How often God takes someone who has failed greatly, even repeatedly, and turns him or her around into an amazing leader. The prison ministry of Discipleship Unlimited has many ex-offenders, even those who have been repeat offenders, in leadership positions now where they are AMAZING. What turns a great failure into a great leader? I have been pondering this, and as I pondered and prayed, this is what happened.
I received an e-mail from a new believer from our Alpha group. He wanted to know: “How many times will Jesus forgive me for the same sin? Doesn’t my repetition show that my repentance isn’t genuine?”
Such a good question, and not an easy one to answer. I talked to my friend Twila in the locker-room of the Y. Twila has memorized the book of Hebrews this year and this verse flowed from her: “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:26)
I paled! “Twila, I have sinned deliberately. I had to deceive myself to do it, but in my heart of hearts I knew. Every time I overeat, every time I resist forgiving…”
She paused, clarifying “deliberately” as hard hearted and rebellious — and also putting the verse in the whole context of Hebrews of God’s people who were trampling on the Son of God and ignoring such a great salvation. If we ignore such a great salvation there is no more sacrifice for sin. And there are other warnings about not sinning so that grace can abound.
Our discussion made me realize how easy it is for me to regard sin lightly, counting on His grace. He doesn’t want us to be in denial about the seriousness of sin. But if we are truly repentant, He is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9)
I wrote my friend and said it was good to take sin seriously, for God does, but if his repentance if genuine, even if we do it again and again and again, He will indeed be faithful and just to forgive us.
But if we are doing something again and again — it is serious and we need to face why we keep doing it.
Jesus made Peter face it so He could mold him into a great heart, a great leader. He almost seems harsh with Peter, but it was discipline that was for his good — and Peter received it and became the leader of the early church.
Peter was sure he would never deny Jesus. He was sure he loved Jesus more than the other disciples. He said, “Even if all of these deny you, I will not.”
But Peter denied him again and again and again.
In this week’s sermon, Tim Keller, though he admits much of Jesus Christ Superstar is silly, remembers this scene, which touched him:
Important things are said when time is running out.
The verse last verse in John’s 1st letter is:
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
And the very last story in John’s Gospel is this story of
Jesus shaping a great failure into a great leader.
There is so much to learn about
facing our sin
facing our denial
and fearing God enough to have a play-dough heart.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Read Matthew 26:30-35
A. What does Jesus say will happen to all of them with the shepherd is struck?
B. How does Peter feel he is different?
3. Read John 18:17-19 and describe the scene.
4. Read John 21:9 and describe the scene.
5. Fragrance triggers memories. What memory do you think Jesus was trying to trigger in Peter and why?
6. Read John 21:15-19
A. What does Jesus ask Peter three times, and why do you think He asks three times?
B. Why is it not heartless of Jesus to probe Peter so deeply?
C. How might the knowledge of how he was going to die prepare Peter to be the apostle to write the letters to strengthen suffering believers?
D. What do you think was the sin beneath the sin that caused Peter to deny Christ, and how did Jesus repeated question help him see the solution?
E. Tim Keller says “Every sin is a denial of Christ.” Explain.
7. Contrast the reaction of Peter to Jesus in a similar miracle in Luke 5:8 with his responses in John 21:7. What do you think made the difference?
8. Read Hebrews 12:1-11
A. In verse 1, the author talks about the sin which clings so closely, or the sin that easily entangles you. As you are still before God, what does He tell you that might be in your life?
B. Imagine Jesus were to confront you about this as He did Peter. How might He set the scene? What question might He ask you repeatedly?
C. Why should we not be afraid of the Lord’s discipline? Find everything you can in verses 5-11.
9. Let this lead you into prayer.
Paid Keller Sermon
10. Share your notes and comments.
11. What is your take-a-way and why?