Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Depart From Me, Oh Lord for I am a Sinful Man

If you’re serious about living out God’s will for your life, then you have witnessed, testified and preached the Gospel to people. But are you always successful at winning people to Jesus? I’m not. I do all of those things, but I don’t see everyone I preach to convert to Jesus. I know some people who seem to win everyone to Jesus. I’ve often thought, “What makes some people so successful at winning people to follow Jesus?” Why are some people able to be used so powerfully by God, while others just as diligent, struggle?

Sometimes we try to analyze that: And we have a lot of cynical reasons why people aren’t seeing a lot of conversions. We think: They aren’t really trying, or they’re too fearful, or they aren’t saying the right things. These are really cynical reasons. I’m sure there are some who struggle in these ways, but not everyone.

But I’m not talking about people those that struggle with presenting the Gospel; I’m talking about active Gospel spreading Christians. I think there’s more to it than the things I mentioned above.

I believe that many people witness and testify; I believe many preach the glory and power of God; many preach the wrath of God; many preach God’s redeeming love but they’re just not winning people to the kingdom. They’re involved, they’re busy about the business of God, but they just aren’t experiencing the fruit.

In this post, I want to consider one thing that hinders us from being successful in the pursuit of the will of God. It is the will of God that people repent and find Eternal Life. That’s why he commissioned us to, “make disciples of all nations.” There is a spiritual aspect to the winning of souls and I want to look at that today.

Luke 5:4-11
4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken;10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

The Humility of Comparing Ourselves to Christ

I am part of a church-planting fellowship. I began preaching in a pioneer work in Riverside, California in 2001. There have been other men who have been launched out to preach the Gospel in Southern California. They have come here from states where they have experienced explosive growth in fellowship churches. Pioneer churches that have grown to 50 or 60 people seemingly overnight. But that hasn’t really been the experience of men pioneering in Southern California. There are churches that have been there for ten years with only a handful of people. The majority of churches there grow very slowly with people coming in one at a time: Each one a battle in itself.

And we have heard things from these men. “I think there are mistakes being made here.” “I’m going to do what the leadership teaches.” “Southern California is a plum that’s ripe for the picking, people just don’t know how to exploit it.” We’ve heard these things from men several times. But in every instance these men went home after two years, saying things like, “Well I wasn’t seeing what I wanted to see.”

What is the real issue here? Why did these competent, confident men fail in Southern California? Is it Southern California or something that’s working in their own hearts? Each of us was launched out with a confidence that God will move through us. We’re confident that we will see the revival that’s promised; that God will do something powerful through us.

At our conference we are prayed over by powerful men of God, we are prophesied over by these men. They say, “God is going to use you.” Or “He’s going to give this city over into your hand.” And we gain the expectation that there is something special about our personalities or experience that God can use.

And God does use us. Christian believers are God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. Jesus did the work of salvation on the cross, but when he ascended into heaven he left us the commission to preach and win others to Him. We’re Plan A in God’s strategy for mankind…there is no Plan B. So the question then is, why is it so hard?

Remember Peter? In his first sermon he preaches before three thousand people and after he finishes they all cry out, “men and brethren what must we do to be saved?” I have to be honest with you this has never been my experience. Why did God move so powerfully through Peter, but the rest of us aren’t having that kind of success?

I want to look closely at the circumstances of this encounter that Peter has with Jesus in our text. This is not the moment when Peter and Jesus first met. In fact, Peter was already a believer that Jesus was the Messiah, when this takes place. He is already a disciple of Christ.

John 1:35-42
35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).

This moment in this scripture takes place immediately following Jesus’ baptism. This is when He is in the very early stages of His ministry.

When we come to the moment in our text Jesus has already done the miracle in Cana. He has already turned water into wine. In that miracle Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. They have seen this miracle they have accepted Him as the Messiah. They are already followers of Jesus before this moment in our text takes place. Our text isn’t the moment that Peter recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, he already knew Him in that way. But Jesus has not yet begun to use the disciples. They aren’t out winning souls, yet.

In the moment we repent we begin a relationship with Christ, right? It is that moment when we recognize that Jesus is our Savior and we turn our lives over to him. It is in that moment that we have a revelation of who Jesus is. It is in that moment that we turn our lives over to Him. That’s what repentance is, and we even say that, don’t we? “I’ve given my life to Jesus!” That’s a revelation of Jesus as Lord over our lives. But there is something more that must take place, before we can be soul winners. We see that thing in our text.

