Being a Christian is not easy. Giving up your fleshly desires and admitting that we cannot live this life on our own takes a lot of faith and dependence on the one true God who can give us the strength to do so. There are also moments when we have to remind ourselves not to become complacent and think that we are immune to sin.
Throughout my walk with Christ, there have been times when I have felt as though God should have just given up on me. There are times when I feel as though I am not worthy of God’s Grace and love. I once believed and still sometimes struggle with the fact that no matter how many times I sin that I need to hold on to the promise in His word that says “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”. I sometimes allow for my sin to blind me of the fact that I have been set free from sin.
I am a sinner that is saved by Grace. The fact that just because I fall or stumble does not mean that God no longer loves me or forgives me. I always seem to forget that God’s Grace is not dependent on anything I can do or have done. If that were the case, then He would have had to wait for me to stop sinning and then gone to the cross. All that He has done for me is because of His unfailing love and willingness to forgive me of all my sin.
When I think of the power of the cross and all that it reflects and how it is affected my own life, I am always drawn to the story of Peter when he denied Christ and was later restored. I truly believe that through Peter’s experience we can see that where there is sin, there is darkness and where there is repentance, there is light. Through Peter’s fall and restoration, there are four things that I think we can learn to relate to and apply to our own lives.
1. We are not immune to sin
Peter’s declaration of never falling into this sin was the first step to denial that we bear witness to. His downfall began when he became indignant to the fact he was prone to wander and stand firm when faced with trial. When Jesus first foretold of Peter’s denial, the response was one of both shock and utter confidence that he, Peter would never fall into that kind of sin. In Luke 22:33 we see not only Peter declaring that he would not sin but also that he is “ready to go with you to both prison and to death.” Peter in the moment of passion and emotion made a statement even in being faced with death, he would not deny Christ. His mind was so blind to the fact that he could stand firm against the impending danger that could both physically and spiritually harm him. In the previous verse (31) we see that Jesus urgently warns Peter of what is about to take place. He says to him “Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” There is a great significance in the very wording of this verse. Just from the very repetition of his name, we can see an earnest and somber tone of warning. Jesus was the one who had given Simon the name Peter, and here we see Christ revert to his old name perhaps maybe to intensify and rebuke Peter’s fleshly overconfidence.
I remember as a child, receiving countless warnings from my parents not to dabble in something that was dangerous because the consequences would be dire. I do recall one particular event that caused me to remember to heed to their warnings and always to be on the look out. I was at the park one day with a bunch of my friends and near by was a lake filled with a huge family of ducks. One of the moms gave us permission to go and feed them. As we were standing on the dock throwing pieces of bread to them, I remember hearing my mother’s warning of not leaning in too close to the edge or else I would fall. I kept insisting that I was not leaning that close and well sure enough, I leaned a little too close and fell head first into the lake. Thankfully, the water wasn’t deep and there were two men who had been standing a few feet way that reached in and pulled me back out.
My problem was that I thought I could get as close to the edge as possible without falling in. My rebellious nature as a child kept dictating that I can ignore the warning signs and that I was not going to fall in. The more I thought I was invincible to danger, the more I let my guard drop. I was reminded that day that with each warning comes a chance to properly equip myself against something that can bring me harm. However, I do not always heed those warnings, and its in those moments when God’s love comes pouring out. Peter could not have predicted that he was going to sin, he really wanted to live out what he declared that day. However, like Peter we too fall when we think we can handle sins snares. During those moments when I feel as though I have become immune to sin and fall deep into a trap, I am reminded that God’s word says in Psalm 103:8 “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” In all dealings with His people, God shows Himself to be merciful and gracious. He guides, protects and provides for each step of the way and will gives the tools and means we need to stand firm against sins snares.
2. God has a purpose for our Sin
Moments before Peter denied Christ, he had publicly tried to defend Jesus from getting arrested. He had taken a sword and cut off the right ear of the servant of the high priest when they came to arrest Jesus. In that moment. It seemed as though it did not take Peter much thought in reacting to defending their Lord. However, once the danger started to take place and Jesus was arrested, that is when fear began to strike at the hearts of the disciples and specifically Peter. The once brave and courageous man began to cower under pressure.
