Raven Cannon, Children's PastorAugust 19, 2019
Sometimes the Lord allows us to be broken so that we can be remade.
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Welcome! I would like to begin by having us look at Acts 2 again. If you have your Bible, Bible app, or you just want to follow along in the handout then that’s perfect. I want to revisit some of the scriptures that we looked at last week. I’m going to read through them fairly rapidly. On the day of Pentecost, which is recorded in the second chapter of Acts, this is what happens. It’s kind of like the birthday of the church. We learned about it and discussed it last week in depth. Our guest speaker David Brickner talked about it. He put it into a context and looked at it from a historical, theological, and biblical perspective. He certainly connected it to the Older Testament. I’m going to go ahead and read through it.
Let’s look at this together. Acts 2:1-4. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.” This is the church that had gathered. The disciples of Jesus had gathered 50 days after His crucifixion. “The day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound. It was like a mighty rushing wind. It just filled the entire house where they were sitting.” It’d be like a supernatural wind blowing through this space. It says, “there was something like tongues of fire that appeared over them and rested on each one of them.” You have these phenomena that we talked about. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and even began to speak in other languages, other tongues of the spirit as the spirit gave them utterance.”
Jumping down to the 14th verse. “But Peter, standing with the 11, lifted up his voice and he addressed them, ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you and give ear to my words for these people are not drunk as you may suppose, or think might be happening because it’s only the third hour of the day,'” It’s 9:00 AM in the morning. Next he quotes from the prophet Joel saying, “but this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel.” Peter reaches back into the Older Testament, the writings of the scripture. He says “In the last days, it shall be as God declares that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, your sons and your daughters, they’ll prophesy. Your young men, they’ll see visions. Your old men, they’ll dream dreams. Even on my male servants and female servants, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” They’re going to prophesy.
Peter jumps further. “‘Let all the houses of Israel, therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus who was crucified, who you crucified.’ Now, when they heard this, they were cut to the heart. They said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do then?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, turn around and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, it’s for your children, it’s for everyone. All who are afar off everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself’ and with many other words, he bore witness and continued to exhort them saying, ‘Save yourselves. Save yourselves from this crooked and misdirected generation.’ Those who received this word were baptized. In a stunning development on the day of Pentecost, the church explodes and there were added unto them, 3,000 souls.”
That is the beginning point of the movement of Jesus rising up into a new dimension, into a new level. That’s the description of it in the book of Acts. Here’s the thing. We talked about last week, how the church rose in the power of the Spirit, we looked at these passages. So why did we reread them? It’s because I want to look at them from a different perspective. I want us to look at it through the lens of Peter and his transformation. Explore what it means for us. If you just look at what’s happening here, it’s actually stunning. It’s astonishing.
It was 50 days earlier that Simon Peter had the absolute worst day of his life. That’s not an exaggeration. It was the lowest moment in his life. Just 50 days before this, it’s hard to believe that this is the same man who had been so low, so defeated. Many people think Peter would have taken his life too if John hadn’t found him. Clearly, he would have had suicidal thoughts. Judas, after processing through what he did, decided to end it. There was no way back for him in his mind. Do you remember what happened? Peter had emphatically broken with Jesus. He who had made the big promise. He who said, “Though everyone else forsakes you, I will hold.” He had denied the Lord. He not only denied the Lord one time. It’s one thing to do that. He denied him, not just twice. He ended up denying him three times. On the third time, it was so brutal because it says Jesus was passing by and they looked at one another.
Do you know what the Bible says? Peter went out and ran. This man of strength in his prime. He ran and wept bitterly. The one quality that he valued above all, loyalty. He had broken when the heat was on. You look at that and think, “Oh my goodness, what happened?” 50 days later, Peter is standing there proclaiming the living Jesus. In this astonishing moment, 3,000 people and more followed and started to respond to the message of Christ that Peter boldly stepped forward and proclaimed. We can’t appreciate this without taking into account that it was just days, really weeks earlier when he had denied Jesus 3 times. You couldn’t fail any worse than he did. Yet to watch this happen, it’s pretty extraordinary. Again, Peter goes from a man ashamed and afraid to even be associated with Jesus. The peer pressure of that moment, a man afraid and ashamed of a man aflame. A man on fire and unafraid.
