BROKEN VESSELS: HOW GOD USES IMPERFECT PEOPLE

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1 BROKEN VESSELS: HOW GOD USES IMPERFECT PEOPLE 98

2 God continually chooses to work in and through His people. Brokenness and pain. Unfortunately, they are universal. It may have been from the pain of that young summer love that ended prematurely, the pain of abandonment and isolation, the pain of chronic illness or death, or the pain we bring on ourselves through our own sin and failure. We all know what pain feels like, and it feels like being broken. Like clay jars, we are fragile. We can be easily broken but we do not have to remain broken vessels. We are never beyond the healing and redeeming power of God. In the face of failure, God responds with restoration. In spite of our shortcomings, God will work in and through us. In the midst of our circumstances, God will help us endure. But, God doesn t stop there. He seeks to use us to speak into the lives of other broken vessels. He uses our experiences with His grace and power to comfort others. He desires to use us to help our neighbors and loved ones encounter the God who brings hope and restoration. Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:7). We are broken vessels, but this great treasure the good news of Jesus Christ shines through our brokenness. DANIEL IM Daniel Im is the director of church multiplication for NewChurches.com and LifeWay. He is the co-author of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply and blogs at Danielim.com. Daniel serves as a teaching pastor at The Fellowship in Nashville. He is married to Christina, and they have three children. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 99

3 Broken Vessels: How God Uses Imperfect People Session 1 A Fresh Start John 18:15-18,25-27; 21:15-19 Session 2 Objections Overruled Exodus 3:11-12; 4:10-17 Session 3 The Gift of Grace 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 Session 4 A Channel of Comfort 2 Corinthians 1:2-7 Session 5 A Passion to Share the Gospel 2 Corinthians 5:11,14-21 Session 6 Right Here, Right Now Mark 5:1-2,8-15,

4 SESSION 1 A FRESH START The Point We fail; Jesus restores. The Passage John 18:15-18,25-27; 21:15-19 The Bible Meets Life When we come to faith in Christ, we realize there is nothing we can do to earn a right relationship with God. We fail, but Jesus gives us hope. As Christians, we still fail, but we sometimes chastise ourselves for failing. The same grace we needed for salvation is the same grace we need to live it out. The hope we have in Christ is grounded in grace, and we need to experience that grace day by day. The Setting The initial events of the focal verses occurred on the night before Jesus crucifixion, at the high priest s residence in Jerusalem after Jesus arrest. The latter events took place after Jesus resurrection (perhaps a couple weeks later). After the Festivals of Passover and of Unleavened Bread, Jesus disciples left Jerusalem and returned to Galilee. One morning on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), Jesus appeared to seven of His disciples while they were fishing. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 101

5 What does the Bible say? John 18:15-18,25-27; 21:15-19 (CSB) 15 Simon Peter was following Jesus, as was another disciple. That disciple was an acquaintance of the high priest; so he went with Jesus into the high priest s courtyard. 16 But Peter remained standing outside by the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the girl who was the doorkeeper and brought Peter in. 17 Then the servant girl who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, You aren t one of this man s disciples too, are you? I am not, he said. 18 Now the servants and the officials had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold. They were standing there warming themselves, and Peter was standing with them, warming himself. 25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, You aren t one of his disciples too, are you? He denied it and said, I am not. 26 One of the high priest s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, Didn t I see you with him in the garden? 27 Peter denied it again. Immediately a rooster crowed. 21:15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Yes, Lord, he said to him, you know that I love you. Feed my lambs, he told him. 16 A second time he asked him, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Yes, Lord, he said to him, you know that I love you. Shepherd my sheep, he told him. 17 He asked him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, Do you love me? He said, Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you. Feed my sheep, Jesus said. 18 Truly I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don t want to go. 19 He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. After saying this, he told him, Follow me. 102 SeSSion 1

