Sermon Notes 01-18-2013
The issue I want to address today is the following question: What type of metamorphosis must take place to transform a person from a weak human to a powerful instrument of God? In other words, how do we move from doubt, fear, worry and weakness to faith, hope, love, and power? The only reason I bring this question to the surface is that the Bible is absolutely chocked full of promises of living in victory, living in power, walking in full authority over the kingdom of darkness, and the promise of a new life in Christ. But as I look around the church today, I see a great rift between what the Bible says and how that manifests itself in God’s children. If we believe the Bible and know that it is true, why do we stumble around in weakness, fear, doubt, and an obvious lack of power? We must be doing something wrong! For every book in the New Testament speaks of a life full of faith, a glorious body and bride of Christ and a life defined by Paul as a “new creation” or the “new man”. Let us look at one of Jesus’ disciples and see if we can pinpoint the difference between living a natural, human life and living a supernatural, spiritual life. Let us examine the pages of Scripture and let it speak to us today.
A. Peter’s Weakness:
1. Turn to Matthew 14:22-33 (the account of Peter attempting to walk on water) and read. There is so much truth just oozing from the pages of this text, but I want to focus on just one aspect. Notice Peter’s initial faith in Christ: he trusted Jesus enough to take a step out of the boat. But shortly thereafter, He began to sink because of doubt. Now I have heard, and I’m sure you have heard as well, many preachers take this passage and teach about “keeping your eyes on Jesus”, but I want to approach this from a different angle altogether.
2. How many times do we think to ourselves, “If only Jesus would intervene in my situation, everything would be resolved”? There is a deep truth here if we allow the Holy Spirit to speak into the depths of our hearts. Think about it for a minute: Jesus was right there. Peter didn’t have to go looking for Him. Jesus was standing right in front of Peter and yet that just wasn’t enough! You would think with all of the miracles Christ had performed before Peter’s own eyes that Peter would have enough faith to move mountain ranges! We must not ignore the fact that there was a storm raging around the boat and all around Peter as he attempted to walk on water and imitate Jesus. When Peter saw that the sea was raging around him, he took his eyes off of Jesus and must have thought to himself, “What were you thinking?!” You see, even with Jesus right there, Peter did not possess enough faith to continue. We must ask ourselves, “Are we just like Peter?” Haven’t we seen God’s glorious work in our lives, in the world, and in His church? Why do we doubt? Is the distraction of life’s problems just too much to keep focused on following our Shepherd?
3. Now, let’s go to another piece of Scripture. Turn with me to Matthew 26:30-35. After reading this passage let us turn the page to Matthew 26:69-75 (The account of Peter first proclaiming to follow Christ anywhere…including death and the subsequent denial of Christ by Peter). Even with the best of intentions and a committed heart, Peter was powerless to defend himself against doubt and fear. This is astounding. Here we have what will be one of the greatest disciples to come out of the initial core of disciples. In fact, the entire church would be built on the rock of Peter’s confession and ministry according to Christ Himself. Why or how could Jesus be so sure that Peter would be the rock? I mean seriously, the guy can’t walk two steps without completely falling on his face! Not exactly a pillar of faith is he? How many times in our own lives have we confessed to God, “I swear I will never __________ again?!” How many times do we tell God, “I love You and will always follow you wherever You go”? At first glance and consideration, breaking these confessions and promises brings us to the awful atmosphere of guilt and shame. That really bothers us, but you know what? It doesn’t bother God! How can I say that? Because He knows that you and I are completely incapable of following Him and obeying Him and even keeping our promises. He knows we are powerless. What sad sacks we are! Now let us look at Peter’s redemption.
B. Peter’s Storm
1. If we think back to the story of Peter’s attempt to walk on water, we notice that the storm was boiling all around him. He in many ways was distracted by the storm and wasn’t able to create within himself enough faith to overcome the fear. Now, let us look at another storm Peter is about to be thrown into. The first storm was nothing compared to what Peter is about to confront!