I wonder if after the intensity of that moment, the Pentecost moment, we just read about, “Oh, I wonder what that was like for Peter at that night,” If he was like you and me, he would have started to process through things. I mean after the adrenaline wore off. He started to try to go to sleep. I wonder if, in his mind, he started drifting back to a moment three years earlier when he first met Jesus. We read about it in John 1. There was this moment where Andrew, Peter’s brother says, “We found him. We found the Messiah.” Peter says “Where?” He says, “I want you to meet him.” So Peter goes with John and Andrew, and he’s getting ready. Peter says, “I have some questions for him too.” Peter is there and going to talk to Jesus.
Before they even get close, Jesus points them out. Jesus says, “Simon. Simon, son of John.” Remember, they haven’t said a word. “Simon, son of John, I’m changing your name. You are no longer Simon. I call you Cephas. Your new name is Cephas.” Cephas in the Aramaic is stone. In Greek, Petros means rock. Do you know what it means? Peter, that’s what we get Peter from, Petros. Petros, Cephas. The first thing Jesus says is, “I call you by a new name.” Now that very moment there was like, “I make a claim on your life right now.” Jesus looked at Peter and said, “I have a new name for you. Your name is now Rock.” Rocky. I don’t know. He didn’t call him Rocky, but he called him Cephas. I have a new name for you.
Maybe in some strange way was the very thing that he thought he wasn’t. “Peter. I call you Peter. You’ll be a man of strength. I’m calling you,” just like he does with you and me, “what you can become in me.” Peter says, “That’s not who I am.” Jesus says, “What you can become in me. That’s what I call you. You will become a man who can be counted on and built on, that’s what I’m saying.” Now it looked like when he failed, that was the very last thing he was. Don’t call me that. Right? Peter may be thinking, “I’m anything but that.” Think about it, because there was a process that Jesus used to restore him. Just stay with me. A process he used to restore him.
Remember, Peter’s at his lowest point. Jesus rises. Everybody is amazed at it. Jesus is alive. What does that mean? No one knows. They ended up going back to Galilee. A few days pass after Jesus’s resurrection. Peter is still living under the shadow of what he’s done. Peter has mixed feelings. On one hand, “You’re alive. You said you would be, and you are, but it doesn’t change who I am. I’m a failure. I’m no use to you. I don’t know why you even have any interest in me.” Days pass on the sea of Galilee before Pentecost. Between the resurrection and the Pentecost moment we just read about, there’s this interaction that Jesus has on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Remember?
It says that they were out fishing. They didn’t know what else to do. They went back to their occupations. Then it says, Jesus appeared. He was on the shore. You can go there today. The sea of Galilee is beautiful, you can almost see it exactly as it once was. If you were to go in the early morning, you would see the water lapping gently on the shore. It’s surrounded by hills and has these pastel colors, pale blues, beige, and purples. You can see and feel it. You get that feeling. Jesus, it says, was there on the sea of Galilee. He was right on the shoreline and started making bread. He built a fire and he started baking fish, bread, and fish on the fire. Then he has that amazing conversation with Peter in front of everybody.
We could just spend time talking about it. It’s an awesome exchange. Do you love me? Feed my sheep. Here’s the thing. Jesus starts working with Peter. He starts working with him, but this is the culmination. This is the culmination. Two factors had got Peter to this place. Now I’m going to note them both. Two things had really contributed to Peter getting to this moment where he boldly stepped out for Jesus and declared Him. One, I’m going to say it, say it. One of the things that God used to get him to this place, which should encourage all of us, was his failure. The other was his filling.
The failure. Oh, the beautiful failure that broke Peter of his pride. The failure that Peter experienced ends up becoming a gift to him. When he denied the Lord, something shattered. Something died. When he denied him, something died. It’s like someone taking his glass and dropping it on a rock, it just shattered into pieces. All of his confidence was gone. All of his arrogance or bravado, whatever we want to call it, the strong man that he was or pretended to be, all gone. It’s true. Even after the resurrection on the sea, Jesus had gently restored Peter. One still gets the sense that whoever Peter was becoming was a different man. He was going to become a deeper man, a better man. He was going to become a far more humble and gracious man. He was always going to have, spiritually speaking, a limp. You look at him, you wouldn’t see it, but inside it was there. He never forgot how much he had failed, but how good God had been.
