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Jack Graham - Comeback Faith

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    Jack Graham - Comeback Faith
TOPICS: Dare to Believe, Faith

I want to talk to you about comeback faith. Faith that fails but comes back by the grace and the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Failure, as you know because we all experience failure, can be a jarring experience, a terrifying experience. And when we lose, when we are defeated, especially spiritually we find ourselves devastated, depressed, overcome by our failure. As a pastor I deal all the time with people in pain, who have experienced heartache and yes, failure, guilt and shame over decisions that they have made. Failure! And I always remind each person who comes that some of the greatest people that we meet in the Bible were failures. Moses was a murderer before he became the deliverer of Israel.

Rahab was a harlot before she saved the nation of Israel. Samson, well he was a player and yet God forgave him and he got a second chance at the end of his life to prove the faithfulness of God. Jacob, the prince of Israel was a liar and a cheat. Jonah was a rebel running in the wrong direction from God and of course Peter, who we meet in today's scripture was a betrayer, a denier, an apostate. Now, to be an apostate if you're an apostle is a really bad thing because the word, "apostate" means, "to deny the faith". Peter not only denied his faith, what he believed but he denied his Savior. So take your Bibles and turn to John chapter 21. If you need a do-over in life then this message is for you. If you need a second chance or another chance, this message is for you. You can rebound. You can recover, you can be restored. Because what I want you to hear today is that it's never too late for a new beginning.

Verse 4 of chapter 21 says: "Just as day was breaking (the dawning of a new day), Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. And Jesus said to them, 'Children, do you have any fish?' And they answered him, 'No.' And he said to them, 'Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.' So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter (John says to Peter), 'It is the Lord!'"

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped down to fish, and he threw himself into the sea. Just like impetuous Simon Peter. Now he's swimming as fast as he can on the Sea of Galilee to get to Jesus. This is after the resurrection, after Peter's colossal collapse, but now he's on his way to Jesus. He throws himself into the sea. "The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place", note that in your Bibles. You may want to circle it. Charcoal fire. That's significant, "in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.' So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore (This is a miracle), full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. (The fishermen were always repairing their net, but it was not torn.) Jesus said to them, 'Come and have breakfast.'"

Imagine sitting by the shore, the Sea of Galilee, one of the best places on earth and having breakfast with Jesus! "Now none of the disciples dared ask him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. And this was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead". You know the background to this, don't you? Just in case you don't, or if I need to refresh your memory, it was Simon Peter who said, "Though everyone else desert you, though everyone else may deny you, not me, Lord. I will hang with you to the very end. I will go to prison and jail, even to death for you". And not long after that while Jesus was under arrest and facing death and trial and execution, Peter who drew close but not close enough to the side of Christ, denied the Lord. He said, "I never knew Him".

It was a shameful, despicable and public failure! Peter was an apostate. Now that's a bad word! Apostate. One who denies the faith. And not only did Simon Peter deny the faith, but he denied Jesus Himself. His world implodes. If anyone ever needed a second chance, another opportunity, it was Simon Peter, because he failed so terribly, and he thought he could never come back. And so Simon Peter goes back to Galilee. Jesus told the disciples after the resurrection to wait until the coming of the Holy Spirit. Simon Peter, they were all still in a fog, not knowing exactly what was going to happen next. "Was this real? What we have seen, is this true"? And they knew it was true, and yet it was hard to believe. And Simon Peter was thinking to himself, "Even if it is true, it's never going to be the same for me. God could never use me again. I am a failure".

And why was he such a failure? What are some of the reasons, the cause of his failure? Because the reasons that Simon Peter failed are the same reasons that we fail; and we do fail; whether it's a sinful choice, a bad behavior of some kind, a denial, a refusal to stand up for Christ, we wilt in the face of pressure. Why will we deny the Lord? Well, one is pride, presumption. We all deal with pride and presumption. And one of Peter's problems was that he overestimated his own ability. He was way over confident. "Though all the rest of these may deny You, not me! I'm the big fisherman. I'm the tough guy". And he was all about himself. He was way self-sufficient. Peter didn't know himself, of course. The Lord knew him and the Lord predicted that he would fail. Jesus told him at the Last Supper "before the rooster crows you will deny me three times". No, no! Imagine that! He says, "No, Lord, not me"! "Yes, you, Simon Peter. You will deny Me three times".

So Peter may have been surprised at his weakness, but not Jesus. Now in deference to this good man, Simon Peter, he did love the Lord. He confessed the Lord. He was truly a believer, but he was personally unprepared for the challenge that he would face at the cross; how dark the darkness would be, how terrible the temptation would be. And so his self-confidence set him up for his sin. The Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 and verse 12: "Let him who stands take heed, lest he fall". Proverbs 16:18, "Pride comes before a fall". And it is our pride, our arrogance, the thinking that "I'm all that"! that sets us up for huge failure, and spiritual folly.

