- Sermon Notes
January 3, 2021 (PM)
Faith, hope and love – this is what Jesus gives us when it’s time to start over. 2020 was filled with many tough stories in the lives of people we love.
Isaiah 53 refers to God as a man of sorrows, acquainted with the deepest of grief – so let’s close the books on 2020, let’s bring joy, hope and comfort to our neighbors, to a global audience – to people like you and me.
Lord, help us bring comfort to those who need it. The beginning of a new year is an opportunity to start over, to begin again; to renew commitments – to Reboot.
Probably one of the best stories of starting over is Jesus re-storing Simon Peter after he failed miserably. We can certainly relate to failure, but how do you recover from it?
Once a person has failed, the enemy has a very powerful weapon; that weapon is shame. But the beauty and the power of this story is that God takes away the shame and re-stores Peter in His great love and renews the purpose and calling on his life.
The story begins shortly after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection changes everything. It changes the meaning of the cross. Before the resurrection it represented death and struck fear in the hearts of any who looked upon a cross. But after the resurrection it became a symbol of hope and a reminder of how much God loves us. It has become a thing of beauty. This is why you see the cross used so much in cemeteries.
The resurrection changed death itself. Before, the grave was the final chapter, the end of all hope. But because of the resurrection, death no longer is master over us, it has been con-quered, it has been defeated. Our last breath is not the end; that is when life truly begins.
The resurrection gave us an eternal perspective. Before, all we could hope for was here on earth; our purpose, the meaning of life, it was all centered here, on the material, on things which are earthly. Now, because of the resurrection, all those things seem so unimportant when compared to the eternal weight of glory. We have been set free.
When you look at this chapter in the book of John, it’s about starting over; it’s about the new life that God has in store for us. It’s about faith, hope, and love.
I. God Transforms Failure
Jesus told the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. They went to the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee and waited. Finally, Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” And the other disciples went also. They fished all night and caught nothing.
Jesus told Peter that He would make him a fisher of men, yet Peter was going back to catching fish. This is not just a recreational fishing trip, professionals fished at night. But God let them fail; they caught nothing. But God will transform their failure; it’s the theme of these verses. This is not the first of Peter’s failures.
A. Failure reveals our weakness
Failure often comes when we rely on ourselves. Peter was relying on himself when he went back to fishing, and he was relying on himself when he promised that he would stand by the Lord even when the rest of the disciples fell away.
Mark 14:27-31; And Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away, because it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” But Peter said to Him, “Even if they all fall away, yet I will not!” And Jesus *said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” But Peter repeatedly said insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing as well.
They had been fishing all night and failed to produce even one fish – all night long they fished.
It’s interesting that while many people often think too highly of themselves, aren’t we also more likely to be hard on our-selves?
Peter’s overconfidence and self-reliance went down in the flames of failure, then his shame and regret caused him to weep deeply.
B. God’s presence changes everything
When Jesus appears on the shore, He tells them to cast their nets on the right-hand side of the boat.
When they enclosed a great quantity of fish, John said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Immediately they were reminded of when they first met the Lord.
Luke 5:4-6; Now when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon responded and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they caught a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to tear;
The Lord’s presence changes everything. Sometimes the Lord allows us to fail in our self-reliance to prepare us for the blessing that comes from the touch of His hand. Our stubbornness and resistance to these failures only makes them worse.
Psalm 127:1-2, Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for it is He who gives to His beloved even while He sleeps.
Self-reliance can build a house, but it is in vain. Self-reliance can guard the city, but it is in vain.
C. Success can be a snare and a ruin
We can do worse than fail, we can succeed and be proud of our success, or we can worship the net and forget the hand of the One who supplies all things.
Application – I have had the opportunity to work for wealthy and powerful personalities – some Christ Followers, some not…
Matthew 5:45, “for it is He who causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
As one author wrote:
“Success – even spiritual success – can be a snare and a ruin, while failure can be an unspeakable benefit. Failure is often the only test by which the real worth and quality of a man or woman can be tried. It is in failure that a man begins to think, to wonder whence his failure comes, to look around and seek for the reasons, to put into his work double watchfulness, and to look upwards to Him who can turn failure into glorious achievement.”
Application – Have you ever done the wrong thing and won? It’s one of the worst things that can happen. You’ll only re-peat the thing that was wrong and will have learned nothing; or worse, you will think that you don’t need God.
• We are living in these days right now – culture in this nation supports doing the wrong thing and call it winning. As one of our wise Seniors pointed out to me long ago; what was once wrong is now right and what was right is considered wrong –
Deuteronomy 8:17-18, “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth; that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
II. God’s Love Restores You
In the next verses, Jesus has a private conversation with Peter. He needed to be restored.
Peter had made great promises to Jesus; though the rest of them may fail, Peter said, he most certainly would not. Yet he failed worse than all of them.
A great lesson here for all of us. We understand what it means to fail and we need to know the heart of God when we do.
We feel shame, we’re embarrassed and we pull away be-cause we don’t feel worthy of being in God’s presence.
