Peter and Me - Luke 22:31,32
I have given the testimony of my
conversion at various times since coming to this church. Sometimes
yíall heard the long version and sometimes the short version. More
often than not, yíall have the long version since I am not real good at
short versions of anything. However, I do not believe that I have given
yíall the background of my call to ministry or why I picked my life
verses. I would like to share that with yíall tonight and this will
give yíall another clue as to what makes me tick. I know yíall have
wondered about that from time to time.
My childhood was not exactly ideal.
It was worse than some, but better than others were. I wish that
someone would have actively prayed and witnessed to my mother and I
when I was a small child. The difference in our lives would have been
unbelievable. Would to God that the S.A.F.E. program had been around
I attended a mainline denominational
church for several years, but never really heard the Gospel. I even
sang in the choir and received a bible (not a good one) for perfect
attendance in Vacation Bible School, but I cannot ever remember hearing
the Gospel in that church. We choir boys told dirty jokes before we
went into the loft and then watched the old folks nod out after they
checked out who came in with who and what they were wearing.
Consequently, by the time I reached my
teenage years I had no use for church. It was the sixties and I was the
only real hippie in a redneck town. Imagine the stress that caused in
my life! Yes, I went to Youth for Christ meetings because some of the
best looking girls were there, but my mind was not on God. I saw a
couple of Billy Graham movies and signed some cards. I even found
Oliver B. Greene tracts at the Laundromat and I know I said the
sinnerís prayer several times since I said it after each tract I read
and one time I know I found at least three of them there on one visit.
I imagine that part of the problem was
that no one tried to disciple me or spend time with me to be sure that
I understood what I was doing. I guess they were content that I signed
the cards and my name was on their attendance roll. So, I just grooved
to my own thing. If they would have had such a category in the
yearbook, I would have been voted most likely to be in jail.
Some of it must have stuck with me,
because I can remember a very stressful day in the USAF when I took off
in my truck, looked up, and said, "God, be merciful to me a sinner."
Sadly, I needed a Philip to come and ask, "Understandest what thou
sayest?" I would have answered, "Not really."
Finally, in 1975, I
went to a church in Dover, Delaware to get a guy from Moncks Corner, SC
off my back. I figured that I would walk in and walk out and then I
would be done with it. It did not work out that way. Though it was a
Baptist Church, a few things reminded me of my childhood affiliation
and made me at least comfortable. They had an organ and sang the
Doxology, so they couldnít be all bad. I think that was the first
sermon that I ever really heard that was based on the Bible.
I cannot tell you anything about the
sermon. I was not accustomed to hearing one so I did not know how to
get anything out of one, I reckon. I sensed that something was going on
there that was for real and I had to know about it. After the Lordís
Supper and the benediction, I grabbed my wife by the hand and nearly
drug her into the pastorís office with me to find out what was going
He asked me if I was a sinner. I knew I
had broken enough of the Ten Commandments to qualify to have sinner on
my resume. Then he asked if I wanted to go to Hell. I said that I had
told plenty of folks to go there, but that I had not planned on
visiting there myself. Then he asked if I knew I could escape Hell
would I accept the way of escape. I replied that I would be a fool not
to do so, so I accepted Jesus as my personal Saviour. I immediately
felt like a load was taken off me, though really I did not even know I
was carrying one. Remember that I wasnít seeking anything other than
relief from my Christian buddy.
When my wife, who also received Jesus,
and I walked out of the office and a few couples were still there. The
Pastor introduced us and announced our profession of faith they start
saying, "Glory to God, and Alleluia." That struck me as odd because I
swore that I was in a Baptist Church and it seemed like I was in a
"holy roller" church. Before my Pentecostal friends take offense,
please remember in my mainline denomination, if you had said anything
during the service, you would have caused at least three coronaries and
most likely be asked to leave. My family called Pentecostals holy
rollers so that was all I knew to say about what I was then
experiencing. I call myself Baptacostal now. I am Baptist enough for
the Pentecostals to pray for me and Pentecostal enough to make the
Baptists pray for me so I get twice as much prayer that way. ;-)
I was issued a bible when I enlisted in
the Air Force in 1970. You went down this assembly line and got shots,
a shaving kit, and a Gideons KJV New Testament. I carried that NT
around like a good luck charm. I would put it at the head of my bunk
when I was overseas and then go out and party like the devil. I
remember one night in Thailand, I heard something clanging that sounded
like something from "For Whom The Bell Tolls", and I was afraid. I
grabbed the NT and started praying until I fell asleep. I woke up OK
and it stayed on the shelf until I needed it again.