The potential for evil is in every one of us. We are capable, you are capable of any spiritual failure. It's true! We're all vulnerable to temptation. The potential for evil is in all of us, coiled like a snake, ready to strike. And if we neglect spiritual discipline, if we live in self-confidence rather than in faith, then we are in danger of defeat, all of us. Peter boasted that he would never deny Christ. And you would think that courage would be the primary character of Simon Peter. In many ways it was, but Oswald Chambers, a great devotional writer, said this: "An unguarded strength is a double weakness". Let me say that again because I want you to think about it. "An unguarded strength is a double weakness". Most of us know to watch our back on our weakness. If you understand where you are weak, you would be a fool to put yourself in a position where your weakness would do you in.

So most often we may focus on our weaknesses but what Chambers is saying, and I believe it's true, not just your weakness but doubly guard your strength because it's our strength that can turn to self sufficiency and pride in our lives. And so guard your strengths as well as your weaknesses. It is in our weakness that we are made strong in the power of Christ. But not only pride and presumption will cause our fall, but prayerlessness. That's what happened to Peter, prayerlessness. We're told in Mark chapter 14 and verse 37 that Jesus told them to pray, and yet in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was pouring out His blood in preparation for the cross, Jesus agonized, the disciples slept just a few feet away. It was their pride and Peter's pride that produced prayerlessness, because after all why pray if you can do it yourself.

Jesus taught us to pray in the model prayer "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil". And so prayer is for petition, asking and receiving what we need from God and we should pray always petitioning God for what we need. And yet we are also to pray for protection every day, that when we face fires of temptation and when we face failure, when we come face to face with the enemy that we would be prepared because we have prayed. I know this: we're no stronger than our prayer life! Pressure was also a problem for Peter and for us. When Jesus was arrested the disciples fled. The fear was too much and they ran away and a crowd began to gather.

Remember, this is in the middle of the night at this point and at the house of Caiaphas the high priest and the soldiers are there, both Roman and Sanhedrin soldiers and they're gathering around and Peter decided to get close enough to see what was happening. I mean I guess you have to admire him for that at least he didn't run totally into the darkness but the scripture tells us that he followed, this is Luke 22:54, that he followed at a distance. That's a problem for allot of people. The pressure was on, the heat was up. Jesus is facing the end of his life, his earthly life and Peter is following at a distance. He's keeping his distance. He's sitting by a fire, a charcoal fire with the enemies of Christ. And the pressure because he was just following at a distance was too much for him. Reminds me to say that following Jesus means getting as close to Him as we can, not just following at a distance.

Too many Christians are part-time believers; casual observers. Too many people go "Well, you know, I'm in but, you know, I'm not one of those Jesus freaks, I'm not one of those fanatics. I'm just going to follow Jesus at a distance". And when you do that you set yourself up for failure because you find yourself more in the world than in the kingdom of God. And that's what happened to Peter. He found himself out here with the enemies of Christ and sure he fell. The Bible says "a companion of fools will be destroyed". And Simon Peter therefore found himself with the wrong people at the wrong place at the wrong time, and he went down. He went down and he went down, he fell hard. The Scripture says when Peter sinned by denying the Lord, he "wept bitterly". What did he lose? He lost his testimony, the opportunity for him to stand for Christ, he lost that opportunity.

In fact when he's denying Christ even in front of a little girl, he begins to profane and to swear and to deliver oaths. Now that doesn't necessarily mean that he was cursing. What it means was he was saying things like, "I swear by God I don't know this man"! That's denying Christ. And he's broken by his sin. And when we're broken by our sin there's one of two things we can do. We can quit, and that's what Simon wanted to do originally. When it says here in John 21 and verse 3: "Simon Peter said to them, 'I'm going fishing'" this wasn't a recreational trip. This wasn't "I'm going to get out of town and take a break". I'm going fishing means "I'm going back to my old life. The only thing I know how to do. I'm obviously not a very good Christian! I'm not a very good disciple of Jesus.

So I'm going to go back and do what I know. I'm going to go back to my old life, to my old ways, to my old habits"! But Jesus wouldn't let him quit and He want let you quit either. And that's why on that day when Simon Peter and the others are out fishing all night and they didn't catch a thing. At least they were honest about that unlike most fishermen. Sounds like one of my fishing trips which have been few and far between. They didn't catch anything. Peter can't even succeed at fishing anymore! And that Stranger on the shore, that Man on the shore called to the disciples and said, "Hey boys, have you caught anything"? Talk about adding insult to injury. "No"! "Throw your net on the other side of the boat"! Flash back! All the way back to the beginning when Jesus first called Simon Peter and the others and said, "Come, follow Me. Cast your net into the deep".

