Rev. Sandy Johnson
Come, Follow Me: Faltering
Prayer: May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
This morning we continue our series on Following Jesus. We began a few weeks ago and heard that the first step on this journey of following Jesus is to listen and respond to his call.
Last week we heard the story of Jesus asking his disciples, who the people say he is, and then the more pointed question, “Who do YOU say I am?” To be a follower of Jesus Christ we must confess that he is Messiah, he is Lord. He is the one who rules in our lives.
I think it is safe to say that following Jesus, isn’t easy. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ often means that we must take risks, and do things that we could never imagine doing. It also means failing.
We certainly can’t move forward without risk, because the only people who don’t fail are those who don’t try. Failure is going to happen. We are going to disappoint ourselves, our family and we will disappoint God.
But it really isn’t failure that I’m talking about though. Our scripture really is about disappointing Jesus, which is a failure. It is about meaning to do our best but just not being able or willing to take the high road, to do what is required, likely at great personal cost.
I would venture to guess that everyone in this room has failed God at one time or another. Most of us have done things that grieve Jesus, whether it be un-Christlike behavior or words or a straight-out denial like Peter, “I don’t know him!”
We also disappoint by not doing things, by not following his call, by not allowing God the room to bless us, thinking that we have to control everything, cutting God out of the picture.
We are all guilty of disappointing God. We have all failed the Lord.
And we are in great company!
We may not have had an epic failure like Peter did when he was waiting outside in the courtyard of the high priest’s residence. Jesus had been arrested and Peter’s attempts to defend Jesus with force was rejected. Peter was confused and scared but followed along at a distance to watch and see what was going to happen.
He was trying to blend in with the people warming themselves by a fire. He didn’t want to draw any attention to himself. If someone recognized him they might arrest him as they did Jesus. He had attacked one of the servants of the high priest and cut off his ear. And then Jesus had healed the man; but that didn’t change the fact that Peter had attacked someone. Surely, he could stand here, invisible, and keep close watch on Jesus.
But then slave girl recognized him. She had seen him with Jesus earlier in the week. When she accused him of being with Jesus, Peter denied it immediately and vehemently. Then, someone else recognized him. Again, Peter denied knowing Jesus.
Finally, about an hour later another person insisted, this time offering evidence that he had to be friends with Jesus because he was Galilean. “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!”
Peter’s denial was overshadowed by the sound of the rooster crowing. And the words of Jesus rang in his head: “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Oh God, what have I done.
“Our failures may not be as dramatic or as well-known as Peter’s, but whether by our words or actions, we’ve all denied Christ as our Savior and Lord. We can see four steps that led to Peter’s failure, which are often involved in our own spiritual failures:
“First, we fail to understand God’s ways, which are not our ways. Peter could not wrap his mind around the concept of a Messiah who would suffer and die.” Peter insisted that Jesus would be the conquering hero and he refused to picture a different kind of savior.
“It was that persistent failure to understand God’s way of the cross that prompted Peter to draw his sword and attempt to defend Jesus in the garden. He probably felt hurt and confused when the Lord rebuked him and then Jesus meekly submitted to arrest. In that state of confusion, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings, Peter was off guard for Satan’s subtle attack through a servant girl’s question.
“When you think that God has to work in a certain way, but He doesn’t conform to your expectations, you are spiritually vulnerable. Maybe you’ve prayed fervently for something, but it didn’t happen in line with your prayers.
It’s easy in your disappointment, confusion, and hurt to succumb to temptation! When we dictate our plan to God rather than submit to His plan, we’re setting ourselves up for spiritual failure. (let me repeat that, When we dictate our plan to God rather than submit to His plan, we’re setting ourselves up for spiritual failure.)
“Second, we fail because we don’t recognize our own weaknesses, so we trust in ourselves, not in the Lord. Trusting in your own commitment and devotion to the Lord is a sure way to fail him! Proverbs 16:18 says, pride goes before a fall, but when we are weak (and we know it!), then we are strong, because then we trust in the Lord and His strength.
“It was probably Peter’s lack of awareness of his own weakness that drew him into the snare that Satan had set for him. Be on guard when you’re around worldly people! Keep your purpose in mind: You’re not there to warm yourself by the fires and banter with them. You’re there as a witness. If you’re not careful, at an unguarded moment, it’s easy to deny your savior.
“Third, we fail to recognize the spiritual battle that we’re engaged in and so fail to protect ourselves and pray as we should. Peter didn’t understand that Satan was out to get him, and that this hour belonged to the power of darkness.
Thus, he failed to pray at that crucial time in the garden. This caused him to react to Jesus’ arrest by swinging his sword, rather than with weapons for spiritual warfare. Then he blindly wandered into the path of temptation in the courtyard of the high priest’s house.
“So often, like Peter, we react to difficult situations from the physical or human perspective, rather than realizing that we’re in a spiritual battle with the unseen forces of wickedness in heavenly places.
Someone says something against you at work and you react in anger by putting him down or getting back at her. By not praying and seeing it as a spiritual attack, you miss the opportunity to bear witness for Christ!
“Last, we fail to fear God more than we fear people. The fear of man was behind Peter’s third denial. John 18:26 says, “One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with Him?’”
Peter panicked! This guy could get Peter in big trouble for what he had done in the garden! So, Peter denied Christ again. Then the rooster crowed to remind Peter of Christ’s words!
Luke 22:61 tells us that at that moment, the Lord turned and looked at Peter. That look pierced Peter’s heart! I’m sure that he never forgot it. And he went out and wept bitterly.”
“To some extent, we all want the approval of others. But when we worry about what others think, our focus is wrong, and we forget the most important thing: what does God think? Our aim should be to please Him. Proverbs 29:25 warns, “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.”
“In Matthew 10:33, Jesus warned, “Whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” Those are scary words, but thankfully, we see Peter restored” in John 21:15 when three times Jesus asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me.” Three times Peter declared his love for Jesus, washing away the failure and the disappointment of his denial just a few days before.
“Shame over past failures and sins can haunt and inhibit us in many ways. And Satan seeks to steal and destroy our faith by shoving our failures in our face. But Jesus intends to redeem us completely.
“When Jesus chose you to be his disciple, he foresaw your future failures, just as sure as he foresaw Peter’s. We may not want to believe that we could deny Jesus by engaging in a sin that contradicts everything we believe. But Jesus knows what is in us. So, he exhorts us, along with Peter to “watch and pray that we may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
“And when we do fail, we must remember what Jesus said to Peter before his failure in Luke 22:32: “I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
“Peter was going to sin — miserably. But Jesus had already prayed for him. Jesus’ prayer was stronger than Peter’s sin, and it’s stronger than our sin too. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
“And Jesus is the great restorer of failures like us, who repent. Jesus had said to Peter “when you have turned again and repented, strengthen your brothers.” And there on the beach, following his resurrection, he again gave Peter the greatest invitation any of us can receive on earth: “follow me.”
The failure was to be left behind. There was kingdom work to do, and eternal life to enjoy. Peter’s failure did not define him. And ours will not define us. They are horrible, humbling stumbles along the path of following Jesus, who paid for them all on the cross.
And Jesus specializes in transforming failures into rocks of strength for his church.”
 Luke 22:34
 https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-94-when-you-fail-lord-john-1812-27 Accessed January 26, 2018
 2 Corinthians 12:10
 Eph. 6:11-12
 John 2:25
 Matthew 26:41
 Luke 22:32
 Hebrews 7:25