Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Friday, April 27, 2012

John 21:15-25 Attitudes Necessary for Christian Growth

My dad may not realize it but this is his second post on my blog... a.k.a. I copied and pasted his sermon e-mail into this blog and fixed the spelling errors.  Enjoy.

We have been looking at some of the resurrection appearances of our Lord. For a period of 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead he appeared to his disciples many times.. In John's gospel we read about three appearances Jesus made to his disciples. Last Sunday we looked at the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples. That was by the Sea of Galilee when the disciples followed Peter as he went fishing.

After they had fished all night Jesus cooked breakfast for them and just after they finished eating Jesus called Peter aside to speak to him. Jesus gave Peter some special attention. Peter was a leader among the apostles and Peter had just failed the Lord in a terrible way. Before Jesus was crucified Peter denied three times that he was a disciple of Jesus. He said that he was not one of Jesus disciples, he was not a follower of Jesus, and he swore that he never even knew Jesus. But just after the third denial the rooster crowed just as Jesus prophesied. Peter realized what he had done and then he wept bitterly.

Sometimes when people fail in life we want to throw them away. Some one has said, “The Christian army is the only army where we shoot our wounded."  When a person messes up and commits what we think of as a really big sin, we tell them in so many words: You sinned, you failed, you messed up and therefore the Lord can never use you again.  But I thank God Jesus does not think like that. Jesus knows we are all sinners. He knows none of us are perfect. He knows we will all make mistakes in life and he knows sometimes we will make very big mistakes. But when we do God does not throw us out. Instead when we fall, God picks us up, he dusts us off, and he gives us another chance. God will help us face our failure and learn from it. And even more wonderful than that God teaches us when we give our lives to him after making a big mistake, God can use us in spite of our imperfection in a mighty way to serve him.

Today I want us to read this passage from John 21 and see some necessary attitudes we need if we are going to grow as a Christian and if we are going to be useful in God's service.
John 21:15-25
  1. We need an attitude of humility to grow in Christ.
    After Jesus and the disciples finished eating breakfast Jesus took Peter aside and asked him a question and repeated it three times. Jesus said, “Simon son of John, Do you truly love me more than these?' I want us to look carefully at that question.

    First notice Jesus did not call him Peter he called him Simon. Simon was the name his father Zebedee had given. Remember when Jesus was calling his disciples at the beginning of his earthly ministry he called Andrew to follow him and Andrew went and told his brother, Simon and Simon also begin following Jesus.  After following Jesus for several months at Ceaserea Philippi Jesus asked his disciples, “Whom do men say that I am.” They said some say you are John the Baptist, some say you are Elijah, and some say you are another prophet. Then he asked them, “ Whom do you say that I am?" Simon declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus said to him, "Flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You are Peter and upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Peter means rock. Jesus said upon this rock I will build my church. This is the scripture Roman Catholics use to teach that Peter was the first head of the church, the first Pope. But Evangelical Christians believe it was not upon Peter that the church is built, it is upon the confession that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of the Living God that the church is built. Jesus is the only foundation for the church, not Peter. But by changing his name from Simon to Peter, Jesus was saying Peter you are going to be rock of a man a strong leader for my kingdom.  But after Simon had just denied the Lord three times because he was afraid of the Jews, it would not have been appropriate to call him Peter, the rock. He called him Simon.

    Second look at the question itself. "Simon, Do you truly love me?" Now that is an important question, it is a probing question to consider. What if Jesus would ask that question to you or to me directly? If Jesus asked “Jack do you really love me?" That question would put a person on the spot. It is easy to say, I love Jesus, to to sing the Old Hymn, Oh How I love Jesus. But the way we show we love Jesus is when we obey him. Jesus said, If you love me, what, Keep my commandments! If we really love Jesus we will do anything Jesus asks us to do.

    I once remember a sermon when a preacher was telling about the time shortly after he was saved. His pastor asked him to go out witnessing with him. He was a little shy and afraid and said, “I don't know if I could do that.” His pastor said, “If you love Jesus you will do it.” I have never said that to a person as a way to get them to do something. But really it is true if you love Jesus you will do what ever he asks you to do. If Jesus asks you to be baptized, if you love Jesus you will do it. If he asked you to Tithe if you love Jesus you will do it. If he asked you to go to church, to help teach a Sunday School class or whatever He ask you, if you love Jesus you will do whatever He asks you to do.

