Friday, November 6, 2009

Why did God allow it?

The Sifting Of Peter

Q. When the devil asked to ’sift Peter as wheat’(Luke 22:31) what exactly does it mean? Why would he want to do this?

I know that he also asked to persecute Job in the old testament and that God allowed this in order to cure Job of his self righteous attitude.Does this mean the devil has to ask permission to attack us directly, and if so are all our afflictions down to him?

A. The sifting of Peter took place in his triple denial that he knew the Lord on the night before the crucifixion. It was an attack against an attribute of his that Peter took much pride in, his bravery. Earlier, he had single handedly stood up to the contingent of soldiers who came to arrest Jesus (John 18:10), but then he wound up being intimidated by a slave girl, the most powerless of all possible adversaries.

It was done to demonstrate two things to Peter and to us. One, we’re most vulnerable after a victory. Three days earlier they had all rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. And two, when Satan attacks it will often be in an area where we feel strongest, most self-sufficient. Job’s strongest area was his righteousness, Peter’s was his bravery. This is to show our need for utter reliance upon the Lord.

Yes, all our afflictions are ultimately caused by Satan because he is the author of all the evil in the world. But our own sinfulness is what gives him access to us. God uses Satan’s attacks to expose our sinfulness and our need to confess and be forgiven. This is the point of both Job’s and Peter’s experiences. Both were forgiven and restored after recognizing their sin and confessing. After his sifting, Peter was a changed man as his performance in the Book of Acts clearly demonstrates.

Peter, Do You Love Me?

Q. John 21:15-17 records Jesus asking peter three times if he loves him, Was this Jesus way of letting Peter know he was forgiven for denying Him three times?

A. That’s a reasonable interpretation. But John 21:15-17 also contains a fascinating use of words that we miss in the English because we only have one word for love. In the Greek two different words for love are used, and they have different meanings. In verse 15 when Jesus first asked Peter, “Do you truly love me more than these?” He used a word that means to be totally given over to someone irrespective of the response. It’s the highest, most intense form of love in the Greek language. We would call it unconditional love. But when Peter responded, he used a different word for love, a less intense one that describes the love one has for a brother.

When Jesus asked the second time it was the same, with Jesus using the stronger word and Peter responding with the lesser.

The third time, Jesus downgraded His expectation and changed His question to use the same word Peter had used, allowing Peter to respond in kind. In verse 17 Peter said, “Lord you know all things. You know that I love you.” He meant that he knew that the Lord knew of his inability to respond unconditionally to God’s love.

In this interaction we learn two things. The first is Peter’s admission that it’s impossible for man to love God with the same intensity that God loves man. The second is that God understands this and accepts man’s weakness.

Peter would not describe His love for the Lord as unconditional until after Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit had come and Peter had given himself completely over to serving Him. This is to show that it’s only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we’re able to respond to God’s love in kind.

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