Spiritual Journey and Relationships

1. Favorite Trees

 

I think my favorite tree is the Coast Redwood or the California Redwood. There is a scientific name for this tree but I won’t be sharing the scientific name because I had trouble with the pronunciation.

The Coast Redwood is my favorite tree for a couple of reasons … they are big, they are majestic, part of Return of the Jedi was filmed in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and because despite the best efforts of environmentalists some of them get turned in to really cool decks. Although, I prefer decks built with Trex.

 Here are some facts about the California Redwood you might not be interested in:

 Coast Redwood trees survive to be over 2,000 years old and average 500 – 700 years of age.

A living Coast Redwood tree has no known killing diseases, and the insects associated with it cause no significant damage

The world’s tallest tree is a Coast Redwood and measures 379.1 feet tall, which is nearly six stories taller than the Statue of Liberty and a lot of feet taller than the Homedale water tower. 

 California Redwoods can weigh up to 1.6 million pounds.

The diameter of a California Redwood, can be up to 22 feet.

The bark of a Coast Redwood thickness up to 12 inches.

Coast Redwood trees are able to grow from only a seed to 100 feet tall in only 50 years! Some of these trees can grow 6 whole feet in only one year.

 The cones of the Coast Redwood are very small, they are only about an inch long, and only contain a few dozen tiny seeds.

 Do you know how tiny the seeds are? This is where you are supposed to say “How tiny are they?”

 Roughly 125,000 Coast Redwood seeds make up a pound.

 Young trees also sprout from the base of their parent’s trunk, taking advantage of the energy and nutrient reserves contained within the established root system.

 The most amazing thing about these trees, especially when I have stood in a forest surrounded by them, is that just like many other trees, they start from a very small seed and grow as tall as they do.

Once the Coast Redwood trees grow to their towering heights they don’t stop growing, they continue to grow, they continue to produce seeds for other trees, and they continue to be a productive tree.

 That is, until they die. And when they die they either turn into something beautiful for people to enjoy – like a picnic table or a carving of a bear, or they stay in the forest and become part of the life giving ecosystem as compost.

 Today as we consider the journey of following Christ as we examine the life of the Apostle Peter, let’s be mindful of the maturation process of the Coast Redwood, a tree that starts out as small seed and matures to become the tallest tree on the planet, participating fully in the life of the forest along the way.

 Let’s see if there are any parallels between our maturation in Christ and the Coast Redwood.

 

2. Peter

 

As we look at the life of Peter this morning, we will examine some of the experiences that helped shaped Peter’s faith but not all of them. Hopefully our selected Scripture will give us a good overview of Peter’s maturation in Christ.

 

Let’s also consider Peter’s quest for holiness, in light of each of our own spiritual journey’s as we are drawn by God us into a place of holiness and constant communion with the Trinity.

 

In Matthew 4 we learn that Jesus called Peter the fisherman to be one of his disciples when Jesus said to Peter and Peter’s brother Andrew, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

 

These simple words, spoken by Jesus, would change Peter’s life forever. Peter and Andrew dropped their nets, followed Jesus and learned from Him along with the other disciples.

 

We are fortunate that some of what Jesus taught was remembered and written down. We can learn about following Jesus by reading what Jesus taught Peter and the other disciples. We like Peter can “drop our nets” and follow Jesus and learn from Him and have our lives changed forever.

 

In Matthew 8:14-17, and in other passages of Scripture, Peter learned about healing from Jesus. Peter saw Jesus heal many people, including Peter’s own mother-in-law.

 

Scripture says that, “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.”

 

So Jesus either healed Peter’s mother-in-law to glorify God and so that she no longer would be sick, or because Peter and his wife were terrible at hospitality and Jesus wanted someone to make Him a sandwich.

 

Regardless, Peter learned about healing and this is a lesson he would never forget.

 

In Matthew 10: 1-2, Jesus called His disciples together and “gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”

 

Peter learned about healing by watching Jesus heal people, and now Peter and the other disciples were given the opportunity to practice. In Peter’s ministry and faith journey he grew because he had the opportunity to learn and to practice.

 

Maybe Jesus was on to something? Maybe there is something to Jesus’ methods we need to emulate?

 

Jesus also gives us the authority to “do” like He did. We need to try. We need to practice. We need to learn. We need to do. We need to be like Jesus.

 

In Matthew 14, Peter has an opportunity to learn or get it right when he tries walking on water without skis or a paddle board. Peter gets the walking on water thing right for a while, but then he begins to doubt his own ability and what Christ can do through him, and begins to sink before being caught by Jesus.

 

I tried walking on water once. Got my feet wet. I’m going to try again though. I really hope Peter tried to walk on water again, either with Jesus physically present or without. If Peter did try to walk on water again, I hope he figured out how to trust Jesus in him and not doubt his own abilities.

