Thursday, May 18, 2017

To live boldly

I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Peter was always a bit impulsive, always a bit of a leader...ready to jump up and follow a stranger, to go fishing, to chase after Jesus even when darkness ruled and he was terrified and everything pointed to his Leader dying and any who tried to defend him dying with Him, and that Leader had already refused the only help Peter knew how to give -- even then he followed, though he could not go all the way.

In that horrendous moment of realization and the wretched time that came after, in his repentance and his sorrow, Peter was purged. The fear the world had ingrained in him suddenly could not matter so much. Some forty days later at the beginning of Acts, Peter, having seen his Risen Lord and been charged to feed the sheep, does exactly that. He is the one to rise to speak, he is the one to explain to everyone what God hath wrought. He's also the one to speak to the lame man, and to again give a solid Repent-and-Live sermon. He's the one to respond to the High Priests when the disciples are hauled in for questioning. He's the second disciple Herod arrests -- clearly a recognized leader by that point. 

In Acts 10, God shows him the equality of the human race, and Peter, shocked though he seems, appears to understand and take the lesson to heart -- in the very next chapter he defends his position and clearly explains what he has learned. In Acts 15, Peter reaffirms what he has learned, and stands with Paul in refusing to force Gentile believers to be circumcised. 

And yet.

Paul mentions the meeting with Peter in his letter to the Galatians, and then states:
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision...But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Peter knew this. He'd heard it straight from the mouth of God along with a heavenly vision. He was the one who'd first convinced everyone else.
So why did he need Paul, of all people, to remind him?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 
As a child, Peter was one of my least favorite disciples. He said stupid things. He was always getting in trouble. He was irritating. Give me a Daniel or a Joseph, the former of whose enemies couldn't find a single fault with and even with the latter the worst than could be said of him was that he was a little too aware of how special he was. (For which you can scarcely blame him, considering how and by whom he was raised.) Growing up and realizing as I stumbled along the way how little like Daniel I was...Peter started looking a lot more interesting. 

My underlying personality is nothing like Peter's. I'm an INFP - a peace-maker with a rock-solid dedication to truth at my core. But, like Peter, being born into a fallen world changed a few things. I abhor conflict and am a people-pleaser and forget oh, so often, truths that God has already taught me. Peter, who spent ~3 years living with the Son of God and the rest of his life serving Him, forgot things that had been shouted at him three times out of heaven. No matter how frustrated I get with myself that didn't God teach this to you two years ago? WHY ARE YOU NEEDING TO HEAR IT AGAIN?!? ...this appears to be a function of living on this earth. The theory of "sin bents" and "besetting sins" and things written into our DNA that mean certain sins will tempt us more than they tempt others makes sense to me. 

This doesn't mean we get a free pass to shrug and move on. This means we pay attention when God teaches us something...and we tell everyone around us and we surround ourselves with people who, like Paul, are willing to call us out on any stupidity or sin into which we might fall. It might be different parts of the same core issue tripping us up in different ways (the fear of man caught Peter both times, though one led to denying fellowship with Christ and the other led to him denying friendship with His followers), and no matter the specific incident, that core issue might take a dozen calling-outs before we fully understand how to deal with we had better use each of those calling-outs to learn as fully as we possibly can what we need to change in our life, and what lesson we need to write on our hearts.

 In calling me and saving me, Jesus Christ has begun a good work in me which He continues to perfect - He is daily making me more like Himself, more into the person I was originally meant to be. The fact that I am not that person yet is in no way a failure of His, and it is no license for me to give up the fight. We have been redeemed by Love and created by a Master Craftsman. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime, even for the Apostle Peter. 

 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

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