(October 10, 2022) Richard Winter highlights what’s never optional for any Christian…

One of the most famous landmarks in the world is Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa. My wife Wendy and I had the privilege of seeing it a few years ago.

It’s not famous because of its height – only 179 feet tall – nor its architecture… there’s plenty of examples of Romanesque buildings around the Tuscany area. But it’s famous for one reason – because it leans!

Building began in 1173, so it’s been around 840 years. And it leans one-twentieth of an inch every year.

Although they’re predicting that it’s going to fall at some time in the future, they have done a great job of fixing the foundations that should stop a complete tumble.

Strong foundations are vital!
incidentally, the word Pisa means ‘marsh’ or ‘marshy ground.’ So if there’s any indication as to why the tower has been leaning, it’s got very unstable foundations.

Foundations! A sound foundation is never optional, it’s the most important part of any building. And I want to share with you – challenge you – about having the right kind of foundation in our lives.

When our Lord Jesus told about two men who built homes, He taught the importance of building our lives on a solid foundation. One built on the sand, and the other built on the rock. Both looked good. They both had great curb appeal. The difference was what was underneath – the foundation.

The man who built his house on rock was wise but the other was foolish, building his house without a foundation!

We read in Matthew 7:27ESB that‘… the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.’

Foundation lessons
Personally I’ve always felt it beneficial that whenever you study the life of Christ, you should also study the life of one of His  followers. So, let’s examine one of His earliest followers: a man who was pretty much like every man –

  • Not perfect.
  • Had more than enough problems.
  • Made personal mistakes.

His name was Peter and in 1Peter 1:1, he addresses himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ (to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia). Sounds impressive… but let’s look at what he was, and what he became.

Who was Peter?
Fifty times the four gospels refer to him as Simon, his birth name. Interestingly, Simon means ‘one who hears’ – which I think was an odd name for him because although he heard everything Jesus said, he didn’t always listen!

Peter was a fisherman born in Bethsaida on the lakeside of Galilee, and had a brother named Andrew. His Hebrew name was Shimón Bar Yonah, Simon, son of Jonah. Even Jesus referred to him as such.

We know that Peter was married, and his mother-in-law lived with him (Mark 1:30). He was the first leader in the book of Acts. He’s the one who started things. But before he was ever a leader, Peter was first and foremost a disciple.

So what is a disciple?
The term ‘disciple’ appears 245 times in the gospels, referring to those twelve early followers of Christ. Technically it means: a student, pupil, learner, somebody who has a teacher or a mentor.

But when Jesus described discipleship – anybody who would follow him – listen how He narrowly describes it in Luke 9:23: ‘If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.’

Let’s just stop at that for a moment – If anyone desires to follow Jesus, they must deny themselves! How many people do you know that do that, living with self-denial?

In most nations today everyone lives in an entitlement culture, a culture of personal rights eg: ‘It’s my right to do this.’ Denying yourself is foreign to our thinking!

As for that next requirement – ‘Take up your cross’? Man, that sounds painful. And ‘Take up your cross daily’? That sounds fanatical!

But that’s what discipleship is: It’s a lifelong progress of conformity to an alien will – Jesus’ will. His will, not my will, not your will. That’s why I ask you, reader: How many people do you know that are really disciples of Christ?

Peter – a disciple with faults?
In that we can see similar faults in ourselves, is actually a reason why we can love Peter. We can learn from him!

He was…

  • Impetuous. Insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you’ (Mark 14:31).
  • Impulsive. Rebuked Jesus when He had prophesied His death: ‘This shall never happen to you!’ (Mark 16:22).
  • Prideful. Arrogantly told Jesus that he (and the others) had left everything to follow Him! (Mark 10:28).
  • Self-confident. Told Jesus that he would ‘… lay down my life for you’(John 13:37).
  • Strong willed. Drawing a sword, he struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear (John 18:10).
  • Struggling. Would later struggle with legalism and hypocrisy (See Galatians 2: 11-14).

Much is written about Peter, about his many conversations with Jesus… and about his many mistakes. In short, Peter was just so human that we all relate to him!


He wasn’t always an apostle; he became one. He simply started as a fisherman, then became a disciple. Like we all start, doing whatever we do… and then accepting Jesus. And then, hopefully, become a committed disciple and begin doing whatever our Lord requires of us ministry-wise!

Let’s look at the three stages of changes in Peter’s life:

1. Name.
2. Status.
3. Heart.

1. Name change
It’s not uncommon in the Bible for the Lord to change the name of one of His own – goes back to Abram. God changed his name to Abraham – the father of a multitude of many nations, because that’s what he would become.

