Sermon Notes from our Pastors

 
 

Overcoming Past Failure Sermon 

July 14, 2024
 

At some point in your life, you probably have made a mistake that you regret. Maybe you did something, and it was/is eating you up inside. Maybe you did something to someone that ruined a relationship. Maybe you talked badly about someone behind their back, and they found out and it destroyed them. Maybe you have done things that you want to stop but can’t.

We ALL have made mistakes and failed. But there’s something I’ve been learning through my own relationship with Jesus, and it’s why the love of Jesus is stronger than anything we can ever experience in this world. Here it is:

Your past mistakes and failures don’t prevent God from using you in the future.
 
When we bring our mess to the cross, Jesus redeems us, restores us, and can even use us in spite of our failures. And that’s exactly what Jesus did with the Apostle Peter.
 

Peter

Many people view Peter as a failure because of the ways in which he failed in his relationship with Jesus, but I don’t believe he was a failure. Yes, there were some things he likely regretted, but I imagine that he viewed them as part of his spiritual journey and necessary transformation. I believe that Jesus knew Peter would do the things he did, and He used them as a learning experience so that He could teach him, help him to grow from his mistakes, and allow him to be an example to others as they grow closer to Jesus.

I’m going to do something a little different next. I need to preface it by saying that I didn’t write all of this. Some parts are from two powerful skits by The Skit Guys. And since I can’t show them to you because of our livestreaming permissions, I’ll have to leave and then Peter will join us for a bit to give us his perspective on what happened after Jesus told him that he would betray Him three times before the rooster crowed.

*Exit Pastor Paul, Enter Peter*
 

The Denial…

After they arrested Jesus, the soldiers took Him into the house of the high priest for accusations. It was morning by this point. My body was tired and cold, and my mind was racing. I found a fire around which some servants and officials were standing so I got closer to warm myself.

As I stared at the fire in a daze, a servant girl startled me with her loud voice, saying, “You! You’re with Him. You’re with this man who claims to be the Son of God! You’re one of His disciples!” I felt like every eye was on me, so I brushed her off and said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about…you got the wrong guy!”

A short while later, someone pointed at me and said, “You also are one of them!” To which I replied, “Man, I am not!” It was easier the second time—to deny Jesus.
 

A few hours later, another man asked, “Didn’t I see you with him at the olive grove?” Quickly, I answered, “I don’t know what you are talking about!” And just as I was speaking—right in the middle of that sentence—I heard the most blood-curdling sound I ever heard in my entire life. I heard that rooster crow. And at that exact moment, Jesus was being led out and He turned around and looked right into my eyes, almost as if He were saying, “Oh, Peter!” I had let my Master down and did the very thing I swore I would not do.

At that moment, I ran. And you know what they did? They killed Him! My best friend died on two slabs of wood, betrayed by me in so many ways. Some rock I was. Some friend I was.

 

The Resurrection…

I spent the rest of that day and the following days alone and depressed, broken, shattered, lost—the center of my world now a black hole, an empty void. But then, on Sunday morning, something strange happened.

John and I were still mourning and weeping over the events of Friday. All of a sudden, we heard our friend, Mary Magdalene, shouting in the distance. When she got to us, she told us that she had just come from visiting Jesus’ tomb and that He was not there—He was alive! She told us that an angel told her to, “go, tell his disciples and Peter…”

We didn’t believe her. What she was saying made no sense. So, John and I ran to Jesus’ tomb and found out that what Mary was saying was true—Jesus’s tomb was empty, which could only mean that He was alive!

I felt like I had life again. My joy had returned. My Master, whom I loved, was alive! But I was still bothered by one question: Would he forgive me?

One morning, some of the other disciples and I were out fishing on my boat. I didn’t tell the others this, but I was beginning to think that Jesus would never forgive me and that I should probably just go back to my old life as a fisherman.
 

As we were struggling to haul in a net full of fish—which is another story for another day—John saw a man on the shore and said to us, “It’s the Lord!” Upon hearing this, I let go of the net, which I now realize probably made it harder for the others who were struggling to haul in the fish—sorry not sorry.

