The Jealousy of God
Sermon preached at The Moody Church, Sunday morning, January 25, 1953
When I spoke to you about the Christian and worship from the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac, I showed you something of what is involved in Christian discipleship: the price a man or woman must pay if they would walk with God and be used by Him. It is left to every individual to make the choice, whether they will walk with God or choose another path. May people who have faced the cost of this kind of thing rather think that it’s too big a price to pay.
Therefore I want to show you a man who chose another path, one who chose the easier road, at least for a while. Let me show you what it involves in cost if I reject Calvary and all the implications of Christian discipleship. From the Word, I want to point out two verses in Mark. The first is chapter 8 verse 29: “And He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto Him, Thou are the Christ.” The second is from chapter 14, verse 71: “But he (Peter) began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.”
Let me impress upon you two things concerning those words straight-away. First, they come from the same lips. Second, there is a time lapse of only two months between the two statements. There’s a challenge here to your life and mine. May the Holy Spirit grip our hearts and make us realize that this challenge is fraught with issues governing all eternity.
Nobody can be the same after facing it because it is the Word of God going home to you by the Spirit of God. Nobody can listen to the truth and be the same afterwards. God forbid that we ever get into the rut of becoming used to religion, and used to the services, and used to the Gospel until it makes no difference.
There is a tremendous solemnity in this message—the possibility of turning back from the path of discipleship. Let me ask you for a moment to examine the first confession of Simon Peter, for he it was who made both of these statements.
“Thou art the Christ.” Let me say to you that I have not the slightest doubt as to the sincerity of his confession. He meant it. On that day at Caesarea Philippi, for the first time in our Lord’s ministry, He wrung from this man’s lips the confession for which He had waited.
“Whom say ye that I am?”
And Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ.”
I believe that with all the emotion and openheartedness and frankness of which this man was capable, he meant every word. “Thou art the Christ.”
After all, he had plenty of evidence to prove it. There had been a day, a Sabbath day which he never forgot, when the Lord Jesus came into his home and put His hand upon his wife’s mother and healed her. A few moments afterward the whole city had gathered around the door, and the Lord Jesus healed many.
There had been another day when, in the company of just a handful of disciples, Peter had sat at the foot of the Master on the mountainside and listened to the great ethic of the Christian faith, and the majestic and severe teaching of the Lord of Lords.
There had been another day when he had seen over 5,000 people fed on practically nothing, and found there was more left afterwards than when they began.
But most memorable of all, there had been a night in a storm at sea when all seemed hopeless, and death awaited them, when suddenly in the darkness at 3 o’clock in the morning, the Lord Jesus came.
And Simon cried out and said, “Lord Jesus, bid me come to Thee on the water.”
That wonderful voice that he knew so well said, “Come.” And he left the ship and walked on the water. When he had begun to sink he cried out “Lord save me.”
Immediately the hand of Christ had been stretched out and lifted him up, and spoke to him, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”
Ah, yes, Peter never forgot those days and those nights. When the Lord Jesus asked him, I believe that with tears in his eyes and with absolute sincerity he said, “Thou art the Christ. Lord Jesus, I mean it, and you know I mean it with all my heart. Thou are the Christ, my God.”
Six months later, with cursing and blasphemy, Peter said, “I’ve never heard His name.”
My beloved people, there have been moments in your life when you have been like Simon, moments when from your heart there has been wrung the confession, “Yes, Lord, I believe. Thou are the Christ.” Such moments in life experience are unforgetable moments. Maybe it happened in church, maybe in your own room, maybe during the time when you’ve been reading your Bible, maybe in times of sorrow and brokenheartedness, maybe through some experience, or through countless experiences both glad and sad.
Some such time, when Jesus speaks to us and seeks to bring us to Himself, you have said, with absolute conviction and sincerity, from the depths of your heart, “Lord, Thou are the Christ, Thou are my Saviour, I’d go to the ends of the world if You call me.” Today the story is different. I wonder why? Is it the same reason as was the case with Simon? Let me put my finger on the thing that was at the root of his downfall. HE SHIRKED THE CROSS.
No sooner had there been wrung from his lips the confession for which the Lord had waited, “Thou are the Christ,” than, as He does with all of us, the Lord tested the reality of the man’s faith. He immediately unfolded to him the program of His redemption: blood, sweat, toil, tears.
“I have nothing else for you,” says Jesus. “I have nothing to attract you on the human level. I have nothing to offer you, except the cross. For he that would come after Me must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. And the Son of Man must be rejected and killed, must suffer many things, and on the third day rise again.”
With all the impetuosity and emotion which he had exercised only five minutes before in declaring “thou are the Christ,” Simon faces him and says, “Lord, not that way! Be it far from Thee.” Jesus turned His back upon the man who had said He was the Christ and said, “Simon, get thee behind Me, thou savorest not the things that be of God. Simon, I have no use for you. Simon, I can do nothing with you. I am not here to give you a thrilling adventure; I am not here to give you a good time; I am not here to give you jazz and syncopation. I am here to give you Calvary, and if you don’t want that, I can do nothing.”
