From Warning to Wonderful
February 5, 2017
A Warning With A Promise
We all have had warnings given to us. Some were meant to help us as “Look out for that car!” “Don’t touch that! It’s hot!” They had implied promises because that car will hurt you will get burned. Other warnings were threats with negative promises. “Don’t make me pull this car over!” The implied promise was that something very negative would happen to you and often you knew what unless your parents liked to change things up so you might get a surprise.
I once asked my son if he wanted me to blister him. He said no quite emphatically! I asked if he knew what that meant and he said no just as emphatically. He had no clue, but it did not bode well or sound good and he wanted no part of it. Sometimes we do not know the promise, but the tone in which it is given is enough to change our course of action or attitude.
Most did come out with the promise being very clear. “If you do not quit crying I will give you something to cry about.” “Don’t make me say it again or you’re grounded.” “That phone pings one more time during supper and I am taking it away for a month!’ A co-worker and I once threatened to break a co-worker’s phone if it pinged one more time with an annoying sound.
Jesus gave a stern warning to Peter at the Last Supper. Fortunately, there wee actually two positive promises along with the warning.
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.
Early in my Christian walk, I aspired to be like Peter and Paul. The problem was I was only looking at their good days and not their bad days as well. I do seem to have many of their weaknesses, but I was hoping for their strengths. After Jesus, I want to meet my soul brother, Peter, and then Paul, my mentor.
This is a serious warning Peter is being given, but I imagine Jesus giving it in a very loving tone. When someone said your name twice in that day it was almost like when your parents called you a couple of times and you did not respond. That is when they broke out all three names. Repeating Simon twice was to make sure he was listening.
To tell him that Satan desired to have him would make you think Peter was really going to pay attention. The desire was in the intensity of a demand! Satan was saying something like, “Let me have him! I’ll show you what your lead man is like!” It wasn’t a small request. Satan wanted to have at him much like he wanted God to remove the hedge from around Job. Picture the meanest junkyard dog snarling and straining at his chain to come for you and you may have a nearly accurate picture of satan desiring Peter.
Sift like wheat is not a small thing. Many of us remember Mom or MeMaw making homemade pie crusts or dumplings. She would roll out her dough after having placed the flour in a sifter to get out the clumps. The sifting satan wanted to do was more like threshing wheat where you thrashed and thrashed it to separate the chaff from the wheat. He had a real beating in mind for Peter, not just a soft sifting like Mom’s flour. It was a knock down drag out desire. He had that desire, but as we shall see, I think Jesus put limits on satan just like God did for Job, but the sifting was still painful.
The wonderful promise with this warning is that Jesus said that He had prayed for Peter. That mitigated some of the devil’s plans right there because Jesus has never had a prayer denied. He had not left Peter alone at the mercy of the devil. He had covered Peter with a bulletproof vest with that prayer.
I think it is really important to see what that prayer was for Peter. It was that his faith failed not. It was not that Peter’s works would fail not because his works were going to fail. His works were going to crash and burn. Jesus prayed for faith to remain in the sifting and after the failure of his works. It is all about faith as it has been from the Garden.
Pete needed to be converted, not in the salvation sense, but from trusting in himself. When he was changed from self-dependence tChrist-dependent, he was to strengthen the brethren. Not only does this mean strengthen their faith, but also to turn them in the right direction and confirm them. Peter was a leader, but to properly lead his brethren and strengthen them he needed to be submitted to Christ and dependent on Him so Peter could lead his brethren to do the same and confirm or strengthen them in their faith and walk.
A Wild Vow
33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
How did Peter respond to this warning and promise? It was almost like he did not hear most of it. He responds with a wild vow that just gave the devil more ammunition to go after him. Was he sincere? I am sure. Was he prideful? Oh yes. Matthew tells us that Peter said that though all men would be offended, he would not be offended.
