Ever say something reckless that you truly regret? When that kind of tragedy occurs in your life, you pick up the false notion that you are through forever, don't you? And the feeling is there can never again be a place for you in light of your denial. You think that?
No way. The good news is that there can be. That's the grace of the Gospel. All of us carry a measure of regret. For some, our regret is nothing more than a tinge of guilt. While for others, it's an overwhelming sense of failure, and we lug it around like an old piece of luggage. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll reminds us that we have every reason to hope again. In fact, that's the title of today's series. It's called Hope Again, When Life Hurts and Dreams Fade.
Are you ready to let go of an unpleasant memory? Chuck titled today's opening message, Hope Beyond Failure. I want to begin a series of messages on one of the less popular letters in the New Testament, and I've never been able to figure out why. Just like I never have been able to understand why the minor prophets are minor in some people's minds. There's no Bible verse that says, consider these minor prophets.
They're minor in the sense of size, but only that. And the little letter of Peter, to which I do not want you to turn right now, is one of the lesser known letters in the New Testament, even though it's written by the most popular of the apostles, certainly the most well-known of the original 12. He is the acknowledged leader of the group, and in every list of the 12 in the New Testament, he's first. He's listed first.
We'll come back to that in a moment. I found, as you have, that one of the most helpful ways to understand a letter is to know the writer of the letter better. If you're like me, you get a multiple page letter, the first thing you do is go to the last page and see who wrote it.
And if you don't know the handwriting, all the more reason to find out who typed it. And I have found that if a stranger has written me, I can understand the words and sometimes the feelings, but never fully the tone or the emotions of a letter, because he's a stranger, or she is a stranger. And I often wish, as I read deep feelings in a letter, I wish I knew that person better.
If I knew that person better, I would know why she's saying that, or why he's writing that. So unfortunately, in much exposition today, people are often taken immediately to the passage, and you work right through the first several verses, next time you go right through the next set of verses, and you don't get a little bit acquainted with the writer. And I determined years ago, before we dived into a letter, that we would take some time to get a little bit acquainted with the one who wrote the letter. And in this case, we're going to get a little better acquainted with the man, the old fisherman, who begins his life as that in the scriptures and dies a martyr.
I'm going to get a little better acquainted with this old fella, so I can appreciate why he writes what he does, in the way he does it. So now I'd like you to look at Mark chapter 1. I'd like us to meet the man and read something of his calling from the Lord Jesus himself, and then, let's find out something about his role, as well as his denial, and finally, the very important leadership position he had in the first century. According to the earliest gospel, which is the gospel by Mark, this is the way Simon, which was his earlier name, this is the way Simon was called to become a part of the band of the twelve. Verse 16, And as Jesus was going along by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon.
Just a minute. Maybe you had a brother who was better known than you. And all your life, you were known as the brother of.
I don't know how that made you feel. I've often wished I could interview Andrew and ask him, how does it feel to always be called the brother of Peter? The brother of an individual.
Andrew was, however, a man who could handle such a thing. Simon is the better known of the two, and they are fishermen. They are in the fishing business. Simon and his brother Andrew are casting a net in the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.
Isn't that a contagious way to put it? You're catching fish. If you follow me, I will teach you how to catch men and women.
I will help you become fishers of humanity. And equally remarkable, immediately we read, they left their nets and followed him. Other gospel writers tell a similar story, but this is it in a nutshell.
That's his calling. There is no lightning that splits the sky. There is no cloud formation that says, go preach.
There is no visible evidence that God was in it. But somehow there was a connecting of the soul with soul, and Peter and Andrew looked into the eyes of a man who, in a few years time, would literally transform their lives. What kind of a man was Peter right now? Well you may be surprised to hear that Josephus writes a bit about Galileans. You may be also surprised that Josephus was at one time a governor of Galilee. So he knew the Galileans.
Allow me. He says this of them, they were ever fond of innovations, and by nature disposed to changes and delighted in seditions. They were ever ready to follow a leader and to begin an insurrection. He goes on to say that they were notoriously quick in temper and given to quarreling, but that withal they were the most chivalrous of men.
The Galileans, says Josephus, have never been destitute of courage. The Talmud adds this, they were ever more anxious for honor than for gain, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional, easily roused by an appeal to adventure loyal to the end. Now that perfectly describes the fisherman. He saw adventure in those words. He heard the possibility of change in the invitation of Jesus. And when he listened to this man who made one sentence, follow me and I will make you become fishers of men, he was ready to drop those boring nets and take off with this new opportunity. Now just think about that. Most of you are engaged in your careers. You have been there for some time, some of you are getting started, many of you have been there for years. Think of an individual coming along tomorrow and saying one sentence and you drop everything and follow him.
That's what Peter did. Now you talk about impulsive, you talk about being anxious for adventure. Some of you are thinking right now, try me. Just try me.
As boring as this world is that I'm in, I'd love to have something like this exciting me to change. What was his role? What was his role within the band of 12?
