Making a Difference in the World
Peter – Progressing Faith
Luke 22:31-32
 
We are in a series of studies on the twelve apostles; 12 ordinary men called and used by Jesus to do some very extraordinary things. And as I shared with you last week, one of the things that makes these men so wonderful and applicable for us to study is the fact that they were so very human.  They had their faults and their failures, their strengths and their weaknesses, their victories and their defeats just like we do.
 
Sometimes they would knock the ball out of the park and at other times they would totally strike out, but the one thing that we must never forget, even though great cathedrals have been named after them and beautiful stained-glass windows have portrayed their likenesses throughout history and even scripture has given us the details of their lives, they were at the very best, just plain, ordinary, average, and everyday men.  That’s why they are such an encouragement to study.
 
And I don’t suppose we get to see more of the personal victories and failures of any of them any more than we do with Simon Peter.
 
Now, everybody loves to nitpick and criticize Peter.  We all love to talk about how he was always opening up his mouth and sticking his foot in it.  It seems like almost every time he spoke he was saying the wrong thing.  In fact, John MacArthur calls him "the disciple with the foot-shaped mouth."
 
He was kind of like the teenage boy I heard about who was walking along with his sweetheart on a beautiful summer's night.  The sky was filled with stars; the moon was full and big, the crickets were chirping and there was a soft, warm breeze blowing, and he was so over come with love and romance that he blurted out, "I love you so much, will you marry me?"
 
The girl looked back and said, "Of course, I'll marry you."  They walked along for 15 or 20 more minutes without saying a word. Finally, she looked over at her fiancé and said, "Why don't you say something?"  He said, "I think I've said too much already."
 
That's sort of the way Peter was.  His mouth and his impulsiveness got him into a lot of trouble.  From arguing with Jesus when he was told that he would deny Him, to pulling out his sword and cutting off that servant's ear in the garden, to even rebuking Jesus Himself and having Jesus rebuke him in return and call him "Satan," Peter was his own worst enemy.
 
But here's the thing that makes Peter so special and even so endearing to us -- at the time, at the moment, he meant every single word that He said and while everybody may have been willing to stand around and twiddle their thumbs, he was going to do something, even if it was wrong.  And I think that there is something deep down inside a lot of us that not only admires that quality, but identifies with it as well. 
 
As Warren Wiersbe said, "Peter was genuinely converted, unusually controversial, amazingly colorful, deeply consecrated and completely human."
By the way, let me just say this.  Your faith ought to get you into trouble some times.  Now, if everybody thinks you're nuts, there's a good chance they're right.  If some people think you're nuts, that's okay, but if nobody thinks you're crazy for Jesus, the there's probably a flaw in your faith.
 
But now, notice this, even though he was ordinary, the Lord used Peter to accomplish some really extraordinary things.  We can be critical of him if we want to, but let's just face it, other than Jesus, he's the only person who's ever walked on water.  In fact, he’s the only one who ever had the desire to walk on water.
 
It’s easy to sit on the seashore and be critical, but I have an idea Peter would rather be spitting out sea water and taking a dare that sitting around afraid to ever try anything wonderful for the Lord.
 
We can talk about him behind his back if we want to, but when is the last time any of us raised somebody from the dead? And I’ll guarantee you most preachers will never give an invitation where 3,000 people give their hearts to Jesus on the spot.
 
So, that's the puzzle that we see in Peter.  On the one hand he was less than ordinary, while on the other he's among the greatest Christians who have ever lived.
 
George Mattheson was a great biographical preacher of years gone by and he had a way of looking into scripture and into the person and giving us a glimpse of the real man or woman who he had studied, and he said,
 
"There is no figure in the New Testament which presents to the eye such a mixture of simplicity and enigma as that of Simon Peter. To outward appearance his character may be read on the surface.  He is not a theologian like John the Baptist; he is not a mystic like John the Evangelist; he is a plain, blunt man who speaks the language of the common day and breathes the wants of the passing hour.  We feel that we have met him often, and that we shall meet him many times again."
 
