How to "Level up" in the Game of Life!

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On Thursday evening our family gets together to have a good time sharing a meal and then afterwards, the game is on. Sometimes we play Dominoes. Other times we play a card game like Five Crowns or Oh Crud and recently we have begun playing a new game called “Rummikub”. It’s kind of a cross between Dominoes and Yahtzee or some other dice game. Games can be frustrating. One minute you’re flying high and winning and the next you’re at the bottom of the pile. I’m looking for a game that I can consistently win at, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist.
I’m sure you would agree that just like a game, this life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns! Making sense of it all can be frustrating, but there is One who offers to guide us masterfully through it all. This is Jesus, who is the ultimate game changer.
The game of life is best experienced following Jesus because He knows every part of the game of life. He knows the secret to living your best life. It is in Jesus that we find the only way to have a relationship with God the Father, leading to forgiveness and a life full of purpose!
This week at VBS we are going to look at the apostle Peter. We will see what Peter’s game-winning strategy was. Peter’s life was not perfect, just like ours is not perfect, but we will see how peter’s life reflected the power of Jesus through all the “pitfalls” and “traps” that he encountered along the way. From a fisherman to a founder of the Christian church, Peter did amazing things for the kingdom of God. He was able to do this because he closely followed the ultimate game changer, Jesus. Just like in the video games kids play today, Jesus has “beat the game” and He offers to teach us how to do the same thing.
Let’s see what Peter’s “game” can teach us about following Jesus and winning at this game of life.

I. Jesus Called Peter to Follow Him

Matthew 4:18-20 “As he was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter), and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. “Follow me,” he told them, “and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
Peter learned that life in Jesus is full of meaning and purpose. Peter and his brother Andrew worked as fishermen when they first met Jesus. Jesus specifically called Peter and his brother to follow Him and start fishing for people.
Peter began to follow Jesus as one of His students, or disciples. As a disciple, Peter went wherever Jesus went, learned from His teaching, and did what Jesus said to do. Peter’s game truly “leveled up” as he saw firsthand how powerful and trustworthy Jesus truly is!
John 6:68-69 “Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.””
We live in a time when for many people their sense of worth is measured by how many followers they have. In an interview with Denzel Washington, it noted that the actor has been getting more explicit about his Christian convictions. In 2019 Washington called himself “a vessel of God.” Privately over coffee with the interviewer Washington added:
The enemy is the inner me. The Bible says in the last days — I don’t know if it’s the last days, it’s not my place to know — but it says we’ll be lovers of ourselves. The No. 1 photograph today is a selfie, “Oh, me at the protest.” “Me with the fire.” “Follow me.” “Listen to me.” We’re living in a time where people are willing to do anything to get followed. What is the long or short-term effect of too much information? It’s going fast and it can be manipulated obviously in a myriad of ways. And people are led like sheep to slaughter.
Don’t play with God. You hear what I said? Don’t play with God. Then the interviewer mentions that Washington urged her to download and use a daily Bible reading app. Washington said. “You have to fill up that bucket every morning. It’s rough out there. You leave the house in the morning. Here they come, chipping away. By the end of the day, you’ve got to refill that bucket.”
Jesus said, “Follow Me”. He calls us all to follow Him and discover life on a different level. The children in VBS this week will learn that a “level up” life is a life lived with a clear purpose as we follow Jesus. It is living the abundant life that Jesus talked about in the Gospel of John.
John 10:10 “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”
This clear purpose-filled life can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. We all want to know how to win this game of life and Jesus freely offers to show us how. There is only one way to have your sins forgiven, and have eternal life, and a home in heaven for all of eternity, and that is through Jesus Christ.
John 14:6 “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 3:16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Romans 5:8 “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”
Romans 10:9-10 “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.”
Romans 10:13 “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Jesus called Peter to follow Him and He is calling you to follow Him today. If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior and Lord, then I pray that today will be the day you begin to live a new life in Him.

