A Death to Glorify God

The story of the apostle Peter is one that should encourage many of us who are prone to weakness and failure. Remember, after all, that Peter, in a moment of humiliation, denied three times that he even knew Jesus. But, by the grace of God, the Savior met with Peter and restored him.

The story of Peter’s restoration is found in John 21. Its contrast with Peter’s denial is clear. Before, Peter three times denied Jesus at night near a charcoal fire. IN John 21, to emphasize the parallel, Jesus will three times ask Peter, “Do you love me,” in the morning near a charcoal fire. Each time Peter will say that he loves the Savior. But we also can imagine the horrible emotion that Peter must have felt as Peter knows that his actions did not match his claims.

But each time Peter said he loved Jesus, the Savior responded with a call on Peter’s life. Peter was called to be a shepherd, a pastor. Peter was called to care for Christ’s sheep. Like the other disciples, Peter was to give his life in the service of the people of God and of the spread of the gospel.

Were that the end of the story, it would be great. Peter is restored. Jesus gives Peter a job. I’m sure that Peter knew how inadequate he personally was for the task. But Jesus tells Peter how it will all end.

John 21:18-19 – 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus lets Peter know that, someday in the future, when Peter is old, Peter will be carried off to an execution. The language Jesus uses seems to refer to crucifixion. Just as Jesus had his arms stretched out on a cross in his sacrificial death, so Peter will follow his Lord’s example. No, Peter would not die for the sins of others. But Peter, like Jesus, would glorify God in his death.

How interesting it is that John uses the words he uses. Jesus told Peter by what kind of death he would “glorify God.” Peter, in choosing to preach to the end, by choosing to preach under the reign of a tyrant like Nero, by choosing to preach when it was illegal and unpopular, would glorify God by laying down his life. Peter’s death glorified the Lord.

What we want to learn from Peter and from John’s words here is that our lives, even up to and including our deaths, are to glorify the Lord. Like Peter we have fears and weaknesses. Like Peter, we will fail from time to time. Like Peter, we will need our savior to restore us and remind us of our task. But in the end, if we truly love Jesus, we will care for his church. If we love Jesus, we will worship him with the people of God, and that will be a tremendously high priority for us. And like Peter, we will be willing to honor God in all we do.

And, if we follow the Lord faithfully, we will also have the opportunity to glorify God in our death. Perhaps, like Peter, we will die a martyr’s death for our Lord. If so, praise be to God. But it is also quite possible that we will die of old age or disease as do so many. How we approach that death, how we witness to others, how we display our hope, these are all ways that we can glorify God in our deaths too. Friends, may we understand that all things in our lives have the possibility to glorify the Savior. So, even if we have failed him time and time again, even if we have gone so far as to deny him like Peter did, let us repent. Let us return. Let us seek the grace of God in Christ. Let us glorify God in our lives. Let us love the church. And let us look forward to glorifying our God, even in how we die.

Remember the Lord Early in Life

One mistake that people sometimes make is to assume that we have a good deal of time before we need to consider the things of God. After all, when we are young, are we not supposed to be thinking about other things? People assume that, once they are old and gray, they will be able to do the religious thing.

But the wisest man of the Old Testament gives us a significant warning not to wait. Solomon tells us to remember the Lord long before we expect our lives to take a turn toward the cemetery.

Ecclesiastes 12:1 – Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

For the first eleven chapters of Ecclesiastes, Solomon has shown us just how messed up life can be. Nasty people get rich and have all they want. Kind people suffer. Whether a person is good or bad, the grave awaits them both. And thus, if one estimates the value of morality from a naturalistic bent, all is vanity.

But here, Solomon is drawing to a conclusion. And one of his final pieces of counsel is that we should remember the Lord when we are young. Then, from verses 2-9, Solomon describes the hardships people face in aging. He suggests you be right with God before your vision and hearing go, before your legs get trembly, your teeth get weak, and your sexual desire wanes. Solomon is telling us to be right with our Creator before we die, and since we do not know when that will be, we should start young.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

While we might think that life seems meaningless and unfair, God has assured us of this: he will bring all into judgment. There is no sin that will ever go unpunished. There is no wrong that will not be righted, no justice that will go unsettled.

How? God is just and holy. Jesus died as a substitute to suffer God’s wrath for all he will forgive and to transfer to the forgiven God’s righteousness. Thus, your sin will be punished. Either God will punish you for your sin, or he has punished Jesus for your sin. If he punishes you for your sin, his infinite wrath will be poured out on you. You cannot survive that. But Jesus, God in the flesh, could take our punishment, satisfy God’s justice, and rise from the grave.

Solomon tells us to get right with our Creator while we are young. Before you get old, before you lose pleasure in life, before your mind is cluttered, remember your God. He is a righteous judge who has offered you grace in Jesus. Rejoice in that gracious justice and surrender to Jesus before it is too late.