…he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
— Luke 5:8
As you live your life, it’s likely that you will come face to face with people at all kinds of different spiritual levels. You may find that you end up spending time with:
- People who are actively pursuing a closer relationship with Jesus.
- People who have recently recommitted their lives to Christ and are excited about living for Jesus.
- People who are nonchalant or noncommittal about their relationship with God.
- People who have gone astray from the walk they once had with Jesus.
- People who are religious or churchgoers but are still unsaved.
- People who are lost and don’t know the message of Christ.
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I was really surprised by the number of times Simon Peter had to encounter Jesus before his life was changed. And if we include his encounter with Christ when he fell to his knees and recognized Jesus’ lordship, that means he had four different encounters with Christ before he was changed. I had never chronologically put it together until recently, so it struck me when I realized how many encounters it took to bring Simon Peter to a place of conversion, where he turned from his own ways and completely submitted his life to the Lord. We will look at each of those four encounters in this Sparkling Gem.
This tells me that sometimes people come to know the Lord one step at a time. Of course, we know that the act of receiving eternal salvation is a one-time event. When I talk about steps and stages, I’m referring to the various encounters people might have with God before they finally surrender their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Let me show you that progression in Simon Peter’s life — how he moved from the moment he first heard about Jesus to an eventual encounter that totally changed his life. As you read this Sparkling Gem, think of people you know — especially those who may be in one of these various stages in their own encounter with Jesus Christ.
1. Simon Peter’s first encounter with Jesus.
The day after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus was walking nearby and John exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (see John 1:36). Verses 37-40 relate that two men heard John and that one of them was Andrew, whose brother was Simon (later referred to as Simon Peter or Peter).
This passage goes on to say that Andrew and the other unnamed man followed Jesus to see where He was staying. Jesus could see them following, so He told them, “Come and see.” Verse 39 goes on to tell us that the two men spent the entire day with Jesus. Afterward, Andrew went to fetch his brother Simon in order to bring him to Jesus (v. 41).
Thus, Simon’s first encounter with Christ was this secondhand information that he heard from his brother Andrew. At this point, Simon had never personally met Jesus. All he knew of Him was what his brother had told him: “We have found the Messiah!” At long last the Savior had come, but Simon had only secondhand knowledge about Him.
This describes the spiritual state of many people in the world. These individuals may have heard about Christ from family and friends. They know of Jesus, and they know about Him; however, they’ve never personally met Him. That kind of secondhand knowledge is not enough to bring a person into the Kingdom of God.
That’s where our responsibility begins. Just like Andrew, you and I must take the initiative to make sure our friends and family members have more than secondhand knowledge about Jesus. A person must have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ in order to go to Heaven — not just “head knowledge” about Him or the ability to say, “I know who Jesus was historically.”
As Andrew did for Simon, so must we do everything we can to bring our friends and family to Jesus — which leads us to the next point.
2. Simon Peter’s second encounter with Christ.
In John 1:42, we read about Simon Peter’s second encounter with Christ. Simon came to the place where Jesus could be found, and it seems that he lingered and listened to Him. We know that Jesus and Simon had a conversation; however, there is no record that a life-transforming conversion occurred in Simon’s life at that time.
Although Simon’s heartfelt conversion occurred some days later, as is recorded in Luke 5 (which we’ll discuss later), this second encounter was his first personal introduction to Jesus. During this encounter, Jesus even told Simon that his name would be changed to Peter, indicating that soon he would have a change of character. However, this change didn’t occur at that moment. This second encounter was merely Simon’s introduction to the Savior and His message. Again, we see that Simon was close to the Kingdom of God but not yet actually inside the Kingdom of God.
I urge you to do for your family and friends what Andrew did for his brother. Invite them to a place where they can hear the message and learn more about the Savior. They may have already heard the message from you, but now is the time to take them to church or to a smaller gathering where Christians celebrate Jesus. Taking someone to a place where the Gospel message is presented may seem like only a small step, but this step may be needed to bring about the change of heart that will make a difference for eternity.
Just as Jesus introduced the idea of a character change to Simon Peter in that first personal encounter, this may be a way to introduce your lost friends to the truth that Jesus can totally change their lives. Even if they don’t get saved during this first introduction to Jesus, remember, Simon’s real inward change also didn’t happen the first time he personally met Jesus.
I feel impressed by the Holy Spirit to say that there are many who take this particular step and get stuck there. In other words, they go to church or to a meeting searching for truth — and they come very close to the truth. In fact, they are in the very vicinity where a life change can occur. But because no one ever tells them about the need to repent of their sins and surrender their lives to Jesus Christ, they end up religious but unsaved. Unfortunately, churches are filled with people who have come close to the Kingdom of God but have never entered it.
These people go to church, know the words to the hymns and songs, and often even pay their tithes. But because they’ve never recognized their sinful state and repented of their sins, they live on the edge of God’s Kingdom without ever entering it. As a result, their character has never changed. They are simply religious, unsaved people.
You may discover people in your circle of family and friends who fit in this category. Ask God to give you an opportunity to bring them all the way to repentance and to a true saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
3. Simon Peter’s third encounter with Jesus Christ.
Luke 4:38 tells us that after several days, Jesus went to Simon Peter’s house. This was a third step for Simon as he drew closer and closer to truly knowing Jesus Christ.
Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. But when Jesus arrived, verse 39 says that He “…stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her….” Instantly, this woman was healed. In fact, the verse goes on to say that “…immediately she arose and ministered unto them.” The phrase “ministered unto them” most likely means that after Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law, she felt so well, she immediately got up and cooked dinner for them!
That same night, word spread through the city that Jesus was spending the night at Simon Peter’s house, and people got excited. Luke 4:40 tells us what happened next: “Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.”
