Following Jesus
Tim Temple

Introduction

We come to the last paragraph of John, chapter 13, and I would like for us to read that passage together before we look at it in detail. Notice John, chapter 13, beginning with verse 31:

John 13

31So, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
33Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
36Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.
37Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.
38Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

The most important word in the last paragraph of John, chapter 13, in some senses, is the word so , the very first word of the paragraph. Of course, this links this paragraph with what has gone on before and what will come afterward in the narrative.

What went on before this was the revelation of Judas as the betrayer of Christ. We talked in our last study about the significance of that and how Jesus loved Judas right to the very end and continued to give him opportunities to back away from the plans that he had made. What comes after that word is the last address of Jesus to His disciples. These are His famous last words, if you will, and that really goes on through this chapter and all the way through chapter 17. It is a long discourse, really, because every so often one of the disciples will interrupt what He is saying with a question, asking for clarification of something that He has said. But basically, it is Jesus' last address to the disciples, part of which is answering questions that they interject into His discourse.

When Judas closed the door and went out, in verse 30, John was stricken, as he looked back on it, with the darkness of that night. It was not just the darkness of the night, but the darkness of the whole situation. John says, “Judas went out and it was night.” Really, he went out into the night of eternity, as he went out that door, having given up his last opportunity to trust Christ.

In a way, Jesus must have felt some sense of relief as Judas went out that last time. Though He was grief-stricken over Judas' decision not to accept Him as Savior, at least now Jesus wouldn't have that contentious core of opposition right in the middle of everything that He was trying to do. That must have been a difficult thing for Jesus all those years, with the things that He was doing and the victories that He was having, and yet, right in the middle of His own group was this opposition that was building little by little.

It is significant that after Judas was gone, Jesus and the other disciples had some of their deepest and most intimate conversations. This demonstrates the importance of unity among believers. One unbeliever among a group of believers in Christ, or maybe one believer who is out of fellowship, can hold back the fullness of the fellowship that God desires for His children; but on the other hand, the thing that we would emphasize is the importance of unity and fellowship among Christians so that others may come to know Him or come back to Him.

Review

Remember that chapter 13 falls into three parts. First, in verses 1-17, Jesus gave them that wonderful example of humility when He put on a towel and washed their feet. They had just been talking about who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom, and they were really talking only about who would sit at Jesus' right hand. Nobody thought in terms of eclipsing Jesus in importance, but Jesus, whom they all agreed was the most important, stripped Himself of His dignity and did the distasteful job of washing their feet. In doing that, He gave them an example of humility and, in a sense, probably created a scene of humiliation as He did the very opposite of what they were discussing as they came into the room that night about who would be the second greatest in the kingdom.

In verses 18-30, we have an exposure of hatred. We talked about those verses in our last lesson, in which Judas was revealed for who he was—his traitorous motives and all of that. That brings us to this third section of the chapter where Jesus begins an exposition of heavenly principles, which is going to go on through chapter 17.

The Principle of Glorification

The first heavenly principle that we see is the principle of glorification in verses 31-32. Look at those verses again:

John 13

31So, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.

Here is another one of those sentences where an English teacher would probably be disturbed to see the complicated nature of the sentence. John writes some pretty complicated things, and we have to dissect them pretty carefully to get at what he really wants to say, but he is talking about the principle of glorification. The actions of Judas in the next few hours were going to, from a human standpoint, bring great humiliation on the part of Jesus Christ. His betrayal, His trial and, ultimately, His crucifixion, from a human standpoint, would be a very humiliating series of events for Him and His disciples; but it would also, from the divine standpoint, result in great glorification for the Lord Jesus Christ and His assuming His rightful place as the One in all of the universe to be worshiped.

Jesus wanted the disciples to understand this as they got ready to go into what He knew was ahead for the next few hours and few days. He wanted the disciples, to the greatest extent possible, to have this perspective on the humiliation of Christ—that perspective of really being, from the divine viewpoint, a great glorification for Him. He wanted to do that as part of their preparation for the pain and the embarrassment of the trial and for the pain of their separation from Him within a matter of a few weeks.

When Jesus had washed their feet, He had shattered the false human glory that had filled their hearts as they were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Judas had left the group that night because he had begun to realize that all of his hopes for a human, political Messiah were misplaced and that Jesus was not going to do the things that he had hoped He would do. So now that Judas is gone, Jesus can begin to show the disciples what true glory is all about. He wanted them to see that the seeming disaster of the Cross was going to turn out to be His greatest glorification, and so John records it in this choppy syntax about glorification and humiliation, but he is trying to combine the two things that Jesus was talking about.

