Jesus and Peter – a story of grace upon grace

Disclaimer: The following is not all original. Though it is a compilation of my thoughts when reading the passages, some of the thoughts were prompted by a friend who shared with me what one of her professors at seminary shared about the passages. Whatever may be accurate/beneficial is certainly expressed more eloquently and thoroughly elsewhere and by those more qualified and learned than I.

John 18:15-17,25-27 and John 21

In both of these stories, it could be assumed that John plays a part in bringing Peter closer to Jesus. John (presumably) brings Peter in to the courtyard (18:16). John tells Peter that Jesus is on shore (21:7) before he jumps out of the boat and swims to Jesus. I want to be like John–not giving up on someone who has demonstrated disloyalty to Jesus.

The way Jesus relates to people is absolutely mind-blowing. Not only does it prompt gratitude in my heart, it is very challenging to me. I tend to display less grace and faith than He does. Though Jesus had originally called His disciples away from their fishing trade (Mark 1:16-20), He had to do so again (21:1-12). What patience! Though Peter committed a heinous crime against the Lord by denying Him three times around a charcoal fire (18:18), Jesus demonstrates tremendous compassion and mercy toward Peter by commissioning him around another charcoal fire (21:9). Though Peter broke (18:17-18,25-27) his promise (Mark 14:26-31) to value Christ more than his reputation, Jesus does not give up on him. Jesus comes back to him, asking him to pledge his life for the gospel (21:15-19). The topic of conversation between Peter and the people around the first charcoal fire concerned identity. Was he one of Christ’s disciples, or not? What do I proclaim about my identity through my conversations? Do I proclaim that I belong to myself or that I belong to the Lord? At the second charcoal fire, Jesus confirms that Peter is His.

Jesus asks Peter to be like Himself–seeking, feeding, and keeping sheep, not running away when tribulation comes (John 10:11-16). Of course, ultimately it is Jesus Himself Who does all this with His sheep, but He has also ordained the means of human shepherds overseeing (Acts 20:28) the flock of God. It is sobering to imagine what Peter felt (21:17) when being questioned by Jesus. Surely he remembered denying Him thrice; what humiliation he must have felt being face to face with the One he denied. So many times I have practically denied Christ by choosing my own way rather than His. Yet, He keeps giving me opportunities to choose correctly. Jesus shows me no less mercy than He showed to Peter. What will I do with it? I pray that He will make my answers and choices passionately committed to His glory.

At the end of Jesus’ conversation with Peter, He prophecies how Peter will die as a result of following Him. This too is amazing. Jesus here implies that Peter will stay faithful to Him and that He will never cast Peter aside. Jesus is promising to forever hold on to Peter, and this to one who completely did not deserve it. He has promised the same to me (1 Peter 1:3-5). Marvelous mercy.

And then, Jesus issues a final call: “Follow me.” As in other portions of Scripture, this confirms that not only does Christ keep the sheep in His flock, but they also stay with Him. This mystery is one I accept by faith in the evidence of Scripture, and cannot fully explain. All I know is that God will keep me, and one way in which He accomplishes this is by making me want to be kept.

But the story isn’t finished yet. Peter seems like he still hasn’t understood the lesson when he asks about John’s future. Jesus again doesn’t give up on Peter but again tells him to follow Him and not worry about what He has planned for others (21:20-23). Amazing. Jesus showers grace upon grace on those who belong to Him.

Here, in the story of Peter, I see again that I am wretched and Jesus is wonderful.

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Christ had no regrets

“It is finished.” – from John 19:28-30

I don’t believe that Jesus was merely a moral example for the world. However, as a follower of Christ, I am called to become more and more like Him. He had no regrets over His life on earth. He completely fulfilled the purpose for which He came. A big portion of His work entailed pouring into a certain group of people that would carry His message far and wide.

He didn’t spend time surfing the web. Nothing is recorded of Him searching for the best deals on products He wanted to purchase. He never spent time worrying about the future. He never turned away people because He was tired.

Every moment was spent doing what was truly best for those He led and those who observed His life. The souls of people were His concern. When I get to the end of my life, I want to be able to say, like Jesus, that I accomplished the work for which He placed me on this earth. I want to have no regrets. I want people to know Christ as a result of knowing me. I want to live a full life for the glory of God. I want to be concerned about what Jesus was concerned about. I believe that Jesus shows me how.

I'm just like them

“When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” – John 19:6

What a masterfully planned out series of events. God caused Pilate to find Jesus innocent. Then Pilate delivered Jesus to the crowd to do what they wanted with him. Just considering this verse, had Jesus been found “guilty” in court, there may have been an additional cause for my heart to blame the political system for Jesus’ death. As it is, the people are those who pursued Christ to death. How merciful it is of God to have planned it this way so that even in this passage my sin is emphasized. I am just like those people. I am just like the thief on the cross. I have a heart of evil and rebellion against Jesus, and the only reason that I will not be sent to hell for it is the fact that Christ looked upon me, like He looked upon the thief hanging beside him, and said “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”(Luke 23:43) Such mercy. Such love. Such cause for me to leave all and follow Him.