So, this morning I want to introduce you to the leader of this group of 12 ordinary men, an ordinary man by the name of Simon who Jesus nicknamed "Peter" or as we would call him today, "Rocky."
 
Now I realize the danger of speaking about such a familiar figure as Peter.  Many of you have studied the Bible for years, and you probably have heard the stories of Peter preached all of your life.  But even though we may think that we know everything about Peter that there is to know, mainly because he appears to have not hid anything, I would dare to say that there's a great deal about this man that remains undiscovered under the surface of his straightforwardness.
 
But even if you know a lot of what I'm going to share with you this morning, I want to challenge you to listen this morning with a fresh appreciation and maybe even a new realization of the fact that from the moment that Jesus called Peter to lay down his nets and follow Him, until the moment that He called him home, Jesus was constantly and consistently refining his faith.  His story, like ours, is one of a developing, progressing faith.
 
As a matter of fact, Jesus more than hints at that fact in a warning that He gave Peter here in
 
Luke 22:31
 
How'd you like to have been Peter when he heard Jesus say these words? "Simon, Simon! You know you're in trouble when Jesus starts off by calling you by your first name twice!
 
And then to hear the Lord say, Satan wants to possess you to sift you as wheat.
 
It would be scary enough to know that we are in Satan’s crosshairs, but then to understand that his desire is sift.  That’s the only place in the Bible this word is used and it means to “separate in order to find out what you're made of."
 
So Satan wants to find out what Peter is made of and Jesus is going to allow it to happen.
 
But don’t miss verse 32
 
In Peter we find the picture, not of a perfect faith, but of a progressing faith.  Now, that's not what you'd think the first time that you meet him.  He seems to have it all together. He seems so bold. He seems so sure.  There doesn't appear to be a fearful bone in his body, but that is that very thing that makes Peter such a puzzle.
 
On the surface there's courage, but beneath there's fear.  On the surface there's confidence, but beneath there's doubt.  On the surface there is strength, but beneath there is weakness.
 
It's not that he's a courageous man with flashes of fear, in reality he is a fearful man with moments of bravery and a big mouth.  And that's a very important distinction for you to grasp.
 
You see, if that’s not true, then Peter's got a much more serious problem than we realize.  If he’s just all mouth and no substance then he is revealing a very serious character flaw instead of just an immature faith.   But just like you and me, Jesus knew what he got when he got us.
 
So when Jesus calls him to follow Him, He begins to be refined and strengthened and made into the powerful preacher who would one day stand up on the day of Pentecost, in front of those who crucified Jesus,  and say, "You have  illegally crucified the Messiah, but God has raised Him up from the dead!"
 
Now, what I want to do this morning, is take you through the refining process of Peter's life and show you how Jesus made him into the mighty man of faith that we know him as today, and as I do that, maybe you'll begin to see how Jesus is refining and strengthening and molding and making you into the mighty man or woman that He wants you to be.
 
Peter began with
 
1.  A Step of Faith
 
Turn back to the passage that we studied last week,
 
Matthew 4:18-20
 
 
 
Here we are introduced to this man by the name of "Simon called Peter."  Again, most of us have heard about him all of our lives.  We know the disciple named Peter, but who is the man named "Simon Peter?"  Well, as we read the Bible we are told several things about him.
 
First of all, from here in Matthew 4 we discover he was a fisherman and he had a brother named Andrew.
 
In John 1, we find out he is from the city of Bethsaida which means "House of Fish."
 
According to Matthew 16:17, his father was a man by the name of Jonah (or John as we would say today) because Jesus called him "Simon BarJonah" or "Simon, son of Jonah".  For all intents and purposes his name was Simon Johnson.
 
We also discover here in Matthew chapters 4 and 8 that he married and moved to a larger city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee called Capernaum.
 
