Crumbling Rocks, Repentance & Steadfast Faith
This is a edited excerpt from Pastor Anand Samuel's sermon on John 18:12-27 titled 'Denials & Affirmations' preached on September 4, 2015.
We are not as strong in the faith as we think we are. Peter had to find out the hard way when he denied Jesus three times (John 18:15-27). Peter the ‘rock’ crumbled like a cookie before a slave girl on the night that Jesus was betrayed. And yet we are told that he repented of his failure and was restored by Jesus himself in John 21:15-19. He repented because Jesus prayed for him in John 17:9 and in Luke 22:31-32.
I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:9)
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32)
Peter turned because Jesus prayed for him. And because of the gospel, the grace that was available to Peter is available to all believers today. Christ accomplished our redemption on the cross and He lives forever to intercede for us before God’s throne. God has given us the gospel grace of repentance because of who we are in Christ. Our statement of faith says this about repentance:
‘Repentance is a gospel grace wherein a person who has been made alive by the Holy Spirit, is deeply convicted of the manifold evil of his sin and its offence against God. One who repents does so with godly sorrow and humbles himself for it with a purpose and endeavour to walk before God so as to please Him in all things (Acts 2:37-38; 11:18; 2 Cor. 7:10-11)’.
Peter may have sinned but his faith did not fail. If you are truly a Christian; one who has had your eyes opened to understand the gospel, one who has come to put your trust in the Saviour, then here’s what you must know - you may stumble many times but you will repent. This is what your new nature longs to do. Jesus has purchased your new birth, your faith and your repentance! True Christians will repent and turn to Christ. And this is proof that God’s mighty power that raised Christ from the dead is at work within you (Eph 1:19-20).
Therefore when we do sin and fall – our repentance should be as loud as our failures. Peter can help us learn about standing firm and walking in repentance and faith. Here are 5 things we can learn from Peter’s writings.
These are words he wrote to strengthen Christians.
1. Expect trials as a Christian.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1Pet 4:12-13).
So don’t be ashamed of the gospel!
2. When trials & temptations come your way, remember the gospel!
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1Pet 1:3-7).
Christ has freed you from the power of sin and he is preserving you through the testing of your faith. True faith endures! So keep believing in the gospel and set your hope fully on it.
3. Your striving and obedience must come from a heart that is actively trusting in the gospel.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul (1Pet 2:10-11).
We must fight as those who have received mercy. People who have received mercy fight with immense gratitude. Fight the good fight of faith telling yourself I am not who I used to be – I have received mercy – this temptation can destroy me – but my faith is in God who helps me wage this battle. Christ has overcome and in Him I no longer need to give in to the passions of my former ignorance.
4. When you stumble and fail, flee to Christ in tears over your sin and remind yourself that your righteousness is in heaven. It is only Christ’s righteousness that justifies you and secures your pardon.
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (1Pet 1:18-21).
Christ’s perfect and justifying righteousness should drive you to fear and repentance not to condemnation and self-pity.
5. Remember that temptation-fighting faith is built up in community.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1Pet 2:4-5).
We come to Christ not alone but in community to be built up. Trials and temptations are to be fought and endured in community. It is the local church that provides the context for such battles. What is pleasing to God are hearts that rejoice in the saving grace of God, hearts that pursue obedience trusting in the gospel and hearts that are so filled with thanksgiving that they sing praises to him even in trials. There can be no stronger encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us than this – that we have a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain (Heb 6:18-20) – His name is Jesus. And He is praying for His sheep.
Anand Samuel is Senior Pastor of Grace Evangelical Church, Sharjah.