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Cross

Christianity

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

The Training Of Peter

by: Anthony Keith Whitehead

We all come to God with different, but considerable, amounts which need to be done within us. Everyone has to learn to submit one's inner being to the Spirit so that he can train us and turn us into people who are useful for doing his work, whatever that might be.

Peter, the first of Jesus' disciples was no different. We can learn much by considering him as a an example of someone Jesus had to train for his service. There are six major points attached to this. It would be useful to have a Bible to hand.

1. LITTLE BY LITTLE

The first stage was that Peter's own natural strength had to be broken. Many would agree that he was born a leader, but like many such people he had to learn through his own failures.

In Matthew 16. 21 - 25, Peter takes Jesus aside to protest that he must go to the cross. It is difficult to think of a stronger worded rebuke that Jesus could give to Peter. The latter must have been shocked, especially since he though he was looking after Jesus' best interests.

But this is a problem for most of us: we insist on deciding what is best for God and for ourselves instead of being obedient to what God is asking of us. Peter had to begin learning not to place any confidence in himself. This was a process through which Peter had to go -- and a real turning point came in Luke 22. 54 - 64 when peter denied Jesus -- not once, but three times, and each more vehemently than the proceeding one.

This was the making of Peter. At this point he was totally devastated, his own sense of self worth annihilated. There is a rather silly series of tv ads running currently in Britain for women’s cosmetics which end in saying "...because you're worth it". At this point Peter knew he was totally unworthy of anything God might give him. This self knowledge is the point of no return for everyone of us -- and if we never come to it, we shall never reach the turning point in our lives.

Peter was made through his brokenness. He had done exactly what he said he would not do! What Peter had to learn, and what we have to learn is that WHAT WE CONSIDER TO BE OUR STRONGEST POINTS ARE, IN FACT, OUR WEAKEST POINTS where god is concerned. We need to learn and to know that our own strength is nothing, and that without God's grace we can do nothing of lasting worth.

This is THE lesson in humility. Anyone who fails to learn it will never be of much use in building God's kingdom on earth. In fact, that person will actually be a liability, especially to other disciples working in the field.

2. BUILDING UP PETER'S FAITH

Jesus was only too well aware of what needed to be done in Peter and the other disciples -- and that task is no different today. But how many of us are actually moving forward as disciples?

However, for those of us who WILL learn, God works in us at several different levels at once. Unlike us, he does not necessarily have to complete one stage before working on the next. He can work at different levels or at different stages at the same time, knowing that he can bring all the threads together at the right time. If we love him then, as John says at 15. 9 - 13, that means obedience, and if God has that from us, he has something to build on.

Now Peter's faith had to be built up, even while Jesus was still on earth, and before God had broken him. The building up of his faith took place over a period. Throughout that period of discipleship, Peter was looking at Jesus, and slowly but surely his faith was being built up, even though there were still impediments to it.

Jesus even took advantage of Peter's impetuosity, which led Peter, albeit only briefly, to walk on the water -- until his own intellect took over and he began to sink. He could not really understand HOW he could walk on water. But how many Christians have rejected the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in times of refreshing because they could not understand what God was doing?

Yet Peter's experience in getting out of the boat was something which no other disciple could later look back on and learn from! Peter was able to learn from it and subsequently to progress as a consequence.

3. LISTENING TO GOD

We have written a whole book on this ("The Keys To Hearing God Speak" available from our web site) so this can only be a comment. Peter, like most of us, had to learn to listen. He usually heard, but hearing is not the same as listening! But he did learn. Recall the cloth lowered down to him in Acts 10, especially 10. 9f. Though Peter initially considered all those creatures unclean, he learned a very difficult lesson for any Jew -- and it had a great payoff when he went to the house of Cornelius (see Acts 10. 27 through to Acts 11.18). Not only was all food equal for God, but so were all people. A mighty lesson for a Jew.

But there are also other factors to be considered before we can fully appreciate the training of Peter as a disciple.

If the Holy Spirit is to teach and train us we need to learn to be still before God. When we hear, we need to be able to accept what he tells us. It may not always be as difficult for us as for Peter as a lifelong Jew, but there will be difficulties. This will not be attained without:

4. TOTAL COMMITMENT

"Commitment" does not sound too bad, but "total"?

