Jentezen Franklin - The Man Who Meant Well
We all have our favorites in the Bible, but for me Simon Peter would be my favorite, and I love the fact that he was a man who was not perfect, but he always meant to do right. I'm preaching today on "The Man Who Meant Well". I didn't say he always did well, but he meant well. He testifies to the fact that mistakes don't have to be fatal, that Peter is someone who is always failing forward, that when he failed, he didn't let his mistakes push him further away from God, but he was forever falling and failing forward.
Anytime the devil tells you you're a nobody from nowhere headed to no place, I want to remind you of the man who meant well. There's something about Simon Peter that he always had a comeback spirit. After Jesus was crucified and he knew he had failed and done all of these things, that he lost all hope of God ever using him in ministry, and he went back to his fishing business, and he went out on a fishing boat and he was fishing, and while he was fishing, the Bible said he saw the silhouette of a tall, lean Galilean, and even though it was a long ways off, he knew that man.
He had lived with that man for three and a half years and followed Him, and when he saw that silhouette, he instantly, with all of his flaws and failures, threw his coat off and dove into the water and swam over 100 yards to get to Jesus because he was always trying to get to Him, get near Him, get close to Him. He went back to his cussing habits, his denying habits, his forsaking habits. He might as well go back to his old job. He had fished and caught nothing, but when he saw Jesus, there was something in him that "I love Him, I still love Him, I love Him", and he couldn't hold himself back and dove into the water trying to get to Jesus.
On another occasion, he plunged into not only the water, but when all the other disciples sat on the boat in the storm, there was something in Simon Peter, his impulse, when Jesus was around, is "I've got to get near Him, I've got to get to Him", and when everybody else was content to sit on the boat, it was Simon Peter who said, "He's out there, and even if I have to walk and try to do the supernatural, I've got to be near Him". He was always trying to get near Jesus. It was his impulse. And he walked on the water. And now he's looking on the shore.
When he comes up out of that water, he's looking in the face of Jesus, the one who had been crucified and laid in a tomb and rose from the dead, and Jesus was cooking him a meal of restoration, of fish, the Bible said, and bread. And it's Jesus and he's looking in that face and he's got such guilt and he's got such condemnation, the one that he denied, Jesus said to him one question and one question only, "Do you still love me"? He did not say, "Why did you run"? He did not say, "Why did you cuss"? He did not say, "Why did you deny me when I needed you the most"? He did not say, "Why did you not love me like you promised you would do"?
Three times He asked one question, "All I care about is do you still love me? I'm not holding what you did wrong. All I care about, is there still an impulse in you to want to be with me? You lied, you denied". But Jesus didn't ask him about any of that. He never brought up his past. Jesus said, "All I want to know is do you still love me"? And I don't know how many times you've run, and I don't know how many times you've failed, but through it all, Jesus has a question for you who are listening to me in this room and by television and at our campuses. I don't care what you've done, He is not asking about what you have done. He's asking one question, "Do you still love me"? Because if you still love me, He's not here to condemn you.
Peter failed forward. It's better to fail with a high aim than to succeed with a low aim. I really think Simon Peter meant well. Even when he cut the man in the garden, he cut the guy's ear off, he meant well. He was just trying to defend Jesus. His motive was good. Even when he cussed, he didn't mean to. He was warming his hand by the fire. What was he doing there? All the rest of them had fled. He came back to get near Jesus. He knew Jesus was in Caiaphas' house and he was endangering himself to be there. He knew it. And somebody recognized him, and the old guy came back in, and he started cussing and said some words, but he meant well.
I guess what I'm trying to tell you is God can tell the difference between somebody who's sinned and messed up, but if your heart still loves Him. I'm not glorifying sin, but I'm telling you that when the devil whispers to you, "You're not worthy", you know what I say? "Who is"? When the devil says, "You don't measure up", I say, "Who does"? But I tell you one thing, I love Jesus, and if I fail, I'm going to get up and fail forward. Even in your failure, you meant well. You might have got caught up in a, somebody's going to say, "He's loose on sin. This is greasy grace preaching". No, it's not. It's Bible preaching. And even in his weak moment of temptation, the devil said, "You're finished because you've failed". But he was a man who meant well.
Now, let me contrast him with Judas. Judas is the opposite. They both failed. They both wept. Peter wept and he was restored, but Judas wept and was never restored. Why? The intentions, the sincerity was different. One truly wept out of repentance and brokenness over what he had done. The other wept not for the same motive, not for the same reason. Judas wept because he was mad at himself. Judas wept because he was mad at God. Judas wept because he was mad of how things turned out, that they didn't go the way he thought it would go. Judas planned his sin. He calculated. He plotted it. He, day after day after day, premediated. He sat around and he wept, but he wept because he got caught. He got paid to do what he was doing. He negotiated a deal for his sin.
