Graceful Perseverance: The Real Test - 02/03
Welcome to this week’s blog. This week I am studying John, Chapter 21:15-21 where Jesus appears before his 12 disciples. Jesus challenges one of the disciples by asking him the same question, three times.
In this scripture Jesus is asking Simon Peter, son of John, “Do you love me?”
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? Yes, Lord, he said, you know that I love you. Jesus said, Feed my lambs. Again, Jesus said, Simon son of John, do you love me? He answered, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Jesus said, Take care of my sheep. The third time he said to him, Simon son of John, do you love me? Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, Do you love me? He said, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you - John 21:15-17.
In this parable, Jesus is affirming Peter’s loyalty by asking him three times if he loves Him. Peter answered yes three times and each time, in his heart, he truly accepted Jesus. Peter told Jesus he loved Him in the moment, but at a later time, the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, when there was chaos in the streets, Peter would in that moment deny Jesus three times. As Roman soldiers led Jesus to His crucifixion, Jesus passed Peter while carrying His cross.
Peter was then approached by the authorities, asking if he knew this man, they called the Messiah. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times to the authorities in order to save his own life.
As in Peter’s encounter with the Romans where he denied Jesus, Jesus will also challenge us in our faith walk and in our love for Him as well. Will you deny Jesus if it means saving your life? Many, when asked, will say "Yes, of course I love Jesus," when they’re in a non-threatening, casual situation. It’s one thing if you say yes, you love Jesus, but then the real test is to back up your words by your readiness and commitment to serve Him above all else, even at the cost of your own life.
Are you telling friends and family in general conversations that yes, you love Jesus? Are you saying one thing, but your actions prove otherwise? Are you living your life for Jesus or for yourself, in the flesh, in a superficial world? Are you pretentious and showy in your words because you think if you say what others want to hear they will never figure out your true, hypocritical feelings?
Words have power, and even Christians and non-believers can be intuitive enough to see the inconsistency between your words and your actions. Our words and our actions say a lot about our faith and the way we live our life. You may be able to deceive those around you just as Peter did with the Romans, but you will never have the influence or power to fool God, your Creator.
Here’s what the Lord declares about hypocrisy.
Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted. And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.
And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy . . . - Leviticus 26:21-33.
God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit know our hearts. They know the difference between a quick, superficial answer, as opposed to our true commitment to pick up our cross and follow Jesus even at the risk of losing our life as we know it today. God knows our true feelings and our motives. Scripture indicates that Peter was crucified for his faith. Historians believe, at Peter’s request, that he was crucified upside down, as he did not feel worthy of dying the same way as his Lord because he had denied Jesus three times to the Romans so his life would be spared. Regardless of Peter’s future and imperfections, Jesus professed to Peter again and again in scripture to follow Him, saying “Follow Me!”
Jesus said, Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, Follow me! Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, Lord, who is going to betray you?) - John 21:18-20.
Jesus responded to Peter the same then as He does with us today. It is not of our concern what Jesus decides to do with others who deny Him. Our only concern should be to follow Jesus regardless of what others say or do or the consequences Jesus brings upon others will if they deny Him. When Peter saw him, he asked, Lord, what about him? Jesus answered, If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me - John 21:21. But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts - 1 Thessalonians 2:4.
Jesus declares multiple times throughout this parable “Follow Me!” Jesus is the Son of God and it’s not up to us to test Him, but for Him to search our hearts. God already knows the hypocrites, the ones who have loose lips and hollow words. Brothers and sisters, I say to you, stay steadfast in your faith so that you can withstand the real test. It is only then that you will receive the crown of life, which is God’s promise to those who truly love Him.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him - James 1:12. Blessings until next week, Debra Pauli