AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH June 13, 2010
A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
THE PLACE, EXAMPLE AND ENCOURAGEMENT OF PETER
WHY PETER DID NOT PETER OUT ... Luke 22:32
THE REAL PETER, NOT IMPERIOUS, FAR LESS IMPERIAL,
WHAT PETER HAD TO RETURN FROM
Last week we were considering a prophet and a king, in the presence of the Lord.
The King fell badly. He was given time. He fell as if gravity had increased greatly. He proliferated in falling; it became almost a game.
King Ahab was not turned around. He continued in his woeful way, even after finding considerable mercy from the Lord, when he humbled himself. It was like a pang; but he continued after this, still resorting to the way of violence and grasping imperiously for gain (I Kings 21:27-22:3). Confronted by Elijah on his false naturalistic gods, through God's miraculous and just intervention, he had lost earlier. Suffering first 3 years drought, he was shown to be rankly idolatrous in Mt Carmel's categorical defeat. Then he murdered for gain, had pangs of repentance, and relapsed. At last, he lost again, with his life.
Peter, in the new Testament, more like Elisha than Ahab, nevertheless had one bad fall, and he got it over early! It came as the time for Christ's long predicted death and death date came on stage (cf. Christ the Citadel Ch. 2). This coming denial by Peter too was foreseen by Christ, and exposed in advance before all, just as He also knew that there was a devil amid His close disciples, who would betray Him (John 6:70, Matthew 26:21ff.).
With Peter, the prognosis was healthier, but the abasement to come was very real.
WHEN you are turned around, WHEN you revert, strengthen your brethren.
That was the word of Christ to Peter, after the disciples had been arguing as to which one was the greatest, just after the Lord's Last Supper. This deplorable and dismal fall, in all fairness, it must be acknowledged, came after they were all warned that one of them would betray Christ. You can imagine the feelings of horror, of loyalty, of love, of assertion from the heart, and then in the presence of doubt concerning SOME one, a competitive element. Still it was there, and this was not the only time the point had arisen.
Christ put it to instant death by noting that the nations, without God, specialised in being greater, having authority and dominion over another. The way in HIS kingdom, He observed, was wholly different. Here it is to serve, not order about, far less with lordly pomposity: that is a crucial point for all disciples. If you want to be great, don't swagger but serve. Was not even Christ Himself among them as serving; yet who is greater, the served or the server ? Thus the paradox is complete: it is He who serves them, yet in this lies the greater task, the greater office. Greatness in appearance to impress is fickle fiasco; greatness in life to help in the will and work of God, this is the reality.
Peter, He went on to say, having first told them that they would be on twelve thrones judging Israel (one being statedly a betrayer, to be replaced), this same Peter would deny Him three times, before the cock was a-crowing. In fact, the very devil had put out a claim for him, demanding his soul, and this was saved because Christ had prayed for Him, that his faith would not fail. When you return (to Christ), He added, strengthen your brethren.
The word used here for 'return' is not the same as that in Matthew 18, where they were equally told that unless they were converted, and became as little children they could not enter the kingdom of heaven. There it is a turning that is involved, a change by turning; but here it is RETURNING, restoration by turning again to the one to whom he had already turned. Christ knowing all this, is yet faithful to Peter, knows it and declares Peter's restoration before he even falls. This is a prodigy of comfort in this.
THE FAITHFULNESS OF THE LORD
TO WHOM PETER RETURNED
"If we are faithless, He remains faithful", says Paul: "He cannot deny Himself."
In other words, faithful is what God IS, and this being so, and His eternity being changeless for He is always what He would be, the "I am," there is an embargo on His becoming unfaithful. It is not a thing in God, that you can have: it would deny what God is and being so, wants to be, and will never cease to be. That is the meaning.
But it also says in II Timothy 2, that if we deny Him, He will deny us. Here you see the point: it is not about mere episodes. The Lord KNOWS who are His (II Timothy 2:19), and remains faithful to them, so that even if in some squalid moment, one denies Him, yet for His own He has prayed, and their RETURNING is assured. He knows His sheep. It does however remind that our God is a consuming fire, and playing with Him is nothing but folly.
When the time came, Peter was shocked, bemused, stricken, staggered at the arrest of Christ, at his own irrelevance against their force. Was not his sword, though effective, being ordered to be put up.- by Christ!