Peter wept because he really didn't plan to do it. Each time he messed up. He got angry and did something he shouldn't have. Somebody said something to him and he cussed them out, but he didn't sit around planning, saying, "When I see that person, I'm going to cuss them out and I'm going to cut that one".
Do you see the difference? Do you see that one had a different spirit? The Bible said, and this is the most touching part of this text to me, that while Peter was warming his hands by the fire, they brought Jesus across the courtyard in chains after He had been beaten and scourged and he was bleeding and wounded, no doubt the crown of thorns already shoved on His head, and your Bible said, "Without a word being spoken", and when Jesus looked at him across the courtyard, Peter, who denied and cussed and all the things, he caught His eye. He caught the eyes of Jesus, and the eyes of Jesus connected with Simon Peter. Their eyes, apparently he was close enough to make eye contact, and the Bible said when he saw the eyes of Jesus, without a word being spoken, that Peter turned and went off and wept bitterly, because there's a difference between being overtaken in a fall and overtaken in a sin.
When you're overtaken in a sin, it's part of your walk. It's part of who you are. You have not confessed it. You have not rejected it and turned away from it. It's part of who you are. That's overtaken by a sin. But when you fall, the Bible said, "A righteous man, if he loves Jesus, a righteous man falls seven times a day but rises again", and if I fall, I fall forward. I fall toward Him. There's something in me that I need Jesus. I want to get back to Him quick. And that's how you know if you're saved or not.
I've used this illustration many times through the years, but I can take a pig, a real pig, and I can put a bowtie on him or I can put a choir robe on him, I can put him up here and put him on a table and let him stand up here and preach beside me, and as soon as the service is over, bowtie, choir robe and everything, as soon as he goes outside, if there's a mud hole, because he has the nature of a pig, he's going to forget all about how holy he is and run straight for that mud hole because something in his nature loves it and he says, "I belong here. I love this filth. I love this slop. I love this mud. This is where I want to be".
Now, if a sheep falls in mud, he may fall in it, but instantly he's getting up because it's not in the nature of a sheep to enjoy filth, and he's saying, "Get me out of here. I don't like it". And the way you know if you're a sheep or a hog, come on, the way you know if you're a child of God, a sheep or a goat, is what kind of nature do you have, not that you don't fall, but when you fall, is there something in you that says, "Oh, Jesus, I'm so sorry. Wash me, cleanse me. Get it off of me, and God, by your grace, I'll never go back to it again". That's how you...
anybody know you've been saved by that? Can you shout that there was a time when you wanted it, but you don't want it no more? A time when you had to have it, but you don't even want to be around it anymore? That's the power of the cross. And I've come today to tell somebody Jesus is calling you by name. He wants to meet you again. "Do you love me"? I love that. Jesus didn't call him on the carpet. Jesus didn't put him down. Jesus didn't rehearse, "Well, let's talk about the lying. Let's talk about this, let's talk about that. No, all I want to know is after all the stumbling and all this foolishness and all this cussing and all this cutting and all this lying and all this temper tantrums, do you still love me"?
You see, Peter despised himself, and it's a dangerous thing when you reach a low in the life you're living that you begin to despise yourself. It's dangerous. Mark Rutherford said in his book, "If I could write one more beatitude, it would be blessed are those who heal us from self-despising. Of all the services that can be done to man, I know of none more precious than to be healed of self-despising". It was true of Simon Peter. He had wounded the one that he loved the most and he couldn't forgive himself for it. He couldn't get over it. He couldn't live with it.
And when I think of people who are turning to drugs and turning to alcohol and prescriptions, they've failed. They're just messed up. The dad should have been there, but he left the family. He did something crazy. Or a child that hurt the parents, or whatever it is, and they begin to despise themselves, and the enemy whispers, "Just take your life. You're good for nothing. What a failure of a father. What a failure of a mother. What a piece of trash you are". And you begin to despise yourself.
It's one thing to heal a man of despising others, but it's another thing to heal a man or a woman who despises themselves. But here's the word of the Lord to you: If it's not on God's books, it ought not to be on your books. Three times in this book, three times in this book He said, "Even I am He that blots out your transgressions to remember them no more". It says those words three times, "I will remember your sins no more. I will remember your sins no more. I do not remember your sins anymore".
Stop despising yourself. I know if you could go back and take that moment back, but God saw your heart. You know, you're the man or woman that meant well. You shouldn't done it. It was stupid. My God, what a dumb decision, but you meant well. Anybody thankful for grace? Does this sermon make any sense? Anybody thankful for grace that can see beyond a dumb action? Still love you. Still love you. The Lord told me to tell you, listen to me now, I feel this big in my soul.
Somebody's listening to me and you need to hear this because you've messed up and you despise yourself for what you've done, but the Lord told me to tell you, you are not a Judas. You are a Simon Peter. What you did was not malicious. You didn't plan to fail. You kind of got dragged into it by sin. You've been sorry ever since. Have you? And I'm talking to you.
