Rev Dr Edgar Mayer;
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When Jesus first met the man Simon, he immediately recognized his value. I read from the Bible – John 1:42: “ … Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated [from the Aramaic language to the Greek language], is Peter).” And in both languages the new name for Simon meant “rock”. Therefore, Jesus – from the beginning – called Simon “the Rock”. “You will be called Cephas (or Peter in the Greek language).”
This morning – do you want the same name from Jesus? Do you want Jesus to say to you – to our church: “I can build with you. You are close to me. You can carry my purposes.” We want Jesus as much as the man Simon and – from the beginning – we want Jesus to pour out the same favours on us that he poured out on Simon, the Rock.
Yet, in the choice of Simon – and maybe also in the choice of Judas (another disciple who would later betray Jesus to his death) – Jesus seems to have been a bad judge of character. Even after three years of experiencing Jesus’ preaching and teaching and his many miracles – after seeing food multiply in his own hands and seeing even demons submit to him in Jesus’ name – Simon was still very much like us – flawed, slow on the uptake, fearful, inconsistent, etc.
What do you make of the following scenes in his life? Was Jesus right in calling him “the Rock”? What was so special about him that should also be in our lives?
John 18:1-14: “When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am he,’ Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.
Again he asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ ‘I told you that I am he,’ Jesus answered. ‘If you are looking for me, then let these men go.’ … Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear … Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus … ”
What do we make of this? Peter got it all wrong. He had a sword but was clumsy. Instead of cutting into someone’s head, he only managed to slice off the ear. Not exactly a fatal injury. How can you miss? And the whole approach was wrong. Jesus not only healed the wounded ear (Luke 22:51) but questioned Peter: “Shall I not drink the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” Somehow Peter had not picked up that he was opposing God with his heroics.
Yet, how could he have been so blind? Jesus demonstrated clearly that he needed no sword or any other weapon to overpower the detachment of soldiers. I read again what happened: “ … Jesus … went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am he,’ Jesus said … When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ ‘I told you that I am he,’ … ” Jesus – just for a brief moment – flashed his authority. So much power emanated from him that all of the soldiers were thrown to the ground. Only – no one seemed to pay much attention (as even today people ignore evidence of God’s power). The soldiers simply dusted themselves off and – without much (intelligent) hesitation – they had another go at arresting Jesus.
Peter was also none the wiser. He could have concluded: “Jesus does not need any human sword to overcome the enemy. Any time he wants he can throw soldiers to the ground.” But Peter’s mind was not engaged at the time and – therefore – out came his sword – wielded by the inexperienced hands of a fisherman.
Then, Peter – in his behaviour – went from bad to worse – much worse. John 18:15-27: “Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus … ‘You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, ‘I am not.’ It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself … As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, ‘You are not one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it, saying, ‘I am not.’ One of the high priest’s servants … challenged him, ‘Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?’ Again Peter denied it … ” Mark 14:71: “He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’”
Peter denied Jesus – betrayed him with intense emotions: “I don’t know this man.” Again and again he called down curses on himself and swore that his lie was the truth (in the name of God): “I don’t know this man.” This is not what we would have expected from someone that Jesus called Cephas – Peter – the Rock. This man had desired so much from Jesus and Jesus had given him everything – satisfied his heart about the kingdom of God. Jesus was the leader and he was the learner but they were also friends. This is why the betrayal went deep and hurt them both – very much – on a most personal level. As soon as Peter had betrayed Jesus for the third time, we read in the Bible – Luke 22:61-62: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” No words can describe the heartbreak of this time.
How can you soar so high with Jesus in the things of God and then crash so completely in disowning him three times – standing around a camp fire? Have you had that happen to you? On Sunday God meets you with love and touches your life with power but on Monday you have one too many beers with your buddies and the conversation dishonours Jesus. You tell the wrong kind of jokes. You gossip and you go with the wrong kind of flow what life is about. “Jesus Christ” is used as a swear word and you say nothing. All night – it’s as if you don’t belong to him. How can this be? Who are we? How are we to think about those occasions? Peter wept bitterly and maybe – at times – we are to do the same. May there be more of it in our church: The pain of betraying Jesus breaks our hearts – and our pride – and even grown men like Peter weep bitterly.
