Tag Archives: denial

The one crucial step that must come before doing God’s will

28 Aug

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

What is the will of God?

Yesterday we looked at the surprising weapon Christians are to arm themselves with: the attitude of Jesus, which was an attitude of following the will of God for his life no matter what.  As we continue studying 1 Peter 4:1-6, Peter goes on to say in verse 2 that we Christians will no longer live for evil human desires, but rather we live for the will of God.

What is the will of God?

Here is what the will of God is not: Peter is not talking about some special plan that God has for our future.

Very simply, living for God’s will is doing what God says.  Another great word for this is obedience.  We followers of Jesus are committed to obeying God, and Peter says that means that we no longer obey evil human desires.  What are evil human desires?

Another way to translate the words “evil human desires” is the word “lust.”  The scholars tell us that the word Peter used means “to strongly desire to have what belongs to someone else, and/or to engage in an activity which is morally wrong.” (Louw & Nida)

When you put verses 1 and 2 together, Peter is saying that through the suffering he mentioned in verse 1, disciples of Jesus are no longer living for selfish human desires, but we are to live for the will of God, which means we obey his desire for our lives.

This the key to living as followers of Jesus: we live to obey the will of God! To obey God’s desires.

To understand this further, Peter uses the word “Flesh” multiple times in these few verses.  In the NIV you see it as the word “body” and as “earthly life”.  What Peter is talking about is that there are so many desires that our flesh has.  But so far in verses 1-2 Peter has been saying that when we experience suffering in our flesh, it really puts things into perspective, and sinful desires pale in comparison.  Thus followers of Jesus make it our focus to live according to God’s will and desires for us.

Let’s talk more about living for God’s will.  It is such a foundational concept to Christianity.

But how to we follow God’s will?  It can feel a bit forced.  Peter is saying, “Do God’s will.” Or, “Just obey.” Is that all there is to it?  Just obey.  Can we just choose to obey?  Is it that easy?

Maybe you have a personality where if God says it, then you are good to go with obeying it, period.  No questions.  You are okay with it.  And you genuinely seek to obey.

But there are others of you who have a different personality or approach.  You hear, “do God’s will,” and you know that it is a good thing, but you are wondering, why should we obey God?  Or is that all there is to it? Is there a reason for it? Can’t God tell us more about this?

I would suggest that there is more.  And that Peter knows there is more.  And that Jesus taught that there is more.  And this is what is more: obeying God’s will is intended to flow from a heart of love for God.

When we love someone, we are inclined to respect them, serve them, treat them well, help them.  God doesn’t want us to obey him begrudgingly because he is the supreme power of the universe, and we are his creatures.  As if God is some dictator.  Or a master with slaves.  God wants us to do his will out of love for him. He wants to be in a real loving relationship with us.

I wonder, do you love him?

Of course we would say “yes” to that.  But perhaps we say, “Yes, I love God” too quickly, without examining our hearts and minds.

I use some phone apps to guide me in reading scripture and praying.  One is from the Book of Common Prayer, and it has morning, evening and night prayer services that you can read through and pray.  It includes plenty of Scripture and the Lord’s Prayer, other written prayers, spaces for silence and your own prayer requests as well.  One of the written prayers that is in there every single day always gets me thinking:

“As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you, now and forever, amen.”

And then yesterday, another app I use had this prayer,

“Dear Lord, instill in my heart the desire to know and love you more.”

In a week when I was thinking about a passage that emphasizes obeying God, these two prayers hit me hard.  Do I love God?  Of course, I love God.  But really, do I love God?

I thought of Peter, not long after Jesus was arrested and taken away.  That evening, Peter is following from a distance, watching, fear rising in his heart, as they put Jesus on trial.  Then Peter is spotted, and pointed out as one who had been with Jesus.  Peter allows fear to overtake him, and he denies knowing Jesus, once, twice, three times.  Vehemently Peter denies knowing Jesus.

Then the rooster crows, and Jesus looks out across the way, locking eyes with Peter.  Peter, who had only hours before made bold claims about dying for Jesus, now has denied him. He flees the scene, weeping bitter tears.  But a few days later, Jesus rises from the dead, and Peter is a changed man.

Jesus reinstates him, saying Peter, “Do you love me?”  Three times, one for each denial.  And each time Peter says “I love you.”

This is a different Peter now.  Having acted out of fear instead of love, Peter is now set on a trajectory of loving Jesus that will carry on for the rest of his life.

Jesus transformed his life. Jesus wants to do the same in your life.  He wants to restore a loving relationship between you and him.  He is not a taskmaster forcing you to do his will.  Instead, he wants you to know, out of mutual love for one another, that loving him leads to obeying him which is the best possible way to live.

How God wants to restore you

16 May

Betrayal and denial.  Jesus experienced both, from two of his closest followers, in a matter of no more than one hour.  That had to hurt deeply. You can read the story in Luke 22:47-62.

Yesterday at Faith Church we talked about what it feels like when we have been betrayed or denied.  We also talked about how easy it is, like Jesus’ disciples Judas and Peter, to betray or deny God.  Imagine how those two guys felt when the realization of their betrayal and denial of Jesus finally broke over them.

We are told that Peter had godly sorrow that led to repentance.  After Peter denied Jesus the third time, just as Jesus said he would, Luke tells us that Peter and Jesus were in close enough proximity to one another that Jesus turned and looked right at Peter.  Imagine being Jesus at that moment.  Heartbroken.  Imagine being Peter.  Sick to the stomach at his failure, Luke tells us Peter goes away sobbing bitter tears.

