When Thou Art Converted
by Jonathan S Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Text: Luke 22:24-32, NASB
When Thou Art Converted
The text for the message is from Luke’s Gospel, chapter 22, beginning with verses 24 and following. Remember that this event took place in Jerusalem, during the last Passover our Lord took part in. He’s going to be taken into judgment and then crucified in just a few days. Oddly enough, in spite of His warnings to the disciples, many times before, they still didn’t grasp His words that He was going to die.
We need to remember that crucifixion was the worst possible way for anyone to die, and yet that is how our Lord Jesus died, so that we might have salvation by grace—ALONE--, and through faith—ALONE—in Jesus Christ, ALONE. We don’t deserve His salvation, but let us be grateful that He provided this for us.
Here’s the text:
"And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' "But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. "You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:24-32, NASB)
Now let’s take a look at what the text has for us. In the immediate context, the disciples had been arguing about who was going to be the greatest. This happened before, when the mother of James and John came to Jesus and asked Him to grant these boys (!) the privilege of sitting on the right and left hands of Jesus Himself when the Kingdom was established. James and John had even done this themselves. We don’t know which event took place first but regardless of when, the other disciples never forgot about it. I’m sure James and John wished the others HAD forgotten about it!
But the words of Jesus, strangely, are directed towards Simon Peter! Peter was usually the mouthpiece for the disciples, but Peter usually entered a situation mouth-first! He was the disciple who had the insight (from God the Father, of course) to speak up when Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” in Matthew 16. Some answered one thing or another but Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”
Now Peter also had the audacity to rebuke Jesus! Matthew 16:22 records, “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘”God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’"
What did Jesus say, in reply? Verse 23 reads, “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on *God's interests, but man's.’"
In light of this, we can see that Jesus turns His attention from the group of the disciples to Peter himself. Matthew Henry in his commentary says that as Peter was the mouthpiece of the group, this time Jesus made him the ear. And the first of three statements is directed to Peter, and, by extension, to the group.
The statement: Satan’s petition
Jesus made a statement, “Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded permission . . . to sift you like wheat . . .” To me, this is a strange way to address Simon Peter—he was a professional fisherman and maybe didn’t know a lot about farming. Likewise, some farmers may not know a lot about fishing. But Peter heard these words of Jesus and perhaps wondered what Jesus was trying to say.
Think about the term “sift”. Some of us may remember sifter, something that looked like a one-pound or so coffee can, with a crank on the side. It had a wire mesh screen, and a metal ring that turned as you turned the crank. We used the sifter to spread powdery materials onto various things before we baked them. I loved to do that!
But this isn’t the kind of sifting Jesus meant. Dr. George Sweeting, in a “Moody Monthly” article some years back—and others, as well—describe the sifting process as the last step in making wheat ready for consumption. The first step, of course, was to reap the grain.
No doubt the disciples remembered that afternoon in Samaria, in John chapter 4, where Jesus had met the woman at the well. The disciples came after she finished speaking and Jesus said, “Don’t they say, four months and then the harvest? I tell you, look on the fields: they are white to harvest already (John 4:35, freely paraphrased)”
The next step was to thresh the grain. This meant that the workers would toss the grain into the air, and the wheat and chaff would wind up (ideally) in separate piles. Sometimes this was enough, apparently, for the women to take the grain and grind it using their millstones—but this wasn’t the final step, either. The last step was to take the grain into a tumbler, perhaps with a sieve, so that the impurities would be removed but the grain stayed in place. THIS is what Jesus was meaning—that Satan wanted to take Peter and get him so jumbled up, so tossed and turned, so beat up and beat down, that he would feel unworthy of serving.
We face the same things today. In so many ways, the Devil whispers, if not shouts, that because of one, or more, sins, we’ve automatically become useless for God. He’ll tell us things like, ”You are useless. God won’t use you anymore. You won’t account for anything. You BLEW it—and do you really think God wants you back? You are a NOTHING, a nobody, so you may as well just give it up. You think He is going to forgive YOU? After what YOU did?” Oh, how he tries to discourage us. But every time we remember that we are forgiven, and claim 1 John 1:9, remembering that Jesus Himself is our Advocate, we receive cleansing and forgiveness. I love that concept—advocate, in that context, means “defense attorney” and every time the devil accuses me of something, Jesus says, “That is true but that sin is forgiven!” And God the Father, as Judge, says, “Dismissed! Next case!” What a Savior!
The reminder: Jesus prayed
Now not only did Jesus plainly say that Satan wanted to have Peter, He didn’t stop there. He also said, “But I have prayed for you . . .” This is amazing, Jesus prayed for Peter and He is praying for us, too! Hebrews 7:25, freely paraphrased, says, speaking of Jesus as High Priest “He ever lives to make intercession for us”. Let me move on, except to say that how many times have we come close to injury, accidents, maybe even death, but because our Lord Jesus Christ had, and has, and still does, pray for us, we’ve been kept safe and even kept alive! What a Savior!
The future: Peter’s commission
And in the final saying, Jesus says, “when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” The King James Version says, “When thou art converted” which some folks have apparently misunderstood. I think Peter was already a converted man, that he had believed in Jesus as his own Lord and Savior. The term “converted” doesn’t always mean “born again” but has other meanings, according to Strong’s Concordance and other aids.
Let me give you an illustration. There was a TV show featuring 30 minutes of bluegrass gospel music. One time, they recorded an episode outdoors in south-west Virginia. They sang a few songs and I remember thinking that even the dog (there was a black or black-and-tan dog but don’t ask me what kind it was) listened. But after a couple of songs, the dog still hadn’t moved! The dog’s tail had not twitched, nor had he (I guess) licked his lips, and he didn’t even move his head! Those of you who have dogs know that they tend to move their heads when they hear or notice something—but not this one. Then the camera angle changed and I could see that the “dog” seemed to have a glass eye—this was a stuffed dog! It was a prop! And so many people have a “faith” or “salvation” that is about as real as that stuffed dog! It isn’t real!
But Peter’s faith WAS real and he certainly didn’t intend to deny Jesus. And yet, that is exactly what happened. Each of the Gospels tell the story of how Peter followed “afar off”, that he stood by the fire with Christ’s enemies, that he cursed and swore and denied he even knew Jesus. But then, Jesus, as Luke says, turned His eyes on Peter—Jesus had heard it all, seen it all, and knew what was going to happen. How it must have hurt Him when it all came to happen. And Peter wept bitterly—he was being sifted like wheat—and we wonder, what could have gone through his mind? We may never know.
And yet there is one thing we do know, and can be absolutely sure about. Peter did receive forgiveness! He did receive restoration! So many times in the New Testament we read how he followed our Lord and did, indeed, strengthen his brothers.
We could make many applications here but the biggest thing to remember is first, Satan didn’t stop at Peter. He tried and succeeded with him—now he has his eyes on you and me and all believers in Jesus. Second, remember that Jesus is praying for us, even now. Don’t forget to pray for others, too, They need it. Finally remember that when WE are converted, when the Lord gets us right with Him, when WE have turned away from sin, only then can we strengthen our brothers. If I am in a backslidden condition, or if I’m not living for God, there is no way I can strengthen anybody. But when I get right with God, there is a chance that the Lord may use me to strengthen my brothers.
Let us all look for opportunities, and make some, so that we can do this very thing, is my prayer.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. http://www.lockman.org