God’s Word For Every Day

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Peter
was a fisherman. His life was centred on the water. We’ll look at two
incidents. They teach us the importance of repentance and faith. We need
both if we are to make good progress in our new life in Christ.

* “In repentance and rest is your salvation” (Isaiah 30:15).

Repentance is not just for the beginning of the Christian life. It’s for the whole of our Christian journey.

The
redeemed of the Lord are to walk in the Way of Holiness (Isaiah
35:8-9). If we are to walk with the Lord in the way of holiness, we must
walk with him in the way of repentance. Again and again, we must join,
with Peter, in saying, “Lord, I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).

Knowing ourselves as utterly lost is the first step towards knowing God through Jesus.

Peter’s
experience of knowing himself was a first step towards knowing Jesus.
His experience can be compared with Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6. It
was an experience of the glory of God and the love of God.

First,
there’s the glory of God (Isaiah 6:3). Then, there’s Isaiah’s confession
of sin (Isaiah 6:5). This is followed by the love of God and the
forgiveness of sin (Isaiah 6:7).

We look at Peter, and we see this
again – the glory of Jesus and the love of Jesus. Peter has seen
something different in Jesus – something special, something beyond the
ordinary. He sees the glory of Jesus. He calls Jesus, “Lord” – and he
confesses his sin – “Depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man.” When
Peter looks at Jesus, he sees love. Peter asked Jesus to depart from
him. Jesus refused to depart from Peter. This is love. It’s the greatest
love of all – the love of Jesus, our Saviour.

Jesus will not
depart from those who confess their sins and seek forgiveness from Him.
He died for us, and He will not depart from us. How can He who died for
our salvation depart from those who seek salvation from Him?

*
Faith is not just for the beginning of the Christian life. The whole
Christian life is a journey of faith. We need faith every step of the
way.

We see Peter, walking on the water. Our Christian life is to
be a walk with God. We are called to walk by faith. We are to walk in
the Spirit.

If Peter was to walk on the water, he needed to look
beyond the wind and the waves. He needed to look to Jesus. If we are to
walk by faith, to walk in the Spirit, we must keep looking to Jesus. We
must keep on praying that Jesus will become ever more precious and
glorious in our eyes. The nearer we get to Him, the bigger He becomes.

Faith
means looking to Jesus. Going on in faith means keeping our eyes fixed
on him. Faith is not a constant, always at the same high level, always
shining brightly. There are highs and lows in the life of faith. there
are times when faith is strong. There are times when unbelief threatens
to overwhelm us.

We began with Isaiah 30:15 – “In repentance and
rest is your salvation.” Let’s return to this idea of faith as resting
in the Lord.

What does it mean to rest in the Lord?

We have
been “redeemed” by the Lord (Psalm 107:2). While we are on this earth,
we are “wandering in desert wastelands.” We’re travelling towards the
“city of God, but we’re not there yet (Psalm 107:4). We are resting in
the Lord. This is not the same as resting on our laurels. We rejoice in
the Lord. We thank Him for His love. We thank Him for leading us in His
way – but we are not fully satisfied. We know that there is more. We
hunger and thirst for more – more of God, more of His glory, more of His
love. We are resting in the Lord – but we are still restless. We have
not completed our journey. We have not arrived at our destination.
Resting in the Lord must never be confused with complacency. We must not
delude ourselves into thinking that we have made more progress than we
really have. We haven’t arrived. We’re still travelling. We’ve a long
way to go. The Lord has so much more to teach us. He’ll teach us to rest
in Him – and He’ll keep on challenging us to walk more closely with
Him.

Repentance and faith – This is the way in which the Christian
life begins. Throughout our life, we are called to keep on walking with
the Lord in the way of repentance and faith. How can we do this? We
need the power of the Holy Spirit. Without Him, we will fail.
Day-by-day, we must seek His help. Often, we will fail Him. He will
never fail us. Many times, we will “grieve the Holy Spirit” – but He
won’t give up on us. He will keep on coming to us. He will come to us as
the Spirit of love. He will call us back from our sin. He will call us
back from our wandering. He will call us back to repentance, back to
faith, back to walking in the Spirit.

In the Christian life,
sometimes, we are up, and, sometimes, we are down. In the love of
Christ, there is no downside. He loves us all of the time. When our love
for Him grows weak, His love for us remains strong. There is no love
like the love of Jesus. It’s the best love. It’s perfect love.

We
emphasize how much Jesus loves us. There is something else we must
emphasize. Jesus hates our sin. He rebukes our unbelief – “You of little
faith … Why do you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).  Jesus rebukes our unbelief
– but He does not stop loving us. His rebuke is full of love. When He
rebukes us what is He saying to us? What He is saying is this. There is
no reason for you to doubt Me. There is every reason for you to trust
Me. Why does he rebuke us? It’s because He wants us to keep on walking
with Him in repentance, in faith, in salvation.

________________________

Peter
begins so well. He is, for us, an example of faith in the heart,
accompanied by confession with the mouth. This faith does not start with
the wisdom of God. It begins with the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:5).
Peter’s confession is followed by Jesus’ commendation – You are
blessed. You are a new man with a new name. Now, you are what I saw in
you the first time I met you.

As the story unfolds, it
becomes clear that Peter is still a bundle of contradictions. In Peter,
we see the basic conflict which lies at the heart of every believer’s
life: the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. Peter had confesses
Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Soon afterwards, he was
trying to put the Lord right. Here, we have the conflict between the
new man and the old man, the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh:
“the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit
desires what is contrary to the flesh” (Galatians 5:17).

Behind
this conflict, there is Satan. Here, Peter is Satan’s tool. There is
more to this than drawing Peter away from faith in Christ. There is
something else. Satan is trying to get at Jesus. He’s trying to turn
Jesus aside from going to the Cross as the Saviour of the world. As we
consider Peter’s fall into sin, we must rejoice that Jesus didn’t fall
into sin. Peter was tempted. He fell into sin. Jesus was tempted by
Peter – Satan’s tool. Jesus did not fall into sin. He overcame the
tempter. He won the victory over temptation. He went on to the Cross. He
became the Saviour of the world.

