Sep 18 2022 Sometimes We Have to Go Back to Go Forward
18th September 2022
After a long, somewhat heavy and in-depth series on Acts – we are going to focus on some personal issues that relate to spiritual growth and the transformation of our souls. This is the thing that God is most concerned about now – that His people would be transformed and the Church would be transformed – because as that happens, His gospel will spread throughout the world. I think this lack of transformation might be one of the biggest hindrances to the gospel going throughout the world.
These past few years have been really challenging – for the Church, the nation, and us as individuals. This has caused spiritual confusion among some, and relational conflict and emotional turmoil.
We will begin looking at how to move forward – NOW. As I was thinking about this – and the health of our church – God brought to my mind – a book by Eugene Peterson (editor of The Message bible) – I thought of this – A long obedience in the same direction.
We have so many folks here who have walked with Jesus faithfully – though not perfectly – for over 4-5 decades.
In those many years, there have been a time or two or a hundred – where our discipleship failed. That happens to everyone – and happened to everyone in the Bible – except 1 – Jesus.
We can look at Peter – an example of failure.
Eugene Peterson: Perseverance does not mean “perfection.” It means we do not quit when we find that we are not yet mature and there is a long journey still before us. – 131
I like that – we are not yet mature – we still have a long way to go on this journey. Even if the years aren’t as long, the journey is long… And then this quote:
We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God sticks with us. – 133
I love that! Why have you followed Christ for 5 decades? It is not because of you – it is because of God – He has been with you all this time.
I learned early on – most of us have learned a way of discipleship – those people helped us and loved us – they were good people and we trusted them – so we adopted that way of discipleship. And it worked for us – until it didn’t! This is what we see with Peter. At some point – everyone’s discipleship will fail – it happens. In that time – God wants us to examine how we follow Him – and make some changes. If we never change, we never grow. And sometimes the most significant changes produce the most significant growth.
Peter learned a way of discipleship in his early years – and he learned from the best. Peter had tremendous confidence in his discipleship! At the Last Supper – when Jesus said I will go to the cross and you will run away – Peter was like – I will never run away – and only a few hours later – his discipleship failed and he denied Jesus 3 times.
I’m going to look at John 21 – I’ve shared on this before – so I won’t go into detail – but use it as a launching point for 2 lessons…
John 21: 15 Then when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?" He replied, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you." Jesus told him, "Feed my lambs." 16 Jesus said a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He replied, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you." Jesus told him, "Shepherd my sheep." 17 Jesus said a third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, "Do you love me?" and said, "Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you." Jesus replied, "Feed my sheep.
3 times Peter denied – 3 times Peter is given the opportunity to affirm his love.
First lesson – never publicly declare how much better of a disciple you are…
I know that is funny – but it is not. There are so many who think they have it right and publicly declare it.
When we get to the judgment seat of Christ, there will be a lot of humbling going on… What are THEY doing here? Why are their rewards better than mine? Why is Jesus praising them – He should be praising me!
There will be a lot of humbling in that time – so my advice is to start humbling now!
Second lesson – sometimes we have to go back to go forward.
Jesus brought Peter to his moment of failure. Back to Acts – where Peter had the dream of going to Cornelius – that vision came to him 3 times! Peter didn’t want to do it.
Peter is brought to his moment of failure – not to leave him there, but to move him forward – but to give understanding about himself and his discipleship so he can make adjustments to move forward.
What we need to understand about times of discipleship failure?
First – someone did evil to us – now, that is not the issue with Peter – but go back to Joseph – You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. That had to be addressed! There are folks who just need tto be able to say – someone did evil to me – and that has hurt!
Next category – You could have done things differently! Not that you necessarily did something wrong – but it could have been done differently
Sometimes we need to go back because we need to grieve the loss. If you can’t grieve properly – you need to go do that.
As Cindy and I were talking about this – she said – every one of these is a series – I’m going to give some outlines – but I’d like for you to be involved in this! If any of these rings a bell in your heart – let me know.
Finally – the fourth thing – we have to go back to receive the forgiveness that God offers.
Jesus is saying – Peter, you failed – Okay? It is over – you are forgiven – move on! Now, that is oversimplified. Peter – you are going to lead these 12 – he has got to be thinking – how is God ever going to trust me again? How can He use me? God is saying – Peter – I still trust you.
Sometimes God has the best for us after our worst failure.
David – a great man of the Old Testament – so many great things said about him -and so many bad things said about him! We know his problems – Here is a psalm of David:
Psalm 32:1 A Maskil of David. Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
We must know our moral failures are forgiven and our sins are covered before we can do anything else.
3 traps that keep us from moving forward –
First – Regret. That is natural. We all have regrets. Well – except for 2 kinds of people – psychopaths and those with certain brain injuries. It is natural – it is okay. But it is okay – as long as you don’t stay there like me! My tendency is to stay in my regrets. Regrets, remorse, losses – can be lumped together. Sometimes it is regret for what we did not do.
Third – we regret our stupid decisions – you know the tattoo you got of your ex-boyfriend – or buying BitCoin at $70,000…
There was a survey done – not a Christian survey – but the people who took the survey – a top ten – how the list came down – I have 2 of the top 4 and I have the first one – Regrets about education. That was the number 1 regret – getting the wrong education – not getting enough education – going to college or not going to college.
For me – my dad never went to college – he graduated from high school while in the Navy – and he determined that his kids would go to college.
I became a Christian in college – and some good people gave me some bad advice – “Jesus is coming back so soon that it is not necessary to complete college” – I didn’t want to waste my time – I wnted to get right into ministry – and I would later get into situations where I would feel awkward about dropping out of school the way I did.
About 10-15 years in – I heard a statistic – children go through several stages – and if they miss a stage, they spend the rest of their lives trying to achieve that stage.
For everyone – whatever calling you are in – you need a training time – and I realized I was always going back to that. And that was hindering me – and I recognized I had been regretting this all my life.
The 4th regret – Parenting regret. None of you has parenting regret – right? If this were a Christian survey – I think that would be the number one regret – it is hard to be a parent –
Most of you have probably apologized to your kids. We were talking with some friends – and …
I would go back through all the mistakes in parenting and how I could have been better. But we need to move forward and not stay there.
Second trap – anger over things that have happened to us that cause harm. Anger prevents us from moving forward. If you are a football player - Maybe anger helps you get the extra yard – but mostly – anger is a great hindrance. Maybe it is unhelpful people – or neutral or good people who are only human – like the owner of your company – profits going down – they had to lay people off.
Sometimes – and maybe this is the hardest for most of us – we are angry with ourselves – the decisions we’ve made.
Sometimes we are angry with God. We know that, okay, God is sovereign – but theologically – there is always the debate – did God cause that bad thing or allow it to happen? But in our hearts – we think – He could have prevented it.
That is a hard thing if something really matters to someone.
Final trap – longing for what we believe were the best of times – keep us from moving forward.
All of us have a time we look back to – in our discipleship – yeah, that’s when I was doing my best! Maybe you felt the best – or it was circumstantial – but you know – there were things in that time that were not as good.
“You have heard it said… - but I say to you” – something very different now! It is so important that we change and grow. And we need to revisit so we can move forward.
Paul had listed his accomplishments in his Jewish faith – and he says – all of that? Garbage! In view of Christ – it was all dead to him – so that he might attain the resurrection in Christ.
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
(I’m still on the journey)
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
One thing I do – One thing Paul does – forget what is behind.
He went back to move forward. Let’s pray.