February 25, 2018 Sermon Reflections: Simon Peter
When our past pain becomes our present identity, the shame cycle has claimed yet another victim.
Like a child who repeatedly picks at a scab, many hurt people live a life of unhealed pain.
This morning we can look at Simon Peter and say, “I am glad that I am not like him,” or “I can really identify with him. As we move through the real life events of Peter with Jesus we become mindful of strong moments and very weak moments in his life. They’re all there:
• He doesn’t keep his word
• He doesn’t follow through on his commitments
• He doesn’t remain loyal
• The strong-the rock!
• The weak, “Weren’t you with Jesus?”
• The rooster
For Peter, it was a vicious cycle of shame and guilt. The realization that he had crossed the line and broken the trust of others comes to our minds and distorts our vision of who he was.. The shame and the guilt was too much for him.
Yet, we’re there too! We don’t keep our word. We don’t follow through with our commitments and we don’t remain loyal.
There are three themes we will examine this morning as we look at the life of Simon Peter as described in the New Testament. We have to find a way out, and break free from the shame we feel, and find an opportunity to change for the future.
Finding a Way Out
Please understand that there is a way out of the cycle. It is different for each person, but it is also possible for each person, by the grace of God, no matter how uniquely and irreversibly crippling that person’s shame might feel.
When we let shame control our actions, we cannot know God, because we cannot live our lives for him. Peter broke out of his prison of shame, although the struggle was long. Jesus had predicted this fisherman-turned-disciple’s betrayal, and Peter immediately and passionately denied that he’d ever turn on Jesus.
“I’ll stand faithfully by you until the end,” he insisted.
Unfortunately, real-life events soon proved Peter wrong. A rooster’s crow reminded Peter of his denial, forcing him to face his crushing triple failure. Yet Peter refused to believe the lie that his betrayal now branded him a traitor. Broken and repentant, Peter cried out to God for forgiveness. After His resurrection, Jesus honored Peter’s desperate plea. Jesus’ forgiveness and restoration gave Peter a renewed passion, and the courage to preach a daring message at Pentecost and become one of the fathers of the Christian church.
His failure — transformed from tragedy into triumph through Peter’s repentance and God’s forgiveness — became a character-building lesson that led the way to kingdom victory. He found a way out! We see many examples in the Bible where God makes a way out! See how God is glorified in the middle of what seems impossible!
Breaking Free of Shame
Like Peter, we can break free from the cycle of shame. We live lives of private defeat. Max Lucado writes in his book, Six Hours one Friday, “Sleep for many, is not a robber but a refuge, it is eight hours of relief for our wounded souls.” But God wants to renew our hearts and minds and to send us into His world as lights shining in the darkness. Like Peter, we can become convinced of the truth: namely, that we are not our sins. And we’re also not what others have done to us.
Rather, we are who God says we are: His children. We are forgivable. We are changeable. We are capable. We are moldable. And we are bound by the limitless love of God.
The first step to overcoming shame is to accept that which cannot be changed.
In the Old Testament, King David seduced his friend’s wife, impregnated her, and used his power to ensure that his friend was killed in battle. A trusted confidante named Nathan later confronted David about his sin. David must have felt he had every reason to listen to the lies of shame. But instead of giving in to a lifelong spin cycle, he brought his past into the open, hoping to find a way forward. Psalm 51 records the beautiful repentance of a fallen king:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. — Psalm 51:1-2, Psalm 51:10-12
David didn’t try to pretend he was innocent — he was honest. But neither did he allow the guilt trap to rob him — or God — of the joy of a life redeemed and restored. He knew he couldn’t change the past, but he hoped he could change the future.
When we hope in what God has promised — commanded — our hope is the same as certainty.
For many, it is difficult to accept that the past has passed. Sometimes, it’s so hard just to leave it there, where it belongs. But until we do, we cannot make peace with the present or walk into the future with hope.
Changing Your Future
Once we accept the unchangeable past, we must embrace that God can change our future.
While we may always remember what happened, we need to believe that we are not what happened. We are who God says we are — new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we reject what our shame says about us, we can finally hear what God says about us. He is working in all things to bring about good in our lives because we love God and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28).
Even though Rebecca, a faithful volunteer at her church and the mother of two children, seemed happy, she guarded a dark secret. For years, Rebecca would eat whatever her heart desired, only to secretly retreat to a restroom and regurgitate her meal. Ashamed of her struggles, she somehow managed to keep this sickness hidden from everyone.
February 25, 2018 Sermon Reflections: Simon Peter