How are we to understand the
activity of Satan in this story of Peter? What can we learn from this –
to help us in our battle against Satan?

Peter’s fall into sin
comes so soon after his confession of faith in the Lord. How sad it is
to see this happening – a confession of faith followed by a fall into
sin. This kind of thing often happens. When we are on a spiritual
‘high’, we are particularly vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. When we are
in a time of spiritual blessing, Satan is particularly active, seeking
to bring us down with a thud.

Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness
came immediately after his baptism in the River Jordan. At His baptism,
there was the voice from heaven. In His temptations, there was the
voice from hell. What a difference there is between the voice of God and
the voice of Satan.

Here,we listen to the voice of Peter, and we
hear both the voice from heaven and the voice from hell. In Peter, we
see both the new man and the old man. The new man speaks from God and
for God. The old man speaks from Satan and from Satan.

When Peter
confesses Christ, he speaks with the voice of the new man. Jesus said to
him, “My Father has revealed these things to you.” When Peter tempts
Christ, he speaks with the voice of the old man. Jesus said to him, “Get
behind me, Satan.”

What can we learn from Peter’s fall into sin?

Here are six lessons:

(i) Guard our will against Satan. Say to the Lord, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

(ii) Guard your tongue. Don’t let it become an instrument of Satan.

(iii) Read the Word of God. Deepen your understanding of the Cross of Christ.

(iv) Let Jesus love you. Let His love for you increase your love for Him.

(v) Let Jesus strengthen your faith in Him.

(vi) Rest your faith in the faithfulness of God.

* How can we learn these lessons from Peter’s story?

(i) Guard your will.

Although
Peter was used by Satan, he didn’t speak against his own will.
Temptation is not sin. It only becomes sin when we give in to it (James
1:13-15). Let it be “not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

(ii) Guard your tongue.

Peter
confessed Christ. Peter tempted Christ. Speaking for the Saviour and
speaking against Him – The basic contradiction between the two is
described, for us, in James 3:9-10a. What does God’s Word say about
this? – “My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:10b).

(iii) Increase your understanding of the Cross of Christ.

Faith
needs to be accompanied by understanding. Peter confessed his faith in
Christ, but he did not understand the Cross of Christ. Jesus said to
Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.” This was not the first time Jesus spoke
these words. He spoke them in the wilderness. He spoke them to Satan.
There, the temptation was the same, and the answer was the same. Satan
was trying to stop Jesus going to the Cross. He was trying to stop him
becoming the Saviour of sinners. Jesus resisted Satan in the wilderness.
Jesus resisted Satan, when he spoke to him through Peter. Satan was
defeated in the wilderness. Satan was defeated at the Cross. Satan
failed. Jesus went to the Cross. He went there for us. He died for our
sins. Has Satan given up? No! He’s still trying to defeat Jesus. How
does he do this? He tries to stop people trusting in Jesus and being
saved by Him. He doesn’t stop there. He sees that we have trusted
Christ. He sees that Jesus has saved us. What does Satan do? He attacks
us. He tries to stop us growing in Christ. What are we to do? Let us
read the Word of God. Let us pray that God will give us a deeper
understanding of the Cross of Christ.

(iv) Let Jesus love you.

Jesus
said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.” This is a righteous rebuke. His
words are spoken in holiness. They are spoken in love. Why did Jesus
speak these words? He was banishing Satan from Peter’s life. He was
seeking to convict Peter of his sin. He was seeking to bring Peter to
repentance. Why did Jesus speak such strong words? He loved Peter. Let
Jesus love you.

(v) Let Jesus strengthen your faith.

Jesus
is “the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He starts us
off in the life of faith . that’s not all that He does. He sustains us
in our faith. He strengthens our faith. He will perfect our faith – when
He brings us to His heavenly and eternal glory. We begin the Christian
life in faith. We are to go on in faith. We are to keep on living by
faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). Let us keep on looking to
Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

(vi) Rest your faith on the faithfulness of God.

Peter’s
faith was a wavering faith. Our faith is a wavering faith. The
faithfulness of God is very different. God is completely reliable,
entirely dependable and absolutely trustworthy. However wavering our
faith may be, may God help us to say from our hearts, “Great is Your
faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).

 * Before we leave
this part of Peter’s story, we notice how much Jesus loved Peter. After
Peter had failed Jesus , what did Jesus do? Did Jesus give up on him?
No. He didn’t. Jesus had to speak strong words to Peter: “Get behind me,
Satan!” Was that the end of the road for Peter? No. It wasn’t. Peter
was one of the three disciples who were with Jesus on the Mount of
Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1). This is wonderful love, amazing grace
and undeserved mercy. How good is our God. How great is his love. Praise
the Lord. Give glory to Him.

_________________________

At the washing of the disciples’ feet, Peter was conscious of the Lord’s holiness without really appreciating His love.

Peter’s
words, in John 13:8, “No … you shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8)
echo his words,  “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke
5:8) and His words, “Never, Lord! … This shall never happen to you!”
(Matthew 16:22).

What do Peter’s words – “No … you
shall never wash my feet” – tell us about his understanding of Jesus –
who He was and why He had come to our world?

There
seems to be a kind of humility about Peter’s words. It’s a false
humility. It’s a proud humility. Peter appears to be humble before the
holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet he is too proud to accept the
love of Jesus. This is a false humility. It is based on a
misunderstanding of who Jesus is and why He came to this world.

Jesus
did not come only to proclaim himself as Lord. He came to be our
Saviour. He did not come only to make us bow before His holiness. He
came to lift us up by His love.

* What is the difference between false humility and true humility?

– False humility tries to honour the Lord in its own way – “Lord, You’re too holy to wash my feet.”


True humility honours the Lord in this way. It honours him by letting
him humble Himself in His way – the way of the Cross, the way in which
He bears the guilt of our sin, the way in which He washes us clean from
our sin.

