Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The change in Peter from fisherman to fearless preacher is a testimony to the power of God to remake a man. We too can run life's race to please Jesus.
We can be endued with power from on high. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. The master artist is nearly finished remaking Peter, a man chiseled by the master's hand. Pastor Lutzer, the difference between the raw material and the finished product is startling, as we'll see in today's message on The New Peter.
David is startling, and I think it's always that way. But the good news is that that's exactly what God can do in our lives. He can begin with little. He can begin with those who perhaps have very little courage, very little talent, and can use them mightily. That's the great hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ once we accept him.
And you know, this ministry of Running to Win touches the lives of thousands upon thousands, and it's because of people like you. Right now, we're in the middle of a matching gift challenge. Whatever you give to this ministry will be doubled. Here's what you do.
Go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Of course, I'm going to be giving you this contact info after the message as well. For now, let us listen to God's word. Well, let me begin with a question. Can people really change?
Can they or can't they? Are we all stuck with the personality that we have been given? If we were born rude and uncaring and hard-hearted and insensitive, do we have to stay that way? Or does God like to remold human character? I know, of course, that the Lord has given us a certain amount of raw material, and he just works with that raw material. But does God ever get inside of us and change our motivations, our attitudes, so that we become different people?
The answer, of course, is yes. And if you've been with us in the last few weeks and really last few months, you may know that this is the tenth message in a series on the life of Peter. And today we come to a new chapter in Peter's life. If you were here, the first message that I preached, I pointed out that Jesus said to him, you are Simon, and you shall be called Peter or Cephas, which is a stone. Christ knows who you are, Christ knows who you can be, and he has the power to make the difference. And today we're going to see how Jesus Christ did indeed have the power to change Peter, because we're going to notice quite a difference between the Peter of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the impetuous Peter, the Peter who sometimes spoke far too soon and thought far too late and was fearful and timid and backed out when a servant girl asked him whether or not he knew Christ.
He swore, said I never heard of him. We'll see quite a transformation. If in the gospels we see Peter the cocoon, in the book of Acts we see Peter the butterfly. And by the way, if you like butterflies, you have to like cocoons. So don't be impatient with people just because they may be in that cocooning stage. God is at work. Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2 is a chapter of controversy because after all we have speaking in tongues in this chapter. And yesterday afternoon I was thinking about this passage and reminding myself that maybe at some point I should speak once again on tongues.
I did that way back in 1979 when I was here as an intern. And if I asked you to raise your hand if you were here at that time, few of you would. And if I asked if you remembered the sermon, well I'm sure that no one would raise his hands, myself included. But it is true that I did at that time preach on tongues. First a couple of comments, and that is that the gift of tongues is controversial to be sure, but let us remember that it was basically a sign, it was a sign to the nation Israel that God was turning to the Gentiles. That's the way in which the apostle Paul interprets it in 1 Corinthians 14, 21, and 22. It is basically a sign fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy that God would no longer just speak to the people in Hebrew, but in the diverse guttural sounds of Gentiles. That's why all speaking in tongues, if it is of God, is always an actual language that exists. Notice in chapter 2 it lists them. It says in verse 8, and how is it that we hear each of them in our own language to which we were born?
And then two or three verses are given in which all the diverse languages spoken are actually listed. For our purposes today, I'm more interested in the transformation of Peter's life than the particular gifts that he may have had. Remember that approximately 50 days had gone by since Jesus Christ's resurrection, and then of course Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, and then 10 days, let me get this straight, 40 days between Christ's resurrection and his ascension, and then an additional 10 days in the upper room of seeking God. So we have a total of 50 days from the time of the resurrection to the experience of Acts chapter 2.
What a transformation during that 50-day period. Yes, undoubtedly seeking God in the upper room had something to do with it, but what I'd like to do today is to give you some contrasts between the old Peter, the Peter of the gospels who was a converted man but still had many of his fears and his old nature intact, and the new Peter who seems to come out of the experience as one who is strong and bold and full of faith. First contrast, we see Peter moved from confusion to understanding, from confusion to understanding.
What do I mean? You remember the 16th chapter of Matthew? Jesus Christ said, I'm going to die in Jerusalem, and Peter said, no way, Lord, you're not going to do that. Now remember that when Peter said that, in effect if Christ had obeyed his suggestion, Peter himself would not have been redeemed but would have died an unbeliever and gone to hell.