They saw that tremendous miracle on the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus said, "Come on, Simon Peter, come and follow Me. We'll change the world. I'll make you fishers of men"! Flash back! They catch all these fish again. And John close to the Lord Jesus, said, "It's the Lord"! And Simon Peter jumped all in. He wants to get to Jesus as fast as he can. That's what forgiveness will do for you! If you believe you can be forgiven, if you believe your life can breathe again, live again, if you believe there's hope for you, you'll get to Jesus as fast as possible! That's what Simon Peter did. And when he got to the shore, there's Jesus by a warm fire, a charcoal fire. Nothing is in the Bible by accident, and here John especially notes that it was a charcoal fire, the same word that he used in John 18 to describe the charcoal fire where Peter denied the Lord.

Now another fire is lit, a fire of forgiveness and restoration. And Jesus is cooking breakfast. Can you imagine that? The Risen Christ, He's got fish on the grill, and there's hot, warm bread. Is anything better than that? I mean He's got a little fish sandwich He's making there. Wonder where He got the bread? I mean we know where He got the fish. Plenty of fish around in the Sea of Galilee. The bread, I don't know, did He bring it from Jerusalem? Maybe, just maybe He made the bread; I mean made the bread! Remember when Jesus was tempted and the devil said, "Turn these stones into bread". And Jesus said, "No, I'll not turn those rocks into bread, it's not My time. That's not what I've come to do". He said no to the temptation, Satan. But maybe now He looked around, saw some rocks, and said, hey bread and in His own time in His own terms He turns the stones into bread. Whatever, they are there. And that's when Simon Peter looks at Jesus once again, and Jesus forgives him.

Now he confronts him with his sin. He asked him three times, "Simon, do you love Me"? "Do you love Me"? "Do you really love me"? And, of course, you know what that's about. It's obvious. Three times Simon Peter had denied Jesus; now Jesus gives him three opportunities to confess Him. And each time Simon Peter said, "Lord, you know I love You, I love You". And then he said, "Lord, You know all things. You know I love you a lot". Now we see the humility and the transparency. He's come face to face with the reality that he can't do this on his own. His failure is too great. But Jesus is providing him an opportunity to recover, to rebound, to come back. A thing of what you could know about Jesus. Jesus knows the worst about you and me. He does. Simon Peter says, "Lord, You know whether I love You or not".

Jesus knows the worst about you. There's some things about me that if you knew, you probably wouldn't like me very much. And don't just look at me; there's some things about you if I knew I probably wouldn't like you all that much, right? I mean, we've all got that! But God looks at us, Jesus looks at you and says, "I know you. I know the worst about you". And let me tell you something else He knows; He knows the best about you. Jesus refused to mistake the moment for the man. He knew the potential of Simon Peter. If Simon Peter could just get his life harnessed in the power of God that he could change the world. And Jesus is shaping His man. He's taking the rock and strengthening him. Simon Peter's coming back. He's no longer boasting about how much he loves.

You know, don't boast about how much you love Jesus. I mean it's good to say I love Jesus, but don't boast about that. If you're going to boast about the love of Christ, boast about how much He loves you, not how much you love Him. It's the love of Christ that compels us! It's His love for us! It is His forgiveness and His grace and His mercy when we need it the most! And I'm telling you if you have failed, and we all have failed, but maybe you're sitting in the middle of a failure right now. Maybe you're at a time in your life where you are down and nearly out. You want to quit, you want to run away. Maybe you're thinking about going back to your old life, go back to the old friends, go back to the old clubs, go back to the old junk because you've failed so much.

You say I just can't, but guess what? You can't do it but the power of Christ will restore you and redeem you and renew you! And it is because of His cross and the resurrection, the power of Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven and renewed and restored. And Jesus gave him a job to do. He said, "Feed My sheep. Serve Me".

You see, it's the love of Christ that changes everything. Had a group of pastors here, we do it several times a year, twelve young pastors we recognize before the service but I tell these young pastors what I'm going to tell you right now. When it comes to serving Christ, what motivates us to care for our communities? What motivates us to share the love of Jesus with others? Well, I tell these young preachers Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Do you love Me"? He didn't say do you love to preach? Do you love to lead? Do you love to serve? Do you love to teach? Do you love to sing in choir? No, He said, "Do you love Me"? Because if you love Jesus then everything else flows out of that great love of Christ that is now in our hearts.

What a day that was, a brand new day in Simon Peter's life. And he went on just a few weeks later to preach at Pentecost a powerful message right in the face of the same enemies of Christ that crucified Him. He said you have crucified the Lord of glory. Now full of the Holy Spirit, full of the forgiveness and grace of God, he preaches the Gospel. Three thousand are saved and baptized! He goes on to open the Gospel up to the Gentile world. He went all out and ultimately he paid a martyr's debt, price. He died tradition says upside down because he said I'm not worthy to be crucified like my Lord. And Simon Peter went all the way because Christ went all the way for him. He made the come back that can only happen through Jesus Christ! And so can you! Amen?
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