Letting Go of the Past…Three Times

fishnet“Peter, do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord, You know I love You.”

“Feed My sheep.”

That conversation was deeper than we realize. Peter had messed up in a moment of panic, fear, and haste. He had denied the Lord 3 times, cursed, and swore with an oath to hide his identity and save his own skin. And then he had to make eye contact with the very person he had betrayed, and have the realization hit him…everything Jesus said would happen, did happen. Jesus knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. There was nothing left for Peter now. The crowing of the rooster may as well have been a bugle sounding Taps over Peter’s dying ministry.  He just fled the painful scene, wept bitterly, and separated himself from his band of brothers and any association with what it meant to be a follower of Christ.

Go back to what you did before, Peter. Go get the boat. Launch out there in the deep, where you don’t have to talk to anyone, look anyone in the eye, feel others looking at YOU, judging. You didn’t mess up with the boat…it was YOUR boat. Even though…you were catching nothing that day until Jesus told you where to toss that net!

Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me” three times. I like to think He did so because He was giving Peter a VERBAL chance three times to undo those three denials. Peter, normally the loudest mouth of the twelve, couldn’t bring himself to say “I love You” on his own, not after what he had done.  The outspoken one, overcome in his guilt and deep shame, now needed help from the Master just to say what was bursting in his heart.  How could those mere words ever undo what he had done?  So, Jesus, Who knew exactly what Peter was wrestling with, showed him where to lower the nets once more. Jesus proved to Peter that He could forgive without humiliating and ostracizing.  He could restore him without putting him on probation, without demoting him, without dismissing all those times when Peter was part of the inner circle of His circle.  And that command, “Feed my sheep?” He was saying, “You don’t belong back in the fishing business, Peter. Your heart is to serve Me. I can see right through your weaknesses, and I know that in your heart, you would rather be close to Me than anything in this world. Come back. There’s still very much a place for you here. You belong in ministry. You belong to me. I forgive you. Let’s turn a page and finish this thing better than the chapter we’re on now.”

Have you made some mistakes that make you feel as if you are unworthy to receive Jesus’ forgiveness? Do you feel disqualified to follow Him, or specifically, disqualified to lead others to Him? Jesus is asking YOU today, “Do you love Me? Oh, I already know the answer, but I want YOU to think long and hard, past the guilt, past the self-loathing and regrets. You KNOW you love Me, and I know you love Me. Let’s turn a page. I’m far from finished with what I am going to do through you, and I want you to know that you are NOT damaged goods. You are not going to be left on the reject pile, forgiven but left broken. I am fixing you and I want you walking close to Me again, as My friend, as My confidante, as someone that I TRUST (yes, I TRUST you!) to love others like I’ve loved you!”

Pray with me: “Father, I’m putting aside my own feelings and the urge to run away. There is no place else I’m at peace but in Your presence. I can’t even go back to life as before and do it the way I did before I knew You. I need You! Forgive my sins, my mistakes, blot out anything that stepped between us. Fix me and if You want to use me, I’m here. Lord, You really DO know my heart. You know I’ve always loved You even when I let my flesh do the decision-making. Help me rise above my own will. Cleanse me and help me say no to whatever causes distance between us. I don’t want to feel like I can’t come near You anymore. I receive Your forgiveness and I am going to have a good finish–like Peter! In Jesus’ name.” Amen.

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