 

I’ll keep trying to walk on the water too, and someday maybe I’ll trust Jesus fully, and not doubt my own abilities so that I can “Walk on the ocean, Step on the stones, Flesh becomes water, Wood becomes bone.”

 

Sorry, about that “Toad the Wet Sprocket” flash back.

 

Peter grew a ton in his experience of walking and sinking on the water. I think this was a significant point in his faith development, and we can learn a lot from Peter in this story about how to go all out when following Jesus.

 

In Matthew 15:15-16 we read that Peter doesn’t understand a parable that Jesus shared and Jesus asks Peter and the other disciples “Are you still so dull?”

 

Maybe Peter wasn’t in to stories, maybe physical learning, like walking on water was more his thing. For some reason, he had trouble grasping the story, and he asked Jesus for help in understanding the parable.

 

I think Peter learned that sometimes we have to trust our God given ability to think and discern as we hear from Jesus and His teachings. I think Peter also learned that Jesus really wanted Peter to grasp what He was saying.

 

The same goes for us as we journey with Christ. Jesus doesn’t want to confuse us, but He does want us to understand, believe, and follow.

 

Matthew 16:13-20 is another bright spot for Peter in his roller coaster of a life. Peter answers “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” when Jesus asked the disciples who He was.

 

Peter’s answer solidifies the truth in which the Church is founded on, Jesus, and Peter’s position of leadership in the Church.

 

I’m thinking that Peter also grew significantly in his relationship with Jesus through this exchange of teaching and learning.

 

Peter learned directly from Christ on Peter’s journey, and we can too as we converse with Jesus through prayer.

 

Peter’s moment of glory didn’t last too long however, even though we don’t know the exact order of all these events we can surmise Peter’s next opportunity to get it right came sometime after Jesus’ blessing of Peter and comments about the rock in which the church would be built.

 

In verses 21 and 22 of Matthew 16 Peter decides to disagree with Jesus when Jesus began explaining what His death and resurrection would be like. As Peter tells Jesus this will never, ever happen, Jesus very calmly turns to Peter and says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

 

Great job Peter, great job! Must be pretty bad to have Jesus refer to you as Satan. I’ve heard people be called the spawn of Satan before, but never this. And not only that, but Peter is a stumbling block to the Lord Jesus Christ. How bad is that?

 

I’ve been a stumbling block to a lot of people, but never Jesus.

 

This was not a great moment for Peter, but I bet he learned from it. I bet this experience helped him mature in his quest for Christ likeness.

 

In Matthew 26 we find Peter being himself again as he denies Jesus not once, not twice, but three times before the rooster crowed, and just as Jesus had predicted would happen at their last meal together.

 

Peter had to have felt terrible after he denied Christ three times. Verse 75 of Matthew 26 tells us that after the rooster crowed and Peter remembered the words of Christ “he went outside and wept bitterly.”

 

At least Peter didn’t kill himself like Judas did, but you know the guy had to feel terrible for what he did.

 

We like Peter, are going to be in these places sometimes as we strive to follow Jesus with all of who we are but come up short from time to time. We just have to know that unfortunately these opportunities to get it right are part of the experience of following Jesus.

 

We also have to understand they are part of the experience of following Jesus because of our humanness, our sinful nature, and our need for a Savior.

 

But, like they say, you cannot keep a good man down, and Peter was a good man. Something of Peter’s experience of following Christ finally kicked in. Maybe it was the death and resurrection? Maybe it was the Holy Spirit coming on the day of Pentecost?

 

Whatever happened in Peter, we know that he became a leader in the early church, that he did things that he had learned directly from Jesus, and that he taught things that he had learn directly from Jesus.

 

In Acts 2 we read that Peter stands up and explains to everyone what happened with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and shared with them about the person of Jesus Christ and the church grew by about 3000 people that very day.

 

Those statistics would blow church growth people away, 3000 people were added to their church in one day, because of Peter’s faithfulness and the work of the Holy Spirit. I bet a lot of Peter’s doubts were erased that day.

 

In Acts 3 we find Peter being like Jesus and healing a crippled beggar, and then again teaching the crowd of people who had gathered about the truth of Jesus Christ.

 

In Acts 5 we find Peter continuing to heal people, and continuing to teach about the truth of Jesus Christ.

 

Peter was growing and maturing as a follower of Christ and as a direct result of his maturation in Christ, as a leader in the early church.

 

In Acts 10 we read that about the Apostle Peter was a major player in helping the early church accept that salvation in Jesus Christ was for more than just the Jewish people. Peter’s vision and his experience with Cornelius’ pave the way for Paul and the ministry to the Gentiles and the rest of the world.

 

The bottom line in all that we have examined about Peter’s life so far is that Peter may have had his ups and downs, but he matured as a follower of Jesus Christ over the course of his life.

 

Like the California redwood Peter’s faith started out when a small seed, “follow me” was planted in him, and as that seed was nurtured and encouraged to grow Peter grew and matured in his faith as a follower of Jesus Christ.