Notice the phrase, now the Son of man is glorified , at the beginning of the verse. This term Son of Man is used only one time by Jesus of Himself, and then it is used once by Stephen in Acts, chapter 7, where Stephen was giving his testimony just before he was stoned to death. Incidentally, that story of Stephen being stoned always amuses me. He was the first martyr and when the high priest said, “Do you have anything to say before we execute you?”, he said, “As a matter of fact I do,” and he began to review the whole Old Testament. He went all through the Old Testament and right up to Jesus' crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

Stephen really gives us some helpful information about parts of the Old Testament that weren't detailed in the Old Testament. I guess that he decided if he had one last chance, he would go ahead and give it all he had, and we are glad he did. He referred to Jesus as the Son of Man in Acts, chapter 7, verse 56, but the disciples themselves never used that term, and Jesus only used it this one time. Jeremiah used the term prophetically, but Jesus applied it to Himself here. When He used the term Son of Man , He was talking about Himself as sort of the representative man—the representative human being. Jesus, in His life, in His personality and in His actions fulfilled all that God meant men to be when He created man in His own image—man, the human being, not man the male. Jesus Christ was the personification of all that human beings are capable of being and would be capable of being without sin. He spent His human life on earth expressing human devotion to God and obedience to Him.

The ultimate example of this was when He went to the Cross. He obeyed God the Father even unto the point of death, and that is an example of what we ought to be and what we could be were it not for sin in our lives. The more we trust God's direction and the more we obey Him through the power of the Holy Spirit, the more like Jesus Christ we can be. We have the potential to be like Jesus Christ because we have the forgiveness of sins because of the work that Jesus Christ did on the Cross.

This is something that I had never really thought through until I was studying this chapter. I had studied it before, but I had never really seen it this way. At the Resurrection, God glorified Jesus as a man because He appeared in His human form. Though it was His glorified body, it was still a human form. In fact, when He ascended into Heaven, He ascended in His glorified human form, and the angel said that when He came back, we would see Him come back, even as they had seen Him go into Heaven. The implication is that He will still have that human type glorified body when He returns, and in fact, throughout all eternity.

There was that spiritual aspect of the glorification of Christ, but there was also the fact that He was glorified as a human being. I think that is a thrilling thing to see how closely God identifies with us as human beings and what an honor it is to have the Lord Jesus Christ in a human body even into His glorification.

Notice that the last line of verse 31 goes on to say that God was glorified in Him. He says that the Son of Man was going to be glorified, and God is glorified in Him. Not only was Jesus glorified by His sacrificial death, but God the Father was glorified by that too. When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, God's purpose for man was re-established. The potential of man was re-established. When Jesus, hanging on the Cross, said, “It is finished,” He was referring to many things that were finished, but among the things that were finished was the power of Satan in this struggle with God that had gone on for so many years. Satan, as you know, has been allowed to run free for two thousand years now, and a while longer perhaps, but the victory has already been won. The battle was over at the Cross, so God the Father was glorified in the crucifixion of Christ just as Christ was glorified in His crucifixion.

In verse 32, this principle of glorification continues. Remember, that is the first heavenly principle in this paragraph—the principle of glorification. It continues by saying that it will be immediately. The critics have picked this out and said, “Look at this. Jesus says that He is going to be glorified immediately, and yet it was going to be nearly 24 hours before He was crucified, so why was He saying that He was going to be glorified immediately?”

Actually the word immediately is a translation of a Greek word that denotes not so much time as a sequence of events. It deals with time, but it deals with the sequence of events as they come along. What Jesus was saying here was that once the crucifixion begins, the death, the burial, the resurrection and ascension of Christ would continue one after the other in unbroken succession. When these things began to take place, they would come along in a fairly quick succession of events. He was saying, “You are about to see the whole program of the glorification of Christ unfold before your eyes.”

In forty days, they would have seen Jesus go from His place as a human being through the trial and conviction and crucifixion, through the tomb, through the resurrection, the forty days on earth and the ascension, one right after the other. God was glorified in that and Christ was glorified in that, and Jesus said, “It is all about to start happening.”