Why do I say that? Because the cross was absolutely necessary for Peter's salvation as well as ours. What a different Peter we have here. Whereas in the gospels he understood some things clearly but also was confused about such basic issues of the cross, Peter finally has it all together. We don't have time to read his first sermon nor the second. I hope that this afternoon you take out time to read chapters two, three, and four of Acts because we can only refer to a few of the verses. But notice in verse 14 of chapter two he begins that sermon. It goes on for 22 verses.
Twelve of those verses are quotations from the Old Testament. Peter finally understood the scriptures and he also understood the purpose of God. He says in verse 22, men of Israel listen to these words, Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know. This man delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put him to death.
Peter now understands that the cross was part of God's predetermined purpose. The things that were so unclear in the gospels now suddenly fall into place for him. Notice that the filling of the spirit which he received, the filling of the spirit enlightened his mind from confusion to understanding. Now we know that Satan also has a counterfeit enlightenment of the mind. If you're into the New Age movement at all, you know that there's an esoteric experience.
Esotericism has to do with the hidden knowledge, the belief that somehow we can go within ourselves and have a mystical experience that will give us enlightenment so that we belong to the initiated. I want you to know that that is Satan's counterfeit. The experience that Peter had and the experience that we have is distinct because it is always based on a better, clearer understanding of the scriptures that have been written by God through men. So Peter here knows something and understands something he didn't before.
Why? Because Jesus said in the upper room that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of enlightenment. He said the spirit will guide you into all truth.
He is the spirit of revelation, of wisdom, of knowledge. You show me someone who is filled with the spirit and I'll show you someone who has spiritual understanding. Have you ever tried to lead somebody to Christ and they don't understand it even after you've made it clear? They keep stumbling over the business of works versus faith and you think to yourself, how could I have said it more clearly? There's a spiritual blockage there. That's why the Bible talks about the need for the Holy Spirit to grant enlightenment and grant that the knowledge of the truth be ignited in the heart by God, virtually by nature.
We're blinded and we just don't see it. So the first change that we notice is confusion to understanding. There's a second contrast and that is fear, fear to confidence.
Oh, I wish that we had time to read all these passages. Remember Peter last week we noticed how afraid he was when he was asked, do you belong to Jesus? And he said no to a servant girl because he feared persecution. He really feared that if he came out with the truth that he might be identified and also put to death and consequently he wanted to distance himself from the Savior whom he loved, just as we often do by our inability to share Christ with people whom we love because we feel awkward and we find it difficult to be identified with him.
What a different Peter is on these pages. Look at the boldness with which he spoke. Chapter 2 verse 14, Peter taking his stand with the eleven raised his voice and declared to them and the things that he said to them he accused them of crucifying Christ.
Though he knew that that was dangerous business, he now understood that there was no chance that he would die until his work was done. He understood that God's purposes overrode the actions and the desires and the plans of wicked men. Look at his boldness in chapter 3 where he preaches another sermon. He says in verse 14, clearly you disowned the holy and the righteous one and asked for a murderer to be granted to you.
You put to death the prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And he goes on to tell them that they had better repent. What a change. What a change. Here is someone who is fearful, timid to someone who is bold who in effect said come and get me if you want to.
I'm going to show you the truth no matter what. Don't you wish that we had some of his boldness? I know that the New King James Version frequently translates the word boldness. It says when they saw the boldness of Peter and the apostles. My translation says confidence. If in the first instance the Holy Spirit of God enlightened his mind, here in this second instance we can see the work of the Spirit in his emotions as he moves from fear to faith or confidence. Why this bold transformation? Peter was no better than we are. Same fears, same rationalizations.
Why the change? I'm going to ask you to take your Bibles and turn to the 14th chapter of John just for a moment where Jesus was telling the disciples about the descent of the Spirit and the coming of the Holy Spirit. And I want you to see what Jesus said about the Spirit's coming. Chapter 14 of John, verse 16.
He says, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever. That is the Holy Spirit. That is the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive because it does not know him or behold him, but you know him because he abides with you.
It's a good definition of the way the Spirit operated in the Old Testament. He is with you, Jesus said, but he shall be in you. I will not leave you as orphans.
I will come to you. Verse 16, I will give you another Helper. Now, in Greek there are two different words for another. One means similar. For example, I have a pen in my pocket and this happens to be the kind of pens I really love.
I buy them in packages of three or six or I buy a dozen if they sold them that way. It says Onyx, a micro Japan. I hate to confess that but I'm just reading it the way I see it here. Some of you will write me letters and tell me to become more American but I just happen to like these Japanese pens. Now let's suppose I was to take a pen from you and say I'm going to give you another one. In English it could be a ballpoint pen. It could be some other kind of a pen, a different brand.
