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 8:51).
- He was present with James and John at Jesus' transfiguration
- 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
- 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 (Acts 2:14-36).
- 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
- 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 shown 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 me."
- "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
- Again to Abraham: Genesis 22:18 In your seed all
the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My
- 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 Lord, Who 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 thing that 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
- Paul, to the Jews in Iconium: Acts 13:47 For so
the Lord has commanded us, '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
- Christians are often certain that they have God and God's concerns all
figured 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
- 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 6th grade.
- 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 Christmas program.
- 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 felt.
- 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
- They had sincere objections to the Christmas season, Christians
using Christmas trees, and in any way calling attention to the Christmas
- Their sincere views created a definite sense of crisis in the
- 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 God.
- 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 unthinkable!
- 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 "know."
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 12 December 2004
Link to other
Writings of David Chadwell