Peter was shown that he must be totally committed, not just to Jesus as the Christ, but also to his fellow Christians. We have few details of how that very first Christian community came into being in Jerusalem, but Luke was "gob smacked" by it (for the uninitiated, a memorable Yorkshire phrase). So much so that he tells us about it twice (Acts 2. 44 - 47 and 4. 32 - 35). Peter must have been important in its development (although its leader was James, known as "the brother of the Lord"). They worshipped together (making full use of the Temple), they shared all their goods and the better off supplied the needs of the poorer members. Through his commitment to it, Peter came to know the importance of what he later referred to as "living stones" (1 Peter 2. 4, 5). We know we have to be that if we are to live and work together for the kingdom.

Peter was to be a rock in its foundation. He really was already a rock -- but a rock in his own nature, and that was an obstacle to God's work. He had to be, as it were, melted down and then reformed. Yes, a very painful process.

But it was mitigated for Peter, as it will be for us, through the growing realization of how beautiful Jesus really is. He experience something of that at the Transfiguration (Mark 9. 2 - 13 but also ask yourself about verse 15). It was what allowed him to take the rebuke from Jesus that he was an ally of Satan (Matthew 16. 23). Yet, once we realize something of that beauty, we cannot wait for God to change us into something nearer himself.

5. DISCIPLINE OF THE TONGUE

In the earlier days God was always having to interrupt Peter. As example: a. On the Mount of Transfiguration after Moses and Elijah had appeared with Jesus (Luke 9. 33, 34). Note that it says " While he (Peter) was still speaking). When we do not know what we are saying, the best thing is to shut up. But Peter was overawed.

b. In Capernaum over the payment of the temple tax (Matthew 17. 24f). (This tax derived from Exodus 30. 11 - 16 and was a special voluntary tax but, before the time of Jesus, it had obeyed the first law of taxes and had become compulsory!). Peter committed Jesus to paying it, but Jesus would have claimed exemption because of who he really was.

c. At Cornelius' house in Caesarea, while Peter was still speaking the Spirit descended on the whole family and household. Peter and his companions were amazed.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit all intervened at various times to interrupt Peter in full flow. We must be ready to accept God's interruption to our words or actions. This is part of our being pure in heart.

6. THE PURE IN HEART

The sixth beatitude at Matthew 5. 8 promises the vision of God to the pure in heart, and Peter was brought to this state. It is a heart condition which God requires for the fulfillment of his purposes of grace. Purity of heart simply means a state where there is no hindrance to seeing and accepting God and his plan for all and for each of us.

It is a requirement for living in the kingdom while we are here on earth. It is a present reality for those who can believe that Jesus brought the kingdom and established it here. It exists wherever the pure in heart exist, and there is no reason for our not seeing it -- except the barriers we erect ourselves, in our own thinking and attitudes.

For example, how often do we hear and read other Christians denigrating their brethren who belong to churches other than their own? Often this is expressed contemptuously and with less than a modicum of insight but with pretension. Watchman Nee once said that, to stop us seeing an object, it is not necessary to put a dirty cloth over it; a clean one will do just as well. Our attitudes can appear sanitised but if they denigrate other Christians there is something there which is unclean.

In his first letter (1 Peter 1.13, 14) Peter warns us against conforming to evil desires and bringing into our present lives the kind of ignorance we once exhibited. He was molded by experience and God's grace to truly be the first among Jesus' disciples. He still made mistakes -- anyone who is human will. But he could stand to be corrected for that and to accept the correction. (e.g. Acts 10. 9 - 16 and 17 - 48; 15. 5 - 11; Galatians 2. 11 - 21). It was part of his training, a training that continued all way the Rome and an inverted cross.

See Also:

Discipleship - Following Jesus
Jesus made it very clear that discipleship is not an easy life. It is a life of constant change. To follow, we will have to count our relationship to Jesus as more important than our family and friends.

St Thomas at the Octave of Resurrection
When we can exclaim from our innermost soul, "My Lord and my God," then we have liberation from all lesser things. It seems that last things to overcome in the Christian life are periods of doubt that arise.

Be a Bold Witness
Remember that you are immortal till your work is done. If the Lord has more witness for you to bear, you will live to bear it.

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Keith has over twenty-three years in Christian healing teaching writing ministries. Wide range of secular employments before being called by the Lord into full time independent ministry in 1987. With his wife Iris he has ministered both in the UK and USA. Has written several books on healing meditation and various aspects of spirituality. http://www.christianword.co.uk

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