Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
I've heard of people who have a real knack for turning a phrase. Well, today's devotional is about turning a phrase in another way. We will begin with a quote from Jesus and the sermon on the mount.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7.21-23). In particular, I ask you to pay special attention to the expression, “Depart from me.” Jesus is, in this setting, depicted as the Great Judge who has jurisdiction over who is allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven. Some are told, “Depart from Me,” a tragic end to unlimited potential!
Consider another New Testament passage: “Then He [Jesus] got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, 'Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.' But Simon answered and said to Him, 'Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.' And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!' For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.' So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” (Luke 5.3-11). In this text Peter started by telling Jesus to depart from Him, but then changed his mind and forsook all to follow Jesus; an interesting turn of events (and a phrase) wouldn't you say?
There has been much speculation about Paul's thorn in the flesh; that is not our point here though we visit that passage. “And lest I [Paul] should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12.7-10). Three times Paul prayed, and three times God's answer was no!
Our brief view of depart from me has revealed three very different uses of the expression. First, Jesus denied others entrance into the kingdom of heaven by banishing people from His presence. Why? Because they did not do the will of the Father. In the second case, we saw Peter asking Jesus to depart from him. Why? Because he was afraid. Finally, we saw God deny Paul's three-time request to take away his thorn in the flesh. Why was it denied? Because the thorn served a larger purpose in God's plan. The point is this: Sometimes we can change our minds (like Peter), and sometimes we can ask God to change His mind (like Paul). However, there is one Depart from Me that cannot be reversed! That is the one we must not hear!
1. Concerning those whom Jesus banished from His presence, what was wrong with their religion?
2. How was Peter's fear turned into a positive such that he forsook everything to follow Jesus?
3. Why did God deny Paul's request to remove his thorn in the flesh?
4. What Depart from Me edict can never be changed? What must we do to avoid hearing that sentence?
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