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For over 2,000 years, many people have recognized Peter as the bold and outspoken apostle of Jesus. As a former fisherman, Jesus called him to become a fisherman of men. In doing so, Peter would drop his nets and, like the others, leave everything behind to follow Jesus. Peter was the one who left the boat to walk with Jesus on the waves, served as an eyewitness to the transfiguration of Jesus, and then denied even knowing Him the night before His crucifixion. To say that Peter was unstable and, at times, unreliable would be an understatement.

However, Peter was recognized as a natural leader by other people, including Jesus. Jesus chose Peter to be His trusted apostle, and he had many faults, but Jesus was transforming and refining this young man into an effective and bold leader, a pillar of the early church, and a living epistle read and known by all men, according to 2 Corinthians 3:2-3. Peter’s failures and flaws were evident, but due to Christ’s mercy and love, Peter’s story would be one of redemption. Here are some lessons from Peter on forgiveness and grace.

Those closest to God are the most broken.

Peter’s denial of his rabbi, friend, and master was possibly one of his greatest failures as one of Jesus’ disciples. It didn’t help that merely hours before, Peter denied knowing Jesus, he’d incessantly professed that he would never deny Him. In his pride, Peter set himself above the other disciples, saying he would never fall away, as detailed in Matthew 26:33. In Luke 22:33, he proclaimed that he was ready for prison and death, which is a bold statement but fits Peter’s bravado. Still, merely hours after Peter made his promise, the surface of Peter’s loyalty and courage came crashing down as his words returned to haunt him.

Accordingly, when Peter realized the extent of his betrayal and denial, the Bible tells us that Peter went and wept bitterly. He knew that he had failed Jesus. In fact, his reaction was similar to an earlier encounter with Jesus, where Peter fell at the feet of Jesus and told Him to go away from him because he was a sinful man. On both occasions, Peter showed that those closest to Jesus are usually the ones who are the most broken over their sins, realizing how unfit they are of God’s goodness. However, throughout His life, Jesus was willing to restore and forgive Peter. Having met the underserved grace of Jesus, Peter would later conclude that God isn’t slow about His promise but is patient toward you. If anyone understood Jesus’ patient mercy, it was Peter.

Peter had to remember who Jesus wanted him to be.

For the majority of his life, Peter was known to his friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors as Simon, a relatively common name at the time and one that was given to him at birth. However, upon first meeting Jesus, Simon was given a new name, as detailed in John 1:42. To remind Simon of what Jesus saw in him and wanted him to become, Jesus sometimes called Simon Peter, a nickname that means “rock.” However, for most of his life, Simon Peter behaved more like Simon than Peter. Early on, he rarely lived up to the name Jesus had given him. Likewise, even those who are forgiven and redeemed typically fail to behave like those who are forgiven and redeemed.

Like Peter, we, too, are battling with our former ambitions and flesh, and like Simon, we sometimes return to our old habits and ways. This is why Paul encouraged believers to put their old selves aside and put their new selves in the forefront, which has been created in holiness and righteousness of the truth, as we read in Ephesians 4:22-24. Like all of us, Peter occasionally needed a reminder of who he was called to be and who he should be in Christ.

Peter had to learn to keep his eyes on Jesus.

Simon Peter’s failures have been thoroughly shown through countless studies, sermons, and devotionals throughout the years. Of course, his denial of Jesus competes for the top spot as the worst moment in his life. However, some have pointed to Peter’s lapse in faith on the Sea of Galilee as equally disappointing. In that story, Peter left the small boat to walk with Jesus on the waves. However, he became frightened when he saw the wind and started to sink, crying out to Jesus to save him, as explained in Matthew 14:30. As He usually did, Jesus reached down and saved His friend. Jesus would rebuke Peter for his doubt, but in moments like these, Jesus was molding Peter into the leader and shepherd He wanted him to be.

As someone who’d fallen beneath waves of doubt and fear yet been redeemed and rescued on more than one occasion, Peter was equipped to preach on the importance of keeping one’s eyes on Jesus, as detailed in 2 Peter 1:10. Peter knew better than anyone that the war of doubt and fear is waged in the minds of believers. When we take our eyes off Jesus and forget that we’re chosen and called, we’re no longer condemned. Instead, we’re cared for and can never be removed from God’s love.

Complacency leads to stumbling.

The night before His crucifixion, Jesus told James, John, and Peter to pray and look out for Him while He went to be with the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. However, on several occasions, Jesus returned to find His trusted apostles sleeping. He told them to keep praying and watching so that they wouldn’t be tempted because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. However, once again, the disciples failed to remain vigilant in prayer. Ironically, Jesus told Peter earlier that Satan demanded permission to sift him like wheat, but Jesus prayed from him that his faith wouldn’t fail and, once he turned again, strengthen the other apostles.

Thankfully for Peter, denying Jesus wasn’t the only thing Jesus said would happen that evening. Peter’s faith would survive as long as he’s been preserved, undoubtedly by Jesus’ intercessory prayer. However, his complacency would set him on a path to stumble. It was a mistake Peter would learn from in time. In fact, in one of his letters, Peter writes to be on the alert because the enemy prowls around like a lion, seeking something to devour. When Jesus was arrested, Peter had become complacent, underestimating his enemy’s tenacity. He wasn’t as vigilant as Jesus told him to be, which resulted in Satan sifting Peter like wheat, which led to one of his worst moments. However, due to Jesus’ intercession and mercy, Peter’s faith survived, and as Christ predicted, Peter emerged from this trial with the knowledge to strengthen his fellow apostles.

As his time on earth drew to an end, Peter could rejoice in the eternal inheritance that awaited him when he reunited with his Savior. By the wounds of Christ, Pete was forgiven, healed, and redeemed. Like a sheep who continually went astray, he’d returned to the Guardian and Shepherd of his soul. Imperfect and flawed, nevertheless, Peter was called by Jesus, who, in His grace, strengthened and established Peter from the beginning to the very end.

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