Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Love Lifted Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 22:54-62 (NASB). Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Who was Peter? Peter was a fisherman whom Jesus called to be one of his twelve disciples (apostles). Jesus said to Peter and to his brother Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (See Matt. 4:19-20). Peter did not hesitate. He didn’t have to have all his questions answered before he left everything to follow Jesus. When Jesus called him, he immediately left it all behind to be Christ’s follower. So, Peter was a man of great faith. How many of us, when God calls us, willingly leave it all behind to follow him wherever he leads us? At another time, Jesus walked to his disciples on the sea. They were terrified. Jesus spoke to them, told them it was him, and that they were not to be afraid. Peter doubted, so he asked for proof. He asked that if it was the Lord that the Lord would command him to come to him on the water. Jesus said, “Come,” and Peter walked on the water toward Jesus. But, then he saw the wind and the waves, and he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried, “Lord, save me!” It would not be the only time in his life the Lord saved him. Jesus told him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” So, this man of great faith who left all to follow Jesus, without reservation, now doubted Jesus. He got his eyes off Jesus and on to the circumstances surrounding him, and he began to sink. People of great faith can have times when they doubt and they get their eyes off Jesus, and they need to be rescued, too. (See Matt. 14) Peter was a clay vessel in the hands of the Potter, continually being molded. One day Jesus asked his disciples who people thought he was, and then he asked them who they said he was. Peter was the first to speak up and to confess that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus blessed Peter for his response because Peter was listening to the voice of God the Father in heaven. Peter was sensitive to the voice of the Spirit of God and he had child-like faith to believe what God revealed to him. Because of that Jesus said that he would build his church upon Peter, the rock. On the day of Pentecost, it was Peter who first gave out the gospel message and thousands heard and believed in Jesus that day. That was the beginning of the church. So, Peter was blessed of God and used mightily by God to lay the foundation of the church and of the gospel and to see many people brought into the kingdom (See Matt. 16). Peter was God’s servant and his messenger. We, as Christ’s followers, are also to be Christ’s servants and messengers. Yet, shortly after Peter had given this great declaration of faith in who Jesus was, he had a moment of failure. One time when Jesus was explaining to his disciples about the suffering he was to face and the death he was to die at the hands of the chief priests, elders and scribes, Peter rebuked the Lord. “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you,” Peter declared. So, Jesus responded to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.” Wow! Peter just went from being the rock upon whom Christ would build his church to being a stumbling block and the voice of Satan to Jesus in trying to convince Jesus that he did not have to die for our sins. Peter was still human, and sometimes he responded with human thoughts and emotions rather than trusting in the Lord. Christians still fail sometimes, though it should be the exception to the rule and not the norm. That is why daily we must die to sin and to self. (See Matt. 16; cf. Lu. 9:23-25) Following The Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples there was a discussion among the disciples as to which of them was considered to be the greatest. Pride comes before a fall. So, Jesus talked with them about the fact that those who become servants are those who are greatest, i.e. the first shall be last and the last shall be first. And, then he specifically addressed his thoughts to Peter. He told him that Satan had asked to sift Peter as wheat but that Jesus had prayed for him that his faith would not fail. But then he said, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And, then he went on to tell Peter that before the rooster crows that Peter would deny his Lord three times, because Peter was still convinced that he was ready to go with the Lord to prison and to death. Oh, how we need to be so careful with our declarations that they are not based in pride and self-will, but that they are based in humility, honesty and in reality. Yet, it is awesome to know that our Lord is speaking to the Father concerning us, and that he is pulling for us, and that he is quick to restore us when we do fail when we repent of our sins. (See Luke 22:24-34) On the night Jesus was betrayed he told his disciples that they would all fall away because of him. But Peter declared he would never fall away. His heart was in the right place, perhaps. He desired to remain faithful to his Lord, and he could not imagine that what Jesus was telling him could actually come true (See Matt. 26). Peter was overconfident in his own ability to be steadfast in faith and to not waver, even though he had failed in this area before. He lost sight of his own flesh and of his propensity to sin, and he thought certainly that he would not ever deny his Lord. What do the scriptures say about