5 Steps to Real Change: Part 5 - Two Questions Waiting for an Answer?

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Part 5 - Two Questions Waiting for an Answer?

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5 Steps to Real Change: Part 5 - Two Questions Waiting for an Answer?

MP4 Video - 1080p (1.03 GB)
MP4 Video - 720p (636.34 MB)
MP3 Audio (19.47 MB)

Learn how these questions, "Who do you say that I am?" and "Do you love me?", strike at the heart of your relationship with Jesus Christ and God.

Discover the profound journey of spiritual transformation through the lens of Peter's experiences with Jesus. In this final episode of "5 Steps to Real Change," delve into the heart of change, exploring the pivotal questions that shape discipleship. From Peter's denial to his profound restoration, witness the power of love and commitment in forging a deeper relationship with God. Unravel the significance of Jesus' question at Caesarea Philippi, prompting us to confront the essence of His identity and purpose. Join this transformative exploration, equipping yourself with insights to navigate the path of spiritual growth and eternal life.


[Darris McNeely] And this was a revelation from above to Peter in that moment and to us for all time. God the Father had interrupted this former fisherman's life. By God's grace, Peter would become more than he was. Is it time for your life to be interrupted with this knowledge?

[Narrator] Join our presenters from the United Church of God as we bring you help for today and hope for tomorrow directly from your Bible here on "Beyond Today."

[Darris McNeely] This is the last in a series of programs here on "Beyond Today" about change. Deep change. Very personal change. The kind of change which is hard for most people to make. You see, most people don't even want to think about making a change in life, and I understand how this is. We all do, I think. Most of us live our lives it seems without a desire to make any change at a deep fundamental level. Yet, if we call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ, we will have to go through profound change in the inner person. It's really part of the job description.

Today, I want to take you through two questions that we must confront in this process of Christian change. If we answer these two questions in our hearts, then we can be ready to start a new life as a disciple, a sincere life. These two questions, they strike to the heart of a relationship with God. A relationship that is deeper than you could ever think possible because it's founded upon clear truth. We'll get to those two questions in a few minutes.

This is the last in a series in which we have focused a lot on change, but also it seems on one person. You see, more than once I have gone back to a sermon given by the Apostle Peter in the Book of Acts in chapter two, where on the day of Pentecost at the beginning of the church, after the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter stood up in the midst of his fellow disciples in Jerusalem and gave a very powerful sermon showing that Jesus was the one prophesied by all the prophets to come and to provide deliverance. That was not a deliverance from the yoke of Roman bondage that the Jews were under at that time, but it was really deliverance from spiritual sin. That was a big focus of His life and His ministry. And in that sermon when the climactic moment came and men and women who were gathered there listening to Peter, realized that their part was very real in the unjust death of Christ. And they were convicted of that. They asked Peter, "What shall we do?" They came to that conclusion because Peter had brought it down to the very personal level. He told them how Jesus was betrayed, falsely accused, and then crucified. But God had brought Him back from death, back to a glorified spirit life through the resurrection. He told them, those gathered, that they had a part in the death of Jesus, the Son of God. He said this, "Let all of the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." And when those words went out across that crowd, it cut them to their heart. They were stunned. They were convicted of murder. Some may have thought, "How could this be, what can we do? How can we ever come back from this?" Scripture tells us that they were deeply moved by what took place. You see, that's what it takes for a person to make a lasting change. The kind that can relate to God in matters of the spirit and in matters of eternal life.

The message from God that we read, that we study, that we pray about, that we think, about must penetrate to one's inner being. The news that we need to change, a lifestyle, a destructive habit, an addiction, an abusive approach to life, all of that can be very sobering. The realization that we not only have done something wrong in our life, that we have sinned, we've broken God's law, but that even the way we think, the processes of our thinking and our inner being, our view of life, what we call a worldview, it's all contrary to the moral nature of the universe. It is the opposite of the power that holds together all things in heaven and earth, the spirit of God. And when that moment of clarity comes for any of us, at that moment it brings a chill, it brings a conviction, and that's what it means biblically to be cut to the heart.

