I have recently discovered a spiritual principle that appears to have an application for everyone. The phrase ‘put your money where your mouth is‘, appears to have its origins in North America from the 1930s. When people use it today they are in effect saying that someone should back up their words with actions. And, when you strip away the economic aspect of the phrase, there remains a basic principle which has to be good advice to each of us.
The events of recent days have got me thinking about such phrases. The posts on this blog are generally all related to what we feel God has been teaching us whilst we have been undertaking work at Cornerstone. It is our hope that what we are learning may help others who are taking on such projects, to not make the same mistakes which we have made. We’ve made quite a lot of mistakes – that is why there are already over fifty posts!
This particular post relates to what comes out of our mouths. Now, I will say at this point that we do not subscribe in any way to the Word of Faith Movement. We believe that what people who do are teaching is not grounded in the words of Jesus of Nazareth, and therefore should be regarded with great caution.
What I am getting at is that we need to be very careful about what comes out of our mouths, especially if we have chosen to follow Y’shua (Jesus). Why? Because I am learning that what we say is often put to the test in order to see if we really mean what we say. In other words, when we say something, it can be an open invitation to God to test our words to see if we speak the truth.
There is a well known example that appears in all four gospels – Simon Peter’s denial of knowing the Christ. Let’s examine what happens. All four gospels describe the scene in pretty much the same way – Y’shua tells the disciples He is about to die; He says all of them will fall away because of Him; Peter boldly declares that he will never fall away; and Y’shua explains that before the night is over, he will actually disown Him three times. Here’s the dialogue from Matthew:
“Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’. But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” ” [Matthew 26:31-34 NIV]
Now, clearly, there is an inevitability in what Y’shua says will happen because He draws upon Zechariah’s prophecy. By now the disciples should have known that when Jesus quotes from the Tanakh (the Old Testament) He, Himself, is the fulfilment of what He is quoting. But this doesn’t stop Peter. No, Peter – for all the right reasons in his mind – tries to stand against what Y’shua is saying. Whilst his boldness does show some courage, it also reveals a typical man-stance. We see the same stance a little later when Peter draws his sword in the olive grove (John 18:10). It is a very fleshy reaction. An over-reaction, we might say. And this is probably the crux of the matter.
Peter, despite having spent over three years in the daily company of Y’shua, listening to Him teach from scriptures about Himself; watching Him raise the dead and heal the sick, still looked at the situation from a worldly or fleshy point of view. He simply failed to believe all that he heard. Y’shua didn’t rebuke him for this lack of understanding, instead he spoke with compassion when He warned Peter that he would disown Him that night. Peter wasn’t guilty of a lack of faith. He was simply looking at the situation through the eyes of a testosterone-fuelled alpha male; instead of a servant of the Most High God.
Peter knew who Y’shua was. In fact, he was possibly first amongst the disciples to recognise who Y’shua was when he declared Him to be ‘the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’ (Matthew 16:16). So, it wasn’t through lack of understanding either. No, it was that he simply looked at the situation as he had done all of his life – through the eyes of man. And, to be fair to Peter, he isn’t alone. It is what we all do, me especially.
Whilst at the moment of our conversion; that moment when we first believe, we see clearly, it takes time for us to fully throw off the old man. That process is part of our ongoing sanctification. To some extent, it is only through experiencing situations where we have to look at what is before us through the eyes of God, instead of the eyes of men, do we start to see the Hand of God at work in our lives. And, when we see it, we are comforted by it.
So, what am I saying? Was it inevitable that Peter was going to disown Y’shua that night? Was it as unstoppable as Y’shua’s warning that the Shepherd must be struck? Maybe. Go back to the text and notice that Y’shua said (talking to all of them) that they would fall away. Peter’s falling away was pretty severe. More severe than anything else that was recorded for us. I suspect that, as it was written (even Y’shua couldn’t have stopped what God had already written – for He is the Word of God made into flesh), the falling away that Y’shua referred to was unstoppable. However, I also suspect that Peter fell further because of what came out of His mouth.
Recently, we have been learning something of the way God works. In particular, He has challenged me to stop looking at everything from a fleshy or worldly point of view. He had shown me that my prayer life was entirely based upon what I perceived to be my fleshy needs, and not my spiritual needs. For example, I would be praying ‘give us our daily bread’ type of thing and I would be thinking about the physical food that we would need to get through the day. However, I am coming to understand that the real daily bread I need is, in fact, every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Y’shua says for us not to worry about what we will eat or we will wear. Do not worry. Pretty big words. Very hard to do. But, it is possible that our perspective of this phrase is all wrong? I noticed in the Strong’s Concordance of the Whole Bible, that the word worry does not appear. At all. Anywhere. Now, we understand that Strong’s is based upon the King James Version, which has some inherent problems because much of it was translated from the Latin Vulgate, but when you look at what the King James actually says, you see something interesting, and more in line with the way Y’shua spoke elsewhere.
