Church is one of the most important, challenging, costly and rewarding things in my life. But why do I go? I hope you’ll consider why you attend church as we venture through the Bible over the next 2 Sunday’s.
What first brought you here? Why do you keep coming back? What do you love about church? What would you like to change? I set up a video camera in the fellowship hall and at the end of the service I would like to video tape some of your thoughts about this church for next week’s service.
I’ve broken this message into two parts; today’s message is geared toward those of us who have attended this church for some time, for those of us who call this place home. Next week’s message will be geared toward those who maybe attend but wouldn’t necessarily call this place home.
I have had many discussions, debates, and even arguments about church in the short time that I’ve been a Christian. I have many opinions about what church is but sometimes that’s all they are, opinions. As a leader it can become easy to proclaim you’ve got the corner on truth. That your interpretation is the only one and anyone else can, as Chris would say, “Go fly a kite.” I have a secret that every Christian leader knows… it makes a leader wise, righteous, and able to pull out deep spiritual meaning from life and is accessible to everyone. Its God’s word, not mine. Kids at the Youth Center and Youth Group love me (for the most part), they love Chris, they really love Kizzy, and they tolerate Ryan. Kids as well as adults tend to act like the people they really like. Celebrities make millions from endorsements forc the clothes they wear to the stuff they drink because everyone wants to be like them. I hope I never reach celebrity status but I live my life as if people want to be like me. The way I do that is when they point to me I try to point to him. Usually they point to make fun of me but every once in a while a kid will look up to me and say, “I want to be like you.” Or “Jack is my hero.” Who doesn’t like hearing that? Guess what though, I will let them down. At some point in Jon-Jon’s life he will look up to me as his personal hero, and as much as I will try to uphold that ideal I will fail. But here’s the grace that God gives us, Jesus is perfect! He is the hero of all heroes. A hero who cannot fail. Never has; never will. I hope to have that conversation with my boy when he’s older. I’ll tell him that I am not perfect but I know who is. Jesus is the hero and I’m just a sidekick.
Welcome to church a congregation filled with sin, addiction, righteousness, and love. How many of you here have ever met a Christian who introduces themselves as a saint? They don’t verbally say it but you can tell from their self-righteous behavior. How many of you have been that person? Don’t answer that! I’ve been that person before and I’m sure as much as I don’t want to admit it that I will probably be that person again in the future. I think it would please God more if I introduced myself as a sinner before I revealed God has made me a saint. Maybe my opinions aren’t convincing you. Let’s open up the worlds all time number one bestseller God’s word.
There was this guy named Simon. He had a wife and two homes; both on lakes because he was a fisherman. He had a close brother named Andrew who was a disciple of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was an… interesting guy. He hung out in the desert sometimes ate locusts and honey… a Wildman who lived off the land. John pointed his disciples to Jesus which is what Andrew did for Simon. John 1:35-42
How many of you here were given names with a meaning? Consider your last name and what it means in our community. Jesus gave Simon a new name that had far more meaning than Simon knew at that time. We’ll get to that in a bit.
As Simon Peter hung out with Jesus and the disciples he became known as the impulsive one. He was the most outspoken disciple, often speaking before thinking…sound like anyone familiar?
Some examples of Peter’s impulsive devotion; Matthew 14:22-32 (walks on water)
As my Dad always says, “As impulsive as Peter was and as big a failure his splash made he was the only disciple who got out of the boat and walked on water.” I think there’s a message in there about risking things for God but that’s for another Sunday.
Matthew 17:1-9 (Transfiguration)
God is so gracious, Peter is making a fool of himself and God just says listen to my son.
John 18:1-14 (Peter cuts off ear)
Mark 14:26-31(Jesus predicts Peter’s denial)
Have you ever heard anyone say, “The Bible is full of mistakes.” They are 100% correct. Take Peter’s life as an example, mistake after mistake after mistake. Those mistakes are in there to show us what not to do but also to show us what to do after we’ve messed up.
Some of you may think you’ve messed up so badly that you can do no good. You walk around like you’re damaged goods. You come to church for other people but not for yourself. God wants to tell you something through the life of Peter.
Let’s see how Peter held up to his promise, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” Mark 14:66-72 Peter denied knowing Jesus 3 times failing yet again. After seeing Jesus perform miracles you don’t read about in the Old Testament, after performing some of those miracles alongside Jesus (like passing out the bread and fish), Peter denies Jesus. He didn’t just say Jesus was a good man or I saw him perform miracles or he changed my name, he denies everything about Jesus by stating he never knew him! At this point in Peter’s mind Jesus is not the Christ! He is not the chosen king awaited for centuries. He’s not the salvation of the world. He’s a nobody. Imagine your husband or wife parents or children claiming that they didn’t know you. Betrayal.
Let’s fast forward. This is one of my favorite passages. If you’re not careful you may miss the significance. Mark 16:1-7 (and Peter), Did you catch it? Yes it’s astonishing that Christ rose from the dead. It’s crazy that the first people to witness the missing body are women. In that culture if you were making up a story about someone rising from the dead you would have used men as eyewitnesses. But to me that’s not the incredible part. The part that I’m so wrapped up in is what the angel told them, “But go tell his disciples, and Peter…”
The angel singled Peter out so that it would be known to him and the disciples that Jesus had forgiven him. Imagine Peter’s relief when he heard this after all that had conspired over the last couple days.
There’s 2 more points or Aha’s as I like to call them that I wanted to share before we conclude.
Near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry Peter comes to the knowledge of who Jesus is. Luke 5:1-11 (Jesus and the fish)
Peter understands who Jesus is and confesses, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Jesus doesn’t respond with a 12 step program, he doesn’t explain the way to eternal life, the Roman Road, or how to be forgiven, he doesn’t even tell him that he loves him. Jesus instead gives him work to do, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will fish for people.”
This is the first time Peter sees Jesus after his death and resurrection, after Peter’s betrayal, after the angel told the women to tell the disciples and Peter.
John 21:1-14 (Peter jumps into the ocean)
That night they caught nothing, remember the previous story where Jesus told Peter to cast his nets and Peter said, “we didn’t catch anything last night.” Here we are again. Jesus asks them to cast their nets on the other side and they catch more than they can carry.
There’s a special significance to the way Jesus revealed himself to Peter after the resurrection. Firstly Jesus used something Peter was familiar with, fish, to communicate a much deeper message. Has God spoken to you through the things you are familiar with? Secondly Peter understood who Jesus was in the first fishing excursion and it brought him to his knees. Thirdly, Jesus reproduces the same scenario so as to say to Peter, “Remember?” “I forgive you.” “You are mine.” “There is work to be done.”
What does this have to do with Church? Everything! Peter was a royal screw up, a failure on most accounts. But God saw something in Peter that Peter didn’t see in himself.
Remember when Jesus changed Peter’s name when they first met? Here’s why Matthew 16:18. Peter was the rock that Jesus built his church on and if God can use a failure to build his church he can use you and he can use me!