This week we are going to look at a term we use often but many of us really don't know what the word means. Here is what Easton's bible dictionary says about it.
Text: the turning of a sinner to God (Acts 15:3). In a general sense the heathen are said to be "converted" when they abandon heathenism and embrace the Christian faith; and in a more special sense men are converted when, by the influence of divine grace in their souls, their whole life is changed, old things pass away, and all things become new (Acts 26:18). Thus we speak of the conversion of the Philippian jailer (16:19-34), of Paul (9:1-22), of the Ethiopian treasurer (8:26-40), of Cornelius (10), of Lydia (16:13-15), and others. (See REGENERATION.)
In my opinion that is an accurate description of what i am talking about. Most of us understand the first part, that heathen or sinners in general are converted when they accept Jesus as the savior of the world and in a sense that is true however too many people stop there and don't go any further. Today i am going to add a name to the list in Easton's dictionary.
Peter was among the first disciples to follow Jesus and was with Him all the way to the day He was crucified. Peter had done miracles and walked on water. Yet listen to what Jesus said about him at the last supper. Luke 22:31 and 32 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. Peter responds with the famous "Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death." verse 33 and Jesus then tells him, "I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me." Verse 34. Of course you know that Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew Peter, and that Peter did exactly as Jesus had told him he would. Just a thought here, if it were not possible to lose faith, why would it be necessary for Jesus to pray that it would not happen to Peter?
Many of us are going through that sifting process that Jesus warned Peter about and many had gone through it before then as well, remember Job, Daniel, Joseph? Later Peter would say this in 1st Peter 1:12 and 13; Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. Peter was doing everything Jesus was telling him to, yet he lacked something, but he had something as well, faith. Jesus said "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not:" The bible says in Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By this we see that faith is the essential first step to pleasing God, without it there is no way to please God and Peter had faith.
Peter also had works, remember what he said in Mark 10:28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. Remember also that he had gone out when the disciples were sent out by twos and given authority to heal the sick and cleanse the lepers and cast out devils. He had participated in the feeding of the multitudes twice and remember he walked on water, so Peter had works.
Another thing Peter had was knowledge. He and the other disciples had seen Jesus raise the dead, heal the blind, calm the storm, cast out devils, confound the leaders who sought to trick Him, and many other things. He and they knew that all things were possible with God but with all this they still lacked something. Even after Jesus was raised from the dead and they had seen Him and touched them they still lacked something. You might think that when you had seen death overcome and the same one who overcame it had promised you "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." John 11:15 and 26 You would be fully converted but not so.
Even the certain knowledge that death could not prevail wasn't enough to convert them, they were still hiding from the Pharisees and later Peter would get restless and go fishing. John 21:3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. Ever notice that these guys never caught much till Jesus showed up? But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Verses 4-6. Jesus, when He first called them had told them "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19 and here they were back to their old jobs. Jesus then has a conversation with Peter. John 21:15-19 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
Peter had boldly said he would follow Jesus to the cross before the cross and now Jesus is telling him that he would indeed follow him in crucifixion and then repeats the familiar call "Follow Me." Verses 20 and 21; Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. And here is a great lesson of the kingdom and a side track that we will follow for a bit.
Many people who begin to follow Jesus and start discerning His direction for their life get hung up on this point. It hung me up for a while so i will try to explain it here. When you begin to get direction from the Lord, many think that God is saying the same thing to EVERYONE at the same time. While this is true about some things, such as taking the gospel to the ends of the earth and can be true in a more specific sense such as the call to repentance we here in the US are hearing, it is not always true. More often God is telling YOU to do or be something. Try to imagine a company that only had salesmen yet no product to sell, or one that only produced product all the time and nobody made it available to the public.
Paul put it this way in 1st Corinthians 12:13-21 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
Here he is talking about the spiritual gifts as many of you know but the principal is true in the different offices as he points out at the end of the chapter. It is also true of the leadings of the Spirit in the individual believer. Do what God is telling you to do with all your heart and God will make sure that those who are called to come beside you and help will but only HE knows who these people are and if you try to help Him too much you might be frustrating Him, your brothers and sisters, and yourself as well. Above all else don't try to fit everyone in the mold that God made for you because nobody else will fit it but you. This is the birthplace of more cults than you would believe. Please don't misunderstand and think that i mean that there is a different set of rules for everyone, or that all roads lead to God. There is only one road to God and that road is only two people wide and the one beside you had better be Jesus or you are headed in the wrong direction. The thing i am talking about is the work that goes on inside you as you walk that road. Let me put something from my journal here and we will move on.
9/3/99 Note from God; Gary, quit waiting for someone to understand what you are going through. Nobody but I ever will because nobody else is going through it with you every second of every minute of every day.
Back to Peter and his conversion. In Acts, just before Jesus is taken up to heaven this exchange occurs Acts 1:4-12 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
Anyone confused about how Jesus will return pay particular attention to what the angels said. This occurred after Jesus had shown Himself at various times to various people for 40 days after His resurrection. Just 10 days later we read this Acts 2:1-14 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
Here Peter, who before the crucifixion would deny knowing Jesus, was preaching Jesus to the people without fear. Now he and the disciples were bold and if you read on you will see that they would speak the truth to the people even when threatened and beaten. The Holy Spirit who Jesus had said was with them, and would be in them John 14:17 made all the difference.
Perhaps you seem to be going through the sifting process that Peter went through and you are wondering if the joy of the Lord will ever return to you like in was at the beginning. The people He has called to be leaders, He allows to face the toughest tests and trials, doesn't that make sense? After all if you are going to give you car keys to your child, don't you want to wait till they have been taught and tested? The keys He gives us have an impact on the eternal souls of people and nobody is born fit to hold those keys. So endure the trials and the chastening and LEARN the lessons He is trying to teach you. Peter, he learned that in spite of all his good intentions he didn't have what it took to give it all without God living inside him. Don't know about you but i can identify with that lesson. He allows the devil to test us, not to destroy us, but to make us fit for the kingdom and yes we fail sometimes just like Peter did but Remember this, less than two months later Peter was the earthly leader of God's purpose in all the earth.
Until next week the Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.