How many times have your been terribly mistaken when you were absolutely certain you were correct? You were so sure you were correct, that you defended your position. The more you defended the position, the more certain you became that you were correct. The more certain you became that you were correct, the more emotional you became about the matter. The more you argued about the matter, the more your face changed colors (until it was a truly red color!). To you it mattered more and more and more! It got to mattering so much it became a finger shaking confrontation. It mattered so much that it became a voice raising confrontation. It mattered so much that you concentrated on listening for and hearing weakness and mistakes. While you rarely listened to what the other person actually said, you were deeply frustrated that the other person was not listening to what you said.

[Pause] Then it happened suddenly, instantly, "a flash of lightening" realization hit you, hit you hard. Suddenly you realized that you made were not correct! It was like someone hit you in the stomach hard when you totally were unprepared for the blow.

I suspect every single one of us has been there! I certainly have! When that happened to you, what did you do? (1) Did you keep on arguing like you were right when you knew you were mistaken? (2) Did you start listening to the other person, or did you close your ears even tighter? (3) Did you admit you made a mistake? (4) Did you feel stupid? (5) What impact did it have on your view of yourself? (When I do that, I feel so dumb! I will not stop telling myself how stupid that was!)

May I ask you if you have noticed something? At some point, the confrontation becomes more about you than about the matter being discussed. With you, when does that point come? When do your realize that it is more about who you are than the matter being discussed?

No one likes to be mistaken. Too often, we do not like what being mistaken says about us. Personal observation and confession: in God matters and Bible matters, learning involves admitting our mistakes. Many times one correct understanding results in a whole system of "knowledge" tumbling down. That is why it is so critical that each of us places his or her faith in God rather than a system of "knowledge."

This evening I want us to focus on the apostle Peter. I ask you to think as we study, and think as we make a specific application.

  1. First, lets remind ourselves of who Peter was.
    1. Peter was one of Jesus' prominent disciples.
      1. Mark 1:16. 17 and Luke 5:1-11 indicate that Peter was on of the first men of the 12 that Jesus called to the discipleship--a fisherman whom Jesus taught to catch me.
      2. As one of the 12, Peter was one of the inner core--he was a leader of leaders, a man who had the confidence to lead .
        1. He was with James and John when Jesus raised the synagogue official's daughter, and only those three witnessed that event (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51).
        2. He was present with James and John at Jesus' transfiguration (Matthew 17:1).
        3. He was present with James and John near Jesus as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37).
      3. It was to Peter that Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:19).
      4. It was Peter who felt so bold as to rebuke Jesus (Matthew 16:22).
      5. It was Peter who was so confident of his loyalty to Jesus that he made a special effort to declare that he would die with Jesus before he would deny Jesus (Matthew 26:33)--"the other disciples might stumble away from you, but not me!"
      6. It was Peter who denied knowing Jesus, and in grief and disappointment went out into the night weeping bitterly (Matthew 26:75).
      7. It was to Peter and the disciples (Peter was specifically mentioned) that an angel sent notification of Jesus' resurrection (Mark 16:7).
      8. It was Peter who preached the good news of Jesus' resurrection in Acts 2 (Acts 2:14-36).
      9. It is Peter who at the beginning of the Jerusalem church is the leader (Acts 5:3, 9, 15).
    2. This is the same man, an apostle, who did not understand that Christ came to save people who were not Israelites.
      1. Peter had to be prepared to go to Cornelius and tell him about Jesus (Acts 10:9-23).
        1. He had a vision through which the Lord told him three times was not to call something God cleansed a unholy and unclean.
        2. That vision profoundly confused Peter! (verses 17, 19)
        3. The Holy Spirit told Peter to accompany the men Cornelius sent without asking any questions.
      2. Yet, the next day when Peter went to Cornelius' home, he did not understand why he was there.
        Acts 10:28,29 And he (Peter) said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me."
        1. "I came even though I knew I was not to do this--the only reason I came was because I understand God wanted me to come."
        2. "Please explain to me why I am here."
      3. What Peter did was so unacceptable, so taboo, among Israelites, that he took six Jewish Christian witnesses with him (Acts 10:23, 45; 11:12).
      4. When Peter got back to Jerusalem, he found out quickly his action of visiting a Gentile home and eating with Gentiles stirred up a real hornets nest of angry Jewish Christian protest.
        Acts 11:2,3 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them."
    3. What Peter did was always God's intent.
      1. Before Israel was a nation, God said to Abraham, Genesis 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
      2. Again to Abraham: Genesis 22:18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
      3. God said to Isaac: Genesis 26:4 I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
      4. God said to Israel (Judah): Isaiah 42:5,6 Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it, "I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations.
      5. God said to Israel (Judah): Isaiah 49:6 He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
      6. Simeon, when seeing the baby Jesus at the temple presentation: Luke 2:29-32 "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel."
      7. Paul, to the Jews in Iconium: Acts 13:47 For so the Lord has commanded us, 'I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.'"
      8. Paul before King Agrippa, Acts 26:22,23 So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."
    4. Though God has not veiled his objective, Israel did not understand God's interest in non-Jewish people; they did not understand that God intended Israel to be light to people who were not Jews.
      1. They were absolutely certain they had God figured out, and they were certain that God was not interested in non-Jewish people.
      2. They had been so certain of this that not even the apostle Peter could imagine why God could send him to a gentile!
      3. Finally Peter understood:
        Acts 10:34,35 Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him."

