No Turning Back

At our staff meeting this week Sean, our Youth Pastor recounted what his team did with the teens on Friday night. I was very moved by it and decided to write this post.  The theme for the evening was the Persecuted Church (a subject by the way, we seldom talk about today). He played a short film clip from Open Doors, an international ministry that serves the persecuted church.

It was a story about a young girl called Susan from Uganda. Susan is 14 years old and belonged to a strict Muslim family. One day a visiting speaker came to her school and spoke about someone called Jesus who claimed to be the Son of God and had come to save people from their sin. Right then and there, Susan made the decision to follow Jesus. When she got home, her father found out and was furious. On one occasion he dragged her outside, put a knife to her throat and said, “If you do not stop going to church, I will kill you.” But Susan didn’t stop. So her father took her to a room in their house where there was a mat on the floor. He told Susan, “Sit on that mat and do not move until you are willing to deny Jesus Christ.” He turned around, walked out of the room and locked the door. Susan stayed on that mat for 3 months. Eventually the neighbours found out and informed the Police. The Police came and when they found Susan, she was alive, but only just. When she was asked why she was in that room she answered, “My father said to me the day I move from that mat I deny Jesus, and I could not do that.”

After playing the video Sean spoke to our teens about the cost of being a Christian. “This is not a game,” he said. “We’re not playing around here.” He then had the teens bow their heads and asked who in the room, if they were to be put in Susan’s place, would stay on the mat for Jesus. Instantly, without missing a beat, about 8-10 hands went up. I found that hugely encouraging. Those young people get it.

But what about us? Do we get it? Later, Sean and I talked more about this over coffee. The problem with Christianity in the West, we agreed, is that it’s too easy. There’s no real cost. The only discomfort we suffer is perhaps social shunning – like being ignored or mocked (if even that). Compare that with what is going on in the rest of the world. According to research done by Open Doors, every month somewhere in the world:

• 255 Christians are killed
• 104 are abducted
• 180 Christian women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage
• 66 churches are attacked
• 160 Christians are detained without trial and imprisoned

All told, 900,000 Christians were martyred for their faith in the past decade. That’s more people in 10 years than all of church history. Meanwhile, Christians in the West sit in air-conditioned sanctuaries, sipping coffee while listening to a worship band playing through a $10,000 sound system, wishing they were fishing or at the mall. I hate to sound sarcastic, but I’m afraid that’s often the reality.

The problem is our faith doesn’t cost us anything. We read the statistics like the one’s above and shudder, thinking “I’m glad I don’t live there.” The ironic thing is, Christians in these areas hear about the condition of the church in the West and say, “I’m glad I don’t live there.” They don’t enjoy the pain of being persecuted, but they like the purity persecution brings.

While I was thinking about all this I stumbled across something else quite remarkable. It’s the story behind the song, “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

150 years ago, there was a great revival in Wales, England. As a result of this, many missionaries came from England to northeast India to spread the Gospel. The region was known as Assam and composed of hundreds of tribes. The tribal communities were quite primitive and aggressive. Naturally, they were not welcomed. One Welsh missionary finally succeeded in converting a man, his wife, and two children. This man’s faith proved contagious and many villagers began to accept Christianity. Angry, the village chief summoned all the villagers. He then called the family who had first converted to renounce their faith in public or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the man sung his reply, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.”

Enraged at the refusal of the man, the chief ordered his archers to arrow down the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the floor, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.”

But the man replied, again singing, “Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back.”

The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered his wife to be killed. In a moment she joined her two children in death. Now he asked for the last time, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.”

In the face of death the man sung, “The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back. No turning back.”

He was shot dead like the rest of his family. But with their deaths, a miracle took place. The chief who had ordered the killings was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered, “Why should this man, his wife and two children die for a Man who lived in a far-away land on another continent some 2,000 years ago? There must be some supernatural power behind the family, and I too want that supernatural power.”

In a spontaneous confession of faith, he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

I encourage you to watch this video from Open Doors. In it Pastor Richard Kannwischer of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, tells this very story. It’s very moving and a sober reminder of the call of Jesus to count the cost of following him.

 

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God, suffering and the meaning of life

 

There’s no doubt about it: one of the most difficult and perplexing questions that any of us face – whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic, is the problem of pain and suffering.