Jesus didn't say to him, "Oh, well, I'm glad you love me. You're not worthy to touch my food". But He put him back into the ministry after all that mess and He said, "Feed my sheep. I give you back your ministry. I give you back your calling. I give you back your dignity. Hold your head up high because I'm going to use you mightily and it's always going to break you and humble you that you failed me in the way that you failed me. You'll never forget the stare when our eyes connected and the blood was dripping off of my eyebrows from the crown of thorns. You'll never forget that. And about time you want to get proud, you'll remember where I brought you from". The apostle of weakness and denial will become the apostle of boldness and faith.
And so in closing, Peter wrote two books of the Bible. He had more to say about humility than any other New Testament writer. He gave us two of the most profound scriptures on humility in the Bible. He said, "Humble yourself before the mighty hand of God, and in due season, He will exalt you. He gives grace to the humble". Listen to him. He dipped his pen in the ink of his failure and he wrote "He gives grace to anyone who falls forward in humility, but He holds at arm's length, He pushes away the proud". He wrote things that still help us today. There's no friend like that lowly Jesus. He's the man who meant well. Everybody say these words, "I am not a Judas. I may have had thoughts, but not intentions. I may have fallen and struggled, but Jesus, I still love you".
Lift your hands and worship Him just a moment. Lift your hands and praise Him just a moment. Lift your hands in honor to Him. Come on, open your mouth and thank Him for His amazing grace and mercy and forgiveness. He sees beyond the bad. He sees the heart. He sees the man or woman who meant well, who didn't intend to get trapped and messed-up, and He says, "I am willing not only to restore you, but I'll use you again". Do you still love me, is the only issue, not "Have you lost this or you lost that or you went out and did something, you lost this, you lost that because of sin". The question is, "Do you still love Him"?
Stand to your feet, please, all over this room. Stay with me. "On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross. The emblem of suffering and shame, And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain. So I'll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down"; Oh, I will cling, I can't give up, let go, turn back for nothing this world has to offer. That old rugged cross, still the message. "And exchange it some day for a crown". Hallelujah.
Jesus is calling backsliders home. Jesus is calling people who've messed their life up, you even despise yourself, He's calling you home to His loving arms. Families are going to be healed this morning. Marriages are going to be healed this morning. Lives are going to be restored. Dreams are going, hope is going to come back and be sparked again by one act of obedience. The only issue, the only question Jesus has for you is, "Do you still love me"? Not, "Why did you do it"? "Do you still love me"?
Every head bowed, every eye closed, and I make no apologies for getting emotional over a message about the cross. It still moves me after all these years, that Jesus would bleed and die, take my sins and nail them to a cross. I'm so unworthy. I feel the love of God in this room so strong, flowing into that room wherever you're watching this. Do you still love Him?
"Pastor, I'm not right with God. I'm a teenager, I'm a college student, I'm a husband, a wife, business person, but I'm backslid. I know I'm not right. I know that I'm not living right and I would love, I would love to feel what Simon Peter must have felt when Jesus gave him back, his call and his purpose and his plan for his life. I would love to start all over again with Jesus. I want to get right with Him and I can because of the cross, and I want to acknowledge the need that I have for Jesus all over again in my life today".
If that's you and you're listening to me, wherever you are, as bold as you can, I'm not going to humiliate you, embarrass you, but I'm going to tell you something, He will not come if you don't invite Him, and this is your chance to invite Him. He knocks and He says, "It's up to you to open". What you're feeling right now is the spirit of the living God and He's not asking, "Have you got a drug problem? Have you got an alcohol problem? Do you love me"?
There was a man in the Bible who had 2.000 demons and those demons couldn't stop him from getting to Jesus because he loved Jesus, and the demons were... okay. All you got to do is say, "Yes, Pastor, pray for me. I would love to get right with God today". If that's you, right where you are, raise your hand as high as you can. If you'd say, "I know I'm not right and I want to get right with God today", raise it high and unashamed.
Here in this room, up in the balcony, all over this main room, wherever you are, in the overflow, if the Lord is speaking to you right now, get out of your seat and come stand right down here right now, right now, right now, right now, right now, right now, right now. The cross, the cross, the cross. That's my only hope and that's all you need. That's all you need. Pray this prayer right where you are, wherever you are, watching by television or at another campus, right here in this room, in this altar, hallelujah, say:
Lord Jesus, I give you my life. I believe in a man named Jesus and a place called Calvary where He shed His blood that my sins could be washed away, and today I invite you, Lord Jesus, to come into my heart. I thank you. You have not given up on me and I still love you. I know I've failed you, but hear my cry. I still love you and I know you won't turn me away. I receive you as my Savior. Thank you, Jesus. I'm saved. I'm born-again. I'm a new creation.
Lift up the biggest shout of the praise that you can. Come on and thank Him that the angels are rejoicing in heaven today over one soul being saved. You are forgiven.