Mark lets us know in the opening chapter of his gospel, Peter was evidently a successful businessman, partnering with James and John, the sons of Zebedee, which allowed him to have a house with a large enough courtyard to accommodate the many people who came to Jesus for healing.
 
We know that he met Jesus at Bethany beyond the Jordan where John the Baptist was baptizing and he enjoyed a three-faceted relationship with Jesus as as friend, disciple and apostle.
 
 
I think it safe to say he was naturally inquisitive, tenderhearted, affectionate, gifted with spiritual insight, and yet sometimes slow to understand deeper spiritual truths.  He was self-sacrificing, yet he struggled with selfishness.  And once he was convicted about something, he lived up to the nickname Jesus gave him as the rock.
 
That's a small snapshot of the man the Bible introduces to us as "Simon Peter."  And here in Matthew chapter 4, we see him as he takes his initial step of faith to follow Jesus.
 
Jesus walks by one day and sees Peter and his brother Andrew working and says, "Hey, follow me and I'll make you fishers of men."  And just like you would expect Peter to do, He drops his nets on the spot and follows Jesus.  He probably didn't have to think about it much.
 
Maybe he'd seen Jesus before. He knew who He was.  He'd seen him baptized. And when Jesus gave him the invitation, He followed without ever really looking back.  That's faith.  He left a successful business, his home and family and friends and steps out in faith to follow Jesus.
 
Now, let's just be honest, there's more faith in that one single act than a lot of people will ever exhibit.  If you don't think so, just think about this: 
 
"What did you give up or have you given up to follow Jesus?"  Most of us, if we were honest, didn't have to give up anything at all.  But Peter gave up everything to follow Jesus.
 
 
He probably had some social standing there in Capernaum, but when he followed Jesus he lost whatever credibility he'd work to build.
 
He probably had some financial stability there in Capernaum, but when he followed Jesus he didn't even have a place to sleep or food to eat.  In his eyes he'd given up a lot to follow Jesus, and when the carnal side came out he wasn't afraid to remind Jesus.  He told Jesus one time, "We've left everything to follow you.  What’s in it for us?"
 
You see, I share this scene with you to show you that faith has to start somewhere.  It has to begin sometime, and the mighty faith that we're going to see later own began as an initial faith when Peter laid down his nets to follow Jesus.  And even if your faith is small this morning, it can be discovered and developed and strengthened and refined if you'll just drop whatever it is that you hold dear and decide to follow Jesus.
 
There was an initial step of faith where Peter began the process of having his faith refined, and everyone must start there.
 
So what happened after Peter got started following the Lord?  I guess everything just leveled out and was fine right?  Not quite.  Next we see Peter’s
 
2.  Walk of Faith
 
If there is one thing we see consistently in the life of Peter it is his inconsistency, even at his finest moments.
 
 
John 1:40-42
 
I want you to circle two little phrases found there in verse 42
 
First of all, circle that little phrase, "You are. . ."  And then I want you to circle the little phrase, "You shall be. .  ."  Do you know why that is so important? It's because in that one, single sentence, Jesus is giving both a revelation and a prophecy.
 
He was looking deep into the innermost person of Peter and in His wisdom He saw that He couldn't expect more from Peter than Peter could give.  But at the same time Jesus showed His divine faith that in time, when all of the rough edges and inconsistencies of Peter's faith had been worn down and filled in, he would have the kind of faith that Jesus could build his church upon.
 
Now, since Peter was a fisherman, I think that it's really interesting to look at the times when Peter was with Jesus around the sea and to notice how his faith fluctuated.  I mean, if there was a place on this earth where a fisherman ought to be at home, you'd think that it would be on the sea, but as we'll see here in a minute, his faith evidently didn't have its sea-legs.  And as you read and study scripture, there are basically five incidents that show us the scenes around the sea, but for the sake of time, let me show you the three main ones and explain what we see in these three incidents.
 
The first time is found in Luke chapter 5 and here we see Peter's lack of faith in Jesus' provision.
 
