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The Bible

5) Falling
2002-07-26

Audience: Awana Scholarship Camp, grade 6-12 who know the Bible really well
Goal:. That when they fall into sin and feel like there is no more hope for them that they will remember that God loves them and can still use them.
Props: White Ribbons

We all struggle in many and different ways. I shared last night of my own struggle to live for God and how at one point I needed to come back to Him. Since that day I have continued to grow spiritually but it has not been without its ups and downs and there have been many times I have been broken over the stupid things I have done or said. We all struggle in different ways. For some they were out with their friends and family and they said and did some things they now regret. For others they were just sitting around talking and all of a sudden they started telling some dirty jokes and now they are really disappointed in themselves. For others they wanted to gain some approval so they joined in a conversation where others were knocking down, slandering and gossiping. I don't know what your struggle is today. For some it is with addictions to alchole and although they have tried to kick the bottle it just keeps coming back. For others it is with pornography or lust and wherever they go it seems to be there. For some it is foolishness or an attempt to gain approval through many and different ways. But we all struggle and sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. Today I will talk about my own struggle and how I find the strength to stand again even though the sin hurts so bad. I want to talk about how the Lord brings healing and how He comforts me when I fall and restores me once more. But before I begin, I want to pray.

Prayer
Sometimes it is hard when people ask, "How are you doing?" Because some days I am doing great. Somedays I am so close to God and everything is working. But other days I don't want to get out of bed. There are days when I have blown it, have you ever had one? Those days when I look at Jesus and I wonder how he could ever love me. I feel like I have failed. Then I think about the idea of doing ministry but I feel so unworthy. And I ask, "Why? How can I serve the Lord like this?" And I think of the Lord Jesus Christ looking at me with those eyes of love and I wonder if He is in pain. And I know that I am not the first to fall for one of Jesus' best friends named Peter even fell away.
Now Peter even said he would never fall away. He said, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." (Mt. 26:33) I don't know about you but I have told Jesus that I would not fall. Like the time after I had sinned and felt so bad about it, I wanted more than anything for it to be set right again and so I cried out and asked Jesus to forgive me and said I would never do it again - and then fall again - have you ever had that?
And yet like Peter when the pressure comes it is hard to hold onto that conviction. Things look different in that moment of decision. For Peter he had walked with Jesus for three years. He loved Him so much. They were in the garden together, Jesus was about to be betrayed, and then killed. He told His disciples, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me" (Mt. 26:31)
And Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."
But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.
But it was not long after this that the soldiers came, Jesus submitted, the disciples fled. They ran. They were afraid. Peter and John must have turned around and followed at a distance. John had some connections and got them into the courtyard outside where Jesus was being tried. They just had to know what was happening. And they were surrounded by guards, guards who hated Jesus and His followers, guards that could just as easily turn on them and kill them too. They had to be careful. Peter stood around the fire, the light showing part of his figure. A servant girl came up to him, "You also were with Jesus of Galilee" she said. And Peter denied it before them all, "I don't know what you are talking about." He moved somewhere else and someone else recognized him, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth" Peter was getting scared and denied it with an oath, "I don't know the man!" But the people were curious, they walked up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, your accent gives you away." Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!"

