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Text by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan;
preached by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, September 1, 2019

“One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone” (John 1:40-42; p. 1116 Scofield).

This was the first time Peter met Jesus. His original name was Simon. Jesus gave him the name “Peter,” which means “a rock.” Andrew was his brother. Peter was a fisherman. Andrew and Peter lived in a village not far from the Sea of Galilee, where they did their fishing. Life was hard, since fishing was physically very demanding, hard work. Peter was married because Jesus healed his mother-in-law. Peter was about 30 years old when he met Jesus. He was the oldest of the Disciples.

Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were tough men. Fishing was physically very demanding. They had to face fear, because fierce storms often came up suddenly on the Sea of Galilee. Those storms could tip over their small boats and drown men.

Peter was not a Pharisee. Since he was a Jew he sometimes went to the synagogue. He was not strictly Orthodox, like the Pharisees. But unlike other fishermen, Peter knew in his heart that he was a sinner. Later he said to Jesus, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8; p. 1078).

Thus, Peter did not start out as a religious person, or like a good Christian. He was a rough character. He had to be rough to be a fisherman. He was not like a fully trained “church person.” He used bad language and had a bad temper. He was a sinner who made many mistakes.

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Now think about the person you are trying to win for Christ. Like Peter, he is not a fully equipped and trained “church person.” He doesn’t understand why he should come to church meetings. He thinks it’s all right to spend hours playing video games, or hanging out with lost friends. Everyone else he knows is just like him. He has his sins. He has his wrong ideas. He has his problems. You will not win him to Christ by arguing with him. Instead, tell him about Jesus. Tell him what Jesus did for you. Be friendly to him. It will take thoughtfulness to bring him with you to church. Peter wasn’t trained, and neither is a lost person in the world.

His brother Andrew spoke to Peter about Jesus. “He first findeth his own brother Simon [Peter], and saith unto him, We have found the Messias [Messiah], which is, being interpreted, the Christ” (John 1:41; p. 1116). Peter did not become a Disciple the first time he heard about Jesus.

This is very important. In an essay on “decisionism,” Dr. A. W. Tozer makes it clear that forcing people to say a “sinner’s prayer” usually does not produce real Christians, real Disciples. Peter did not make a “decision” the first time he heard about Jesus. Yes, Peter was interested. He wanted to hear more. But it wasn’t until later, after John the Baptist was arrested, that Peter decided to follow Jesus as a Disciple.

“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him” (Mark 1:14-18; p. 1046).

Each person you are trying to lead to Christ – will at some point decide whether to become a disciple of Christ or not. This is the struggle. This is the battle. It is not over when he is coming to church with you for a few weeks or months. It is a continuing battle that can go on for months or even for years.

Not knowing this is what makes Kreighton Chan so ineffective in evangelism. He, like many decisionists, thinks that they are “in” when they understand the raw “facts” of the Gospel. Decisionists like Chan and Waldrip let the new people “go” far too soon. They do not realize that true soul-winning is a continuing battle. That is why real soul-winning requires wisdom: “He that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30; p. 680). That verse can also be translated, “He that is wise wins souls.” Dr. A. W. Tozer wisely said,

“By trying to push all of salvation into one experience of two, the advocates of instant Christianity flaunt the law of development which runs through all nature. They ignore the sanctifying effects of suffering, cross carrying and practical obedience. They pass by the need for spiritual training, the necessity of forming right religious habits and the need to wrestle against the world, the devil and the flesh” (The Inadequacy of ‘Instant Christianity’).

Peter was tested during a great “church split.” Others were leaving. Peter decided not to leave. He decided not to go with the others.

“Many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:66-69; p. 1124).

Jesus said to the twelve, “Will ye also go away?” “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:67, 68). Two things are important in this passage.

1.  Those who left were never heard from again! I have found, in my 61 years in the ministry, that those who leave in a church split never become strong disciples. I have never seen one who did!

2.  If Peter had gone with the “split” he would probably never have been converted.

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (I John 2:19; p. 1322).

“How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 18, 19; p. 1329).

Those who leave demonstrate that they have not seen the reality of Christian discipleship. Being a disciple, a real convert, is much more than memorizing a couple of Bible verses, or believing a couple of doctrines. Discipleship includes a decision to stay; and there is no sense in leaving, because there is nothing worthwhile “out there.” Peter saw this – but he was not yet converted!

I think you can see that winning a soul is a big project! It isn’t just getting a name or getting someone to pray a prayer. It is a living struggle for the soul of a living person!

Conversion and discipleship are more than an illumination concerning who Jesus is!

“Whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17; p. 1021).

God the Father showed (illuminated) who Jesus was to Peter. God showed Peter who Jesus really was. But Peter was not converted yet!!! Many people think he was converted then. But they are wrong!

Right after John showed Peter who Jesus really was – then Peter began to reject the Gospel!!!

“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:21-23; p. 1022).

Peter resisted the Gospel. He even rebuked Jesus for saying He would go to the Cross and be raised from the dead. He rejected the Gospel! So, a person can be a follower of Jesus for years and still be writing and fighting. Absolutely!

Peter bragged about how strong a Christian he was. The night before Christ was crucified, Peter said to Him, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee” (Matthew 26:35; p. 1038). Yet only a few hours later Peter denied Jesus three times!

Peter was not won yet! He ran away from Jesus physically when He was arrested in Gethsemane. He denied Christ three times out loud. Peter had been a Disciple with the others – but his struggle wasn’t over yet. He wasn’t won yet. He wasn’t even “in” yet!

It was not until Jesus rose from the dead that Peter was finally converted. It is recorded in John 20:22,

“And when [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them [Peter and the others], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:19-22; p. 1144).

Commentator John Ellicott told us that the Apostle John “remembered how the influence of that moment on their future lives was a new spiritual creation, by which they were called out of death into life” (Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible). And of course, Dr. J. Vernon McGee said that this is when Peter was regenerated, born again, on the night Jesus rose from the dead! (See Thru the Bible on John 20:22).

That was when Peter did fully trust Jesus. He soon became the bold Apostle who preached at Pentecost when three thousand men were saved. Later he died for Christ rather than deny Him. But before all that, Peter went through false starts and failures and struggles and insights.

Can you see that winning a soul is a serious, major struggle? It can’t be done by a phone call or a prayer. It is a life-struggle for the life-soul of a man or woman. It will take your prayers. It will take wisdom. It will take effort. It will take time. If you win one soul in your entire life, blessed are ye. You have done a lot. You have done well. I pray that you will be enabled to do it.

Does this seem too long a road to follow? Does it seem too hard and long? Jesus said, “Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14; p. 1004).

But let us give Peter himself the last word on this message. These are the very last words that Peter wrote before he was crucified,

“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever” (II Peter 3:18; p. 1320).