Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guilt and Love

Read Luke 22:47-62 before you read this post.

This morning I was reading in Luke 22 about Jesus’ arrest and Peter denying him. Such a heartbreaking story. We all like to think that if we were Peter we wouldn’t have denied Christ, but I am not so sure I wouldn’t have.

I’ve denied him so many times in my life. Denied his way by not waiting and listening to him. Denied his convictions and willfully sinned. He commanded us to “deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him,” (Matthew 16:24) but I have done just the opposite. I’ve denied him, taken up my desires, and followed them to where they would lead.

Luke 22:61 is so sad. I can see it in my mind’s eye. Peter had just lived up to Jesus’ prophecy about how he would deny Jesus three times, and then the rooster crowed.

“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him… And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Could you imagine the Savior of the world, on his way to the greatest human suffering of all time to save you from your sins, starring you in the eye right after you disowned him? Man, this story has so much weight to it. No wonder Peter went outside and wept.

The Gospel of Luke doesn’t talk about it, but the 21st chapter of Gospel of John tells us how Jesus reinstates Peter on a beach one morning after his resurrection. Jesus asks him three times if he loves him. Peter wasn’t an idiot; he knew what the three times meant. Jesus asks him if he loves him, then gives him instructions to feed and take care of his “sheep.”

Jesus chose the man who had just rejected him when the pressure was on to be the man he builds his church on. Jesus had told him earlier, too, that the devil had desired to sift Peter like wheat, but Jesus had prayed for him that he wouldn’t fail (Luke 22:31-32).

It is my personal thinking that Peter never forgot the face of Jesus on the night he looked at him right after he denied him. I don’t know how you could forget something like that. But if that was all Peter remembered then he would have just moved forward in guilt. All his works for the church would have been fueled by his guilt and inner regret.

When we are motivated by regret, I don’t believe we are moving in the power of God, because “there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those that are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1) None! Only the Son of God can set you free like that.

Peter didn’t go forth in ministry by being pushed on by his own regret and guilt; the Savior’s love, forgiveness, and call is what motivated him onward. And Peter moved forward under the power of Christ, and under his encouragement.

I don’t think Peter ever forgot the face of Jesus on the night he denied him, but more importantly, I don’t think he ever forgot the words of Jesus that morning on the beach.

We cannot serve the Lord out of guilt, regret, or sense of what we owe him. It makes it a game of works to be accepted by God. We serve the Lord because he loves us, and he has called us.

There is no scale with God where we have to fill up our side with works to balance out all that he’s done for us or given us, his side of the scale will always incomprehensibly outweigh ours.

He loves you. He desires you. You can’t earn love like that. You just can’t. Jesus desires those that deny him; he calls those that curse him. You can’t earn relentless love like that. His love is a fire that consumes our past mistakes, sins, and regrets until there is nothing left but his grace, truth, and love.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

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