Peter alluded to this succession of events later on when he said, in I Peter, chapter 1, verse 11, “The prophets were moved by the Spirit of God and not fully understanding what they wrote, they wrote about the sufferings of Christ and the glory which should follow.” Notice:

I Peter 1

11Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

That is what Jesus is trying to get across to the disciples and what He wants us to understand and what the Jews didn't understand. There would be two aspects. The Jews just looked at the glory part of it, and the disciples had a tendency, at this point in time, to look only at the suffering part of it; but if you read the prophets carefully, and though the prophets didn't fully understand what they were writing about, they were writing about the sufferings of Christ and the glory which would follow. Jesus wanted the disciples to understand this principle of glorification, that yes, it would take place through a great amount of suffering, but the suffering is just a part of coming into the glory. That is the principle of glorification.

The Principle of His Going Away

With that principle out of the way, in verse 33, Jesus makes a pronouncement of His going away. We might say the second heavenly principle that He deals with is the principle of His going away. Notice verse 33:

John 13

33Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.

Jesus has just established that the time was almost there for His ultimate glorification, but He also knew that it was going to be for the disciples a time of great darkness and bewilderment, and maybe even despair. He is trying, as clearly as He can, to prepare them for that.

In the story in Luke, chapter 24, of the walk to Emmaus, Jesus fell in step with these two as they were walking along from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It says in Luke, chapter 24, verse 17:

Luke 24

17And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?

These two disciples were not among the twelve, but they were believers in Jesus, and they were typical of all the followers of Jesus after the crucifixion. They were sad about it, and they didn't fully understand it.

Coming back to verse 33, notice He uses the term little children . Notice how tenderly He addresses the disciples as He prepares them for His death. This also is the only time that He uses this term. We talked about the Son of Man a while ago, and this is the only time that He uses the term little children to address the disciples. John is later going to use it when he writes his first epistle. Maybe as he wrote that first epistle many years after the death of Christ, he was looking back on that night and remembering how Jesus had addressed them tenderly as little children .

Jesus is using it here as a means of communicating His deep affection for them and His concern for them. He knew how tough this was going to be for them and here we see an example of the love that Jesus had for these twelve yokels who had become so precious to Him. They were common, ordinary men, but they had become the core of His life for three years. He knew that they couldn't understand everything at this point, but He was planting seeds in their hearts that He trusted would bear fruit later on as these things began to unfold.

The Priority of Giving Love

The first heavenly principle is the principle of glorification. The second one is the principle of the pronouncement of His going away. The third one is the priority of giving love in verses 34-35. Look at them again:

John 13

34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

As Jesus was preparing the disciples for His separation from them, He gave them this commandment which eventually was going to be their source of greatest comfort after He was physically absent from them. He is still spiritually present with us today, but even today one of our sources of closeness to Christ, the source of our comfort from God, is the obedience to this commandment.

I will say more about that as we move through it, but first, it is a commandment. It is easy to overlook and to think of it as a suggestion or as a theory, but Jesus was saying to these men and to their successors, right down to you and me, “This is something I want you to do by the act of the will, by a decision in your mind. I want you to do whatever it takes to love one another.”

That may take some mediation. That may take being charitable when someone else is not being charitable. Later, He tells them that He is going to give them the Holy Spirit to shed His love abroad in their hearts. That is an important thing to keep in mind, even though He doesn't mention it here. He is going to talk about it in chapter 16, and it is a commandment to love one another.

I think that we forget that that is a commandment in our day. I think that we think of it as a standard that we might hope to achieve and as a happy theory. Make no mistake about it, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you.” Notice, He says to love one another “as I have loved you.” In this age when Jesus is not physically present on the earth, we can't feel His hand on our shoulder or see the love in His eyes. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could? Wouldn't it be nice if Jesus could physically reach out and touch us or hug us or look deeply into our eyes?

It can't be done that way, but as we have deep, intimate fellowship with each other, God provides those kinds of things for us when Christians embrace in a loving kind of Christian embrace. We tend to do those things at emotional times such as a funeral or a serious illness or a wedding. We tend to automatically get more physical with each other at emotional times. I think that Jesus is saying that when we do that, we are feeling His touch on us.

I want to quickly say that a lot of that kind of thing can be generated just through human actions. On the one side of this commandment, I think that Jesus didn't even need to discuss it, and maybe I shouldn't discuss it either; but I think that it is important to point out that He is talking about sincere, genuine love. He was talking about whatever actions might flow out of a spiritual love for one another. I don't think that it is a sign of Christian maturity or depth of Christian commitment to go around hugging everybody all the time. In fact, I think that in this day in which we live, we need to be careful about that. It could be misinterpreted. It could lead to more than what we intended if it is not done out of a sincere, genuine feeling of affection directed by the Holy Spirit of God.

