Oh the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ in how He offers us the gift of repentance! Not just at conversion, but throughout our years of sanctification as well. For the past 2 months I’ve been walking through a season of grief. Desperate grief. Not just because of loss, but also over sin. I awoke many nights to nightmares. Wept until my body gave way and the tears ceased to flow. Despaired of life until I begged the Lord to finally end it. The Gospels point to something incredibly clear about repentance. Specifically, that our definition as believers of repentance needs to be completely rewired. Repentance isn’t feeling bad or martyring yourself for your sin. Repentance is turning from sin and loving Jesus above all else. How do we know this? John 21.
- Peter committed high treason against the King. He turned his back on Jesus three times, denying him to all who asked of his involvement with the Christ. When Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples after He had been risen from the grave, there was no conversation between Jesus and His beloved Peter. Peter sheepishly returns to the community, but never interacts with Jesus. Until Christ comes to Peter in chapter 21 of John. Knowing Peter denied Him, knowing the weight of the sin Peter carried, Jesus…. in all of His lovingkindness, grace, mercy, steadfast love, asks Peter “Do you love me more than these?” (talking about his friends and fellow brothers). Peter, in Peter-like fashion, quickly answers, “Yes, Lord”. I remember hearing Jesus ask me the same question after I fell into sin. “Louisa, do you love me more than these?” At the time I could not answer that question. Because I didn’t. I loved the humans God gave me as a gift more than I could love Him. Used them. Idolatry. Then, Jesus asks Peter again… “Peter, do you love me?”, a resounding “Yes, Lord!” once again exits his mouth. A third, this time Peter becomes grieved that Jesus has to ask a third time. “Yes, Lord, I love you.” Jesus then tells Peter to feed His sheep… Now Peter, once His loves have been rewired and reordered, can love the people God would put in his path to love.
- How did Jesus respond to Peter’s sin? The same way he responds to us when we sin. Jesus doesn’t ask us if we prayed for forgiveness enough. Fasted enough. Wept enough. Been afflicted enough. It was only after Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me” and he was able to answer, “yes!” was all the other expressions of repentance acceptable. Jesus catechizes Peter with the tough question of his love for Him. Never condemning His beloved Peter. When we, His children, come before our Almighty God in repentance, He will never ask if we did enough to feel bad about our sin. The end result of all the expressions of repentance should be, “Yes Lord, I love you above all else”. The Father disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12). For a time that discipline is painful. It will produce a suffering that we were never meant to know, and a death that we were never meant to taste. We should not grow weary under this discipline, although it will cause our hands to droop and our knees to be weak. Sometimes the consequences for our sin will be the most excruciating pain we will ever know. When we have been trained by God’s discipline, the fruit of righteousness and peace will be our reward (Hebrews 12). Jesus took the time to speak to Peter specifically about his denying Him. He knows our hearts, He knows the weights and guiltiness that our sin brings. Yet, with all compassion towards Peter, He simply asks… Do you love me? Not, “did you do ____ enough?”“I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my cause and executes judgement FOR me. He will bring me out into the light; I shall look upon His vindication. Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of His inheritance? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sin into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old”. (Micah 7)