I did try to read it at times, but it
never influenced me or made any sense to me. How could I know that I
was seeding and watering myself at those times? They were just stories
until April 6, 1975. When I left that church that day I felt really
changed somehow. I dug out that bible from VBS and that NT and
commenced to reading a lot. It seemed like a light turned on and I
could even sense that God was pointing out certain Scriptures to me
like He was saying, "Son, I want you to see this and understand this."
It was a different experience to say the least.
My language also changed dramatically. I
had the foulest mouth on any side of the Mississippi. Folks would clock
me to see how many times I could say a certain word in a fifteen-minute
conversation. After all, I was in the military and everyone knows that
if you took the cuss words out of a five minute military conversation
you could convey the same message in one or two minutes. The only
problem with that is that the military man might not understand it or
miss the import of the message. We say that a person cussed like a
sailor. Well, Iíve been a sailor, an airman, and a soldier and I canít
say that the Navy has a corner on the market. Imagine my laughter when
I took a leadership course and it said that a good NCO never uses
profane language! I figured there were very few good NCOs if that was
the criteria for excellence.
I had tried to quit on my own. After all,
it was OK for me to cuss. I was an adult, but I had a two- year old
daughter that I did not want to mimic my right flowery speech. It was
just so ingrained. My wife would fuss at me for my language, I would go
over my conversation in my mind, and I could not remember saying
anything out of line or inappropriate for Sunday School. It quit April
6, 1975. I did not even have to try. It just stopped. I remember
smacking my finger while working under my car and I let a single
expletive slip. I ducked expecting lightening to strike me. Over the
years, I have had some times when I left something slip, but I almost
stutter when I say it and I am immediately conscious of it. However, it
is nothing like it was before my conversion.
I was astonished at my conversion. I can
remember going out soul winning with my Pastor and while he was talking
I would be thinking, "Man, I canít believe I am here talking to folks
about the Bible." If you would have asked me even a month before my
conversion if I thought that I would ever do anything like that I would
have told you that you were crazy for even asking. One of the times I
was having troubles as a teen, one of the mainline pastors asked me if
I had ever considered going into the ministry. I was sixteen. I said
that I could write books on sin, but I knew nothing about the Bible. He
told me that to preach about sin I had to know about sin. I replied
that I agreed, but I didnít think it was to be from first hand
experience. Here I was six years later in the early stages of becoming
a minister. It still amazes me. I have never been to Damascus, but I
know the road well.
Here is where I finally get to the Peter
and me part. Hey, Iím a Baptist! What can I say? I need a while to get
to my point. ;-) I wanted to be the best Christian God ever had. I read
my NT through three times a week at a minimum. I told everyone I could
about Jesus. I was in church every time the doors swung open and I was
on Visitation two to three times a week. I asked God to make me a Peter
and a Paul! I was so thrilled about the things that God was showing me
that I told God that the even if the devil convinced me I was going to
Hell, I would still preach for Him. What zeal! What stupidity!!!
I am not sure how long it was after that I was studying Scripture and
taking notes. I was copying Hebrews 4:12 and I misspelled the word
spirit. It is a simple word and I said to myself, "You dummy, how in
the world can you misspell @&#%* spirit?" I freaked out because I
thought that I had just blasphemed the Holy Spirit and committed the
unpardonable sin. NOW, I know that is not the way to do it and that the
word spirit in that passage is not even referring to the Holy Spirit,
but manís spirit. However, to a young man and a young Christian that
was so excited about his salvation and knowing his own track record
very afraid that if there was a way to totally mess up this great thing
he would surely find that way it was a horror of horrors.
I was a mess for a long time. Depression
was a daily thing for me. I did not want to live and sin anymore, but I
did not want to die and go to Hell either. Iíd hear, "What A Friend We
Have In Jesus" and just collapse on the floor in tears. Everything I
said or did seemed like it was an affront to God and just adding to the
list of my sins. The kids were being finicky about their supper and I
told them to eat because that chicken gave its life for them. A cold
chill came over me because I felt that I had made light of the blood
and body of Christ! I read John Bunyanís "Grace Abounding For The Chief
Of Sinners" and swore old John had me wired and was writing about my
life. I strongly recommend it to every Christian.
All of this was no fun, but in a way, I
set myself up for this in my ignorant zeal much like Peter set himself
up for a fall. During one of my dark moments, as I lay there on the
floor in tears I saw myself standing behind a pulpit preaching and I
took this as God affirming that one day I would do that. Was it a
vision or a mental picture of my heartís desire? God knows. After that,
I read the following verses and claimed them as my call to ministry.
