------ Forwarded message ------
From: Francis Harper
Francis Harper Message 5/11/2018
Are We Converted?
Peter thought he was converted when Jesus said to him, “. . . When you are converted, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32). Peter was upset [“aggrieved”] by this statement of Jesus; he said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both into prison, and unto death. And the Lord said, I tell you, Peter, that the cock shall not crow this day, before that you will thrice deny that you know me” (Luke 22:33-34). And, as always, the words of Jesus were fulfilled.
I was recently asked, “When was Peter converted?” It most certainly did not happen until after the resurrection of Jesus. You would think Peter would have been converted long before this. He had witnessed the transfiguration and the many mighty miracles, including the miracle of feeding the thousands, healings, walking on water, calming the storm and raising the dead! Yet he was not converted!
I believe a large step toward Peter’s ultimate conversion took place near Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. The precise location was quite likely near the place called Saint Peter’s Landing. In spite of their testimony of the resurrection, the eleven must have been very disheartened by the absence of the One who had been their leader and teacher for those three, wonderful years. What would they do without Jesus? How would they make a living? Peter was a practical man. He knew if he did not work, he would not eat, so he said, “I go a’fishing.” Six others of the Lord’s apostles went with him. Most of them had been fishermen before they met Jesus.
It was an early morning experience. They had fished all night, because the hours of darkness are best for fishing on the Sea of Galilee. In the early dawn, the disciples could barely see a person standing on the shore. At 200 cubits (100 yards), a person is not easily identified, especially in the early morning mist. Neither can a voice be heard without shouting. The “stranger” yelled the usual fisherman’s greeting, “Have you caught anything,” or something similar. The answer was a simple, “No.” Then the man on the beach shouted these words of instruction: “Cast the net on the right side of the ship and you shall find” (John 21:6). The words were spoken with such authority the disciples hastily obeyed the order. The net was immediately filled with big fish, yet it was not broken. All this had happened before (See Luke 5:6).
John, the most perceptive of the apostles, said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” The impulsive Peter could not wait with the others to meet his Lord and Master. Who could describe their meeting? They needed this time alone. What could Peter say except, “Oh Lord, how can you ever forgive me?”
Meanwhile, John was busy counting fish. Has there ever been a fisherman who does not count his catch? John and his brother, James, the sons of Zebedee, were professional fishermen. John’s gospel is an eye-witness account. He was careful in reporting accurately many details not mentioned in the other gospels. There were 153 “great fish” in the unbroken net.
After serving breakfast, Jesus turned to Peter, who had previously proclaimed himself to be the pre-eminent apostle, and asked, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these” [the other disciples]? Peter had said, “Although others will fail you [be offended], I never will” (Mark 14:33). Peter considered himself beyond Satan’s grasp, yet he had failed, not only once, but three times! Failure teaches humility. Simon had denied knowing Jesus three times. Although Peter was grieved by being asked three times, “Do you love me?” this was an appropriate question. After each confession of his love, Peter was asked to feed the Lord’s flock. Evidently feeding the Lord’s sheep and lambs would serve as a gauge of Peter’s conversion, and of ours! From that morning until the day of his death, we have no record of Peter ever falling or failing again. Peter had come a long way toward being fully converted.
We often hear someone say, “I am a convert to the church.” In other words, they are saying they did not grow up in the church, but had converted from another faith to the Restoration. When Jesus said to Peter, “When you are converted . . .” he was speaking of much more than simply being baptized. True conversion comes later; usually years later, for most of us. We are not fully converted until we reach “the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Alma was speaking to “The brethren of the church” (Alma 3:27) in the land of Zarahemla when he asked, “Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? . . . Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in corruption, to stand before God, to be judged according to the deeds done in this mortal body? I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day, come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?” (Alma 3: 29, 31-32).
Peter needed to experience a mighty change in his heart before he could strengthen the brethren. He needed to be humbled. Humility precedes love. We cannot love as we ought to love until every vestige of pride is removed from our hearts.
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one, a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee (the church man) stood and prayed thus with himself [his prayers ascended no higher than the ceiling of the temple]; God, I thank thee that I am not as other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers; or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all I possess. But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, . . . saying, God be merciful to me, a sinner. I tell you this man went down to his house justified [forgiven], rather than the other; for every man who exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18: 10-14).
I have said the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem is my favorite place in the whole world. Perhaps this is because this place is also the site of the Lord’s crucifixion. For as John wrote, “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher . . . there laid they Jesus . . . for the sepulcher was nigh at hand” (John 19: 41-42). I still love the place of the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection, but another place is a close second; Saint Peter’s Landing. While I was there in January of 1990, I felt a closeness and a kinship with Peter. I, too, had denied the Lord, not in words, but in things I had done, or left undone. I felt the Lord was also saying to me, “Do you really love me?” I knew the depth of my love for him would be measured by my love and devotion in feeding his sheep and lambs. I was not fully converted at that time, nor am I yet!
We were created in the image of God and his Son. “And I God said unto mine Only Begotten . . . let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . .” (Genesis 1:27 IV; 1:26 KJV). We were created to be like them in more than our physical features! John prayed that “the love wherewith thou hast loved . . . may be in them” (John 17:26). John also wrote, “. . . we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him . . . And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). “Have ye received his image in your countenances?” (Alma 3:28). “Have you partaken of his divine nature?” (2 Peter 1:4). Who can say they are fully converted? What Jesus says to one he says to all, “Simon, Simon (substitute your name), behold Satan hath desired you, that he may sift the children of the kingdom as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not; and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22: 31-32). He will pray for us if we ask. “Oh, if we were more like Jesus, And more from the world apart, Communing with him in spirit, And nearer to him in heart” (Hymns of the Restoration, No. 32).
My love to all,