This man Peter. Well, he reached leadership early on. Have you noticed in your own groups as well as in your schooling of years past how leadership just sort of gravitates in certain directions? Some individuals just become the leader of a group. I've read enough books of adventure that began with a disaster to know that that's true. After a disaster, often in a setting of people who don't know one another, an individual or two will emerge as the leader or the leaders of the group. They will take charge of the group.
There's just a sense of take charge in some people. Peter had that. In Matthew chapter 10, he's called the first and the word is protos, which is used not only of first in order but on occasion chief. He was the first, writes Matthew. But in Mark chapter 1 verse 29, we read that they met in Peter's house.
Isn't that interesting? Immediately after they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever, tells us Simon was married. He quite probably had children.
So here was a married man with children. His mother-in-law is sick and immediately they spoke to the Lord Jesus about her and her illness and he came to her and raised her up and took her by the hand and in doing so the fever left her and she began to wait on them. He's not only the leader and it was in his home that they met on occasion, but he's the spokesman for the group. That's another part of his role as a member of the 12. Let's go back to Matthew, shall we? Chapter 15 and verse 15.
Let me show you several things about his role as the spokesman. First of all, he asked the questions that the 12 were thinking. Matthew 15 verse 15. Peter answered and said to Jesus, Explain the parable to us. They were all probably thinking it, but I imagine a few of them said, Peter, ask him what it means. And he said, What does it mean, Lord?
He was willing to risk. Look at 1821, another time he risked a question. Jesus has been teaching and he's mentioned various things that have struck a familiar chord in Peter's mind. And Peter, verse 21 of Chapter 18, came and said to Jesus, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times and then Jesus answers him and in turn answers them.
He asked the questions. Another time in 1927, Matthew, then Peter answered and said to him, Behold, we have left everything and followed you. What then will there be for us? That's a risky question. Most of us are much too pious to ask that question.
But Peter just kind of blurts it. What's in it for us, Lord? We've left everything. Nets are laying on the boat rotting.
I'm no longer making an income from the fishing trade. What's in it for us? And Jesus graciously answers him. Not only did he ask the questions, he was the one that people ask questions to. Same book, Matthew Chapter 17, verse 24. When people had questions about the band or about Jesus himself, as in this case, 1724, when they had come to Capernaum, those who collected the two drachma tax came to Peter and said, Does your teacher not pay the two drachma tax?
Does he not pay his taxes? See, he was kind of the spokesman for the group, even including Jesus. They were, I'm sure, intimidated at times by Jesus.
Look at Matthew 16, verse 13. He was the one who answered questions. He really liked to ask them, answer them, or whatever. 16, one of my favorite scenes with Peter.
1613. When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he began asking his disciples saying, Who do people say the Son of Man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist. Some are saying you're Elijah. Others, Jeremiah, or you're one of the prophets. And then verse 15, you can't see it in the English, but let me translate it correctly. But he said to them, But who do y'all say that I am?
Being from the southern section of the country, he would handle it that way. It's a plural you. You all.
What do you all have to say about my identity? And Peter blurts out the answer, even at the risk of being wrong. I don't know how many years you spent in school, but I'm sure many, and you certainly had people in your class who were always careful of never risking. And then there were a few who would blurt out answers at the risk of being wrong. I remember sitting on the front row in a Greek class taught by Lewis Johnson, and he asked a question that had a catch to it, and here I was up there, not sharp enough to catch the twist, and I blurt out an answer, and he looked right down at me, and he said, Mr. Swindoll, if you continue on that limb, I will saw you off with a hard set of facts.
I will never forget that. I could hear the... going on that limb, and I was way out on the limb. I identify with Peter. I would blurt out an answer, even at the risk of being wrong.
I'll give it a try. Peter says, you are the Christ, the son of a living God. Boy, he was never more right. I don't know about these fellows, but I'll tell you who I think you are. You're Messiah. You're the son of a living God, and Jesus blesses him and even changes his name from Simon to Rock to Peter. Good for you, Simon. You will be Peter.
He was impulsive in his loyalty, also another role that he fills. Look at 1621. You're right there in the chapter.
From that time, Jesus Christ began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised up on the third day, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. Wow. God forbid it, Lord. This shall never happen to you. You see, there's that intense loyalty. Lord, we've been with you from taking fish in the boat. We've been with you all through this. You're not going to leave us, Lord.
That'll never happen. Jesus turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan. You're speaking like the enemy. You're a stumbling block to me for you're not setting your mind on God's interests but man's. By the way, that's when we really get into deep trouble. When we start setting our mind on man's interests, we get way off course.
You had that happen recently? Focusing in on man's opinion? Focusing in on man's counsel?
Man's ideas? You're not thinking God's thoughts, Peter. You're off target.
You're way off base. Look at Matthew, I'm sorry, Mark 14. One more occasion when he was impulsive in his loyalty.
And we're going to stay in 14 for his denial. It's an unhappy sort of tragic scene, but it's part of the background that goes into Peter's life before he writes the letter. Mark 14, 27.
