Hearers of the Gospel

The gospel message of Jesus Christ is so simple a child is able to understand it. Yet, at the same time it is deep enough to keep the most diligent student enthralled and challenged. In the Bible are written many things that can be missed by a mere superficial reading. Careful, prayerful study, having an open mind, meditating on each verse, comparing Scripture with Scripture, will reveal many gems and blessings that would be missed if the Holy Spirit has not given understanding.

The attitude in which the Bible is studied affects the character and behavior of the one who reads it and develops an ear for the gospel. In Mark 14:27, it says, “And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.”

Sheep need a shepherd, and when left alone without one to guide, protect and give assistance, they become afraid and run away. When Jesus said that the disciples would be offended and frightened that night, Peter replied, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.” Verses 29–31.

Here Jesus was prophesying to Peter, telling him that he did not have a heart for the gospel but just an ear. He told him that his mind was not right for the gospel. Peter had not surrendered all to Jesus at that point in time. He was still full of himself. Jesus told him that before the cock would crow that very night—not the next day, or the next week, or the next month—but that very night Peter would deny his Lord.

To do what is necessary in the name of the Lord requires a humble heart. The Lord is not looking for proud people; the world is full of them. He is looking for people who are willing to get their hands and their shoes dirty for the Lord. Like Peter, many of us want to have a position with the Lord but still retain those character defects and habits that He rebukes. Many of us still want to have the elevated positions above our brothers and sisters. What if I have been in the church for 25 years; does that give me the right to say, “Who do you think you are?” “I am the pastor, you are the deacon; you should listen to me.” “Do you know who I am; do you know to whom you are talking?”

This terrible prideful behavior influences others to respond in the same way, just as it influenced the other disciples. Peter’s arrogance in claiming his allegiance to Jesus under all circumstances that night infected the other disciples. It is recorded, “Likewise also said they all.” Verse 31. Before we are able to influence others to become like Jesus we must first be like Him. Peter was unaware of the weakness of his own heart, and because of this, he was able to make the boastful claim that, if needed, he was ready to die for Jesus, but we know what really happened. Peter denied Jesus three times. How many Christians today make similar boasts? “If the Lord would come today, I am ready for Him.” But are we really ready for Him today? Many exhibit the same boastful spirit as did Peter, but when something happens that is painful or a little bit uncomfortable and their comfort zone has been invaded, they begin to complain. Because of selfishness and unkindness, many defend their territory just like the animals do, marking their territory and attacking whatever comes too close. This type of person is a hearer of the gospel and not a doer.

In love for mankind, Jesus left the comforts of the kingdom of heaven, where He was adored by the heavenly host, for us. He asked the Father to allow Him to die in our stead. Only somebody of high position, equal with God, could take the place of sinful man in order to pay the penalty for sin.

In Matthew 16:13–16 it says, “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Did Peter really know that He was the Son of God? Though Peter confessed with his mouth that He was the Son of God, his whole heart had not yet connected with the gospel.

Matthew 17:24–27 says, “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.”

Peter, instead of first enquiring of Jesus, spoke in His behalf, saying that Jesus would pay the tribute. Before presuming or engaging in any situation, we also should ask for wisdom. This lack of wisdom is often the reason for so many differences in today’s church. Decisions are often made without first consulting the Lord.

In the most critical moment of His life and in His weakened condition, Jesus determined to do only the will of His father. “And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” Mark 14:33–36.

How many are truly prepared and willing to do this? The halfhearted ones will be as the disciples, with the mind willing, but the flesh weak. “And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping.” Verse 37. Some people literally sleep in church. They are so busy all week with the cares of this world that, while sitting quietly in church, they just fall asleep, missing the worship that brings the spiritual strength necessary to resist the attacks of the enemy.

The end of the world is coming, and every opportunity should be taken to expand the mind with Bible truths. Now is not the time to be sleeping; it is time to get ready. The prophecies warn that it is time to get ready!

Mark 14:37, 38 says, “And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”

It is important that the mind is kept clear by healthful practices and control of the body is kept so that the senses are in subjection to the will of the Holy Spirit.

“And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy), neither wist they what to answer him.” Verses 39, 40.

The Christian who is prepared to die to self will not remain in his comfort zone and simply listen to the gospel, but he will put into practice the valuable lessons learned and share them with others. It takes serious discipline to get up and work for Jesus.

“And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Verse 41.

It is easy to become complacent. While living in California (United States), we, like many others, developed immunity to the shaking caused by minor earthquakes. Several times my wife and I were awakened because of severe shaking. There was lots of noise and the dogs barked. When you are awakened like that, you are in shock and start running. Sometimes you don’t even know where you are going. That is the way it is with the crisis that is coming. There are many sleeping now who are not getting prepared, and they will not know how to respond.

In Mark 14:50 we read how the disciples responded in their crisis: “And they all forsook Him, and fled.” Just a short time before this they had all said they would be willing to die for Him and now they all fled. We can say that we love God today and thank Him for the sacrifice He made on the cross for us, but what about tomorrow? Those who only develop an ear for the Lord will respond in the same manner, as did the disciples—they will run. They will not be able to stand and take their position with God—they will compromise.

Life brings with it many challenges. Resisting that which is bad and making right choices builds the character and increases faith for meeting bigger temptations. It is during this probationary time that the character can be disciplined and made ready to meet the pending crisis before Jesus returns. Those who do not diligently resist the devil now will turn away in the last days and even become collaborators with the persecutors of God’s people.