The other thing was Peter’s filling. His failure was always with him. His filling, talking about the filling of the Holy Spirit, the Pentecost experience, changed him forever. Jesus told His disciples when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they would receive power to fulfill His plan and proclaim His message. Remember in Acts 1:8 it says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the world, ends of the earth.” Now emptied of his pride on this day of Pentecost, filled with the Spirit power, a new Peter rises from the ashes. Again, 50 days from the worst season in his life, a new man arises from the ashes and starts emerging like Michelangelo’s marble men. Have you ever seen Michelangelo’s marble men? The men he carved that are stuck in marble still? They didn’t get finished. They’re pretty cool because in a lot of ways, it’s like Michelangelo would say, when he worked, he was letting the man in the marble out. You see them emerging out of that. Coming alive, being locked out, but being let out. It reminded me, in many ways, of Peter. Again, what did Jesus call him? You are a rock. You are the rock. You are Petros, Cephas. It’s almost like a new Peter. Do you see this? I hope in our mind’s eye if we ever see these statues, we always remember Peter emerging into something new. The idea of him coming into a new place. But it was a process. A new Peter is emerging. Now what we’re told is that God then starts to work miracles and you’re going to see it. You read the book of Acts, you see miracles, signs, and wonders. God starts to do things through Peter. It’s amazing. It’s hard to believe.
I want to put a couple of things up here that have to do with how God wants us to rise in our faith, drawing from Peter and how God restored him from a dark place. Do you know why? Because we are going to have seasons. There’re going to be some seasons that are hard. There are going to be some times when we don’t want this to happen. I don’t want anybody to go through a tough time, but we will. I don’t want any of us to fail, but we will once in a while. I don’t want any of us to be hurt, but there are times that we’re going to be really hurting. How do we prevail? How do we stay? How do we get better? How do we emerge even better? That’s what we’re talking about here. There are going to be certain seasons in life that are going to feel crushing. How can we, with God’s help, actually come out of that a better man or woman? come out more open, capable, and expanded, like Peter, the better version? How do we do that?
Let me put something out there for us to think about. One of the things I want to suggest is that God will allow us to be broken again so that we can be remade better. I’m not saying God is doing this to us. But rather something we usually do to ourselves or might happen to us in life from other people’s choices, but usually, it’s us. He does allow us to go through things. We’re going through them. It’s our life to live.
On the night of His betrayal by Judas, Jesus told Peter, “You’re all going to deny me.” We call it the night of the Last Supper. Remember that whole moment? It’s in Luke 22. In that place, there’s this exchange that occurs. Jesus says, “You’re all going to deny me. I’m not saying this because I’m trying to hurt any of you, but I’m just telling you right now, the path I’m walking, I’m going to walk it alone. None of you are going to stay with me.” Peter said, and he meant these words, “All of these men, all of them may deny you, Lord. I don’t know about that. But the one thing I do know, I will not deny you.” Jesus says, “Yes, you will. Before the rooster crows, you will deny me not once, you will deny me three times.” Peter replies, “No, I won’t. I respect you. Your words are from God. I can not deny that, but I know me and I will not deny you.” Jesus says, “You will deny me.” Right before that Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to sift you as wheat.” If you look at the original meaning of the word ‘sift,’ it means to literally tear you apart from the inside out. We’re talking about our minds. He desires to sift you as wheat, to literally turn you outside, turn you up, or flip you out.
Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you. I have prayed that your faith would not fail. When you are restored and return to me, here’s what I want you to do. You strengthen your brethren. Do you understand what I’m saying? Satan has desired to sift you as wheat. He wants to take you and tear apart your mind. I have prayed for you that your faith would not fail. It would sustain. When you are restored and have returned to me, you will come through this. The Lord did not say, “I have decided to find another way so that you can avoid this.” He didn’t say that. He said, “When you get there, I will meet you. I’m praying for you.” Think about that. Jesus says, “I will meet you on the other side, but it’s your path to walk. You’re going to have to walk it.” Jesus had a path to walk. In Peter’s case, it was going to be hard, “But when you get done on the other side of that, strengthen your brethren, be the pillar, be the stone, be the anchor, be the rock that I called you to be. That’s why I named you what I named you. Not in arrogance or in self-glory. Not because you have the abilities and you’re so good. No, you are going to be a servant, a blessing, and the lender of strength to others. It’s going to flow out of you because you’re going to be a different kind of man coming out of what you’re about to go into.” Now, that’s powerful.