HOW LOVE WINS
“My life began like any other man
Held beneath a mother’s loving gaze
Somewhere between now and then
I lost the man I could have been
Took everything that wasn’t mine to take
But Love believes that it is not too late
Only one of us deserves this cross
A suffering that should belong to me
Deep within this man I hang beside
Is the place where shame and grace collide
And it’s beautiful agony
That He believes it’s not too late for me
This is how Love wins, every single time
Climbing high upon a tree where someone else should die
This is how Love heals, the deepest part of you
Letting Himself bleed into the middle of your wounds
This is what Love says, standing at the door
You don’t have to be who you’ve been before
Silenced by His voice, death can’t speak again
This is how Love wins
Did you see this moment from the start
That we would drink this of cup of suffering?
I wonder, did we ever meet?
Childhood games in dusty streets
For all my many sorrows and regrets
Nothing could compare to just this one
That in the presence of my King
I cannot fall upon my knees
I cannot carry You up to Your throne
You instead, will carry me back home.
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood, nothing but the blood
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood, Nothing but the blood
Because this is what Love say, standing at the door
You don’t have to be who you’ve been before
And silenced by His voice, death can’t speak again
This is how Love wins. ”
– Steven Curtis Chapman

Meditation on Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Up from the ground and what lies all around me…I look. I look up. I take my eyes off of that which seems so real and fix them on that which really is. What lies on the ground around my feet…what I hold with my hands…what I pursue with my plans…what I am setting my stride to accomplish…what happens without my influence…it all is here and now. But I am not merely a “here and now” person. I was made for something greater. I was made to bring glory to the One Who transcends time. Yes, He cares about the here and now, but His purposes are far greater than what I can see. He has eternity planned out. I am as a speck of dust without any significance, and all that I face really has no significance…except…He made it all. So, it does have significance. But what?

Still, I gaze up from my circumstances which seem so real…to that which really is. He is. Before there was time, He was. While time exists, He transcends it. From eternity past to eternity future, He will never change. He’ll always remain the same wise God Who never failed at anything…not even my life. Help never came from within me. So why should I expect it now? Help comes from above. The only One Who ever has the power to help at all offers help freely to His children. But why? Why would someone so frail as me earn the assistance of a Being Who never failed at anything? Because He loves me. But why me? Why not the person who doesn’t look up to Him? Such questions should cause me all the more to bow my heart in adoration to the One Who holds all my cells in their place..to the One Who guides each of my steps though I’m not aware of it…to the One Who offers help without my merit.

But why hills? Why is my view now filled with them? No doubt the King of the Universe wants me to keep in mind that He reigns over all. Even those who do not acknowledge His rule are His subjects. His entire purpose is to make His name great and to establish a perfect kingdom wherein His sovereign rule is acknowledged as what it really is. His glory is the climax of all of history, and it is only in realizing this that I will be able to head in the right direction. His city will never be destroyed. His reign will never be overthrown. And if He can accomplish all of this, surely He can keep my life on track.

My help comes directly from the maker of heaven and earth. He doesn’t relegate my needs to some lowly servant to tend to. No, He personally involves Himself with my cares. He is intimately acquainted with all my ways. None knows them as well as He. None knows my weakness as deeply and truly as He does. That the One Who has nations and armies at His command would care for me–a speck of dust with no significance, is enough to secure my never-ending devotion, trust, and fear. Devotion, in that I continually seek how I may know Him. Trust, in that I do not worry about anything because I know He controls it all. Fear, in that I shrink from even the slightest rebellion of my heart toward Him because I hate bringing pain to the One Who gave His life that I might live.

What does God’s help look like? It cannot be compared to earthly help. It is a divine service that cannot be duplicated by mere men.

He doesn’t allow me to fall forever. Though I may trip over my own feet or stumble over a providential bump in the path, He always sets my feet upon a rock. He doesn’t leave me to find my own way up. He picks me up and sets me up to walk again. And He does this over and over and over again. When I sin and repent, He forgives over and over and over again. Without fail. Furthermore, no fall is too great that He cannot set me on the path again. He will. He always will. None of His sheep get lost. He always finds them when they wander. His record at keeping sheep is untarnished. There’s no safer place to fall than in His fold.

I grow weary. I need sleep. But the Shepherd stays awake. He watches diligently that I am not harmed. Nothing goes past Him unnoticed. Even while I dream about fulfilling some selfish want, He plans how He will redeem me again. And even before I start into the slough of despond, He plans how He will pull me out. Nothing, absolutely nothing–not even my own selfish wants–will keep me from His best for me. He is too great to be thwarted by little me–a speck of dust and foolish sheep.

He keeps me. None can take me from His hand. No tribulation, peril, or sword is strong enough. I am not even strong enough to leave. How comforting this is. When I wonder if I could fall from grace, He is gracious to remind me that my trust is in Him, not myself. And if He saved me, then He surely will keep me. Oh what a wonderful God He is!

He is right there to comfort me and give me rest. In the midst of life’s toils, I need seek no further for refreshment than the shade He provides. He is always there by my side to provide strength and sustenance. He is there to give me relief from the harsh blaze of the noonday sun. At night, He is my light. The trials I face are always easier when I’m covered with His wings.

