"Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither thou goest thou?  Jesus answered him, 'Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.' Peter said unto him, 'Lord, why cannot I follow thee now?  I will lay down my life for thy sake.' And the Lord said, '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.'" 

This passage, found in the Gospel According to St. John, chapter 13, verses 31-37, articulates one of the most profound truths of Christianity - brokenness precedes true conversion...

Simon Peter's claims of loyalty and unconditional faithfulness are not sincere.  This is not due to bad faith on the part of the disciple.  Rather, it expresses - in a raw and sobering fashion - how truly the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  No matter how "honest" are we about following Christ in our minds, its only when we have a broken heart & spirit that we are genuinely ready to receive Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.  In our minds, we may intellectualize, process, rationally address our faith position and exact the words which we will use to articulate our faith.  But the heart is not affected.  We are safe from pain.  And it is pain that brings us to God.  Pain in any expression - emotional, physical, mental and spiritual... in whatever way we experience pain, in the midst of suffering (illness, coming to terms with things about ourselves that are hurtful and/or destructive, life experiences that cause shame, guilt, etc.) we are ready to be converted, to die and transition from our old self, to the new creation that we become in Christ Jesus.           

Left to our devices, we can do a rather convincing job of persuading ourselves of our commitment to follow Christ - no matter what...  However, it is only when we have a broken heart, when the circumstances of our "controlled" environment crumbles before us, when our lives run through our hands like sand, that we are brazenly aware of our inability to cope, control our lives or convince ourselves any longer that we are in fact, faithful steward of the Christian faith.  It is when we are finally naked before God, that we are ready to be clothed in His glory and suited with the armor of faith.

Peter wasn't ready to lead - as a Christian, that is.  You see, we can be ready to lead as humans, but that doesn't mean we're ready to lead as a Christian.  Peter's methods of handling crisis, worry and fear was with the "way the world does it,." ... and Satan was all over it.  Ultimately, Peter's ways included denial of his friend, Jesus, to avoid pain and suffering and because of fear; the use of a weapon and to explode in anger against the things he didn't like or understand.  After Peter denied Jesus, he was broken and he saw himself for what he truly was - lost, ashamed and a failure.  Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches, cut of the vine, we can do nothing.  It was only when Peter acknowledge his brokenness that he was humbled - now he was ready to be used by God.

Christian leadership is not a business model of success, it is a lifelong commitment to suffering & healing.  Peter wanted to protect Jesus from the world, Jesus calls us to serve the world in the midst of the good, the bad and the ugly.  We are not shield the Church from pain, but rather open our arms to pain and see how it is transformed into the perfected proclamation of glory and life. 

Only then are we ready to strengthen the Church.  Only after we have been broken, tragically used by Satan and willing to accept in humble acknowledgment how our lives are nothing without Christ, that we are prepared for service in the Kingdom of God.  Only then are we able to love, for we have seen how God's love and provisions have healed us and made us new.  Only then are we able to serve as effective witnesses as we ourselves are living proof of God's grace and mercy.  Only then are we able to recognize that we have nothing to boast about as we, too, were so lost, broken and sifted (used, harassed, attacked, beaten down, deceived, taken through shameful experiences, taken to the point of full and utter destruction, etc.) by Satan.

God allows our pilgrimage to be one of extended walks in the valley of the shadow of death (emotional, mental, physical and spiritual) so that we may find life in Him alone.  Only when we have His breath in us are we ready to lead the dead in Christ in the land of the living with God. 

And that is true conversion....

Pastor Daniel


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