October 31, 1517 is a very important day in Protestant history. This is the day that Martian Luther nailed the 95 Thesis on the church door in Witenburg, Germany. All Luther wanted to do was reform the Catholic Church but the Church leaders found his message on Salvation through, Faith alone in Christ alone through the Authority of the Scripture alone to be offensive. So they asked him in essence to deny his faith or be labeled a heretic. This must have been a very discouraging trial but Luther fought hard and opened the door to others being strengthened by his resolve.
Luther had a hard fight ahead of him and I am sure there where many times he became discouraged and wondered is this worth the fight. Many times we face difficult struggles in our lives and become very discouraged, even at times we even fail in our walk with the Lord. So how do we get through our day to day with so much coming at us that can cause us to walk away from our faith? What do we do when we fail? We are going to look at this this morning in our text in Luke.
It is very easy in this world to become discouraged. Even as a Christian it is easy for our faith to be shaken. So when our faith is shaken why is it shaken, how do we walk through it and more importantly where is Jesus in all of this? We will look at these questions this morning as we look at The Perseverance of the Faithful.
We will see this in Luke 22:31-34, Luke 22:31-34. As we turn to Luke 22:31-34 we are in the middle of Luke's account of the upper room discourse. The apostles have just celebrated the passover with Jesus and they have heard Jesus predict that He will soon be betrayed and two weeks ago we saw how the apostles became very proud and began arguing with one another in reference to which one of them was the greatest. Jesus taught them a very important lesson on their privilege is not in what they know or how great they think they are but it is actually in their service to Jesus and the Father. Faithful service to Jesus will lead to honor and reward in the life to come.
This morning Jesus provides a strong warning to one of His closest apostles, Peter. This is the prediction of Peter's denial of Jesus and this event is very specific to Peter but oh how we can put ourselves in this poor mans shoes or sandals. Jesus is teaching Peter and we can even learn a valuable lesson here on perseverance. Let's go ahead and look at Luke 22:31-34
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”
As we first look at verse 34 we see Jesus calling out, "Simon, Simon." This should be very striking to anyone of us here. Especially if you have paid close attention to my intro about this account being specific to Peter. Who is this Simon and why is Jesus calling attention to him. Simon and Peter are the same person. Simon is his given name by his parents on the day he was circumcised. Peter is the name Jesus gave Simon when Simon confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Names should have meaning and Peter in the original Greek means rock. Peter is a man with very strong character and that is why he is given this name by Jesus. So why does Jesus now revert back to Peter's given name. Simple, it is a sign of the seriousness of what Jesus is about to tell Simon, or Peter. It is the equivalent of when you are having a serious discussing with your children or wife or close friends you call them by the full given name. That is what Jesus is doing here.
So Jesus calls for Simon's attention and then He tells Simon, "behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;" Satan once again is highlighted by Luke. We saw Satan's activity earlier in this chapter in verse 3,
And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve.
Satan was active in using Judas in Betraying Jesus and now we see Satan once again and this time Satan has sought out permission to sift the apostles. There is a powerful statement here in this verse it is very reminiscent of the book of Job. Let me explain something about Satan. He has limited control of the events that happen in anyone's life. Yes, he is called the prince of the power of the air but his control of this world is limited. He can not act in anyone's life without first receiving permission from God to do so. Just like in Job we find this,
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.
So as we see Satan was seeking people to go after and he could do nothing without God giving him permission and even here we see God limits Satan's activity in the life of Job. The reason Satan went after Job was to test Job's faith and to turn Job away from God. Satan understood God blessed Job and Satan needed God's permission to take everything away from Job so Job's faith would be shaken and by shaking Job's faith Satan believed Job would turn on God.
Satan has power over the earth but it is limited and as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:8
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
This is exactly what he does this is what Satan did to Job and this is what Satan does to the apostles and this is what Satan does to believers today. He is seeking out those who have been called by God to walk after him to shake their faith.
Satan is allowed by God as a means of Filtration.
I want us to look at this, "sift you like wheat." The "you" here is plural. Satan did not just ask to sift Simon, he asked to sift them all. The idea here of sifting wheat is to filter the wheat, sifting is a way of getting the wheat out of the husk. George Washington one day while serving as president of the United States sat thinking about the best way to remove the wheat from the husk of the wheat he grew on his plantation. See George Washington for those of you who don't know was an avid farmer and truly enjoyed farming. Wheat was one of his crops and he not only wanted a faster way to harvest it he also wanted a safer way to harvest it so that it was not out in the elements.
So he came up with the sixteen sided barn. Basically it is a round barn. He would have the wheat placed on these slats here and bring horses up get them to trot on the wheat for about 45 and when the 45 minutes were up the bottom part of the barn would be filled with the heavy grain that was suitable for us. The barn was used as a filtration system for the wheat and the horses were utilized to very forcibly remove the wheat from the husk. That is what Satan has asked to do with the apostles.