It is a matter that is particularly difficult for the Christian.  The Christian believes in a God who is all-loving and all-powerful.  Immediately he is presented with a dilemma: if God is all-powerful, he has the ability to put an end to suffering.  If God is all-loving, he would care enough to put a stop to human suffering.  Since we continue to suffer God must either not be good and loving or he is not all-powerful.  This is the card the atheist continually throws in the Christian’s face.

John Lennox, Oxford Mathematician and Christian apologist says there are two different perspectives to this problem: the intellectual and the personal.  Both need addressing.  If you were told you had a terminal disease, you need a clear and accurate diagnosis so that you know exactly where you stand.  But that’s not all you need.  You also want someone who can empathize with you.  You need someone who will sit with you and hold your hand.

Let’s start with the personal.  I know what it is to experience suffering.  I haven’t suffered as much as others have.  I’ve never experienced Nazi gas chambers or been a victim of ethnic cleansing or been told by a doctor that I have incurable liver cancer and have 3 months to live.  But I’ve still seen and experienced suffering.

I remember, as a young boy, watching my grandfather vomiting up his food all over the table because his stomach lining was falling to pieces from the tins of bully-beef he ate in the trenches of Gallipoli.  I remember the day I was told that my brother Michael was killed after stalling his plane on a top-dressing run.  He immediately put the plane into a dive to build up air speed but never pulled out.  He was married only a month.  It was something my dad never fully got over.  We were all profoundly affected by it.

My wife’s upbringing wasn’t much easier.  Her dad left when she was only two years old.  Her mother had to raise two children on her own, working two jobs to make ends meet.  Then she developed Multiple Sclerosis and had to stop working, with no sickness benefit or family assistance.  One morning she found her mother dead on the kitchen floor.  She was 17.  Her mother was only 39.

Francelle tried staying in touch with her brother but he remained aloof from the family.  She wrote him many letters and prayed for him daily, but he never replied.  A few years back she received a phone call from her Aunt: her brother’s body was found in a hotel room, with a bottle of pain killers.  He had overdosed on pain medication and alcohol.  I don’t think he ever got over his father abandoning him.

Over the years of ministering together, we have seen people suffer greatly.  We’ve held a lifeless 6-month-old baby in our arms, days after his little life was taken by a brain tumor.  We’ve comforted parents of teenage son, who slipped under the waters of a lake while swimming with friends and never resurfaced.  We’ve sat with people overwhelmed with grief after learning their loved one has terminal cancer.

Our world is full of suffering.  None of us can escape it.  In one way or another, each of us have been personally affected.  So how do we make sense of it all?  Let’s begin with some inadequate answers.

Inadequate answers to the problem of suffering

Naturalism / Materialism

The naturalist says ultimate reality in life consists of matter and energy.  That’s all life is: atoms and particles banging into each other.  There is no God, there is no good and there is no evil.  Richard Dawkins, a leading 21st century spokesman for atheism says:

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.[1]

This is what happens when you take Atheism to its logical conclusion.  Terrorists and murderers and rapists are simply dancing to the music of their DNA.  So how can you blame them?  Well Dawkins would say you can’t because there is no good and no evil.  The problem of evil simply vanishes – intellectually.  How people find that satisfying I have no idea.

Pantheism

Pantheism is the view that God is everything and everyone and everything is God.  A tree is God, a rock is God, an animal is God, the sky is God, the sun is God, you are God.  Hinduism, Buddhism, and the New Age Movement are all forms of Pantheism.  But there’s a problem: if God is pure goodness (as God should be), then everything must be good – I’m good, you’re good, Hitler was good, the Holocaust was good.  Child abuse is good.  Cancer is good.  It’s all good because it’s all God.  Pantheism, as an answer for suffering, isn’t much better.

Theism

The theist believes in a personal/transcendent God who is both Creator and Ruler over all things, including suffering and evil.  All Christians are theists, as are orthodox Jews and Muslims (and some others).  Ask a Jewish a Jewish Rabbi about why suffering exists in the world and he won’t want to answer (especially since the Holocaust).  Ask a Muslim and he will say “it is the will of Allah.”  If you are suffering, Allah wills it.