Here’s the second piece of this. God wants to develop in us a spirit of humility. Yeah, he does. Because in the kingdom, what is it? Rising is always connected to what? Coming in low. Descending. It’s different from our world. Rising in the Lord is always connected to descending, coming in low. It’s this. Help me, Lord. That’s different. I don’t have it on my own. I don’t think Peter ever forgot about how he failed the Lord. I know he didn’t. I think he walked with that for the rest of his life. Although Peter assumes the leadership, one of the things that become apparent is he doesn’t push. He’s not trying to contend to be the man in power. Even as the leader and primary spokesman of the early church, we don’t see Peter contending for headship and power.
In fact, as time goes on, men like Paul, who at the time was not a believer at all in Jesus, will emerge. James will emerge. There’ll be other people who will step forward in powerful ways in the early church. Peter would later write in 1 Peter 5, you feel this coming out of a man who’s different, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another. For God opposes the proud. He opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God so at the proper time He will exalt you when He wants to.” This is a humble thing. What a different man.
Again, I’m convinced that frequently God allows us to experience setbacks and failures to soften us. He uses these parts of our lives and it may not feel good. I’m not saying God’s doing it directly. I’m saying sometimes there are some seasons that are so intense that if we stick with God, it’s like the Lord is breaking off this jagged piece, like a big chunk falls off. A part of us comes alive in a different way. The whole idea that there are times when the Lord wants to remind us that apart from Him, we really can’t do anything that the Christian life is in a certain sense, a life of continual breaking and rebuilding. It’s a life of death and resurrection always. It’s about growing, learning, and becoming. It’s about something dying so that a better thing can live. It’s powerful.
Sometimes it’s because we’ve gotten hard, empty, duty-driven, and we’re going through the religious motions. That is never what Jesus taught us that life with Him was supposed to be. It was meant to be passionate, full, vibrant and alive; an adventure of growth that God is trying to expand, work new things, heal things, and open things up. This was a life in Christ. It was meant to be wonderful. Sometimes we get stuck in these ruts. We get stuck in certain places and ways of thinking in our lives. Often it’s the places of most difficulty and even suffering that we get stuck.
When we have what happened to Peter, that’s like an earthquake. I often say, there are some situations in life that are so difficult or traumatic to us that the person that we are going in cannot be the same person coming out. We will be different. It’s like an earthquake that hits and the land is rearranged. The landscape shifts. Whoever we were, we will never be again. The question is, are we going to be a better version of what God wants us to be? Or are we going to be a bitter version of what God wants and doesn’t want us to be. It all depends on how we allow that to draw us towards Him. What I am saying is, I don’t know if you could fail any more miserably than Peter failed and suffer any more intensely than he suffered in terms of how he saw himself, how ashamed he was. Yet God raised him from the ashes. He just stayed close enough.
The next thing you see, not only did Peter get better from where was, but there was exponential expansion in his life, a depth of character. I’m not saying it’s good. I’m not even saying Lord, bring on a bad season so I can grow. I am not saying that. I don’t want those seasons. I don’t want to suffer at all. Just to be honest. I would like to be blessed all the time and to find blessing as never suffering. Ever. But I won’t grow depth there. I won’t. The deepening often comes when I’m stripped down, broken, and afraid like Peter. I feel like I don’t have what it takes or I’ve been hurt. Out of these places, God rearranges, reawakens, and by His spirit begins to transform us. We become better than what we ever could have been. God takes death and brings life. That’s what He does. When we say He’s redemptive, that’s what we mean.
When we’re really affected by God, we have to talk about Him. The last thing I’ll suggest here is that sometimes God gives us His spirit so that we can be His witnesses, His power at work in our lives transformatively. Not so we can just keep it to ourselves and feel good about who we’re becoming. That’s okay, but that’s not the purpose. The purpose of your healing, blessing, and becoming more of what He’s calling us to be, is so that we give something away in His name. So we can live out our faith. That’s our mission statement that we can live out our faith in Jesus and invite others into life with Him. Some of us are called to be like Andrew. Every time you see Andrew in the scripture, he’s bringing something. We don’t know a lot about him, but every time you see him, he’s bringing somebody to Jesus.