Without thinking, I dove into the water and quickly swam to Jesus while the others followed in the boat.

Once on shore, I saw that Jesus was still a humble servant. He took the time to fish, make a fire, and cook a meal for us—a sign of friendship and closeness. And yet, the question still nagged me: Would Jesus forgive me?

We ate in silence. We were all so ashamed for how we had abandoned Him.
 
Jesus, being Jesus and knowing everything everyone was thinking, and also reading our body language, saw this as an excellent opportunity to have a little heart-to-heart with me. You know that whole rooster clucking thing? Yeah…that’s what Jesus wanted to talk to me about. He addressed me in front of the other disciples. I feared the time had now arrived where Jesus would ask, “Why did you deny me?”, but He didn’t.
 

The Restoration…

Jesus looked into my eyes with gentleness and love. I remember the last time our eyes met, after I had denied Him the final time. This time, Jesus asked, “Simon…do you truly love me more than these?” “You know that I love you,” I replied. Then He told me to feed His lambs.

Then He asked me again, “Simon…do you love me?” Why was He asking again? “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Then He asked me to take care of His sheep. And then, Jesus asked me a third time, “Simon…do you love me?” That one hurt deeply because Jesus must not have believed me the first two times. Perhaps He really didn’t forgive me. I replied, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Then He said, “Feed my sheep…”

Soon after, I realized what Jesus was doing by asking three times. He was reminding me of the three times I had denied knowing Him, not to make me feel bad, but to forgive and restore me. With those three questions, He canceled out my three denials. He didn’t ask me if I was sorry or if I would promise to never do it again. Instead, He challenged me to love. I later learned that this was said to push me to be who I was meant to be. Jesus knew that there would be much bigger challenges ahead and He didn’t want me to make the same mistakes, but to press forward. He had not given up on me after all. He still loved me and was still going to use me to be His rock, the pillar of His Church.
 

*Exit Peter, Enter Pastor Paul*

Peter failed a lot in his life and ministry. We, like Peter, make regrettable choices from time to time. How does God look at us when make mistakes and fail? He looks past our failures and weaknesses and looks at our hearts, Just as He did with Peter.

When the angel told Mary to go tell Jesus’ disciples AND PETER, it was actually Jesus’ way of letting Peter know ahead of time that He had been forgiven. Peter was a disciple, so simply saying, “the disciples” would have sufficed. But Jesus specifically wanted only Peter’s name mentioned because He didn’t want to leave Peter in a discouraged and disillusioned state.

In the same way, Jesus doesn’t want us to remain in our failures. He comes to us in our troubles and wants to walk with us through them.

Why does this interaction between Jesus and Peter mean so much for you and for me?

Jesus shows us that our past mistakes and failures don’t prevent God from using us in the future.
 

Peter was human, and his devotion for Jesus slipped. In his mind, he was done. He went back to his old life.

So many of us do the same thing. We aren’t perfect and we make mistakes and fail, but Jesus still has a calling on your life. He WANTS to restore you. Jesus hadn’t given up on Peter, and He hasn’t given up on you, either.

When we look at this story, not only did Jesus restore Peter, but He commissioned him to continue to do His work—to feed His sheep. Peter was not disqualified—he was sent out, sent out knowing that he had failed in the past, but that Jesus was still willing to use him to do incredible things.

This should give us hope, because it’s not just Peter with whom God does this. All throughout Scripture, God is the master of taking broken people and doing great things in and through them.

If you have made mistakes you aren’t proud of at some point (or multiples points) in your life, you are in great company and God STILL wants to restore you and commission you to go out and take care of and love others and use you in a mighty way.

Now go. Follow Jesus, feed His sheep, love God and love people. And remember, Jesus says you are restored.
 

References

40 Days: Peter’s Denial | Church Video About Peter in Matthew 26. (n.d.). The Skit Guys. Retrieved July 13, 2024, from https://skitguys.com/videos/peters-denial

Grace by The Skit Guys. (n.d.). The Skit Guys. Retrieved July 13, 2024, from https://skitguys.com/videos/grace-skit-guys