06 July 2014

WE ARE ALL LIKE PETER


John 13:36-38

Pride is a terrible thing and the bible says pride always goes before a fall. Solomon wrote these words of wisdom…… “Pride goes before destruction [a fracture, or a crash], And a haughty [proud, arrogant] spirit before a fall.” Prov 16:18. What does that mean? As it did in the angels that sinned against God in the beginning. As Adam and Eve who, were not content with their present state and circumstances, fell to the desire to be gods, knowing good and evil. It also means that our ignorance can sometimes cloud our judgement and our limitations. Because we think we can handle anything life throws at us. But as the Proverbs says, there will be a fall if were not careful to recognize our inabilities apart from Christ and Holy Spirits work in our lives. Paul warned the Christian church about this…… “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Cor 10:22. Don’t take the liberties and the grace of the gospel as a means to standing fast to overcome sin and the temptation of sin. Sometimes as Christian’s we can become arrogant in our Christian walk to think that will never happen to me and say “I would never do that in my Christian life, or against my God.”

Sadly though, at some point or stage in your Christian life we have all  or at least many of us have denied Christ somewhere along our journey home. Whether it’s sharing the simple gospel with a friend, a family member or a stranger walking down the street. Whether it’s a hostile crowd who hate and deny spiritual truth or absolutes according to what the bible says. Whether it be taking part in a conversation about God or Jesus and not saying anything or walking away to avoid conflict with co-workers or friends.
Jesus knows this would happen in our walk, that’s why He came to save sinners who are prone to sin. Not to say its ok to sin, but that God in His infinite understanding, knows that we are a fallen people who desperately need His guidance and wisdom when it comes to the Christian life minute by minute. Jesus knows we can be very prideful and passionate about things and forget our limitations of commitment and self-control. But as the Apostle Paul said  we are to be careful about our pride and arrogance. He continues to say “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Cor 10:23-24. See, God allows testing and trails into our life as a means for us to recognize our inabilities and weakness and to rely solely and completely upon God and His sustain grace and power in our lives.

As we continue in the upper room with Jesus and His disciples……We see the arrogance of a man who means well, who had passion and loyalty for Jesus, but didn't understand his own limitation. This man is Peter!…..a man who is an example of who you and I are at times throughout our Christian life, from the point of our conversion to now and into the future as we seek our eternal inheritance. But first! Who was Simon Peter? Simon Peter was a fisherman by trade, who was called, chosen by Christ himself, to a group that would follow Him. He was noted several times for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He told the Lord He could not go to Jerusalem . . . Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan".
He asked Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration if he could set up tents for them. He was the one who asked . . . 'how many times do I have to forgive somebody' Matt. 18:21. He is the only one who got out of the boat to walk on the water and quickly began to sink because of his limitation in trusting Christ would uphold him. We need to be extremely careful to recognize our limitations before we say something or do something we can’t possibly do in our own strength.

See the gospel accounts mention this conversation with Jesus and His disciples for a reason! To help us understand that each and every one of us is prone to do exactly what Peter did in his situation. To say one thing, but when reality sets in we are truly unable to fulfill that promise apart from Christ. See in Matthew’s gospel we read “Peter answered and said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble." Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." Matt 26:33-34. In Mark’s gospel we read “Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: 'I WILL STRIKE THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP WILL BE SCATTERED.' "But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee." Peter said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be."  Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." But he spoke more vehemently, "If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And they all said likewise.” Mark 14:27-31. In Luke’s gospel we read “And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me." Luke 22:31-34. Here is John’s gospel we read "Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake." Jesus answered him, "Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.” John 13:37-38

See it’s easy to be the brave strong Christian when you’re in a secure room having eaten your fill of food and standing beside the Son of God. It’s easy to say I will go with you to the end or I’ll die with you when you haven’t been threatened with your life yet for your faith. This is where we need to be careful and recognize our limitations and allegiance to our LORD. There are some important lessons to be gleaned from this encounter between Jesus and Peter specifically. This passage tells us that anyone of us can fall……..it doesn’t matter how strong you think you are in your Christian life. Again I don’t want to pick on Peter and run him under the bus because of his incompetence and his passion not to see the dangers of his own decisions; because we're all familiar with the story of Peter and his downfalls we sometimes overlook and forget what an example of faith he sometimes was! He was one of the "inner three" with James and John. He was the one who said, "Depart from me for I am a sinful man" after the unbelievable catch of fish. It was Peter that answered the Lord's question: "Who do you say I am?" with "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." It was of Peter's confession that the Lord said, "On this rock I will build my church". It was Peter who did have enough faith to step out of the boat to walk to Jesus on water. It was Peter who stood up to defend Jesus in the Garden when no else did. It was Peter who followed Jesus (with John) into the court yard after His arrest. It was Peter who jumped in the water after the resurrection to swim to shore to see Jesus.

See, Peter was not a bad man.......In fact, Peter was a man we would all admire. We would point to Peter and say, "I'd like to be like Him." You would, because a little bit of Peter in everyone if you follow after the Lord Jesus Christ. We should have zeal and passion for the glory of God, but we need to be careful this passion doesn’t blind us to our own inability and strength in ourselves. We desperately need Him for everything and every minute. So what happened to Peter after this night in the upperoom? The bible tells us…… He fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus had specifically asked him to pray. He cut off the ear off the high priest's servant in the Garden (and Jesus put it back on). He did deny the Lord in less than 12 hours after Jesus was arrested. He was the second person to reach the empty tomb…probably jogging wasn't his thing! One commentator said Peter was “an unbridled hulk who was broad shouldered, loud, a sweaty assertive man who was a strong extrovert. I can relate to Peter so much in my Christian life.