– False humility has a one-sided view of the holiness of Jesus. It has no real understanding of the love of Jesus.

Peter
tells the Lord what He should do and what He shouldn’t do – “Lord,
You’re holy. You need to depart from me. I’m too sinful to come to
You.”; “Lord, You’re too holy to think about the Cross. Lord, You’re too
holy to wash my feet.”

– True humility stops blurting
out its own ideas, its own opinions, and starts listening for the voice
of the Lord – “Lord, what do You want to teach me about Yourself – who
You are and why You came to this world? What do You want to teach me
about Your death on the Cross? What do you want to teach me about the
forgiveness of my sins?”

* What does Jesus say to
Peter’s false humility and our false humility? – “Unless I wash you, you
have no part in me?” (John 13:8).

Peter’s refusal to
let Jesus wash his feet indicates something more serious – a refusal to
let Jesus wash away his sins. He tells Jesus to depart from him, a
sinful man. He tries to talk Jesus out of going to the Cross to die for
our sins and our sins.

We need to be washed in the
precious blood of Christ. This is the deeper lesson of the washing of
the disciples’ feet. We must look beyond the washing of the disciples’
feet. We must look from there to our spiritual experience of being
washed in the blood of the Lamb. This is the gospel – “There is power,
power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb.”

* How can we move beyond Peter’s misunderstanding of Jesus – who He is and why He came to earth?

We
must emphasize both the holiness of God and the love of God. His
holiness keeps us from taking His love for granted. His love keeps us
from being overwhelmed by His holiness.

___________________

Peter
sets himself above the other disciples – “Even though they all fall
away, I will not” (Mark 14:29). He had a superiority complex! He trusted
in his own strength.He didn’t seek the strength of the Lord. The
Christian’s safety net is the knowledge of his own weakness. This sends
him to the Lord for  have a strong sense strength. Peter had still to
learn this lesson. Behind Peter’s superiority complex, there is the
activity of Satan. In Peter’s words, “I will not fall away,” we hear an
echo of Satan’s proud boast, “I shall be like God.” What happened to
Satan? – He fell. What happened to Peter? – He fell. “Pride comes before
a fall.” “Let him who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he falls”
(Proverbs 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:12). People with a superiority complex
are very dangerous. They can do a great deal of harm.

What
are we to make of this superiority complex? Remember Paul’s words,
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the
chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul was deeply aware of his own sin. He was
deeply appreciative of God’s grace. There was no place for boasting. All
the glory belongs to the Lord.

How did Jesus react to
Peter’s superiority complex? He loved him. He prayed for him (Luke
22:32). What love Jesus had for Peter! Jesus knew that Peter was going
to deny Him three times. What did Jesus do? He said to Peter, “You will
be converted. You will strengthen your brothers.” After he had denied
the Lord, Peter was filled with anguish and despair. Think of how Peter
must have felt when he remembered Jesus’ words, “You will be converted.
You will strengthen your brothers.” Jesus had not disowned him. He was
not cut off from the Lord’s people.

Jesus didn’t hammer
Peter. he loved him. This is mercy. This is grace. Peter was restored.
Jesus changed him. He took away the superiority complex. He replaces it
with “a sincere love of God’s people” (1 Peter 1:22). Peter learned to
love God’s people. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was able to
strengthen many people. On the Day of Pentecost, three thousand people
were brought to faith in Christ through Peter’s Spirit-empowered
preaching (Acts 2:41).

What changed Peter? – Love, the
love of Jesus. Love lifted him. He experienced the love of Jesus.He knew
that he was loved. He learned to love others. He learned to share the
love of Jesus with them.

The love of Jesus – This is
what will change us. This is what will make us what God wants us to be.
May God help us to receive the love of Jesus. May He help us to share
the love of Jesus with others.

_________________

In Peter’s
life, there were both high and lows. Here, we look at one of his high
points. Jesus fed the five thousand (John 6:1-15). After this, He gave
teaching concerning Himself as “the Bread of Life” (John 6:25-59). After
He had given this teaching, “many of His disciples said, ‘This is a
hard teaching. Who can accept i?’” (John 6:60). This led to many of His
disciples turning back and no longer following Him (John 6:66).
Everything seemed to be going so well after the feeding of the five
thousand (John 6:14). Nevertheless, the alarm bells were already ringing
(John 6:15). Jesus is concerned about the misunderstanding. He seeks to
correct it (John 6:26-27). He emphasizes that there is a difference
between “the manna in the desert” (John 6:31) and “the true bread from
heaven.” Jesus says, “the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33). Jesus preaches the Gospel
(John 6:35,37,40,51). The Jews cannot understand Him (John 6:52). This
is a repeat of Nicodemus’ failure to understand: “How can a man be born
when he is old? … Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s
womb to be born!” (John 3:4). Jesus is speaking about the work of the
Holy Spirit – “the world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him
nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in
you” (John 14:17). Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 –
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from
the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot
understand them, because they are spiritually discerned … But we have
the mind of Christ.” Why did Peter keep on following at a time when
other people were turning back? It was because he knew that he was loved
with an eternal love. Jesus spoke words of eternal love as well as
words of eternal life (Ephesians 1:3-6; Revelation 13:8). We keep on
following the Lord because we know that He keeps on loving us. Behind
the death of Christ, we see the eternal love of God. Through the death
of Christ, we receive eternal life with God. His love keeps on We keep
on going, and it keeps us going. We have Christ’s promise (John 10:28).
It keeps us looking beyond this world to the heavenly world (2
Corinthians 3:16-18). Christ’s promise assures us that He is keeping us
in the pathway that leads us on to this better world (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Peter confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are
the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). Here, we have “the Gospel of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Jesus says to us “Believe the Good
News” (Mark 1:14). It’s the Gospel of God. It’s the Gospel of Jesus
Christ. The Gospel comes to us from God. Jesus comes to us from God.
Jesus is the Gospel. This is Good News. Jesus has come to our world –
and He has died for sinners (1 Peter 3:18). He has died for us to bring
us to God now, to keep us with God forever.

