So I struggled for a while after I surrendered my life completely to Christ. I struggled with the knowledge of all of the time I wasted being selfish, all the times I hurt family and friends with my sinful actions, and the times I could have made a stand for my Savior and didn’t.
You see, even though I felt the love and mercy of God in my life at that moment, this idea of His grace and mercy extending to all of my past transgressions was not resonating in my heart. There would be times that I see people I cared about struggling in their personal lives and couldn’t help but feel this sense of shame that I had helped contribute to their problems instead of speaking life into and helping them.
You know who else I believe felt like this? Peter
If you remember, Peter and his brother were casting nets into the Sea of Galilee when Jesus came and said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” So Peter dropped everything he had and began following Christ.
Being a disciple of Christ, Peter was witness to Jesus’ teachings and miracles. In fact, Peter is the first one to identify Christ as the true messiah. Yet, much like all of us, Peter was not true to what he professed to believe in the time Jesus needed it most. When Judas betrayed Christ and they came to arrest Him, Peter fled with the rest of the disciples.
Luke 22: 54-62
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter tries to blend in with the crowd around the fire and gets noticed by a young girl. 3 times he is asked if he knows Jesus and 3 times Peter denies knowing Him. I can imagine Peter sitting there around those flames, realizing what had just happened, and feeling that ache in the deepest part of his soul.
I can imagine it, because I have felt that same thing. That feeling of my cowardice in the face of an opportunity to boldly stand and say, “Yes I know Him!”
The self-loathing Peter must have felt in that moment. You know the feeling, when you are just so disgusted with yourself, you wonder how you can even live with the shame and regret? Replaying it over and over in your head, you wish you could go back in time and do it all over again. “If only I had another chance, I would do things differently!”
The beauty is that our Creator is a God of second chances. He is a God who exhibits a scandalous grace that knows no end. You don’t believe me? Look at Peter.
John 21: 4-14
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Peter jumps out of the boat and approaches Jesus who is cooking fish over a fire on the shore. And I have to wonder if all of the shame and regret came rushing back into Peter’s mind as he once again found himself around flames crackling and His Savior looking him square in the face.
But, in perhaps one of the most profound instances of God’s love and mercy illustrated throughout the Bible, Jesus doesn’t chastise Peter for failing him in His most dire hour, He feeds Peter and then asks him 3 times if he loves Him. I wonder if the smell of burning charcoal brought tears to Peter’s eyes as Jesus redeemed his denials by allowing him to say, “Yes. I love you Lord.”
You see, that is exactly how God operates and it is what has helped me overcome my early moments of feeling that shame of letting my Savior down. It has been the greatest joy to know that God passionately loves me so much, that He would take all of my past mistakes, past disobedience, and past betrayals and redeem all of it for the sake of HIS glory.
None of us can hop in a time machine and re-write our past. That is the tool the Accuser uses to keep us from participating in God’s perfect redemptive plan. The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God doesn’t want us to re-write our history, but instead use it to show His unfathomable mercy.
My prayer today is that you will quit allowing your regrets and mistakes to continue and weigh you down. I pray you come to know the truth of God’s mercy and to allow Him to remove those burdens that have made you weary. It is for freedom that Christ has set you free!
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.