Sunday morning, March 12, 2006
No experience of the Cross of Christ is complete without a deep look at how one disciple, in particular, made his way to it. Across the span of twenty centuries the Apostle Peter has had his successes and failures analyzed and criticized by the body of Christ. You'll remember that in the Gospels we meet him not initially as Peter but as Simon, the brother of a man named Andrew. Both were fishermen invited by Jesys to follow after Himself. From that moment forward Peter journeyed with Jesus -- a journey that still stands as testimony to how Christ radically changes the heart of one that finally surrenders to Him.
The New Testament shows that over time Jesus transformed Peter into a rock, but we remember him, for the most part, for the night he was reduced from rock to rubble. We remember Peter for the night Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and tried; we remember him for the moment he denied even knowing Jesus.
Peter, of course, wholeheartedly rejected the idea that he could commit such a sin. We find here in Mark 14:29 that he confidently insisted, "Even though all may fall away, yet I will not." All these others in the group may desert You, Master, but I absolutely won't! The world can come to an end before I'll deny You. Why, I would die with You before I would do such a thing! I can imagine it was with a deep sigh of regret that Jesus offered His stinging response, Ah, Peter, but you will. "Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny me three times" (14:30).
Our Lord had tried repeatedly to caution him about being misguided. Once, after Peter privately rebuked Jesus for foretelling of His suffering, Jesus said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's" (Matthew 16:23). On this very night in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus counseled Peter, "Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (14:38). And then there was Jesus' most graphic word of warning to Peter, recorded by Luke: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat" (Luke 22:31).
There's very little Satan enjoys more than being able to sift us who belong to Jesus -- to use the circumstances God unfolds in such a way to shake or agitate us into a measure of separation from our Savior. Satan lives to oppose us in this way. He finds here his only hope for even marginal victory, seeking to reduce to rubble what Christ has transformed into rock. To him it must be like watching the demolition of a building blown to bits from the inside-out. I did it, he must preen. I helped another one fall. Here in Mark's Gospel we see how Peter, without realing the peril of his position, fell prey to Satan's schemes and his own overinflated opinion of himself. Before he knew it, he was doing exactly what he told Jesus he could never do.
Our objective, dear brethren, in this message today is to learn from Peter's experience of the Cross, that when Satan might seek to reduce us to rubble we would be prepared. In our brief look at Mark 14 we're going to use Peter's experience to highlight some warning signs that can indicate when we might be in the same peril he was. How can you tell when you're in danger of being sifted? Let me give you five questions to consider, to use in examining yourself.
The remainder of this message will be added on Monday, March 13. If you would like an audio recording of this or any other of Bro. Michael's messages, please call our Church Office (256-383-1515) or e-mail Bro. Michael.