Peter's credentials were lacking and his shortcomings were plentiful. Yet, in spite of his failures and inabilities, Jesus masterfully trained and refashioned him into an influential man of God.
Grow in the Grace probes biblical passages of Jesus' interactions with Peter to reveal spiritual growth lessons that can transform your personal walk with Christ. Each chapter discusses key points that will inspire, challenge, and guide you into richer fellowship with Christ. As you embrace and apply principles you'll discover in these pages, you'll find yourself maturing in Christ and experiencing more of His power in your life.
You'll find scriptural truths to:
• Have absolute assurance of your eternal salvation in Christ• Grow in deeper dependence on Him• Maintain an inner peace through life's adversities• Forgive those who've hurt you• Let go of past failures and move forward in His power• Live joyfully and victoriously in Christ's freedom
The lessons Jesus taught Peter are equally applicable to you. It's not about what you are able to do; it's about what God can do through you. Are you ready?
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Where Life Really Begins
It was September 22, 2005. Rita, a massive Category 4 hurricane, was projected to make landfall on the gulf shore, south of our Louisiana home. The days beforehand had been days full of anxiety as my wife Denise and I kept track of the hurricane's path. As it continued to make its way landward, we fluctuated over whether to stay at our house or to evacuate.
A decision to evacuate would seem easy to those removed from the situation, or to those who've been through a hurricane before. But it's different when you're not removed or don't grasp the intensity of a hurricane's power.
Denise and I were apprehensive about leaving our house and belongings unguarded, so we tried to justify staying. We reasoned to ourselves that we live fifty miles inland and thought that should be far enough away from the coast. We rationalized staying at our house, by supposing we could protect it from increased damage if a window or roof were damaged during the storm. Further, most of the hotels were either closed or booked for over a hundred miles inland.
Frankly, though, a big part of our resistance was in the imposition it would cause us.
However, before Hurricane Rita made landfall, an area-wide evacuation was rightly mandated. That took away our choice to stay and removed our excuses. So, we packed our cars and headed inland, away from the storm.
To evacuate was the wise choice. It was the safe move. But it wasn't an easy decision. Beforehand, I didn't realize how destructive a hurricane could be over such a large area. Even fifty-plus miles inland, most of the houses in our neighborhood were damaged and many were completely destroyed. Two of our neighbors had trees fall on their houses. In our yard, three large trees were felled, though none hit the house.
Downed power lines, debris, and fallen trees cluttered area roads. Many sections of Southwest Louisiana were flooded. The area's drinking water was either unavailable or contaminated for days. For almost a week afterward, the closest available gasoline was a two-hour drive away. Many of the surrounding communities went without electricity for weeks. The region had been devastated.
In hindsight, the reasons Denise and I considered for "riding out the storm" were inconsequential compared to the risk of staying. The most important thing was the protection and safety of our family. Our home is not in our house, but in our family. Instead, we had a misguided resistance over material possessions and personal inconveniences. If only we had grasped the gravity of the danger.
Yet, there is a far greater decision that all men must make, with much graver ramifications than whether to stay and brave the forces of a hurricane. That is what they personally choose to do with Jesus Christ in their life!
Many resist Jesus because of pride, stubbornness, apprehensiveness, or complacency. But, in reality, they are denying what is most important by chasing illusions of what the world presents as security and success. Possessions, position, or prestige never bring the contentment of their allure beforehand. Rather in fame or obscurity, wealth or poverty, power or weakness, men inherently know there's something more — something eternal.
God created man with an awareness of needs, connection, purpose, and satisfaction that can only be found through Jesus Christ. That's why, even early in Jesus' public ministry, crowds flocked to Him.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." (Luke 5:1-5)
Early one morning while Simon (more familiarly known as Peter) was washing his fishing nets on the lake's shoreline after an unproductive night's work, Jesus approached him and asked to use his boat as a platform to speak to the gathering crowd.
