Sunday, February 23 I preached from a David Fleer sermon with the main point that Fleer sees in Luke’s last portrayal of Peter in Acts 12 parallel lines to a flashback in Luke 22 of Peter’s worst moment.
So we looked at Peter’s last moment in Acts alongside his worst moment, when he denied Jesus. As Fleer points out, there are humorous moments, such as an angel treating Pete like a little boy, the servant girl Rhoda leaving Peter at the door. But these elements are similar in the denial story: servant girl in both, an angel who is telling Peter to “arise” sounds like the angel at the empty tomb! Why does Luke want to show us Peter’s worst moment again?
Again, as Fleer points out, it’s because here Peter gets a second chance. Why? Because God is the God of second chances, and as the flashback in Luke 22 shows, Jesus says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat [crush you between stones, not sift flour, folks!], but I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers!”
Imagine, Jesus prays for Peter! Imagine, could Jesus be praying for us? That was the major difference for Peter. He learned that Jesus truly was with him through the Spirit of Christ. Physically Peter was no longer with Jesus, but he had to have remembered this statement of Jesus, “I have prayed for you, Simon.”
How would your life change if you believed Jesus was praying for you in your worst moments? Forgiving you, praying that your faith would not fail? How would that change your life if you truly believed God is giving you a second chance like Peter had, and that Jesus is praying that your faith would not fail this time?
We had a baptism, Adam Josserand, who came saying he wanted to give his life to Jesus and though he had grown up in a Christian family, he never truly gave his life over and submitted to baptism. His mother and father were here for the baptism, his fiance, and others rejoiced with him.
It’s powerful to see the same things happen in our church today as were happening in Acts: the Holy Spirit moving people’s hearts, people being baptized, giving their lives up to the lordship of Christ, and submitting to starting or renewing their journey with the Lord toward Christ centered lives.
One important concept we talked about Sunday was how Peter had a second chance in similar situations as he was in before, but this time he did not fail in his faith. That’s what Jesus prayed would happen! And we know Peter went on to be a rock of the church, filled with the Holy Spirit, the first to speak the gospel to the Gentiles, authored 1 and 2 Peter, and according to church tradition was crucified upside down, because he did not want to be executed as his Lord was. So, Peter no longer denied his Lord, though one time as Paul recalls in Galatians, Paul called Peter on how he withdrew from Gentiles when Jerusalem brethren were around, because he feared what they’d think of him associating with the Gentiles. I kind of think that was early on in Peter’s journey, and that he did not stay in that moment long, because it’s clear from Acts 10-11 that Peter got it after his experience with a vision and a sheet full of “unclean” food that he was told to kill and eat. He understood that God was showing him to preach to the Gentiles, and he did.
So, here are the stages of Spiritual Growth and the way I related to this Sunday is that, like Peter, we go through similar situations in life over and over, but Jesus is praying for us, God is the God of second chances, so as we grow in Christ, so we have a chance to do better, for our faith not to fail. Jesus is praying for us!!
Stages of Spiritual Growth
Far from God we fail, we’re selfish [stick man far from God] . . . God is the God of second chances . . .
Exploring: we have turned away from sin and explore edges of Christ: “I believe in God but I’m not sure about Christ/Trinity, and faith is not a significant part of my life.” Here Jesus is praying, offering an invitation to follow Him.
Movement 1: From Self-Centered to Self-aware of sin, need for something else, but you just don’t know what or how. Tend to say things like, “I’m spiritual but not religious and I don’t need the church.”
Growing in Christ, we seek to serve others, practice prayer and Bible reading, and have mentors/preachers/teachers direct us. You believe in Jesus and you are working on what it means to follow Him.
Movement 2: From self-aware to self-sacrificing, giving yourself to the growth process and opening yourself to others. You believe you need to “get a little more God in your life.”
Close to Christ, your beliefs, life, work, relationships begin to align, and you begin to depend on Christ for daily guidance.
Movement 3: From self-sacrificing to self-less
Christ centered, you now understand you can’t get “more of God in your life.” You are no longer the center of your life. God cannot be contained in you, but you enter fully into His life. Your relationship with God is the most important relationship in your life and guides your decisions more than any other relationship. Now you are expressing your faith, blessed, and sent as a harvester/missionary.
Where are you in relationship to Jesus? Spiritual growth is not always linear but we continue toward Christ centered lives, our goal.
Where am I? I’m falling in love with Jesus all over again. I’ve wanted Jesus with a vampire Christianity, for His blood, for what’s in it for me, I’ve studied Jesus, tried to comprehend or attain Him intellectually, tried to discuss my way to him, coerce others into His life, debate His teachings, or even to make Jesus my poster boy for my social justice efforts but not really acknowledge my love and His Lordship of my life when in those settings.
Where am I now? I love Jesus and want to express that love to others in the most serious, real ways Jesus taught us how. We don’t express it like this: I want Jesus at the center of my life. No, we are moving to the heart, the core, center of Jesus’s life. That’s where I want to be. From self-centered to Christ-centered, and this takes time.
The only thing better than one person being centered on Christ is many being centered on Christ together. That’s this church.
Where are you in relationship to Jesus?