    The third thing about the question: "Do you truly love me more than these?" What is meant by the phrase “More than these?” Some people think Jesus was asking Peter if he loved him more than he loved his boats and nets and fishing equipment. Peter went back to fishing, so maybe Jesus was asking Peter if he was ready to leave his life of fishing to serve as a leader in the church.  Or maybe 'more than these” means, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus more than the other disciples loved him. Before his crucifixion Peter said, No matter if all the other disciples desert you, I would never do that! He thought he was stronger and more committed than the other disciples. Peter implied that he loved Jesus more than any one else.

    I don't know if I could ever say something like that about my self. I could never say, I love Jesus more than somebody else loves Jesus. I think only God knows that. There is no way for me to compare my love for Jesus to somebody else s love for Jesus. When I read about how some persecuted Christian confesses his faith even as he or she is put in prison, or beaten or persecuted, I ask myself, "Do I love Jesus as much as that person does?"

    Notice Peter's response. "Lord you know that I love you." Peter's response to Jesus was based on humility. Before he denied the Lord, he would have bragged about how much he loved Jesus. But now he said, “Lord you know that I love you. I will not say how much I love you, but you know I love you.

    I think the big lesson Peter learned after he denied Christ was humility. He thought before he was very strong. But when push comes to shove, in fact he was really weak. It is easy to say in a time of ease I really love the Lord. But you never know how much you love him, until you are faced with big test or trial in life. In order to grow as a Christ we must first have a humble attitude.

  2. We need an attitude of simplicity. (In seeing what Jesus wants us to do)
    After Jesus asked Peter the question, “Do you truly love me? And after Peter said, "Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus said,” Feed my lambs”. Jesus was saying to Peter if you really love me the way you can show you love me is by feeding my lambs.

    Jesus was not talking about literal lambs or sheep. This time of year as I drive out in the country delivering mail, I sometimes see some sheep and some lambs. You can see the little lambs skipping around in the pasture and they are so beautiful.. Jesus said, I am the good shepherd and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus' sheep and lambs are his followers. Just as a shepherd takes of his sheep, Jesus calls those who love him to take care of his people.  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord you God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. But he said the second commandment is to love you neighbor as yourself. So the way we show we really love God is to love people.

    The sheep are specifically Christians, people who have decided to follow Jesus. In the letter of 1st Peter in chapter 5 Peter calls the elder, the church leaders or the pastors to shepherd the flock of God, God called you to be under shepherds, but one day the chief shepherd will appear. Now Jesus was saying this to Peter, as a leader of the church, he was saying this to pastors to take care of the sheep and lambs the people in His church. But Jesus calls all Christians take care of one another, make sure all believers have the spiritual food they need, which is the Word of God and watch out for one another. Our calling as Christian is not a complicated thing, it is a simple thing. If we are Christians and if we love Jesus we are to love people in Jesus' name. We are specifically to love those who are believers. We are also to love those who are not believers and by doing that we are showing them the love of Christ.

  3. We need an attitude of willingness to suffer for Christ.
    Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. If you could read this in the original Greek Language that is was written in there are different words for love used. Sometimes it uses the word Phileo, Brotherly love, sometimes it uses the word agape or unconditional love. I once thought that these differences in the original words held great significance. But I have found some Bible scholars see that John in his writing uses a variety of different words often to say pretty much the same thing.  Notice also that Jesus says, Feed my lambs, shepherd my sheep, and feed my sheep. The lambs may refer to young Christians and the sheep may be more mature Christians. But basically it all means the same thing. If you love me take care of my people, feed them from the Word of God, and watch over their souls.

    My greatest desire as a pastor is that I do my job to feed the flock of God. Every Sunday I pray that I might have a strong message from the Bible which feeds the sheep. I want to explain clearly the word of God, so that all the people can grow. If you come here on Sunday, you need to be fed from the Word of God. I am not here to entertain you, or to lecture you, or to talk about world events or politics; my job as a pastor is to feed you with the truth from God's word. My job is also to help you learn how to read the Bible for yourself and feed yourself from the Word of God during the week.

    Just as Peter denied three times that he knew the Lord, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?"  Peter was grieved that the Lord ask him the third time, “Do you love me?”  But then Jesus said to Peter, “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted to go. But when you are older someone else will dress you and take where you do not want to go." John interpreted this for us and said Jesus said this to indicate what kind of death he with which he would glorify God. John's gospel was the last of the four gospels written. Maybe when this was written Peter had already been killed for his faith. Christian tradition tells us that when Peter was taken to be killed on a cross just like Jesus, he asked to be crucified upside down, because he felt unworthy to be crucified right side up like Jesus.