Now when we go back to the scene in Acts chapter two, we have to remember that God was guiding that scene. He was guiding the words that Peter was speaking that morning. They were inspired by the spirit of God. And Peter came ready with the words of hope and God stands behind those words today when we read them, think about them, pray about it, and study them before God. Because we're still in a world that has forgotten God. It begins in verse 38 of Acts chapter two. Peter said to them, "Repent. Let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Then he said something else that just was one of the more comforting passages that we tend to kind of read over. He said, "For the promise, the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call." It is a promise from the ages that is with us today.

Repentance comes when our view of ourselves is broken down. The images, the feelings, the thoughts, when it's broken down before God and we come to see that we are sinners in need of God even when we think that we know God and are His children. We can have a form of godliness. We can think that we're right with God, and many do, but we can be about as far from God as the most diehard atheist or abject sinner.

Peter gave this message, but the beauty of the message is that Christ was at the center. The Father draws us to Christ by His Spirit and our hope of salvation is by faith in that sacrifice given by Jesus for all mankind. We repent toward God and we have faith in Jesus. It's by His sacrifice so that we have the means for reconciliation with God and that hope of a new relationship. It's by that sacrifice that we have the forgiveness of sin and we have the means to life. A real life, a life that is connected to God through the power of God's spirit that He gives as a gift to those who obey Him.

When real repentance comes, it includes that heartbroken desire to give ourselves over to God. Godly repentance then comes from that inner person. It comes from what we call the heart. God has a promise reflecting that love and purpose that He has made to reconcile us through the life of His son. And in Acts two, the men and women there they saw God's love, and so can you. And that love can produce radical change. The type of change that leads to eternal life in the future and a better purpose driven life now, today. Peter showed them that lasting change comes from the convicting nature of the relationship that God desires with us. To make that lasting change, real lasting change, we have to come to that realization. The kind that, again, most people are just not able to make.

You know, in one of our earlier programs we saw how Peter came to the courage to stand before that crowd and to give such a powerful message. We went through the story of how Peter had denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest. Jesus had predicted that that would occur but Peter being the type that he was, very impetuous, denying a lot of things and not really knowing what he was capable of doing, he said, "No way. That's not going to happen." And then, three times on that night, Peter did deny that He was a follower of Christ and it was on that last one that Jesus gave Peter this piercing look which cut him to his heart. A look that none of us would ever want to even experience. I think Peter had a long time to think about that moment.

Now Jesus would put him through another test by way of a question that really strikes to the heart of what makes a true disciple. And it's a question that comes down to us today and is for us to answer. See, there's a reason that Peter's ministry is central to this topic of change, a spiritual change that comes from the inside. Of all of Christ's followers, his example and his words highlight the commitment that it takes to be a disciple.

So I think now we're ready to take a look at that first question. It came after Peter had returned to Christ. He might have denied him three times on the night of Christ's arrest, but Peter returned to the fellowship of His fellow disciples. You see, the gospels relate to us that on the morning after the resurrection, Peter was with John and they viewed the empty tomb. Peter was also present on the many appearances that Jesus had made to His disciples. But there's one story that stands out. Jesus wanted to have to meet with His disciples at the Sea of Galilee, one of their favorite spots where in the ministry of Christ he spent a lot of time.

The water, the low-lying hills around the Sea of Galilee was the setting for most of Christ's teaching during His ministry. In the villages around the lake, the towns, Jesus performed many miracles of healing and literally feeding the people. That region was in great need. It wasn't the rich center like Jerusalem. Thousands of people flocked and they came out to hear what Jesus had to say in those years. His teaching was both spiritual and physical. The people in the Galilee knew they needed the Kingdom of God. They were hungry for hope, which is the same for people today. It tends to be the poorer people who know that they need God, they need His Kingdom, not the rich, wealthy, and mighty. And Jesus chose that spot to teach the disciples that they were to feed the sheep spiritually. They were to care for the disciples that God would add to the church.