I think that we all know what I am talking about. There are times when that kind of thing just comes naturally, and what God is saying is, “When there are those times of closeness to each other as fellow believers in Jesus Christ and we have the impulse to just hug that other person or to pat them on the back or to put an arm around their shoulder, don't stifle that.” That is part of the way Jesus is still present with us when He loves us through each other, but let's be careful that we don't try to manufacture something that God wants to produce in our hearts. Let's allow Him to produce it whenever He will.

Those instances in which Christians genuinely love each other are truly something special, aren't they? I hope that every one here has at one time or other experienced that. Maybe you have experienced it frequently, but those times when we are in a setting where believers are sharing a common experience, when there is that fellowship there where we are aware of the presence of Jesus in our midst, it is an indescribably wonderful experience, and that is what Jesus wants for His disciples. He wants us to make a point of doing all that we can to allow Him to put that in our hearts. That means staying in fellowship with each other as well as staying in fellowship with Him, and those things have to go hand in hand.

Jesus very clearly taught in Matthew about how we are to respond if someone wrongs us. I think that one of the problems in loving relationships between Christians is that when our brother sins against us, we don't go and deal with it. Sure, it is difficult to do. It is awkward and embarrassing, but it is what Jesus said to do: “If your brother sins agianst you, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. If he will hear you, you have gained your brother.”

Do you know why we can't love each other like Jesus commanded us to do? I think that many times it is because of disobedience to Scripture. Our brother has sinned against us, and we haven't dealt with it. We have lost our brother because we won't deal with it.

In Matthew, chapter 5, He said the same thing from the other standpoint: “If you find that you have wronged your brother, even if you are at the altar, leave your gift at the altar. Don't even start the worship service [to use today's terminology] until you go and try to make that thing right with your brother.” If he doesn't respond to your effort to make it right, then that is not your problem, but you need to go and seek to make it right. You see, He put that machinery in place for us to have fellowship with each other, and if we don't follow that process, we're not going to have the kind of fellowship that He wants us to have.

There is some decision making and some action taking that is involved in obeying this commandment, but this is what He tells us. What a wonderful result there is from obeying this commandment. The result of that indescribable love among believers is the comfort we can derive from each other, the encouragement we can have from each other, the hand of Jesus on our shoulders.

In verse 35, He carries it a step further. He says that this love that we have for each other is to be the distinguishing characteristic of Christians. This is another of those places where we are surprised at what the Bible doesn't say as much as by what it does say. He did not say, “By attending the right church, one will know that you are Christians.” That is what we usually assume, isn't it? “I know that he must know the Lord, because he goes to such and such a church. I know that he must know the Lord, because he is involved in Bible Study Fellowship . I know that he or she must love the Lord because they have been on The Walk to Emmaus . There is no doubt that they are Christians. They attend Abilene Bible Church,” or you fill in the blank as to which church.

Jesus didn't say that. How will people know that we are Christians? That we love each other. That is pretty humbling, pretty disappointing, pretty frustrating, isn't it? But that is what He said. To the outside world, it will be a testimony. So there is the benefit that comes to us as we obey that commandment—the fellowship, the comfort, the strength that we can derive from each other, almost the physical presence of Christ among us; but more than that, it is a testimony to the outside world.

There are many people who have given testimonies that where there were instances of Christians who genuinely loved each other, they were attracted to that and came to know Christ ultimately because they were attracted to the fellowship of Christians that they observed. I am afraid that that doesn't happen nearly as often as it should, but there have been testimonies given, and that is an attractive thing to lonely people and people who are dissatisfied with life as it is.

Again, it is not something that we should try to manufacture. It is something that will come naturally as we obey the instructions in the Word of God and as we stay in fellowship with the Lord. We don't have to try to make it happen; it will happen if we will follow the steps that Jesus outlined in His Word.

The Principle of Gaining Strength

The fourth heavenly principle that Jesus teaches in this section of the chapter is what I am calling the principle of gaining strength in verses 36-38. First, we have some questions in verses 36-37. Peter enters the picture and almost inevitably when Peter enters the picture, we know that we are in for an interesting discussion. Howie Hendricks says that Peter always opened his mouth and inserted both feet and then wondered why he couldn't walk or talk. Here we go again in verse 36:

John 13

36Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.