“Therefore I say unto to, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.” [Matthew 6:25a KJV]
Let me paraphrase it, if I may:
I’m telling you, don’t waste any of your time thinking about your life; about food or clothes or what you will drink.
Y’shua was telling us that these things aren’t important; that our worldly or fleshy standpoint should be given no space in our lives. So, if we are not to think like the world does, how do we get to think from a spiritual perspective?
My experience is that you have to practice. You have to actually purpose to do it. With all things that hinder our walk with God, we seek to be rid of them. Some of those things are often obvious – to me drugs and alcohol had to go immediately, but other things we only let go of as the Holy Spirit shows them to us. God’s purpose for each one of us is to be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29). I started making that my prayer. Instead of coming to God each morning with a shopping list of wants, that on the whole were mostly fleshy desires, I started asking Him to feed me spiritually – to give me revelation. I asked Him to make me more like His Son because I know that this is totally in line with His will. I decided to stop focussing on the things that my worldly eyes told me I needed and started to ask the Holy Spirit to show me what I really needed.
When you take time to look with fresh eyes at the gospels, if you ask the Holy Spirit, He will always show you something that you didn’t see before. I recommend re-reading the gospels with a translation that you don’t know well – one that forces you to think about what you are reading. Recently, we felt led to start a Bible study based upon what Y’shua said and did. Nothing else. Just His words and deeds. It caused me to take it slowly and think about everything that Y’shua said and His actions. One thing I started to see, but was still very hard to articulate properly, was that if you looked at all of it from a spiritual point of view rather than a fleshy point of view, it read differently.
Take what we call the Lord’s Prayer, for example. He teaches His disciples to remember that our Father is actually in Heaven. Heaven is part of an unseen world – a dimension that we simply cannot see at the moment. He is encouraging us to imagine Heaven, with God, the creator of the universe, whom no one has seen, there as our Father. It is a spiritual prayer by the very definition that we are praying to God, who is spirit.
Now, with that in mind, look down at the rest of the prayer and see that He wants us to ask for our spiritual needs to be met, not our physical ones. Those will be met anyway, if we seek Him correctly. If we seek His Kingdom (which is currently spiritual) first, and His righteousness (which is a spiritual state), then everything else will be given as well.
This may not be a big revelation to some. For me, it is proving to be essential. It is causing me to focus on the spiritual, and not the physical. But, not without hazard.
I suggested earlier that Peter may have fell further than the others because of what came out of His mouth. My experience is that if I make claims, big claims, like Peter did when he said that he would never fall away, then that resolve of mine will be tested. I can testify to many occasions when is has been. Hey, it is happening even as I type these words! That is why I am typing them – to help others understand something of the way God works.
Peter made a big claim. And that claim was tested. Ultimately, the test served to bring about change in Peter, which was a good thing. But, whilst it was happening, the realisation of how far he fell away caused Peter to weep bitterly. If you compare the Peter who denied Y’shua, with the Peter before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, you will see what I am talking about. There could only have been around 8 weeks at the very most between the fleshy Peter who swore not to fall away and the spiritual Peter who explained how the Hebrews had failed to spot the Mashiyach (Messiah) and instead, killed Him. What a transformation. What made that transformation possible? One word: surrender.
He stopped leaning on his own understanding of things and simply started believing. In John chapter 21 we see Y’shua make Peter’s three denials of Him null and void. He had bared his heart to Y’shua in that conversation. And, because he was willing to listen and believe what Y’shua said, he was given a second chance to follow Him. This is the same second chance I have been given many, many times. Listen to what God is saying and believe Him. That is spiritual worship. He will do the work, if we let Him. If we just believe, then He will see to it that it will happen.
When we catch up with Peter after Pentecost, he is a changed man. He stopped looking at things from a worldly perspective and started listening to the Holy Spirit and believing what he heard. That is our job. All of us. You could call it faithfulness.
I had made several claims that have been tested. I have been found wanting in pretty much all of them. But, once I started to purpose to think differently, to think spiritually, when the tests arrived I was much better equipped to survive them.
I love that God disciplines those He loves (see Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6; & Revelation 3:19). It means that the things we have been through and will go through are all making us, gradually, into the likeness of His Son, Y’shua. But, be aware that if you purpose to follow Him, you will be tested. You will have to be prepared to put your money where your mouth is. Don’t expect to be able to publicly declare that you will follow Him and not be tested to prove your worth. God always wants to prove what His followers say.
Think about Hezekiah. He resolved to cleanse the Temple; to consecrate the priests; to restore Passover; and to pull down all the high places. No sooner than He did these things than God allowed his resolve to be tested. Sennacherib turned up and besieged Jerusalem. You can read about it yourself in 2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 29-32; and Isaiah 36-37. That the Holy Spirit chose to emphasise this account by including it three times in the Tanakh tells us that it is important.
Expect to be tested.