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From… “at a distance!”

November 13th, 2016 marks 10 years since I first put my feet on Canadian soil! I am grateful, yet I have mixed feelings reflecting on the journey that brought me here. It was full of trials and tribulations, victories and defeats. I have many stories to tell – good ones and bad ones! I certainly can identify with Peter in the Bible – his bad side! Poor Peter, he had been the talk of the town many times! But I do love the story, so stay tuned – it has a good end!

In Luke 22, it describes how Jesus told Peter that he was going to deny Him three times. And of course, prideful Peter said: “Lord, I am ready to go with You both to prison and to death.” (vs 33)

Mmmmm….a very interesting statement! Let’s see what happened!

If you know the story, it did not take a long time before Peter, being intimidated by a servant girl and two others, denied Jesus THREE times! Not once, but three times! And when Jesus heard the cock crow, the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter recalled the Lord’s words, how He had told him, Before the cock crows today, you will deny Me thrice.  And he went out and wept bitterly [that is, with painfully moving grief].(Luke 22:61-62 AMPC)

Peter, after hearing that cock crow, remembered Jesus’ words! Then he recognized his weakness and his sinfulness and he wept bitterly! This means he acknowledged his pride,  and he repented! Beautiful, I’d say!

Yet, it made me think. Why was Peter so weak? One minute he was so bold and the next he was intimidated by a mere servant girl and denied Jesus! That’s pretty powerless!

I found this scripture, and I thought it explained a lot, at least for me: “Then they seized Him(Jesus) and led Him away, bringing Him into the house of the high priest. Peter was following at a distance.” (Luke 22:54)

“Following at a distance” to me, means… there is  no closeness. Perhaps Peter thought he would be strong on his own from a distance. Fatal mistake! “At a distance,” he relied on his own power and strength. That is PRIDE! Will you agree? And it struck me. I wondered what would have happened if he’d stayed closer! Mmmmmm….! What do you think?

Being prideful is not a great character to have! It gets all of us in trouble at times, right? It causes us to stumble and fall! “A man’s pride and sense of self-importance will bring him down… But he who has a humble spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23 AMP)

Peter’s pride came to a fall too. He denied Jesus! Something he really did not want to do! And then when he realized what he had done, it made him feel horrible and ashamed!

When pride comes [boiling up with an arrogant attitude of self-importance], then come dishonor and shame…” (Proverbs 11:12a AMP)

His reliance on “self” made him deny Jesus not once, but THREE times! His initial willingness to die for Jesus, changed pretty quickly into denying Him! Plus, he made the vital mistake: he did not stay close to Jesus, but “followed at a distance!

I can so identify with Peter. There was a time in my life when it did not take a long time for me to”deny” Jesus too! My pride came to a fall also.  When I  moved to the USA in 2001, I said to myself: I am going to start a new life, where no one knows about my past and I was going to win all the lost souls for Jesus! (Yes I did!) I really wanted to serve Jesus, I wanted to be a true disciple of His, but I relied on my own strength and power! I wanted to do it on my own and my own way! I thought too much about myself and relied on my own strength and power. And to tell you the truth, it did not go so well! Within 4 months after my arrival in the USA, my plans boomeranged, and I entered into my next gay relationship! I fell into the same thing I did not want to do and the very trap that I had been running from!

Why was I so weak?

Today I know why. I relied on self. That means I had pride! This is a recipe for disaster. And being full of pride, will not only create distance from God, it makes us weak! I quickly fell into the temptation of my fleshly desires and caved in to my same-sex attractions! This choice not only created a lot of destruction in my own life, but it created separation from God! NOT A GOOD THING!

Even though I know He never leaves or forsake us, we leave Him! Habitual sin in our lives WILL create distance or walls. And they “split” us from God, which means we are not close to Him. It means we choose “to follow at a distance” and He won’t hear us then!

There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear. (Isaiah 52:9 MSG)

Pride is not a good thing. It is a bad root! Bad roots bear bad fruit! It causes us to stumble and fall!  It makes us weak, even though we THINK we are strong!

The story of Peter is a classic example. My story is a classic example too!

I remember the day so well. I had to repent! I came to a place in 2003 when I acknowledged and repented of my pride and my self-efforts. I fell on my knees in my bedroom, I humbled myself before the Lord and asked Him to forgive me. I told Him how I needed Him to help me to change, as my own efforts failed all the time. I truly became desperate for his presence and to be close to Him. That was 13 years ago! Through repentance, and choosing to walk away from those things that created separation between me and God, not only have I become a conqueror, but there is closeness! There is intimacy! And by staying close to Jesus is the only way I became victorious and remain victorious! It is not by my own efforts!

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I needed to get to the same place Peter did. He also acknowledged and repented, he grieved deeply about his sinfulness and pride. It changed everything!  And the story of Peter does not end here! He started to follow Jesus so closely that people marveled at it and praised the Lord! Here is the proof:

“Then Peter, [because he was] filled with [and controlled by] the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8)  and “when they saw the boldness and unfettered eloquence of Peter and John and perceived that they were unlearned and untrained in the schools [common men with no educational advantages], they marveled; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 AMPC)

A great exchange took place! His life changed from being a prideful man to one who walked humbly with the Lord, and he started bearing fruit, the right fruit! And people recognized that fruit, and the end result was honor, honoring God! Through humility, and choosing to stay close to Jesus, Peter became  a powerful preacher leading thousands to the Lord! WOW! His character showed wisdom, power and soundness of mind!

“But with the humble [the teachable who have been chiseled by trial and who have learned to walk humbly with God] there is wisdom and soundness of mind.” (Proverbs 11:12b, AMP)

True followers of Jesus who choose to stay close to Him and who do not “follow at a distance,” become strong. They overcome AND they bear fruit – fruit of the Spirit! In the process, people will recognize that they “had been with Jesus”! (Acts 4:13c)

Peter made mistakes. I made mistakes. Both of us learned the hard way. And in writing this, it is a strong reminder to not take the pride path again! I hope you too will learn from both of us and not mess up the way we did! Let’s learn from Paul’s words:

And in the process these are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. (1 Corinthians 10:11-12 MSG)

The prideful one will come to a fall.  The humble one will learn that closeness to God is best! Humbleness is far better than self-confidence! (Pride!)   When we stay close, we will run and not become weary, we will walk and not grow tired!

But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] Will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired. (Isaiah 40:31 AMP)

From “at a distance” we will fall, but when we stay close to Jesus, we will rise and be strong!

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