4) Faith to Stand Again
We all struggle in many and different ways. For some they were out with their friends and family and they said and did some things they now regret. For others they were just sitting around talking and all of a sudden they started telling some dirty jokes and now they are really disappointed in themselves. For others they wanted to gain some approval so they joined in a conversation where others were knocking down, slandering and gossiping.. I donít know what your struggle is today. For some it is with addictions to alchole and although they have tried to kick the bottle it just keeps coming back. For others it is with pornography or lust and wherever they go it seems to be there. For some it is foolishness or an attempt to gain approval through many and different ways. But we all struggle and sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. Today I will talk about my own struggle and how I find the strength to stand again even though the sin hurts so bad. I want to talk about how the Lord brings healing and how He comforts me when I fall and restores me once more. But before I begin, I want to pray.
Sometimes it is hard when people ask, ěHow are you doing?î Because some days I am doing great. Somedays I am so close to God and everything is working. But other days I donít want to get out of bed. There are days when I have blown it, have you ever had one? Those days when I look at Jesus and I wonder how he could ever love me. I feel like I have failed. Then I think about the idea of doing ministry but I feel so unworthy. And I ask, ěWhy? How can I serve the Lord like this?î And I think of the Lord Jesus Christ looking at me with those eyes of love and I wonder if He is in pain. And I know that I am not the first to fall for one of Jesusí best friends named Peter even fell away.
Now Peter even said he would never fall away. He said, ěEven if all fall away on account of you, I never will.î (Mt. 26:33) I donít know about you but I have told Jesus that I would not fall. Like the time after I had sinned and felt so bad about it, I wanted more than anything for it to be set right again and so I cried out and asked Jesus to forgive me and said I would never do it again - and then fall again - have you ever had that?
And yet like Peter when the pressure comes it is hard to hold onto that conviction. Things look different in that moment of decision. For Peter he had walked with Jesus for three years. He loved Him so much. They were in the garden together, Jesus was about to be betrayed, and then killed. He told His disciples, ěThis very night you will all fall away on account of meî (Mt. 26:31)
And Peter replied, ěEven if all fall away on account of you, I never will.î
ěI tell you the truth,î Jesus answered, ěthis very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.î
But Peter declared, ěEven if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.î And all the other disciples said the same.
But it was not long after this that the soldiers came, Jesus submitted, the disciples fled. They ran. They were afraid. Peter and John must have turned around and followed at a distance. John had some connections and got them into the courtyard outside where Jesus was being tried. They just had to know what was happening. And they were surrounded by guards, guards who hated Jesus and His followers, guards that could just as easily turn on them and kill them too. They had to be careful. Peter stood around the fire, the light showing part of his figure. A servant girl came up to him, ěYou also were with Jesus of Galileeî she said. And Peter denied it before them all, ěI donít know what you are talking about.î He moved somewhere else and someone else recognized him, ěThis fellow was with Jesus of Nazarethî Peter was getting scared and denied it with an oath, ěI donít know the man!î But the people were curious, they walked up to Peter and said, ěSurely you are one of them, your accent gives you away.î Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, ěI donít know the man!î
And the rooster crowed and it echoes deep within our soul and for hours to haunts us. Something I have come to call ěthe Moment Afterî for sin promises so much and it pushes us and demands that we do it. It promises the world and then in an instant it rips it all away and leaves us with nothing but the empty echo of the rooster call. And I know what it means to fall, that is why I write this sermon.
And it says in Luke, ěThe Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ěBefore the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.î And he went outside and wept bitterly.î (Luke 22:61-62 ) Imagine the eyes of Jesus Christ looking straight at us, isnít that how it feels, the one we love more than the whole world is looking straight at us? What do we say? How our heart breaks within us.
