Peter and Me

April 10, 2013



Luke 22:31,32

I have given the testimony of my conversion at various times since coming to this church. Sometimes y’all heard the long version and sometimes the short version. More often than not, y’all have the long version since I am not real good at short versions of anything. However, I do not believe that I have given y’all the background of my call to ministry or why I picked my life verses. I would like to share that with y’all tonight and this will give y’all another clue as to what makes me tick. I know y’all 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 then.


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 sinner’s 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 couldn’t 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 Lord’s Supper and the benediction, I grabbed my wife by the hand and nearly drug her into the pastor’s office with me to find out what was going on.


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 wasn’t 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, I’ve been a sailor, an airman, and a soldier and I can’t 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 can’t 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 didn’t 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, I’m 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 man’s 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. I’d 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 Bunyan’s “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 heart’s desire? God knows. After that, I read the following verses and claimed them as my call to ministry.

Luke 22:31-32
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 didn’t 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 thinking about?


Luke 22:24-26

24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
26 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 fixin’ 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 his mouth.

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.

34 And 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 Peter’s faith would not fail. He did not say He prayed that his works failed not. He knew Peter’s 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 Peter’s 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 Peter’s 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 Master’s 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 Paul’s 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 Peter’s failure Jesus commissioned him for ministry. He said strengthen the brethren.

Sterizo (stay-rid’ -zo) meaning to set fast, to turn resolutely in a certain direction, or (figuratively) to confirm KJV-fix, (e-) stablish, stedfastly set, strengthen.
(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

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 solidfoundation 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 y’all 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!

http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/peter-and-me-dr-ronald-shultz-sermon-on-servanthood-34390.asp

 

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June 9, 2010


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