The only adequate answer to the problem of suffering

None of those are adequate answers to the problem of pain and suffering.  That leaves one last option: Christianity.  Most of us a familiar with the biblical story.  God creates a perfect world, free from any disease or death or suffering.  Everything was as it should be.  Then Adam believes the serpent’s lie that he could be like God.  He disobeys and plunges the entire human race into sin.  Both Adam and Eve, along with the planet they inhabit, are cursed.  Death enters the scene and pain and suffering becomes his constant companion.

Why is the world the way it is?  Because we humans messed it up.  Natural disasters – hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis: it all comes back to human sin.  Don’t blame God for what we see.  We caused it.

Now all that is true and useful as far as it goes.  But it doesn’t go far enough.  It leaves the impression that God has washed his hands of the problem.  In trying to absolve God from any responsibility for suffering and evil, we end up with a God who has no say or control over human suffering.  He is merely a spectator.

But that not what we find in Scripture.  And Isaiah chapter 45 is just one very good example.  Here you have Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia.  The Medes and Persians conquered Babylon, a world empire.  Cyrus led that conquest.  In verse 1 God calls him “My anointed” – my chosen one.  God is going to use this pagan king to accomplish his good purposes.  Cyrus is going to kill people – lots of people.  He is going to cause much suffering.  But God has control of him, as the following verses indicate.  Then in verse 7 we find this very difficult verse:

“I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

The word “disaster” could also be translated adversity, affliction, calamity, distress, or misery.  The Lord, at times, for his own good purposes, cause adversity, affliction, distress and yes – when needed, even misery.

  • He sent an evil spirit to torment Saul
  • He sends poisonous snakes to bite the grumbling Israelites
  • Under King David he sends a pestilence that takes the lives of 70,000 men.

Evangelist Tony Evans says it this way: “Everything is either caused by God or allowed by God and there is no third category.”  When it comes down to it, I’d rather worship a God who suddenly and without warning does things that make no sense to me, who gives life as well as takes it, who sends prosperity as well as trouble – a God who at times leaves me speechless and confused, than worship a God who I can understand.  Because that would be a god who would be just like me.

Conclusion

There is one more important piece of the puzzle we haven’t yet touched on.  And I believe it’s the most important.  How do we make sense of all the suffering we see in the world?  We look to the cross.

The cross is the ultimate proof that God does not stand aloof from the suffering of the world.  He entered into it.  Two thousand years ago Jesus left the glories of heaven for the indignity of a lowly stable.  He entered our world, took our nature, and then died a sacrificial atoning death in our place. “Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, “than to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

He didn’t simply die with us.
He died for us.

But it doesn’t finish there.  Jesus came back from the dead.  He reversed the curse, broke the chains of sin and death and set in motion a chain of events that will one day mean an end to all hurricanes and tsunamis and earthquakes and cancer and suffering and pain that plagues us  in this world.

God has not left us without hope.  He has provided a way for us to be made whole, to be made new, and to live forever in the new creation.  Our bodies, our loved ones, our earthy home will one day be redeemed, restored and renewed.  This is how God is going to fix everything, and it’s all going to happen when Jesus returns.

In the last book of The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up, thinking everything is lost and discovers instead that he is still alive and all his friends are around him.  “Gandalf!” he cries out, “I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

The answer is YES.
And the answer of the Bible is YES.
Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the answer for those who believe is YES.

Note: This post was based on a sermon on Suffering and Evil from our “Hot Topics” series.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.  You can also listen to the discussion forum that followed here.

[1] Richard Dawkins, Out of Eden, page 133.

Why your worldview matters

We are about to embark on a new series in our church called “Hot Topics.”  We are going to cover a lot of the issues troubling both Christians and non-Christians such as euthanasia, homosexuality and gender dysphoria, pornography, the problem of suffering and evil and so forth.  Our people are getting excited about it and are even inviting some of their friends (the series kicks off this coming Sunday if you live near).

Someone made the comment to me last week, “You are going to have your work cut out.”  They are not wrong there.  The amount of material I’ve had to cover in preparation for this series is colossal.  There are books and medical journals and articles littered all over the place.  I feel like I’m back in theological college.

One of the things that has become quickly apparent to me in my reading all this material is the importance and significance of one’s worldview.  Don’t be put off by the term; it’s not as scary as you think.