Mark 14:54 says, “And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.” Peter did not want to be recognized as one of Jesus’ followers. He was scared and did not want anything to do with the Messiah, his Teacher, Master and Instructor, and he did not want to be identified with Him. The disciples had witnessed His miracles; they had seen the sick healed and even the dead resurrected. Peter had even admitted that Jesus was the Son of the living God, but it proved to be only giving lip service. If Peter really believed that Jesus was the Son of God, he would have stood right with Him. His expectations were not being met; he had not put his all on the altar, and he found that his lips were fooling him.

In Jesus’ sermon on the mount He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3. It is not about being arrogant and self-assured but being completely dependent on Jesus, not trusting self at all. This is the condition of all who will inherit the kingdom of heaven.

“And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.” Mark 14:55. Interestingly, there was none found who were willing to stand up, but there were many conflicting accusations.

“False witnesses had been bribed to accuse Jesus of inciting rebellion and seeking to establish a separate government. But their testimony proved to be vague and contradictory. Under examination they falsified their own statements.” The Desire of Ages, 705.

“And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.” Mark 14:66–70.

Peter was identified as a Galilaean by his speech. Christians also should be identified by their speech. The study of the word of God sanctifies the heart, and the speech becomes pure and honest. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” Luke 6:45.

“But he [Peter] began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.” Mark 14:71. He responded by swearing and cursing, so he would not look like one of Jesus’ followers.

“Peter had not designed that his real character should be known. In assuming an air of indifference he had placed himself on the enemy’s ground, and he became an easy prey to temptation. If he had been called to fight for his Master, he would have been a courageous soldier; but when the finger of scorn was pointed at him, he proved himself a coward. Many who do not shrink from active warfare for their Lord are driven by ridicule to deny their faith.” The Desire of Ages, 712.

Be sure that under severe and stressful circumstances the feelings of the heart will manifest themselves in the words spoken. How true is the need for a new heart? We should pray, as did David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. Only with God’s Spirit is it possible to stand firm during trials.

Either the Spirit of God or the spirit of Satan controls the mind, which in turn controls the words and actions. Peter was offended when Jesus warned him about his denial, his heart being too full of pride. Humans have a tendency to be fooled and to think all is well. Without God we have the tendency to be rude and unkind, selfish. The Spirit of God subdues the selfish, prideful spirit that is within us, giving us a heart of compassion and love for others. Paul describes this: “That ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:24.

“And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.” Mark 14:72. “While the degrading oaths were fresh upon Peter’s lips, and the shrill crowing of the cock was still ringing in his ears, the Saviour turned from the frowning judges, and looked full upon His poor disciple. At the same time Peter’s eyes were drawn to his Master. In that gentle countenance he read deep pity and sorrow, but there was no anger there.

“The sight of that pale, suffering face, those quivering lips, that look of compassion and forgiveness, pierced his heart like an arrow. Conscience was aroused. Memory was active. Peter called to mind his promise of a few short hours before that he would go with his Lord to prison and death. …

“Once more he looked at his Master, and saw a sacrilegious hand raised to smite Him in the face. Unable longer to endure the scene, he rushed, heartbroken, from the hall.” The Desire of Ages, 712, 713.

When you fall in love with God, you will take your position with the Lord. Jesus said, “Father, Thy will be done and not mine” (Matthew 26:42). Jesus was there suffering because of His loyalty to His Father. At that point, there was no loyalty or obedience in Peter, because he was still able to swear and curse and to act cowardly. While self reigned there was no room for Divine power. But when Peter looked at Jesus and had eye-to-eye contact with Him, his heart was broken, and he was finally converted. The look on Jesus’ face said, “Peter, I love you.” Peter wept. Each of us needs to look into the face of our Saviour and truly surrender self and weep and be converted.

The gospel tells us to, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:19, 20.

Jesus is coming! Prophecies declare it, and the signs of His appearing are being fulfilled right before our eyes. Now is the time to get ready, not to sleep. Now is the time for discipline, willingly searching the Scriptures. The devil wants us to sleep; he doesn’t care if we are just a hearer of the Word as long as we are not a doer of the Word. Jesus is calling us to come out of the world and to be separate with Him. He has promised that He will be with us unto the end.

First, surrender to God—come to Him; it is too late in earth’s history to be lukewarm. The time is coming when persecution will begin and the decree will go forth to worship the beast and his image. Unless your heart has been renewed by God’s Spirit, you will respond just as Peter did and deny your Lord. You will say, “Leave me alone; I do not know what you are talking about.”

It is not enough to attend church and pay tithe. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” Luke 18:11, 12. It is not enough to do all the right things and then compare yourself with others, point out all the things wrong in the church and criticize other brethren for what they eat, what they wear, or what they do. There is no time to hit people over the head with the gospel, but to lead them to Jesus who stands at the door patiently and knocks (Revelation 3:20), offering an invitation to those who overcome as He did to sit with Him on His throne with His Father.

It is time now to, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” II Corinthians 13:5. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that we can relate with Peter before his true conversion, but we need not stay in that condition. Today, the Saviour is waiting to open the door. Why don’t you let Him come in?

Without Christ, we are nothing!

Pastor Domingo Nuñez is Director of Outreach Ministry for Steps to Life. He is involved in the coordination of world mission projects and he travels extensively, encouraging the many home churches supported by Steps to Life. He can be contacted at: 316-788-5559 or by email at: domingonunez@stepstolife.org.