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(John 21:18–23) Snooping, Comparing and Other Natural Diseases

(John 21:18–23) Snooping, Comparing and Other Natural Diseases

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in John
Ref: John 21:18–23

There are 3 viruses in the vineyard -- 3 diseases in the disciples' souls that need immediate attention. They are diseases that corrupt the inner life of a believer and inhibit his or her ministry. What are they? The Apostle John tells us.


Snooping…Comparing and other Natural Diseases

John 21:18-23

In one of his books, Loyd Olgivie retells an ancient Greek legend.  In a major foot race, a young athlete came in second place.   He was devastated.  He had trained long and hard, and he believed himself to be a superior athelete.  His memory was haunted by the face of his opponent, the crowd cheering and, only recently, moved by his victory, they had decided to build and erect a statue in his honor.  Corrosive envy ate away at him physically and emotionally. . . he could think of nothing else but his defeat and his desire to be that victorious athelete.  Ultimately, he decided to destroy the stature that was a daily reminder of his lost glory.  A plan took shape in his mind, which he began cautiously to implement.  Late each night, when the city square was empty, he went to the statue and chiseled at the base hoping to weaken the foundation so that eventually it would topple.  One night, as he was chiseling away the sculpture with especially violent envy, he went too far.  The heavy marble statue teetered on its already fragile base and crashed down on the disgruntled athlete.  He died beneath the crushing weight of the marble replica of the one he had grown to hate.  Obviously, the moral of this Greek legend lies in the fact that this man, in reality, had been dying long before, inch by inch, chisel blow by chisel blow until he became the victim of his dissaticfaction. 

Whether we would like to  admit this or not, one of our gravest enemies, one of our most destructive adversaries, is not a host of demons. . .a liberal court or government. No! 

You and I saw the culprit up close very recently.  The enemy was observed in the reflection we  saw when we looked in the mirror this morning.  And from where I'm standing, just about everyone here looked in the mirror this morning.  For some of us, there wasn't much to do  - lately I just wave.

My wife headed for Atlanta this past Thursday to take her mother home, I decided to surprise them and really splurge and take them out for breakfast before they left.  So we got a booth over at the Waffle House. I spared no expense - hey it's expensive - you know how much it costs to hire a cook who can remember 17 different orders at the same time. Anyhow my wife was snuggled up next to me - made me nervous cause all these guys in jeans and cowboy boots were watchin us.    She was sitting next to me running her fingers through my hair - on the side - then she says, rather loudly with amazement -  "Honey, I see a gray hair."   How many of you guys have had your wife say that to you?  How many of you men were dumb enough to say that to your wife?  It's like everybody in the Waffle House looked. . .I know what they were thinking - where could that hair possibly be?!  

Well, for everyone here who looked in the mirror whether there was much to do or only a little repair work needed, you happened to see one of the greatest potential threats to your own personal fruitfullness and joy. 

You see, there are viruses in the vineyard. . .diseases of the soul among the disciples that need close attention - an outbreak would be devastating:

Because these diseases shrink the heart . . . they shrivel up the soul!

It's fascinating to me how in the last few verses, John records the exposure and rebuke of one of these natural diseases - that is, a disease that invades and corrupts the inner life of a believer when he acts and thinks as a natural man or woman rather than a spiritual disciple.

It's found in John's Gospel, chapter 21, just after the conversation we studied last Lord's day.  Let's pick our study back up at verse 15.  So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?"  He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You."  He said to him, "Tend My lambs."  16.  He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?"  He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You."  He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep."  17.  He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?"  Peter was grieved becuase He said to him the thrid time, "Do you love Me?"  And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I lvoe You."  Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep."  18.  "Truly, truly I say to you, when you were younger you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished, but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go."  19.  Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.  And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me."

The first thing I want you to understand is this, rather mysterious sounding prediction by Christ . .  a prophetic word about Peter's future.

It's in verse 18 - go back there.  18.  "Truly, truly I say to you, when you were younger you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished, (in other words, Peter, when you were a young man you used to get dressed and go and do whatever you wanted to do - freedom from restraint; independence of movement. . .but!

but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone

else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go."

Now at the time of this writing, Peter had already died, a martyr, crucified, most believe upside down. 