Some people feel so unworthy they say to themselves, “What’s the use of trying? I’m a failure anyway, I might as well give up and stop trying to be righteous.”
If you have those thoughts, can I say something to you? You are allowing your flesh to convince you of something that is not God’s heart. What a clever thing for your flesh to say; to use your shame against you so you’ll stay defeated. Hasn’t the flesh had too much victory already?
What a contrast between God’s heart to restore and the enemy’s desire to keep us in shame.
In ministry, I get angry at the enemy, at the sin, not the per-son, when I encounter this in counseling.
A. Love God as your highest priority
When Jesus was asked which was the highest and foremost of all the laws God had given, Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”
For Peter to be restored, love had to be reconciled.
What happened between Peter and Jesus could not go un-spoken; it had to be addressed, it had to be worked out.
Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”
What a wonderful rebuke to those who think God is only about judgement. Parents – a lesson here…
When Peter failed it was as though he was saying, “I won’t deny you because I love you more than these.”
Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John do you love Me more than these?” Peter responded, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
In English we have one word, ‘love,’ which is used to mean many things. I can say, “I love my wife,” or, “I love to travel,” or, “I love banana cream pie.” The word love can mean different things.
There are many Greek words for love; eros-love, which is physical, sensual desire and longing. There is phileo-love, which means friendship and a general type of love between family and friends. Then there is agape-love, which is the deepest sense of true unconditional love; love that is selfless, it gives and expects nothing in return.
If we had different words for love in English, it actually might be very helpful.
When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you have agape-love?” It’s as though He was saying, Come back to this, Peter, come back to true, unconditional love.
Peter is making no bold claims now, he carries his shame and failure, “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo-love You.”
When Jesus spoke of the highest and foremost of all laws, He said, “You shall agape – love the Lord with all your heart…” Is it possible to have an inadequate type of love for God? Yes. There is an experience of God where someone feels moments of passion, such as in intimate worship, but they don’t want the commitment of selfless, unconditional love.
Finally, the third time, Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you phileo-love Me?” Peter was grieved when Jesus used that word for love the third time.
Jesus wanted Peter to affirm agape-love, but Peter only affirmed his phileo-love. Finally, Jesus came to his level and asked him to affirm even that.
B. Love God by following Him
Each time Jesus asked Peter to affirm his love, Jesus then told Peter, “Tend My lambs,” or, “Shepherd My sheep.” In other words, Peter, if you love Me, don’t go back to fishing, care for those I love; become a shepherd.
Ezekiel 34:15-16, “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God. “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick;”
Then, in verses 18-19, Jesus told Peter that he would grow old, but also signified by what kind of death he was to glorify God. By this He meant Peter’s crucifixion.
It’s as though He were saying, You once said that you would die for Me. Yes, you will, but it will be when you are old. Trust Me with the rest of your life.
There is an interesting turn in the story when Peter turned around and saw John following them and asked Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus corrects him, “What is that to you? You follow Me!”
Many pastors say the #1 resistance to the Gospel when witnessing to others is the viewpoint that non-believers don’t see much difference between themselves and their Christian neighbors.
• While that’s a challenge and a gut-check to all of us – I do respond to that by saying, blaming someone else for your failure to accept Jesus for eternal life is perplexing.
• People are sinful until we reach heaven, hopefully working out their faith, but to allow a neighbor’s weaknesses to cause you to choose hell is foolish.
Even as Christians it’s very tempting to compare ourselves to others, but Jesus is saying ignore that and simply be faithful to what God has given you to do and trust Him with your life.
God gives grace to each one according to His purpose in their lives. “Trust Me and follow Me.”
For many, 2021 is a time to Reboot – to start again – to start over. God is right there by our side.
Ephesians 4:7, But to each one of us grace was given ac-cording to the measure of Christ’s gift.
John 21:1-22 NASB
1 After these things Jesus [a]revealed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He revealed Himself in this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas who was called [b]Didymus, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter *said to them, “I am going fishing.” They *said to him, “We are also coming with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus *said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish to eat, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find the fish.” So they cast it, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great quantity of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved *said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about [c]two hundred cubits away, dragging the net full of fish.
9 So when they got out on the land, they *saw a charcoal fire already [d]made and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus *said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went up and hauled the net to land, full of large fish, 153; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 Jesus *said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to inquire of Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus *came and *took the bread and *gave it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus revealed Himself to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
15 Now when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you [e]love Me more than these?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I [f]love You.” He *said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He *said to him again, a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you [g]love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I [h]love You.” He *said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He *said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you [i]love Me?” Peter was [j]hurt because He said to him the third time, “Do you [k]love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I [l]love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.
18 Truly, truly I tell you, when you were younger, you used to put on your belt and walk wherever you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will put your belt on you, and bring you where you do not want to go.” 19 Now He said this, indicating by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had said this, He *said to him, “Follow Me!”
20 Peter turned around and *saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them—the one who also had leaned back on His chest at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who is betraying You?” 21 So Peter, upon seeing him, *said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!”