At times he deeply regretted his lack of self-control. A fisherman by trade, Simon Peter worked long hours alongside his brother Andrew sailing across the Sea of Galilee. Sometimes they worked through the night hoping to haul in nets full of tilapia or carp. Outgoing and passionate in his beliefs, Simon Peter was also outspoken and impulsive.
One day Simon’s brother, Andrew, took him to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John, but you will be called Peter (which means ‘rock’).” (John 1:35-42) Jesus certainly knew of Simon’s impulsiveness and tendency for emotional outbursts.
But when Jesus gazed into this man’s soul, He saw who Simon Peter could become.
Simon Peter joined Jesus’ band of followers, eventually becoming one of His inner circle of disciples. Jesus’ parables to explain the Kingdom of God resonated with Simon Peter’s heart. Here was the Savior and Messiah promised long ago through the Old Testament prophets! Reflecting the legacy of those revered prophets, Jesus encouraged God’s people to repent and to begin to obey God’s ways of mercy and love. He prayed for His disciples to be sanctified and to live a holy life.
Jesus’ teaching was clear: Simon Peter wouldn’t be able to stay who he was. He would need to change. And that certainly wouldn’t be easy!
Once during a wind storm at sea, Simon Peter courageously stepped out of a boat to walk on the water towards Jesus. But the next moment, he cried out in terror for Jesus to rescue him as he began to sink beneath the waves. Another time Simon Peter confessed that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. He boasted he would never desert Jesus, even under the threat of violence. Yet soon after, Simon Peter denied he even knew Jesus, not once, but three times in a matter of hours. How could such an inconsistent person become a “rock” in the foundation of Jesus’ early church? Little by little, though, Simon Peter began to change.
In a letter Peter later wrote to encourage other Christians, he shared insight for a transformation of character. In 2 Peter 1:3-8 he wrote,
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. … In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God has given His people everything they need to transform their character and to live a godly life, His divine power through the Holy Spirit. But Christians are also commanded to “make every effort” to increase in godly character. This effort involves work on their part, not work for salvation, but effort to mature in the faith, little by little.
As Christians increase in Christ-like qualities, they will deepen their own relationship with God, and their lives will begin to bear spiritual fruit for God’s Kingdom.
Simon Peter committed to change to be what Jesus commanded His followers to be. As time went on, he became the spokesperson for Jesus’ 12 disciples. After His resurrection, Jesus entrusted him to shepherd, lead, and love His followers. On the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, thousands became believers through his message. Simon Peter’s impact on the history of Christianity is unfathomable; not only in the early church, but within our own lives as well through his example and the letters he wrote that became part of our scriptures. From weak and impulsive to courageous and self-controlled, Simon Peter is an example of a transformed disciple of Jesus Christ. He didn’t change instantly but gradually and intentionally through the divine power of the Holy Spirit. Simon Peter became the rock of faith Jesus knew he could become, even in his death as a martyr by crucifixion.
As the life of Simon Peter shows us, and as his letter of 2 Peter encourages us, the character of Jesus does not develop in our lives overnight; it’s a growing process.
As we allow the light of Jesus to penetrate our minds and hearts, the Holy Spirit begins to reshape our lifestyle: how we work at our jobs, interact with our families, or hang out with our friends. We are to make every effort, to whole-heartedly do our best, to change in increasing measure from what we were when we first met Jesus into what Jesus sees that we can be. Then, our lives will begin to blossom and produce spiritual fruit by influencing others for Jesus as well.
It all begins with a commitment to change.
Read more about what it means to commit to change in last week’s blog by Courage For Life’s Founder & Executive Director, Ann White.