Now notice the phrase, ". . .and bring you where you do not wish to go."  That is, Peter would become a martyr of the faith. . .it would be a death of violence that Peter would experience, yet a death that he, like every one of us would never volunteer for.

Tradition that extends all the way back to the second century informs us that Peter was crucified on a cross.  The word"gird" is an expression used for an executioner tying cords around the hands of someone to the crossbeam of the cross - it seems that Peter was bound to his cross, unlike Christ who was nailed. 

The question could remain - did Peter understand what Jesus was prophecying?  Yes!  For in Peter's 2 epistle he made a reference to his imminent death, quote "as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me."

It is following this grim predection that Jesus Christ utters a command.  19b.  "Follow Me!"

Literally, "Peter, keep on following Me!  Implied, "Peter, follow me all the way to your death"

Imagine. . . Peter would live the rest of his life under the shadow of a cross.

Now notice verse 20.  Peter, turning around saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on his breaty at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?"  (This is the apostle John by the way)  21.  Peter therefore

seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?"

Classic Peter . . . at a moment of great importance he takes his eyes off Jesus . . . you remember it happened several times before?!  Most notably the time he walked on the water out to the Lord and then he took his eyes of Jesus and focused on the water and immediately began to sink!

But this is natural!  We're given direction from the Lord about how we're supposed to live and then we start looking at other people.

"Lord, what are you going to do with John?"

Now notice verse 22. Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?  You follow Me!"  Ouch!

"Peter, if I want him to stay alive until the rapture, is that really any of your business?"

Now John goes on here to clear up a rumor that had been created from this event - v. 23.  This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him taht he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"

It's interesting to know that the rumor mill was alive in the first century!  John did live the longest - and the rumors were evidently flying that John was going to live forever.  And so John squelches the rumor that has already begun to spread.

Jesus is simply asking Peter a hypothetical question, "Peter, supposing I want John to live until I come, I'm not saying that I do, but suppose I do - is that really any of you business?"

The point is, whatever God wants to do with the life of another Christian - so be it - and it isn't the problem or business of anybody else.

For some of you:

you will prosper - encounter financial hardship; 

some of you will go experience sickness others remain healthy;

some will enjoy the secruity of family while others will lose their               loved ones early on; 

some will live a long life and others will die young

some of you will reach differing conclusions about he Christian      walk:

-some will not allow a television in thier home; others  will allow one in every room

-some will send their kis to public school while others send theirs only to a Christian school while others believe shooling should be done at home.

-some Christians will eat only natural foods, avoiding sugar, coffee, white flour - they will die at the ripe old age of 85  while others had coffee every morning, white sunbeam bread for lunch and chocalate covered doghnuts every night before bed. . they also die at the age of 85 - only much happier.

The list can go on and on. . .there are thousands of issues that are between the believer and His Lord. . .

Peter - stop looking at John - what I do with him is none of your business.  Notice again the repeated command at the end of verse 22.  "You follow Me!"

One of the crippling diseases among the flock is the disease of comparisson, meddling, snooping.

They are dehabilitating and discouraging to every one affected. 

While we madly chisel away at the foundations of other people's lives; as we meddle and snoop into the affairs of other,  our own lives suffer the consequences.

I want to offer the andidote for these diseases. . .I want to prescribe the Biblical cure . . . This is the Prescription for Unhealthy Comparison:

Prescription #1   Recognize that God made you for a unique purpose.  In other words, "Face up to who you are!"

A thousand times, growing up, I heard my father teaching sailors, marines, merchant seamen.  In the servicemen's center on Friday nights he would say to them, "Hold up your thumb - see that thumbprint - no one else in all the world has one like yours."

Jesus said in v. 22b.  "You (emphasis on you)

You, Peter, follow me!"  It's as if Jesus said, "Peter, I want who you are, how you are gifted, how you are wired, You follow me with everything that you are!

Peter, I have a unique purpose for your life and your death. . .it will be different from John's. . .just keep following Me.

Prescription #2

Remember that God created other people for their unique purpose!

In other words, "Face up to to who you aren't!"

The point of I Corinthians 12 is to inform us that we have a special place in the body of Christ - but also to remind us that none of us are the entire body.

Some of us are feet, some are mouthpieces, some are bone and others are muscle, some are sensitive flesh and others are calloused hands.