Yet – coming back to him – (and this is encouraging for us) – can I suggest to you that in these two scenes of his most abject failure we see precisely why Jesus loved Peter so much and granted him such a high position in the kingdom of God. In these two instances Peter’s greatest strength became his most devastating weakness but Jesus continued to love his strength – and we may learn to be like him.
Peter was bold – beyond reason – and he would push ahead – forcing a breakthrough – no matter what the cost. (In my thinking) he was a rock that was not so much a stable foundation but the rock that God would use to hurl against the kingdom of darkness. Like no other disciple – Peter had a habit of crashing through unbelief and always breaking new ground. [Cf. Matthew 16:18.]
I love Peter. When Jesus told the disciples beforehand that they would all fall away from him, Peter was the only one that rose up with passion. “No, Jesus.” He said – Matthew 26:33: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Yes – good on him. Compared to Peter – all of the other disciples were passive disappointments. What were they thinking? “Jesus said that we would fall away from him. Oh well. Not much we can do then.” Peter was the only one that recognized how outrageous Jesus’ words were. Did they not all love him? He brushed aside Jesus’ words and he brushed aside what anyone else might or might not do – Matthew 26:33: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
That’s the determination of a “rock” (even if his confidence in himself was misplaced) and Peter was (almost) as good as his word. When the soldiers came, he stood his ground with Jesus and when no one else would take any action, he went on a suicide mission – wielding the lone sword of a fisher-man against an entire detachment of battle-hardened warriors. This was not smart (thinking matters through was never Peter’s strong point) but it was brave – bold. With Peter – there were no limits in how much he would push and give for his passions.
Once “the rock” was in movement, he would be unstoppable (taking it to the limit – whatever the outcome), which (of course) backfired when the rock began to move in the wrong direction. After the adrenalin pumping intensity of Jesus’ arrest a simple question from a servant girl (and others) caught Peter off-guard. He had psyched himself up for becoming the only hero disciple at Jesus’ arrest but now no one was watching and he was not ready. Therefore – out of fear – he disowned Jesus and – then – once “the rock” was moving down in this direction, he did so with typical breakthrough – unstoppable – momentum. Without taking any time to engage his mind – Peter went from one denial to three – intensifying his language with curses and swearing. He just had to get out of this situation – no matter what.
This time “the rock” crashed through the wrong barriers. This was betrayal rather than breaking new ground. However – not glossing over the failure (and any of our failures) – the encouragement remains that – in this instance – it was Peter’s greatest strength that became his greatest weakness. There is strength in his make-up and Jesus loved him – precisely – for his “rock-like” qualities.
We may not like where Peter ended up on the night of Jesus’ arrest but – and this is important – none of us will go far in God, if we are not prepared – at the same time – to risk abysmal failure. We cannot play it safe. (Wouldn’t it be nice to be always moderate and sensible – in our preaching, in setting the budget, in sharing the good news with others, in allowing people to use spiritual gifts? No unpredictable outbursts! No weird prophecies! Wouldn’t it be nice to stick with the same safe boundaries and always be moderate and sensible? But this is not an option.) Peter was never a balanced personality. He was always “full on” – “full on” into something new – but the church needs “full on” people because otherwise there is no breakthrough.