But if I said I'm going to give you a pen that is identical to the one I took from you then it has to be one of these pens made in Japan. Now my friend today when Jesus used the word another that's the word he used. What he said was I am going to go to heaven and I am going to send you a helper who is identical to me.
He is just like I am. That's who the Holy Spirit is. We say to ourselves oh I wish that I had lived there during the days of Jesus Christ. I wish that I could say I walked where Jesus walked. I would be so bold if I were there on the Sea of Galilee with him.
Would you? When Christ was here on earth Peter was denying him. When he was crucified the disciples forsook him and fled. Do you know what Jesus is saying? It is good for you he said to the disciples that I go away because if I go away I'm going to send you a helper that is going to be in you and stand with you no matter where my believers go.
You think about this. Christ in the flesh could be with only one person. If he was in Galilee he could not be at the Jordan River near the Dead Sea. He could be only at one place in one time as a body localized and by the way that body is in heaven today seated at the right hand of God the Father because what happened at Bethlehem has never yet been undone and never will. But Christ said when I go to heaven I'm going to send the Holy Spirit who is going to be not only with you but in you and to stand by you so I am going to be near to every single one of my people just in the same way that I was near to the disciples when they were on earth.
I'm going to send you a comforter who is identical to the way I am. And that's why the Spirit was given. The Spirit was given to take the place of the physical presence of Christ on earth. That's why he could not be poured out until Christ went to heaven and because of that you and I have the ability to be able to draw on resources given to us as believers by God knowing that we will never face a single situation alone.
He said I'm not going to leave you orphans. I'm going to come to you and I'm going to stand with you. Do you understand now the transformation of Peter? You see before that time filled with timidity filled with fear and suddenly now speaking in boldness because if I may say it very clearly God is standing with him. And tomorrow morning when you go into the workplace God accompanies you and stands with you.
And he sits where you sit and he talks through you as you yield to him and he is with you in that delicate negotiation and his presence is ever so near that you can't be in a single place in all the world without taking Christ with you at your side. And my friend today what excites me is that this message of hope and redemption gets to so many people through the ministry of running to win. I'm holding in my hand a letter from someone who says that they thank God for our ministry. It's a powerful instrument to save and evangelize people who are lost living without God and without hope. I'm sharing your program to reach the hearts of many people because your messages are full of life and hope. Well that's what we're about and you my friend are a part of our ministry. I like to think of those who support this ministry as part of the running to win family and this is a very special time when we are having our matching gift opportunity if I might put it that way because here's what's happened some of our friends have said that they are willing to match whatever is given to the ministry of running to win up to $90,000.
Would you be a part of that match doubling your gift maximizing it? Here's what you can do go to rtwoffer.com that's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337 do it right away go to rtwoffer.com of course rtwoffer is all one word rtwoffer.com call us 1-888-218-9337 Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question you may have about the Bible or the Christian life. Issues of marriage have prompted a listener named Charles to email us these questions Dr. Lutzer. He asks after divorce is remarriage allowed and what place do the remarried have in the church? Does it matter if they come to Christ after their divorce rather than if they had been divorced as Christians and can they be restored to fellowship?
Well thanks so much for your email Charles and of course you're asking some very very interesting and far-flung questions but very simply I'm going to begin with your middle question. No it really doesn't make any difference whether you accepted Jesus Christ or not in relation to the marriage bond. You know the question of whether or not the bond is broken I don't think has a whole lot to do with whether or not you were a Christian when you married or whether you became a Christian afterwards. In answer to your other question is divorce allowed? Well I believe it is under certain conditions certainly when there has been prolonged adultery and when one partner remarries I think the other is free to remarry but you'd better check with your pastor because not everybody is agreed on that. But finally you ask the question can somebody who is divorced or has been divorced can they be restored to fellowship?
Yes of course they can be. Forgiveness is available for divorce as it is for other sins but we have to distinguish here between fellowship and also the question of ministry because while you may be restored to ministry you may not be able to have certain functions or roles within the church. For example here at the Moody Church we have an informal rule that someone who's been divorced can't be on the elder board.
Other churches have different policies so you have to stick with that church but always remember that yes God is a God of new beginnings and so if you're the one to whom this question applies what you need to do is to assess the past receive forgiveness in those areas where forgiveness is needed and move on. You can write to us at Running to Win 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard Chicago Illinois 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Weary runners welcome a second wind, a source of fresh power. For believers that second wind is the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter felt the rush of that spiritual wind remake him from the inside out and no one close to him could miss the change. Next time on Running to Win tune in for more about getting a spiritual second wind. Thanks for listening for Dr. Erwin Lutzer this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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