The sermon is printed below and can be heard by clicking on the following link. (But you need to be warned that there is a uniqueness about the recording. It records an 80 year old voice competing with an 80 year old [trying to dominate] echo in a 188 year old convict built church on the east coast of Australia. Extremely rare if not unique!)
Can you remember how good it felt last Sunday morning at the end of Daylight Saving in New South Wales? You religiously got up at 3 am to put all your clocks back to 2 am. The hands of every analogue clock! Figuring out how to reset every digital watch! But it was so good to get an extra hour of sleep.
But have you ever thought how wonderful it would be, to be able to turn back the clock 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years? To be able to have a fresh start. To be able to make the right choices instead of the wrong choices. To be able to make the right friends instead of the wrong friends. To be able to plan your life instead of just drifting along?
Well let me tell you the good news and the bad news. The bad news is that you can’t turn back the clock like that. You and I have to live with the consequences of what we said and did over all those years. However the good news is that the Lord can deal with all the things in the past. He can turn our previous past failures into today’s and tomorrow’s successes and victories.
We can experience this as we allow the Lord to come into every area of our lives to deal with all the things in our past. To remove the junk and the gunk that has accumulated over the years. To heal the memories of all our hurts, pains and disappointments. To remove the guilt and shame stemming from our sins and failures
As we allow Him full access into our lives He can help us move from Failure to increasing Fruitfulness, From Defeat to Success. He can set us free from bondage to things and places and people so that we can experience true freedom for perhaps the first time in our lives.
We see that happening in the life of St Peter in John’s Gospel chapters 18 and 21. We can see how Peter would always remember the scenes of two different charcoal fires. One represented utter failure. The other represented new opportunities and resounding victory.
1). FIRST SCENE. Of Failure. Took Place Around A Charcoal Fire In The Court Of The High Priest. John 18:15-27
The Last Supper had taken place. Jesus had then taken His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus had prayed, “Father let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not my will but yours be done!” He was committing Himself to do the will of God. Soon after Judas came to betray Him. He was taken to be tried at the Court of the High Priest. Peter had been able to get into the court as well. We read what happened in John 18:17ff as he was warming himself around a charcoal fire standing with soldiers and servants.
i). The FIRST DENIAL around a charcoal fire. (Before a servant girl). The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” Jn 18:17. (It was a question expecting the answer ‘No’). Would he say, “Yes I am His disciple!” or would he deny Jesus as Jesus had warned him? It was only a servant girl. Someone with no authority at all. His reply rang out, “I am not.” His first denial came as he stood around a charcoal fire.
ii).The SECOND DENIAL around a charcoal fire. (Before a group of soldiers and servants.) 18:25ff. So they said to him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” (This was a question expecting the negative answer ‘No’). These people had authority. They could do him harm. His reply rang out once again, “I am not.” Twice he had been asked to affirm his loyalty to Jesus. Twice he failed as he stood around a charcoal fire.
But now came another challenge. From an eye-witness to what had happened in the Garden. We read what happened.
iii). The THIRD DENIAL around a charcoal fire. (Before an eye-witness.) John 18:26 “One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” (This was a question expecting the answer ‘Yes’.) There was no escape for Peter. He had been seen with Jesus. What would he say? Would he affirm his love for Jesus or would he deny Him? Would he be loyal or disloyal? John records what happened, Joh 18:27 “Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.”(As Jesus had prophesied that Peter would.)
3 denials. 3 failures while standing around a charcoal fire. How could Peter ever be forgiven? Would he ever now lead the disciples when he had denied Jesus? Was his life as a disciple now over? Had he missed out on what could have been if he had only remained faithful to Jesus?
BUT the GOOD NEWS is this. God does something about losers and those who fail to live as He wanted them to live. He forgives them as they confess their failures. He restores them as they receive forgiveness in Jesus. He equips them by His Spirit to serve Him. He uses them in His purposes as they become available to Him.
2). SECOND SCENE. Took Place Around A Charcoal Fire On The Shore Of The Sea Of Tiberias. Meeting the Resurrected Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. Jn 21:1-17
Peter the Failure. Peter may have seen himself as a loser. He had failed Jesus. He had denied Him just as Jesus said He would. He was still a failure at the beginning of John 21.