“Worldviews are like belly buttons.  Everyone has one, but we don’t’ talk about them very often.” – James Andersen

A worldview, as the word itself suggests, is an overall view of the world.  It’s the lens you use to interpret everything that is going on around you.  It represents your fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the world and human life.  It’s what you use to answer all the big questions of life such as:

  • Is there a God?
  • If there isn’t a God, does it matter?
  • What is truth and how we determine what is true and what isn’t?
  • Where did the universe come from and where is it going – if anywhere?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Is there life after death?
  • Am I simply a collection of random cells that came together by chance or is there more to it than that?

You get the idea.  Your worldview will determine how you answer those questions.  And it also has a big say in your ethics and morals.  Your worldview will frame how you think about abortion, euthanasia, same-sex relationships, gender dysphoria, environmentalism, animal rights and almost any other major issue of our day.

For example, let’s look at the issue of euthanasia (I’m covering this one on Sunday so it’s fresh on my mind).  It quickly became apparent to me, in reading all the various views on this subject, how one’s worldview comes in to place.  If you hold to a secular humanistic worldview, you believe human life is a cosmic accident, a jumble of cells and chemicals that came together purely by chance over millions (or billions) of years and has no ultimate meaning.  Your opinions about euthanasia will be based purely on utilitarian and rationalistic reasons: Does it benefit the individual?  Does it promote human autonomy?  Does the majority of the population support it? Is it working in other places in the world? etc, etc.

If, on the other hand, your worldview is influenced by the Bible and a Judeo-Christian ethic, your views about euthanasia will be based on theological reasons.  A quick examination of the Scriptures will tell you that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27) – whether they be diseased or terminally ill or physically or mentally handicapped; that life is a gift from God and must not be taken (with a few exceptions – i.e. killing in self-defense) and the ending of human life is a divine prerogative shared by no one but God (Deut 32:39).

OK, so that’s a very strong example.  And we don’t normally deal with that on a daily basis.  There are all kinds of decisions however, that you do make on a daily basis that are influenced by your worldview such as the books you read, the movies you watch, the clothes you wear, the people you hand out with, how you go about dealing with a difficult neighbour, how you treat the elderly, how you spend your money, how you discipline your children – the list, literally, goes on and on.

What do you do when your boss asks you to fudge the date on a building inspection?  What about when a friend wants you to lie about where he was on a certain date, or aks you to download a pirated movie?

You can see worldviews are intensely practical and influence almost every decision we make.  Hitler had a worldview that resulted in the mass extermination of millions of people.  William Wilberforce had very different worldview, which resulted in the abolition of the slave trade, putting an end to untold human suffering.

Over the next few weeks, those in our congregation will have their worldviews put to the test.  What will be the outcome I wonder?  Like it not, these issues will force us all to talk about our “belly buttons.”

Note: If you are looking for a starting guide on this subject, I highly recommend a little book by James Andersen called, What’s Your Worldview?  He takes you on an interactive journey of discovery of your world view by asking some of life’s biggest questions.  Not only that, he even helps you to improve and change it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you don’t desire God

Every Christian has experienced it at one time or another.  Your heart feels cold, you have no desire to pray and you feel very distant from God.  You know it’s not good.  You know you should do something about it.  But you lack the will and motivation to do so.  You open your bible, looking and hoping for some spiritual light – some new truth to stimulate the mind and warm the affections, but nothing comes.  You put on some worship music, hoping that might change things.  But alas, it doesn’t.

Now there might be a number of causes for this malady: doubt, discouragement,  unconfessed sin, over-tiredness, or an attack from the enemy (who will do anything he can to keep you from seeking God).  Sometimes we just don’t know what the cause is.  It just IS.  The answer however, isn’t to try to get ourselves in a spiritually fit state to get back in touch with God.  That will never happen.  God is the only one who can get us back in touch with God.  Spiritual work can never be attained by human or fleshly means.  We should know that (if our theology is right).  But we forget.

So when I woke up the other morning and found myself struggling to pray, I knew the answer was not going to be found in myself, but in God.  I got down on my knees and went to a Psalm I frequently visit – Psalm 62.  The middle section goes like this:

Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before him.
God is our refuge.                               Selah

I don’t think we need to spend a lot of time explaining what it means to pour out your heart.

