Transformed By Grace, Acts 2:14a, 22-32
During the first and second centuries, the symbol of Christianity was the fish. A present-day Christian decided that a fishhook would be the proper emblem for a soul-winner to use for winning people to Christ, so he had a little golden fishhook made to be worn on the lapel of his coat.
When people asked him what it meant, he told them that he was a fisher of men. A little newsboy from whom he bought a paper one day said to him, “Mister, do you belong to a fishing club?” “Yes, I do,” said the Christian, “and I think fishing is pretty nice, don’t you?” “Oh yes,” the little fellow replied, “Do you ever catch any big ones?” “I have caught 250 pounders,” replied the man.
“Go on!” said the lad incredulously. “Yes,” said the Christian, “I have caught a 250-pound fish.” “Those sure are big,” marveled the boy. Then leaning over, the Christian said, “Sonny, to tell you the truth, I would rather catch small fish than big ones.” He exclaimed. “No!” “Yes, about your size.” The little boy looked down at himself as if he were thinking, “I am not so small.”
Then the Christian told him that he was a fisher of men, seeking to win souls, and that if he would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ he would be saved. The newsboy took him at his word and came to Christ.
Here was a fisherman for Christ who used a gold fishhook on his lapel to catch souls with. You may have some other kind of hook. It makes no difference as long as you catch fish.
This morning I want to talk to you about a Galilean fisherman named Peter who was transformed by Christ from life as a simple harvester of fish into the Apostle Peter – a great fisher of men for Jesus Christ!
We will do this by tracing the nature of this transformation that occurred in Peter’s life as it is recorded in the Bible. We’ll talk about the way that Peter was changed from a naturally impulsive disciple of Jesus into an immovable rock.
As we travel this road this morning I want to encourage you to look for ways in which you can identify with Peter as he grew in his faith and courage; just as we must be ever growing in our faith and courage to be fishers of men.
In Matthew 4:18-20 it says, “And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” (NKJV)
This is the first place in the New Testament where Peter shows up in the Gospel record. It is interesting to note that all the Gospel account gives us concerning the call of Peter, and other disciples, is the impression that Jesus merely told them to follow Him and the disciples simply dropped their nets or whatever they were doing and followed after Him.
While the idea that this was the first time they had ever seen Jesus and they were simply moved to follow after Him because Jesus had such an immediate appeal. While that is certainly possible; a plain reading of the text does allow for that. I think that it is more likely that Peter and the other Disciples had either already heard the preaching of Jesus or at least heard of the preaching of Jesus.
It is also very possible that the men who would one day become the Disciples of Christ had heard the preaching of John the Baptist. Whether the Disciples had heard Jesus, heard of Jesus, or perhaps had heard the preaching of John the Baptist the simple fact remains that Peter and his brother Andrew followed Jesus that day.
Early in his vocation as a Disciple, Peter was impulsive. In Matthew 14:28-31 is recorded the account of the disciples being terrified because they thought they had seen a ghost walking on the water. After Jesus told them that it was in fact Him walking on the water it reads;
“And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (NKJV)
Peter was impulsive. I wonder if any of us can relate to Peter in this regard. As soon as Peter saw His Lord walking on the water he immediately wanted to join him. The trouble with that is obvious in the very next sentence; Peter had not given much thought to staying on top of the water!
Sometime immediate responses are the best way to deal with a situation. I remember being a young Marine at Infantry training school in the coastal mountains of San Diego – I know it sounds like such tough duty just a few miles from the beaches of San Diego, California! Trust me, it was more difficult than it probably sounds to you so far!
There was one particular part of the training that has really stuck with me over the years since. It was ambush training. In Marine Corps Infantry doctrine, at least at that time, it was the standard practice that the best way to deal with being ambushed was to turn and run into the attacking enemy.
I know it sounds crazy. In fact, your natural impulse is probably to turn and get as far away from the enemy as possible or at least to run and find some sort of cover. The trouble with running away from the enemy though is that he has already got the upper hand since he chose the terrain to ambush you in the chances are highly in his favor that there is no where to get good cover to return fire.
So, you turn and immediately charge the enemy who ambushed you. In doing this you are very likely to confuse him, throw off his concentration, and quite possibly even instill a bit of fear into him. He is likely to think that you are either not in your right mind or that you know something he doesn’t know!
That teaching has always stuck with me because there are times when to act immediately and directly are very appropriate. It has been my experience that the best way to deal with conflict in our personal lives and relationships, conflict at work, conflict with our family, or with people within the church is to immediately turn and face it.
But there are also times when it is best and most prudent to take a moment to prepare ourselves to enter a situation. Much more often it is the case that prudence and not impulsiveness is the order of the day.
Peter rushed out of the boat before he had considered what he was about to do. He leapt before he looked! He stepped out on faith before he had first been filled with the faith he needed for the task at hand.
Later in the Gospel record we find that Peter is again very impulsive; this time it was in the Garden of Gethsemane during the arrest of Jesus, on the eve of the Crucifixion, after Judas had come with the Roman guards to betray Jesus.
In John 18:10-11 it reads, “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (NKJV)
It is an interesting side note that in giving the name of the servant of the High Priest, Malchus, who had his ear cut off by Peter, that the Gospel writer includes a bit of historical record which could have easily been verified by first century readers of the Gospel.
When you see something like that in the text of the Bible it is important to remember that the Gospel accounts were written and available to people living in the area and the time that the events had taken place. These little details offer great insight into the reliability and historicity of the Bible.
Throughout the Gospels record we see Peter acting impetuously but we every time we see him acting this way it is out of a deep and sincere passion and love for his Lord! Peter was at time impulsive and rash but every time it was out of his love for the Savior.
Probably the lowest point in Peter’s career as a disciple and no doubt one of the lowest points in his entire life was what is recorded in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14 where Peter, later on the eve of the crucifixion, denies even knowing Jesus.
Peter had previously made a bold proclamation to Jesus that he would never deny Jesus and then only a short time later denied him three times. A study in the life of Peter is a study in the dynamics of us all.
I wonder how many of us can relate to not always responding to pressures in our lives and tests of our faith in quit the same way that we have proclaimed?
But thankfully that wasn’t the end for Peter. In John chapter twenty one is recorded the words of Jesus asking Peter three times to declare his love to Jesus. Peter was restored and forgiven by Jesus – his resurrected Lord.
From that time forward Peter who had once been like a reed blown in the wind became like an immovable rock. Peter who had once shown great fear showed great courage in the face of terrible and mounting opposition. The man who had cut off the ear of a guard and then, on the same evening, denied even knowing Jesus to a little servant girl would go on to be one of the greatest Apostles!
There are a lot of things that we can learn from Peter. This morning though I want to ask you to be reminded of just one thing. What transformed Peter from an unstable man into a man of courage?
The grace of God and the power of the resurrection! John Jay Chapman said,
“Have plenty of courage. God is stronger than the devil. We are on the winning side.” Peter had seen and touched his resurrected Lord.
Like all of the other disciples, after Jesus had risen from the dead they finally “got” all that Jesus had been saying for the past three years. The resurrection was the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence – Just as it is for us.
Like the man in the story I shared with you at the beginning of this message who wore a gold fishing hook on his lapel, Peter became a great fisher of men. He became a man of courage just as we can be men and women of courage who are not afraid to share the faith that we have in our resurrected savior.
Today, I encourage you to learn from Peter. Learn that God uses imperfect people. Learn that only God can transform us into people of courage. Learn that that courage enables us to share our faith as well.