Right in Simon Peter’s own home, he experienced God’s power. This was no longer secondhand information. Simon had not only witnessed the miraculous healing of his mother-in-law, but he’d also seen multitudes of sick people healed by Jesus’ touch that same night. This was the next step leading toward the transformation that would occur soon afterward in Simon’s life. God’s power was all around Simon, but the change he needed at his core had not yet occurred in him.
This makes me think of people I’ve seen through the years who have attended meetings where God has demonstrated His power right in front of them. These people have experienced answers to prayer and have tasted of God’s power — but they’ve never been changed at their core. I wonder how many people have grown up in church, where they saw and heard so much about God’s love and power, yet never allowed the truth they heard to sink into their hearts and bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus that changed their nature. People who fit that description are thus unsaved. In life, it’s reasonable to assume that you’ll come into contact with many people who are in this category of “churched but not really saved.”
Keep your heart sensitive to the Holy Spirit about this issue. He may use you to lead someone who fits this description into a saving knowledge of Christ. One thing is for sure: A change at the core is essential to enter the Kingdom of God. If no real change of character has occurred at a person’s core, it’s likely he or she has never been born again.
Luke 4:44 tells us that after this evening of miracles, Jesus left Simon Peter’s house and began to travel and preach in the synagogues of Galilee. It isn’t known how much time elapsed between the miracles that occurred at Simon’s house and his next experience with Jesus. However, Luke 5:1 tells us that some days later, Simon encountered Christ a fourth time.
4. Simon Peter’s fourth life-transforming encounter with Christ.
First, Simon Peter obtained “secondhand” knowledge of Jesus. Second, he went to a specific place where he was introduced to Jesus. Third, he personally experienced the power of God. Then in Luke 5:1-11, we read the story of Simon’s fourth encounter with Christ — the encounter that reached so deep into his core that it transformed his life. The result of this fourth encounter was that Simon Peter totally committed his life to the cause of Christ.
The moment came when Jesus stepped into Simon Peter’s boat and used it as a pulpit to preach to a large crowd. Simon’s surrendering of his boat to Jesus was the first time he had ever given something to Jesus — and that’s when Jesus stepped deeper than ever into his life. When Simon surrendered the use of his boat to Jesus, he had no idea where that would take him. But after preaching to the multitude from Simon’s boat, Jesus told him: “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught” (Luke 5:4).
Simon Peter was a professional fisherman and had just fished all night with no results. But he chose to obey Jesus, saying, “…at thy word I will let down the net” (v. 5). Verse 6 relates, “And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.” In fact, the catch was so enormous that it “…filled both the ships, so that they began to sink” (v. 7).
Such an enormous catch couldn’t be attributed to coincidence or a freak accident. Simon Peter had been fishing all his life, but he had never seen anything like this — and neither had anyone else. This encounter with Christ pushed Simon into a rock-solid faith as “…he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Peter recognized his sinfulness and called Jesus “Lord.” This is the Greek word kurios. Peter’s use of this word lets us know that at this moment, he finally recognized Jesus as having supreme spiritual authority and surrendered his life to Christ.
It was this final experience that caused Simon Peter to see Christ’s holiness and his own sinfulness. When Peter saw this miraculous catch of fish, he really knew that God Himself was in the boat with him. In that moment of revelation, he called Jesus “Lord.” This fourth encounter totally changed Peter and reset his goals for life. However, this life-transforming experience happened:
- After Simon Peter had learned that Jesus was the Messiah.
- After Jesus had spent time in Peter’s home.
- After Peter had seen Jesus miraculously heal his mother-in-law.
- And after he had witnessed Jesus healing multitudes outside his own home.
One might think that these previous encounters would have been sufficient to bring Peter to the point of conversion. However, it took this final experience to cause him to drop to his knees and fully acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As a fisherman, Peter knew that the amazing size of this catch of fish was an unquestionable miracle. Consequently, this fourth encounter was so life-altering that he never returned to a life of fishing again. From that moment on, Peter followed Jesus.
As you come in contact with so many different people, it is likely that you will spend time with people who are like Simon Peter before that fourth encounter: They just need one final touch to bring them to a rock-solid faith in Christ.
Like Peter, these people may mentally know who Jesus is and may have seen demonstrations of His power; however, they have never actually recognized their need to repent of their sins and submit to the Lordship of Christ. Are you the person the Holy Spirit wants to use to reach out to the people in your life who need this encounter so you can bring them into the family of God?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I see now that some people — including notable people like Simon Peter — come to know You one step at a time. Help me to recognize how I can be used to bring people closer to You. Show me what to do, what to say, and what steps to take to introduce people to a knowledge of Jesus Christ that will change them at their core. Give me wisdom to lead my friends and acquaintances to a knowledge of Jesus that will transform them from the inside out.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I acknowledge that many people come to the Lord one step at a time. While only one experience is needed to bring a person to true conversion, it often takes many experiences to bring a person to that one experience that changes them forever. I confess that I am an instrument that God uses to share Christ, to bring people to a knowledge of sin, and to bring them to a place of repentance that changes them at the very core of their being.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- As you read about Simon Peter and how he came to the Lord one step at a time, did you think about anyone you know who is coming closer and closer to the Lord, but still lacks that final experience of repentance that changes him at his core? Who is that person? What can you do to help bring that individual to that final place of genuine conversion?
- What was your own experience of coming to the Lord? Did you instantly come the first time you heard about the need to repent, or did it take time and multiple experiences for you to come to a place of repentance and faith in Christ?
- Is there any person whom you are actively introducing to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Who is that person? How close is he or she to making that final commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?