Do You Think You Can Change?

Despite Peter’s weaknesses and doubts, God was still able to help him become one of the most influential leaders of the world. He can do the same with us.
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When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, sir, please leave us—I’m too much of a sinner for you to have around.” For he was awestruck by the size of their catch, as were the others with him, [10] and his partners too—James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Jesus replied, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for the souls of men!”

Luke 5:8-10 TLB

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t change? That’s how Peter felt when he first met Jesus. Jesus was trying to show him the purpose he was capable of having, but all Peter could see was how sinful he was. He almost missed out on the great purpose God had for him.

I have often been in this same spot. God keeps trying to give me opportunities for growth, or show me the purpose I feel like I don’t have, but I get more focused on all the ways I’ve messed up than how God can help me change.

This study is going to look at Peter and how despite his weaknesses, mistakes, and doubts, God was still able to help him become one of the greatest and most influential leaders of the world. 

From avoidant to aware

Peter said, “All the other followers may lose their faith. But my faith will never be shaken.” [30] Jesus answered, “The truth is, tonight you will say you don’t know me. You will say it three times before the rooster crows twice.” [31] But Peter strongly protested, “I will never say I don’t know you! I will even die with you!” And all the other followers said the same thing.

Matthew 26:32-35 ERV

When Jesus told Peter a truth about himself, Peter refused to listen to or believe it. He wasn’t aware of his own sinful nature, and was too proud to admit that he was capable of hurting Jesus, his friend.

Peter’s refusal to be humble and see his own sin led him to doing the very thing he said he wouldn’t do – betray Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75). We’ll look at that passage later in our study. For now, what’s important to note is that because Peter avoided seeing truth about himself, he had to become aware of his sinful nature the hard way – by taking an action that hurt one of his closest friends.

  • What are some things you do to avoid seeing truths about yourself, your sins, and your relationship with God?
  • What parts of your sinful nature do you think God is trying to help you be aware of? How do you think being more aware of your sinful nature would help your relationship with God and others?

An aware heart is a loving heart

[15] When they finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these other men love me?” Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Then Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.” [16] Again Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Then Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” [17] A third time Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was sad because Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you!” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.”

John 21:15-17 ERV

This conversation takes place after Peter does in fact betray Jesus. But this time, rather than try to prove and defend himself, Peter chooses to be honest and humble. In their previous conversation he kept the focus on himself and what he was capable of doing. But in this conversation, he shifts his attention to Jesus. He doesn’t feel the need to prove he’s someone he’s not; he just wants to show his friend he cares, and is willing to face any truth in order to achieve that. 

We avoid being honest when we care more about our image and pride than about our relationship with God. We need to develop a friendship with God in which closeness matters more to us than the brief discomfort we may feel from being honest or vulnerable.

  • Is your relationship with God more avoidant or aware?
  • What can you be honest about today to bring more closeness to your friendship with God and other people?

From cowardly to courageous

The soldiers started a fire in the middle of the yard and sat together. Peter sat with them. [56] A servant girl saw him sitting there. She could see because of the light from the fire. She looked closely at Peter’s face. Then she said, “This man was also with Jesus.” [57] But Peter said this was not true. He said, “Lady, I don’t know him.” [58] A short time later, someone else saw Peter and said, “You are also one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” [59] About an hour later, another man said, “It’s true. I’m sure this man was with him, because he is from Galilee.” [60] But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. [61] Then the Lord turned and looked into Peter’s eyes. And Peter remembered what the Lord had said, “Before the rooster crows in the morning, you will say three times that you don’t know me.” [62] Then Peter went outside and cried bitterly.

Luke 22:55-62 ERV

Throughout the Gospels, Peter often comes across as passionate and confident. He tells Jesus he would die for him, he confronts Jesus himself on something he doesn’t agree with, and he steps out of a boat to walk on water. But once he’s put in a position of conflict, he gets afraid and insecure. We can learn from this that his seeming confidence and passion are often based on his emotions. They are not always rooted in deep conviction, because once he is put to the test, he crumbles. 

There have been countless times where I think I know myself – I think there are convictions and beliefs that I have, but like Peter I crumble when faced with any sort of conflict or opposition. I get afraid of what people think, how I look, or whether I will get rejected. I retract into myself and just conform to whoever is around me. 

The part that gets me the most about this scripture is right when Peter gives into his fear, Jesus looks directly at him. Peter is so caught up in doing whatever he needs to do to protect himself that he doesn’t think about how his fear and conformity affects his friend. I relate to this feeling. I don’t want to hurt my relationship with God, but I also don’t always want to challenge the fear and self-protection that grip me.

  • When was a time where you thought you had a conviction or belief, but you crumbled when faced with a problem or difficulty?
  • How do you think fear and self-preservation have affected your friendships with God and other people?

Courage isn’t a personality trait

The council members were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who had never had religious training. Then they began to understand the effect Jesus had on them simply by spending time with him.

Acts 4:13 TPT

Peter become bold and courageous, not from being emotional or charismatic, but “simply by spending time with” Jesus. By having a relationship with God, he developed convictions that no person or pressure could sway. Spending time with God by reading the Bible and praying makes us capable of being courageous despite our fears. Peter went from denying he knew Jesus for fear of suffering, to boldly speaking in front of some of the most influential people of their time. 

We may think confidence and courage comes from being extroverted or having a certain personality type. But this scripture says that boldness isn’t a personality trait. It’s a product of the choice to spend time with God.

  • What fears can you overcome simply by spending more time with God?

Keep on growing

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, [6] and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, [7] and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. [8] The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. [9] But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.

2 Peter 1:5-9 NLT

In this Scripture from the book of 2 Peter, we learn that the moment we stop looking for ways to grow in our relationship with God, we will start thinking we are incapable of change. We become shortsighted, too focused on all the sins we’ve done or mistakes we’ve made that we forget God has already moved on from them. Rather than focusing on what we can’t change, God wants to help us move forward toward what we can do, thus propelling us toward the purpose he has for us. 

  • Which quality in this passage can you choose to grow in today?

More About Change

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