6 THE POINT We fail; Jesus restores. GET INTO THE STUDY 10 minutes DISCUSS: Invite your group members to discuss Question #1 on page 81 of the PSG (Personal Study Guide): When have you really enjoyed making a mess? Allow time for each person to respond. A response now will encourage group members to respond to other questions later in the session. SUMMARIZE THE PSG (PAGE 82): Making a mess in the kitchen is one thing; making a mess of life is quite another. I can clean the kitchen. But when I make a mess of my life, I can t just wipe away the evidence or the consequences with a good disinfectant. Notes Want to know about biblical culture, people, archaeology, and history? Biblical Illustrator has articles that tie to each session in this study at lifeway.com/bi. Have you ever found yourself at rock bottom? It may have been because of an inappropriate relationship, a string of lies, or a temptation or habit that seemed to gradually take over everything in life. At that moment, you stand at a crossroad. Do you continue down the road you re on, repeating the same mistakes because the pain of changing seems greater than the pain of remaining the same? Or do you look to Jesus for a way out? SAY: Peter, one of Jesus closest disciples, knew what it meant to mess up. He failed in a big way. But Peter s story also offers us encouragement and points us to the way out a fresh start in Jesus Christ. LEADER PACK: Bring your group s attention to Pack Item #8, Broken Vessels poster, to introduce the topic of this six-week study. GUIDE: Call attention to The Point on page 82 of the PSG: We fail; Jesus restores. PRAY: Transition into the discussion with prayer. Pray for those who are experiencing the pain of brokenness to know the restoration Christ offers. PACK POSTER: Pack Item #8 Broken Vessels poster PLAYLIST PICK: Resurrecting By Elevation Worship BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 103

7 10 minutes STUDY THE BIBLE Notes John 18:15-18,25-27 (CSB) 15 Simon Peter was following Jesus, as was another disciple. That disciple was an acquaintance of the high priest; so he went with Jesus into the high priest s courtyard. 16 But Peter remained standing outside by the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the girl who was the doorkeeper and brought Peter in. 17 Then the servant girl who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, You aren t one of this man s disciples too, are you? I am not, he said. 18 Now the servants and the officials had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold. They were standing there warming themselves, and Peter was standing with them, warming himself. 25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, You aren t one of his disciples too, are you? He denied it and said, I am not. 26 One of the high priest s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, Didn t I see you with him in the garden? 27 Peter denied it again. Immediately a rooster crowed. SUMMARIZE THE PSG (PAGE 83): Peter, also known as Simon Peter, was surely exhausted and confused. A group of soldiers, temple police from the chief priests, and Pharisees all led by Judas Iscariot had just arrested Jesus and taken Him away. And, Jesus allowed it all to happen. In an effort to get near enough to see and hear what was happening, Peter and John followed Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. READ: Ask a group member to read aloud John 18:15-18, DISCUSS: Question #2 on page 83 of the PSG: What emotions would you have experienced in Peter s situation? ALTERNATE QUESTION: What are our options when we fail as big as Peter did? SUMMARIZE THE PSG (PAGE 84): It wasn t long before people began to ask about Peter s connection to Jesu s and the denials began. Three times Peter was asked if he knew Jesus; three times he denied this truth. DISCUSS: Question #3 on page 84 of the PSG: What factors may cause us to shrink back from identifying as Christ-followers? 104 SeSSion 1

8 THE POINT We fail; Jesus restores. John 18:15-18,25-27 Commentary Even followers of Jesus still falter and fail. Verses 15-16: Simon Peter and another disciple had followed those who had arrested Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The identity of this other disciple is unknown; most scholars, however, believe it was John, the son of Zebedee. Whatever the case, his identity was such that he had access to a secure property. Thus he followed Jesus and the arresting party into the courtyard of the building, but he did not follow the group into the house. Instead, he remained in the courtyard, which must have been sizable since a number of people were gathered there. Verse 17: The other disciple may have been known as a follower of Jesus. Perhaps the servant girl knew this, which may have prompted her words to his friend. As Peter entered the courtyard, the doorkeeper may have been shocked and surprised that anyone who knew Jesus would have been there. So she asked, You aren t one of this man s disciples too, are you? Some suggest the sentence structure of her question expected a negative response, so the meaning of the sentence was something along the lines of Not you too? Peter responded: I am not. This was his first denial. Verse 18: The servants and officials had made a fire in the courtyard to ward off the chill and were warming themselves around the fire. (John will mention a charcoal fire again in 21:9). Apparently it didn t bother Peter to be in the same part of the courtyard with these authorities, some of whom undoubtedly had arrested Jesus. In fact, Peter joined them around the fire as he attempted to warm himself. Verse 25: While Jesus was being questioned inside the house (John 18:19 24), Peter was about to face an interrogation of his own. First, some of those who were also huddled around the fire repeated the question Peter had heard earlier. Again the question expected a negative response You aren t one of his disciples too, are you? Peter again denied it. Verse 26: Another person joined in. John noted this questioner was a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off. Earlier that night in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter had used a sword to defend Jesus when the soldiers arrived to arrest his Lord. He had cut off the ear of the high priest s servant. With his question, Didn t I see you with him in the garden? the man indicated he had been part of the arresting party and had seen Peter wielding a sword to protect his Master. Verse 27: In response to this third question about his loyalty, Peter denied it again. This happened just as Jesus had predicted (Matthew 26:31 34). Despite Peter s earlier assertion of his devotion even to death (v. 35), three times that night he denied being a follower of Jesus. Immediately after his third denial, a rooster crowed. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 105