There is a question that haunts many people though! Did Peter lose his salvation and eternal inheritance for what he did? Was he a man who became faithless and turned away from God? As so many do in our society. The answer is NO! Again we need to remind ourselves…… that salvation is of the Lord and He keeps those whom are his…….even in our sin. I think John MacArthur says it best when it comes to us keeping our salvation. He said “if you could lose your salvation you would.” That’s why salvation is SOLELY the power of God who gives the right to be called sons of God. That’s why John wrote earlier “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.” John 10:28-29.

Jesus knew Peter was going to drop the ball again that’s why He asked Peter this question in (v38). Jesus knew Peter was a passionate man after God, but a foolish man at times, just like you and me at times. Jesus knew Peter was genuine even when he got himself into trouble or sticky situations. Jesus knew exactly where Peter would be in the coming days when He would restore him into full time ministry. The same could be said about your life and your downfalls. God can still use a Peter…. God can still use your life for His glory and His Kingdom. Don’t ever forget that or be too discouraged to think God could never use you after what you’ve done maybe this past week. Remember pride goes before the fall….but mercy and grace is there for the genuine repentant heart who truly loves Jesus. Remember when Jesus restored Peter? If you do then you will remember how Peter responded? In John 21:17 it says “He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.”

Peter did just that! See, Peter went on to preach the greatest message ever told…..THE GOSPEL! Peter went on to great things for the Lord…..even greater things than Jesus did…meaning seeing people embraces the gospel message with joy and peace. As Jesus said to the disciples “"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” John 14:12. Which means, not greater in nature and kind, but more in number. For the apostles over the course of years, would go about preaching the Gospel, not only in Judea, but in the entire world. 

Don't get me wrong Peter was still a work in progress! Were there times of confusion and foot in mouth disease for Peter? Yes. Paul had to rebuke him when he tried to get the gentiles to be like Jews. If you’re born again [Jew, Gentile and so on] then we’re all one in Christ….But, to Peter’s shame, his passion and zeal got in the way again when he tries so hard to do what is right for God and His glory. Doesn't that exemplify your life at times or the early years of your Christian walk? Especially when you read about the life of Peter? Can you possibly relate to Peter maybe even now as God refines you for His glory? I know I can, because there has been many times throughout my Christian life I wish I handled situations and said things differently. I truly believe the more I observe Peter and his life ….I really begin to see and appreciate his two epistle letters he wrote. You begin to see the personal side of the letters as if Peter was writing to his former younger self. For example he says “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "LOVE WILL COVER A MULTITUDE OF SINS." 1 Peter 4:8. Do you think Peter was thinking of this as he penned these words about what he did in the court yard, the night Jesus was betrayed by him? There is forgiveness in the cross of Jesus Christ and it’s available to even the worst kind of sinner. That His love covers a multitude of Peter’s inabilities and bad choses…it covered Peter’s sin forever. It covers your inabilities….it covers your sin.

Or how about when Peter penned these words……. “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” 1 Peter 2:20-24. That reality of Jesus’ death would come as his reality many years after Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father. Jesus predicted his death would be for His glory in the end of John’s letter.

In John 21:18-19 Jesus said “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me." The bible doesn’t record Peter’s death except tell us that he will die for the gospel. Historically we are told that Peter was forced to watch his wife be crucified before he faced his death. Clement said “Peter called out to his wife and said “Remember the Lord”. And when it was Peter’s turn to die, he pleaded to be crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy to die as his Lord had died. And thus he was nailed to a cross head downward.” This truth also fulfills what the Lord said to the disciples…..you can’t follow me now, but you will (v36)

Peter did and Jesus keep that promise….even when Peter messed up royally. The same can be said for everyone here in this sanctuary! His grace and unconditional love supersedes your failures and inabilities to keep the Christian life. We need to learn from Peter’s mistakes and recognize our weaknesses and rely upon Christ and not ourselves to see us through every circumstance, temptation and life choices. As J C Ryle said “let it be a settled principle in our religion, that there is an amount of weakness in all our hearts, of which we have no adequate conception, and that we never know how far we might fall if we were tempted. We fancy sometimes, like Peter, that there are some things we could not possibly do. We look pitifully upon others who fall into certain sins, and please ourselves in the thought that at any rate we should not have done so! We know nothing at all. The seeds of every sin are latent in our hearts, even when renewed, and they only need occasion, or carelessness, or the withdrawal of God’s grace for a season, to put forth an abundant crop. Like Peter, we may think we can do wonders for Christ, and, like Peter, we may learn by bitter experience that we have no power and might at all.” See the child of God would too good to remember “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Cor 10:13. Jesus loves us, knows us and wants us to be careful with this new found passion and zeal for the glory of God and the gospel. 

Church family if you forget everything I said, remember this! There is mercy and grace in our failures and incompetence; we saw that love demonstrated toward Peter. There is always hope, rest and assurance for the true believer in Christ. There is no sin that Christ will not cover with His blood! Pride goes before the fall as it did for Judas………..mercy and grace comes to those who are fallen but recognize their inabilities like Peter later on in his Christian walk. True strength, humility, passion and honor lies in the finished work of Jesus Christ. A humble sense of our own inherent weakness, a constant dependence on Christ is the only way we can truly find the secrets of safety. As the Apostle Paul penned “When I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:10

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