Peter sees the miracle of the fish, and immediately he has a revelation of his relationship to Jesus. But he’s already acknowledged Jesus as Lord over his life. He is already calling him Master. He’s already following Him and learning from His teaching. In this moment Peter has a revelation, not of who Jesus is, but who Peter is. “Depart from me, oh Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Peter comes face to face with the depravity of his own soul. He comes face to face with his weaknesses. He comes face to face with the sin that’s in his life. He compares himself to Christ and discovers who he really is.

When I was in Riverside I used to go to the courthouse and preach sometimes, early in the morning. There was another guy who also went there to preach. I remember once that as he was preaching everyone began to yell and mock. But there was one person in particular, a lesbian that became extremely hostile, threatening and dangerous. Afterward as I was talking to him I said, “You handled that well.” He said, “She’s a sinner. But all sin is an affront to God and equal in his eyes. My sin is no worse than hers.”

This is a man who when he compared himself to Jesus found out who he really was. He’s the one who put Jesus on the cross. But he wasn’t alone because so did you and so did I.

Peter is looking at Jesus seeing Him for who he is. But the revelation isn’t that Jesus is God, he already knew that. The revelation is that next to Jesus, Peter is nothing but a sinful man. Look at How the Phillip’s translation translates this verse:

When Simon Peter saw it he fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Keep away from me Lord I am only a sinful man.”

Peter is humbled. He goes from being the successful businessman; the acknowledged leader of this group of fisherman to being the humiliated sinner who can’t face Christ. Which are you? Are you the confident, self-assured religious person or the one who recognizes that you don’t deserve the relationship that you have with Jesus? There is a kind of arrogance that some Christians have that our sin is different because we have been chosen. But Peter says, “I’m only a sinner. I don’t deserve what I’ve been given.” He is humbled by the relationship he has with Jesus when he comes to grips with the depravity and depth of his own sin.

All of us know intellectually, that we don’t deserve our salvation; that we haven’t earned it. But it is when we understand, deep inside, the depth of our sin; the wickedness that rules the human heart, specifically the wickedness that still rules our own heart, and the sacrifice of Jesus for us, that we are finally broken and humbled. When Peter recognizes this, then Jesus calls him to usefulness. When he is broken and humbled by his own sin, Jesus says, “ Do not afraid, from now on you will catch men.”

We, as Christians, depend on a formula, or an ability to speak out, or to speak our testimony in a way that inspires as the thing that God can use. We put our faith in our talents, our abilities, and a pattern to reach people. These things help, but it is God that brings the increase, through our efforts. He can use us when we are humbled, by who He is and what He has done for us. It was after Peter fell down and declared his humility before God that Jesus said; He would use Peter to win souls.

Three Things That Came From This Revelation

I want to look at three men from the Old Testament who had the same revelation in their encounters with Christ and what made them useful through that revelation.

Moses and the Burning Bush

Moses had been on the backside of the desert for forty years to escape the wrath of Pharaoh. Do you remember the story? Moses rises up as a deliverer of the Israelites from Egypt. But he tries to do it on his own. He sees an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew and Moses kills the Egyptian. He buries him in the sand but the thing becomes known and Moses is forced to flee for his life. After forty years God calls him from a burning bush to deliver God’s people from Egypt.

Exodus 3:1-5
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.2 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”4 So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”

The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire. We can understand this Angel of the Lord to be Jesus because when the Angel called him from the burning bush He is recognized to be God. So here is Moses having an Old Testament encounter with Christ and in this encounter Moses has a revelation of who he is.

Exodus 3:11
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Basically Moses is saying, “Why me, who am I that you would choose me?” Look at the Good news Translation of this verse:

But Moses said to God, “I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

He says, “I’m nobody, how can you use me?” Do you ever feel that way? I do. I’m not talented; I don’t have any influence. I’m nobody. I compare myself with someone like Greg Laurie and I realize how incompetent I really am. But God has used me.

God’s not dependent on who we are. He’s not dependent on our influence or power. Often God moves through us, not because of us, but in spite of us. It’s not something we do; it’s something that God does, supernaturally.

Moses is just like me…he doesn’t have any confidence in his ability to deliver Israel.

Exodus 4:10
10 Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

He is saying is that he doesn’t have the skill or ability. He’s asking how he can be the one that God would choose to speak for Him. He has a revelation that he needs a supernatural move of God. God uses him powerfully, and the reason that God can use Moses is precisely because he needs a supernatural move of God in order to be successful. Remember, his first attempt to deliver his people, is what put him out on the backside of the desert in the first place. When he thought he could do it on his own. But when he realized he had to depend on God, then God was able to use him.

It’s not us that wins people to Christ it’s Him. Look at what Paul said:

1 Corinthians 3:6
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.

Isaiah, The Prophet of God

Isaiah 6:1-5
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.3 And one cried to another and said: 1 “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.”