Commentators often use the example of Hannah pouring out her heart to God in 1 Samuel 1:13-15.  The word used there is the Hebrew debar, which simply means to speak your heart.  But that’s not the same word David uses here.  He uses the word shapak, used to describe the pouring of water from a cup, the pouring of blood over the altar or the melting of wax to pour into a mould.  A possible translation then of Psalm 62:8 could be, “melt and pour out your heart to God.”  That puts a slightly different spin on it.

But it still doesn’t help us in our cold, indifferent state.  How do you melt a cold heart?  You ask God for help.  God is not unaware of our condition, for “he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).  He knows us.  He is aware.  And he cares and is willing to help.

So I ask God to soften my heart and quicken my spirit and create a hunger and thirst for him.  I plead earnestly for this, explaining to him that if he doesn’t, I will remain indifferent and cold and my prayers will be ineffective.  I continue to plead and entreat and beg God in this matter until he answers.  He always does.  He is a gracious and kind Saviour.  He always comes to the aid of those who call upon him, especially in cases such as this.  He will not leave us bereft and abandoned.  He will meet you in your cold-heartedness and bring refreshment to your soul.  Frosted hearts melt in His presence.  Trust him for it.

I’ll leave you with some words from Spurgeon, who puts it in a way that only Spurgeon can:

Ye people, pour out your heart before him. Ye to whom his love is revealed, reveal yourselves to him. His heart is set on you, lay bare your hearts to him. Turn the vessel of your soul upside down in his secret presence, and let your inmost thoughts, desires, sorrows, and sins be poured out like water. Hide nothing from him, for you can hide nothing. To the Lord unburden your soul; let him be your only father confessor, for he only can absolve you when he has heard your confession. To keep our griefs to ourselves is to hoard up wretchedness. The stream will swell and rage if you dam it up: give it a clear course, and it leaps along and creates no alarm. Sympathy we need, and if we unload our hearts at Jesus’ feet, we shall obtain a sympathy as practical as it is sincere, as consolatory as it is ennobling.

 God is a refuge for us. Whatever he may be to others, his own people have a peculiar heritage in him; for us he is undoubtedly a refuge: here then is the best of reasons for resorting to him whenever sorrows weigh upon our bosoms. Prayer is peculiarly the duty of those to whom the Lord has specially revealed himself as their defence.

Some other resources that might be of help to you:

 

When You Fail the Lord

Has there ever been a time in your life when you denied Christ?  That doesn’t just mean blatantly denying him, as Peter did.  There are many ways in which we deny Jesus:

    • By being ashamed of him
    • By not speaking about him in public
    • By our silence
    • By our lifestyle, which does not match our profession

We live in a culture that is increasingly hostile towards religion and specifically Christianity.  Christians are painted as morons and idiots (or worse – intolerable bigots) who believe in myths and fairy tales.  Out of fear of being mocked and ridiculed, we shrink back and clam up.  We don’t confess Christ.  And by not confessing him, we – like Peter, deny him.  So, I think this little story about Peter’s denial of Jesus speaks to each and every one of us.

Peter was ready to face anything for Jesus.  Or so he thought.  He pulled out his sword to take on the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus (he even got one good swipe in, taking off poor Malchus’ ear).  He followed Jesus into the courtyard of the High Priest when Jesus was facing his trial.  He boldly went where no other disciple would go and boldly said what none of the other disciples dared to speak.  None of the others acted so courageously as Peter.  Yet Peter did the one thing he vowed he would never do: he denied that he knew Christ – not just once, not twice but on three separate occasions.

Avoiding the Pathway of Failure

When it came to the crunch, Peter crumbled.  He fell, and he fell badly.  So, what can we learn from him?  What happened to Peter was no accident.  It could have been avoided (from a human standpoint).  There were five fatal mistakes that Peter made:

1. He boasted in his own strength

Earlier that night, Jesus warned all the disciples that they would fall away because of him (Matthew 26:31).  But Peter somehow thought that did not apply to him.  He was above that.  He was tough; he was determined.  He would stand strong. “Even if everyone falls away because of you, I will never fall away.” (Matthew 26:33)

What’s his problem?  He did not really know himself.  He did not understand the deceitfulness of his own heart.  The Apostle Paul warns us of this in 1 Corinthians 10:12

“So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.”