In John 1: 42GNB we read the account of Simon’s name change… ‘Jesus looked at him and said, “Your name is Simon son of John, but you will be called Cephas.” (This is the same as Peter and means ‘a rock’).’

Message Bible reads: ‘You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas’ (or Peter, which means “Rock”).’ It’s as if Jesus was saying, ‘Simon? – that’s who you are naturally. But Peter – that’s what you will become supernaturally.’

Our Lord sees people differently! I love that 1 Samuel 16:7ESB scripture where God told Samuel, ‘For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’

Jesus saw all the failures, all the frailties in Peter’s heart. He saw who Peter was naturally, but He also saw what he would become supernaturally. And so He named him Peter, a rock.

And so those names sort of represent two sides of Peter’s character. Sometimes he listened, sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes he was strong as a rock, sometimes he was as weak as sand. He just struggled like all of us do. But the name change was going to lead to other changes.

2. Status change
From disciple, follower, learner, Peter became an apostle. Now this word means somebody who’s sent out, somebody who’s commissioned.

In classical Greek apostle–  apostolos – speaks of an expedition or a fleet of ships that would go out and represent a kingdom. For Christ followers, it means somebody who is sent out on a mission as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:2).

So the first disciples were to become apostles. Soon they would have a new mission – to tell the world Jesus is Lord of all life and death.

In Matthew 10:1 NASB, Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority. And in the very next verse, in one sentence, they – Peter being mentioned first – go from ‘disciple’ to ‘apostle.’ Verse 2 tells, Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter…’

Change of status means responsibility!

3. Heart change
Dear reader… Do note that this change came after Peter had denied Jesus, after His resurrection. John 21: 11-15 tells us that the Lord came to Peter on the shores of Galilee, commissioning him again, and asking a very pertinent question three times!

Let me paint the scenario…

  • ‘Peter, do you love me?’ And Peter said, ‘Yes, Lord, I love you.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’
  • Then He asked him a question a second time, ‘Peter, do you love me?’ He said, ‘Yes, Lord, I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Tend my sheep.’
  • And ‘He asked a third time: ‘Do you love me?’ Peter, although grieved because Jesus had asked him yet again, said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said: ‘Feed my sheep.’

Can I suggest to you that ‘Feed my lambs,’ ‘Tend my sheep,’ ‘Feed my sheep’ are the most gracious words you could ever tell a person who has denied you!

In effect Jesus was saying, ‘Peter, I am entrusting to you the most precious thing I know and I have, my own flock for whom I died. I’m making you not only a “fisher of men” but a shepherd of sheep. I want you to feed my sheep, my lambs… tend to them.’

Jesus restored Peter and entrusted him, and because of that, a deep heart change happened within Peter.

Foundations and storms
Are you a disciple of Jesus, a dedicated follower? If so, know that in a relationship with Him lives will change! Take yourself for example…

Allowing Jesus to work in you will result in you –

  • Undergoing a conversion from your life to His life.
  • Becoming a strong follower as you embrace His teachings.
  • Assisting in the mission to build His church.
  • Knowing that Jesus is the rock on which you’ve built your life!

I began by warning about shaky foundations and highlighting the destructive storm of Matthew 7: 27. Life storms, and satanic storms, can hit even Christians. The thing about storms is you never know when they’re going to blow through your life.

But joyfully we can recall the reassuring chorus of that old hymn by Edward Mote (1797-1874) – about the greatest rock a Christian’s life (and ministry) can be built on –

‘On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.’

When you place your life on the solid rock that Jesus is, you will weather all the storms of life!

Three challenges
1. Not a disciple of Jesus?
Making that all-important choice for the first time is the greatest decision you can ever make! Talk to God and genuinely repent of all sins and ask forgiveness in Jesus’ blood. Jesus wants to be your Saviour (John 3:16).

2. So… you’ve made the decision to be a disciple of Jesus.
But have found your life is just like Peter’s was… bad decisions, prideful activities, acting before thinking, I have good news for you!

Although you’ve messed up, know that Jesus will forgive you! Repent today, even right now! A lifestyle change is critical and can be yours.

3. Okay then, you’ve made a decision or recommitment.
That’s good! But are you moving from a disciplined follower to a man or woman on a mission to your family and friends – those that need to know the good news of Jesus, the solid rock?

End thought:
May we all seek to convert, disciple, assist in the great commission and church building – not with stones but with people. And so Rock On!

Determine to always build with Jesus the solid foundation. You’re part of His church and He’s there to help you, keep you!

In Matthew 16:16, Peter declared to Jesus, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ and Jesus responded with confidence, ‘On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (v18).

Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California. Link:

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