Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jesus is Still in Control

This morning I want to talk about the story of Jesus’ arrest.

We see him fully in control of his destiny. We see him full of majesty and authority even while being arrested as a common criminal.
When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”
They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”
Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” John 18:1-11
John does not want us to get the wrong idea about Jesus’ arrest. This arrest was like no other arrest you have ever heard about. In this situation the person being arrested is in charge.

The mob that arrests Jesus think they are in charge but John lets us know in no uncertain terms that Jesus, as the Lamb of God, is voluntarily laying down his life in our behalf.

Do you remember John’s objective in writing this gospel?
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31
Christ was not the victim of an angry mob even though every person in that mob stands morally accountable for his choices, just as we will be held accountable for our choices. Every person in the mob was exercising free will and exercising their wills against the Lord of Glory. God gives people the will to choose. But none of that thwarted the sovereign purpose and plan of God.

Remember how Peter addressed the people of Jerusalem about 50 days later on the day of Pentecost?
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." Acts 2:22-23
Wicked, accountable hands were at work on the night of our text.

But we will see that “This man,” our Lord and Savior, is being arrested “by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.”

I want to share with you six demonstrations of Jesus’ lordship in our text that assure us beyond any doubt that he was in control of the situation, that he gave his life for us voluntarily so that we might have life.

1. His decision to go into Gethsemane.

Immediately after his prayer in John 17 Jesus led his disciples across the Kidron valley into the Garden of Gethsemane. This is particularly significant because this was where Judas would expect to find him. Jesus knew that his hour had come. He was positioning himself to be arrested.
Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. John 1:2
Judas knew the place and Jesus knew that Judas knew the place. When Judas was leading the mob to arrest Jesus he probably went first to the upper room. Not finding Jesus there he led them to the Garden.

From the another gospel we know that Jesus prayed in great agony there in the garden. In fact, the emotional and spiritual pressure was so great that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. There he was in a deep spiritual struggle dealing with the ordeal that lay ahead. He had asked Peter, James, and John to pray with him. They tried but failed. They would start to pray but then fall asleep.

Jesus had gone a little space from them and prayed “Father, if You are willing take this cup from me; yet not by will but Yours be done.” Three times when he would come back to them they would be asleep. Luke, the physician, makes an interesting observation about their sleep. He says that they were “sleeping from sorrow”

The emotional strain of everything that was going on had exhausted them and caused them to seek escape through sleep. I have never experienced what they experienced that night. But I have been in some situations where I found myself sleeping for sorrow—just trying to escape from it all by sleeping and hoping everything would be different when I woke up.

Sleep is not the answer. Escape is not the answer. But prayer is the answer.

When Jesus came to them the third time the crowd arrived in the Garden. The lights from the lanterns and torches could be seen in the distance. Perhaps the rumble of their footsteps and the clanging of their swords could be heard as well.

Jesus was not caught off guard, not surprised by Judas’ deception, fully knowledgeable of what was happening and submitting himself fully to the Father’s will.

He was in this place where he knew they could find him. And when the crowd arrives he went out to meet them.

2. His demeanor in the face of this hostile crowd was full of majesty.
He was not a nervous, scared criminal who had finally gotten caught. He was not a helpless victim of a lynch mob. Rather He was still the Lord of Glory and King of Kings even in this most humbling of circumstances. He saw and knew they were coming and he didn’t run away!

The mob expected the usual human reaction of fight or flight. They had prepared for either response. They came with swords in case there is a fight. Pilate sent a detachment of soldiers with the Pharisees and temple police.

The word translated “detachment” in John 18:3 is a military word used for a Roman cohort, which was one tenth of a legion or 600 men.

Pilate did not want a riot on his hands during this feast and you can be sure he sent what he considered to be overwhelming force. This was a huge mob and they were out for blood.
During the Passover feast there was a full moon and lots of light at night. But the crowd had come with lanterns and torches in case Jesus tried to hide himself in the trees and bushes. They approached Jesus with certain assumptions that prove totally false. When they encountered Jesus he was not hiding in some hole the way Saddam Hussein was captured. He boldly went out to meet them.