On that occasion, seven of the disciples gathered. Peter said, "I'm going to go fishing." The other six said, "Well, we'll go also." So into a boat they went. And after a night of fishing, they caught nothing. Sounds like some of the fishing trips I used to go on. But when the morning dawned, Jesus was on the shore and He called to them asking, "Have you caught any fish?" Not knowing who he was in that moment, they said, "No." He said, "Well, cast your net on the right side of the boat, you'll find some." They did, and they filled the net with so many fish that they couldn't draw it in. It was John who first recognized that the man standing on the shore was Jesus. "It's the Lord," he shouted. And Peter got so excited that he put on his garment and plunged into the water and began swimming toward Jesus, leaving all the others to bring up the rear with a boat and dragging that net full of fish in with them.

Now Jesus had anticipated this moment. He'd prepared a fire with fish and bread cooking on the hot coals. After that net was dragged to shore, Jesus passed around the fish and the bread to the disciples that were stunned into silence at the scene before them. Quite unusual. They recognized Him, but they no doubt were wondering at that moment what it was that it was all about. Because one thing they knew about Jesus, He did not do things without a purpose, and it was all set up for this question.

What follows is a profound picture of restoration. Peter, as I said earlier, had returned but there was one question that would bring him completely back into the fold and in a relationship with Jesus. Now remember Peter had denied Jesus three times on the night that He was arrested, and it was a personally humiliating moment. But the larger lesson was for the others and for us as we read what is said. Here, the Great Shepherd gave Peter his life's theme. When they finished breakfast, Jesus came over to Simon Peter and he said, "'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?' And he said, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' And He said to him, 'Feed my lambs.' He said to him a second time, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' And he said to Him, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' He said, 'Tend my sheep.'"

It was the third question that got to Peter. Jesus used a different word, a word that meant a deep brotherly love. He said, "Do you really love me?" He was asking, "Do you really love me as a brother in a deep family relationship?" Well, it says Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" That got to Peter. That third question got to his heart, cut him to the heart. He said, "Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you." Now, Peter was humbled in front of his peers. He gave up on his shallow understanding. He saw that he'd been running away from a relationship based on abiding love. He saw that he was being welcomed into the family relationship with God at that moment, which is the same invitation that we have as well. Peter could now start to get it. He'd run out of the wiggle room of human reasoning that we get caught up and lost in. He responded to Jesus by saying, "Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you." To which Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. Truly I say to you, when you were young you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” And in that He was showing what kind of death Peter would have to glorify God. And after that he said to Peter, "Follow me."

Then Jesus gave a final word for both Peter and John. Peter saw John standing there and he turned back to Jesus and he said, "But Lord, what about this man? What about John?" As he pointed to him, Jesus said, "If I will that he remained till I come; what is that to you? You follow me." Peter denied Jesus three times, and three times here in the Galilee Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" Peter's denial highlighted that gap that had to be filled. On the third question of love, that gap was filled. Peter had found his purpose. The rest of his life was based on that, and he was locked into change. And we're ready to look at that second question.

Again it was put to Peter at an earlier moment, but it's a question for the ages. It was put to Peter on our behalf and it marks a turning point in the work, and it'll make the turning point in the work that God is doing in each of our lives. It's a question which turns us to face the defining purpose of Christ's mission on this earth as the Messiah and the Son of God. We look at the magnitude of this question by joining Jesus and his fellow disciples in another place further north in Galilee before the rocky cliff face of what is called Caesarea Philippi, an encounter that is recorded in the Book of Matthew chapter 16. It says, "When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples saying, 'Who do men say that I am?' They said, 'Well, some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' But Jesus then said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?'"

