by Jodie Niznik
No one is perfect. We all experience moments of responding in anger instead of patience, using careless words instead of thoughtful ones and acting selfishly instead of generously. To be honest, sometimes we have no idea why we do the things we do—since they are the exact opposite of what we wanted to do in the first place. I resonate with the words of Paul, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do I do” (Romans 7:15, NIV). Anyone else?
Peter, the disciple, also struggled with doing things he never thought he would. The day before Jesus died, Jesus told Peter and the other disciples that they would all walk away from Him. Peter confidently declared that even if everyone else rejected Him, he never would. I imagine Jesus shook His head slightly at Peter’s overblown confidence as He said, “This very night . . . you will disown me three times” (Matthew 26:31-34). Not once—but three times.
You probably know the rest of the story. Peter did just what he said he wouldn’t. Jesus was arrested and when three different people asked him if he was associated with Jesus, he adamantly replied “no” and capped it off with a forceful, “I don’t even know the man!” (Matthew 27:69-75).
Overwhelmed by his failure, Peter drew away and wept bitter tears. We don’t really know what those bitter tears held, but I think Peter mentally berated himself as he wondered how he could have caved so easily, why he let fear get the best of him, and how much he wished he could get a do-over to make it right.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Not the exact scenario, of course, but we know something of the shame Peter must have felt. And how those feelings can lead us to question if we’ve crossed some imaginary line that means God is finally done with us.
The good news is you haven’t crossed that line. The better news is, as a follower of Jesus, you can’t—even if you tried. There is no sin or failure that could ever remove you from God’s love, grace and forgiveness. Our eternal relationship and right standing with Him are secure because of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Romans 8:1–2). This is something theologians call eternal security, and it is a beautiful truth that we can stand on. Once we choose to have faith in Jesus, there is nothing we can do that will ever separate us from His love and acceptance (Romans 8:38–39).
This doesn’t mean there won’t be natural or relational consequences for our sin. But as far as you and God go, you are covered in, dripping with and soaked to the bone in His grace. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve in the best possible way (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16).
Look at it this way, when Jesus died on the cross, it was more than two thousand years ago. That meant you weren’t even a twinkle in your great, great grandmother’s eyes. Thus, Jesus died to cover your sins before you were even born to commit one. Which means His death must also cover the ones you’ve yet to do. I know, it’s a mind bender, but an amazing one. There is nothing you have done or can do that would make Jesus turn away from you. Read John 10:28–29 and Romans 8:38–39, if you need more assurance.
Peter learned and experienced this truth in a very personal way. After Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus went to great lengths to make sure Peter knew he was not only forgiven but also loved and restored. One of the ways Jesus did this was through a last meal shared by the lake. Over a breakfast of fish, Jesus asked Peter three times, one for each time Peter had denied Him, “Do you love me?” Peter replied each time, “Yes, Lord. You know I love you.” And with each reply, Jesus reminded Peter of his calling (John 21:15-22). What a sweet gift—Peter essentially got that do-over with Jesus.
It was after this conversation and Jesus’ ascension into heaven, that we see Peter never turn back. He lived into who he was called to be. With the help of the Holy Spirit, he founded the church and spread the gospel—at great cost. I’m sure he still made mistakes, no one is perfect. But he never let his failures hold him back, and we should be very grateful. Somewhere along the line, if you could know all the conversations throughout history, you’d probably be able to trace your knowing about Jesus back to Peter’s faithfulness.
I don’t know what failure seems to be weighing you down, but I know Jesus would love to have a similar conversation with you like He had with Peter. There’s nothing you have done that can remove you from His love and grace. Can I encourage you to take a moment right now and imagine Jesus asking you what He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Tell Him you do. And then receive His love, forgiveness and grace. Then ask Him to help you let go of the past so you can follow Him more fully today.
Just like with Peter, God’s got good work for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). Don’t let the enemy use shame or fear to try to push you down or hold you back. The truth is, we need you—your voice, gifts and perspective. We all benefit when you live into who God created you to be. So, let the past go and move forward with Jesus today.