Simon Peter agreed. But what Peter didn't yet understand, Jesus was far more interested in him than in his boat.
People sensed something unique and magnetic about Jesus. He taught with absolute authority, while radiating absolute love. Near Him, people felt satisfaction, fulfillment, and belonging.
Peter, in particular, was convicted that morning. A void in his innermost being became evident to him — an emptiness he realized could only be filled by what Jesus was teaching.
Unexpectedly, after speaking to the crowd, Jesus looked directly at Peter and told him to take them out to the deep water and cast the nets out.
Peter must've wondered, "Why is He asking me to go out on the lake with Him? Who am I?" Still, Peter's interest was mixed with reluctance. He and Andrew had fished throughout the night without catching anything. And, they had already began preparing their nets to be put away for the day.
It would've been understandable if Peter refused, telling Jesus that he was tired and the entire night's fishing had been futile anyway. Plus, they would have the extra work of cleaning the nets again.
Peter thought it would be a waste of time. That's obvious in his words. Still, regardless of his reservations, he did what Jesus asked him to do.
Don't we often say "no," or "not now," to Jesus simply because we are tired or unwilling? We defend our unwillingness with some seemingly acceptable excuse. But, if we're honest, it's really because it's more comfortable to stay where we're at, or continue in what we're doing, than disrupt our plans to follow when and where Jesus calls us. Nevertheless, whenever we give into our reluctances, we are rebelling against His Lordship and, ultimately, bypassing what is best for us.
Like Peter did, it's okay to share your apprehensions with the Lord. Actually, God desires for you to share your nervousness, fears, and doubts with Him. Sure, God already knows your thoughts and feelings. But sharing those with Him allows Him to draw you closer for revelation, comfort, and spiritual growth.
When we first follow Him in trust and then see His power and protection, faith is strengthened, fears are diminished, and our dependence on Him deepens. That doesn't mean the path will be easy. But there is never more contentment or comfort than following where God leads.
There is so much to experience with Jesus. When Peter obeyed by rowing out to a deep part of the lake and casting out the nets, Jesus delivered!
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people." (Luke 5:6-10)
The catch was inexplicable. It was supernatural. This was creation pointing to its Creator.
Next to the purity of the Holy One of God, Peter could only see himself as profane. Peter fell at Jesus' feet and pled, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"
At the feet of Jesus ... is this where you would expect to find someone who wanted Jesus to leave?
The words of someone outwardly refuting Jesus are sometimes a facade to hide their longing for Him. A man might say he wants nothing to do with Jesus when, in his heart, he is desperately seeking the hope found only in Christ.
Aware and ashamed of his waywardness and sin, Peter desperately sought forgiveness. He needed mercy. He was experiencing what the Psalmist proclaims, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Ps. 42:2). Repentantly, Peter called Jesus, "Lord." It was then that Peter received salvation.
Every man is created with an inner need for companionship with God. But God is holy, and man is inherently sinful. Our sin has become a humanly impenetrable barrier for any relationship with God. Therefore, Jesus, the holy Son of God became the breach between us and our heavenly Father.
Every person needs restoration in Christ. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). No one merits salvation. God's holiness and justice demands sin be punished. God's holiness won't allow Him to ignore sin, nor can His righteousness dismiss sin without requiring an acceptable accounting for it. Retribution must be paid.
"The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). God's judgment against a man's sin is absolute and inescapable. That's why Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world.
Jesus Christ "gave himself for our sins to rescue us" (Gal. 1:4). He was crucified on a cross at Calvary to take upon himself our rightful penalty for our sin. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
There is no one so vile that the blood of Jesus can't save him. There is no sin beyond what Jesus will forgive for those who receive Him by faith. God's gift of salvation is freely given to whoever calls upon Jesus under conviction, repentantly confessing their sin, and accepting Him as Savior and Lord.