Had we been there I think we would have recognized something very intimidating about that demon-inspired mob. Satan had entered into Judas and Judas was leading the crowd. There was the normal intimidation of Pilate’s soldiers and the temple police; but beyond that was the spiritual darkness at work.

The mob was energized by demonic activity. What a horrible thing to have to face. But Jesus had already won the spiritual victory in prayer.

Now the manifestation of that victory is a foregone conclusion. Here is one lesson we must not overlook.

Even Jesus, the Son of God, prepared himself through prayer. He did not neglect his source of strength. Therefore, he was ready for the test when it came. Contrary to the crowd's expectations, Jesus walked up to them with composure and calm and asked them the question, “Who is it you want?”

Their reply was very specific, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

They did not recognize him as the Messiah or the Christ but only as a common peasant from the little town of Nazareth.

They were approaching him as they would any other man. But they were about to discover that he was more than a man. He is Lord. And his Lordship was demonstrated powerfully by what happened next.

3. His demonstration of power.
When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:6
There is no question in my mind as to what happened in that verse. When Jesus spoke the words, “I am he,” the crowd was knocked down by the power of the Spirit. The original language clearly indicates they fell to the ground.

If Jesus had that kind of authority and power—the ability to speak the word and knock them to the ground, he clearly did not have to surrender to them.

John tells us about this so that we will know beyond any doubt that Jesus was in control. No man took his life. He willingly laid it down as a sacrifice in your behalf and in my behalf.

4. His desire for the disciples' release.

Look at His focus during this exchange in verses 4 thru 8. Think about all the questions Jesus might have asked. Think about all the arguments He might have brought in His own defense. He does not defend Himself. But He does defend His disciples.

What was the design of His question to the mob? “Who do you want?” Wasn’t it obvious that they wanted Jesus? But Jesus was getting at something that was in His mind at the time. He was forcing them to focus on Him rather than His disciples. He was leading the conversation to this conclusion in verse 8, “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”

That is a revelation of His heart toward you and me. He is always looking out for us. There in His darkest hour He was making sure his disciples were okay. There was Jesus in the most extreme circumstances. If ever there were a time to justify a little selfishness it would be right there. But He continued to love His own to the end even though they were failing Him in many ways.

We saw earlier that we can trust Him in any situation because he is powerful. He is always in control and therefore in a position to help.

But here we see that we can always trust Him because He is always looking out for our best interest. As the Good Shepherd He even puts our welfare above His own and takes the blow in our behalf.

John adds this comment in verse 9, “This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: ‘I have lost none of those you gave me’.”

Usually when we read that kind of terminology we expect to find the quote somewhere in the Old Testament.

But that is not the case here. Jesus is referring to Jesus’ words in John 17:9 where Jesus prayed, “None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.”

Let's take a second and look at Judas.

Judas stands in cold contrast to Jesus in our text. There he was with the enemy. Not long ago he was in this garden praying with Jesus. Not long ago he sat next to Jesus at the communion table. He had lived so close to the Lord of Life. He had worked miracles in the name of Jesus. He had so seemed to be part of the twelve that no one but Jesus suspected him as a traitor.

Charles Spurgeon said,“Judas proves the futility of knowledge apart from sincerity and that familiarity with the sacred can still produce a traitor.”

Judas never surrendered his heart to Christ though he followed him along with the other eleven.
Here is an amazing thing in our story. Judas and the entire mob that came with him did not alter their intentions even when confronted with the majesty of Christ. They had to be surprised at His noble demeanor.

5. His glory was demonstrated when they are knocked down by the power of God.

Surely when they saw the miracle of Jesus’ healing Malchus’ ear—surely then they would have repented and abandoned their mission. No, they continue headstrong in their iniquity.

If God would just show His power surely people would repent and turn to Him. Some will respond that way, but the demonstration of power does not guarantee repentance. Repentance is a choice made in the heart of an individual.