____________________

Questions asked by Peter

I
comment briefly on two questions and, then, focus on a third question.
In the two brief comments, we note how practical and challenging Jesus’
answers are. This is emphasized when we look at the third question.

(a) “Lord, does this parable apply to us, or do you mean it for everyone?” (Luke 12:41).

Jesus
says, “Much is required from the person to whom much is given; much
more is required from the person to whom much more is given” (Luke
12:48).

(b) “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” (Matthew 18:21).

Jesus says, “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).

What is 70 X 7? It’s 490. If you’re still counting, you’ve missed the point!

———————————————————-

(c)
“Look, we have left everything and followed You. What will we have?”
(Matthew 19:27). To see this question in its context we need to read the
story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-30). Those who give
themselves to the Lord discover that God’s giving to us far exceeds our
giving to Him. We receive far more from than we can ever give to Him.

Often,
Jesus’ teaching is given in response to questions. He encourages us to
ask questions. He says, Ask, and it shall be given to you” (Luke 11:9).
Bring your questions to the Lord, and let Him give you His answers –
answers which will make you want to seek Him more. His answers do not
send us away with a smug ‘know-it-all’ attitude. They send us to Him,
strengthening in us the faith that Christ is the Answer. To know that
Christ is the Answer does not mean that we have all the answers to every
question.There are times when we will have to say, “I don’t know the
answer to your question.” There is something else we must also say, It
is this: Christ is the Answer. Find Christ, and you will not need to
have all the answers to a,, the questions. You will know that Christ is
the Answer. Where questions seem to be unanswered, you will be content
to leave them with the Lord in the sure confidence that He is the Answer
of God’s love, God’s Answer to our every need.

Peter’s questions lead us to think about our giving and God’s giving.

* We learn to give to God, as we learn to appreciate how much we have received from Him, how much we are loved by Him.

*
We learn to respond to God’s generous love as we learn to appreciate
how much we have received from Him, how much we are loved by Him.

* We learn to respond to God’s generous love, and we are changed, becoming more Christ-centred and less self-centred.

*
What happens when we don’t take time to respond to His generous love?
We become shallow people, too preoccupied with ourselves and
insufficiently aware of the presence and purpose of God.

*
We need to be changed by the Lord. It needs to be more of Jesus, and
less of self. The world says, “More, more, more … ” for self, but the
world’s way does not lead to fulfilment. Happiness is not the result of
getting “this, that and the other.” Happiness is god’s gift to us, given
to us in Christ. Happiness comes to us, as we seek God, not as we seek
happiness itself. Search for happiness, and what do you find? – The more
you get, the more you want, and so the dissatisfaction continues. To
search for happiness in things is to settle for less than God’s Best –
true happiness in Christ.

* Some people are materially
rich – and spiritually poor. According to the world’s standards, they
are successful. In relation to God, the word ‘failure’ is written all
over their life. The cost of success is too high when it has a negative
effect on our relationship with God.

* When things are
going well, we need to ask, “How much is too much? Some get ‘too much
too soon’, and their life is ruined. They fail to give the glory to the
Lord. Their material prosperity is not matched by spiritual progress.

* There is something wrong when there is too much getting and not enough giving. We need a healthy balance between the two.

_______________________

What a great difference there is between godly silence and guilty silence!

*
Godly silence – “Be silent before the Lord” (Zephaniah 1:17; Zechariah
2:13; Habakkuk 2:20). Peter found godly silence difficult.

*
Guilty silence – failure to confess Jesus as Lord. We are not to be
silent before men and women. We are to confess Christ, our great
Saviour.

How are we to overcome our guilty silence? We
need more godly silence. We are to wait upon the Lord and renew our
strength (Isaiah 40:31).

* In Jesus, we see godly
silence – “Jesus was silent” (Matthew 26:63). Jesus refused to protest
His own innocence. He was bearing our guilt. Jesus was bearing our sin.
He was suffering as our Substitute. He was taking our place. He was
drawing near to the time when He would give Himself in death for us.

*
Peter was so different! He broke out of godly silence and into ungodly
speech. Peter is a warning to us: “the tongue is a fire” (James 3:6).
Peter was speaking out his own ideas. He should have been listening to
the Word of the Lord.

* Peter’s ungodly speech becomes
godly speech. On the Day of Pentecost, his tongue is set on fire by the
Holy Spirit. He speaks the word of God with power and love.

*
The story of Peter can be told in terms of his names – (a) Simon; (b)
Simon Peter; (c) Peter – (a) the old man; (b) great difficulty in
learning to live as the new man; (c) living, more truly and more fully,
as the new man.

* Peter’s denial  – The hand of the
Lord is on him (Luke 22:32). nevertheless, there is a great deal of self
in him. The letter “I” lies at the heart of the word, “sin”. Peter has
still to learn that it is to be “not I, but Christ” (Galatians 2:20). He
has  still to learn that he must decrease, while Christ increases (John
3:30).

Before Peter’s denial, there are alarm bells ringing.

*
Luke 22:33 – Peter is too confident in himself. Immediately, Jesus
tells him that he should not be so confident in himself (Luke 22:34).

*
Even though he had been warned, “Satan has desired to have you” (Luke
22:31), Peter, together with the other disciples, had lost his
alertness. The disciples had been told to “pray” (Luke 22:40). When
Jesus returned, all of the disciples, including Peter, were “sleeping”
(Luke 22:45). Jesus rebuked them. He called them to “rise and pray”
(Luke 22:46).

* Peter acted in retaliation (Luke 22:50;
John 18:10). Jesus had to rebuke Peter. Jesus had to reverse the effect
of Peter’s sinful action.

This is the background to
Peter’s sinful denial: (a) He says that he is ready to be imprisoned. He
says that he is ready to die for Jesus (Luke 22:33); (b) He cuts off a
soldier’s ear. He thinks that he is doing the Lord’s will. He is wrong.
He’s denying the Lord.

