Text: Acts 2: 14, 37-41 August 14, 2011.
1) The comeback of a business: We all love to read stories of great comeback about a person, a sports game or a business. The Ford Motor Company is an example of that. In the 1940s, reluctance by executives to modernize almost destroyed Ford. In fact, the US government almost took over the company lest its demise threaten the US war effort. But when Henry Ford II was released from his military duties to run the company, things turned around and Ford became one of the largest corporations in the world. Ford has been doing so well that they are the only U S automakers survived the financial crisis without asking for government bailout in 2007.
2) The comeback of a disciple: We have a good example of great comeback in Peter. He had failures written all over his face. He nearly got drowned when his faith in Jesus faltered. (Matt. 14:30) Then he said things that were so wrong Jesus called him “Satan.” (16:22-23) Then Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. (26:74) But that’s not the end of the story on Peter. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter made a tremendous comeback. On the Day of Pentecost he courageously presented the gospel message and 3,000 people came to faith in Christ. (Acts 2: 14, 41) Peter returned from failure to victory because his faith was renewed and he stood up for Jesus Christ.
HOW DID PETER FALL BEHIND? We can learn from him.
1) He failed to focus on Jesus: “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out: Lord, save me! Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. He said: You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt 14:30-31) This is so common happens to all of us: the moment we switch our focus of strength, safety and all other elements of our life from Jesus to the scary environment, we are on our own and certainly we sink. Walking on a stormy sea is never easy for anyone, but Peter had the word of Jesus: Come. (29) He got out of the boat and literally walked on the water to come to Jesus without any problem so long as he fixed his focus on Jesus. Anytime we change our focus, we will sin like him.
2) He did not have the mind of God: “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him: Never, Lord! Peter said. This shall never happen to you. Jesus turned and said to Peter: Get behind me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to me. You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt 16:22-23) No other human being in Jesus ministry was called Satan except Peter. We may understand or even sympathize with the good will of Peter trying to stop his Master from death on the cross. But in doing so, he jeopardize the plan of salvation God has for all the souls of men. How often we try to do God’s work our way instead of seeking His way and we mess up badly.
3) He abandoned his commitment: “Then Peter began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them: I don’t know this man. Immediately the rooster crowed.” (Matt 26:74) This is the third time Peter denied the Lord. The other 2 times are in vv. 70, 72. Compare to his earlier commitment wanted to die with Jesus when Jesus announced his pending death: “Peter replied: Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will...and he declared: Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (26:33, 35) No one doubted the sincerity of his commitment when he made it. His problem not his earlier commitment but his later wavering: he denied the Lord three time in succession. Losing steam of our initial commitment is a major problem for many of us. We tend to lose the intensity of commitment to the Lord when condition of life has changed. That is how we fall behind.
HOW DID PETER MAKE HIS COMEBACK?
1) He repented his failure sincerely: “Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times. And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (26:75) No one will weep bitterly of his own sin without true remorse in his heart. Throughout history, many of the great men had fallen flat. The difference between those who can comeback and those who stay down is how they feel about their failure and what they may do to turn around. Falling down is never final, stay down without sincere repentance to comeback is.
2) He sought ways to comeback: “Peter, however, go up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by them selves, and he went away wondering to himself what had happened.” (Luke 24:12) After the women brought the report, most of the eleven disciples didn’t believe them, thought their words seem like nonsense. But Peter didn’t think that way. He wanted to find out for himself if the Lord has actually risen from the dead. Peter didn’t allow his earlier failure to stop him from seeking the truth of the Lord. He wasn’t disillusioned by the death of Jesus. He won’t allow any opportunity of getting to know his Lord slip through his fingers. While others doubted the truthfulness of the resurrection, Peter ran to find out and he saw what others didn’t see: the empty tomb. He found evidence for his faith: his Lord has truly risen from the dead. Search for a closer relationship with the Lord is a good way to comeback.
3) He renewed his love for the Lord: “The third time Jesus said to him: Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time ‘Do you love me?’ He said ‘Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said: Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) Losing love of the Lord is a very serious matter. For that reason, Jesus rebuked the Ephesians church in Revelation 2. Yes, Peter failed flat, but he didn’t lose his love for the Lord. This is also what we need to keep: never lose our love for the Lord no matter what. Because of his persistent love of the Lord, he was commissioned to feed the sheep of the Lord, a new and important assignment for anyone. If you can make a comeback, renew your love to the Lord, you will stay useful in His ministry for years to come. Love the Lord is the most important of all laws. (Matt 22:37)
TAKING AN HONEST INVENTORY: (Rev. 2:4-5)
1) Not as good as what we think: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” (2:4) “First” comes from proton and pro in Greek, which means in advance, preference or by far. Jesus rebuked the Ephesians church not because they had bad doctrine or lazy in their service to the Lord. Jesus rebuked that church because they did not place Him as the primary object of their love. That is how we love the Lord today: We do have some love for the Lord but He doesn’t occupy the primary seat in our hearts. God can’t take a second position in our hearts. He wants us to offer Him the best, the highest. Anytime we replace God with anything or anyone else in our hearts we become the object of His rebuke. If you think you love the Lord enough, look inside and check again.
2) Taking serious correction: “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (2:5) God knew how high He was in the hearts of the Ephesians when they first made commitment to Him. But gradually they had made changes to push God down on the scale and God wasn’t happy at all. He asked these early believers to look back from the highest point of their commitment and see how much they have falling behind and repent of their failure and return to their original state. Here God offers us a step by step formula of a great comeback: look back, see how far we have fallen behind, feel sorry and turn around to get back to where we were in the first place. These are important steps we all need to take.
3) Beware of serious consequences: “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place.” (2:5b) Most of us are aware of our back sliding in our love for the Lord and our commitment level to His service, but most of us also don’t really care about repentance and giving God that primary position in our hearts He deserves. God promises that He will remove the lamp-stand from us that render us in the darkness with little of no use in His kingdom. This is true in a personal level or the corporate body, the church. This is about if we are effective and fruitful Christians that God will receive the glory or we are jus dried blanches to be thrown away and get burnt. (John 15:5, 6, 8) Never take God’s warning lightly.
1) Time for regular checkup: As we need regular physical checkup to make sure our bodies are functioning properly, we also need regular spiritual checkup to make sure our spiritual life is in good condition. Learn from Peter and the Ephesians church to find out where and how we have fallen behind in our love to the Lord and His position in our hearts. If we are on the wrong track, we need to repent, make a u turn toward God so we may continue to be good and productive Christians.
2) Gear for a comeback: If you have fallen behind, or far away from God, today is the time to come back to Him. God is always ready to take us back and cleans us from all our failures to make us new again. Don’t sink deeper into the hole of self-destruction and rendered useless in God’s kingdom. When God remove the lamp-stand from you, you can’t afford to face that. Wake up, change course and become useful again for the Lord.
3) Take a comeback to God: If you never have a close relationship with God, today is the best day to comeback to Him. Confess your sins and ask God to forgive you. Invite the Lord into your heart to become your Lord of life, directing your future to a higher ground for a much better purpose.