Jesus loved Peter and – this morning – being aware of the risks – we want to be more like him and push as far
into God as we can. One night the disciples were in a boat and Jesus approached
them walking on the lake. I read from the Bible – Matthew 14:26-29: “When
the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’
they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take
courage! It is
This is why Jesus loved Peter and called him “the Rock”. All the disciples were terrified – crying out in fear. In the darkness of the night – (with wind and waves buffeting the boat for good measure) – a ghost-like figure was walking toward them on the lake. Then this ghost-like figure claimed to be Jesus which made Peter push this incident to the limits. Would any sane person do what he did? You have to shut down your brain for what comes next. This is pure desire – an extreme passion for pushing deeper into Jesus (no matter what the risk). Peter paid not attention to the darkness, ignored the wind and the waves, the strangeness of the miracle, his passive mates in the boat and before he was even sure of the identity of the ghost-like figure before him, he said: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
This morning know that Jesus responds to this kind of boldness. You do not need more than that. Peter was not mature and he was not wise. He did not call a meeting and weigh up all the risks but he dared to go where no man had gone before. He dared to request a miracle from God – seized the moment – simply asked for what could be available: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” And to everyone’s amazement and maybe even our amazement today – Jesus said: “Come.” And Peter began to walk on water – the first disciple ever to do so. Then – later – he was the first to see the risen Jesus (1 Peter 15:5), the first to preach on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14), the first to baptize non-Jews (Acts 10). Throughout his life he remained a man for breaking new ground. [He was the first to confess Jesus as the Christ.]
Maybe sometimes we miss out on God because we are too polite, saying: “God, thank you for all that you have done already. Thank you, Jesus, for letting me see you walking on water. This is great. I cannot possibly ask for any more. This would be rude.” However, in his kingdom God responds to those who make a claim on the abundance of his grace and seek his unsearchable riches (cf. Luke 15:12). Therefore, when Jesus appears to you walking on water, do not just appreciate the miracle and be polite but ask him: “Lord, if it’s you, show me even more. Let me experience even more. Tell me to come to you on the water.” And the surprise will be say that Jesus is saying: “Yes. Come. Have more. Break through.” [Here at Living Grace we may not just be happy with the gold dust but now ask for even more miracles: gem stones, manna, oil, fragrances, nature miracles, … in addition to more salvations and love and joy and Holy Spirit power. Jesus loves to respond to boldness: “Yes, I will give you the desires of your heart. It is there for the asking.”]
For us church people this can often be confusing because we tend to think that those who walk on water (and those who experience other miracles) must be the most complete and mature Christians. Somehow miracles are their reward for getting everything right. But this is not so. These people are just bold and ask Jesus to give them what they want. This is confusing to many. The truth is that in the church we often reject miracles because people like Peter are doing them and they are not perfect. In the Bible – after Peter had taken a few steps on the water – we read – Matthew 14:30: “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” The boldness was there for the breakthrough miracle but not the maturity to sustain it. Yet, the miracle was real and was of God.
In 2008 there was a mighty Holy Spirit outpouring in Lakeland, Florida. Tens of thousands of hungry people from all over the world traveled to this place and then millions more – across the world – watched the daily broadcast on God-TV. People everywhere experienced salvations, healings, miracles, deliverance … and were catching the fire of the Holy Spirit. The excitement was great but the leader of the outpouring was not unlike Peter – bold – imbalanced – “full on” – but also immature. He was a rock that God could hurl into anything for a breakthrough but – at the same time – he was also a rock which would push through even when the direction was misguided. After a few months the Florida Outpouring crashed and burned because the leader divorced his wife and married another. Like Peter – after a few steps of walking on water, he sunk again. Yet, the Outpouring had been real. His boldness had changed the landscape of the church.
From the earliest days this man was like this. His dad was an alcoholic and divorced his mum when he was four. His mum was completely deaf and raised him on welfare payments. As much as he would later push into God, he pushed into darkness and before the age of twelve he was into the occult, cutting himself and pornography. Then came the drugs with the quest for the ultimate high, sexual assault, time spent in five different prisons (before the age of sixteen), foster homes and drug overdoses. Then – at the age of eighteen – in the trailer of his drug dealer – he became a Christian. He writes: “I was born again in that trailer and for the first time in my life, I felt free. The paranoia and burdens fell off. I felt as light as a feather. I thought that if I jumped in the air I would float away. I was on a super high. There’s no high like the Most High, and believe me, I’ve experienced them all. God immediately delivered me from drugs and alcohol. I never had a single craving or withdrawal symptom … ” (Todd Bentley: Journey Into The Miraculous, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2008, p76).