Judas had a different reaction.  We have to go to Matthew’s story of Jesus’ life to learn about it.  In Matthew 27:3-5 we read: “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’  And he went out and hanged himself.”

Peter wept, and Judas admitted his sin.

But there is a difference in the nature of their actions.  Judas acted with premeditation.  Peter did not.  Judas took time to plan out his betrayal, sought out the religious leaders, received payment, set up the arrest.  Peter did nothing like this.  Peter’s denial was not premeditated or proactive.  Instead it was reactive.  It was an unplanned act, a terrible choice in the midst of a horrible situation.

Judas’ response of suicide showed he had no hope.  Why would he have no hope?  Shouldn’t he have known Jesus and the grace, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus?  Yes, he should have.  But he didn’t, and that is revealing.  Judas didn’t really know Jesus.  Peter did.

Peter’s response is very different.  He is broken, sorrowful.

Have you ever been like Peter, caught by the proverbial crow of the rooster, reminding you of your failure?

2 Corinthians 7:10 says it perfectly: 

We can be sorry we got caught.  We can be sorry because we don’t want consequences for our actions.  When we examine our motives, we can learn that they are really messed up.

It is hard to be sorry with a godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  All of us have messed up.  What does it mean to be restored?  To find restoration we can examine Peter’s story: What was it about Peter that led him to make a rebound?

This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday.  Do you remember what happened on Pentecost Sunday?

We read about it in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit first came to fill the disciples, while they were waiting in Jerusalem, waiting for what to do next.  The Spirit comes and they start preaching in other languages.  One guy takes the lead in the preaching.  One guy is particularly bold.

Guess who it was?  Peter.

Think about the timing.  The events of Pentecost, where Peter is so bold, are only about a month and a half after the events of his denial of Jesus.  A month and a half!

What we saw in Luke 22 is that Peter is a broken man.  He has just denied Jesus, three times, and Jesus knew it, and Peter runs out weeping bitterly.

Now a month and a half later he is preaching boldly about Jesus.

What gives?  How did that turnaround happen?

To find out we turn to John 21:15-17, a story that does not appear in Luke.

After his resurrection, the disciples went back to their jobs.  They were fisherman, and they needed to make some money, feed their families, and so they went fishing.   Jesus found them, made a fire on the beach, waiting for the disciples to return so they could eat together.  Though he had resurrected, he was about to return to his Father and turn the mission of his Kingdom over to them.  He had some unfinished business with them to care for.  The disciples return to shore, and Jesus pulls Peter aside and says “Do you love me?”

It is more precise in the original language, Koine Greek, which has a variety of words, all of which we translate with one English word: “love.”

 

Jesus starts in verse 15 asking Peter “Do you agape me?”  Agape is perfect love.  This is the love that is used to describe God’s love, or to describe the love we should have for one another, as stated famously in 1 Corinthians 13.

Peter responds “Lord, you know that I phileo you.”  Phileo is brotherly love, very relational.  Phila-Delphia is the City of Brotherly love.

In a way, then, while Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, Peter answers very relationally, saying he has brotherly love for Jesus.

So Jesus says “Feed my lambs.”  It might sound odd to us, this shepherd language. But Jesus knows that Peter felt terrible about denying Jesus, that Peter would be wondering if he was no longer acceptable to Jesus. Perhaps Peter should forfeit his position in the inner circle of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  Jesus, who had once said to Peter “on you I will build my church”, now reinstates him: “Feed my sheep.”

Then surprisingly, Jesus asks him again, “Do you agape me?”, and Peter repeats “You know I phileo you”.  You can see Peter internally, and maybe in body language on his face, wondering, “Why is he asking me again?”  You and I know how it feels when our spouse or loved one asks, “Do you love me?” and we respond “Of course I love you!”  And then they ask again, “But really, do you really love me?”  At this second questioning, we can start to get offended, thinking that they shouldn’t have to ask a second time!  Do they not believe us?  Why would they have any reason to doubt?  Peter is starting to feel this, to think these thoughts.

So Jesus says again “Take care of my sheep.” Again, reinstating Peter.

Imagine the shock as Jesus now asks Peter a third time, “Do you love me?”  But this time Jesus has used the word “phileo”.  Now Jesus is getting very personal.

John tells us in the middle of verse 17 that Peter is hurt.  As any of us would be when we are asked to repeat ourselves a third time.  But Peter now says a third time, “You know that I phileo you.”

And Jesus says a third time, “Feed my sheep.”

Do you see what Jesus has done?  Each of Peter’s three denials have now been overturned by three “I love yous”, and by Jesus’ three reinstatements of Peter to “feed his sheep.”

Peter is restored.

Jesus is in the business off restoration.  Do you need to be restored?  If you have denied him, if you have disobeyed him, if you have been ashamed of him, you can be restored!

He loves you with Agape and Phileo, and he wants to restore you.

So come to him, like Peter, with a heart, mind and will that show your godly sorrow, and he will restore you.

That’s how Peter could preach a powerful sermon just a few weeks later.  He was restored.  And he fed Jesus’ sheep.

If you have betrayed Jesus, if you have denied him, know that he loves you.  Let him restore you.  Then feed his sheep.