Conversely, there is no hope for anyone who dies without accepting Jesus. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
According to Jesus' words, all who repent and receive Him as their Savior and Lord have eternal life! Equally, Jesus said that to reject Him as Savior is to refuse God's mercy. All who die without receiving Jesus as their personal Savior, die without hope.
It is in Jesus, and only in Jesus, that life really begins. Apart from Jesus, a man is utterly lost and without hope.
Before Hurricane Rita hit shore, I toyed with the safety of my family by trying to ignore the potential threat of a massive hurricane. Out of a foolhardy mindset of invulnerability, I was putting my stubbornness over my family's well-being. However, the best rationalizing won't dismiss how devastating a hurricane can be, and even my most valuable material possessions are insignificant compared to the lives of my family members.
It's a similar mindset of invulnerability that causes many to dismiss their need for Jesus.
If what the Bible says about Jesus is true, He is the only way to salvation. And apart from salvation through Christ, a man is destined to eternal damnation.
If what the Bible says about Jesus is true, can there be a more important decision you make in this life than whether you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Your eternal life is at stake. That alone should implore you to examine and research the Bible for yourself to determine its accuracy and authenticity.
Don't try to ignore, dismiss, or reason away God's pending wrath against those who reject His Son, Jesus. Accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior is the sole place of refuge. More than that, it is the only choice that leads to true joy and everlasting life.
After Peter repentantly fell before Jesus, Jesus compassionately said, "Don't be afraid." That was affirmation that Peter was then made righteous in the eyes of God.
Jesus' words in Luke 5, "from now on," are explicit. Peter received God's grace and mercy on the day he acknowledged and repented of his sins, at the very moment he confessed Jesus as Lord.
If you haven't accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, there is no need to wait. Jesus has been waiting for you. "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (Heb. 4:7). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is willing to forgive you and He alone is able to save you. "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9).
If the Holy Spirit is convicting you and drawing you to Jesus, you may be saved even now. If this is the sincere burden of your heart, you may pray a prayer like this:
Jesus. I am a sinner. I know I am lost without you and there is no hope for me apart from you. I believe you are the Son of God and you alone are able to save me from my sins. I believe you died on the cross, taking my sins upon yourself. I believe that you rose from the grave, showing your death as acceptable to God as full payment for all my sins. Forgive me for my sins. I receive you as my Savior. I commit my life to you as Lord. Thank you for saving me. I love you, too. Amen.
If you sincerely prayed similar words from a repentant heart, on the authority of God's Word, be assured you have eternal life. "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom. 10:13). Rejoice!
Salvation isn't temporary or conditional. In Christ, everlasting life is absolutely secured and His constant presence in our earthly walk is wonderfully assured.
Reflect on Jesus' words to Simon Peter, "from now on." Anyone who receives Jesus as Savior and sincerely confesses Him as Lord has eternal life. God's saving mercy is immediate and His grace irrevocable. We don't have to fear losing salvation because our salvation is in Him. God comforts believers, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine" (Isa. 43:1).
Salvation is secure under Jesus' blood, held in God's power and promise. Eternal life is sealed by the Holy Spirit of God and clinched in the unconquerable hand of the Almighty God. "Salvation belongs to our God" (Rev. 7:10). He will never remove it or revoke it.
Consider further what Jesus said to Peter, "From now on you will fish for people." Jesus didn't tell Peter that, whenever he became more knowledgeable and better understood Jesus' role, he would later be trained as a fisher of men. He didn't instruct Peter to go out and do good works to earn the right to become a fisher of men. At the time of Peter's salvation, Jesus charged him with reaching men with the good news of God's grace.
Likewise, all believers are charged to be fishers of men from the moment of salvation. That means believers are to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, along with their personal testimonies.
Every Christian has a unique testimony of what Jesus has done in his life. And no one else has an identical testimony to yours. Your personal testimony can be instrumental in reaching someone particular because you are able to relate to some who would shun others.