This is after they have had the last meal together. This is after they have sung the hymn and gone out to the garden of Gethsemane, verse 26. Now Jesus pulls them up close and he says to them, You will all fall away because it is written, I will strike down the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered. After I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee. But Peter, here he is again. Peter said to him, even though all may fall away, yet I will not.
Now don't laugh at him. It's the same kind of loyalty you would say or express or I would. He is just willing to risk. That's just his nature.
However, these guys may do that, not me. I'm with you to the end, Lord. Well, he would live to eat those words, wouldn't he? Jesus said to him, boy, this must have hurt.
Truly I say to you that you yourself this very night before a clock crows twice, you will have three times denied me. This is a painful memory and I turn the page in my testament over to verse 66 and I begin a passage that I find no delight in, but for the sake of accuracy, I must include. This is a part of Peter's biography. This is the lowest moment in Peter's life. While those words were still warm in his memory, while Jesus' rebuke was still a sting, he begins to act them out. As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, you too were with Jesus the Nazarene.
Jesus, by the way, is on trial. It's the middle of the night, eerie hours of the morning. He's at a distance.
He's beginning to weaken. His mind is playing tricks on him. And she says, you were one of them. Verse 68, can you believe this same man we've been admiring? He denied it saying, I neither know nor understand what you were talking about. And he went out into the porch. There the maid saw him and began once more to say to the bystanders, this is one of them.
I tell you, this is one of those 12. She was saying it to the group and he heard it. And again, he was denying it. And after a little while, the bystanders were again saying to Peter, surely you are one of them for you are a Galilean too.
He's now in Judea. They could spot that Galilean slang. They could catch that dialect. It's like a fellow from Alabama trying to hide his accent when he's in New York.
It stands out. You're a Galilean. You talk like one of those Galileans. And he began to curse and swear. Now, whether it means he uses profanity or whether he said, I swear before the gods of heaven or just took an oath that he was telling the truth. I don't know.
No one knows. But he placed himself under a curse, as it were, and said, I do not know this fellow you were talking about. And now it's so clear the third time, immediately a cock crowed a second time. And he remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him before a cock crows twice.
You will deny me three times. He began to weep. When that kind of tragedy occurs in your life, you pick up the false notion that you are through forever, don't you? Perhaps there's no one here that has done that exact same thing. But in other ways, you have denied our Lord in some action, some series of words, a lifestyle that has gone on in your past, the loss of a testimony with a place you worked or with a family you were once a part of or a neighborhood or a club or an organization or a church. You've wept about it. And the feeling is there can never again be a place for you in light of your denial. You think that.
No way. The good news is that there can be. That's the grace of the gospel. This is a great start to our classic teaching series from Chuck Swindoll, called Hope Again. If you'd like to learn more about this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org.
Insight for Living has prepared a number of resources designed to help you learn more on this topic. For instance, Chuck wrote a book that complements his teaching series. It's called Clinging to Hope, and it's available right now when your world gets rocked by calamity. And when the people around you are second guessing God's role in it, it's tempting to sink into despair. In his book, Chuck will remind you that our God is not surprised by the chaos of our times.
God is sovereign and he's in complete control. Again, Chuck's book is called Clinging to Hope. And you can purchase a copy right now by going to insight.org slash hope or call us.
If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. When you also include a donation to support the Ministry of Insight for Living, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're helping people around the world as well. I saw this note that said, Dear Pastor Chuck, for 25 years, your daily radio messages have been a great blessing to my spiritual growth as a Christian and as a young seminarian. And today, as a pastor, your online daily devotional has been a great blessing, inspiration, and encouragement to me and my family.
We use it every morning for our family devotion. And this pastor wrote to Chuck from Nigeria, Africa. It's your gifts that allow us to reach pastors like this one. Thanks so much for giving generously toward the ambitious goal of reaching all 195 countries of the world. A mission that we're calling Vision 195. To give a donation today, call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888.
Or you can give online at insight.org slash donate. Treat yourself to a vacation you'll never forget. On the Insight for Living Ministries cruise to the great frontier with Chuck Swindoll. Honestly, I had no idea that a cruise to Alaska could be so much fun. And without a doubt, the stunning views took my breath away. God's artistic genius is on full display in Alaska.
In fact, I guarantee this. You'll come home refreshed and filled with awe for his majestic creation. Yeah, at one point, our ship was getting chased by dolphins.
They were playing and spinning in the waves. It was amazing. You'll have plenty of time for adventures on shore, lingering conversations around mealtime, and strolling through the idyllic ports of call. You'll be a part of some of the best parts of our day, laughing, singing, and celebrating our God. Plan to come with us, won't you? The dates are July 1st through July 8th, 2023. To learn more, call 1-888-447-0444. That's 1-888-447-0444. Or visit insight.org slash events.
The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer, inviting you to join us again next time when Chuck Swindoll continues to present his classic series called Hope Again on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Hope Beyond Failure, The Broken Man Behind the Book, was copyrighted in 1988, 1990, 1996, 2005, and 2010. And the sound recording was copyrighted in 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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