Then the rock was beginning to push in the right direction – with “full on” speed and desire. He continues to write:
“Immediately … I got into the Bible. I was so hungry I would read the four Gospels in one setting … I remember the excitement of those first few months and the hunger that I could never satisfy for His presence and the Word. I’d stay up all night Saturday reading the Bible, praying, and watching Christian broadcasts. I so hungered for God! In my mind, there was not enough time in a day and I was even concerned that I’d oversleep and miss church on Sunday …” (p81).
“Two months after my salvation, I had an overwhelming desire for the Holy Spirit. Never satisfied, I kept thinking that there must be more … ” (p82).
“ … every day I couldn’t wait to get home from my job cleaning gutters and washing vinyl siding to be in His presence. I’d race into my bedroom and be hit with what felt like an electrical force field. The Holy Spirit was waiting for me … I’d close the bedroom door and weep, standing for three hours and telling Him how much I loved Him, and I’d feel tangible love back. This incredible intimacy lasted from four to twelve hours every day for almost three months … ” (p85).
If I remember correctly he contemplated his lack of education and wondered how he could ever advance in the kingdom of God with his background. Then, Acts 4:13 spoke to him: “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” He resolved to be with Jesus like they had been.
“Four years after my salvation, I still preached in the streets and had a daily prayer life where I regularly spent extended hours, days, months waiting in His presence, fasting, studying the Bible, and hungering even more for God” (p117).
“I developed tendonitis at work and had to go on compensation for three months. I cried out to the Lord: ‘Oh God, please visit me in power again like You did in that first extended season of visitation when I was introduced to the Holy Spirit.’ I purposed in my heart that I would pursue an encounter with God and committed that the time I normally spent working, I would spend with the Lord, I pressed in each day in desperation to sense His presence … I sensed moments of His presence, but inside, I was never satisfied – I wanted more! For almost two weeks I did everything I’d learned – praise, worship, speaking in tongues, interceding, and all I knew about prayer. There was a measure of routine to my prayer life that consisted of a half hour of speaking in tongues, a half hour of praise, and fifteen minutes of spontaneous prayer … Then one day it happened … In the midst of my desperate pursuit of a breakthrough, suddenly and without warning, a wind filled my lungs and I became supernaturally mute … The atmosphere of my room changed and I became aware of a strong presence of the Lord. I saw the smoke of His glory moving toward me – like liquid honey, like a warm blanket it enveloped me …” (p119).
“There was a new excitement in my spirit in prayer, a fiery passion in me to repeat the previous day’s experience. Wrecked, I didn’t want to do anything except spend time with the Lord. For four to twelve hours each day I would seek him in my apartment … ” (p120). This went on for three months.
“ … People around me said, ‘Todd, if I could only have half of what you’ve got, I’d be satisfied. Who are you to hunger for more?’ In response I would say, ‘Compared to how deep I know I can go, I’m not really deep at all.’ Passion and holy desperation came over me … At the same time, I was still experiencing God’s manifest glory on me. Yet, I knew I had only begun my journey of intimacy. ‘No, Lord, I know there’s more.’
So I spent a few days in prayer, never ceasing from the moment I awoke to bedtime, where I sought Him, and sought to draw ever nearer, crying out, ‘Oh, Lord, more, deeper … ’ I locked myself in that room and prayed in tongues, read the Word, played worship tapes, and worshiped Him. Drawing ever nearer to Him was my quest – I wasn’t satisfied with where I was or where I’d been, I just searched for the next realm in Him – for that place of glory-to-glory.”