 
Jesus had been teaching there along the sea-shore, and he stepped into Peter's boat and started giving Peter orders.  Now, remember, Peter and the others had been working all night long, rowing, and hauling and casting their nets, but when the sun was beginning to rise, they hadn't caught a thing. So, this really wasn't the best time for somebody to jump into Peter's boat, even if it was Jesus, and tell him to cast out into the deep water and let down his nets for a catch.
 
You see, in Peter's mind, nobody knew the sea and fishing better than he did, and everybody knew that you didn't catch fish in the deep water during the day, you caught fish in the shallow water during the night.  And so, with a bit of sarcasm in his voice, Peter said, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing, nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net."
 
Don't get the idea that this was some sort of declaration of faith, it wasn't.  Peter thought, "What does a preacher know about fishing?  I mean, I'm sure he knows theology and doctrine and all of those sorts of things, but I'm a fisherman, and if I do what he tells me to do I'm going to be the laughing stock of the entire city, but I'll show him, I'll teach him a lesson about coming onto my boat and giving me orders, “Okay, Jesus, we'll do what you tell us to do.  We'll launch out deep and drop our nets and we'll teach you a lesson about fishing."
 
But Peter didn't teach Jesus a lesson, Jesus taught Peter a lesson -- they caught so many fish that it almost sank their boat and they had to call for other boats to come and help them.
 
And Peter dropped down at Jesus' feet and said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
 
The second scene is found in Matthew chapter 8, and here we see Peter's lack of faith in Jesus' protection.  You know the story.  Jesus and His disciples are on a boat out on the Sea of Galilee, Peter's at the wheel, Jesus is at the back of the boat asleep and a terrible storm comes up on that sea that's really nothing more than a large lake, and these fearless fishermen, including Peter, are all afraid that they are going to drown, and so they go wake Jesus up and say, "Lord, if you don't do something, we're all going to drown."
 
And Jesus said, ""Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm."  And they said, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"
 
Can I give you something from this story that ought to be a real encouragement to you today?  There are two little phrases that I don't want you to forget, and they are, "a great tempest arose" and "He arose" because with the rising of every storm, there is the rising of the Savior who alone can silence it.
 
Here's the last, and really the greatest sea-scene in Peter's life.  It's found in Matthew 14, and here we see Peter's lack of faith in Jesus' power.  Jesus has sent the disciples to the other side of the sea, but when the boat gets to the middle of the sea another storm comes up, and so Jesus, probably realizing that they were all going nuts there on the boat starts walking on the water to them.
 
At first when they see Him, they think it's a ghost, and they start to scream like little girls. (That's what it says in the Greek.)
 
Matthew 14:28-33
 
This is the epitome of who Peter is.  There is no greater example of Peter being Peter than we have here.  One minute he's in the boat crying out in fear, the next minute he's stepping on the waves in faith.  One minute he's sinking into the sea in doubt, the next he's crying out to Christ for deliverance.
 
But here's the thing, and don't miss this -- in each and every one of these situations, Jesus was refining and Jesus was molding and Peter ready for what lie ahead.
 
Did Peter ever blow it?  He blew it over and over and over again. There were times when he put more faith in a storm than he did in the Savior.  There was a time when he worried more about what a little girl thought than what Jesus thought.  There were times when he forgot who Jesus was and what Jesus could do and tried to get ahead, or even in the way, of what the Lord was here to do -- BUT!  When it was scored at the bottom of the ninth and all of the bases were loaded, Peter knocked it out of the park.
 
I love what Babe Ruth said, "Never let the fear of striking out get in your way." -- Peter didn't.
 
Finally, let me finally show you . .
 
 
 
 
3.  Life of Faith
 
Acts 2:14, 22-24, 38-43
 
Peter had been sifted alright, and all of his fear had been replaced by faith, and he fulfilled the promised that Jesus prayed for him on that day, "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
 
He did, and he continues to do so today.
 
Let’s pray.

 

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