He comes face to face with the God of the Universe. He sees God in His Glory sitting on His throne. He sees the worship that’s there. He feels the power of God as the doorposts of Heaven shake. He has a revelation of the uncleanness of his lips. He recognizes he’s unqualified to speak for God. He’s thinking of the things he’s said; the blasphemies, the lies, the filth. How can God use unclean lips to speak to His people?

Who of us is qualified to speak for God? How can we speak the word of God through lips that have sinned? These are lips that have lied, they’ve gossiped, we have spoken foul things, curses all of it. How can God use us to speak into other people’s lives?

We know who we are, don’t we? Isaiah knew who he was. He knew the foulness of thoughts he had verbalized. I had a friend who, whenever someone said some disgusting cuss word in mixed company, or something perverted or foul, would always say, “You kiss your mother with that mouth?”

That’s Isaiah, “Can I speak for God with this mouth?” But God used him…because God can remove the uncleanness of our lips.

Isaiah 6:6-7
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.”

It was his recognition of the uncleanness of his lips that made it possible for God to be able to cleanse them. We must recognize our sin and uncleanness before God can cleanse us. That’s why we repent. We recognize our sin and our inability to remove it ourselves, so we cry out to God. Then He is able to use us.

Gideon Delivered Israel from the Midianites

Judges 6:11-15
11 Now the Angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites.12 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!”13 Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”14 Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”15 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

Here's Gideon’s encounter with Christ; the Angel of the Lord. He tells Gideon, Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel. Gideon says, “How can I? I’m from the weakest family in the smallest province of Israel. I have no strength, no power, and no plan. How can I lead Israel?” He is recognizing that without God he can’t do anything. He can’t depend on his own talent. He doesn’t have any. He can’t depend on his own leadership. He isn’t a leader he’s the least.

Many times when I go to meetings or have conversations with other pastors. I’m intimidated. Not because they try to intimidate or act like I’m less than them. But because I look at their ministries and think I don’t measure up. I don’t spend hours discussing theology with the evangelists who come to our church because I think, “What do I know compared to them.” Sometimes, I think I could do better for my congregation by turning it over to someone else. But God placed me here and I believe that.

I have come to the understanding that it’s not my abilities or my knowledge. I’m not the one who is really ministering to my congregation. I trust that it’s God who is ministering to them. I pray that God will minister to them in spite of my shortcomings. God doesn’t need me to be big and important to minister to them, he’s the one who’s doing the ministering.

He didn’t need Gideon to be a powerful leader in order to deliver Israel. It’s because Gideon recognized that he wasn’t a great leader that God was able to use him. Because God wanted to show the people, it isn’t Gideon, it’s God.

We Can Be Useful to God

Do you know what I think happens with those men who come thinking their going to set Southern California on its ear and then end up going home after a couple of years? I think that they’re missing this revelation of themselves. There’s a certain amount of arrogance in their attitudes, don’t you think? They are depending on the formula. They’re depending on their abilities and failing to see that we are of little consequence in God doing what He will do. They are missing the humility that Peter had when he cried out, “Depart from me, oh Lord, I’m a sinful man.” When we recognize the brokenness of our own lives, we can understand the mercy of God.

John Newton, an English preacher, saw a man from Bath converted, touched and changed by God and he spoke to a minister in Bath asking him if he knew that man. The minister said, Yes, I know him he is of the wickedest sort. If God can change him then I’ll never doubt that God can save any man. And Newton replied, “I’ve had no doubt of that ever since he saved me.”

John Newton came to a revelation of who he was in his encounter with Christ. He realized the depth of his own sin and brokenness and God used him powerfully because he was able to speak of the mercy of God. How merciful God is that He would save someone like me. This is what Paul said of the same revelation in his life and we know how powerfully Paul was used by God..

1 Timothy 1:15
15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

I’m sure some of you think that you’re unable to minister to others because you think you don’t know enough, or that someone has greater knowledge than you, or is more spiritual. But God doesn’t need all of those things to use you. He needs your willingness to obey Him, even though you don’t think you’re qualified. God doesn’t need your skills and abilities. He doesn’t need your influence and power. He needs your willingness and your desire to touch others.

Your city is in desperate need of you having Peter’s revelation. Your friends and families are in desperate need of your having that revelation. Look at yourself, honestly and clearly, who are you in comparison with Christ? If you do that you, I believe, will have no choice but to cry out the same thing, “Depart from me, Oh Lord, for I am a sinful man.”


  1. This is an awesome daily devotional. Every day it seems to speak to exactly what I need. Bible verses are included with each section that back up what is written in the daily devotional. I have bought so many of these books to give away to friends because I have found it to be so good!

  2. That was a really good study.