What do losers do when they are confronted with their own weaknesses? They do something they know they are good at, in an attempt to gain some sense of self-worth; some sense of significance; so they don’t feel such failures as people.
What made Peter feel significant? He was a fisherman. So he told the other disciples, “I am going fishing.” That was something he could do well. They went with him. (They too had failed Jesus). But yet another failure. These professional fishermen fished all night and caught nothing. You can imagine how despondent they felt. No Jesus. Not even any fish. Failure. Failure. Failure. (A bit like our lives sometimes. Chaos. Failure all around us.)
BUT SOMETHING HAPPENED that was to turn Peter’s life right around. Something he hadn’t really expected.
At dawn they heard a voice calling out from the shore, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” (This question expected a ‘No’ for an answer. They answered him, “No.” John 21:5. The voice said, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.
It was John the beloved disciple who recognised the voice. He told Peter, “It is the Lord!” Impetuous Peter threw himself into the sea and the other disciples came in the boat dragging the net full of fish. John 21:8.
Once on the shore they saw a charcoal fire with fish and bread laid out on it. When Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, it was Peter who responded quickly. John records that he went aboard and hauled the net to shore. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” He gave the fish and the bread to them.
The Peter who had been humbled by his failures was now to be exalted. Jesus singled out Peter and asked him 3 questions.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Peter had once boasted that he would remain faithful even if everyone else failed Jesus. Now severely chastened by the events of the past few days he was not willing to boast about being more faithful or having more love than the other disciples. He replied simply, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus was recommissioning Peter.
But there followed another question by Jesus. Jesus said to Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Another statement of recommissioning.
The third question from Jesus “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” brought deep grief to Peter. Why grieved? 3 times around a charcoal fire Peter had denied Jesus before His crucifixion. Now 3 times around a charcoal fire the Risen Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him. Peter responded, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Peter had learned the lesson of humility. He was now fit to lead the disciples. He had thrice affirmed his love for Jesus. And thrice he had been recommissioned. Peter did become a leader of the church. He did strengthen his fellow disciples. He did go on to fulfil God’s will for Him as he served Christ
But how about you and me? Do we ever feel as though we have failed in life? Perhaps looking back we realise that we did not honour our parents as we should have done. We realise that in many ways we failed our spouse or a family or our friends. We failed to be the person we could have been. We failed to do the things we could have done.
The story of Peter reminds us that God takes the abject failures of life. Those who have never reached their full potential in life. Those who feel they have failed to make the contribution they would have liked to have made in life. Those who feel they have failed their families and friends. Those who feel they have failed the Lord by not loving Him or serving Him.
AND He can forgive them of all their failures and sins. And He can cleanse them of sin and guilt, And He can empower them to BE what He wants them to be. And He can empower them to DO what God wants them to do. As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12-13, we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” knowing this fact that as we make ourselves available to God, He is able to work within us making us willing and able to do what pleases Him. But it needs that total commitment to Him in love.
Jesus as the Risen One says to each and every one of us this morning in this service.
- “Jim (or your name) do you love me more than these?” My reply (and your reply) should be “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus says to us, “Fulfil My purpose for you.”
- “Jim, do you love me?” My answer (and your answer) should be “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus says to us, “Fulfil My purpose for you.”
- “Jim, do you love me?” My reply (and your reply) should be, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus says to us, “”Fulfil My purpose for you.”
We can move from FAILURE to a greater FRUITFULNESS as we commit ourselves afresh to Jesus and allow Him to forgive us, to cleanse us and to empower us to live for Him.
Why not do that as we sing our next song which has the words
V1. The greatest thing in all my life is knowing You.
V2. The greatest thing in all my life is loving You.
V3. The greatest thing in all my life is serving You.
We can turn the song into a prayer as we sing these words in each verse
The greatest thing in all my life is knowing You.
I want to know You more. I want to know You more.
The greatest thing in all my life is loving You.
I want to love You more. I want to love You more.
The greatest thing in all my life is serving You.
I want to serve You more. I want to serve You more.
As we make these words our prayer this morning God will take our prayers seriously. He will begin the process of turning our lives around by healing what He knows needs to be healed in our lives and by guiding us by His Spirit and by empowering us to live for Him, to His glory and not ours!
Blog No.179. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Sunday 10th April 2016