He wants to forcibly shake them till they fall apart. This is a very vivid picture of what Satan asked for permission to do. It is a way of filtering the apostles. What is interesting about this is the fact that he needs permission to shake the faith of the believer, he needs permission to try to cause the believer to fall. That is exactly what he is doing and he can't just do it on his own and he wants to do this to all the apostles because he wants them to be discouraged in their service of the Lord. Satan has already tried to tempt Jesus so now Satan is going to go after Jesus' closest followers and he is going to do this to deter them from following to break their spirit.
Notice though who does Jesus direct this statement to. It is directed at Simon, and now He uses the plural you why does He do this? Why didn't He address all the apostles if Satan has asked permission to sift all the apostles like wheat? Because Simon is the spokesman for the group. Of all the apostles Simon is the one who has been outspoken and has taken the lead in many areas. Even though Satan wants permission to take out all the apostles as we are going to see very soon Satan is more concerned with dealing with Simon personally than with the other apostles because Simon is the leader.
In a few hours all of the apostles will deny Jesus but Peter's denial will hit him a little harder. Satan is doing this on purpose because he is working to filter the apostles, he is giving them a beating so to speak. Now this isn't to say what doesn't kill us makes us stronger that isn't it at all. Satan is allowed to tear down the apostles for God's sake because, just like Job was strengthened through what Satan did to him so will Peter and the apostles be strengthened. They will learn what failure looks like in their own lives from this filtering and they will see the forgiveness of the Lord in this filtering as well.
We will first look at the forgiveness of the Lord.
Look with me at verse 32 Jesus continues, "but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Jesus comes right out and tells Simon, Satan has asked permission to shake your faith but I have prayed for you, and this 'you' here is singular this is specific for Simon because Simon is the rock and the leader of the group if he is shaken and falls they all are shaken and fall. So Jesus is interceding for Simon specifically here because they denial Simon demonstrates in just a few hours cuts him much deeper than the others.
Jesus doesn't pray that Satan will leave Simon alone. Simon needs to go through this shaking and it has to be a violent shaking. What Jesus does pray for is "that his faith may not fail." When Satan or one of his minions are attacking when it feels like all hope is lost it can be devastating, it can shake you to the core. One example for believers can be when you are with someone and the opportunity avails itself to share the gospel and instead you come up with excuses not to. Then afterward what do you do, "Oh man I can't believe I did that, God opened a door and I just ran away. Stupid, stupid, stupid." Small scale but you can't tell me that doesn't shake your faith a little.
Than of course there are the bigger things that happen in our lives, the bigger tests that try to shake our faith. Financial hardships that plague just about everyone. The friend at work or the neighbor down the street who ridiculous you for your faith or even your lack of. The fight you just got into with your spouse, sibling or friend that came out of no where and caused anger and dissension between you. All of these things which come up in our lives are all a way of discouraging us from following after Jesus, from believing God is in control of all thing. These are tests in our lives and they are designed to strengthen us.
Look if I were to poll everyone in this room right now on whether or not you felt discouraged or felt weak in your faith sometime in the last 48 hours I am sure everyone in here would their hands. Everyone fails and listen I have a secret to tell you, God knows you will fail. Jesus knows you will fail. We will look at failure in a minute because right now we are looking at forgiveness. Jesus' words here are amazing, He is telling Simon you will fail, but...but, you will be restored. He is saying I forgive you.
First off in Jesus' forgiveness we see He intervenes on our behalf. He prays for Simon. When Satan is accusing Simon and when Satan is hard at work to shake Simon from following Jesus and Simon fails Jesus is intervening for him. He pleads for Simon. Jesus is like a lawyer, in fact in the 1 John 2 John says this about Jesus.
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—
Notice John calls Jesus our Advocate, again this is saying Jesus is our defendant He is our defence attorney and when we fail He comes to our defense. He does this because He is our representative. Just as we find in Hebrews 2:17-18,
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
Do you know what this means, this means not only does Jesus represent us but He is our perfect representative and He is a God who can relate to our trials and struggles in this world. Jesus never sinned but Jesus was tempted in the same ways we are. We are not perfect so when a trial comes up in our life when something happens in our lives to shake our faith we fail because we aren't perfect but Jesus is our Advocate. Jesus is always coming to our defense before the Father, even when we betray Him in a knee-jerk reaction He is still coming to our defense.
Jesus' prayer for Simon is very specific, He prays Simon's "faith may not fail." Jesus doesn't pray the trial won't happen His prayer is for Simon to be strengthened through it. To remember who his Lord and Savior is and to continue to walk after Jesus. Look Jesus knows what Simon is going to do and He knows it will hit him hard, Simon's failure will discourage him from feeling worthy to follow after his Lord and Jesus knows this and He prays Simon will walk through it in the end.
Not only that Jesus also knows that Simon will repent, or turn back to Jesus. Jesus continues and tells Simon "and you, when once you have turned again," meaning when you confess your failure and you acknowledge your love for me and walk after me. Simon's failure is going to cause him to be very disheartened, to the point of not feeling worthy to follow after the Lord and serve Him. Jesus knows this and Jesus prayer is that it will not cause Simon to walk away for good. See when you belong to Jesus, He holds on to you. He doesn't want to let you go.