Don’t say, “I would serve God if He would show Himself real.” He has done that a thousand times over. Accept the facts that are already before you. Turn to Him and serve Him.

John shows us this same thing in the book of Revelation. There God deals directly with sinners but they still refuse to repent.
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. Revelation 16:8-11
Their response to the judgments of God was to gnaw their tongues in agony and curse God. With amazement John adds, “but they refused to repent…”

In our text this headstrong crowd refused to repent. They had no doubt come with intentions to deal with this problem once and for all. They intended to take Jesus and everyone who stood with Him. But Jesus submitted Himself to their arrest only after He gained the freedom of His followers. This is even more remarkable considering Peter’s behavior in the rest of this story.

6. His dramatic of healing to Malchus.

Have you ever tried to help Jesus in the wrong way? Peter was trying to help Jesus, but he was not moving in the spirit but in the flesh. And even though his intentions were right, he was actually doing more harm than good. He was going about a good thing in the wrong way and the result is that some sinner’s ear gets cut off.

Have you ever cut a sinner’s ear off? Have you ever approached him in some way that actually made it harder for him to hear the gospel than before he encountered you?

I have known Christians who mean well but because they got ahead of God they caused damage to another person.

Here He healed the man’s ear and tells Peter to put up his sword. As if to say, "I am still in charge, Peter!"

Why did Peter make such a mistake?
  1. Lack of spiritual preparation. He was sleeping when he should have been praying. Had not Jesus said to him and the others, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” We must put on our spiritual armor before the evil day is upon us. Sometimes we’re like the five foolish virgins who think they can take care of everything last minute. But Peter failed to prepare himself for the challenges he would face.
  2. He relied on carnal weapon to win a spiritual battle. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” Are you trying to solve your problem through carnal means? Maybe a more spiritual approach would yield better results.
  3. Peter was looking at secondary causes rather than seeing the situation as Jesus saw it. Look at the contrast between Peter’s perspective and that of Jesus. Peter saw this mob as the problem so he just attacked it. But Jesus looked beyond secondary causes and linked up with the Father’s will.
“Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” John 18:11
If we’re not careful we will be expending all our energy dealing with secondary causes rather than discovering the Father’s will and cooperating with it. It’s a tiresome thing to deal with secondary causes because the problem seldom gets solved that way.

Have you tried to solve your problems by attacking them the way Peter does here? Are you vigorously hacking away at something and getting unsatisfactory results? If what you are doing is not working, then pray as Jesus prayed until you can see what God is doing and how He wants you to respond.

The healing of Malchus’ ear is actually recorded in Luke 22:51 where we are told that Jesus touched his ear and healed him. This is Jesus’ last miracle before his crucifixion. It is another demonstration of Jesus’ power and authority at the time of his arrest.

John makes some things abundantly clear in this story:

Jesus was not taken against his will. He willingly offered himself as the sacrifice for sin.

He was not a victim of an angry mob. He was totally in control of the whole situation. And if he was in control during those darkest hours—the time when the powers of darkness were most at work, you can know that he is in control of whatever may be happening in your life.

Circumstances may seem like they are out of control. On the surface the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus looked like an unfortunate miscarriage of justice. But in reality the sovereign plan of God was being marvelously fulfilled. In this story we are assured of Jesus’ control over the events and circumstances of our lives. Here we find courage to trust Him even when we don’t understand all that is happening.