31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
One day, I will hear God tell me when and where he warned me to watch
out for the devil and his snares. It may have been through my reading,
a sermon, a friend, or all of them, but like Peter, I just didnít hear
it or at the time, I just did not want to hear it. I missed the warning
at least three times in my life just like Peter denied Christ three
times. We know this was the Last Supper and Jesus was trying to get in
some last minute teaching and prepare them for His arrest and
crucifixion. He gave them the New Covenant, but what were these lads
24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over
them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be
as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. KJV
The Son of God is fixiní to be crucified and they are wondering who is
going to be top dog in the Kingdom. This is where many Christians set
themselves up for the fall. They mistake the Church for a business and
the calling for a career. They want to do whatever it takes to get
ahead. They miss the whole message of Christ.
The way up for a true disciple is down.
Christ, our Head came down to dwell among us and here He knelt down as
the lowest servant. He that is the elder son or he that wants the extra
portion of the first born must become as the youngest, who usually gets
the hand me downs or the leftovers. He that wants to be the Boss or
Number One must become a servant. We are to have no egos in the kingdom
because it is His kingdom. If He chooses to exalt you than it is by His
grace and though you are exalted, that exaltation should humble you
because it is of grace.
1 Cor 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. KJV
Pride comes before a fall. All of these lads would be fleeing Christ in
the garden. One of them would leave his cloak behind because he would
be running so fast. In those days, not having your outer cloak was
considered being naked. Makes you wonder what they would have thought
of our underwear commercials and our swimsuits. Yep, all those guys
that thought they were so great would be mighty small in a short time.
Peter was the first to speak in most
instances, somewhat like me. Because he was so vocal, he may have
thought he would be first because the rest of them guys were just too
backward. This may be why he ended up with the greatest failure of them
all. The others ran for their lives and you could call them cowards.
You might even say they denied Christ in a sense, but Peter denied Him
as much or more as He had affirmed His loyalty a few hours earlier.
Christ had told Peter that the devil wanted to have him. The word
desired means the devil wanted to put old Peter on trial. That sounds
familiar. He basically did the same thing with Job. Neither Peter nor I
had any clue that when we made our boasts, sincere though we may have
been that we were setting ourselves up for a Job experience. To sift is
to run you through something that will knock the lumps out of you and
finely granulate you. What
Peter did not see at the time was that in
the end while the devil meant to grind old Petra/small stone into
useless dust God used this sifting to make Peter into refined flour
from which He could use to prepare a serving of the Bread of Life! My
hope is that God will do the same with me.
Christ knew Peter well and He gave Him a
warning and a chance to shut up, but he did not take it. He had to open
33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
I am sure that Peter meant every word he said, just as I did when I
said that I would preach for Christ even if I were convinced that I was
going to Hell. We both overestimated ourselves and underestimated the
devil. We had big hearts, big mouths, but at the time puny brains! We
jist did not know how weak our flesh really was and how strong our
adversary was. We all know what the result was for Peter.
he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before
that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. KJV
The tough part about telling God what we are going to do is that He
already knows what we are going to do. The sad part is that what He
knows is all too often far short of what we proclaim. The great part is
that while He knows it He still loves us and has plans for us.
32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren
I mentioned earlier that I got twice the prayer by being a Baptacostal.
I need twice the prayer and I covet all the prayer I can get for me.
However, while I will gladly accept the prayers of ten thousands of His
saints I am overjoyed that Christ is praying for me as my intercessor.
(Heb. 7:25) Sometimes, the saints that are praying for me are standing
in the need of prayer themselves and God may not hear them. Christ
always gets His prayers answered!!! Glory and praise!!!
I think it is significant that Christ
prayed that Peterís faith would not fail. He did not say He prayed that
his works failed not. He knew Peterís works were about to take a speedy
nosedive. Not only would he deny Christ, but also he would give up on
his calling after the resurrection. In John 21:3, he was going fishing.
Christ had not yet confronted Peter and gone through the "Simon Peter,
lovest thou me" series. Peter probably thought that all he could do was
go back to fishing after his failure. How could God use such a loser?
Christ prayed for Peterís faith. When he
says fail not, He does not mean that it will not waiver or ebb and
flow. He means that it is not to die or cease completely. It can be the
size of the smallest mustard seed, but it still has not failed
completely or died.
If we could have looked inside
of Peterís heart, we would have seen that he still believed Jesus was
the Son of the Living God, the Messiah. However, his faith was not
strong enough to enter into death with Christ like he bragged. His
faith was small, but it was there. It was not dead. He did not go back
to fishing because his faith in Christ was dead, but because his faith
in himself was dying. Small faith produces small works. Great faith
produces great works. People who fear or despair may produce no works,
but it does not mean their faith in Christ is dead. It may mean that
their faith in themselves is dying and they do not know that is the
best thing that can happen to them!