Be careful about making vows especially if you are a new believer or under some sort of stress. Your zeal or situation can make you give a foolish vow. Jephthah made a vow that left him without heirs because he said he would offer up the first thing to greet him after his military victory as a burnt offering. His only daughter was the first to greet him and he should have figured she would the first. She lived the rest of her life unmarried and he had no grandchildren. He meant well and it was it was made in gratitude for victory, but not thought out and very unwise.
I also made a very foolish vow many years back and satan used it to sift me like wheat. That is why Luke 22:31,32 became my life verses and call to ministry. I was only a couple of months in the Lord when in a moment of sheer joy I said, “Lord, even if satan convinced I was going to Hell I would still preach for you because You are the truth.” That was insanely or inanely unwise because what happened shortly thereafter was an incident that made me think that I committed the unpardonable sin and my life cratered into a place where I did not want to live because I lost His love and did not want to die and go to Hell.
I look back and I can see how the Lord tried to comfort me the night I did that, but satan knew that the fear of abandonment was my Achilles heel. I was so distraught that I could not be comforted. Pastors and friends tried to comfort me and often I quoted the verses they wanted to use, but could not quite remember the verse or they would start it and I would finish it.
I was not a believer in visions at the time as I was a good Baptist. However, in a moment of tears and regret, I saw myself behind a pulpit preaching. I told the Lord I had to talk to someone who could help and a name popped into my head. I called that person and when I was telling him what happened and what I was going through he said. “God must have something really great for you to do.” I thought he was nuts as I was doomed, not ordained, appointed or anointed!
Yet, through many changes and struggles I have been in ministry for many years. Just as I thought my change or conversion process was fairly complete, I ended up in an Assembly of God church when I would have told you I would never join just five or so years ago. The process is obviously not complete.
Still, I do not recommend making any kind of vow without much prayer. The heat of a moment, joyful or sorrowful, is not the time to make a vow. Better to never vow than to vow and not keep it.
A Wavering Faith
55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.
56 But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.
57 And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.
58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.
59 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.
60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
The story of Peter’s denial of Christ is well known. The one who would never be offended and would go to jail and death for Christ failed miserably and wept miserably. He may not have thought that he had committed the unpardonable sin, but he was certainly no longer a disciple and if he had any spot in the Kingdom, it would be a rather lowly position. He allowed fear of men to rob him of his joy because he did not know himself as well as he thought he did. We are often in that position and can let fear control us. That is why we must be Christ and Spirit dependent and not self-reliant. His faith in Christ may have wavered, but the only faith that failed was his faith in himself and it was about time and to his gain.
Mar 16:6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
Praise God, Jesus knew Peter’s place in the Kingdom and exactly how he was feeling. Had the angel just said to go tell his disciples Peter would not have thought that he was included and would have waved goodbye to the others as they went off to Galilee. But to hear it said His disciples and Peter made no mistake that Jesus was expecting to see Peter and all was forgiven. Yet, it is quite possible that he still did not get it. He may have figured it was a mistake that he was mentioned. He may have thought it tell his disciples and not Peter.
2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee.
They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
When we are out of fellowship with the Lord or think we are out for the count. Because of the devil’s lies we often go back to something that we are comfortable with doing or going to a place that gives us some sense of peace. For Peter, it was fishing. Note that we have here nine out of the eleven disciples. We don’t know where the other two are at this time.
Note, that while Peter may have felt like he was out of the group because of his failure, the group did not feel the same. He was still a leader to them. After all, they ran from the start. Only John was with Christ through it all. There are only nine and we are not told where the other two were. They were possibly still hiding in fear.
Like stepping out of boat on to the raging sea, Peter at least tried to make good on his vow. He went to the courtyard and the others did not so how could they judge him when their fleeing was just as bad as his verbal denial. So when Peter said I need some time fishing, they were all for going with him. Little did they know Jesus was going to be waiting for them when they came back empty handed and still heavy hearted. Peter definitely did not know that a wonderful thing was waiting for him in the morning.
