Daily Devotion for January 21, 2014
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer to Dedicate Oneself to Christ This Day
Almighty God, as I cross the threshold of this day, I commit myself Your care. Mold me in your image. In everything I say and do, let my mind be on the eternal goodness of heaven rather than the vanities of earth, meaningless pride, or the anger and envy that tear apart my precious soul.
I dedicate myself to your holiness, Oh sweet and innocent Christ, and pray that you may be with me, to check my tongue before it can speak evil and to stop my hand when it seeks to sin. I come to you as a child. I will look to you for guidance and wisdom. Let me know the joyful feeling of having done something that pleased you; let me never feel the pain of knowing I have disappointed you. And let me live without fear, without confusion, always steady in the certainty of your forgiveness and ultimate victory, I pray,
[Let us close our eyes for a minute, and meditate on the innocence of Christ.]
A Prayer of Repentance
O Lord our God, good and merciful, I acknowledge all my sins which I have committed every day of my life, in thought, word and deed; in body and soul alike. I am heartily sorry that I have ever offended you, and I sincerely repent; with tears I humbly pray to you, O Lord: of your mercy forgive me all my past transgressions and absolve me from them. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to amend my way of life and to sin no more; that I may walk in the way of the righteous and offer praise and glory to the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
May the God of peace, who declared victory over death by the resurrection of His only Son, Jesus Christ, make me perfect in every thought and act through His grace, that my life might be pleasing in his sight and that I might share the perfect peace that is only possible through Him, to whom be glory for ever and ever.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Psalm 62:5-7 (ESV)
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Matthew 16:16-20 (ESV)
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered 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 tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Notes on the Scripture
Peter was the first Christian. To him was given the greatest gift of spiritual discernment, so that he recognized the Messiah, the Christ, without anyone telling him. The other disciples have a slightly attenuated version of the same gift, for they are able to recognize Christ, but only after Peter has spoken it.
A spiritual gift, though, will continue to be a prerequisite for recognizing Christ, even to this day. We might speculate that this is why Jesus tells the disciples not to spread the knowledge. To use one of the more famous parables, Jesus wants to minimize the seed sown among the weeds; He does not want a vast crowd of people, who do not have the staying power that comes from the Spirit, forming a cult that will flame up hot and then burn out. He seeks, rather, to plant the seed among those who are capable of true, lasting faith.
The verses about binding and loosing sin are one place where a “dynamic equivalent” translation might serve us better, because these terms are no longer used; they were idiomatic to Judaism. To “bind” in Judaism meant to declare something forbidden, and to “loose” it, to declare it permissible. J.B. Phillips translates the verse, “whatever you forbid on earth will be what is forbidden in Heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven!”
Christ thus makes a declaration that will authorize the church to carry on his work after the Ascension. He ensures, and assures us, that his grace will be available even after He departs the earth to return to heaven, and He commissions Peter to be the head of it, the “cornerstone”. One might think of a master leaving his estate for a long voyage, who turns over the keys to his estate to his head steward. But the analogy is imperfect, because Christ instructed Peter to build a living estate that would expand and increase to every nation. It was the greatest commission in history.
The “gates of hell” is another colorful anachronism. We understand a gate to be a portal, but we have to stretch our minds a bit to think of a doorway as something that we would worry about “prevailing” over us. Hell is not a fortress that we are storming! There are several possible explanations, but the most commonsensical is to picture the “gates of hell” as the gates of a prison. Many Jews believed that when people died, they entered a place called SheolThe Jews had a wide range of beliefs about what happens to people when they die; their beliefs changed over time and, to confuse matters even more, were different among different sects.. It was more a place of death than a place of eternal punishment, as we conceive “hell” to be; Sheol to many Jews was rather like the Greek concept of Hades.
In this light, Christ would be saying that the church will prevail against the gates of hell, in the sense that the gates would not be able hold those attempting to escape death, those who would have the eternal life promised by Christ.