And after that they led Jesus out, they beat Him and mocked Him and nailed Him to a cross for me and you. And there He died. And he who was meant to be a rock now lies stained and yet the blood drips down and covers me over and it covers you over and it covers Peter. Every one of our sins big or small is covered over by His blood. And I do not know about you but sometimes I feel I have gone too far and that Christ can never forgive me. I figure He can forgive everyone else just not me. And yet, there is something about Him, called grace which forgives because I donít deserve it. And all my sins are taken away and put on Christ and all His goodness is placed on me. How unworthy I am but yet so grateful. Do you ever feel like that? That God cannot forgive you. Then find comfort in this, 1 Jn 1:9 says, ěIf we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.î Bring them to Jesus friend and you will be clean.
And yet there is still this feeling, this broken relationship, this problem. Because though I stand before God as one perfect I still know that I have blown it. And sometimes I wonder if that is the reason why after Jesus rose from the dead He had a private meeting with the disciples. A bunch of them had gone out fishing and they fished all night but did not catch a thing.
Then early in the morning Jesus stood on the shore and called out, ěFriends havenít you any fishî
ěNoî they answered
ěThrow your net on the right side of the boat and you will find someî And when they did they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then John said, ěIt is the Lordî And as soon as Peter heard this he jumped into the water and swan to Jesus. He was not about to wait. Too often I fear we wait too long. We think that Jesus will not accept us so we wait to come back to Him. I fear that some people never come back. Donít wait. Hear the voice of the Lord calling you and jump straight out and swim to Him as fast as you can.
And they ate breakfast together. But Jesus knew the problem was unresolved, I wonder if all that time during breakfast that Peter kept wondering what Jesus thought of him after all this. And so Jesus asked, ěSimon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?î
When I fail it is almost as if the Lord asked me that. How my heart breaks to hear these words for though there was a time when I said I loved Him more. More than the sun or moon, stars or day. More than all my wealth, my fame. More than anything, even myself. Even if all will fall away, I will not my Lord, I will not give way. But now I stand with a broken heart and these words seem so empty. I cannot say that I love you Lord more than anything, but one thing I do know and I know you know it too, is that I love you and my heart breaks to think I might have thrown it all away.
And in His grace, God looks at me and says, ěFeed my lambsî This is amazing to me, because after I have falied I do not feel like going on in ministry - I donít feel worthy but Jesus loves me anyhow and entrust me with those lambs the little ones He loves so much. They are the ones who are part of the sheep and who if one wanders away He will leave the rest to bring it back. And yet He takes those lambs and puts them in my arms, ěFeed my lambsî And I who wonder if I am worthy to serve am left standing with His lambs in my arms.
He speaks again, once more the same, ěSimon son of John, do you truly love me?î And deep within my heart I ask the same. For though I claim to love Him my actions speak another tale and though I cannot say my love is true and I know I truly cannot live without you.
And so He takes His sheep and guides them to me, the one who has fallen and does not trust himself and says to me, ěTake care of my sheepî
And for the third time he says to me, ěDo you love me?î How it echoes within my soul and I want to shout out with all my heart ěYes Lord I do love youî but I fear my testimony is not true enough so I turn to Him who knows my real heart and say, ěLord, you know all things; you know that I love you.î
ěFeed my sheepî he says to me and answers the question of whether I should serve again. Then like Peter I am given some hope. For one day my love will be found true. For Peter he was afraid of men and so denied Christ. But do you know what happened to Peter? It was almost 30 years later that the story was repeated but this time it was different. This time he was imprisoned for Christ and offered a chance to deny him and save his life. And this time he did not fail. H stood strong and let others stretch out his hands and dress him with the cross. At last His love overcame His fear - and there He died and never more will fail. And I, though I might fall many times to come, I will not give up. And one day I hope to stand strong and have truly died to that which seeks to bring me death. And there I will stand holding His lambs and sheep with love so true. And I pray that you will choose to stand once more and say, ěYou know I love you, tooî
Let us pray, ěGod it is hard fighting against sin, and sometimes we are wounded soldiers. And I pray that your grace will strengthen our hearts. Many people have failed, David failed and Peter failed and others have fallen all throughout history and I pray that you will continue to restore us when we fall and bring healing to our souls and hurting hearts. Restore us once again that we may stand joyfully in your presence, serving you, and that our love will be stronger now then ever before. We thank-you for your great forgivenessî
Go on friend, stand-up, the Lord loves you.