Simon rejected the cross.
Beloved, let me speak in tenderness of heart. I can afford to speak in no other way, because I’ve been Simon’s road. Someone said to me recently, “If you could listen for half an hour either to Paul or to Peter, which would you choose?” I said, “Peter every time.” I love Paul, but I’ve been Peter’s way. I’ve known the heartache of backsliding in my own life, and what it is to be away from God.
Am I speaking to some who have shirked the cross? For at the very moment that we say to Him, “Thou are the Christ, Lord Jesus, thou are my Saviour,” that moment He applies the cross to our lives.
What do I mean? There’s a fellow courting a girl; he’s a Christian and she isn’t. One day he says, “Thou are the Christ.” And immediately Jesus says to him, “All right, what about it? That friendship’s got to stop.” And even if it means a broken engagement, it’s that or it’s disaster.
“Thou are the Christ.” “All right, My child, My plan for you is not a business career after all, and it’s not an executive position in commerce. For you, it’s Africa, it’s China, it’s the Far East, it’s the mission field.” Are you willing?
“Thou are the Christ. Lord Jesus, You’re mine.” “Very well, My child, I’m going to do something with you that few people can bear. I need people in the secret places, never known by the world, who will never preach a sermon who will never conduct a meeting. I need some who will bear the burden of this lost world with Me.
“I need some—oh, give Me just a handful out of The Moody Church who will get apart from its activity, and apart from its organization, and who will come right away in the secret place to seek My face and wait upon Me, and share the burden of the lost world. My child, I’m going to touch your body, and it’s going to be weak and crippled. You’re going to be at home all your life, on your back, and you’re going to suffer. But, My child, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. My child, are you willing?”
What will be your reaction? Have you shirked the cross and held the friendship, and you know you got out of the will of God? The call to missionary service—have you chosen cash, a big, comfortable home, your television, and everything the world can offer you, and you shirked the cross? You look back over the years since you said, “Thou art the Christ,” and you’d give your right hand to start again?
Out there in your bed, you’re laid aside. You’re sick and lonely and weary, and life has been for you so hard. The world says you’ve been laid aside in sickness. God says you’ve been called aside for stillness. How have you reacted to the cross? Are you complaining, are you bitter, is your heart hard? I don’t want to speak to you unkindly, God knows, if I was like that, I might be just the same, but how have you reacted to the challenge of Calvary in your own personal life?
Peter shirked the cross. Listen to me as I show you quickly the steps of his collapse. You need to take your New Testament and read it for yourself, but may the horror of it grip your soul.
He has no sooner shirked the cross than Peter becomes boastful. Listen to his language in Mark 14:29. “Though all shall be offended in Thee, yet will not I,” says Peter. “If I should die with Thee, I would not deny Thee in any way.” Peter, take care! This man has denied the principle of the cross, and in place of that he has become boastful and proud.
In every heart there is a cross and a throne. Either Christ is on the cross and you’re on the throne, or you’re on the cross and He’s on the throne. The moment a man rejects the principle of the cross, that moment he put himself on the throne. He becomes big and self-important, proud and egotistical, and in his own mind he’s tremendous. But in the sight of God he’s shriveled until he’s just like a little shrimp. He thinks he’s so great, and God looks at him and sees his character, shriveled up until it’s nothing. The man has became proud.
And he’s become careless. Look at verse 37: “Jesus cometh to them and finds them sleeping and says, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch with Me one hour?” Of course He couldn’t. Nobody can pray if they reject the cross. This man slept in the garden of Gethsemane, when his precious Lord was longing just for three of them to share the burden and the agony of it all.
Do you sleep when you pray? You just go on to sleep as if it meant nothing to you? If there is a soul listening to me that has controversy with God, you cannot pray and you never will be able to pray in that condition. Prayer, the essence of it, the joy of it, is fellowship with God. Is a line of communication open with the throne in heaven? Is the consciousness of the smile of God upon you? If that depart and heaven becomes as brass, if the doors are shut to you, if you go to sleep when you pray, because it’s so boring to say your prayers, may this preacher humbly suggest to you that it’s because somewhere in your life you’ve rejected Calvary.
The price of your continued friendship and engagement, the price of your rejection of the missionary call, the price of your bitterness because of the thorn in the flesh: the price has been—no walk with God, no fellowship with God. And you’re using the words of Cowper, that great saint, “Where is the blessedness which once I knew when first I saw the Lord? Where is that soul refreshing view of Jesus and His Word?”
And Peter became willful, we see in verse 47. John tells us it was Peter who drew his sword against a servant of the High Priest and cut off his ear. The Lord said to him, “Put up thy sword, shall I not drink of the cup my Father has given me?” Peter’s service was completely out of the will of God. Of course he meant to cut the man’s head off, but he missed, and only hit his ear. But literally speaking, his service was just beating the air, it wasn’t cutting any ice.
