Summary: Acts 4 presents Peter as a confident, powerful preacher of Christ... but not two months earlier he had been a cowering coward. What made the difference?
OPEN: In the 70’s there was runaway hit movie starring Sylvester Stallone, entitled "Rocky."
Many people, including myself were unaware that the movie was based on a real life boxer named Chuck Werner - otherwise known as the Bayonne Bleeder (because he bled so easily and freely throughout his fights).
Werner was a good fighter, but not really a "great fighter," and so when he was scheduled to fight the great Mohammed Ali almost everyone figured he wouldn’t last through the first few rounds. He was a 20 to 1 underdog and just before the bout, Ali had bragged: "I’m getting paid $1.5 million to fight this pug, and it’s fool’s gold. This sucker is a cinch." He went on to predict he’d knock Werner out in 3 rounds!
That’s not the way it turned out. Werner prepared harder for that fight than any he had ever had before. As a result, not only did he last thru 15 rounds, he actually knocked Ali down with one of his punches - something very few of the best boxers had accomplished.
After the fight, Ali praised Werner by saying "There’s not another human being in the world that can go 15 rounds like that."
According to the AP’s account, "For 14 rounds, and most of the 15th, the big, awkward, barroom brawler from New Jersey stood toe to toe with the world titleholder, taking Ali’s best shots without buckling."
APPLY: The "Bayonne Bomber" shouldn’t have been able to last in the ring with Mohammed Ali for 3 rounds... let alone 15. He wasn’t nearly as good a fighter as Ali had been. And yet he did what few of the best could do: he stayed on his feet to the final round, and he gave nearly as good as he got.
That’s the stuff of legend
The tale of heroes
The plot line of a dozen different movies
It’s the story of a lost cause,
A fighter past his prime,
Outmatched and beaten
And yet coming back in the final rounds to arise victorious, beating the more powerful and talented opponent.
I. What we’ve read about this morning (in Acts 4) is the story of one such hero...
A man named Peter, or Petros. A man whose name meant the Rock - or Rocky.
Here in Acts 4, we’re seeing Peter as a man of boldness and courage.
A man who is willing to face down the Sanhedrin - the ruling body of the Jewish nation.
A man who not only intended to preach Christ no matter what the cost... but who preached with a boldness that most of us would envy.
BUT, not more than 2 months earlier, Peter was a beaten man.
He had stepped into the ring with a better opponent, a demonic force who knew few equals... and he’d been beaten badly.
And Jesus had warned Peter: "Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat." Luke 22:31
And (in the early goings of this conflict) Satan HAD hurt Peter badly
* Not only did Peter end up denying Christ 3 times before the crucifixion
* But AFTER the crucifixion, John tells us that Peter and the other "disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews" (John 20:19)
Now, there are some who might say, "Jeff, do you mean to say that Peter¡¦s failures were because... the devil made him do it?"
Well - yeah - partly.
For one thing, Jesus DID warn Peter that Satan had demanded to sift him like wheat. That tells us that there was something going on - behind the scenes - that we don’t know much about. A spiritual struggle between the powers of darkness... and a mere mortal named Peter. A battle Peter never could win on his own.
In like fashion, we’re warned that, as Christians we’re engaged in the same kind of spiritual battle Our conflict is "not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12
In other words, when we step into the ring for Christ:
When we become Christians,
When we go to church
When we spend time in prayer
When we talk to others about Christ...
...we are facing off against Satan himself
II. From the moment you said that "Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God," Satan’s objective was to take you out of the fight.
To do what ever was necessary to bring you down morally, mentally, or physically. To hurt you so badly you’d never be much of a threat to his plans and purposes.
That’s what he tried with Peter. And he nearly succeeded.
And that is the first thing I want you to see in this sermon: Satan is not an opponent you want to take for granted. As Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:8 "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."