Whatever got in my way was going to get out of the way because I didn’t have a shovel in my hand – the hunger inside me had the force of a bulldozer. ‘Either You touch me God, or I’m going to heaven. That’s it!’ I was so hungry I actually thought I’d die if God didn’t visit me. It was an unquenchable thirst … ” (p128).
“ … I was afraid that the Lord’s fellowship would leave and I would cry out, ‘Oh no, the Lord’s leaving, fellowship is over.’ But one particular time I was so hungry that I jumped from the floor and yelled, ‘No! God, I’m going to take hold of You!’ I wouldn’t let Him go and chased Him. ‘God,’ I cried, with determination, ‘Draw near to me. Fall on me again. Who are You to make me hungry and not feed me? Who are You to make me thirsty and not give me to drink? You fall on me with this glory and then You just take Yourself away? Forget it, God. I’m going to seek You until You fall on me again.’ Then, I’d pray in tongues and seek the Lord for another hour. Wham! – sandwiched to the floor again for another four hours! Whenever the presence of the Lord lifted, I’d be like a wild animal going after its prey and I’d fly off the floor and say, ‘Lord, No!’ chasing Him down, time and again and the cycle continued – wham and whoosh, on the floor again. Sometimes this cycle continued for as long as twelve hours” (p129).
This man was “full on” – a rock – impolite (“greedy”) in his boldness – putting demands on God – but God granted him his desires. God responded to boldness even though this man had no education and was as immature and unstable as Peter in the Bible. For instance, he would pray for hundreds and hundreds of deaf people before the first one was healed but he would just not take “no” for an answer. In preparation for a meeting he would ask God to give him “words of knowledge” and when God (for example) would tell him that he would heal a man of a pinched nerve, he would push in for follow-up information: where would the man be sitting, how old is he, what’s his name, would his family be sitting with him. Then, he would want another “word of knowledge” and another one and he would spend hours waiting on God – contending for breakthroughs.
In God – this is what gets results. God loves boldness and passion and he releases what we are asking for even though we may still be babies in the faith. This morning – whatever you state you are in – be encouraged and go for God – all of his grace. [Notice the breakthrough fervour of Solomon which God could not ignore – 1 Kings 8:62-9:9: “ … Solomon offered a sacrifice … twenty-two thousand cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats … the bronze altar before the Lord was too small to hold the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings … They celebrated before the Lord our God for seven days and seven days more, fourteen days in all … When Solomon had finished … the Lord appeared to him a second time … ” However, when Solomon fell into sin, he did so with the same intensity – 1 Kings 11:1-6: “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women … from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’ Nevertheless, Solomon … had seven hundred wives … and three hundred concubines and his wives led him astray … ” I also have the suspicion that God loved Paul so much and raised him up to be one of the important apostles because he had breakthrough zeal even though it was at first misdirected – Philippians 3:4-6: “ … If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: … as for zeal, persecuting the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.]
Sometimes – it is true – we will crash and burn and after having walked on water with Jesus, we may still deny him on the day of his arrest. Like Peter – we may abandon him with cursing and swearing. And then we feel so ashamed. We weep and our hearts break. The rock hurled down the wrong mountain.
However, Jesus did not give up on Peter and he will not give up on you. He was arrested and tortured and killed – on a cross – precisely for our failures. We live by forgiveness and not a perfect track record. Because he died we can have a go and because he died we have the right to become the children of God and then raid “the fridge of heaven” with boldness and confidence. There is a way of redemption. There is a way of drying our tears.
When Jesus met up again with Peter – after he had risen from the dead in victory – Jesus did not remonstrate with Peter – did not wag his finger at him. He did not come with guide-line and rules so that his unpredictable nature would be shut down. No – Jesus wanted “the Rock” to remain a rock – bolder and more passionate than ever before – but he wanted him to be passionate for him. He encouraged him to be passionate for him again: “Peter, it’s okay. You can love me again. I forgive you. Do not be ashamed but love me. Love me again. Push into me and what I can give you.”