How many of you know that Jesus is still in control?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

God Lives Under the Bed

God lives under the bed
I ran across this story and I had to stop and pray for the Lord to help my faith . I am not sure who wrote it but I hope it will help your faith.
Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. One night he was praying out loud in his bedroom, and I stopped to listen, "Are you there, God?" he said. "Where are you? Oh, Under the bed..." I laughed & tiptoed to my room. My brother Kevin’s unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world in which Kevin lives. He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled due to problem in labor. Apart from his size (he’s 6-foot-2) there are few ways in which he’s an adult. He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and always will. He’ll probably always believe God lives under his bed, Santa Claus fills the space under the Christmas tree and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them. I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? Up before dawn each day, off to the workshop for the disabled, home to walk the dog & eat his favorite macaroni/cheese dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the routine is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washer like a mother with her newborn child. He does not seem dissatisfied. He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner. He stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day’s laundry chores. And oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of the passengers. "That one’s goin’ to Chi-car-go!" Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights. And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips. He doesn’t know what it means to be discontent. His life is simple. He will never know the entanglements of wealth of power. He doesn’t care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be. His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he’s working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax. He’s not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure. He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. Free from pride, unconcerned with appearances, Kevin’s not afraid to cry when he’s hurt, angry or sorry. He’s always transparent, always sincere. He trusts God. Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God - to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an "educated" person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion. In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith. It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions. It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap, I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances – they all become disabilities…when I do not trust them to God’s care. Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he’s spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God. And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I’ll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed. And Kevin won’t be surprised at all!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Passing the Test

Here is the scene. It is His last evening with His apostles before His crucifixion. And they are all together in the upper room. The evening began with Jesus washing their feet, teaching them humility. Then they began to eat, and while they were eating, Jesus says that one of them will betray Him. In the midst of the resulting questions and turmoil, Judas quietly leaves.
Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.
Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.
Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

John 13:31-38
So when we begin verse 31 of John 13, Judas is gone leaving only Jesus and the other 11 apostles. (It was discovered that he had a sickness that he didn’t want to face up to.) It is almost as if there is a breath of fresh air in that upper room.

The servant of evil has left!

Now Jesus begins to talk about what it means to be His disciple.

I wonder how we would score if there were a test available that could clearly reveal just how faithful and devout a Christian we are - that really measured the level of our spirituality?

You see, on the surface it appears that most of the time we feel that things are going well and we’re doing a pretty good job of being a Christian. In fact, I’m convinced that most people, if asked, "How are you doing?" would answer, "I’m doing fine."

I’m afraid that we tend to be like the fellow in the old story who showed up for a court hearing concerning an accident in which he had been involved. His arm was in a cast, there were bandages all over him, and the exposed parts of his body were clearly bruised, scratched and cut. He was a real mess.

Looking rather surprised, the judge asked about his injuries. He replied, "Judge, I’m in a terrible condition. I have cuts and stitches all over me, and I’m feeling awful."

The judge said, "I don’t understand this. The accident report filed by the Officer says that at the time of the accident you told him you were just fine."

"Well Judge," the man replied, "let me explain. I was driving my pickup and pulling a trailer. In the back of the pickup was my old dog Shep, and my mule was in the trailer. All of a sudden an 18-wheeler sideswiped me, knocking me off the road. My pickup and trailer rolled over and over, and we ended up at the bottom of a big embankment. The next thing I remember, a police officer was picking his way through the wreckage. I saw him stop and examine my mule, then he pulled out his pistol and shot the mule between the eyes. Next, he got to where Shep was lying, and after examining him, he shot old Shep, too. Then he walked over to me and asked, 'How are you?' And I said, 'I’m just fine.'"

Even though we generally say, "I’m doing fine," in reality, when it comes to our spiritual lives, things may not be going very well. We may not be growing spiritually. We may be sick and not even know it.

How many people have ever heard the words from a doctor, “If you would have come to me sooner we could have caught this cancer."

We consider ourselves "just fine" spiritually. But what if we had a test that could really measure the level of our commitment to Christ, and of our discipleship? Well, maybe we do.

It seems that in John 13:31-38 Jesus provides us with the marks of true discipleship, and measuring stick to show us how well we are doing spiritually. And he shares three marks of what it takes to follow Him.

1. When we have a desire to glorify God.
“Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.” John 13:31-32
From the Greek: To glorify : To give honour or to magnify.