We first see this take place in Luke 22:54-57. Jesus was being brought into the house of the high priest and “Peter was following at a distance” (verse 54). Inside, he took his place with those who were warming themselves by the fire. The stage is now set for the first denial to take a place. A servant girl looked across at Peter and exclaimed that he was one of the followers of Jesus. His response was “Woman, I do not know him” (verse 56). There went the first chance he had at standing up for Christ. The second takes place when someone else pointed out that he was indeed one of them. Again, he denied it by saying “Man, I am not”. After about an hour later, someone else recognized Peter as a Galilean and also as a disciple of the Lord. This time, Peter’s denial was met with the crowing of the rooster. In that moment, in verse 61-62 “The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord…and he went out and wept bitterly.” Peter was met head on with the accusation of belonging to Christ and he allowed for his fear to dictate his response.
However, here we also see that Peter is being prepped for something even greater. See Peter was under the impression that he could control his life’s events and have a hold on what was to come. In the moments of guilt, it is hard for one to see what purpose God would have for Peter to fall into sin. In verse 31-32 we saw a glimpse of what the purpose was. Christ singled Peter out as a representative for all of the disciples. In those verses Jesus says to him “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Even in the midst of Peter’s downfall, God still had a plan to use him to be a leader and a source of encouragement to the rest and through it all Peter would become one of the most bold and greatest means of spreading the message of the gospel.
3. God’s Timing is Perfect
I really believe that the timing of Peter’s downfall is something of great significance. The reason why is because up until this point, Peter had been so confident with this relationship with Christ. However, right after Peter experienced what would have been his darkest moment and fell deep into sin, the Saviour of the world went and paid the penalty that immediately erased not only Peter’s sin but also for the entire world! That to me is so incredibly profound and gives us hope that in knowing our sinful ways, God still went to the cross and died for us. Romans 5:8 sums up this message perfectly “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Imagine how much hope could have filled Peter’s heart in being able to literally watch his sin being paid for and erased before his very eyes. Even more so, Peter came to understand and experience what the love and grace of God looks and feels like.
When I finally made the choice to give my life over to Christ, it came at at time when I had chosen to walk away from my relationship with God. I was grieving over the loss of my grandmother and my sadness turned into anger and bitterness towards God for taking her from me. I didn’t want anything to do with God and I had made the choice to just stop caring about anything that remotely came close to Christianity. It was the lowest and darkest point of my life and it was not until one weekend that all of that changed.
I went to my cousins church retreat and it was there that I had heard the message of the gospel that changed my life. The one thing that tugged at my heart in that moment was when the youth pastor asked us to envision Jesus hanging on the cross, beaten and bruised and looking directly into our hearts and saying the words “I am doing all this because I love you, will you not choose to love me in return?”. God’s timing could not have been more perfect. I had hit rock bottom and the only other way for me to go was up and into the arms of the one who says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
4. True Repentance = True Forgiveness
Peter had publicly denied Jesus three times. Since that point had repented and had been restored to fellowship with the Lord. In John 21:15-19 Peter’s restoration is now being publicly acknowledged by Jesus and here we see Christ not only offering forgiveness but taking Peter’s sin and using it for His ultimate plan. Christ’s forgiveness not only includes the removal of Peter’s sin but putting His Glory on display and using him to fully and ultimately devote himself to the work of Christ. When Jesus asks in in verses 15 “Do you love me more then these?” Here Jesus is referring to the fish and more importantly to Peter’s occupation as a fisherman. Jesus wanted for Peter’s love for his job to now shift to a greater love for God and start reeling people in and towards the message of the Gospel. He does this by telling him to “feed my lambs…tend my sheep”. This is to convey as one commentator puts it is the “idea of being devoted to the Lord’s service as an under-shepherd who cares for his flock.” He asks Peter this question three times and each time Peter answered, Jesus told him that he could demonstrate his love for Christ by doing the work of Christ.
From looking at Peter’s experience we can all relate to the fact that there are moments when we backslide and fall into sin. We sometimes even begin to believe that there is nothing good that can come out of it and we are left feeling with pain and regret. Even though Peter had failed miserably, Christ still triumphed over sin and restored him back into a loving relationship with Him. Colossians 1:13-14 says “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Our hope lies in the one who has triumphed over sin and not even death can separate us from His love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!