9 10 minutes STUDY THE BIBLE Notes John 21:15-19 (CSB) 15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Yes, Lord, he said to him, you know that I love you. Feed my lambs, he told him. 16 A second time he asked him, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Yes, Lord, he said to him, you know that I love you. Shepherd my sheep, he told him. 17 He asked him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, Do you love me? He said, Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you. Feed my sheep, Jesus said. 18 Truly I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don t want to go. 19 He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. After saying this, he told him, Follow me. READ: Ask a group member to read aloud John 21: SUMMARIZE THE PSG (PAGES 85-86): In John 21, most likely a couple weeks after Peter denied knowing Jesus, we see God s pattern of restoration. Peter and the disciples were out fishing on the Sea of Tiberias. After an entire night of not catching anything, a man called out to them from the shore and told them to Cast the net on the right side of the boat... and you ll find some (v. 6). They obeyed and were rewarded with such a large catch of fish they couldn t haul the net in. John, correctly identifying who Jesus was, said to Peter, It is the Lord! (v. 7). As impulsive as always, Peter jumped into the water and swam to the shore to be with Jesus. In the moments that follow, we see Jesus heart: to restore Peter just weeks after his denials. DISCUSS: Question #4 on page 85 of the PSG: When have you seen God bring restoration to a seemingly hopeless situation? 106 SeSSion 1

10 THE POINT We fail; Jesus restores. John 21:15-19 Commentary Jesus restores. Verse 15: Peter had witnessed the risen Christ on at least a couple of occasions during the days after the resurrection (Luke 24:33,36 49; 1 Corinthians 15:5,7). Like the other remaining disciples, he seemed unsure what to do with his life from that point forward. So one night Peter and six other disciples decided to go fishing (John 21:1 3). Fishing had given them a livelihood and a purpose before they first met Jesus. But as they fished that night they caught nothing until early in the morning when a man on the shore told them to cast their nets again. The catch of fish was incredibly large. After realizing the identity of the man, Peter jumped into the water and swam to the shore to see Jesus again (vv. 4 14). After the disciples enjoyed a breakfast of bread and fish, Jesus asked Peter: Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? How Jesus addressed Peter was as significant as the question He asked. Simon was his given name; Peter was the name Jesus had given him on their first meeting (1:42). Peter means rock, but that s not how Jesus referred to him on this occasion. On that earlier cold, dark night in the courtyard, Peter had demonstrated his loyalty was not as solid as he had professed. Without mentioning Peter s failure, Jesus confronted its reality simply by how He addressed this disciple. With each question the Lord confronted Peter about his true loyalty. Jesus first asked him, Do you love me more than these? To what or whom was Jesus referring when he mentioned these? Certainly Jesus could have pointed to the boat and miraculous catch of fish, wanting to know if Peter loved Him more than he loved fishing. However, it s more likely Jesus asked whether Peter s love for Him was greater than that of the other disciples. Peter had once brashly proclaimed a commitment to Christ greater than that of all the other disciples (Mark 14:29). In response to the Lord s question, Peter replied, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Despite Peter s failure, he was certain Jesus knew his love for the Lord was genuine. He was no longer willing to assert he was better than the other disciples. It seems Peter had learned at least not to compare his commitment with that of others. Jesus reply to Peter was a simple statement: Feed my lambs. Jesus had declared He is the good shepherd (John 10:11,14). He is the One who directs, protects, provides, heals, and more. During His ministry Jesus did this for the people of His flock. The disciples witnessed His actions and even participated with Jesus in caring for people. Thus with His words, Jesus commissioned Peter to assume the responsibility of leadership for this task. In addition to his call to do the work of evangelism (Matthew 4:19), Peter was being called to do the work of a pastor in caring for the flock. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 107