Jesus said, "I’m going to be glorified," and it is evident that He was talking about His own crucifixion. But how can any glory come out of that? How can glory come out of the Son of God hanging on an old rugged, bloody cross? How can glory come out of suffering and pain and death?

There is just one way. On the cross Jesus defeated Satan. On the cross He became the sacrifice to redeem us from all the sins that separate us from God. On the cross He built a bridge between man and God so that we could be together again.

It was the revelation of His heart. All his life He had been trying to tell the world how much He loved it. He had shown them by His deeds and His words. But now His love would be demonstrated through His death.

How did Jesus glorify God ? Well again, the answer is found in the cross.
  • On the cross Jesus revealed what God is like.
  • On the cross we see the love and mercy of God, the grace and justice of God.
  • On the cross we see the righteousness, the holiness, and the power of God.
It is all displayed there on the cross. His action spoke loader than His words.

So how can we glorify God in our lives? Whenever we show the world the love and mercy and grace of God in our lives, then God is being glorified through us.

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. Psalms 115:1
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: I Corinthians 1:31-32

Some years ago a men’s retreat was held in Texas. As the men arrived at camp the first man they met was a small, frail-looking man. The first impression of this man was not anything special, because he was an old man and didn’t seem very important. But many times the first impressions are not always accurate.

There were about 30 men who were together all Friday night and Saturday. They talked and prayed together, and shared their testimonies.

If we had been there an amazing thing would have became very apparent as the men shared their stories. As each one told about coming to know and accept Christ as Savior, almost without exception, every one, some place in his story, his testimony, mentioned this small, frail-looking man. Some time along the way this little man had influenced each one of them, and they had come to Christ at least partially because of him. And God was glorified as a result. This man's actions spoke louder than His words.

So how are we doing? Are we busy trying to glorify ourselves, or are we trying to glorify God? That is the first test.

2. When we have unfailing love for one another we glorify God.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34
God’s Word says that the world will know we are Christians by our love, not by our Scripture memorization, or the amount of money we have given. Christ wants His followers to be known for their love by how they minister to one another.
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him.
And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. I John 3:14-24
3. We glorify God when we have an unswerving loyalty to Jesus.
Simon Peter asked Him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later." Peter asked, "Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!" John 13:36-38
How loyal are we? Do we have an unswerving loyalty that will always be there?
Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Matthew 16:21-22
It seems as if Simon Peter was always being tempted by Satan, and Jesus was always praying for Peter to be able to resist the temptations.

Why? What was the matter with Simon Peter?

It was Simon Peter who wanted to walk on water. "Need somebody to walk on water, Lord? I’ll do it."

It was Simon Peter who wanted to build tabernacles on the Mount of Transfiguration.

It was Simon Peter who was always speaking, always charging ahead, always demonstrating his loyalty, at least with words.

But there is a great difference between proclaiming your loyalty and practicing it.

Peter was always proclaiming his loyalty, but not always willing to practice it. "You’re going to die, Lord?" he asks. "Well, if you die, I’ll die with you."

It is easy to say, "I would die for the Lord." But when they are getting out the nails to drive through your hands and feet, it’s a whole different situation.

"Are you really willing to die for Me, Peter? Let me show you how loyal you really are.
Before the morning comes, you will deny Me not once, but 3 different times."

"Going to be loyal to Me?" the Lord asks. "Okay, Peter, watch and pray with Me. I’m going to go a little further into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray."

But Peter went to sleep.

"Going to be loyal to Me, Peter? Then how close will you follow Me?"

Luke tells us that when the soldiers took Jesus out of the Garden of Gethsemane that Peter followed at a distance.

When you follow Jesus at a distance you usually end up in the wrong crowd.

That is exactly what happened to Peter. He ended up in the High Priest’s courtyard with those who started asking him, "You’re one of the Nazarene’s followers, aren’t you?"

"Not me," Peter said.

Three times he was asked. And three times he denied even knowing Jesus. Peter found out that it was a lot easier to proclaim his loyalty than to practice it!