Is your Christian work like that? You use the same language and the same shibolleths and the same orthodoxy, but it cuts no ice. I ask you, what impact do you make, all of you put together, on this great city of Chicago? Do you cut any ice? Do you get souls saved? Do you get people blessed? Does this church really reach out into this great city and are people stirred because of the reality of your profession? Or, in some of your lives, is it just beating the air? Your praying gets no higher than the roof and your service is no longer effective outside these walls. Is it because somewhere you said “No” to Calvary?
And of course Peter became wayward. Verse 54 tells us that Peter followed afar off. Oh Peter, God help you! On that Mount of Transfiguration you were right there alongside; in that moment when you said, “Thou art the Christ,” how much you meant it. But now—miles away. The Lord Jesus is just a dim figure in the distance, not real and Peter is alone. The Lord is facing the cross and the agony of it, and Peter is right away from God.
Once you walked with Him, once you could touch Him, once Jesus was a living, bright reality. But, my dear friends, now you are far away from Christ, though you’re still in the same seat on Sunday, still listening to the preacher, still singing the hymns. “These people worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me.” Are you following afar off?
Then Peter became worldly, because he sat with the servants that warmed themselves, at the fire. For it was cold, and there was nobody colder than Peter. The fire in his heart had gone out; the reality of his conversion had departed; the consciousness of the presence of the Lord was gone. The Lord Jesus was being scorned and jeered at inside the palace, but Peter is outside warming himself at the fire of the servants of the priests. And he’s really cold, believe me, not nearly so cold in his body as he was in his spirit.
Have you got like that, no testimony? Nothing to say in your business, in your office, nothing to say in your home. Why, you couldn’t say a word for Him now. It used to bubble up within you like a fountain of life, but not now. You’ve been six days in business this past week, and there hasn’t been one day when your lips have named His name. Still fundamental, still repeating the Church covenant, still assenting in your mind, but what does your heart say? Is it merely lip serive, and your heart is cold?
Then it’s only one more step before Peter says, with oath and cursing and denying, “I’ve never heard of this man of whom you speak” to a slip of a girl. He shirked the cross.
Do you get it? Peter became boastful; he became careless; he became wilful; he became wayward; he became worldly. And it all ended in his absolute flat denial of the name of Jesus.
Ah, but thank God that’s not the end. I haven’t got to leave Simon like that. I’ve been there where Peter was, in that very place, in an office, cold, no testimony, nothing real, no prayer life, no worship. Thank God, from sinking sands He lifted me.
I must remind you of the source of Peter’s comfort. The cock crowed, and Peter didn’t notice it the first time. But it crowed again, and this time he heard it, and he remembered the word of the Lord. Suddenly his heart broke, and he went outside the door and wept bitterly.
Why? Because when cock crowed, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. Thank God for that. Have you ever thought of how the Lord looked at His disciple in that moment? Do you think it was a look which conveyed the words, “Simon, I told you you’d do that!” God forbid.
Do you remember when He first met Simon on that country road? He beheld him and said, “Thou art Simon, and thy name shall be Peter, a rock.” That word for behold in the Greek means He looked him through. He saw him there, and He knew the kind of man he was the first time they met. He said, “You’ll be Peter.” In the moment when Peter had rejected Him and cursed Him, in that moment the Lord turned and looked at him. It’s the same word: He looked him through and through.
“Simon, Simon, I love you, don’t you understand? And all your cursing, and all your denying, and all your worldliness, and all your carelessness, has never killed My love, which is everlasting. Simon, look what I’m going through with now for you, and oh, before it’s too late, come back.”
And Simon cried like a child. His heart was broken and Christ had got the victory. Just a few days later, the Lord said, “Go and tell my disciples—and Peter. Tell him I’m alive, fetch him here.” Nobody knows, but I’ll find out when I get to heaven, what Jesus said to him when they met, alone, on that resurrection morning. Because a few weeks later this man, denying, cowardly, and worldly, was standing before a vast crowd in the very city where he denied His Lord, preaching His cross, and people were born again.
The Lord Jesus often prayed for Simon. He told him so: “Satan hath desired to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you, Simon, that you fail not.”
There’s one thing I want to know almost more than any other. I shall find out when I get to glory for I’ll ask my Lord, “When You went up into that mountaintop and prayed for that man, did You pray, ‘Father, break his heart, for if You don’t break his heart he’ll collapse altogether’?”
There when he denied and rejected Christ, the Lord broke his heart. If you’ve rejected the cross, if you’re on that bed and you’re rejecting the agony and suffering of it, if you’re holding on to that friendship that’s contrary to the will of God, and if you’re staying out of God’s will because you’ve rejected the cross, my last word is—it’s never too late to turn back to the loving mighty arms of the Lord Jesus.
My prayer is “O God, break their hearts, for nothing else will do.” Give us today a broken heart at the foot of the cross.