I never get over how strong the temptation is to preach religion instead of preaching that which I am commissioned to preach, Christ!
I Corinthians 1:23, II Corinthians 4:5, Colossians 1:28
Currently I am preaching through a sermon series called Heroes: 8 Stories of Incredible People. The second sermon was slated as a charter study of the life of Peter. When I study the life of Peter I see an incredible walking contradiction, a man of incredible strength and epic weakness. At one moment he is walking on water and the next he’s slipping into the waves. It seems no apostle is more commended and subsequently corrected than Peter, many times all within the same passage.
In preparing for the sermon I began to outline the great moments of weakness and strengths that all Christians are familiar with. I then, as is often my tendency, began to write out the many ways we can be strong like Peter. First, Peter did this and then Peter did that and lastly Peter did another thing. Therefore, if you are going to be strong, you must do this, do that, and do another thing. When people leave our church I often accomplish that which we are expressly forbidden to do, increase the burden of the people. Oh how proficient the Pharisees were at this. Even if you were living by every man-made law and preference, by the time you left their synagogue you would have a brand new shiny yoke that must be bourn.
Jesus was different! He said in Matthew 11:28-30
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly inheart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Oh how I desire to be like Jesus!
I went back and studied the life of Peter and had to rethink my sermon. It’s not that Peter was strong when Peter decided to be stronger, it’s that Peter was strong when he was in direct communion with our Lord. It was not Peter who decided to be a strong Christian leader, it was Jesus who decided to make Peter a strong Christian leader. All Peter did was take advantage of being around Jesus as much as possible. When Peter thought he was strong enough to handle a particular situation we always see Peter falling flat. However, when Peter stands with Christ in the Gospels or the Holy Spirit in Acts we see the strong Peter we all admire and love. Peter could do all things through Christ who strengthened him!
I continue to be convicted that I must lift up Christ to our church! Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, and unbiblical standards of spiritual excellence perhaps I need to point people to the truth that Christ is enough and that religion will never save, nor satisfy.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.