a dark night or season of the soul, where we know our walk with the Lord is perhaps not OK. We find the going tough. We lack the wisdom, boldness and even passion to witness to others. Our prayer life lacks the dynamic it once had and we wonder in the deeper recesses of our inner being if we will ever recover that dynamic again? We intend to pray and instead get easily distracted. Or we go through the motions of being a Christian, not enjoying our reading of the word – that is if we do read it. We go through the motions of praying, while deep within we can’t wait for the prayer time to be over. Legalism creeps in, duty replaces joy and intimacy.

Perhaps you don’t know what it is I’m talking about? Praise God for it. Perhaps the time will come for you to experience it, perhaps not. Perhaps you have gone through that and come out the other side wiser for the experience. Or perhaps you are in the middle of such an experience right at this very moment.

If this is you then we have joined company, and we need to be reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote.

1Co 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Just as Peter was sifted by satan, we to are liable to being sifted by satan in all his subtle and not so subtle ways. Just as Peter was told by Jesus that he would fail, he was also told that his faith would not totally fail him, that he would bounce back and strengthen others.

What ever it is we are facing right now at this very moment, God will not allow us to face more than what we bear and he will also provide a way out, under the shadow of his wings.

Father God, I lift us all up to you, individuals families and friends. Lord I ask that we who are going through the trials of being sifted that you will strengthen us, help us to both know and to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that you are providing a way out. That you will deliver us from the shaking of the evil one.

For those who have come out of such an experience I ask that you will continue to help them to walk with you in joy, in peace, in strength, in the fullness of your spirit, and for those who have not yet been through the sifting process that indeed you will prepare them for such an event if it is to be your will for them to do so. I ask that none of us will ever fall away, to deny you Lord, that we will all grow from strength to strength, faith to faith, in the power of your spirit I ask that you will do this Jesus, shielding us from the power of the evil one.


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Predestination and the Elect – What the New Testament says.

Over the years I have had many discussions with Christians over the doctrine of Predestination. It can be a heated topic, one that can get Christians hot under the collar, and seeking the Lord regarding the truth of the matter. So the purpose of this essay is to look at what the New Testament says about Predestination.

There are four verses in the NT that translates the Greek into Predestined,
1. Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
2. Rom 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
3. Eph 1:5 he[3] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
4. Eph 1:11 In him we were also chosen,[5] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

There are two other verses that translate it as determined and destined,
1. Act 4:28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
2. 1Co 2:7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

As Christ centred theologians, it is important that we look at the context surrounding these scriptures to find what it is they are really saying. Starting with Acts; the background is that Peter and John were jailed for preaching Christ Act 4:1 after they healed a man from his lameness. In the course of his sermon, Peter clearly speaks of the death and resurrection of Christ. Then speaks of what it was that God predestined, and that was that Christ would die through the hands of mankind, and would raise to life again.

Turning to Romans

Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Rom 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

The key verse to understanding God having predestined us is in the word Foreknew . Paul says that it is those he foreknew who he predestined, and who was it that he foreknew? So a faithful translation of the text would be,

Those he glorified, he had justified, those he justified he had called, those he called he had called he had predestined; those he predestined were those he knew would accept his Son Jesus Christ and what he done for them.

Is important to have the understanding of Gods foreknowledge in mind when we think about the elect. Who are the elect?

Another important word in determining what Scripture is truly saying is the word Foreknowledge. It is used twice in the NT.

1. Act 2:23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[4] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

2. 1Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 1Pe 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

In Acts Peter speaks of Christ being handed over, that God knew it would happen. Indeed Jesus often spoke of his impending death, explaining the Scriptures to his disciples. In the 1 Peter passage, Peter is telling the Christians that they are Gods elect according to His foreknowledge, and from the Romans passage we have the explanation as to what elect means. Peter is encouraging those who suffered through the dispersion, knowing that their suffering has been a result of their obedience to Christ. Then he tells them that the Spirit has sanctified them, Christs shed blood, reminding them of Christs own sacrifice.

Moving onto the Ephesians passage we need to look at the whole passage and what it is that Paul is truly saying.

Eph 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Eph 1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us
in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Eph 1:4 For he chose us
in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
Eph1:5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in
accordance with his pleasure and will–Eph 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace,
which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Eph 1:7 In him we have redemption
through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s
grace Eph 1:8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.Eph 1:9 And
he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he
purposed in Christ, Eph 1:10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached
their fulfilment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head,
even Christ. Eph 1:11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

In verse 5, he is saying that God had predetermined that there would be an adoption through Christ before the creation of the world, and indeed we read a reference to this in Genesis when God tells Eve that her seed would crush the serpents head. God had determined that there would be salvation of mankind and it is in this context that Paul is speaking of Predestination – or that God had already determined that Christ would come, Christ would die, and Christ would live again.
In verse 11 the context is in that Paul is speaking of the Jews being the first born to receive the hope of Christ. God had determined that it was the Jews whom Christ would come. God determined before the creation of the world that indeed Christ would come. God determined that Christ would come through Abraham and that through him a great nation would grow.

Finally we need to look at 1Co 2:7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

The word destined is the same word translated Predestined, and here it speaks of Christ being Gods wisdom for the sinfulness of mankind. Again Paul is consistent in saying that God had determined Christ would be our savior before time began.

Therefore we can confidently say that the NT does not speak of predestination in that God chooses some to be saved and not others, rather it says that God knows who will be saved and accept his message and that it was Christ who he predestined, 1Ti 2:6 to give himself as a ransom for all.

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