He wandered to the temple, warmed himself by the fire of the evil
authority, was queried by a maid, then another person, and in an hour, a third:
Did he not relate to the stricken man, to the Lord ? To this query, Peter
reacted as one in a dream, denying knowledge of Christ with the old nature, with
fishermen's curses or oaths, swearing, in a fit of fiasco, striving as one in a
cage, to break out, to become free. Then the Lord looked on him as He passed,
Himself being tormented by the evils of men, and on His way to agony. Peter at
once saw through the mists of psychological confusion and breach, and repented
HOW PETER REALISED WHERE STRENGTH LIES!
First, it was not through his own force and personality, that Peter did this. Christ had to PRAY for him, to achieve this, and as to the devil, he was actively seeking for him, demanding him (that is the force of the Greek word), and nothing but God could frustrate him. Christ foresaw this, said so, and forestalled it. He, the devil, wanted Peter to pop through the holes of the sieve, being tested and gained: but no!
As Paul states in II Timothy 1, we are called not according to works, this not being the way we gain qualification before God, but rather are we called "according to His own purpose and grace", so that it is HE who keeps what is "committed to Him against that day," by faith, the day of judgment (II Timothy 1:12, 4:8). This is for all who have loved His appearing.
God's own purpose is that all may be reconciled to Himself (Colossians 1:19), and we know this because He in fact says so. Yet, as He also declares in II Timothy 1:9, it is allied to grace, just as it is available only through faith (Ephesians 2:1-12), the grace acting as if a filter, for there is no place in God's purpose, but by His grace. His love is as broad as man in divine willingness, even desire, and as narrow as grace's input, pure and untainted, in divine good pleasure as in Colossians 1, Ephesians 1:5.
This is, just as He has foreknown (Revelation 14:6, John 6:47, 5:24, 3:16), a clear cut thing, His own purpose and grace operative with delightful clarity, the results assured (Romans 8:30), in that logical order, from foreknowledge to predestination. Moreover, it is only through the cross of atonement (Galatians 6:14, 1:6-9, 3:23-27, Titus 3:3-7),as divinely appointed, paid for and extended to man, that grace to save operates. Indeed, just as He knows who are in fact His own, these He keeps unrelentingly. He knew each one of these before the world was and HENCE before sin on earth was or man in sin was. He knew His own, where the prodigy of love which is His (for He IS love! and never forget this - I John 4:7ff.) found its place.
The beautiful part is this, that IF you have so received Him, then you are shown to be part of His own purpose and grace, and predestined on the grace basis (NOT OF WORKS as both Titus 3 and Romans 3 so emphatically tell us) so that for this datum, salvation itself, your works being irrelevant, IT cannot fail (Ephesians 1:11, John 5:24, Romans 8:29ff.).
Then you KNOW Him in whom you have believed and so gain assurance as in Romans 8:16, II Timothy 1:8ff. and 1:12 in particular, with Paul who declares, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that day," that of judgment, the prelude in 1:8-9 here making its application as required. Moreover as in 8:16 of Romans, it is the Spirit of God who attests this, just as His word insists on it.
It is not humility which throws out such assurances, but the works of the flesh, which cannot help peering at itself, as in a mirror, not for improvement in sanctification, but fitness for salvation. Nevertheless, if you are prompted to study that you HAVE faith in Him who saves, by all means study it in the knowledge that as surely as God is and His word is, if ever you have by faith, in entirety trusting in His entrancing love and truth, received Him, Redeemer and risen, life bringing His crushed body triumphantly back from the dead: then neither sin, nor Satan, nor success nor failure can snatch you from His hand, nor can you perish.
Where YOUR works are excluded, such failures are irrelevant, except as grounds for approach to His mercy that you being sanctified, if falling, be restored like Peter.
Coming to Him in this way by faith, not only do you receive redemption, but "eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12); for by ONE offering He has perfected for ever those who are being sanctified, once for all by the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:10-14), and it avails however much sin may desire to prevail. It CANNOT; all that is overcome from the outset. He has spoken; the universe can more readily fail than His work fall, as in Jeremiah 33.
What then ? Neither can any person in heaven or in hell, on earth, citable, statable, snatch from Him, nor can any perish: and that too is by His grace: for nothing that is not entirely of grace can win any sinner for Him (Ephesians 2:1-8), nor find any place for such. Nor can the same lose any saved sinner: that is the nature of divine grace accorded, exclusive of human works: YOU cannot work that. He does.