It may be that from His humanity, Jesus thought this would satisfy Peter: “Peter, I said that you couldn't follow Me, but I will add to that that you can follow Me later.” Look at Peter's response to that:

John 13

37Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now?…

It makes you remember when your kids were five and six years old. They just can't be satisfied with the answer that you give; and maybe when they were fifteen and sixteen years old; maybe now. We are all a lot like Peter. Jesus has reassured him that he can follow Him later, but just not right now. But Peter says, “Why not now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.”

That last phrase may indicate that Peter understood that whatever Jesus meant, it carried serious implications. Peter may have understood that Jesus wasn't going to let the disciples follow Him because of the danger involved. Peter was full of self-confidence. In fact, that was his very downfall. Peter seemed to sense that he had the natural qualities of leadership, and most leaders are subconsciously aware that they have those qualities, and maybe he thought for following Jesus that would be all that was necessary—his natural gregariousness and leadership abilities. He could follow Jesus anywhere. He had the ability to go anywhere that Jesus asked him to go—even the ability to die—and he says so.

Think of all the places that he had gone with Jesus. He had walked on the water. Have you ever done that? None of the other disciples had done it. He had witnessed most of Jesus' miracles. He had cast out demons himself. Think of all the things that Jesus had done in the last three years. Only two other disciples had seen the transfiguration with Peter. He saw Jesus, in His glorified body, talking with Moses and Elijah. Now, if he could go there, where could he not go? That was the way his thinking was going.

You know, there is a danger with walking closely with the Lord, and it can still happen today. That is as the Lord gives us opportunities to know Him better and to trust Him and to see Him work and to be amazed at what He can do, there is a danger even for you and me today that we will begin to take Him for granted and that we will begin to think that because we have seen Him do that, we are able to do great things and we are able to go through anything that He wants us to go through, even something that He is saying we can't go through.

On the one hand, Christ wants us to have confidence in Him, but on the other hand, He wants us to be very careful that our confidence is in Him and not in our past experience. It is a very subtle distinction to make, but that is the mistake that Peter was making here, I believe. Peter was saying, in so many words, “Think about all the things that I have done with you. Why can't I go with you? I am even willing to die for you. What more could you ask?”

You see, it all sounds very pious and very spiritual, but Jesus knew that Peter's confidence was in himself and his experiences with Jesus and not in the power of Christ Himself. In verse 38, we see Jesus questioning that confidence. We saw the questions that Peter asked in verse 36-37. In verse 38, we see Jesus' questioning of that confidence. Notice what He says:

John 13

38Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

“Do you think you would die for Me? Let Me tell you something just the opposite. You wouldn't die for Me. You are going to deny Me before the day is over.” That must have been an unbelievable rebuke to Peter. In fact, he was so stunned that he doesn't speak again throughout this whole incident. We don't find him speaking again until he is fulfilling the prophecy that Jesus made. Of course, the prophecy came true within just a few hours.

John often refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved, but this incident demonstrates that Jesus loved Peter deeply, too. We have talked before about the fact that when John says he was the disciple whom Jesus loved, he didn't mean to imply that he was the only disciple that Jesus loved. I think that John understood that Jesus loved the other disciples, too, but John was just so taken with the fact that Jesus loved him that he referred to it that way.

I heard someone this afternoon talking about a woman who had died, and they gave people an opportunity at her memorial service to share memories of her. Something that one woman said struck me, not so much about the lady who had died, but about Jesus. She said, “I moved into this church four years ago, and I knew that she was somebody I wanted to be around and to know better, but she had so many friends that I didn't think I would ever be able to break into her circle. But she sought me out. She was like Jesus Christ.”

What the woman said really struck me. She said, “Lana was like Jesus Christ. I had already realized that with all that Jesus had, why would He need me? But He sought me out and saved me.” Then she went on to say that Lana had done the same thing. That is a striking thought, isn't it? I had never really thought about it in those words before. With all that Jesus has and with all that He is, why would He bother to seek me out? Why would He bother to do all the things for me that He has done? If you are thinking with me, I think that you would probably think the same thing. Why would Jesus bother with us? The love of Jesus Christ is incomprehensible, but Jesus loved John and John knew it. I think that he was saying that same sort of thing when he said, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He just couldn't get over that.

Jesus loved Peter, too, even this Peter who was going to deny Him, this Peter whom He knew was going to deny Him within a few hours. He loved him enough to point out this near fatal weakness. Apparently, Jesus knew that the only way Peter was going to learn that was to go through that humiliation of that obvious, shattering failure.

