Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
18 October 2020
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
Whilst driving to Bethel on Monday morning I said to the Lord, “Lord, You have to speak to me about Bethel.” I was feeling a bit discouraged at the time and I really needed to hear from God. Upon arriving at Bethel I went for a time of prayer. As I was walking round the church praying, I was wondering when the Lord would speak to me.
After about 45 minutes I remembered that Lisa had enquired the previous morning about the possibility of the worship group singing maybe one song in the Sunday morning service next week (for the first time in nearly 7 months!). The song that came into my heart was “Jesus Christ I think upon your sacrifice” so I switched the keyboards on and went to get the music and there was an open file sitting there with children’s colouring sheets in. It was open, showing a little boy holding his hands up in praise to the Lord and these words above him: “For I know the plans I have for you” (Jeremiah 29:11). These words went like an arrow to my heart and I knew God had spoken to me – He had brought these words to me yet again about Bethel: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Sometimes we forget the word the Lord has already given us and we need to be reminded of it and the fact that the Lord never changes His mind about what He has already promised: “God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He promised, and will He not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19). Thank You Lord!
Reading: Matthew 26:69-75
Text: “he went outside and wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:75)
We are continuing to look at ‘Bruised Reeds and Smouldering Wicks’ (Matthew 12:20) by studying Matthew’s account of Peter denying Jesus three times and of him weeping bitterly as a result. There is some helpful background information, just prior to this incident, given by Jesus as He spoke to those who arrested Him: “Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53).
Remember how Jesus had told Simon Peter, not only that he would deny Him three times before the cocked crowed (Luke 22:34; see Matt. 26:31-35), but also that Satan had asked to sift you as wheat (Luke 22:31). The word for “you” here is in the plural in the Greek. So Jesus is telling Peter that the devil has requested to sift all the disciples as wheat. It is clear, even then, that Jesus regards Peter as the future leader amongst them because in the next verse the “you” is singular, obviously referring to Simon Peter himself: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).
This is very interesting – Jesus has told Peter that Satan has requested to sift all the disciples as wheat, but He has prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail (meaning “to disappear”; “drain away to nothing” – Nolland). And when Peter has turned back from his failure, he must strengthen his brothers.
This turning back refers to returning back to faithfulness …. Peter’s failure will be a failure of nerve, not a heart denial of Jesus.
Such is reminiscent of how Satan was allowed to attack Job within God’s defined boundaries (see Job 1:6-22; 2:1-10).
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
C. S. Lewis – “The Screwtape Letters”
Why did Jesus allow Peter and the other disciples to be sifted by Satan? Prior to this Peter was overconfident in his own abilities and regarding his commitment to Jesus. He had a reality check, a rude awakening. But such was good for him spiritually speaking because he came out stronger.
(1) He was humbled through it
He came to realise his weakness and his need for Jesus, that he too, was a ‘bruised reed and a smouldering wick.’ The word for “wept” here is the same as is frequently used for weeping over the death of a loved one were intense emotion is expressed. His was
“a long-continued grief, following upon shattering self-discovery”
C. S. Mann
“Peter’s bold denials give way to remorse as he realises that he has fallen into precisely the trap of which Jesus had warned him”
R. T. France
“Peter goes out and weeps as only he can weep: bitterly, profusely, sorrowfully, his heart being filled with genuine regret for what he had done”
“His sin of denial crushed his spirit”
And for sure it finally hurt Peter to think of how he had hurt his friend Jesus – cf.
If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshippers.Psalm 55:12-14
Peter’s was a true sorrow, a man who was completely humbled from the one who had arrogantly boasted: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matt. 26:33) and thought he knew better than Jesus:
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you”.Matt. 26:34-35
Like all of us Peter has fallen far short of the glory of God (cf. Rom. 3:23). If this was where the story ends it would be a very sad state of affairs but Jesus comes again to the ‘bruised reeds and smouldering wicks’ (Thanks be to God!) and this is the essence of the Gospel, it’s Good-News, not ‘Sad-News’ or ‘Bad-News’. Paul himself, experienced the same thing and wrote:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.2 Cor. 7:10
Peter was humbled to the dust, so to speak, and in that he repented, such led to his salvation.
The crowing of a cock is to Peter, instead of a John the Baptist, the voice of one calling to repentance … Some of the ancients say that as long as Peter lived, he never heard a cock crow but it set him a weeping.
An unbroken Peter would have been an unbearable Peter. But this breakdown taught Peter, at last, his utter vacuity and his absolute powerlessness in his own case. Peter’s denials and his subsequent breakdown may have been (after meeting Jesus Himself) the best things that ever happened to Peter.
(2) His faith was refined through it
When we read through Peter’s letters, 1 and 2 Peter (both written before AD 65 when Peter was martyred by Emperor Nero) we start to see the great emphasis he placed on faith and having our faith refined through trial and tribulation:
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proof and genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:6-9
Paul speaks of taking up “the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16) and Peter likens faith to God’s power shielding the believer:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.1 Peter 1:3-5
God intends to bring the Bride of Christ, His Church, to perfection through the refining of our faith:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.1 Peter 4:12-13
The essence of our Christian faith is to take up our cross and follow Jesus, or to put it in the words of John the Baptist:
I must decrease and He must increase.John 3:30
Following this experience, there was much less of Peter in Peter and, especially following his reinstatement, there was so much more of Jesus in Peter!
(3) He was now able to teach others
Who are the best teachers of truth and of the faith, but those who have lived through it, who have experienced it, who have come through it on the other side. Peter was an esteemed teacher of God’s truths, judging by the letters he wrote and of course he was the authority behind the Gospel of Mark:
Mark was Peter’s younger associate who recorded accurately all of Peter’s various teachings about Jesus and compiled them into a single work.
We see his experience here, when he wept bitterly having failed when sifted by Satan, coming out in his later writings:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.1 Peter 5:8-9
And he could also write about the restoration (to being much weaker persons in ourselves but stronger persons in Him) that will come after we have been tested in the trials of life:
And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever, Amen.1 Peter 5:10-11
To think he went from weakly denying Jesus 3 times, even to a lowly servant girl, to dying for Jesus. Tradition has it that he requested to be crucified upside down stating that he was not worthy to be crucified the same way as his Lord, Saviour and Friend Jesus Christ. Such is the Lord’s thorough preparation of His people:
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.Rev. 2:10
And how Peter would have been able to encourage those with his doctrine of a second (and 3rd and 4th etc,) chance with Jesus, especially to those, who later on, amidst terrible persecution by Emperor Nero, denounced their faith in Jesus in order to save their lives. Peter was in a good place to help them believe that Jesus would still forgive them and take the ‘bruised reeds and smouldering wicks’ and use them for His glory, Amen!
Quote of the Week
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
C. S. Lewis – Mere Christianity
Verse of the Week
For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.Colossians 1:13
Heavenly Father, we thank You that You are faithful and that You have begun a good work in Your people, Your Church, and will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. Father, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. Lord continue to refine the faith of Your people that we might be strong in You and weak in ourselves, that our hearts desire will be for You to continually increase in our lives and for ourselves to decrease. Lord that we Your Church will continue to take up our crosses and follow You all the days of our life here on earth.
Help us to continually humble ourselves under Your mighty hand that You may lift us up in due time. Lord that we might be alert and of sober mind aware that the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Help us to resist him standing firm in the faith. We pray this for all Your people throughout the world.
Finally, Lord, help us Your Church to be strong in You and in Your mighty power and to put on the full armour of God to continually hold firmly to the faith we profess and fix our eyes on Jesus the author and Perfecter of our faith, the One who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, Amen.