    Jesus was telling Peter if you follow me you must be willing to suffer for me. This week I just purchased a new book, a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pastor who stood up to Hitler in the 1930's. When Hitler came to power in Germany he tried to hijack the church. He wanted to use the German Church to gain and hold unto power. He wanted to change basic Christian beliefs and he wanted the church to teach his racist beliefs and his hatred of Jews. Many German churches went along with Hitler because the pastor were paid by the government and they were afraid to stand up to Hitler. They were afraid they would not get their salary and have no way to support their families. Bonhoeffer could see that this change in the church was heresy, it was worshiping a false god. He called on German Lutherans to organize a Confessing Church those who stood for the Word of God and rejected Hitler. Because of this Bonhoeffer was persecuted. When he began to see Jews being persecuted and even killed and being taken to death camps, Bonhoeffer even got involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. When this plot failed to kill Hitler, this German pastor and theologian was arrested. Just about two weeks before the war ended and before Hitler committed suicide Bonhoeffer was taken to a concentration camp called Flossenburg and hanged. 

    One person who witnessed his execution was the camp Doctor. H. Fischer Hullstrung.
    He said, “ Before taking off his prison garb he saw Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor fervently praying to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I had hardly seen a man die, so entirely submissive to the will of God.” 

    Jesus told Peter if you follow me you will have to suffer. Peter was killed for his faith. Bonhoeffer also was killed because he boldly obeyed what he believed God was calling him to do. If you and I commit our lives to follow Jesus we must be willing to suffer for his sake. We probably will not be called to give our lives for Christ. But that could happen and it still happens in many places in the world today. But even if we are not killed if we follow Jesus sometimes we will suffer for his sake. We may be mocked for being a Christian and for standing up for the Lord.
  1. We need an attitude of obedience to God. (Instead of questioning what others may do.)
    Jesus had just asked Peter three times if he loved him. Then Jesus told Peter basically one day you will be killed for my name's sake. Peter looked behind him and saw John. John does not call himself by his name, as he did not do in other places in the gospel. He said, "This is the disciple who leaned back against Jesus at the last supper when the disciples ask who will betray me." But this was John and Peter looked back at John and said in effect. Lord you say I will be killed for your sake one day. What are you going to ask John to do for you?

    We are so prone to want equality in life, We want everyone to be asked to make the same sacrifice. When my three children were at home and I told them to help with the house work, if I told Matthew to do something like mow the grass, he would sometimes say,  "What about Maggie?" If I told Maggie to wash the dishes, she would say, “What about Patrick?" So maybe I would say Patrick would have to vacuum the carpet. None of my three children want to have to work while their brother or sister had no chores to do.

    We are often like that with God. If God asks something hard for me to do, we look at someone else and say what about them? But Jesus said to Peter, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 

    God has called each one of us to obey him, We are called to do what ever Jesus tells us to do. We are not called to hand out assignment for other people. We sometimes think God has given us the job to tell everyone else what they should do. But that is not our job. Our job is not to give out the assignments.  Our job is just to do what Jesus tells us to do.
I believe God has a plan for the life of every Christian. And we are often prone to think my job is the hardest. Sometimes I hear one mail carrier say, my route is so much harder than your route. Usually they are just teasing. But people tend to think we have it the toughest.
But God says you job is not to compare your assignment to somebody else's assignment. Your job is just to obey him and do what he tells you to do. One day I will stand before God and I will be judged by my obedience. I will be saved because I have trusted in Christ's death on the cross for me. But in regard to rewards, I will be judged by my obedience to Christ. Did I do what he asked me to do? And I cannot compare me self to others.

Conclusion Peter denied the Lord three times. Peter failed the Lord greatly. But Jesus did not throw Peter out. Jesus restored Peter and used him in great ways. He would preach on the day of Pentecost and in one day 3,000 souls would be saved. I think Peter learned from his failure. He learned to be humble and not depend on is strength but to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. He learned that Gods work for him was simple, he was to feed the sheep the teach, the word to hungry Christians. He learned that following Jesus would mean suffering but God would give him the courage he needed in the hour of trial. And he learned that it was not his job to tell others what they should do for Jesus. His job was to do what Jesus told him to do. Humility, simplicity, suffering and obedience, these are attitudes that if we have God will greatly use our lives.

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