* A true confession of Christ is
more than empty words. It is more than misguided actions, which speak
of self more than they speak of Christ.

* As we move into the foreground of Peter’s denial, we find that the alarm bells are still ringing.

“Peter followed at a distance” (Luke 22:54). How do you and I follow Jesus? at a distance?

“Peter
sat among them” (Luke 22:55). Should he have been there? Are there not
places where we should not be, unless we are intent on inviting
spiritual disaster?

Three times, Peter denies the Lord (Luke 22:56-60).

*
We must not end with Peter’s failure. We must focus our attention on
Jesus’ love. In Luke 22:61, we read about the look of love, which speaks
the language of love. Love has been offended. Peter weeps (Luke 22:62).
This is the beginning of repentance and restoration.

_______________________

In
Mark 11:1-11, we read the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into
Jerusalem. As we read on, we read the story of a fig tree (Mark
11:12-14,20-21). The fig tree was “nothing but leaves” (Mark 11:13). It
“withered” (Mark 11:20). The fig tree had had its day. It had outlived
its usefulness. This is a parable for today’s Church.

It is
significant that the ‘fig tree’ incident is followed by the cleansing of
the Temple. Before there can be fruitfulness, there needs to be
cleansing. This cleansing takes place as God’s people pray (Mark 11:17),
and as they receive the Word of the Lord (Mark 11:18). These are to be
the great priorities for God’s people in every generation – prayer and
the Word of God.

The story of the fig tree continues in
Mark 11:20-21. Here, Peter enters the story. Peter’s words are more
than words about fig trees. They are about the necessity of God’s
blessing. Unless God sends his blessing from above, there is nothing of
any real value. If God withholds his blessing, everything is in vain.

 *
How can our work for God be fruitful? It will be fruitful when it is
done “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). If we are to work for God, He
must be at work in us.

 – He works in us, as we pray. We receive the Lord’s strength in answer to prayer.

 –
He works in us, as we receive the Word of the Lord. His Word
strengthens in us the resolve to live a life of faithfulness and
fruitfulness.

 The story of the fig tree is followed by
Jesus’ words about faith removing mountains. there are mountains which
need to be removed if the work of the Lord is to move forward more
fruitfully.

Let’s return to the story of Peter.

In
his case, there was the ‘mountain’ of pride. Peter’s pride may be
compared with the pride that is expressed in the words from the story of
the Tower of Babel – “let us … make a name for ourselves” (Genesis
11:4).

Peter was trying to do what he thought was right
– but his pride carried him in directions that were more about Peter
getting his own way than Peter walking in the way of the Lord. He seemed
to have a burning desire to be the No.1 among Jesus’ disciples. He even
wanted to put Jesus right!

There are two levels of pride here – (a) wanting to be the ‘lord it over’ other people; (b) wanting to ‘lord it over’ Jesus.

The
first is bad enough. What about the second? Trying to put Jesus right –
This is pride of the most extreme kind, It is, however, closely
connected to the first kind of pride. Our relationship with God is
affected by our relationships with other people. This is the point of
Mark 11:25. If our lives are ruled by human pride – trying to impress
other people by being better than them, we will have big problems with
receiving the Gospel of God’s grace. The ‘mountain’ of pride will get in
the way. It will need to be removed. If we are to be fruitful in the
service of the Lord, we must learn the lesson of the ‘fig tree’
incident. We must get rid of the ‘Tower of Babel’ way of thinking. There
is only room for one No.1. it’s not you. It’s not me. It’s Jesus.

We must concentrate on what God has given us to do. We must pray. We must receive the Word of the Lord.

__________________________

Note, especially, the words, “and Peter” (Mark 16:7).

Why
Peter? Was there something special about Peter? Was he superior to all
the others? No! That’s not the reason. Peter had failed the Lord. He
needed to hear the Good News. Peter had failed the Lord. He needed to be
assured that the Lord hadn’t given up on him. He needed to know that
Jesus still had a wonderful plan for his future. Peter may have thought
that his past had disqualified him from having a significant role in the
in Jesus’ plan to bring salvation to the nations. Jesus was saying to
Peter, ‘We must get rid of that kind of thinking. I have a great plan
for you. You will be mightily used by Me – to bring many to faith in
Me.’

The words, “and Peter”, speak to us about putting our past behind us and moving forward into God’s future.

What
were the women to say to Peter? – “He has risen” (Mark 16:5). Jesus is
no longer dead. Jesus has risen. Jesus is alive. This was the marvellous
message that turned Peter’s life around. The resurrection of Jesus –
This is what made all the difference in the life of Peter. This is what
brought him out of his failure and into God’s fruitfulness.

How
were Jesus’ disciples to know that He had risen? – They would not see
Him in the tomb (Mark 16:6). They would “see Him.” How would they see
Him? – “He is going ahead of you… ” (Mark 16:7).

“Going
ahead of you” – How wonderful is this! The future was no surprise for
Jesus. He was preparing his servants for all that lay ahead of them.
Jesus’ appearances to his disciples were more than a demonstration of
His power – ‘Look at me. I have risen from the dead.’ He was preparing
them for His future – a future that would be full of the blessing of
God.

The old life is over. The new life has begun. This
is what Jesus, the risen Lord, was saying to his chosen servants. The
forty days of Jesus’ appearances were a time of learning to let the past
be the past, a time of moving forward, with Jesus, into His future.
This was a very important time in peter’s spiritual development. The
Lord Jesus was putting Peter’s life back together again. Soon, there
would be  a new Peter. Soon, there would be less pride. Soon, there
would be more power. the pride of Peter would be replaced by the power
of God.

Together with the other disciples, Peter had so
much to learn. At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, there was, for Peter,
sadness, sin and shame. Now, he was being prepared for the Day of
Pentecost (Acts 2). That would be a great day – great joy for Peter,
great salvation for thousands, great glory to God. Out  of the
resurrection of Jesus came the raising of Peter. Jesus was raised from
the dead. Peter’s life was renewed. Out of Peter’s renewal came revival.
What wonderful days of blessing these days were!