2. After Christ walked out of the grave, He visited with His disciples and I’m sure they were absolutely amazed by this. But He wasn’t around for long, and He spoke to them of having to return to the Father. Let’s get inside of Peter’s situation for a minute. Jesus had recently had a sit-down with Peter and asked Peter if he really loved Him. Can you imagine the pain in Peter’s heart? Here he had not but a week earlier denied Christ three times after swearing that he would follow Jesus to death. Talk about guilt and shame! Now Jesus is questioning him face-to-face, “Peter, do you love Me?” Ouch! Peter must have been just bleeding on the inside, but guess what? Jesus knew Peter’s heart! Jesus invited Peter back into intimacy and friendship. But, just as Jesus had been taken from Peter by the Roman soldiers, He was about to leave Peter again. I’m sure that Peter’s heart was as heavy as any person’s heart in history could have been. But to top it off, Jesus threw Peter into a storm of all storms. Coupled with the guilt and shame of denial, Jesus begins to tell Peter of his future. In essence, Jesus tells Peter that he will die in the same manner as He did! Jesus, before the ascension, intimates to His disciple Peter that the future holds an awful death for him. In early Christian writing, we read that Peter was eventually crucified upside down. Can you imagine not only knowing how you would die, but that haunting thought sitting on you like a dark cloud? Surely, you would wake up every morning fearful of the grotesque way in which you would die; surely, every night before you put your head down on your pillow, you would be haunted by the thought of torture and a bloody death. It would surely plague your dreams, go with you wherever you went and stick to you like a bad smell. Jesus, in essence just cast Peter into the storm of all storms. The raging sea is nothing in comparison to a raging and fearful heart and soul! It is hard to imagine, but now you have the following ingredients: guilt, shame, knowing your future entails a painful death, and knowing that your best friend is about to leave you. Come on people! This is the worst situation possible…isn’t it? The only words left with Peter and the others are that they need to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. To be sure, Peter must have, at least in some capacity, wished he had drowned in the Sea of Galilee storm!
C. Peter’s Anointing
1. The Holy Spirit changed the whole situation and atmosphere. When Pentecost arrived and the Holy Spirit descended, it empowered every disciple in the Upper Room. What men were incapable of supplying, mainly, faith, power, and boldness, God supplied for them. The once weak, fearful Peter became bold and stood on a rooftop preaching the gospel loud and clear. Long gone was the fear of rejection, persecution, and even guilt. Peter before the baptism of the Holy Spirit was weak, but now filled with the Almighty Himself, Peter became the man God had always intended him to be. Can we not surmise logically, as well as scripturally, that it is impossible to be an effective Christian without the intimate connection with the Holy Spirit? The entire New Testament screams of this truth, but we walk through our lives still asking the obtuse questions of “Why can’t I ____________?” or “How can I _________?” or “When will God help me __________?” News Flash: YOU CAN’T OF YOUR OWN STRENGTH DO ANYTHING!!! The good news is that God can and will if you submit to the urging of Christ Himself to knock, seek, and ask for the Holy Spirit! Jesus made it as plain as day in His teachings that we are to live our lives through Him and in the Spirit. Why do we stop with the “sinner’s prayer”? Why do we stop at Christ? If we believe in Jesus and believe the Bible to be true, why do we not take His advice?! Jesus doesn’t want you to stop with forgiveness; Jesus wants us to walk in step with His Holy Spirit. To preach repentance and grace is primary, but to stop there is to preach half of a gospel. We are called to be a “new creation” and to walk in “newness of life” and these two mandates are impossible without the indwelling and intimate communion with the Holy Spirit. This is indeed the facts, the truth, and what Christ urges us to pursue. He said, “You will seek Me and not find Me”…He also adds to that statement, “But, when the Spirit of truth has come, He will lead you into all truths and reveal Me to you…” and He basically tells His disciples then and now that we are blessed that He can’t be found and has been seated at the Fathers’ right hand because He laid the path and conduit for “another Helper”, mainly, the Holy Spirit. He teaches us to have God beside you is a blessing, but to have God living within you is better!!! I heard Francis Chan once teach a profound foundational truth: We sometimes sit around and wax upon the notion of how cool it would have been to see God through Moses part the Red Sea or to see the fall of Jericho or wish we could have seen God lead the Israelites in the cloud and pillar of fire. Chan says he bets that Moses and Joshua and the other Old Testament patriarchs are probably sitting in Heaven waxing on what it would be like to live a life where God actually resided inside of you!