  2. Christians are often certain that they have God and God's concerns all figured out, and they can tell you quickly and certainly in no uncertain terms exactly what God wants in every consideration.
    1. This is a very difficult time of the year for some Christians.
      1. For them it is filled with conflict.
      2. It seems that they move from one conscience crisis to another conscience crisis.
      3. As they are caught in this journey, they become frustrated with many of their Christian brothers and sisters. ["I cannot believe you do that!"]
    2. Let me share with you a couple of stories about things I know happened.
      1. The first is personal--the situation occurred when I was a child in the 5th or 6th grade.
        1. I went to public grade school when the public school planned and presented numerous religious programs.
        2. My parents [at that time] opposed the singing of Christmas songs in December.
        3. One day not long before Christmas our principal called a general assembly.
          1. He wanted the school to practice Christmas carols before the school's Christmas program.
          2. He was upset because the singing was so poor, so he sternly threatened anyone he saw who was not singing.
          3. I was not singing, so he was publicly upset with me.
          4. I did not handle the situation well; yet, I still remember the tension I felt.
      2. The second illustration is about someone I knew years ago, and actually I am talking about a couple, not an individual.
        1. I want to make it clear that these two people are very compassionate people and very constructively involved in congregational leadership today.
        2. When this couple was young years ago, they were convinced having a Christmas tree was a spiritual concern that definitely involved right and wrong.
        3. They had sincere objections to the Christmas season, Christians using Christmas trees, and in any way calling attention to the Christmas season.
        4. Their sincere views created a definite sense of crisis in the congregation.
    3. I want to make just one point: too often when we personally conclude exactly how God feels, we are concerned about matters that are of little or no concern to God.
      1. Peter was certain that he understood what God wanted and what God would stress, but Peter was mistaken.
        1. When Peter had the vision in which the Lord told him to kill and eat unclean things (Leviticus 11), Peter told the Lord, "I have never done that! I cannot do that! It is wrong! I do not care what you ask, I can't do something wrong!" The Lord asked Peter to do something wrong?
        2. Even after the Lord clearly sent Peter to Cornelius, Peter had no idea of why he was there! Teaching the gospel to people who were not Jews was unthinkable!
      2. I challenge all of us to do three things.
        1. Learn! Never stop letting God teach you.
        2. As you learn, be true to your conscience. The Lord understands why you do what you do.
        3. As you are true to your conscience, do not impose your conclusion in a conscience matter on someone else.

We invite you to Jesus Christ. We invite you to learn from God. We invite you to be yourself as you follow God. We invite you to pursue God's peace among those who belong to Jesus Christ. We invite you to put your faith in God, not what you "know."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 12 December 2004

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