What
about today? God is calling us to live in the power of Christ’s
resurrection. He’s calling us to move out of the old life and into the
new life. He’s calling us to continue in the new life. He’s calling us
to grow in the new life.

The power of Christ’s
resurrection in the Christian life – Peter grasped this truth deeply. He
expresses it so well in 1 Peter 1:3-9.

(1) The foundation of the Christian life is found in the fact of Christ’s resurrection (1 Peter 1:3).

(2) Through the power of Christ’s resurrection, we begin the new life – the “new birth” (1 Peter 1:3).

(3) Through the power of Christ’s resurrection, we are kept in the new life (1 Peter 1:5).

(4)
Through the power of Christ’s resurrection, we are brought to the
completion of this new life – “the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter
1:9).

These are the lessons Peter
was learning during his ‘forty days’ of preparation. These are the
lessons he kept  on learning throughout his journey of faith. They are
lessons we must learn well, if we are to make real progress in the life
of faith.

________________________

With the resurrection of
Christ, we take a huge step forward in the Gospel story – and a huge
step forward in Peter’s experience of the Gospel. In this part of
Peter’s story, there is, for us, a great Word from the Lord concerning
the life-transforming power of Christ.

We
have read about Peter’s backsliding (Luke 22). We have read about the
look of Jesus – the look of love, which speaks the language of love
(Luke 22:61). Peter knew that he had let Jesus down. Peter knew that
Jesus loved him. Peter “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). This was the
beginning of Peter’s repentance – but his restoration was, still,
incomplete. Peter had sinned – and he “wept bitterly.” This was genuine
repentance. This was very different from Judas – “he was seized with
remorse … Then he went away and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:3,5).

This
was weeping with regret. It was not hopeless despair. The look of love
gave Peter a glimpse if hope. It was a glimpse of better things to come.
Jesus still loved Peter. Jesus wasn’t going to give up on Peter.

The
revelation of Jesus’ love was going to increase. It was to be combined
with the revelation of His power – “The Lord has risen, and has appeared
to Simon” (Luke 24;34). Jesus had a special love for Peter – and a
special desire to reveal His power to Peter: “and Peter” (Mark 16:7).

The transformation of Peter, and the other disciples, has a great deal to teach us regarding the increase of our faith.

(1)
We begin with wondering, – “What is this all about?”: ” Peter went
away, wondering to himself what had happened” (Luke 24:12).

(2)
We move on from there to believing without understanding – “John saw
and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus
had to rise from the dead.)” (John 20:8-9).

Wondering,
and believing without understanding – this is just the beginning. Where
do we go from here? How does the Lord lead us into a stronger faith?

*
Wondering what happened was, soon, to become declaring what had
happened (Acts 2). We must be patient with those who are still
wondering. They may turn out to be great witnesses for Christ. Jesus was
patient with Peter. He’s patient with us. We must be patient, as we
look for faith, developing in those who are still wondering.

*
Believing without understanding: When people don’t understand
something, they are afraid to speak about it. On the Day of Pentecost,
we see the new Peter. His preaching was full of faith and understanding
(Acts 2). How did he grow in understanding? – “from Scripture.” Peter’s
preaching was Biblical preaching. He was expounding the Word of God. He
was proclaiming Christ as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy.

What a great contrast there is between Peter in the time of Christ’s earthly life and Peter after the resurrection of Christ.

*
Wondering involves asking questions, seeking instruction from the Lord.
In the time of Christ’s earthly life, Peter was too busy, giving his
own opinions. Now, he was changing. He’s being trained as an evangelist.

*
Understanding grows, as we listen to the voice of God, speaking to us
through the Scriptures. Stop talking, and start listening – This is what
Peter had to do. This is what we must do if we, like peter, are to
speak with power.

________________________

At the time of
Christ’s crucifixion, Peter’s situation seemed hopeless He had denied
his Lord. He was dejected. With Christ’s resurrection, everything was
turned around. Christ revealed himself to Peter. In love, Jesus came to
Peter. The whole situation was changed. Jesus’ love changed everything.
He filled Peter with hope – the hope that life could be altogether
different.

Peter was
changed by the love of Jesus. Jesus is asking Peter, “Do you love Me?”
He’s saying more than that. He’s saying, “I love you. Do you love Me?”

 – The Gospel says to each one of us, “Jesus loves you.”

  – The Gospel calls for our love, “Do you love Jesus?”

What
is the mark of love for Jesus? – Obedience: “Whoever has My commands
and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me” (John 14:21).

This was true in Peter’s life. It is to be true in our lives.

Peter was given the command: “Feed My sheep.” In Acts, we see Peter, obeying the command of his Lord.

Here,
we have a story of transformation. Peter’s story had seemed to be a
real disaster story – but, now, it has been turned around. This is the
message of Acts 1-2. Peter had been a man with a problem. Now, he is a
man with a mission. What brought about this change in Peter?  The answer
is “The Holy Spirit.” We need, however, to ask another question: How
did the Holy Spirit change Peter?  This needs to be followed by a third
question: How does the Holy Spirit change us?

In
Peter’s story, we must note the importance of prayer and the Word of
God. In Acts 1, we see Peter praying. Together with the other disciples,
Peter is praying. In Acts 2, we see Peter preaching. His ministry is
full of understanding of the Scriptures. He has taken time to learn from
God’s Word. Now, he is bringing God’s Word to the people. He is
explaining to them the message of Scripture. He is speaking to them of
Jesus, the Saviour whom God had promised, the Saviour whom God has sent.

