Falling Short? Grow With Grace
You’ve sinned and the weight of it feels heavy. Shame tells you to turn away from God. You’ve gone too far. Or, it says that you need to try harder; to perform more for Christ in order to win His approval. Shame breeds shame. The more you try to perform for Jesus, the harder you push, the more you’ll see how you fall short. But shame tells you to keep going. That’s all you think you can do. But is that right? How do you break the cycle of shame and get right with God?
We began to explore Peter’s story last week. He was a zealous follower of Jesus, and said he was even willing to die for Jesus, if necessary. The more you explore Peter’s time with Jesus though, the more you’ll notice how many times he messed up. He was one of the closest disciples to Jesus. How would that be possible?
Jesus warned Peter he was going to deny Him because Satan had asked to sift Peter like wheat (Luke 22:31). Peter knew it was coming. Jesus even said He had been praying for Peter about it. He also told him, he would sin, then offered His grace and assignment for when Peter repented.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew when the enemy was about to strike? Do you think it would be easier to resist him?
The thing is, you have been warned.
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 (underline added)
Why did Peter sin, even though he had been warned? Maybe it was because he only one warning and a bunch of stuff happened in between? No, Jesus warned him again in the Garden of Gethsemane when He was troubled and praying to His Father. He had asked Peter, James, and John to stay awake and pray with Him. Then, when He returned to them, He saw they were all sleeping. He specifically approached Peter and said,
“So, couldn’t you stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” Matthew 26:40-41
But Peter couldn’t manage to keep his eyes open. It was late in the night and he had enjoyed a Passover meal before they went to pray.
Peter hadn’t fully understood the spiritual battle before him. He could see the anger of the religious leaders towards Jesus, but didn’t understand that they were puppets being played by the real enemy. He knew Jesus was the Son of God, but hadn’t fully comprehended or believed that Jesus was about to be crucified and die. So, when he was warned of the temptation about to come, he was ignorant to the depths of it.
“Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl approached him and said, ‘You were with Jesus the Galilean too.’
But he denied it in front of everyone: ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
When he had gone out to the gateway, another woman saw him and told those who were there, ‘This man was with Jesus the Nazarene!’
And again he denied it with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man!’
After a little while those standing there approached and said to Peter, ‘You really are one of them, since even your accent gives you away.’
Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, ‘I don’t know the man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed,and Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:69-75
Even with Jesus’ warnings to Peter, he still sinned. It was scary. The Leader he had followed for three years was on trial and being slapped, spit at, and mocked by the angry religious leaders who had once held great authority over Peter. Now that his sin was confirmed by the rooster’s crow, Peter ran away from the crowd and, “wept bitterly.”
Peter was crushed by his sin, and the pain he felt for rejecting Jesus. He had felt so bold in standing for Him, and then just hours later, he rejected the man he loved the most.
Shame attacked Peter immediately! This man was once told by Jesus, “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.” Matthew 16:18. Now, that felt impossible. How could he build the church when he had rejected his Messiah?
How can you get up again and continue the Lord’s work when you’ve sinned so strongly against Him?
The beauty and redemption of this story is written within the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes, He died, but He also raised Himself up again from the grave! Then, He showed Himself to over 500 people, including His beloved Peter.
“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.’” John 21:15-19
Why did Jesus ask Peter if he loved Him three times? It was bringing Peter to repentance. Jesus was showing Peter His forgiveness and restoring him once again. Then Jesus commissioned him to begin the church by feeding them God’s truth and tending to their needs like Jesus had done for His disciples.
Sometimes, repentance and restoration can feel painful. Peter was grieved when Jesus asked him a third time if he loved Him. This is true repentance when your heart aches for the sin you caused Jesus to suffer for. It’s a God-honouring grief. It means the apathy has broken and your spirit is humbled and ready for the Lord’s help.
Jesus poured out His grace upon Peter. Remember, this happened shortly after Jesus raised Himself from the dead. The act of His gracious redemption was freshly shown to Peter. He could see the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet that his, yours, and my sin put there. Yet, he also stood beside this gracious Lord who was extending His forgiveness and grace to this sinner.
Jesus offers you the same grace, forgiveness, and love He gave Peter. He is still there, with the marks of sacrifice on His body, calling out to you. Call out your shame, and take up Jesus’ grace towards you. You don’t need to perform for Jesus. He wants your authentic heart. He will equip you to do the things He calls you to, no matter how hard they may be, because it’s not about the assignments you’re sent to do, as Peter learned. It’s about your relationship with Him. Cling to Jesus. Give Him your all. Trust in His truth. And embrace the grace you have received with joy!