Amazing Grace

In previous posts, we’ve said that Christianity is a living, vibrant relationship with a living, resurrected Savior.

Romans 6:14 reminds us, “For sin shall no longer be your master because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

It is the Grace of God through His son, Jesus Christ in whom we find the power to overcome the tyranny and oppression of sin.

“Really?” you might ask.  “Cuz that doesn’t sound at all like how it’s been going for me.”

If that sounds like you, take heart; you’re not alone.  Many, many of us feel the way the Apostle Paul must have when he wrote these words, found in the book of Romans, chapter 7, verses 15-20:

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

As we might also say, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”  And I cannot carry it out, because the thing that I want to do (sin) is a stronger desire within me than is doing the thing that I know is right – ‘cuz the “law” told me so…or my conscience….or something….it keeps me in check.  And when I don’t carry it out (i.e., I sin), I ultimately feel badly.”

Yep, that pretty well sums it up.  On our own, we can do some pretty serious damage in this world.

But fortunately, as we continue to read our Bibles, we learn that God saw fit to share with us, people who mess up like us…and sometimes worse.  And yet He still loves us and wants to be in relationship with us.

Consider the story of the Apostle Peter.

Now, if you’ve read some of the Bible, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, yeah, there are a lot of examples you could pick when it comes to Peter.”

Maybe so.  But for now, let’s consider the big one.  You remember.  The one where he’s so passionate about protecting Jesus that he picks up a sword in the garden to try and defend him when the soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees come to arrest Jesus.   But maybe because Peter trained more as a fisherman than a soldier, he doesn’t wield a sword very well and ends up slicing the ear off of Malchus, one of the high priests’ servants.  (John 18)

Oh, yeah, that’s a good story about best intentions sometimes leading to bad outcomes and though we can probably all relate well to it, let’s go a little bit further down the path.

Jesus touched and miraculously healed Malchus ear but the soldiers still arrested him that night in the garden.

The soldiers ultimately did arrest Jesus that night in the garden and took him away to be tried before the high priest (Caiaphas).

Peter followed behind them but was ultimately made to wait in Caiaphas’ courtyard. Verse 18 says, “It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm.  Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.”

If you’re familiar with the story, you’ll recall that on three separate occasions that night, Peter was asked whether he knew Jesus or if he was one of His disciples.  And all three times, just as Jesus had earlier prophesied, by the time the cock crowed in the morning, Peter had (3x) denied being one of His disciples or even knowing Him.

Queue the ‘oh, now you’ve done it’  music.  Oh, c’mon!.  And be really careful how you answer this now but, have you ever denied being associated with Jesus?  …ever acted as though, when you’re with certain people, He’s not the same friend you’d defend and call upon when you’re in trouble?  Ok, maybe that’s just me…and Pete.

But wait, it gets worse.  Fast forward in the story to where Jesus has now been “tried,” found “guilty,” crucified, died, buried and resurrected and has begun to again visit with His disciples.

On one such occasion, Peter had decided to go out fishing.  Now we don’t know if this was one of those “wanna get away?” moments or if Peter was just returning to his former life (as we sometimes want to do; often after we’ve been disappointed) but the point is, he was out fishing.  And some of the other disciples decided to go with him.  It says they fished through the night but caught nothing.  (Sound familiar?)

The twenty-first chapter of the Book of John goes on to tell it this way,

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

While they had not previously been able to recognize that it was Jesus who had been talking with them from shore, suddenly, John recognized him.  Maybe it was the way Jesus told them to ‘cast their nets on the other side’ as He had the first time He had called them to become fishers of men.  And John told Peter, and Peter jumped into the water and headed for shore.  He too now must have made the connection and recognized Jesus’ calling them and in doing so, performing a miracle, once again.

The Bible records that they had been out about one hundred yards and that the other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish.  It then goes on to describe what must have been an eerily familiar scene to Peter; one that may have even caused him to pause.  Verse 15 says, “When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals…” no doubt, much like the one that Peter had stood by earlier when Jesus was being questioned and Peter denied Him. And yet, the same fire that had represented Peter’s greatest sin, was about to become the place of Peter’s redemption.

Jesus invited the men to “come and have breakfast.”  Verse 15 goes on;

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Such an amazing example of redemptive grace and just the kind that our Lord still promises to those who love and follow Him today.

Our God is a God of second chances; full of forgiveness, mercy and grace.

But like Peter, we have to be willing to be humbled; to sometimes even be corrected if we are going to be redeemed.

Grace is God’s amazing gift to us and He gives it freely to us through the life, death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ.

Freedom unlike any we have ever experienced when we accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus and invite Him to take residence within us.

Dear friends, I pray that you will keep this close to your heart the next time you falter; God’s grace is abundantly sufficient.

As our friend and Bible teacher, Charles Morris recently points out. ‘Just as Jesus didn’t give His disciples the opportunity to leave the shoreline that day without receiving His marvelous grace, He won’t leave you where you are now.’

“Peter had forgotten his Christ…betrayed Him even, when it mattered the most.  Yet Jesus never forgot Peter and He never forgets us either.  He calls us back.”

“Jesus didn’t just forgive Peter.  He restored Peter.  And He can do the same for you and me.” Maybe you’re like Peter.  Too ashamed or guilty to come to Christ. (But) Christ already knows what you’ve done, who you are.  And He opens His hands to you even now.”  …nail-scarred hands that tell us how deep His love for us goes.”

“What is your charcoal fire?” Charles, asks.  “Don’t let it become the source of your despair.  Instead, go back to it; tell the Lord about it, confess it to Him.  Tell Him you love Him.  He loves you and He doesn’t want to see you fail. But when you do; when I do; He’s always faithful to welcome us back. It’s a meal Peter never forgot and it’s a meal you and I desperately need.  Even when we are faithless, He is faithful still; today yesterday and forevermore.”

None of us understand what we do.  For what we want to do, we do not do, but what we hate, we do.  We recognize that it is sin within us that causes us to fall.  We’ll do well to recognize that it is the Grace of God through Christ that has saved us from our sin and His Spirit within that inspires us forward.

What a Gracious, Patient Savior we have.

Thanks be to God.

Right here with you,