The
Holy Spirit was mightily at work in Peter’s life. He was mightily at
work through Peter’s preaching. The work of the Holy Spirit, in and
through Peter, begins with prayer. In Acts 1:13-14, Peter is the first
name on the list. He was a spiritual leader. Their prayer was grounded
in a promise (Acts 1:4-5). Their prayer was directed towards witness
(Acts 1:8). As the disciples gathered together for prayer, Peter emerged
as a spiritual leader. He was a leader in the Church (Acts 1:15 … ). He
was a leader in evangelism (Acts 2:14 … ).

As a
spiritual leader, Peter spoke with power. His powerful preaching was
marked by (i) clarity of exposition (Acts 2:14-36); (b) boldness in
exhortation (Acts 2:37-42),

What happened when Peter
preached? Three thousand people came to Christ. What a transformation!
It was three denials. Now, it’s three thousand conversions!

God
did something wonderful with Peter. He can do something wonderful with
us, if we – like Peter – will say to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, You know that we
love You.”

_________________________

“Peter and John
were going up to the temple at the time of prayer” (Acts 3:1) – Here, we
see togetherness. We see the importance of fellowship. Our fellowship
is more than fellowship with one another. It’s fellowship with God.

Acts
3:3,6 – The man was looking for money. God gave him something better.
the world tells us that there’s nothing more valuable than money. the
Word of God tells us that it is more important to be in fellowship with
God.

Acts 3:11-12 – “The beggar held on to Peter and John.” Peter ask, ‘Why do you give the glory to man?’

Acts 3:13 … – Peter preaches the Gospel.

Acts 4:3-4 – “Peter and John are put in jail.” “Many believed, about five thousand.”

Acts 4:7 – “By what power?”

Acts 4:8-12 – Peter preaches the Gospel.

Acts 4:13 – “the courage of Peter and John”, “they had been with Jesus.”

Acts 4:18-20 – Obedience to God

Acts 4:31 – The effects of prayer

The
remainder of chapter continues with this theme: the effects of prayer.
It also links up with the story that is told in chapter 5.

When
we read these chapters in Acts, we find ourselves asking, “Is this the
same Peter that we read about in the Gospels?” In one sense, the answer
is, “Yes. This is the same Peter.” In another sense, the answer is, “No.
This is a very different Peter.”

What does this say to us?

*
The same Peter – You and I can be used by God. Don’t think, “God must
be looking for someone else.”He wants you. He wants me. He wants to take
us and make us His faithful and fruitful servants. He wants to be
glorified through our witness.

* A different Peter –
You and I can be used by the Lord, but it will not be the same old you,
and it will not be the same old me. It will be a different you. It will
be a different me. It will be a changed you. It will be a changed me.
The Lord will change us. He will make us new men and women. When God is
going to work through us, He will begin with working in us. He wants us
to bring change to others, but this is not His starting-point. He starts
with us. He changes us, and, then, He turns His attention to the people
who will be changed through our witness.

___________________________________

Acts 5:1-11 – the story of Ananias and Sapphira; Acts 5:3-4,7-9 – Peter’s part

What does this say to us, as we come to the Lord’s Table? – We must come honestly. We must confess our sin.

Acts 5:12-16 – “signs and wonders” (v. 12); “Peter’s shadow” (v.15) – There seems to be an element of superstition here.

As
we come to the Lord’s Table, what is the Lord saying  to us?  Don’t
settle for a superstitious view of the Lord’s Supper: somehow, the
blessing might just happen to reach you. Seek to draw close to the Lord,
and stay close to Him.

vs. 18-21 – “In prison” (v. 18); released by God’s power (v. 19), with God’s commission (v. 20); obedience to God (v. 21).

vs. 29-32 – This is Peter’s testimony. Peter and the other apostles obeyed God (v. 29). We are to obey God (v. 32).

What is the Lord teaching us, as we come to His Table? – We are set free by the Lord so that we might live in obedience to Him.

The
name of Peter doesn’t appear in the last part of Acts 5. We may move
beyond one individual, Peter, to find a more general lesson for today’s
Church.

The lesson is found in vs. 40-42. Following the
wise advice of Gamaliel (vs. 33-39; especially vs. 38-39), The apostles
were “ordered …not to speak in the Name of Jesus” (v. 40).

This
is very contemporary. The world still tells us not to speak in the Name
of Jesus. They will let us do our own thing in our own places of
worship, but they will try to silence our Christian witness in the wider
society.

The apostles were not silenced. Their witness
grew stronger. This was a Church on the move. It was a Church, moving
forward. It was a Church that refused to be silenced. There was no
stopping the advance of the Gospel.

How does the Gospel
advance? – Through people who, like the apostles, are determined not to
be silenced, determined to go on “teaching and proclaiming the good
News that Jesus is the Christ” (v. 42).

As we consider what Christ has done for us, can we refuse to be such people?

______________________

Acts 8:20 – “the gift of God”: God gives; we receive. It’s never we earn; God rewards.

Acts
8:21 – “Your heart is not right before God.” the sin of trying to earn
God’s favour is in direct contradiction to the Gospel of grace
(Ephesians 2:8-9). Note that Ephesians 5:10 – we are called to do good
works – comes after Ephesians 5:8-9 – we have been saved by God’s grace.
It’s never works, leading to grace.It’s always grace, leading to works.

Titus 3:3-8
– Note, especially v.3: This is our starting-point. We are sinners. We
need to be saved by the grace of God. Our situation is hopeless. It is
the grace of God that changes everything. He turns everything around for
us. This great change takes place “not because of righteous things that
we had done, but because of His mercy” (v. 5). This wonderful change –
“the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (v. 5) – takes
place in us because of God’s generosity (v. 6), His grace (v. 7). Once
this change takes place, we are to be careful to devote ourselves to
doing what is good” (v. 8). Notice, again, the order. The Christian life
is based on the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s never, the Holy Spirit is
ta reward for those who have lived the Christian life.