2. Looking at John 10:1-10, we see Christ describing Himself as a gate. The gospel was never intended to be the destination; the good news of Christ’s ministry is that it laid the foundation for an entry. How many of us stop at the gate but never enter? How many of us proclaim Christ, but never exercise the mandate that He gave? We stand at the gate and celebrate Christ’s life, and He is begging us to move past the gate so He can celebrate our lives! Why is this so hard a concept to grasp, I will never know. But I urge all who would hear this message, please finish what Jesus started. Salvation is wonderful, a promise of eternal life is awesome, but the gift is broader and deeper and longer than that…Jesus promises that if we surrender all to walk in the Kingdom, that we will have peace, love, joy, and power in the Holy Spirit. But we walk around defeated, leaning on a promise. Don’t lean on your belief in Christ; walk through the gate and into the “born again” life! Victory is yours, but you have to learn to walk this faith out by seeking a personal, intimate and intense relationship with God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. It is real and waiting for you today. Don’t wait until you die physically to live out eternal life; eternal life is right here and right now. One of the Proverbs tells us that a hope afar off makes the heart sick…I don’t know about you but I don’t think Jesus paid the ultimate price for us to make our hearts sick until we die and go to heaven! C’mon people, wake up and realize that all the promises of the New Testament are based on a person walking in the Kingdom, in the newness of life, in the Spirit, and that all those promises hinge on not only accepting Christ’s sacrifice but accepting His invitation to really, really live! Peter found his salvation. Peter realized that simply knowing Jesus was not enough. Even having Christ right by his side was not enough. Jesus told His disciples, “There is so much more I would like to tell you, but you just wouldn’t understand…” BUT “When the Spirit comes…”, the game changes.
3. Walking in the Kingdom: It is so simple a recipe, most walk away believing it is too good to be true. Jesus tells us to knock, to ask, and to seek. We must ask for God’s Holy Spirit to be revealed to us, we must seek God in His Word and learn to listen to the “small, still voice”, and we must knock persistently at the door of the spiritual realm and know deep down that wisdom will come. It is just that simple; I promise. When all we want is God, when our deepest desire is to know Him personally and intimately, when everything we crave is His reality in our lives, God will answer that prayer! Or have you not heard that “God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” or that “God will reveal Himself to those who seek Him with all of their heart”? I took God up on His offer and my life has never been the same. Won’t you repent of your unbelief and ask God to open your spiritual eyes to see the kingdom as a present reality? Won’t you repent of putting limits on God and doubting His promises? Won’t you join me in this magnificent life of walking in the Spirit? What storms are you facing today? Is your life filled with anxiety and fear? Are you doubting the goodness of God or is your faith waivering? There’s a prayer for that!
Prayer: Oh heavenly Father, how awesome are Your ways and how deep is Your love for us! Who are we that You think on us and desire us? We are but weak and helpless children! Lord, You are so full of mercy and kindness and justice. And You are worthy to be glorified and praised and worshipped! Oh, Christ Jesus, our King and Savior, we love you and lift You up as the name above all names, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. God, we ask this day that you hear our cries of repentance. We repent of unbelief, we repent of settling for less than You intended for us, we repent of not walking in Your Spirit as You commanded us to do! Oh Father, do forgive us and hear our supplication. Jesus, our Intercessor, pray with us. Holy Spirit of God, help us to pray, for we know not even how to pray. Father, open our eyes to Your kingdom. Jesus, pray the Father with us to send His Holy Spirit to live within us and to reveal within us the reality of a true life, a blessed life of knowing You, and a life filled with You and You alone! Father, as Your children, we ask humbly for a new and fresh anointing of Your Holy Spirit and make our lives shine for Your glory. For it is Your kingdom, Your power, and for Your glory that we ask this prayer, in the name of Jesus, Amen and amen.