that? “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Co. 10:12). It is good to be confident in the Lord and to be assured in our faith, but it is not good to think we could never sin against our Lord, because pride comes before a fall. And, Peter did fall. The Fall Peter, the rock upon whom Christ would (and did) build his church; the one who confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God; the one who left all to follow Jesus; the one who called out to Jesus to save him when he was sinking due to lack of faith; and the one who was blessed of Jesus for his sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit of God, and for his child-like faith to believe what the Spirit revealed to him, was now faced with a situation far beyond his ability to know what to do, and so he responded in fear and not in faith. It was not as though he was not warned, though. Jesus had told him what was coming. Jesus had told him that he would fall away and that he would deny him three times, but he didn’t want to believe it. He wanted to believe he would remain faithful, and so he ignored the warnings and he trusted in himself and his own personal evaluation instead of trusting in the Lord. This should serve as a warning to us to not trust in ourselves but to believe God when he speaks to us and to heed his warnings, and to not write them off as irrelevant. Peter’s self-evaluation turned out to be false. He was not ready to go with the Lord to prison and to death, even though he thought he was. He wouldn’t be the only one not to fall away. He ran as soon as Jesus was arrested and he kept running. Once again he got his eyes off Jesus and onto the wind and the waves, and he began to sink. Only this time he did not call out to the Lord to save him. Instead he denied that he even knew Jesus. Then the rooster crowed, Jesus looked straight at him, and then Peter remembered the words the Lord spoke to him, and he went outside and wept bitterly. He suddenly realized that the words he had ignored in pride had come true, and that what Jesus had said to him was true about himself. I believe he wept over his sin of pride, of not listening to his Lord, and of his denial of his Lord, especially at a time when it was most critical that he stood by him. May this be a lesson to all of us to not overestimate our own ability to be faithful, but to guard our hearts against pride, and to humble ourselves before our Lord, realizing it is only in his strength and in his power that we will be able to stand the test against severe persecution. The Restoration When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he took upon himself the sins of the entire world so that we could be saved from the curse of sin, have the hope of heaven, and so we could be delivered out of slavery to sin and could be set free to walk daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. This is why he died. He died so we could be forgiven of our sin and so we could now walk in victory, not in absolute perfection, but growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ day by day and moment by moment. When we come to him in faith, we willingly die with Christ to our old lives of living for sin and self, we are transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and we now walk in the Spirit and no longer live (in lifestyle) to gratify the desires of our sinful flesh. Yet, the Christian life is a process of sanctification whereby we die daily to sin and self and daily we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Peter serves as a great example of a child of faith who did not live perfectly, but who sometimes lacked faith and operated in the flesh, but who called out to Jesus when he was sinking, who mourned over his sin, and who repented of his sin and was restored and renewed in the Spirit of God. Jesus did not reject Peter. He knew Peter was going to deny him, but he prayed for him, and he encouraged him, too, that there would be repentance – “And, when you have turned back” – and that there would be restoration – “strengthen your brothers.” And, so after Jesus rose from the dead, and he appeared to his disciples, he reinstated Peter. He asked him three times if he loved him to which Peter responded three times that he did love Jesus. Interesting that for the three times of denial now there were three times of affirmation of love and faith. Jesus responded to Peter’s declaration of love with, “Feed my lambs; take care of my sheep.” It is so awesome how Jesus is so willing to restore those he loves when they have sinned against him when they turn from their sin to follow him once more. Not only that, but he is still willing to use us to minister to his sheep. I am so thankful! How about you? Love Lifted Me James Rowe / Howard E. Smith I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore, Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more, But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry, From the waters lifted me, now safe am I. All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling, In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing, Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs, Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs. Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves, He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves; He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey, He your Savior wants to be, be saved today. Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help, Love lifted me!