The difference between Peter and Judas was that Peter found a place of repentance and when he did he found out what it really meant to follow Jesus.

A mother wrote, "My 3-year-old was on my heels everywhere I went. And whenever I stopped to do something and then turned back around, I’d trip over him. Time and again I patiently suggested fun activities to keep him occupied. But he simply smiled an innocent smile and said, 'Oh that’s all right, Mommy. I’d rather be in here with you.' Then he continued to bounce happily along behind me. After stepping on his toes for the fifth time, I began to lose patience. When I asked him why he was acting this way, he looked up with sweet green eyes and said, 'Well, Mommy, my teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But I can’t see Him, so I’m walking in yours.'"

This morning, are you walking in the footsteps of Jesus?

The test questions would be:
  • Is your life a life that brings glory to God?
  • Is your life one that is filled with love for God and His family?
  • Is your life one of unswerving loyalty to Jesus?
It doesn’t make any difference how many crosses we wear, how many bumper stickers we have on our car. What really matters is our commitment to follow Jesus. Yet, all too often we have fallen short in this.

But God says, "I really do want you as My disciple. So I’m giving you another chance like I did Peter! Just because you fell short doesn’t mean that I have stopped loving you. That’s the whole idea behind the cross. You can start all over and begin anew.

Maybe you can follow closer this time.
Maybe you can be more humble.
Maybe you can love just a little more.
Maybe you can be more unselfish and really allow My glory to shine through your life.
Are you willing to start again? I’m willing if you are."

That is what Jesus is saying. "I’m willing if you are."

So He invites and He waits.

"Do you want to be My disciple?

These are a few marks for following Jesus.

I want to close with this story:

Teddy Stallard was an unattractive and unmotivated fifth grade boy. His teacher, Mrs. Thompson found him difficult to like due to his expressionless, unfocused stare. She had to admit that down deep inside she took pleasure in marking his papers with red ink and making an F with a special flair.

One day she began to wonder about this boy. As a teacher she had access to his records and as she read she saw that she had demonstrated her Christian life before him.

1st Grade: Teddy shows promise with his work and attitude but has a poor home situation.

2cnd Grade: Teddy could do better. Mother is seriously ill and he receives little help at home.

3rd Grade: Teddy is a good boy but too serious. Slow learner. His mother died this year.

4th Grade: Teddy is very slow but well behaved. Father shows no interest.

She began to show more love to the children and she went out her way to show Teddy that God loved Him.

At Christmas the children in Mrs. Thompson’s class brought her presents in pretty wrappings. When she got to Teddy’s it was crudely wrapped in brown paper and loosely held together with tape. She opened it to find a bracelet with stones missing and a bottle of cheap perfume. Some of the children snickered but trying to be nice she slipped on the bracelet and even some perfume saying, "Doesn’t it smell lovely?"

When school was over Teddy lingered behind and came to her desk, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother, and her bracelet looks real pretty on you too. I’m glad you liked my presents."

She went home and ask God to show His love through her!

Next day, her class welcomed a new teacher. Miss Thompson was no longer just a teacher but an agent of God. She committed herself to loving her children and especially Teddy Stallard.
Teddy began to show dramatic improvement and by the end of the year had caught up with most of the other students.

She did not hear from Teddy for a long time until one day she received a note: "Dear Miss Thompson. I wanted you to know that I will be graduating second in my high school class. Love Teddy Stallard."

Four years later: "Dear Miss Thompson: They just told me I would be graduating first in my class. I wanted you to be the first to know. The university has not been easy but I liked it. Love, Teddy Stallard."

Finally: "Dear Miss Thompson: As of today I am Theodore Stallard, MD. How about that? I wanted you to be the first to know. I am getting married next month. I want you to come and sit where my mother would have sat if she were alive. You are my only family. Dad died last year. Love, Teddy Stallard."

She went to the wedding and in Teddy’s eyes she had earned the right to sit in a special place because as an agent of God’s love she had done something for Teddy that he could never forget. She had exercised the power of God’s love.