II. Jesus Forgave Peter

One of the downturns that Peter’s life took occurred when Peter denied that he knew Jesus. After Jesus was arrested, Peter was nearby while Jesus appeared before the high priest. Someone recognized Peter and accused him of being with Jesus. Out of fear Peter strongly denied knowing Jesus, not just once but three times. Peter felt terrible abotu this denial.
Luke 22:54-62 “They seized him, led him away, and brought him into the high priest’s house. Meanwhile Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, and Peter sat among them. When a servant saw him sitting in the light, and looked closely at him, she said, “This man was with him too.” But he denied it: “Woman, I don’t know him.” After a little while, someone else saw him and said, “You’re one of them too.” “Man, I am not!” Peter said. About an hour later, another kept insisting, “This man was certainly with him, since he’s also a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. Then the Lord turned and looked at Peter. So Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
Do you remember the kid's TV show Scooby-Doo—that lovable morning cartoon about Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, Velma, and their dog, Scooby-Doo? "The Gang," as they were called, were always getting themselves into trouble here or there—getting robbed, scared, lost. In each adventure, their task remained the same: discover and catch the villain. Whether the villain was a ghost, a witch, or any other ghoul, every episode would end the same—the Gang would catch the villain, and in every single episode, the villain turned out to be a person you'd never expect. We'd always assume the villain would be that really mean tour guide, or the obsessive park ranger, or the mean gasoline attendant from the beginning of the episode. But as the Gang ripped off the mask of the villain, it was always quite the surprise. The villain was always the really nice janitor, the sweet teacher, or the seemingly "good guy."
The cartoon Scooby-Doo teaches us precisely what Christianity has been trying to teach us: the villain and the monster aren't who we thought they were. In the Gospel stories, everyone fails; everyone sins against Christ—even the best disciples, even the "good guys." In the end, the villain is us.
Peter failed the Lord miserably, but it didn’t end there. Later, after His resurrection, Jesus had a personal conversation with Peter and restored him. In this conversation Jesus showed Peter love and forgiveness. It wasn’t “game over” for Peter! Jesus still had much more for Peter to do.
John 21:15-19 “When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs,” he told him. A second time he asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love you.” “Shepherd my sheep,” he told him. He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep,” Jesus said. “Truly I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. After saying this, he told him, “Follow me.””
Jesus offers forgiveness and restoration to us as well.
John 3:16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
God made only one way for us to experience a relationship with Him and it is through His Son, Jesus.
Acts 4:12 “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.””

III. Peter Became Bold

Jonathan Edwards wrote in Religious Affections, “There is a false boldness for Christ that only comes from pride. A man may rashly expose himself to the world's dislike and even deliberately provoke its displeasure, and yet do so out of pride. ... True boldness for Christ transcends all, it is indifferent to the displeasure of either friends or foes. Boldness enables Christians to forsake all rather than Christ, and to prefer to offend all rather than to offend Him.”
After Peter experienced the resurrected Jesus, something changed in him. He went from denying that he knew Jesus to being imprisoned for telling everyone about Jesus. (Acts 12). Peter knew everything Jesus ever claimed was absolutely true and worth believing in. The resurrection of Jesus changed everything!
Peter would do some of the most important work in the early church, fulfilling what Jesus said about him in the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew 16:18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, Peter’s ministry and life “leveled up” again, marked by boldness and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 4:29-31 “And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand for healing, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly.”
Our lives should be marked by gospel-centered boldness as well. Because Jesus has victory over death, we too can live in victory and boldly point others to Him!
John 16:33 “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.””
This truth makes Jesus the ultimate game changer!


Peter was human just like us. He wasn’t perfect, and he made mistakes along the way. Because he continued to follow Jesus, he was able to “beat the game” and win. If you want to win the game and successfully navigate all of life’s twists and turns, then follow Jesus because He has already won!
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