Not a One Time Encounter: Christian Life is a Journey

“Are you afraid about what they are going to say?”

 

Pastor Darren took us back to the last scene in 8 Mile when Eminem and Papa Doc are in the championship rap battle.

 

Eminem goes first and instead of rapping about how great he is, he exposes his weaknesses to his opponents. He reveals everything Papa Doc can say against him. He raps about living in a trailer with his mom, being white, being broke, getting beat up, and having his girlfriend cheat on him.

 

Papa Doc is left with nothing to say back. By exposing his weaknesses, Eminem took the power away from Papa Doc to use his pain and shame against him.

 

Our spiritual journey is the same.

 

“When we expose our weaknesses, we disarm the accuser,” Pastor Darren said.

 

We hide our pain because we are scared of being judged and shamed. We think speaking our pain out loud will only make it worse. When really, by speaking our pain out loud, it loses its power over us. We realize we aren’t the only one who has had an abortion, divorce, or  addiction. We aren’t bad for doubting, denying, or going back on our word. We aren’t less lovable because we’ve been orphaned, rejected, or raped.

 

On Sunday, Pastor Darren took us through the life of Peter to get a glimpse of the Christian life as a journey and to show us that no matter where we are on that journey, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

 

He begins in Acts, Chapter 3, Peter’s most heroic moment .

 

Here, Peter does the work of Jesus and heals a man who was lame. But not only does he perform a miracle, he stands up for Jesus in the same court that crucified him, an act that ultimately led to Peter’s own crucifixion.

 

Acts 4: Then filled with the Holy Spirit, he defends the man by stating, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”  When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

 

If we isolated this passage alone, Peter would hardly be ordinary.He would be the most perfect follower to ever exist. He gave his life for Jesus to be glorified, literally. He stood up to the most powerful people in the country, endured terrible suffering, and even made sure that he was crucified upside down as a sign that he wasn’t worthy to die in the same way Jesus did.

 

However, this is not the whole story.

 

So often, we look at our own journey and zoom into one isolated moment rather than seeing the whole picture. Pastor Darren emphasized this with Malcom Gladwell’s 10,00 hour rule: it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become world class in any field.

 

This passage in Acts is the end of Peter’s 10, 000 hours worth of being with Jesus, becoming like Jesus, and doing what Jesus did. Not the beginning.

 

But how did Peter get there?

 

Jesus first encounters Peter at the Sea of Galilee while fishing with his brother, Andrew.

Matthew 4: And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Immediately they left their nets and followed him.’

 

Peter dropping his net is symbolic. He is willing to let go of his identity as a fisherman to embrace the mystery of Jesus. We also learn Peter’s character qualities. He is not the type to think before he acts: he is impulsive and all in. Just like many of us.

 

Peter does not know the outcome of his life. He doesn’t even know if Jesus is the messiah yet. However, he is willing to step out in faith and reorder his life around Jesus because he’s been extended an opportunity of a lifetime- to learn from a rabbi.

 

Similarly, we’ve been extended the opportunity of a lifetime- to bring Heaven down to Earth through Jesus. This too requires putting him at the center of our lives and identities.

 

Peter’s journey has highs and lows, just like ours.  One of his highs is where Jesus affirms him and tell him he’s heard the voice of God and that Jesus is indeed the messiah. Matthew 16: Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.

 

But before you know it, he has a low, where Jesus rebukes him later in Matthew 16 saying, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."

 

Pastor Darren emphasized how human Peter was saying the right thing one moment and the wrong thing the next.

 

The lowest low however was when Peter denies Jesus three times after promising Jesus he won’t fail him. Mark 14: And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”And he went out and wept bitterly.

 

Peter’s journey could have ended there.

 

Because for many of us,  it does. We do the one thing we said we’d never do, even when warned. We eat from the tree of knowledge. We get schmoozed by the serpent. We betray our Jesus and deny His way of life in favor of our own.

 

The enemy wants us to believe our failure is final. But Peter is proof that it’s not. Peter’s journey continued because Jesus uses Peter despite his imperfections.

 

Jesus chose an imperfect follower because of His perfect love. Just like Jesus chose us. When Jesus returns from the dead, he asks Peter one question: “Do you love me?”  And Peter is gently restored.

 

Peters biggest pain and failure (denying Jesus) became his biggest passion (glorifying him). Similarly, God can use your pain as a platform to launch you into your greatest passion and to minister to others.

 

“Your pain can become a tool for hope and glory for others,” said Pastor Darren.

 

The commitment to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did, is no easy feat. From the minute we make the decision to become disciples, the enemy wants us to turn back- to give up, and believe that we can never truly hold our head up high as beloved children of God.

 

But we can be encouraged by the journey of Peter and the words of Pastor Darren knowing that the spiritual journey has many stages and that even in our most broken moments, God is using all things for the good.

Listen to last week's sermon, and others on our Teaching Page.