All believers are called into service and commissioned to "go ... preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15). Service to the Lord is completely separate from salvation. A believer's service is not for salvation, but because of salvation. Only in Christ are we able to offer any meaningful service or worthy sacrifice.
Peter was slow to heed his call to evangelism. However, in Peter's case, he wasn't empowered with the Holy Spirit until the day of Pentecost. But on the very day Peter was equipped with the Holy Spirit, he engaged in Jesus' calling for him.
Today, believers receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. That means when you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you were immediately equipped to share your testimony and the good news of salvation. Absolutely, you need time in Bible study, training, and prayer. This will more thoroughly prepare you for ministry, service, and evangelization. But, understand, all believers, from newborns in Christ to those who have walked closely with the Lord for years, are equipped to share the message of salvation in Jesus. In fact, you are not only equipped — you are called to share the good news.
While it will sometimes be uncomfortable; speaking about the love, grace, and mercy of Christ should simply be a gracious outflow of His salvation and a gratifying undertaking to His Lordship.
Luke goes on to stress the totality of a disciple's decision to heed Jesus' calling. "So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him" (Luke 5:11).
Peter, Andrew, James, and John walked away from their boats, nets, and businesses to walk with Jesus. They didn't lose those possessions. Their boats and nets were left with Zebedee, the father of James and John (Mark 1:20). But they never used those things in the same way after that. Their affection for Christ changed their perspective about other things.
Following Jesus means to totally give your life to Him. He is Lord. He desires and demands the primary place in your life. He can't be foremost in your heart if your heart's preference is elsewhere. And He can't be foremost in your mind if your mind is preoccupied with other cares.
No one can wait to get his life or business in order before following Jesus. That can only come afterward, in Christ.
Mark, in his gospel, stresses the urgency of Jesus' call to discipleship. He writes, "At once they left their nets and followed him" (Mark 1:18). Peter and Andrew were called to stop what they were doing and follow Jesus immediately. They were called to no longer be men given to fishing. They were to be men given to Jesus. That required sacrifices in their lifestyles and livelihoods to follow Jesus. But if they had chosen not to follow Him, what an opportunity they would've missed. Jesus had incredible plans for their lives.
Jesus has incredible plans for your life too, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jer. 29:11). If you place Jesus first, other things will supernaturally fall into place. In Christ, life is found in abundance. Jesus died for you while you were His adversary. How much more He wants to do for you as His child.
The most important decision you will make in your life is whether you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.
God's saving mercy is immediate and His grace irrevocable.
At the moment of salvation, you were equipped by the Holy Spirit to share the message of salvation in Jesus.
Following Jesus means to totally give your life to Him.
Jesus died for you while you were His adversary. How much more He wants to do for you as His child.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Grow In The Grace"
Copyright © 2018 James Callen.
Excerpted by permission of CrossLink Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I 1
Chapter 1 Where Life Really Begins 7
Chapter 2 His Incomparable Worth 19
Chapter 3 Clothe Yourself with Compassion 29
Part II 39
Chapter 4 Let There Be Light 41
Chapter 5 His Presence, Power, and Promises 53
Chapter 6 Our Daily Bread 65
Part III 77
Chapter 7 Ambassadors of the King 79
Chapter 8 The Mind of Christ 89
Chapter 9 Our Mountain of Hope 97
Part IV 107
Chapter 10 Management of Rights 109
Chapter 11 The Prison of an Unforgiving Heart 121
Chapter 12 Follow the Lamb 133
Chapter 13 Family Time 143
Part V 153
Chapter 14 A Heart Exam 155
Chapter 15 Prevail with Prayer 165
Chapter 16 The Peace of His Presence 175
Chapter 17 Walk Closer to Jesus 185
Part VI 193
Chapter 18 Delight in His Deliverance 195
Chapter 19 Live in Expectancy; Serve with Urgency 205
Chapter 20 Live as a Servant of God 215
End Notes 227
About the Author: 229