Despondent and Dejected: Would Peter’s Life Become a Disaster?
by Charles Cameron
Published on November 2, 2022
Categories: Spiritual Growth

Dear Reader, This is Part 7 of our series: God is calling us to love Jesus (The Life of Peter). You will find the previous post here: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Despondent and Dejected:

Would His Life Become a Disaster Story?

By Charles Cameron

At the time of Christ’s crucifixion, Peter’s situation seemed hopeless He had denied his Lord. He was dejected. With Christ’s resurrection, everything was turned around. Christ revealed himself to Peter. In love, Jesus came to Peter. The whole situation was changed. Jesus’ love changed everything. He filled Peter with hope – the hope that life could be altogether different.

John 21:15-17

Peter was changed by the love of Jesus. Jesus is asking Peter, “Do you love Me?” He’s saying more than that. He’s saying, “I love you. Do you love M e?”

– The Gospel says to each one of us, “Jesus loves you.”

– The Gospel calls for our love, “Do you love Jesus?”

What is the mark of love for Jesus? – Obedience: “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me” (John 14:21).

This was true in Peter’s life. It is to be true in our lives.

Peter was given the command: “Feed My sheep.” In Acts, we see Peter, obeying the command of his Lord.

Acts 1-2

Here, we have a story of transformation. Peter’s story had seemed to be a real disaster story – but, now, it has been turned around. This is the message of Acts 1-2. Peter had been a man with a problem. Now, he is a man with a mission. What brought about this change in Peter?  The answer is “The Holy Spirit.” We need, however, to ask another question: How did the Holy Spirit change Peter?  This needs to be followed by a third question: How does the Holy Spirit change us?

In Peter’s story, we must note the importance of prayer and the Word of God. In Acts 1, we see Peter praying. Together with the other disciples, Peter is praying. In Acts 2, we see Peter preaching. His ministry is full of understanding of the Scriptures. He has taken time to learn from God’s Word. Now, he is bringing God’s Word to the people. He is explaining to them the message of Scripture. He is speaking to them of Jesus, the Saviour whom God had promised, the Saviour whom God has sent.

The Holy Spirit was mightily at work in Peter’s life. He was mightily at work through Peter’s preaching. The work of the Holy Spirit, in and through Peter, begins with prayer. In Acts 1:13-14; Peter is the first name on the list. He was a spiritual leader. Their prayer was grounded in a promise (Acts 1:4-5). Their prayer was directed towards witness (Acts 1:8). As the disciples gathered together for prayer, Peter emerged as a spiritual leader. He was a leader in the Church (Acts 1:15ff.). He was a leader in evangelism (Acts 2:14ff.).

As a spiritual leader, Peter spoke with power. His powerful preaching was marked by (i) clarity of exposition (Acts 2:14-36); (b) boldness in exhortation (Acts 2:37-42),

What happened when Peter preached? Three thousand people came to Christ. What a transformation! It was three denials. Now, it’s three thousand conversions!

God did something wonderful with Peter. He can do something wonderful with us, if we – like Peter – will say to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, You know that we love You.”

“Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer” (Acts 3:1) – Here, we see togetherness. We see the importance of fellowship. Our fellowship is more than fellowship with one another. It’s fellowship with God.

Acts 3:3,6 – The man was looking for money. God gave him something better. The world tells us that there’s nothing more valuable than money. The Word of God tells us that it is more important to be in fellowship with God.

Acts 3:11-12 – “The beggar held on to Peter and John.” Peter ask, ‘Why do you give the glory to man?’

Acts 3:13 … – Peter preaches the Gospel.

Acts 4:3-4 – “Peter and John are put in jail.” “Many believed, about five thousand.”

Acts 4:7 – “By what power?”

Acts 4:8-12 – Peter preaches the Gospel.

Acts 4:13 – “the courage of Peter and John”, “they had been with Jesus.”

Acts 4:18-20 – Obedience to God

Acts 4:23-30 – Prayer

Acts 4:31 – The effects of prayer

The remainder of chapter continues with this theme: the effects of prayer. It also links up with the story that is told in chapter 5.

When we read these chapters in Acts, we find ourselves asking, “Is this the same Peter that we read about in the Gospels?” In one sense, the answer is, “Yes. This is the same Peter.” In another sense, the answer is, “No. This is a very different Peter.”

What does this say to us?

* The same Peter – You and I can be used by God. Don’t think, “God must be looking for someone else.” He wants you. He wants me. He wants to take us and make us His faithful and fruitful servants. He wants to be glorified through our witness.

* A different Peter – You and I can be used by the Lord, but it will not be the same old you, and it will not be the same old me. It will be a different you. It will be a different me. It will be a changed you. It will be a changed me. The Lord will change us. He will make us new men and women. When God is going to work through us, He will begin with working in us. He wants us to bring change to others, but this is not His starting-point. He starts with us. He changes us, and, then, He turns His attention to the people who will be changed through our witness.

Acts 5:1-11 – the story of Ananias and Sapphira; Acts 5:3-4,7-9 – Peter’s part

What does this say to us, as we come to the Lord’s Table? – We must come honestly. We must confess our sin.

Acts 5:12-16 – “signs and wonders” (v. 12); “Peter’s shadow” (v.15) – There seems to be an element of superstition here.

As we come to the Lord’s Table, what is the Lord saying  to us?  Don’t settle for a superstitious view of the Lord’s Supper: somehow, the blessing might just happen to reach you. Seek to draw close to the Lord, and stay close to Him.

Acts 5:17-32

  1. 18-21 – “In prison” (v. 18); released by God’s power (v. 19), with God’s commission (v. 20); obedience to God (v. 21).
  2. 29-32 – This is Peter’s testimony. Peter and the other apostles obeyed God (v. 29). We are to obey God (v. 32).

What is the Lord teaching us, as we come to His Table? – We are set free by the Lord so that we might live in obedience to Him.

Acts 5:33-42

The name of Peter doesn’t appear in the last part of Acts 5. We may move beyond one individual, Peter, to find a more general lesson for today’s Church.

The lesson is found in vs. 40-42. Following the wise advice of Gamaliel (vs. 33-39; especially vs. 38-39), The apostles were “ordered …not to speak in the Name of Jesus” (vs. 40).

This is very contemporary. The world still tells us not to speak in the Name of Jesus. They will let us do our own thing in our own places of worship, but they will try to silence our Christian witness in the wider society.

The apostles were not silenced. Their witness grew stronger. This was a Church on the move. It was a Church, moving forward. It was a Church that refused to be silenced. There was no stopping the advance of the Gospel.

How does the Gospel advance? – Through people who, like the apostles, are determined not to be silenced, determined to go on “teaching and proclaiming the good News that Jesus is the Christ” (v. 42).

As we consider what Christ has done for us, can we refuse to be such people?

Acts 8:20 – “the gift of God”: God gives; we receive. It’s never we earn; God rewards.

Acts 8:21 – “Your heart is not right before God.” the sin of trying to earn God’s favor is in direct contradiction to the Gospel of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Note that Ephesians 5:10 – we are called to do good works – comes after Ephesians 5:8-9 – we have been saved by God’s grace. It’s never works, leading to grace. It’s always grace, leading to works.

Titus 3:3-8 – Note, especially v.3: This is our starting-point. We are sinners. We need to be saved by the grace of God. Our situation is hopeless. It is the grace of God that changes everything. He turns everything around for us. This great change takes place “not because of righteous things that we had done, but because of His mercy” (v. 5). This wonderful change – “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (v. 5) – takes place in us because of God’s generosity (v. 6), His grace (v. 7). Once this change takes place, we are to be careful to devote ourselves to doing what is good” (v. 8). Notice, again, the order. The Christian life is based on the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s never, the Holy Spirit is ta reward for those who have lived the Christian life.

Acts 8:22 – “Repent.” The sin from which must turn is the sin of pride. We must reject the self-centered attempt to earn God’s salvation as a reward for our own good works. This is the sin which keeps men and women “full of bitterness and captive to sin” (v. 23). We see the “bitterness of proud unbelievers, e.g. Pharaoh’s reaction against Moses (Exodus); the Pharisees’ reaction against Jesus (the Gospels).  Such men are “captive to sin.” Outward appearances can be deceptive. Pharaoh appeared to be in control. He was more a captive than the people of Israel. He was “captive to sin.” The Pharisees appeared to be in control. They were far from God. they were “captive to sin.” Can such hardness be changed? Yes – by the Lord (v. 28).

How can this great change take place in the hearts of men and women? – Through “the Word of the Lord, through “the gospel” (v. 25).

Give your testimony, proclaim the Word, preach the Gospel.

“Peter travelled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda” (Acts 9:32).

Peter was a travelling evangelist. He  was not a ‘hit and run’ specialist. He was God’s peoples concerned to strengthen the faith of “the saints” – all of God’s people, not an elite group.

Acts 9:33-35 – Peter’s healing ministry was part of his ministry of the Gospel. As a result of the healing, people “turned to the Lord” (v. 35). Notice that it wasn’t Peter who healed the man – “Jesus Christ heals you” (v. 34). Peter draws attention to Christ. Men and women were drawn to Christ.

Acts 9:36-43 – Peter’s ministry became even more extraordinary: the raising of the dead – Tabitha (Aramaic) / Dorcas (Greek). Again, two distinctive features of his ministry are emphasized.

(a) This was God’s work – not Peter’s: “he got down and his knees and prayed.”

(b) This miracle led to conversions – “many people believed in the Lord” (v. 42).

What a great contrast with the Peter of the Gospels!

(i) In the Gospels, he’s in great need of strengthening. Here, he is strengthening others.

(ii) In the gospels, he is so self-centered. Here, he is so Christ-centered. In the gospels, he spoke to the Lord in protest. Here, he speaks to the Lord in prayer.

(iii) In the Gospels, he seemed to be so useless. He failed his Lord when he was called upon to witness for his Lord. Here, he’s being mightily used by God. There’s the healing. There’s the raising from the dead. There is so many people coming to faith in the Lord: “All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord” (v. 35); “This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (v. 42).

Peter had grown spiritually. Let us, too, pray for spiritual growth.

Charles Cameron, better known as Charlie to his friends, lives in Scotland and is a member of the Church of Scotland. He owns several Christian blogs found at the following links:

Old Testament     New Testament

 

Feature Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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