A Wonderful Assignment
15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (AGAPAO) thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (PHILEO) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (AGAPAO) thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (PHILEO) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (PHILEO) thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest (PHILEO) thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love (PHILEO) thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Jesus did not discuss this until they had eaten a hearty breakfast. Sometimes hunger can deter from learning, but this was an act of love and care before full restoration of a beloved disciple. They had often fellowshipped around a meal and Jesus wanted them to be at ease with Him and to feel that same love and fellowship with Him.
He also needed a good place to have this discussion with Peter. He made his great profession and vow in front of the rest of the disciples at a meal. It was only fitting that he confess before them and as he was already given the role of the one who would strengthen his brethren they needed to see his restoration.
Paul said he was the least of the Apostles because he was born out of due time as he was not one of the original twelve or even the one they replaced Judas with on the day of Pentecost. Of the original twelve, Judas made the worst decisions in that he betrayed Christ. After that, Peter was next with his verbal denial. The others ran in fear, but Peter denied him. Peter had the highest heights of the twelve and also some of the worst lows. Paul called himself the Chief of Sinners because he persecuted the church, but Peter may have considered himself the Chief because of his rash vow and denial of Christ. Because of my rash vow and the aftermath, I have often thought that I was the Assistant Chief of Sinners.
That was going to end here with Peter. Jesus asked if he really did love him more than the other disciples as he indicated in his vow. He had to humble himself and change that view. In fact, many think that Jesus was being harsh to Peter and making him recant three times because of his three denials. That may be a part of the reason, but there is more to it if we leave the English and go back to the Greek.
We are limited in our language in that our word love covers everything. We love God, family, country, cars, dogs, steak, red and so on. The Greek has a few more words. They have one for sexual love, playful love, love of self, longstanding love, friendship love and selfless love.
When Peter made his vow, he was talking agape love that never fails and loves because it loves and really only God has that kind of love in perfect form. He found out that he did not have that, but more of a phileo type of love, which is where we get Philadelphia or city of brotherly love albeit many in Philadelphia are not seeing that city live up to its name. It is a friendship love in most uses of the word.
It was really the same love the other disciples had for Jesus. Peter was just the uber-extrovert full of energy and passion, but the love was the same. Once Peter realized that restoration could begin.
We see Jesus asking Peter if he had agape love for Him and Peter replied with the lesser term. Peter was told to feed Christ’s lambs. You do not entrust your weakest of your flock to just anybody. This is an expression of trust in Peter. He is asked again and he gives the same answer. Peter is told to care for Christ’s sheep or the more mature ones. The third time Peter is very humbled and tells Christ that He knows that Peter loves Him that much. He again says to feed his sheep. As we see the progression from lambs to sheep, it would be logical to assume that this time indicated to care for the whole flock.
We see Peter stepping up to his role given to him by Jesus at the Last Supper and affirmed here manifested on Pentecost after he was really changed or converted when the Holy Spirit indwelled him. Yet, we also read that Paul caught him in hypocrisy at Antioch because of the fear of men. He ate with Gentiles until some men sent from James came then he did not eat with them. He was still used until he died even with this chronic flaw.
So we see that after the warning, a wild vow and wavering faith Peter still received a wonderful assignment in ministry. We can be comforted and challenged in this because a less than agape faith is accepted by Christ to serve Him. Failure does not mean rejection or a recall because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Add to the fact that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains that no Apostle ever did we can see Christ accepts less faith than that for salvation and service.
Unsaved friend, rejoice that small faith can get you to Heaven if the faith is in Christ and not yourself. He is willing to save you. He often said His disciples had little faith and look what He did for them. Bring your little faith and allow Him to grow it.
Brothers and Sisters. Have you blown it? Has your faith wavered? Have you failed to live up to your vows or promises to Him? Those may have been what you thought you could do in your strength and that He required. In reality, He may not have even required those vows and if it was something He required He wanted your faith so He could accomplish His will in you. As Pastor Mike Mizell has said, “Don’t use muscle where God wants to do a miracle.” Sit down and dine with Him. Let Him feed you, humble you, commission you and then indwell you completely. Let Him convert/change you and then you can strengthen others in the path they need to take. Rejoice, little is accepted. Give it to Him and He shall multiply it. Maranatha!