Sermon September 22, 2019 PastorBryon
Charles Templeton was the best friend of Billy Graham growing up. Both grew up in church and both went on to be evangelist but at some point in Templeton’s life he failed as a Christian and never recovered. In fact, not only did he walk away from God but he became a well known Atheist who wrote the book, Farewell to God.
From an excerpt in his book Templeton recounts a conversation with his friend Billy where he was trying to convince him that the Bible’s account of creation was wrong. Once Templeton had presented his case Billy Graham said this, “I believe the Genesis account of creation because it’s in the Bible. I’ve discovered something in my ministry: When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says,’ the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of the theological dispute, so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s word.”
In 1982, though still an atheist, he said of Billy Graham, “There is no faking in him: he believes what he believes with an invincible innocence. He is the only mass evangelist I would trust”
Surely Billy Graham had his share of ups and downs in his life but he chose to cling to his faith even when presented with information he couldn’t explain and he died one of the greatest evangelists to ever live.
Today I want us to examine the life of one of the Apostles Peter and see how a failure could have left him in the same condition of Templeton.
Scripture Luke 22:54-62
54 Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance. 55 Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.”
57 But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”
58 And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.”
But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”
59 Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”
60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!”
Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.
This is prophecy fulfilled. Earlier in the nigh Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times but Peter told Jesus he didn’t know what he was talking about. He would never deny him. However, here it is just like Jesus said. It left Peter broken. How could he do that, how could he deny Jesus of all people? You see when Peter made that statement that he would never deny Jesus he had another picture of the future, one where he was alongside Jesus as he takes his place as King.
If this account was the only thing we knew of Peter we wouldn’t think much of him would we? When his friend needed him the most he turned his back. He was scared and ran to save himself. But we know the whole story and we know Peter was not only an apostle but he was part of the inner circle, one of the most trusted apostles. He was with Jesus when he healed the blind man, gave the lame his legs back, cured the leopards, and fed 5000 with only a few fish and loaves of bread. He sat in on intimate one on one conversation with Jesus and he was there as Jesus preached in the temple and on the mountainside. He saw Jesus in all of his glory as Moses and Elijah appeared on the mount of Transfiguration and he witnessed as Jesus said Lazarus come forth to raise him from the dead. He walked with Jesus and was a first hand witness to all that Christ had done. So how did he get to this point? How did he experience such a personal failure when it came to his own faith?
There are a few clues to his debilitating condition that we can see in scripture.
One of the first clues can be found in Luke 22:33-34 where Jesus predicts Peter will deny him.
33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”
Right before this statement the Apostles were having an argument about who was the greatest apostle among them. Jesus assured them they all have a place in His kingdom however where he is getting ready to go they can’t go. This is when Peter steps up with his chest poked out and says I’ll go wherever you go.
Peter was puffed up; his pride was now guiding him and acts as the catapult to his failure. Proverbs 16:18 teaches us, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Our next clue to why Peter failed is found in Luke 22:45
45 When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. 46 Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
Jesus had given Peter instructions before he went ahead to pray to watch and pray. Yet here he was sleeping. Not only did Jesus catch him sleeping once but three times that night he came back to check and found him sleeping. Peter was tired and didn’t adhere to God’s word. He chose to do what he wanted rather than be obedient.
Between Peter’s pride and lack of obedience is easy to see how this strong man of God fell.
This is the point where failure turns to hopelessness and hopelessness abandons faith. However, Peter pressed forward. He didn’t know what the future held and I’m sure he was still dealing with a lot of guilt but he hadn’t given up completely. See when someone gives up and abandons their faith they stop going to church and hanging out with their church family. Peter was still clinging to his church family, still counting on them to help get him through and it worked.
Then when God dropped little bread crumbs for him Peter picked them up. Like when the women went to the tomb of Jesus and found it empty and the Angel was there to tell them that Jesus had risen we see the bread crumb dropped specifically for Peter. The Angel says; tell the apostles and Peter, AND PETER. Wow!
Then if that wasn’t enough Jesus sought him out and found him fishing with some of the other disciples. This is when Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the left side of the boat. As they pull the net full of fish in Peter recognizes Jesus and leaves the boat without a word to anyone.
Jesus confirms his faith in Peter and commissions him to feed his sheep. We know Peter goes on to present the message on the day of Pentecost that brings over 3000 people to salvation at once. He wrote part of the New Testament, carried on the Ministry of Jesus until the day of his death where he died as a martyr.
You see the story of Peter is in the Bible for me, it’s there for you. It’s a story about a Christians who suffered a terrible failure because he let his pride and disobedience rule his life. But Peter also teaches us when we fall down get back up, cling to the church and your church family and seek Christ.