I read from the Bible – John 21:7-17: “ … As soon as Simon Peter heard … ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat [typical!] … When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ … Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’ … The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ … ”
Jesus released Peter again into his passion: “Love me. Love me. Love me.” And then he continued with some bad news but an incredible promise. I read again from the Bible. John 21:18-19: “Jesus said: ‘ … I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God … ” There would be another crisis point coming in his life – like on the day of Jesus’ arrest – but this time he would not deny him. This time Peter would die for Jesus and he would die – according to his nature – with boldness – with an over-the-top attitude. According to tradition – Peter was crucified upside down at his own – bold – request, as he did not feel worthy to die the same way as Jesus. When Jesus predicted Peter’s death, he already foreshadowed that Peter would mature and become more stable – even in times of persecution and personal loss. This was good news and fueled his courage. He knew that he would end well.
This morning – you may have had your own history with Jesus – some boldness, some failure, some passive reactions. You may not know how to get closer to Jesus and experience him more. It’s not complicated. You don’t have to wait and study for years. You don’t have to be sorted out before Jesus calls you to walk on water. Be bold. Ask him for what you want. If you want to become a Christian, talk to him. He won’t reject you. If you want a miracle, ask for it and if it does not happen straight away, ask for it again and again. Break through. Do not give up. Jesus loved Peter and he will love you.
Now my last point. Peter attained much in God – and so may you – but it took him a long time to become more stable and dependable. He managed to be the first to walk on water but only for a few steps. Then boldness was replaced by fear because he began to think and his thinking was not trained – Matthew 14:30: “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”
Likewise, Peter managed to be the first to recognize and declare that Jesus was not just an ordinary teacher or prophet. He was the Christ – the one that they had been waiting for – the anointed Saviour – but then the same Peter was also the one that spoke against the mission of Christ. When Jesus had told the disciples – Mark : “ … I [original: the Son of Man] must suffer many things and be rejected … and killed … ”, Peter (having soared with breakthrough insight before would now crash with the same intensity) took him aside and began to rebuke him but – Mark : “ … Jesus turned … and rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of humans.’” If you say that he is the Christ, why not keep listening to him. [Cf. Matthew 17:4-5; John 13:6-10.]
Even when Peter was at the height of his powers, he had to guard against his strength becoming his weakness and needed correction from others which was rather humbling for such a mighty man of God. (Who should correct us after we have managed to walk on water?) You may be like Peter and you may be invaluable to the church for breakthroughs but not for the necessary follow-up.
The Bible records a run-in between two apostles: Paul and Peter. I read from a letter written by Paul – Galatians 2:11-21: “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy … When I aw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? … ’”
Peter had been the first to convert Gentiles and the first to eat with them. He broke through into this new mission outside of the Jewish nation. He was good for that kind of breakthrough but not the follow-up where he became intimidated by others and crumbled into hypocrisy (doing something that he did not believe in). It must have been humbling to receive a public correction from Paul who would lecture him on some foundational points of theology.
However, if you are a Peter, you need a Paul. No matter how far you may come in God, you need another Christian that holds you accountable. Your breakthrough does not guarantee the follow-up – sustained behaviour that is right and maintains what you have gained. Be accountable to someone and be humble before that person. We meet in small groups or one-on-one and then be honest with each other. Allow another Christian to speak into your life even though you may have walked on water and they have not.
When Jesus first met the man Simon, he immediately recognized his value. I remind us of what we heard in the beginning – from the Bible – John 1:42: “ … Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called [the Rock] … ” And Peter was the kind of rock which could force a breakthrough. He was bold – “full on” – always asking for everything. Be the same – lets’ experience something that hasn’t been experienced before – here in Toowoomba – be bold – ask Jesus to let us come and then walk on water – with thousands coming to faith, millions raised for the kingdom of God, healings in our families and joy gripping the rush-hour traffic. Peter had betrayed Jesus – yes – but Jesus did not shut him down. We are not letting past failures hold us back. This morning – we are asking: “More Jesus. More Jesus.” Amen.