And the rooster crowed and it echoes deep within our soul and for hours to haunts us. Something I have come to call "the Moment After" for sin promises so much and it pushes us and demands that we do it. It promises the world and then in an instant it rips it all away and leaves us with nothing but the empty echo of the rooster call. And I know what it means to fall, that is why I write this sermon.
And it says in Luke, "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly." (Luke 22:61-62 ) Imagine the eyes of Jesus Christ looking straight at us, isn't that how it feels, the one we love more than the whole world is looking straight at us? What do we say? How our heart breaks within us.
And after that they led Jesus out, they beat Him and mocked Him and nailed Him to a cross for me and you. And there He died. And he who was meant to be a rock now lies stained and yet the blood drips down and covers me over and it covers you over and it covers Peter. Every one of our sins big or small is covered over by His blood. And I do not know about you but sometimes I feel I have gone too far and that Christ can never forgive me. I figure He can forgive everyone else just not me. And yet, there is something about Him, called grace which forgives because I don't deserve it. And all my sins are taken away and put on Christ and all His goodness is placed on me. How unworthy I am but yet so grateful. Do you ever feel like that? That God cannot forgive you. Then find comfort in this, 1 Jn 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Bring them to Jesus friend and you will be clean.
And yet there is still this feeling, this broken relationship, this problem. Because though I stand before God as one perfect I still know that I have blown it. And sometimes I wonder if that is the reason why after Jesus rose from the dead He had a private meeting with the disciples. A bunch of them had gone out fishing and they fished all night but did not catch a thing.
Then early in the morning Jesus stood on the shore and called out, "Friends haven't you any fish"
"No" they answered
"Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some" And when they did they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then John said, "It is the Lord" And as soon as Peter heard this he jumped into the water and swan to Jesus. He was not about to wait. Too often I fear we wait too long. We think that Jesus will not accept us so we wait to come back to Him. I fear that some people never come back. Don't wait. Hear the voice of the Lord calling you and jump straight out and swim to Him as fast as you can.
And they ate breakfast together. But Jesus knew the problem was unresolved, I wonder if all that time during breakfast that Peter kept wondering what Jesus thought of him after all this. And so Jesus asked, "Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
When I fail it is almost as if the Lord asked me that. How my heart breaks to hear these words for though there was a time when I said I loved Him more. More than the sun or moon, stars or day. More than all my wealth, my fame. More than anything, even myself. Even if all will fall away, I will not my Lord, I will not give way. But now I stand with a broken heart and these words seem so empty. I cannot say that I love you Lord more than anything, but one thing I do know and I know you know it too, is that I love you and my heart breaks to think I might have thrown it all away.
And in His grace, God looks at me and says, "Feed my lambs" This is amazing to me, because after I have falied I do not feel like going on in ministry - I don't feel worthy but Jesus loves me anyhow and entrust me with those lambs the little ones He loves so much. They are the ones who are part of the sheep and who if one wanders away He will leave the rest to bring it back. And yet He takes those lambs and puts them in my arms, "Feed my lambs" And I who wonder if I am worthy to serve am left standing with His lambs in my arms.
He speaks again, once more the same, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" And deep within my heart I ask the same. For though I claim to love Him my actions speak another tale and though I cannot say my love is true and I know I truly cannot live without you.
And so He takes His sheep and guides them to me, the one who has fallen and does not trust himself and says to me, "Take care of my sheep"
And for the third time he says to me, "Do you love me?" How it echoes within my soul and I want to shout out with all my heart "Yes Lord I do love you" but I fear my testimony is not true enough so I turn to Him who knows my real heart and say, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
"Feed my sheep" he says to me and answers the question of whether I should serve again. Then like Peter I am given some hope. For one day my love will be found true. For Peter he was afraid of men and so denied Christ. But do you know what happened to Peter? It was almost 30 years later that the story was repeated but this time it was different. This time he was imprisoned for Christ and offered a chance to deny him and save his life. And this time he did not fail. He stood strong and let others stretch out his hands and dress him with the cross. At last His love overcame His fear - and there He died and never more will fail. And I, though I might fall many times to come, I will not give up. And one day I hope to stand strong and have truly died to that which seeks to bring me death. And there I will stand holding His lambs and sheep with love so true. And I pray that you will choose to stand once more and say, "You know I love you, too"
And these things still happen in our day. I heard a story of a young man, he was about 17 years old who just happened to share a train ride to a place called Smithville. Because the boy was tense, the man wondered what could be worrying somebody so young. The boy kept staring out the window, paying no attention to anyone else on the train. The man tried to forget about him by opening up a book and reading. But then, he would look up and see the boy's face pressed against the window. He sensed that the boy was fighting to keep from crying. This was the way that they traveled through the night- the man attempting to read and the boy sitting and staring out the window.

Finally, the boy asked the man, "Do you know what time it is? And do you know when we are due to arrive at Smithville?"

The man gave the boy the time, and went on to say, "Smithville, that's a very small town, isn't it? I didn't know that the train stopped there." "It usually doesn't," said the boy, "But they said that they would stop there for me so that I could get off- If I decide to. I used to live there."
The boy returned to the window and the man to his book. It was quite a while before conversation began once again. But when it did, the boy told the man the whole story of his life. "Four years ago," he said, "I did something very bad, so bad that I had to run away from home. I couldn't face my father after what I did. So I left without even saying good-bye to him. Since then, I have worked a bit here and a bit there. I never stayed very long in one place. I've been pretty lonely. Until finally, I decided that I want to go back to my father's house."
The man went on to ask, "Does your father know that you're coming?" And the boy responded, "He knows that I'm coming, but I don't know if he will be there or not. I sent him a letter. I didn't know if he would still want me back or not after what I did. I wasn't sure if he would forgive me. So in my letter, I said that I would come home if he wanted me to. I told him that if he wanted me to come home, he could put a sign on a tree which is a few hundred yards before the railroad station in Smithville. I told him that I would look for a white ribbon on one of the branches of that tree as the train passes. If there is a white ribbon on the tree, then I'll get off. If not, then I'll just keep on riding to wherever this train goes."

A few moments later, the conductor came down the aisle and called out, "Next stop-Smithville." The boy could not move, The man, however, looked as hard as he could. And then he saw it! He shouted so loud that all the people in the train turned around. "It's there! Look, it's there! The tree is covered with white ribbons! Not just one- there's a whole bunch!"
(http://www.webedelic.com/church/ribbonsf.htm)

And this tree my friends is really the cross. For whenever you have that feeling that maybe God will not take you back. That feeling that you have really blown it this time. When you just want to give up because you are so mad at yourself just look up and you'll see that old rugged cross where God tied so many ribbons for you that you can barely see the wood. Every ribbon calling out with outstretched arms, "Come home, come home, welcome home. I love you my child, I love you!"

{Hand out ribbons}

And now what I want you to do is to take this ribbon and write on it these words, "God loves me period." And I want you to make that period as big as you can so you always remember that the sentence ends there. It is not "God loves me only when I am good" It is not "God used to love me" or "I want God to love me" It is "God loves me period." No if's, and's or but's. Then take this ribbon and put it in your Bible. Whenever you have blown it and you wonder if God could still love you I want you to open up your Bible and see this bookmark. I want you to know that God still loves you even now. No exceptions. Then start reading wherever the bookmark is and let God speak His love to you again. I would suggest leaving it in Ps 139 or Jn 3:16 .

Let us pray, "God it is hard fighting against sin, and sometimes we are wounded soldiers. And I pray that your grace will strengthen our hearts. Many people have failed, David failed and Peter failed and others have fallen all throughout history and I pray that you will continue to restore us when we fall and bring healing to our souls and hurting hearts. Restore us once again that we may stand joyfully in your presence, serving you, and that our love will be stronger now then ever before. We thank-you for your great forgiveness"

Go on friend, stand-up, the Lord loves you.

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