Acts
8:22 – “Repent.” The sin from which must turn is the sin of pride. We
must reject the self-centred attempt to earn God’s salvation as a reward
for our own good works. This is the sin which keeps men and women “full
of bitterness and captive to sin” (v. 23). We see the “bitterness of
proud unbelievers, e.g. Pharaoh’s reaction against Moses (Exodus); the
Pharisees’ reaction against Jesus (the Gospels).  Such men are “captive
to sin.” Outward appearances can be deceptive. Pharaoh appeared to be in
control. He was more a captive than the people of Israel. He was
“captive to sin.” The Pharisees appeared to be in control. They were far
from God. they were “captive to sin.” Can such hardness be changed? Yes
– by the Lord (v. 28).

How can this great change take
place in the hearts of men and women? – Through “the Word of the Lord,
through “the gospel” (v. 25).

Give your testimony, proclaim the Word, preach the Gospel.

___________________

“Peter travelled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda” (Acts 9:32).`

Peter
was a travelling evangelist. He  was not a ‘hit and run’ specialist. He
was God’s peoples concerned to strengthen the faith of “the saints” –
all of God’s people, not an elite group.

Acts 9:33-35 –
Peter’s healing ministry was part of his ministry of the Gospel. As a
result of the healing,people “turned to the Lord” (v. 35). Notice that
it wasn’t peter who healed the man – “Jesus Christ heals you” (v. 34).
Peter draws attention to Christ. Men and women were drawn to Christ.

Acts
9:36-43 – Peter’s ministry became even more extraordinary: the raising
of the dead – Tabitha (Aramaic) / Dorcas (Greek).Again, two distinctive
features of his ministry are emphasized.

(a) This was God’s work – not Peter’s: “he got down and his knees and prayed.”

(b) This miracle led to conversions – “many people believed in the Lord” (v. 42).

What a great contrast with the Peter of the Gospels!

(i) In the Gospels, he’s in great need of strengthening. Here, he is strengthening others.

(ii)
In the gospels, he is so self-centred. Here, he is so Christ-centred.
In the gospels, he spoke to the Lord in protest. Here, he speaks to the
Lord in prayer.

(iii) In the Gospels, he seemed to be
so useless. He failed his Lord when he was called upon to witness for
his Lord. Here, he’s being mightily used by God. There’s the healing.
There’s the raising from the dead. there’s so many people coming to
faith in the Lord: “All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and
turned to the Lord” (v. 35); “This became known all over Joppa, and many
people believed in the Lord” (v. 42).

Peter had grown spiritually. Let us pray for spiritual growth.

______________________________

We consider Acts 10 in the breadth of its teaching rather than focusing too narrowly on what it tells us about Peter.

It will be helpful to think of Acts 10 as a turning-point.

It may be viewed as a turning-point for (a) individuals; (b) nations; (c) generations.

(a) The individuals – Peter and Cornelius

For both, there is a ‘before’ and ‘after’ element.

(i) Peter – ‘before’: an evangelist to the Jews, but not yet an evangelist to the Gentiles

He had seen God at work, but he was yet to see God, even more mightily at work.

‘after’:
an evangelist to the Gentiles also. He never quite became ‘the apostle
to the Gentiles’ that Paul became. Nevertheless, there was, for Peter, a
turning-point, a broadening of his outlook, a widening of his ministry.

(ii) Cornelius: ‘before’ – a good man; ‘after’ – a saved man

The turning-point – conversion. Even good men need to be saved.

(b) nations – Jews and Gentiles

(i) ‘before’: Jews – the people of god; Gentiles – heathen

(ii) ‘after’ – “but also the Greek” ( Romans 1:16

the gospel going to Rome (Acts 28)

(c) generations – The church and the world

This
was not only a turning-point for the Jews and the Gentiles of that
generation. There is a message for every generation. Acts 10 can be a
turning-point for us today – turning beyond the church, turning toward
the world.

These are three ways of reading Acts 10 – changes in individuals; changes in the history of nations; changes in us, today.

_______________________________

We
come now to the conclusion of the story told, in the Gospels and Acts,
about Peter. This is not, however, the complete New Testament picture
of  Peter. To complete the picture, we need the letters, written by
Peter.

In Acts 12:5, we read about Peter in prison. In Acts 12:7, we read about him being set free.

This is Peter in the place of restriction and the place of freedom.

When we read Acts 12:17 – “Then he departed and went to another place, we may ask, “Where did he go? What became of Peter?

This
thought of Peter, moving out of the place of restriction and into the
place of freedom may be a helpful way of introducing the third New
Testament phase of Peter’s story – his letters.

In John 14:12, we
have the promise of “greater works.” Jesus had been restricted to one
place and time. Through his people, the gospel would go to every nation
and every generation. The gospel going to the Gentiles, beginning with
the story of Peter and Cornelius, was part of the fulfilment of Jesus’
promise concerning “greater works.”

This idea of “greater works” can be applied to the third phase of Peter’s story.

The
first two phases tell us about the things done by Peter during his
lifetime. The third, his letters, present us with Peter’s voice,
speaking to the church and the world in every nation and every
generation.

“He died, but through his faith he is still speaking”
(Hebrews 11:4). These words were written about Abel. They can also be
applied to Peter.

“Then Peter departed and went to another place”
(Acts 12:17). Scripture speaks about “a broad place where there is no
cramping” (Job 36:16). Peter went to “a broad place.” The scope of his
ministry was extended. We do not say, “That’s the end of Peter’s
ministry.” We read on. We come to his letters. We say, “This is an
extension of his ministry, This is Peter, speaking to every nation and
every generation, to everyone who cares to read the Bible in whatever
language, in whatever version.

In 1 Peter, we learn about the great blessings we have received in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 Peter 2;9-10), how we are to live as Christians (1 Peter 2:11-12; 1 Peter 4:7-11) and the trials we will face as Christians (1 Peter 4:12-14; 1 Peter 5:8-11). In 2 Peter, we learn about true knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:3-5; 1 Peter 1:20-21), warnings against false teachers (2 Peter 2:1-3) and the second coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:8-13).

In 2 Peter 3:18, we have Peter’s final words to us –  “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” This is the “broad place” into which God is leading us.

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