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INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
Every person has experienced failure at some point in their lives—personally, professionally, morally. Some people’s failures are bigger even more public than other people’s. Professional athletes experience failure all the time. They must learn how to move on and play the next game. So the question is how do we recover from our failures? How are we restored after blowing it?
In this week’s sermon, we considered the failure of Peter. According to the gospel accounts, Peter turned his back on his Best Friend in His time of greatest need. Peter didn’t offer a word of protest as Jesus was hauled away, beaten, abused and eventually crucified. Peter denied even knowing Him! (Refer to Mark 14) Peter’s failure was huge, but Peter was restored. What can we learn from his experience?
The fact of Peter’s huge failure should give us confidence to believe the biblical record, because the bible doesn’t “air-brush” its heroes! It doesn’t cover over their mistakes! The bible tells us the story of real people (warts and all) and their encounters with a real God. This is one of many reasons why we can believe the bible.
Step one in Peter’s restoration process was to recognize that he had a problem. After a night of unsuccessful fishing, the resurrected Christ approached the disciples on the beach and asked them how it was going (v.4-6). Peter admitted that things were not going well—they had worked all night but hadn’t caught anything. When God asks us, in the midst of our failures, how life is working for us, we must face reality, be honest and admit things are not going well!
Step two for Peter was to recognize that God can do what no one else can do. He brings success out of total failure. We believe things are hopeless yet God has a plan. Jesus instructed Peter to throw the nets out again on the other side and lo and behold, they land a huge catch of fish! Peter had to trust Jesus’ instructions. We also need to trust that God can turn things around for us in the midst of our failures.
Step three for Peter was to retrace his steps. How did he get to this place of devastation? How did Peter, “the Rock,” one of Jesus’ inner circle, turn from a courageous follower to a cowardly traitor? So three times, Jesus walked Peter through each of the denials (v.15-17). Before we can be healed, we need to cover the ground that led us into failure and away from God in the first place.
Fourth, Peter needed to release his shame. Guilt is what we feel when we have failed in the eyes of God but shame is what we feel when we have failed in the eyes of others. Jesus chose to walk Peter through this restoration on the beach with the other disciples present so that Peter was restored not only in the eyes of God, but also in the eyes of his brothers. We must be willing to release our feelings of shame before others in order to experience complete restoration. This often needs to happen in the context of community—God using other Christians to bring restoration in the midst of a failure.
Finally, Peter needed to receive the forgiveness Jesus was offering. Jesus understood public humiliation and shame because He was publicly shamed. He died for the guilt of sin AND the shame of sin. The Christian life must be personally apprehended—we must personally take for ourselves the gifts of forgiveness, healing and restoration that Jesus offers in order to experience them.
In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.
GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
• Was there anything in this week’s sermon that stood out to you? Briefly share.
• Have you ever experienced a time of significant failure in your life? What happened? How did this affect your relationship with God? Your relationships with others?
• For you, what is the most challenging aspect of the restoration process? If you had been Peter, what would have been the hardest part of the whole experience?
Read Luke 15:11-31 (TNIV):
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Background and context:
This well-known parable is one of three Jesus tells in response to the criticisms of Pharisees and teachers of the law about Jesus associating with sinners. Jesus often used parables in His teachings. Parables are stories from everyday life that have a spiritual message or meaning. They help to illustrate for us spiritual truths that we might otherwise not understand.
Questions for discussion:
• What is the basic story line of this parable? Who are the players and what happens? How ordinary to you think this scenario is? Have you seen similar things happening with people today? Discuss.
• Put yourself in the place of the younger son. What was his thinking process that led to his failure? What caused him to turn around? In what ways is this son similar to Peter? Compare their two experiences.
• Now consider the father. What are some things that stand out about the father’s behavior? How does the father handle the son’s guilt? The son’s shame? How does the father fully restore the son?
• Finally, look at the older brother. How does he feel about his brother’s restoration and why? Describe how the father relates to this son. Is the father “fair” in his dealings with his two boys? Discuss.
• Who do you identify with most in this parable and why? What do you believe God is saying to you right now through this parable—what truth does He want you to embrace? What step of obedience do you think He wants you to take?
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
• In this parable, the father represents God. Perhaps there are some here who have never pictured God as a loving, forgiving, accepting and restoring Father. Often this is due to past experiences that distort our view of God. The bible is meant to bring God into clearer focus for us, so that we see Him as He really is. Take some time to pray for anyone who may need to renounce false perspectives of God and experience His great love and mercy.
• Some people here may feel like the younger son—off in a “far country” away from the Father’s house. Perhaps they feel a need to “come to their senses” and admit where they are and their need for help. This may even involve some sense of shame before others for their failures. It takes great humility and honesty, but this is an opportunity for the Lord to begin real restoration.
• It is very common for Christians to struggle with being “elder brothers.” We must admit that we are often much like the Pharisees in the New Testament. Perhaps there are some here that have felt conviction from the Holy Spirit because of God’s gracious and generous restoration of someone who is, in their mind, a total failure and doesn’t deserve a second chance! We must always strive to become more and more like Jesus, who is like the father in the parable. Pray for those who are struggling with this in their lives.
• Finally, there are probably some who are, like the father, waiting for a loved one who is currently off in the “far county” and have yet to “come to their senses.” Pray for patience and trust for those who are waiting, and for the grace of repentance for those who are prodigal.