Now, this was not just an in-house conversation among some observant Jews. It was set before a nearby imposing cliff face that this rendition shows. It was filled with pagan statuary. There was a temple there to the god Pan, who was the god of the underworld. Here was a symbolic opening into hell, the abode of demons in all that opposes the very purpose of God. Here, Jesus had purposely brought His disciples to create a moment and a backdrop for a central question to not just his life as the Messiah, but the central purpose of God. It's the question of who is God, which is the most critical question that we need to face an answer in life. Your eternal life depends on the answer given to that question. This is not an academic theological exercise from which we can just casually walk away and close the notes in the book, it's the key to the question of the ages. Who is Christ? Who and what is God? What is God doing? What is His purpose for human life?

People came to this spot in Caesarea Philippi in the day of Jesus to worship a lifeless god of stone representing the dark demonic world. They were worshiping demons, posing his powers who held the keys to life and death, but all they had to offer was death. And Jesus came that men might have life and He came to conquer death. Jesus came as the instrument by which the Father would gather together in one, all things which are in heaven and in earth. And He came to deliver us from the power of darkness, to bring us a new life in Christ through His blood and the forgiveness of sins.

Peter gives a direct answer to that question. He said to Christ, “’You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’” Peter's response and Jesus further declaration were ultimately for all mankind. Jesus was both the Son of man and the Son of God, not merely one more in a line of prophets. He was sent by the living God and not by lifeless idols. And this was a revelation from above to Peter in that moment and to us for all time.

God the Father had interrupted this former fisherman's life, forever altered it. By God's grace Peter would become more than he was. Is it time for your life to be interrupted with this knowledge? Jesus was the embodiment of God's eternal purpose. First laid down in Genesis, which said that the seed of a woman would ultimately crush the head of the serpent. Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Deuteronomy, where God says that a prophet like Moses would come. This is the one to whom the total allegiance is to be given and not merely put up on a mantelpiece along with other objects of worship. Jesus stands alone. As He declared in John chapter 14, He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." And the same truth was later declared through Peter when he stated that it is, "by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that we would be saved. There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

But is a verbal answer regarding truth enough? No, the ultimate answer is imprinted in our daily lives. That every moment, every thought, every action and deed summons us to embrace Christ. Imagine on the last night of Jesus human existence how encouraging it was to Him and a prod forward to what lay ahead that His followers would say that He was the answer. He prayed, "Oh, righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You and these have known that You sent me. And I have declared to them your name, and will declare it that the love with which You loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

We have a featured study guide for this particular program that I think ends this series very well. It is a booklet entitled, "Transforming Your Life" and it fits the theme of all of these series. It's a comprehensive guide that takes you through the steps of change and spiritual conversion, everything I've talked about in these series but in a deeper way. It was written by a minister, a very good friend of mine, a man with 50 years of pastoral experience who used his experience of taking people through the steps of repentance, baptism, and spiritual transformation. Real change that sets a disciple on the road to eternal life. You would do well to read this and to compare it with what you knew when you may have been baptized or joined a church in the past.

Did you understand what repentance was? Did you know who and what God was? His purpose to bring us into His spiritual family? To make us His children? That's what real change is meant to produce. It will feed your spiritual hunger with spiritual truth. So go online to begin reading it or to call the number on your screen and to order a free copy to be mailed to you today. So can you answer the questions about God and your love for Him? "Do you love me?" He asked. "Who do men say that I am?" And it goes further. These are questions asked of us. They are questions that need an answer. Questions that you, a believer, a seeker of truth need to ask.

Put yourself in Peter's place. Christ looks at us today with eyes like a flame of fire piercing to our hearts and moving us relentlessly by those questions, who do you say that I am? And do you love me? And He's waiting for our response.

[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet offered on today's program, "Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion." This free 60-page study aid makes plain the biblical process of conversion. Order now, call toll free 1-888-886-8632. The Bible reveals that a person’s conversion is a life transforming process and it's only possible through the direct, powerful involvement of God. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary one-year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. Beyond Today Magazine brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy, as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family and godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, "Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion," and your free one-year subscription to Beyond Today Magazine. 1-888-886-8632, or go online to beyondtoday.tv.

[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with the United Church of God. If you are looking for a church that encourages living what the word of God really teaches, you found the right place. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.