Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Story of Peter

Matthew 16:13-19 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."

What do we know of Peter? He’s a fisherman, and several stories of him and Jesus are related to that. A few times he and his fellow fishermen get a bountiful catch after meeting Jesus. Then there’s the time he tried to walk with Jesus on the water. Remember the story of the transfiguration up on the mountain? What about the time of the washing of the feet, where he wanted Jesus to wash all of him? Peter was cutting off the servant’s ear when Jesus was arrested. Remember the breakfast on the beach, where Jesus challenged him 3 times to feed His sheep, restoring Peter after his 3 time denial? What other stories can you think of that focus on Peter?

It’s funny, that the stories that first came to mind were all in the Gospels. We see another side of Peter, though, in Acts. In fact, the first 12 chapters are all about Peter and how he had changed! In the Gospels he was impulsive, putting his foot in his mouth every other day by going to extremes in his devotion to Jesus. He was the one jumping out of the boat or throwing his whole body into the washbasin. In Acts, after being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we see him preaching 2 sermons, raising a young girl from the dead, being arrested several times for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, being rescued by an angel, preaching in several regions, initiating ministry to Gentiles, and eventually becoming the head of the church in Jerusalem. Did you get a sense of the change in Peter’s life? Did you see his transformation from a man driven by emotion and feelings, to one driven by the Gospel, by a love of God, by a Risen King?

What happened? A big part was the resurrection of Jesus. Peter’s faith in Jesus being the Christ, the son of the living God, became rock solid. There was no more wavering in his understanding of what God was about and doing in the world. There was the day of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit was given to the followers of Jesus. There was the Church, his support and encouragement from his friends.

Seek the presence of God. Peter spent 3 years walking with Jesus, hearing His voice and teachings, listening to His explaining the meaning of His stories, and saw many miracles. Through Peter seeing Jesus die and resurrected, He understood that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Jesus was the King. There was nothing his King couldn’t do. In Matthew 16:16 Peter made his confession of who he thought Jesus was, but in Acts we see Peter live out that confession. As we celebrate this Easter Sunday the resurrection of Jesus, we understand that it was all about God restoring us to fellowship with Himself. It is all about His presence in our life. However you can do it in whatever situation you are in, pursue God. When someone sets out to be a carpenter or an accountant, what do they do? When I graduated high school I was heading for Chartered Accounting. Math came easily, and I had some interest in it. I was looking at a 4 year degree, with a co-op option that allowed me to get some experience in the field. After that there were exams to be studied and passed. One thing I have come to understand about being an author is that it is like any other profession - to be good at it you have to work at it. Of some 10,000 people who want to right, probably only a tenth of them will actually put some effort into it and sit down regularly to write. Of those, only a percentage will put effort into attending conferences and put some money into learning the craft. Of those, only a percentage will go further and read books and learn the craft. When all is said and done, only a handful of those 10,000 will make it because they have taken the time to be the best they can be. What about Jesus Christ. How much effort and time and resources do we put into getting to know Him, to understanding the revelation of God, the Kingdom of God? God waits for us every day as we go out the door for the invitation to go with us. With a minor adjustment of attitude and priority, Jesus can easily be our constant companion throughout each and every day. This is the foundation of salvation - God’s presence. You want to stay close to God for life, and not fall away as some have done, seek the presence of God. Love God with all your heart, soul, and might.

Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is no secret to the Christian walk. It is all about relationship. We relate to the Holy Spirit in Truth. There is a walking in step with the Spirit; a leading and guiding to Jesus; a Comforter. When we look at the story of Peter, we understand the impact of the Holy Spirit in his life. Starting at the day of Pentecost there was a power in His life, in his preaching that only came as a result of the power of the Risen Lord. Remember the story of the angel getting him out of prison? The supernatural was at work in his life, protecting and guiding until Peter was once again in the presence of His Lord and Savior. Ephesians 5:18-19 talks of being constantly filled with the Spirit. We are called to holiness, and that will only happen as we allow the Spirit to have free reign in our life. This involves understanding our gifts and what God created us for. There is a freedom that comes to being all you can be in Jesus. When you read the book of acts you see the power of the Spirit working in and through the disciples and apostles. Remember the story of Peter where he had that dream and was commanded to eat the unclean things. Imagine what that meant to the church of his day! It was only in obedience to the Spirit, though, that the church grew. You and I wouldn’t have the Gospel if Peter said, “No” and everyone followed his example. Follow the Spirit, not the church or tradition. God may want to use you to do a new thing. Want a life that changes the world? Seek the guidance of the Spirit.

Seek the fellowship of the Church. Peter’s faith was not lived in isolation. Indeed, all his work was for those around him. At times he certainly helped and led others. At other times he was in need of others’ help and prayer. The church, the body of Jesus - it is amazing that wherever one goes there is a commonality of fellowship that extends beyond filial and platonic relationships. Bonnie found 5 new friends recently. They are ladies from different parts of the United States, but within a few short days they became fast friends. It is not about talents or any kind of comparison with each other. It is about the bond of love, the oneness of our faith. One sad thing I have noticed is that people tend to leave the church when they have problems in their lives. That’s the very opposite of what should happen. Too often we shoot our wounded, or are afraid of being judged, when the body should instead be about grace and love. At our Good Friday service we had 6 different churches together. Each of those other pastors I consider a friend. And though our theology may have different emphasis or fine points, the central truth is that we are all one in Christ. We are all on that same pilgrimage of becoming more Christ-like in all we think, say, and do. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says that “two are better than one because they have a good return for their labour. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Though short times of isolation can be beneficial in our relationship and dedication to God, don’t let things go unresolved in the body. We have to talk and work things out; otherwise Satan gets a foothold in our lives and can mess things up. Love your neighbour as yourself.

Seek the Presence of God.

Seek the Guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Seek the Fellowship of the Church.
Take these to heart, and understand who your King is, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

No comments: