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A CHRISTIAN CONVERTED
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Based on Luke 22:31-34, 54-62
Can a Christian be converted? Yes, and not only can a Christian be converted, but it is often essential before he becomes an effective servant of Jesus Christ. Conversion means to turn again to the ways of the Savior from the ways of self and sin. We are only born again once, but we need to be converted as often as we find ourselves going in the wrong direction. In many Christian's lives there are several conversions. Many make their first decision for Christ at an early age, and then as they get older they begin to realize they are being shaped by the world. The Holy Spirit convicts them, and they turn again in renewed dedication to the things of Christ.
So often people accept Christ as Savior without realizing that it means one must give Him Lordship over life, and so there is a time of ineffectiveness and failure until the Lordship of Christ is recognized and one is converted again. You can call it dedication, renewal or commitment, but it is a turning again, which is a conversion. There is, in a sense, a continuous conversion of the Christian, for there is a constant work of the Holy Spirit to keep us turned in the direction God would have us go. As the world gets worse, the believer is to become better. The great need of the world is for Christians to be converted, for until they are the church will fail to win the world.
The truth of this is illustrated for us in the experience of Peter. In verse 32 Jesus indicates that Peter needed to be converted, or to turn again, from the path of failure he was going to follow to the path of confidence and faith in Christ, and that the purpose of this is that he might strengthen the others. This, of course, was so that they too might be strong instruments to reach the world. We want to examine this experience of Peter in 3 stages, for it illustrates a pattern, which most Christians will go through.
I. THE DANGER OF SATAN. v. 31-34
The very fact that Jesus warned Peter by the double use of his name indicates the seriousness of the danger. In only one other place did Jesus use a name like this and that was when He said, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things." She too was in great danger of letting Satan have control of her life. Whenever Jesus said something extremely important He said, "Verily, verily," and all through the Bible the double use of a word reveals deep emotion. David cried out, "Absolom, my son, my son." And Jesus cried out, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem." The point is, Jesus was trying to impress upon Peter the great danger he was facing.
Peter, however, was too self-confident to be bothered about any danger. His attitude was, don't worry about me. All the others might forsake you but not me. I will go to prison, or even face death, where there is no danger that I cannot face. Peter had a hard lesson to learn, but we know that after this experience he never again underestimated the danger of Satan's power. In I Peter 5:8 he warns his brothers in Christ to beware, "For Satan as a roaring lion walks about seeking whom he may devour." Those he devours are those who are so proud and self-confident that they feel they do not need to heed the warnings of Christ. Peter learned the hard way, and now he warns fellow believers to learn from his experience.
This warning was for all of the disciples. They were all to be sifted and shaken up, but Peter needed special prayer, for he alone, because of his self-confidence, was going to get himself in a situation of great danger. Satan was going to sift Peter like flour in a sifter. He wants to take Peter the rock and grind him to sand. Satan charge against all believers is that same charge be brought against Job. He is only faithful because he has no problems and no dangers in life. You
protect him, and that is why he serves you, but let me bring trial on him and he will cast you off. Satan knows that in many cases this is true that men serve God only when all is well, and they forsake him in times of trial. God allows Satan to test true believers and thereby illustrate that, like Job, a true believer will cling to God and trust Him though all the flames of hell be kindled in his life. They will say with Job, "Yea though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."
This means that every one of us are in danger of being tempted to deny Christ. Satan may be of accusing you before God. He may be saying that you only serve God because everything is going so well. It may be that you will be tested, and this is a great danger. An enemy who tripped David in the Old Testament and caused Peter to stumble in the New Testament is not an enemy that can be laughed off. Jesus took it seriously, and that is why He taught us to pray that we would be delivered from evil. The danger of Satan is a fact, which we must face. None of us escape, and to lean on our own self-confidence, as Peter did, is to court failure.
No matter what your experience or theology, the danger of Satan is real. Peter had good theology, for he said, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God." His experience was one of special privilege, for he was one of the inner circle, and he had supernatural experiences that most did not have. All of his privileges did not free him from this danger. In fact, they made his danger all the worse, for he was over confident in the very area that he failed. We are in greatest danger when we feel there is no danger, and so we need to give heed to the warning of Christ. Satan desires to have us all. He got Judas and almost got Peter. Let us not be self-confident, but put our confidence in Christ. The story of Peter's fall does us no good unless we recognize that the danger of Satan is real for us as well.
II. THE DENIAL OF SIMON. v. 54-60'
Peter is called Simon in this context, for he is a follower of Christ, but still wants to have his own way. He is not Peter the rock at this point. He was no coward. His denial was an act of cowardice, but not because he was a coward. Peter's problem was a struggle between confidence in himself and commitment to his Savior. He had been converted from his sin, but not from his self. It took this fall for Peter to gain the victory in this area. He received rebukes from Christ on several occasions, but did not learn this lesson. He was still an unconverted Christian. Jesus said that He would go to Jerusalem and be killed, but Peter is insisted that it would not be so. Jesus had to say, "Get thee behind me Satan." When Jesus was going to wash his feet Peter responded, "Not so Lord." Jesus had to rebuke him again. In this very chapter Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, and Jesus had to rebuke him again. When is Peter ever going to learn to let his Lord lead his life?
The reason Peter denied Jesus was not because he was a coward, for he showed it in the garden that he meant what he said when he told Jesus he would die for Him. He had the courage to face the Roman soldiers single handed. He was no coward when he pulled a sword against well-trained soldiers. His problem was that his faith was in his own power, and not in the person of Christ. He was a man of action, and he alone jumped out of the boat to walk on the water. He alone wanted to build three shrines on the Mt. of Transfiguration. He alone drew the sword in the garden. Peter was all for showing power, but Jesus was no longer showing power. He was like a lamb going to the slaughter, and this was offensive to Peter. He was confused and began to doubt. His faith was wavering because he did not understand. Jesus had made it clear that He had to die,
but Peter was too strong-headed to pay any attention to that. He was ready to face and fight any force, but when he tried he was rebuked. Peter had been sleeping and failed to realize that Jesus had already fought the battle in the garden and had won. He saw Jesus exhibiting weakness, for He was being taken without a fight, but Peter was ready to come to the rescue.
Verse 54 indicates that Peter still had the courage to follow at a distance. The details of how Peter got into the courtyard are told in John's Gospel. John knew the high priest, and so he got in and persuaded the servant girl at the door to let Peter in also. Luke does not give many details, but it is clear that Peter's danger became great because of his attempt to deceive. His faith was shaky at this point. He was not sure if Jesus was really Lord, and so he was going to be cautious. He tried to act like one of the others. He wanted to hide the fact that he was a disciple of Christ, and the result was that his deception led to his denial. The train of deception will always wind up on the track of denial, and but for the grace of God will end at the depot of despair. When a Christian tries to act like he is no different from the world, he soon will be no different.
When you try and hide your convictions, and try to conform so as not to be recognized, it become extremely difficult to admit it later. It is much easier to deny Christ than to have it discovered that you have been trying to deceive. "O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. He started as a distant disciple, which was physical denial; then a deceiving disciple, which is mental denial, and then a denying disciple, which is spiritual deniaL.
We all need to be converted from our desire to deceive. I was told of the story of a man who was trapped in a cave, and a young friend said he would go down and rescue him. TV and radio reporters were on hand as he descended. Later he came up and said he was all right but he needed supplies. He went back down into the mine. He was a hero from coast to coast, but his father was suspicious. He went down into the cave and found that it was all a fraud. His son just sat there while his friend was dying far below. He was deceiving the world into thinking that he was a hero rescuing the perishing. Sometimes we pretend that we care for a lost world of the perishing, but we really do nothing to share the Gospel that they might be rescued. We are practicing deception.
Here was Peter trying to deceive these people. He sat among them and conformed to what they wanted him to be. His deception was discovered, however, and out of fear Peter made a flat denial that he knew Jesus. It was like the time he stepped out unto the water, for he was looking at the waves and not at Jesus, and the result was his faith failed him. Here again he was trusting in his own power to deceive, and again he failed. The only way out that he could see was to deny that he had any connection with Jesus. When you play the deceiver your next role will almost certainly be that of the denier. Peter never intended things to go this way. He really meant it when he bragged of dying for Christ. His confidence was in himself and not in Christ. It would be a very sad and disappointing story if we did not have the third point.
III. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE SAVIOR. v. 32, 61-62.
This whole incident reveals a picture of our relationship to the unseen world. Here we see Satan wanting to sift and the Savior wanting to save. But notice how much responsibility is placed on man to determine which will win out. Judas chose Satan's way, but Peter chose the way of Christ. But didn't Peter choose Satan's way when he deceived and then denied? Yes, but the difference is that Judas planned to do so and Peter planned not to do so, but still did. Judas fell
because of wickedness, but Peter because of weakness, and Peter proved his real love by immediate repentance.
When Peter looked up and saw the eyes of Christ filled with sorrow and shame, but also sympathy, it came back to him what Jesus had said in the upper room. That look of Christ was a glance of grace that like an x-ray pierced to the very depths of Peter, and it cause him to see himself as he really was. He broke down and wept bitterly. Once we realize that all things are naked and open before Him with whom we have to do, deception disappears. Now he saw himself as Jesus knew he was all along. He no doubt thought, "Oh what a fool I've been. I have been doubting Him and wondering if I should risk being associated with Him. And yet He knew all along I would deny Him, but He still loves me. Oh how ashamed I am."
That look was a look of love and not rebuke. Rebuke had failed with Peter before, but now as he sees that Jesus loves him, even in spite of his foolhardy self-confidence and lack of faith, his heart is broken. Here we see a Christian repenting as he sees how disloyal to his Savior he has been. Even for a tough fisherman, the tears will flow when he sees how little love he has shown for Jesus, who first loved him. Peter was like the rock in the Old Testament that was smitten, and water poured forth from his guilty conscience, and Peter went out to have his own Gethsemane. He also had to learn to say, "Not my will but thine be done."
There is a legend that an angel was sent to find the most precious possession on earth. He searched everywhere and finally returned with a tear of repentance. Tears do not cleanse from sin, but they reveal that one has come to the end of himself, and is now willing to cast himself on the mercy and grace of Christ. The tears of repentance mix well with the blood of redemption, but the blood alone cleanses.
Could my zeal know respite know;
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and thou alone.
Verse 32 makes it plain that Peter owed his deliverance to the prayer of Christ. We need to face the reality of the danger of Satan, but even more so we must realize the reality of our Great High Priest, who daily intercedes on our behalf. If He could pray for Peter just before the cross, how much more can He pray for us now that He is glorified? He does not pray that Peter escape, but that he endures. In John 17 Jesus prayed not that they be taken out of the world, but that they be kept from the evil one. The intercession of Christ is our only hope to face the trials that Satan brings, and come through without our faith failing. "In the hour of trial, Jesus plead for me, lest by base denial I depart from Thee."
Peter had faith already, but Jesus prayed that it would not fail. He was a Christian that needed to be converted, and we know that the prayer of Christ was answered, for Peter never again tried to be deceptive about his love for Christ. After the resurrection Jesus asked Peter 3 times, which was once for each denial: "Peter do you love me?" Peter responded, "You know that I love you." Never again did he hide the fact that he was a follower of Jesus. He boldly proclaimed it before the highest officials, and he went on to become one of the greatest influences in the world for Christ. We all face temptations to deny Christ to some degree, and we all have access to the same
Deliverer who can help us be converted Christians who have a faith fully fixed on Him. As we close with a poem, let us recognize that we may be, like Peter, a Christian who needs to be converted.
John Newton, the author Amazing Grace wrote another hymn on this experience of Peter:
When Peter boasted, soon he fell,
Yet was by grace restored;
His case should be regarded well
By all who fear the Lord.
A voice it has, and helping hand,
Backsliders to recall;
And cautions those who think they stand,
Lest suddenly they fall.
He said, "What ever others do,
With Jesus I'll abide;"
Yet soon, amidst a murderous crew,
His suffering Lord denied.
He who had been so bold before,
Now trembled like a leaf,
Not only lied, but cursed and swore,
To gain the more belief.
When he blasphemed, he heard the cock,
And Jesus looked in love;
At once, as if by lightening struck,
His tongue forebore to move.
Delivered thus from Satan's snare,
He starts as from a sleep;
His Savior's look he could not bear,
But hasted forth to weep.
But sure the faithful cock had crowed
A hundred times in vain,
Had not the Lord that look bestowed
The meaning to explain.
As I, like Peter, vows have made,
Yet acted Peter's part;
So conscience, like a cock, upbraids
My base, ungrateful heart.
Lord Jesus, hear a sinners cry,
My broken peace renew,
And grant one pitying look, that I
May weep with Peter too.
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