He will keep me from all evil. Not just some evil. Not just the evil that I notice. Not just the evil that I fight against first. But all evil. What a comfort! My preservation in righteousness is not dependent on my faithfulness but on His faithfulness. He will keep my life. There is no one else who could make such a promise. But God can because He is my Maker and rescuer from eternal fire. And thus, He is fully committed to bringing me safe to the other side of these tumultuous waters.

The Lord will keep me in all my ways. Whether I am at home or abroad, He will keep me in His will. He has every step ordained for me. Though I exercise the wisdom He gives me to decide what I will do with any given moment, ultimately it is He Who determines my steps. How comforting and strengthening it is to know that I can do nothing if He doesn’t ordain it. And I can go nowhere without Him taking me there. Therefore, I can confidently go in the direction of my dreams, knowing that the God Who placed those desires in my heart will be faithful to guide me every step of the way. He will bring about His plan for my life, and I don’t have to worry that He will make a mistake. Because He won’t.

Never in history has my God failed. Never in eternity will He lose one battle. Never in forever will He fall short of one thing that He sets out to accomplish. This is the God Who holds me in His hand. This is the God Who guides me with His eye. This is the God Who covers me with His wings. What have I to fear? Absolutely nothing. Because my help comes from the Lord. My help is the Lord.

Lamentations 3:37-42 — Sermon Notes

Sermon heard at Grace Bible Church / 2-6-11

vs. 37

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord [Adonai] has commanded it?

Adonai = sovereign master

nothing happens unless God has commanded it.

Psalm 33:9-11

For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

Pro. 16:9

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Pro. 20:24

A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?

Isaiah 45:6-7

that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.

vs. 38

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? good and bad come from God

bad = calamity

Amos 3:6

Is a trumpet blown in a city,and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?

Job 2:10

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

If God is not in control of the bad, we have no hope that He is in control of the good. If He is not in control of the bad, then the bad could rob Him of the ability to do good.

vs. 39

Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?

Repentance can only happen when you’re alive.

Pro. 19:3

When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.

vs. 40

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord[Jahweh]!

Jahweh = personal God

Careful thorough examination of yourself is required.

Examine yourself with the light of Scripture in order to see clearly.

Return to the Lord.

Sin is always walking away from God.

Isaiah 55:6,7

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way,and the unrighteous man his thoughts;let him return to the  Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

vs. 41

Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven:

lift up = prayer

Lift up your heart with your hands and say “Lord, fix this thing.”

Rend your heart, not your garments. This is an inner, not merely outer, change.

Joel 2:13

and rend your hearts and not your garments.”Return to the  Lord your God,for he is gracious and merciful,slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

vs. 42

“We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven.

Call your sin by its proper name. (not “mistake”)

rebel = defy

This is what every sin is.

1 John 3:4

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

lawlessness = open rebellion

Genuine repentance is:

1. honest about the nature of my sin

2. admitting that I am at fault and God is righteous

3. humbly submitting to God’s sovereign authority and Lordship

4. holding firmly to the goodness of God (even in chastising)

5. begun in the heart, not merely external (Ps 51:16-17)

6. returning myself to God

Repentance is not repentance if not followed by getting back up and following the Shepherd.

This is when repentance is completed.

When you keep condemning yourself after you’ve “repented”, you’re putting yourself on the throne as supreme judge.

This, too, is sin. It proves you really didn’t repent because you aren’t giving God His rightful place of judge (He forgives and sets free). Repent of pride in thinking of yourself too highly.

Summary: Repentance brings us back to the way of the Good Shepherd. It is a way of grace and forgiveness.

Lamentations 3:33-36 — Sermon Notes

Sermon heard at Grace Bible Church / 1-30-11

Lamentations 3:33-36

For the Lord will not cast off forever,but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth,to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the Lord does not approve.

We have to hold on to both:

His absolutely sovereign goodness

His absolutely good sovereignty

Affliction is not the primary thought of His mind. It is not the core of His being.

Compassion is.

But, we have to repent before He can show compassion. So He sends affliction to move us to repentance so He can show compassion.

Ez. 33:11

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Affliction, for God’s people, always comes to an end, but never His compassion.

Hab. 1

Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told…

(and He proceeds to explain how He is raising up the Chaldeans to wreak havoc)

Isaiah 28:21

For the Lord will rise up as on Mount Perazim; as in the Valley of Gibeon he will be roused; to do his deed—strange is his deed! and to work his work—alien is his work!

Affliction is not God’s normal (usual, characteristic, heartfelt) work.

But, restoration requires us to repent. And it may require affliction. Affliction is a lesser good that serves a greater good.

Isaiah 53

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Summary: God’s defining character is compassion, not affliction. He merely uses affliction to bring us to repentance so that He can show us compassion.

Clarification

My Bible study posts are a combination of what I believe the passage actually teaches and how it applies to my life specifically. However, I have not differentiated between the two types of journaling. Readers should be aware of this as they read my posts. My posts should not be considered expositions of Scripture, but rather personal ponderings that I decided to share online.