One of the people he brought to Jesus was his brother. Peter brings the message of Christ, but there’s never going to be a Peter without an Andrew. It’s all connected. Who’s the greatest? Who cares? He’s the greatest. Do you see what I’m saying? Here’s the thing. We’re told you are my witnesses. You are my credentials. You are my evidence. You. Where you work, your friendships. You are my evidence. We who love Him, who are devoted to Him, who claim we follow Him. We are to both live and speak His way. I wrote something down and it’ll be the last thing I put up. This to me summarizes something to live our life for God without speaking. To live it without speaking is a story half-told. To speak without living, is a story wrongly told. To live it and speak it is a story well told. What am I talking about?
When we follow the Lord, sincerely, we are going to get better. We are going to grow and heal. It is as true as day follows night and as night follows day. What is planted will bring a harvest. It’s not a question of will it. It’s only a question of how much. Some 30, some 60, some 100. I’m telling you, if we stick with the Lord, then we are going to grow and get better. The only question is to what degree. As we get better, people are going to notice it. They’re going to respect it. Who doesn’t appreciate kindness, goodness, honesty, integrity, working well, not backbiting, or being given forgiveness? When you live this way, have humility, and love people, it’s acknowledged.
Here’s the thing. To live it, but never talk about the Lord is a life half lived. Do you see what I’m saying? We get better because of Him, but we don’t talk about Him. That’s a story half-told. I’m saying, talking about Him might be as simple as what Andrew did. Just come and check it out. That’s a simple thing that ended up having a huge impact. To live it, but not speak it, is to be ashamed of Jesus. It’s a half-told story. Why did this happen to me? How am I getting better? How am I getting through this? Do I talk about him?
One more thing, to speak without living, that’s not good. I could talk about Him, but then my life doesn’t show it. What is that? So much damage is done to people because of that kind of thing. Talk about Jesus, but your life doesn’t show it. We’re not talking about being perfect. None of us ever will be. I don’t know if that’s the prerequisite for talking about Jesus. I won’t be able to, none of us can talk about it if that’s the prerequisite. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about growing and getting better. We’re sincere. We’re authentic. There’s a smaller and smaller gap between what we say we believe and how we live our lives. That commitment means something to us. It’s showing up in meaningful ways. It’s actually there. It’s happening in our life. We build our life on these principles. These principles are working. God’s Spirit is showing up. There’s a real transformation taking place.
When that’s happening, that’s just about being authentic. That doesn’t mean we won’t fail or have problems. Sometimes we will let ourselves down, let the Lord down, and let the people we love down. That’s going to happen at times. I understand that. But by and large, what there should be is when we do something that’s really wrong, people who know us best should probably tell us. That was out of character for them. Why? Because the dominant way of being what we are known by, from the people we love or who are closest to, this is who we are. When we operate in a different way than that, they would say, “Well, that’s not who they normally are.” Because the person that we are is this. That’s what the Lord wants. He wants the way we live to line up with what we speak. We say we love Him. Then let’s live a life that reflects it. If we don’t do that, that’s a story wrongly told. That was clear to me.
If we are willing to live it and speak it, not perfectly, you know what that becomes? A story well-told and guess what? You and I, anyone who follows Jesus, are called to be great storytellers. That’s our call. That story is a story of our life and what Christ can do in it. It’s just that simple. Do you know what I’m saying? How will they hear if we don’t speak? How will they listen if we don’t live? Not perfect, but sincere, real, honest, trying to open our hearts up to the Lord. Let Him work the transformation and healing in us that He wants to work. I want to walk to the beat of a different drum. I want you to do that too.
Let’s pray. Lord, I thank you for the transformative work that you do. It’s what you do in your kingdom. Your kingdom come, your will be done in us, I pray. Bring good life, bring good healing. Let us not be afraid of the hard times. They’re going to come, once in a while they’re going to happen. Maybe we’re in that season right now. It’s all right. You are with us. You will not abandon us. Lord, you will also be there on the other side. We’re coming through this. We’re going to get better in your name, by faith. We claim it, Lord, in Jesus’ name. I just pray for seasons of real expansion. Whether we’re younger or older in life, I ask that you would enhance and increase our capacity to live well and to speak good words. Words that represent you. Let this be a growing testimony of your reality, the blessing of the Lord, and the goodness of the Lord. Lastly, Lord, I pray that you would give us a spirit of empathy. That you would remind us all of our own flaws and weaknesses. Remind us how much we too are to help Him and be a blessing to those who are hurting and wounded. In your name, Lord, we would do this as well. You are the one who can raise us from the ashes and do amazing and wonderful things. Thank you for that, Lord. Keep working in our lives. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.