When He so acts, grace avails, prevails and your puny self-righteousness proffered as if in the same realm as His cross-secured salvation, becomes actually ridiculous as well as irrelevant. Perfection is His alone, and nothing else makes heaven's ranks, opens its door or keeps its inhabitants, sent from sin's sovereignty to His glory in rest. This He GIVES (Matthew 11:27ff.).
Salvation is by grace through faith and the entirety is NOT of yourselves but of God as Ephesians 2:5-8 tells us so very clearly. It is Christ, who through this kindness opens the door, seals the sinner (Ephesians 1:13), grants an eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:11), satisfies the conditions, forbids the entry of our own works in any shape, form or mode; and it is sanctification which scours the renewed life in Christ (I Thessalonians 5:23, II Peter 1).
For the sinner once His (I John 3:9, John 5:24, Ephesians 1:11), the very earth can go and will (Matthew 24:35), but that one, being redeemed, stays. Only the spurious, the unbelieving can go. The rest are sanctified by that same grace which freely enabled their procurement; and it freely sustains their sanctification.
Just as Christ ASSURED Peter of the outcome before even his worst fall, so the Spirit of God attests to the spirits of His people, that these are indeed the children of God. In reply to this assurance of Christ's prevailing prayer for him (Luke 22:32), Peter the more assured Christ that he would not fail him. Christ knew better, but for all that, had it covered.
Meanwhile: This day, said Christ, you will deny Me three times before cock crow! Thus even before Peter RETURNED to the Lord from his momentary lapse, he gave an indirect strengthening to the brethren in this, that we see that God foreknows even our worst moments, and having prayed for us (as in Hebrews 7:25, ever living to make intercession), Christ has the plan all worked out, to bring us back and make us yet fruitful, serviceable and sound, but IN HIM ONLY. This, in its time, he shares with His sheep (Romans 8:16).
It reminds us moreover that it is not ultimately a matter of how spiritually strong we are, but of how gloriously faithful God is. Once you are reborn, HIS seed stays in you (I John 3:9), and you do not make a practice of sin. It was through continuing communion with Christ through grace, that Peter regained spiritual consciousness, and this itself, was as arranged by the Lord, and effective in love.
A momentary slip does not remove love, which is strong as death (Song of Solomon 8:6), going so far as Christ did, in His love to save sinners. A momentary glance from Christ to Peter (Luke 22:61) was enough to produce horror; but horror was the escape from the haunting cacophony of heart which is the austere prelude to hell. The glance like a surgeon's knife, cut the cancer, and the cut hurt; but the cure helped, and was on the highroad to heaven.
The child of God does not cease to be a child of God, though death itself intervene; and the death of Christ is the signature of the distance He will go, as well as that to which He actually went, to preserve those whom He has redeemed. And what hinders that it should be all that are redeemed ? it is the preference of man for darkness in the very face of Light. This image of God capacity is not violated, but interpreted and known past the boundaries of sin, and this knowledge is that of God only (John 3:19, Eph.1:4).
What or who shall separate the Christian believer, by faith locked into the love of Christ, from this love ? (Romans 8:36). Certainly not death, certainly not things future. THAT was all ordained, before there WAS so much as an earthly future, or earth time at all! WHOM He foreknew, He both called and justified; and this done, He did not stop, but completed the work so begun (Philippians 1:6), and glorified His people, this too being foreknown (Romans 8:17, 30ff.). To enter that cycle, is to complete it; but much goes into that completion as you walk with the Lord, and THIS, it is the adventure of a life-time.
Reliance, as Peter learned, should NEVER be upon oneself, but ONLY upon the Lord. That is realistic, functional, factual, like breathing as a way of gaining air. It is not in dreams but in breath that the continuation lies; and in the spirit, it is reliance on the Lord, the lungs of faith, that life lies. Here nothing fails. God never fails (Zephaniah 3:6).
RELYING means DYING to the eccentricities of the flesh, the foolish devices of the mind, the indulgent thoughts of the soul (Galatians 5:16-25, 2:20): it means living to the love of the Lord, finding in His mind and in His word the wonders of life and instead of indulgence, delight, for in Him is what our lives were made for, in His service the cause of their construction and HENCE, in walking in Him, there is abundance of life. It was never meant to be mean; and it is then, in Him, that one finds the meaning of life, and so is delivered from a whole host of psychic degradations, depressions, impressions, disparities, and superficialities, like a fly walking over the surface of a light, and wondering what it is all about. Praise God for the transformation, as for performing His task serviceably (Matthew 28:20), gloriously and effectively.