11 10 minutes STUDY THE BIBLE Notes ALTERNATE QUESTION: How does the story of Peter s second chance offer hope to us? John 21:15-19 (CSB) (Continued) SUMMARIZE THE PSG (PAGE 86): In verses 15-19, Jesus asked Peter three times about his love for Him. Each time Jesus asked the question, He followed up with a commission. Jesus not only forgave Peter for his three denials, but He restored and commissioned him to service. Feed my lambs (v. 15). Shepherd my sheep (v. 16). Feed my sheep (v. 17). Jesus desired for Peter to move forward in ministry. DISCUSS: Question #5 on page 86 of the PSG: What do these verses teach us about our relationship with Christ? DO: Instruct group members to complete the activity on page 87 on their own. If time allows, invite volunteers to share their responses aloud. MADE NEW: In which of the following areas do you need to experience God s restoration? Check all that apply. A fractured friendship Your relationship with God Family conflict or past wounds Contention at church or with other Christ-followers Other: In the space below, write out a brief prayer to God about this need. ACTIVITY (OPTIONAL): In advance, secure two clay flower pots. Carefully break one into several large pieces and glue it back together. Display both pots and explain that the repaired pot is still usable, though it bears evidence that it was once broken. That s what God does in our lives. Our scars are there, but we are forgiven, and those scars do nothing to keep us from being fully useful in the hands of God. TRANSITION: God s desire is for us to offer Him the pieces and to allow Him to restore us. He takes the broken vessels of our lives and makes us whole again. 108 SeSSion 1

12 THE POINT We fail; Jesus restores. John 21:15-19 Commentary (Continued) Verse 16: A second time Jesus posed an almost identical question to Simon. This time, however, Jesus did not reference any other persons or things in inquiring about the disciple s love. And a second time Peter made the same response, acknowledging Jesus knew the extent of Peter s love. Once again Jesus instructed Peter on what he was to do: Shepherd my sheep. The slight difference in wording could have referred to the broader task Peter would undertake of teaching and guiding those who were beyond the first steps of discipleship. Or the variation in Jesus words may simply have been stated for emphasis. Verse 17: Jesus continued to probe Peter s heart by asking the same question the third time. Rather than noting Peter s immediate reply, John first recorded that Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, Do you love me? Also for the third time, Peter professed his love for Jesus. But his response this time also added a new statement: Lord, you know everything. Peter acknowledged that Jesus is omniscient (all-knowing) because He is God. In response, Jesus once again called Peter to a specific task: Feed my sheep. This pastoral commission apparently took hold in Peter s life. Years later he noted church elders (leaders) were responsible to shepherd God s flock (1 Peter 5:2), which is what Peter had done throughout his ministry. Verse 18: Jesus went on to elaborate on Peter s future and the end of his ministry. The Lord first noted the freedom Peter had experienced as a younger man: you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when Peter embraced Christ s commission, his life would change. Eventually ( when you grow old ) Peter s experience would be different. You will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don t want to go. This could be a reference either to being put into chains or to being nailed on a cross, where his hands/arms would be outstretched. Peter experienced both in his ministry, being imprisoned for preaching the gospel and eventually being martyred in Rome during Emperor Nero s persecution of Christians in the mid-60s. Verse 19: John wrote that Jesus spoke these words to relate what kind of death Peter would suffer: Peter would die for his Lord. What Peter boldly proclaimed on the night before Jesus crucifixion, I will lay down my life for you (John 13:37), would come about in the future. Jesus closing words in this section, Follow me, were a repetition of some of the first words He had spoken to Peter when Jesus called him to be His disciple (Matthew 4:19). Here, Jesus laid out the reality of what discipleship would include for Peter. The disciple would be following Jesus not only to learn from Him, but also to die like Him. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 109

13 5 minutes LIVE IT OUT Notes SAY: God s grace is beyond measure and He has plans to use us when we turn to Him. GUIDE: Lead group members to consider the responses to the Bible study listed on page 88 of the PSG. Ask for forgiveness. Have you allowed God s forgiveness to guide you through past mistakes? The same grace Jesus offered to Peter is available to you. Get alone with God and ask for forgiveness. He will restore you! Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:17. Get this truth in your heart so that you ll be reminded of God s desire to restore His people and commission them to serve Him. Extend grace to someone in your own life. As Christ-followers, we re to love others the same way He loves us. Choose to give grace this week to someone who has messed up. If this doesn t come as easily as you d like, ask God to work in and through you as you encounter this person. Wrap It Up SAY: We ve each messed up, but God s grace is so deep and His love is so wide that He will always restore us when we come to Him in repentance. Our sin is not the end of the road. Christ offers a fresh start. Additional ideas for your group are available at BibleStudiesforLife.com/AdultExtra 110 SeSSion 1

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