 

I’m sure we can find some similarities between our own spiritual journey’s and Peter’s, and hopefully we can learn something from Peter, and Jesus’ involvement in his life.

 

Towards the end of his life and many years after his conversion experience, probably between 60 and 68 A.D., Peter wrote a couple of letters to the early church. He may have written more letters but these are the only two that were canonized or added to the Bible.

 

As I read 1 Peter and 2 Peter this week I read them with Peter and his spiritual journey in mind. As I read these two books I pictured Peter as the tallest of the tall Coast Redwood trees, a mature tree participating in the life of the forest.

 

Peter wrote these letters to encourage people in their faith, out of his own personal experience. We might even be able to say that these two letters were Peter’s memoir.

 

I won’t name all of them, but here are some of the themes that stood out to me as I read Peter’s words to the early church and fortunately to us in 1 Peter and 2 Peter.

 

“In his great mercy he has given us new birth.” I’m pretty sure Peter understood mercy.

 

Rejoice greatly

 

Trials strengthen our faith

 

Be self-controlled ~ from a guy who didn’t always practice self-control

 

Be obedient and don’t conform to the evil desires ~ remember, Peter was get behind me Satan at one point.

 

Be holy

 

Abstain from sinful desires

 

Love the church

 

Live in harmony as brothers and sisters in Christ

 

Love as brothers and sisters, Love each other deeply

 

Be compassionate

 

Be humble

 

Be clear minded

 

Offer hospitality to one another

 

Speak as one speaking the very words of God

 

Serve with the strength of God

 

Don’t be carried away by the error of lawless men

 

Add to your faith … goodness, knowledge, perseverance, godliness, kindness

 

3. Our Spiritual Journey and Relationships

 

One of the aspects of maturing in Christ that we haven’t touched on yet, but that I think is really important is how our trying to follow Christ the best we can affects our relationships with other people.

 

We know that Peter had ups and down as he strived with all of who he was to follow Christ the best he possibly could, and we can assume that because of our humanness and the necessity of following Christ together as a group of people those ups and downs could have an impact on those around us.

 

The downs might bring others down, make people mad, cause people to stumble, help people learn and grow, or any number of other things.

 

The ups might encourage other people in their faith, be contagious, cause people to stumble, help people to learn and grow, or any number of other things.

 

Remember as we follow Christ our goal, like Peter’s was, is to mature in our faith. Phrases like “Be holy,” and “be perfect” ought to ring a bell. Some of maturation will come from our getting it right, and some of our growth will come from opportunities to get right … either way we mature.

 

As I have reflected on Peter’s life this week I have come up with a list of suggestions that may help us as we journey towards maturity in Christ together.

 

If you don’t find them helpful, fell free to play a game on your phone.

 

* We will have countless opportunities to get “following Jesus” right. Sometimes we call this messing up or making a mistake, but I’m trying to put a positive spin on our learning process. We, like inventors, are working towards perfection our maturation is going to take time. In fact we will never stop growing.

 

* Based on my reading of 1 Peter and 2 Peter, Peter eventually got following Jesus mostly right. We will too. Jesus wants us to get. Just read the book, talk to God, listen and be obedient, and have a little self-discipline and desire.

 

* We need to support and encourage each other along the way. Following Christ is meant to be done with other people. We kind of suck at the relationship part of following Jesus sometimes, so let us keep working together to figure out how to do this right.

 

* Sometimes we just have an off day without any explanations. Grace. Mercy. Start fresh the next day.

 

* We can’t let other people take our joy away, or bring us down.

 

* We can’t ever forget what we have come from. We don’t need to dwell on the past and our past sins and opportunities to get following Jesus right, but we need to remember what Christ has led us through so we can be compassionate towards other people, and offer them grace. We can’t forget that we have our sins forgiven too. We can’t forgot that we are not as perfect as we would like to believe.

 

* We need to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, and trust that of Jesus in each other. We are all children of God. We all have opportunity to hear from our heavenly dad, no one’s prayers are better than anyone else’s prayers. No person in our church is more important than another. We are all children of God, and God is in control.

 

* Sometimes we just need to let people find their way.

 

* Be nice and kind to each other as we are finding our way in Jesus. We aren’t the ones who judge, but we are supposed to love each other. (Knock it off)

 

* We would also be wise to not let Satan come between us. Satan and his fallen angels just want to destroy us. Pray that the Holy Spirit won’t let this happen. (Protection and guidance)

 

* When sin, disagreements, confusion, misunderstandings, etc., happen we need to deal with it. With humility and listening souls. Forgiveness is key.

 

* Take care of ourselves.

 

4. Conclusion

 

A tiny seed grows in to a really big tree, the tallest trees on the planet.

 

Peter was one of those trees.

 

We can all be one of those trees also.

 

Be like Peter, who was like Jesus. Be like Jesus.

 

Jesus helped point people towards God. Let’s do the same.