April 18, 2021

Living A Transformed Life In Christ

Passage: John 21:1-19

In the early 1900’s an American songwriter named Jimmy Cox wrote a song called,

“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”, which later became a popular song during the Great Depression.  Eric Clapton covered this on his Grammy-winning 1992 “Unplugged” album as he sang:

Nobody knows you when you're down and out, down and out.
In your pocket, not one penny and as for friends, you don't have any.
When you finally get back up on your feet again
Everybody wants to be your old long-lost friend
Said it's mighty strange, without a doubt
Nobody knows you when you're down and out.

The good news of the Gospel is that even when the last person in the world doesn't know that we're “down and out”, God knows that.  In John 21 we read that the disciples were at the Sea of Galilee.  The one person we want to focus on is Peter.  He was “down and out.”  He did something very bad and he couldn't forgive himself for that – He denied his Lord after he promised that He would never let him down.  He couldn't have felt worse and was convinced that he was the greatest failure in the world.  What did Peter do when he felt like a failure?  He went back to what was his former way of living – he went fishing.  In verse 3 he told his fellow-disciples, “I'm going out to fish...”  That was a normal human act of Peter to have gone back after everything that had happened.  Isn't that the response we see for most people after they failed at something?  They convince themselves, “I'm not good enough for this.  I will go back and do what I did before.”  A few years back a man in the US, Ted Williams, begged on street corners.  He spoke in a beautiful voice and pretended to be a radio announcer.  Someone recorder him and soon he became a sensation.  He was offered sponsorships and positions as a radio announcer.  Unfortunately he had a drinking problem and it didn't take too long for him to fall back in his drinking habits.  After he failed, he went back to the streets and made to comment, “I have failed; I have let people down who believed in me.”   For Peter it was just 10 000 times worse.  He didn't just let family and friends down.  No, he let Jesus down Who laid down His life for him.  And now it was time for Jesus to deal with Peter's guilt.

Peter was prepared to face the consequences like most people would have given it to him – “Get away from me; you failed me.”  But not with Peter's Lord and God.  1 Jesus Came To Restore is what we learn in this passage.  He was waiting on the shore for His disciples.  It was early morning and they didn't catch any fish through the night.  So, after He told them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, and helped them to get a great catch, He invited them to eat breakfast with Him.  He gave thanks for both bread and fish and they ate.  With what Jesus did for His disciples, He demonstrated again how much He cared about their well-being.  And there was something else He did – He prepared the restoration of Peter.  Jesus didn't just approach the disciple who felt like a failure and said, “It's time that you and I have that talk.  You didn't think you were going to get away with what you did, right?”   No, Jesus was intentionally compassionate and specific about how He restored Peter.  He addressed Peter as “Simon”, Peter’s original name.  Near the beginning of John’s account of the Gospel Andrew had brought Simon to Jesus, Who said, “You are Simon son of John.  You are to be called Cephas (which is translated Peter).”  Cephas means “rock.”   Jesus knew that Peter, having denied him three times, felt like anything but a rock.  And so Jesus met Peter right there and addressed him as “Simon.”  What do you think went through Peter's mind when Jesus addressed him by his birth name and not the name Jesus gave him?  If we were in Peter's shoes, we might have thought, “I'm demoted and rightfully so, for that's what I deserve.”  It's similar to when someone in the military is disciplined when a rank  is stripped or someone who carried a title in an organization has it taken away.  But you see, that was not Jesus' intention.  He wanted to take Peter back to the very beginning when He met him.  He wanted to say to Peter bssssy the way He addressed him, “Let's go back to the very beginning; let's start over.” 

Jesus raised 2 A Determining Question – He asked, “Simon, Son of John, do you love me?”  He asked Peter this question three times, the same number of times Peter had denied Him.  He gave Peter three chances to proclaim his love for the One he had denied.  God is not just a God of second chances.  No, there are multiple chances He gives His children.  There is the beautiful story of a janitor of a church in the country many years ago.  Each morning he went to the church and looked up the the steeple of the church with a rooster on it.  Then he reminded himself of all the times he denied his Lord, like Peter.  Then he went inside the church and looked at all the crosses in the narthex, the sanctuary, the meeting lounge and the offices.  Then he prayed, “Lord, thank You that You are willing to still forgive me more times than what I have denied You.”  Even though Peter had denied Jesus, even though we have denied Jesus more than three times in our lives, He would never deny any of His children.  In his Second Letter to Timothy Paul wrote: “If we are faithless, God remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself.”  There is one element of worship that we have experienced hundreds of times over the years; an element that can never become like a motion we are going through.  That is The Assurance of Pardon.  Each time when God comes to us and says, “Your sins are forgiven”, it's like a new restoration God completed in our lives.  Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year, He does this in our lives.  And like Peter became sorrowful after Jesus asked him a third time if he loved Him, we too have to become sorrowful that it has to take that many times to restore us.  We have to have a conscious longing to become the people God wants us to be.  Throughout our entire lives we want to bring our praises to Him for pardoning us.

One of the elements when Jesus transforms people's lives is 3 The Commissioning.  After Peter was restored, Jesus commissioned him.  With the three questions about Peter's love for Jesus, came three instructions, 4 “Feed my lambs”, “Look after my sheep” and “Feed my sheep.”  Each time when Jesus asked Peter about his stand for Him, He wanted to emphasize, “Peter, what we do here is not just about you.  Yes, I want to pardon and restore you.  But Peter, there is a greater cause than just your life.  There is a world to reach with my Word.”  The disciple was commissioned at the Sea of Galilee for what was to follow next.  And his path wasn't going to be a path any person would willingly go on.  Jesus told him that his arms would be stretched out and that he would be taken to a place where he didn't want to go.  That was to go and die the martyr's death for his Lord.  But before that happened Peter was destined to reach so many gentiles through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  From the moment he was empowered by the Holy Spirit, he became unstoppable.  And never did he turn back because of what Jesus said about the sacrifice he would lay on the altar at the end of his life.  My friends, we are reminded that our lives as Christians aren't about us to be saved for eternity and that's all that is important.  No, we too are commissioned!  In a profane world where God is ignored more and more, we are the people of God who are commissioned to take our stand for Jesus.  He comes and says, “After the restoration I completed in your life like in the life of Peter, I give you my commission.  Go and tell others.”  Let's give ourselves 100% to the cause of Jesus.

Amen.