DO WE UNDERSTAND WHAT WE "KNOW"?
How many times have your been terribly mistaken when you were absolutely
certain you were correct? You were so sure you were correct, that you defended your
position. The more you defended the position, the more certain you became that you
were correct. The more certain you became that you were correct, the more emotional
you became about the matter. The more you argued about the matter, the more your
face changed colors (until it was a truly red color!). To you it mattered more and more
and more! It got to mattering so much it became a finger shaking confrontation. It
mattered so much that it became a voice raising confrontation. It mattered so much
that you concentrated on listening for and hearing weakness and mistakes. While you
rarely listened to what the other person actually said, you were deeply frustrated that
the other person was not listening to what you said.
[Pause] Then it happened suddenly, instantly, "a flash of lightening" realization
hit you, hit you hard. Suddenly you realized that you made were not correct! It was like
someone hit you in the stomach hard when you totally were unprepared for the blow.
I suspect every single one of us has been there! I certainly have! When that
happened to you, what did you do? (1) Did you keep on arguing like you were right
when you knew you were mistaken? (2) Did you start listening to the other person, or
did you close your ears even tighter? (3) Did you admit you made a mistake? (4) Did
you feel stupid? (5) What impact did it have on your view of yourself? (When I do that,
I feel so dumb! I will not stop telling myself how stupid that was!)
May I ask you if you have noticed something? At some point, the confrontation
becomes more about you than about the matter being discussed. With you, when does
that point come? When do your realize that it is more about who you are than the
matter being discussed?
No one likes to be mistaken. Too often, we do not like what being mistaken says
about us. Personal observation and confession: in God matters and Bible matters,
learning involves admitting our mistakes. Many times one correct understanding
results in a whole system of "knowledge" tumbling down. That is why it is so critical
that each of us places his or her faith in God rather than a system of "knowledge."
This evening I want us to focus on the apostle Peter. I ask you to think as we
study, and think as we make a specific application.
- First, lets remind ourselves of who Peter was.
- Peter was one of Jesus' prominent disciples.
- Mark 1:16. 17 and Luke 5:1-11 indicate that Peter was on of the first men of
the 12 that Jesus called to the discipleship--a fisherman whom Jesus taught
to catch me.
- As one of the 12, Peter was one of the inner core--he was a leader of
leaders, a man who had the confidence to lead .
- He was with James and John when Jesus raised the synagogue official's
daughter, and only those three witnessed that event (Mark 5:37; Luke
- He was present with James and John at Jesus' transfiguration (Matthew
- He was present with James and John near Jesus as Jesus prayed in
Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37).
- It was to Peter that Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:19).
- It was Peter who felt so bold as to rebuke Jesus (Matthew 16:22).
- It was Peter who was so confident of his loyalty to Jesus that he made a
special effort to declare that he would die with Jesus before he would deny
Jesus (Matthew 26:33)--"the other disciples might stumble away from you,
but not me!"
- It was Peter who denied knowing Jesus, and in grief and disappointment
went out into the night weeping bitterly (Matthew 26:75).
- It was to Peter and the disciples (Peter was specifically mentioned) that an
angel sent notification of Jesus' resurrection (Mark 16:7).
- It was Peter who preached the good news of Jesus' resurrection in Acts 2
- It is Peter who at the beginning of the Jerusalem church is the leader (Acts
5:3, 9, 15).
- This is the same man, an apostle, who did not understand that Christ came to
save people who were not Israelites.
- Peter had to be prepared to go to Cornelius and tell him about Jesus (Acts
- He had a vision through which the Lord told him three times was not to
call something God cleansed a unholy and unclean.
- That vision profoundly confused Peter! (verses 17, 19)
- The Holy Spirit told Peter to accompany the men Cornelius sent without
asking any questions.
- Yet, the next day when Peter went to Cornelius' home, he did not understand
why he was there.
Acts 10:28,29 And he (Peter) said to them, "You yourselves
know how unlawful it is for
a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has
me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even
raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for
- "I came even though I knew I was not to do this--the only reason I came
was because I understand God wanted me to come."
- "Please explain to me why I am here."
- What Peter did was so unacceptable, so taboo, among Israelites, that he
took six Jewish Christian witnesses with him (Acts 10:23, 45; 11:12).