Luke's account of this same incident in Luke, chapter 22, brings out some important points. We are not going to take the time to study this carefully, but let me point out a couple of places in this chapter. Look at verse 31 and notice the tenderness that Luke records which John, for whatever reason, doesn't. Notice verse 31:

Luke 22

31And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Look at Jesus' confidence in Peter's faith in this verse. Satan had asked to sift Peter somewhat like Satan had come to God about Job. Satan had targeted Peter. Jesus knew that Peter had faith. In verse 32, He didn't pray that Peter would have faith; He prayed that Peter's faith would not fail. Notice also, in verse 32, that He knew in advance that Peter would turn to Him after he had failed. Peter didn't lose his faith after that great failure. His faith in himself failed, but his faith in Jesus Christ didn't fail, and he returned. Jesus knew that he would. He said, “After you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

What do we do with a great failure in our life? What do we do when we disappoint ourselves and we disappoint God, and maybe we have disappointed our family? Jesus said to Peter in a situation like that, “Use that failure and use that return to Me after that failure to strengthen your brethren.” God doesn't design that we fail. God doesn't cause us to fail. James tells us that God is not the author of temptation or of sin, but He allows it to come into our lives. He sometimes allows Satan to do those kinds of things to us because He knows if we fail, He can make use even of that failure.

I believe, partly on the basis of my own experience but mostly on the basis of the Word of God, some of the failures in my life are turning out to be opportunities for teaching and for sharing with other people.

The same thing is true for you and the same thing was true for Peter. Peter became the great leader of the early church partly because he went through this shattering failure, and he learned that he could not trust himself. Have you learned that lesson? It is a difficult lesson to learn, but it is extremely important. Peter thought that he could do anything. He thought he could die for Christ. Jesus said, “You are about to find out that not only can you not die for Me, you can't even stand for Me. You can't even speak up for Me in your own strength.” It is an extremely important lesson to learn.

Jesus is going to say farther over in John, among these last things that He said to the disciples, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” Six of the most important words in the life of any Christian are, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” When we are walking out of fellowship with the Lord, there is no telling what might happen, and we are not going to accomplish anything of eternal consequence. That is for sure, for without Him, we can do nothing. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. God's ear is not deaf that He can't hear, and His arm shortened that He cannot save, but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, so that He will not hear.”

Peter had to learn that. God gives us the gracious opportunity to learn it by Peter's experience, and not to have to go through it ourselves, if we will. If we do not learn it by example, He may have to teach it to us by experience. Jesus knew that Peter loved Him and had faith in Him even though it looked like neither one of those things was true. Don't be disturbed when you are judged by others for failure. If a failure comes, just remember that Jesus knows why you failed. He knows about you, and He has faith in you. He'll welcome you back when you come back to Him.

Micah, chapter 7, is speaking of the nation of Israel, but the principle is something that applies to any person who has gone through a spiritual failure like Israel did on a national basis. The prophet Micah is saying that some day when Israel is restored to God as a nation, they will say this:

Micah 7

8Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.
9I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, notice this until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.

Conclusion

See, the wonderful thing about failure is that failure is not final. Failure is not final because the Lord brings him back to Himself. It is not because we can somehow bounce back and overcome adversity. Maybe from a physical standpoint, some of our failure might not ever be overcome from that human, physical standpoint. But from a spiritual standpoint, He will plead my case and execute justice for me. He will bring me to the light, and I will see His righteousness.

I don't know if it is true of anyone here. I don't know everyone's heart. Maybe its true of someone reading this lesson, but let me just address myself to whomever it might be who has failed the Lord and you think your usefulness to Him is over. You are about to give up or you have given up. Remember this principle that failure is not final. God seeks that believer, that one lost sheep who goes astray, just as He does the unbeliever. None of us would ever come to God if He didn't seek us out to Himself. Scripture says that over and over again. We don't have the ability to seek out God, but He seeks us. Praise God that when we go astray after we are one of His sheep, He seeks us—leaves the ninety and nine and goes and seeks us. Even in the Old Testament, He makes a point of that. What a comfort to know that even though God knows our weaknesses, He also knows our faith and love for Him sometimes even when we forget it. He knows what He can make of us if we'll repent and come back to Him.

Think about Peter's life after that great failure. What could be worse than to realize that you had publicly sworn that you did not know Jesus Christ? How could anything be worse than that? Yet, even from that kind of failure, the Lord restored Peter. He even allowed him to teach things that were recorded for us to read 2,000 years later. What a gracious, loving God we have!


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