How Jesus Changes Sinners

Fisher of Men

When Peter first meets Jesus, Jesus looks at him and he says, “You’re Simon Bar-Jonah.” In our modern day we’d say, “You’re Simon Johnson, son of John, but you’re going to be called Cephas.” In our day, if somebody gives someone another name, it tends to be because they see some kind of potential in them. They think, Okay, you’re on the road to becoming this.

I don’t think that’s what happens with Peter. It’s not that he saw rock-like potential in Peter. Jesus was speaking to Peter about a supernatural transformation that was going to happen in Peter’s life.

As we trace the story of Peter throughout the Gospels—it’s so interesting, isn’t it?—we think of him as being so impetuous; but of course, we also keep seeing these signs that Jesus has incredible plans to use him. He throws those nets out under the water, they’re filled with fish, and then he’s told he’s going to become a fisher of men.

Radically Transformed

As we think forward in the Bible story—like to Pentecost—we see that Peter is going to throw out his net in the city of Jerusalem. Scripture says that three thousand souls are saved. It’s like they’re being drawn into the net. Later, he goes into Gentile territory and he shares the gospel and they’re drawn to the net.

The most fascinating question I’ve had about Peter comes from reading about Peter in the Gospels and then in reading his epistles—1 and 2 Peter. You can look at him and say, Wow. That person there seems very different than the person that we read about in the Gospels, and even some in the book of Acts.

How did this happen? Peter was so averse to suffering that when Jesus says he’s going to go to the cross, Peter says, “Oh, may it never be. Don’t even say it, Jesus.” Yet when you get to the book of 1 Peter, he’s telling us over and over again how to suffer as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, to be patient in suffering, and to expect to suffer.

As I looked and compared 1 and 2 Peter with the Peter in the Gospels and Acts, I just kept asking the question over and over again, How did he change? It’s a pretty good question to ask because if you and I have any hope of changing, that change has to come about in exactly the same way. Here is how Peter changed, and therefore, this is how you and I change: it is as the life, death, and resurrection is applied to us. We are transformed on the inside.

Now maybe that just sounds like religious-speak; but honestly, isn’t this everything we long for and hope for? We look at our lives and we just think, Can I ever change? Will I ever change?

We change as we become united to Christ. My friend, as you are united to Christ and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is applied to your life, you will experience the change that you long for.

Content adapted from Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus by Nancy Guthrie. This article first appeared on Crossway.org

Photo of Nancy Guthrie

Nancy Guthrie

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She and her husband, David, are the cohosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 10,000 churches nationwide and also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Guthrie is also the host of Help Me Teach the Bible, a podcast of the Gospel Coalition.

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