- When Peter got back to Jerusalem, he found out quickly his action of visiting
a Gentile home and eating with Gentiles stirred up a real hornets nest of
angry Jewish Christian protest.
Acts 11:2,3 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who
were circumcised took
issue with him, saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them."
- What Peter did was always God's intent.
- Before Israel was a nation, God said to Abraham, Genesis 12:3 And I will
bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in
you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
- Again to Abraham: Genesis 22:18 In your seed all the nations of
shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
- God said to Isaac: Genesis 26:4 I will multiply your descendants
as the stars
of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your
descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
- God said to Israel (Judah): Isaiah 42:5,6 Thus says God the
created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and
its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who
walk in it, "I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold
you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to
the people, As a light to the nations.
- God said to Israel (Judah): Isaiah 49:6 He says, "It is too small a
You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the
preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that
My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
- Simeon, when seeing the baby Jesus at the temple presentation: Luke
2:29-32 "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in
peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A Light of
revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel."
- Paul, to the Jews in Iconium: Acts 13:47 For so the Lord has
'I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You may bring salvation to
the end of the earth.'"
- Paul before King Agrippa, Acts 26:22,23 So, having obtained
help from God,
I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what
the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to
suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the
first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."
- Though God has not veiled his objective, Israel did not understand God's
interest in non-Jewish people; they did not understand that God intended Israel
to be light to people who were not Jews.
- They were absolutely certain they had God figured out, and they were certain
that God was not interested in non-Jewish people.
- They had been so certain of this that not even the apostle Peter could
imagine why God could send him to a gentile!
- Finally Peter understood:
Acts 10:34,35 Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly
understand now that
God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does
what is right is welcome to Him."
Christians are often certain that they have God and God's concerns all
out, and they can tell you quickly and certainly in no uncertain terms exactly
what God wants in every consideration.
- This is a very difficult time of the year for some Christians.
- For them it is filled with conflict.
- It seems that they move from one conscience crisis to another conscience
- As they are caught in this journey, they become frustrated with many of their
Christian brothers and sisters. ["I cannot believe you do that!"]
- Let me share with you a couple of stories about things I know happened.
- The first is personal--the situation occurred when I was a child in the 5th or
- I went to public grade school when the public school planned and
presented numerous religious programs.
- My parents [at that time] opposed the singing of Christmas songs in
- One day not long before Christmas our principal called a general
- He wanted the school to practice Christmas carols before the school's
- He was upset because the singing was so poor, so he sternly
threatened anyone he saw who was not singing.
- I was not singing, so he was publicly upset with me.
- I did not handle the situation well; yet, I still remember the tension I
- The second illustration is about someone I knew years ago, and actually I am
talking about a couple, not an individual.
- I want to make it clear that these two people are very compassionate
people and very constructively involved in congregational leadership
- When this couple was young years ago, they were convinced having a
Christmas tree was a spiritual concern that definitely involved right and
- They had sincere objections to the Christmas season, Christians using
Christmas trees, and in any way calling attention to the Christmas season.
- Their sincere views created a definite sense of crisis in the congregation.
- I want to make just one point: too often when we personally conclude exactly
how God feels, we are concerned about matters that are of little or no concern to
- Peter was certain that he understood what God wanted and what God would
stress, but Peter was mistaken.
- When Peter had the vision in which the Lord told him to kill and eat
unclean things (Leviticus 11), Peter told the Lord, "I have never done that!
I cannot do that! It is wrong! I do not care what you ask, I can't do
something wrong!" The Lord asked Peter to do something wrong?
- Even after the Lord clearly sent Peter to Cornelius, Peter had no idea of
why he was there! Teaching the gospel to people who were not Jews was
- I challenge all of us to do three things.
- Learn! Never stop letting God teach you.
- As you learn, be true to your conscience. The Lord understands why you
do what you do.
- As you are true to your conscience, do not impose your conclusion in a
conscience matter on someone else.
We invite you to Jesus Christ. We invite you to learn from God. We invite you
to be yourself as you follow God. We invite you to pursue God's peace among those
who belong to Jesus Christ. We invite you to put your faith in God, not what you
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 12 December 2004
Link to next sermon
Link to other Writings of David