The one who thinks he cannot fall into sin is in the most precarious position of all.  Don’t think that you are above temptation.  Don’t think that because of your age or your wisdom or your experience or your bible knowledge that you are above some sin.  You’re not.  Apart from God’s empowering grace, you are nothing.

I need to remind myself of this daily.  How easily I can be self-deceived!  I see other very well-known Christian leaders fall into sin and I say to myself, “That wouldn’t happen to me.  I wouldn’t do that.”  The moment that happens, I am in serious trouble.  Beware of pride and self-deception.  Beware of over-confidence.  You are not above any sin – even the sin of denying the Lord Jesus.

2. He failed to heed God’s warning

Jesus clearly warned Peter about what would take place that night.  Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times (John 13:38).  Peter was warned.  Yet that warning went unheeded.  He did not take the words of Jesus to heart.

If we are to avoid falling into sin, if we are to steer a wide path around temptation, we must give heed to Scriptural warnings.  And there are plenty of them for Christians.  There are warnings about sexual sin, warnings about ungodly influence, and warnings about spiritual apathy.  And yet time and time again I see Christians completely ignore these warnings, as if somehow they don’t apply to them.

3. He fell prey to the fear of man

This slave girl who was at the door, she is not someone Peter needed to fear – right?  So why does he fear her?  Because Peter, at that moment, was living in fear – the fear of man.  And the fear of man is a snare, Proverbs 29:25 tells us.  Fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, or in Peter’s case, fear for your own life will trap you and ultimately paralyze you.

The antidote to the fear of man is the fear of God.  Fear of God drives out all other human fears.

“The fear of mankind is a snare, but the one who trusts in the Lord is protected.” (Proverbs 29:25).

Peter learned his lesson.  Many years later, he wrote: “Do not fear what they fear or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:13–15)

When we reverence God properly in our lives and realize that His opinion is the one that ultimately matters, we will avoid the snare, disability, and paralysis that comes from cringing before the potential disapproval of man.

4. He allowed his sin to go unchecked

At the first blow of sin, when he lied to the servant girl, Peter should have stopped and recognized his sin.  He should have dealt with it right then and there, by confessing and repenting of it and then seeking God’s grace to stand strong next time.  But he didn’t.  He let his first sin go unchecked.  And whenever you let sin go unchecked you will fall headlong into the same sin soon after.

5. He warmed himself at the wrong fire

At first glance, it seems innocent enough.  It was a cold night, Peter was shivering, he needed to warm himself. But he chose the wrong place.  These were the enemies of Jesus, and he was trying to blend in with them, to act like them, and pretend that he did not know Jesus.

There’s nothing wrong with spending time with unbelievers.  That’s what we are supposed to do.  But not for the reason of trying to be like them.  Our purpose for being among unbelievers is to give evidence of the power of the gospel in our own lives.  How can we do that when we are trying hard to look like them? Learn the lesson of Peter!  Don’t go warming yourself at the wrong fire.

Conclusion

If the story ended here, it would indeed be a story of failure and defeat.  But it doesn’t.  It ends instead, at the end of John’s gospel on a beach, on another cold morning besides another fire.  There Jesus, following his resurrection, fully restores Peter and commissions him to the be leader of his new church.  There is an important principle at work here. A bone that is broken often becomes stronger after it is healed.

The same thing is true of our failures. God can take us where we are broken and make us stronger than we were before.

That’s what happened to Peter. His guilt was turned into grace; his shame into sympathy and his failure into faithfulness.  Is there proof of this?  There sure is!  Read the first few chapters of the book of Acts. The once loud, boisterous and cowardly Peter becomes a strong, dependable and courageous leader of the church.  He was the same man, but he was different.  In the hands of the Master Potter had been reshaped and refined.

Hope for The Fallen

There is hope for all of us—the best of us, the worst of us, and the rest of us.  There is hope because all of these sins – sins of failure, sins of regret, sins of disobedience, and sins of shame, have been born by Jesus on the cross.  They can be forgiven and wiped away.  Not only that, but the resurrection power of Jesus is available for us to give strength to live differently.  This is the good news of the gospel; fallen sinners can be restored and made new.  They can become useful again.

Take heart and believe the good news.  If He did it for Peter, He can do it for you.

Note: This post was based on a sermon I preached from the Gospel of John.  You can listen to the full audio on our website here.