Know what God has made you good at and, to put it bluntly, know what He's made you lousy at . . . it's at that point, where other people are gifted.

 John Adams was a brilliant an influential founding father of our country.  As a young man he was driven by ambition.  Richard B. Morris writes of him and quotes from his diary; listen to this entry John Adams made as a young lawyer: "How shall I gain a reputation!  How shall I spread an opinion of myself as a lawyer of distinguished genius, learning, and virtue!"  However, it seemed that John Adams never had the right stuff to really gain popularity among the masses ‑ but he was a diplomat and eventually our second president.  Sewell, one of his best friends in his youth (but with whom he parted over the issues of the revolution) said Adams was a misfit - "He is an honest lawyer as ever broke breath but he is not qualified, by nature or education, to shine in courts.  His administrative abilities are superior but that is not enough.  He cannot dance, drink, flatter, promise, dress, swear with the gentlemen and flirt with the ladies.  In short, he has none of the essential ornaments which constitute a politician."  When John Adams was older and less ambitious -  he had a discussion with Thomas Jefferson about who should write the Declaration of Independence.  Jefferson was willing to defer to Adams as his senior in years and in reputation as a chief architect of independence.  But Adams insisted that Jefferson do the writing.  When pressed for his reasons, according to his very late recollection, stated:  "Reason first ‑‑ You are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business.  Reason second ‑‑ You can write ten times better than I."

I love that!  You can write - I can't!

Face up to who you are not - and know that God will use someone there for the benefit of everyone.

Prescription #3

Recognize that the object of your human comparison is a human being.

We mentally build all of these greener pasture myths about someone else's ability, someone's walk with God, we percieve that certainly, their lives must be happier, easier, richer, and more bearable. . .we imagine that their lives must be short of heaven. 

No, the truth is the greener grass on the other side is just as hard to mow!

Paul said, "When you compare yourselves among yourselves, you are not wise."  You comparing clay pots with clay pots. . .big deal!

Prescription #4

Realize that human comparison will always produce spiritual diseasess:  Let me give you some of the symptoms:

-discouragement - "I'm just not meaasuring up"

-pride - "I'm actually better than that other person"

Spiritual comparison can give you the posture of wise                      counselor, instead of needy patient."  We'd all far rather                   give advise than take it, right?!  Then make sure you                        always find someone to compare yourself to who is less                  committed, kind, diligent, spritual. . .

-envy - "I can't believe that God has used, blessed, prospered

this person more than me"  One of Satans choicest tools

is envy.  

I love the legend about the holy monk who   lived a primitive life of piety and devotion.  The demons were intent on causing him to sin, but they failed in every

attempt.  Finally, the devil himself got involved to teach his imps a lesson.  He said, "Watch this."  He then approached this holy man even as the man was praying          

and he whispered softly in his ear, "You friend has just been appointed Bishop of Alexandria."  A scowl formed over his mouth and his eyes tightened up.  Satan said,

"Envy is often our best weapon against those who seek to be holy."

Solomon himself wrote, "Envy is rotteness to the bones."

hatred - "I will do everything possible to make the object of my                 comparison miserable. . .they have no right to be     

enjoying that, doing that, receiving that, spending that..."

Remember, ultimately, the person you are mad at is God.                Becuase if God really came through, then He would do

for you what He is doing for someone else.

-fruitlessness - your mind and energy is being wasted.  Your                      meddling in another persons life has destroyed your own.

You're an apple tree - yet your so frustrated that you're                    not bearing oranges, you refuse to develop the ability to                   bare seeet apples.

Can you imagine Peter wanting to be John. . .what a loss there would have been to the Christian church.

Peter would be the fiery preacher who would blaze out to God's glory as a martyr.

John would be the thinker, the writer, the witness who would give for decades, exhiled, alone.

God allowed John to be exhiled on the island of Patmos, not Peter.  Peter belonged around people!  He was an incredible cheerleader who encouraged and exhorted the Christians to stand firm.

John was the contemplative, studious, thinker who could handle the rigours of isolation, and the discipline of writing that would yield for lus today the Gospel of John, the three Epistles of John, and the weighty Book called Revelation.

Then finally, ultimately, there is the telltale sympton of

-defeat - "Why keep trying . . . there's always someone who is                    better, smarter, lovlier, holier. . ."I quit"

You have reached the point where the diseases in your soul and spirit have set you aside.