Peter obviously doesn't understand this now but look at what he writes to the church in his letter about overcoming persecution.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus is the one who prays for you and He is the One who Saves you and He is the One who will perfect you. What is interesting about what Jesus says to Simon here is very important. Jesus knows exactly what Simon will do He knows Simon will fail and He knows it is to filter Simon so his faith will be strengthened. Do you see that even before Simon confesses his failure Jesus has already forgiven Him. The offer of forgiveness is there. Not only does Jesus tell Simon, "Hey I'm not only coming to your defence but you will repent and you will be strengthened and you will in turn strengthen your brothers. This is the difference between Judas and Simon. Judas didn't turn back to Jesus, Simon does. The offer of forgiveness extended to Judas but he didn't acknowledge it as opposed to Simon's eyes are opened to it and he turns back.
This is pre cross and Jesus has already forgiven Simon of his sins. That is what Jesus does on the cross. Him dying on the cross is paying the penalty for the sins of all mankind. His death, burial and resurrection is for the purpose of defeating sin once for all. He succeeded where man failed and in His victory on the cross He offers forgiveness to all mankind for their sin just like He does for Simon. Look all Jesus asks of us is to be strong in our faith and know that when we fail He forgives.
The problem is even when Jesus makes it very clear that we will fail because of our sinful nature we don't quite listen just like Simon doesn't listen. Jesus is forgiving because man always fails. Let's look at the failure of man.
Let's look at verses 33 and 34. "But he said to Him, "Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!" This is a very strong statement and the fact of the matter is Peter actually does go both to prison and to death but Peter's statement is actually overly confident in his own strength. Peter isn't acknowledging the facts of Jesus' warning, instead of asking for the strength to make it through this trial he tells Jesus don't worry that's not going to happen I will go with you to prison and to death. He is speaking right to God in the flesh and telling the eternal all knowing sovereign God of all creation, you don't know what your talking about I am going to follow you, even to the cross.
I read this and I think how foolish are we all because even the strongest of believers, even the most faithful of us has done this. I know my heart better than God and I would never do X,Y,Z. The moment someone says "I would never do that" the very next thing that happens is an event in your life where you wind up doing just that. People rely to much on self and not enough on God and people think they know their own hearts better than the one who formed it and keeps it beating.
Look at what the Psalmist says in Psalm 44:20-21:
If we had forgotten the name of our God Or extended our hands to a strange god, Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.
The author of Hebrews has a very powerful statement about God know the hearts of man. Look with me at Hebrews 4:12-13.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
People trust themselves and they shouldn't, people think they know better what they will do and how they will react in any situation and you really don't and not only that when you think this way you think you can do it, that is pride. You don't have the strength in and of yourself to do anything godly or anything good. Yes we are all failures just like Simon. We have all failed and to think you know better than God or His word and to think you can keep yourself from doing something that is contrary to God and His word will only lead to your being tested and if you are relying on yourself to make it through you will fail.
Jesus knows Simon will fail so He responds to Simon with a time frame of when he will fail Jesus in verse 34, "And He said, "I say to you, Peter," notice now Jesus calls him Peter not Simon. Jesus does this on purpose as an encouragement. Jesus still knows Peter will fail and He also knows Peter will turn back to Him and He calls him Peter to show his character is still strong and Peter will still be a strong leader in the church.
Now Jesus gives Peter the sign of when Peter will fail. He continues, "the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me." This very night you will deny Me three times. That is what Jesus says to Peter. Very specific time period and Peter's denial of Jesus is during Jesus' trial. Peter is close enough to see and hear what is going on and the people around Peter know by the way he speaks that he is a disciple of Jesus. Three times he was asked of he was a disciple of Jesus and three times he failed to admit he was Jesus' disciple. This was a lesson for Peter to learn and this is the trial he had to go through so he could his faith could be shaken. He was heartbroken after denying Jesus to the point that when Jesus was resurrected and walking the earth with His disciples He reinstated Peter. Let's look at this in John.
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.
Three times Peter failed and three times he acknowledged his love for His Lord and Master. Peter was forgiven of his proud self righteous act. His failure was not to great to receive forgiveness. All he need was to have his eyes opened to the truth. Through Satan filtering Simon, we learn Jesus is actively working to defend us and ready to forgive us of our failures.
For the believer this means when we are going through times of discouragement or if we fail a test we need to keep in mind we don't lose our salvation we don't lose Jesus' forgiveness. What we need to do is remember He is their speaking on our behalf and wants us to stop relying on ourselves and trust in Him and serve Him. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Forgiveness is there we just need to accept it.
Keep in mind we will go through hard times in life and our faith will be shaken, it happens. Know this if you know Jesus as Lord and Savior He is your advocate, He is always defending you, no matter what happens. He will perfect you till the end. You can make it through any situation in your life by just relying on His strength and His forgiving grace.
If you don't know Jesus as Lord and Savior if you are always trying to make it through everything on your own and always discouraged by sin in your life thinking you have done to much evil or sin in your life to warrant Jesus' forgiveness of your sins, I want you to know He has already offered you forgiveness, all you have to do is acknowledge you can't do it on your own and ask for your eyes to be open to the truth so you can know Him as Savior and so you can go to heaven.