Luke 22:31-33, 54-62

            Peter denied Jesus three times.  It is an infamous story.  Jesus even predicted it would happen.  We might either relate with Peter, or think him a putz.  Whichever way we view him, there was a reason Peter ended up denying the Lord, even though he sincerely believed he would never do such a thing.  And therein belies the problem:  Whenever we are cocky and believe we are above falling into sin, we neither listen well nor trust well.  Pride goes before the fall.
 
            Our sins and failures stem ultimately from a lack of real faith and commitment in Jesus.  We think we can do it ourselves.  We got this.  Well, not so much.  We blew it again.  We keep trying to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps because we are just too anxious to follow Jesus.  To live life on Christ’s terms will mean a loss of autonomy and control.
 
            When Jesus was arrested the text says that Peter “followed at a distance.”  If we are honest, that too often describes our own mode of following.  We want to see how everything will shake-out before we commit.  But only until we let go of our own ideas and stubborn thinking will we discover what true discipleship is all about.  Only the grace of letting Jesus lead will bring us to the point of standing strong and not living in denial.
 

 

            Gracious Lord Jesus, I admit my pride and cockiness to think that I could follow you on my terms instead of yours.  In humility I come to you and confess my great need to follow you unconditionally.  Thank you for your forgiveness and your provision for my life.  Amen.

Galatians 2:11-14

            “When Peter came to Antioch, I told him face to face that he was wrong… I corrected Peter in front of everyone.”  The Apostle Paul confronted the Apostle Peter on a matter of hypocrisy.  This was not just any run-of-the-mill hypocrisy.  What Peter was doing was totally out of sync with the gospel that they both proclaimed:  that forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ is for all people, Jew and Gentile, whom both together make up Christ’s Church.  Out of fear of his fellow Jews, Peter began withdrawing from his Gentile brothers in Christ.  That stinking fear will get us every time.  At the heart of every hypocrite is a spirit of fear that keeps him/her in bondage to the wishes of others.
 
            Whereas Peter was deepening into the world of learned helplessness and terminal niceness, Paul chose to operate in the world of seeing all things through the lenses of the gospel and confronting that which had nothing to do with it.  Please note that Paul rebuked Peter, and not every single person who came along who didn’t agree with him.  They were both part of the apostles’ fraternity, and each had both a right and responsibility to confront and rebuke when needed within that fellowship.
 
            I live in Mid-West America.  We, like Peter, suffer from the malady of sometimes being too nice for our own good.  If we aren’t careful, we can be pleasant and affable to people to their face, but then turn around and speak ugly words and do our own thing behind someone’s back.  Our hypocrisy is born of the fear that we might hurt someone’s feelings.  But we need to grab ahold of the fact that our hypocrisy hurts God’s feelings, and he will call us to account for our fearful ways.  God does not want us hiding our true feelings, but bringing them into the light of the gospel so that the church can be built up and thrive in grace.
 

 

            Holy God, you desire grace and truth in all relationships.  Help me to speak with boldness, in a spirit of mercy and integrity, so that there will be growth and spiritual fruit in all of my relationships through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.

Luke 5:1-11

            One of the most fundamental characteristics of God is that he is generous.  God’s benevolent generosity defines his basic stance toward humanity.  This may not seem overly remarkable with only a cursory thought about God.  Yet, when the infinite holiness of God intersects with the prideful arrogance of sinful people, gracious generosity is the quite unpredictable result.
 
            On one occasion, Peter was going about his business fishing in the Sea of Galilee.  Having not yet encountered Jesus, Peter met him and came under his teaching.  After Jesus was finished speaking, he told Peter to put the boat out and cast his nets.  Peter, an experienced fisherman and knowledgeable about the water, knew that he would not catch anything.  But, out of deference to Christ, he did so, anyway.  The result was such a large catch of fish that the nets nearly broke from the weight.
 
            Peter’s response is instructive.  He fell at the feet of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  Peter understood that he had no faith in Jesus.  He rightly discerned that he did not deserve such generosity from Jesus, an overflowing abundance that was given to him despite his lack of belief.  In the face of such grace, in the vortex of an incredible mercy, having seen the generosity of God directed squarely at him, Peter left it all behind in order to follow Jesus.
 
            Jesus does not strong-arm us into faith.  His tactics do not involve manipulation through guilt, or mind-twisting others through shaming them.  Instead, God is beautifully and simply himself:  showing grace and generosity in places where one would least expect to find it.  When confronted with such love, what would you do?
 

 

            Gracious God, you sent your Son to me even though I was neither looking for him nor expecting anything from him.  Thank you for breaking-in to my life so that I could break-out for you with glory, honor, and praise.  Amen.