Is there hope for me?  Yes . . . here is the final antidote. . .if you're willing to take it. . .

One more thought:  Prescription #5

Readjust your sights so that they are no longer earthly but heavenly.

I want you to turn to the ultimate antidote - one of the clearest prescriptions for healthy Christians - Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12

This is for every one of us who are prone to snoop, to meddle, to compare.

Look at the last part of verse one.  12:1b"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith. . .skip down to the last part of verse 3.   "so that you may not grow weary and lose heart."  That's sports lingo for a runner who collapses in exhaustion - what tired him out - what exhausted him?  He wasn't absorbed/fixed upon Christ!

As you run, don't become preoccupied with yourselves!

We buy the latest running shoes, the most wind resistant running suit, we read a book or two on jogging to better health, we consult our physician, buy a walkman so we can listen to Christian jogging music - we get all dressed out - then we run a hundred yards and quit.

The bottom line - we're equipped like never before for running the race, but so few are ever really running.

Don't become preoccupied with the other runners!  Don't look at them.

As a teenager, I was racing a motorcycle down a dirt road - I was ahead of the other kid by a comfortable distance; man was that fun . . . sometime during that race I turned around to see where he was and at that moment my front wheel hit a pothole, the handlebars of that bike turned and locked - and I flew all the way to the other side of the road into a ditch with waist high weeds and grass. . .rollled over a few times and got up, the lose of that race, but otherwise unharmed.   I've used that story on my wife to tell her that I ought to have a motorcycle and that God provides special protection for me whenever I ride one.  She uses that story to tell me something else.

Its as if the writer of Hebrews is remindiing us that the ones who give up in exhaustion are exhausted not becuase they aren't good runners, or ill equipped, but becuase they weren't looking in the right direction.

That's what I meant earlier when I said, one of the greatest threats to your spiritual effectiviness and joy is yourself.    YOU BECOME weary and YOU lose heart!!!     Ultimately, YOU LOSE!

"Peter, don't want what John has. . .don't look at him, otherwise you lose!"

"The Window," is the name of a story written by G.W. Target.  It's a story about two seriously ill men who occupied the same hospital room.  One man lay by the window and he was propped up for an hour each day to drain fluid from his lungs.  There was a large window at the head of his bed.  The other man spent his entire time on his back.  The two men enjoyed each other's company and talked for hours about all different types of subjects.  During the hour one man sat up in his bed, he would describe all the things he saw to his bedfast roommate.  Each day great detail would be given to the activities going on outside.  He described the park with its lovely lake and grand old trees.  He would tell of children playing and lovers walking through the park outside their window.  One day, a beautiful parade went by.  Even though they couldn't hear the music, the man on his back could see it all in his mind as his roommate gave exquisite details.  But somehow, it didn't seem quite fair.  Although he enjoyed listening to his friend describe the sights, he began to crave the view of his comrade.  His desire for the bed by the window became a consuming thought.  It even kept him awake at night.  Then, in the darkness of one sleepless night, his roommate began to cough.  He was choking on the fluid in his lungs and was desperately groping for the button to call for help.  The covetous roommate could have easily pushed his button to summon a nurse, but instead, he refused to help.  The following morning the nurse discovered the man's death.  The standard procedure was carried out and the body was removed.  The surviving man then asked that his bed be switched so he could see out the window.  At last, he would have what he felt he deserved.  Painfully and slowly he struggled to prop himself up for that first look at the park, the beautiful lake, the children playing.  The window was his. . .to his horror and amazement, the window looked out to a small alley and across to another cement wall.

While you may not allow someone to physically die, how  do you keep from destroying yourself . . .from hurting other people around you by your comparison, your jealousy, your rivalry.

The antidotes are found in the following the prescription:

recognize that God has a unique purpose for your life - just you.

remember that God created other people for their unique purpose too

recognize that the object of your comparison is another simple, flawed, fellow struggling human being

realize that human comparison will always produce spiritual diseases that will shrink your heart. . .shrivel your soul

finally, readjust your sight so that they are no longer earthly, but heavenly.

In other words, just as Jesus commanded Peter, so He commands you and me, "Peter, don't meddle with John, you. . .you follow Me. . .keep on following Me."

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