Peter would need to be converted. He did
not need to be saved. He was a believer. He would need to come back to
Christ after his works failed. He would also be converted in character.
He would be tempered and humbled and more fit for the Masterís use. He
would be changed and yet, he would still be human and need to be chewed
out by Paul for his indecisive ways in dealing with Jews and Gentiles.
(Gal 2:11-13) There would be some things about grace in Paulís teaching
that he would find hard to understand. (2 Peter 3:16) Yet, he would be
converted. He would come back to the Lord because his conscience could
let him go to no other. Peter told Jesus why he and the other disciples
could not leave Him when others did so. "Lord, to whom shall we go?
thou hast the words of eternal life." John 6:68 KJV
Jesus prayed for Peter. Jesus knew
that Peter would fail, but that his faith would remain. Jesus knew that
he would be converted or returned to Him. That is why with the very
pronouncement of Peterís failure Jesus commissioned him for ministry.
He said strengthen the brethren.
We see Peter doing this all through Acts and in both of his epistles.
He gave directions on the choosing of another apostle to replace Judas.
He was used to bring in 3000 new converts on the day of Pentecost thus
strengthening the church or brethren corporately. He handled the
problem of Ananias and Sapphira giving the brethren the holy fear of
God that they needed to maintain integrity in the sharing of all things
in common. He was used to bring in the Gentiles turning the church from
just a Jewish experience into truly an all the world experience. He had
to strengthen the Jewish brethren with the teaching of God bringing the
Gentiles. Jesus reaffirmed this mission to Peter in John 21 when he was
instructed to feed his sheep, but that is another lesson. ;-)
The list goes on and on. Peter the one
who Jesus called blessed of God and a satan almost in the same breath
and the one who denied Him three times ended up with an important
mission. Peter who tried to walk away after his failure because he was
not aware that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance held
the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. (Romans 11:29;Matthew 16:19) He was
called and gifted to strengthen the brethren and that he did!
I believe that I have been given the
same calling. I believe that I am to strengthen the brethren. I have
been sifted in many ways. I have failed in many ways. There have been
some times in my life that I may not have denied Christ with my lips,
but my life was a denial. Instead of the title, "The Greatest
Christian," I am more qualified as "The Assistant Chief of Sinners." I
am only assistant chief because Paul took the chief position. I have
tried to walk away from my calling because of my failures, but I
cannot. I believe that He will not let me and I will be miserable if I
try. Like Peter, though I have been converted in many ways and have
returned to the Lord I am still very human. I am nothing in my own
strength. Anything I do right I know comes from Him because I know what
I am and can do in my flesh. I have learned the hard way the truth of
that old song that says, "The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not
trust your own." In fact, my prayer to be like Paul and Peter is
somewhat answered, except I seem to have gotten more of their negative
traits than the positive ones.
My calling has been reaffirmed in this
local body, by you saints, and on the Internet by other brothers and
sisters. Some I only know by screen name and others through many e-mail
conversations. Through S.A.F.E., Sunday School, and these Sunday night
teachings, I have tried to turn you resolutely in a certain direction.
That direction is Christ-ward. I have sought to point you to Christ and
to rely upon Him and His word alone for your wisdom and strength. I
have sought to affirm you and your gifts and to help you to get past
looking at your own abilities and look to the One who is "able to do
exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the
power that worketh in us." (Eph 3:20) In this way, you will be
established on a solid foundation and become the mature Christians
spoken of in Ephesians 4 that are not easily tossed about.
According to the feed back from you
and my net congregation, God has been blessing you and them as yíall
have sought Him as your strength and power. I can see the Lord working
in you. You folks here I can see it live with my eyes and from the
Netizens, I see it in their words. God is alive and His Word is true.
The message is of great importance. The messenger is not. The messenger
has an easy job if he just delivers it as given.
In closing, I would like to point you
again to Him and His Word. If any of you are afraid that God cannot use
you because of past failures, Peter and I assure you that you are
wrong. If He gave you a calling and a gift, you still have them. You
need to get back in place where He can reaffirm it through confession
and then making yourself available to be used again. God always has
children, your brethren, which need strengthened. Will you do it? You
will also find strength as you let go and minister.
You have failed. Frankly, I can think
of no person in Scripture that God used that did not fail and some fell
many times. I encourage you to fall one more time. This time fall on
your knees and receive forgiveness, strength, and power to join Peter
and me in ministry. Time is short and the need is great. While we are
rescuing the lost that are perishing, let us also rescue the wounded in
Christ. God loves us. Let us love others. Let us point them
Christ-ward! Father, make it so!