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Restored by forgiveness

By Jim Killebrew

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[April 07, 2014]  In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul presented an argument that those who live an unrighteous life outside the life in Christ will be condemned. He even said that those who may do good works are not really "good" enough to earn salvation if the person remains outside the gospel of Christ. Paul goes even further and says that being part of the "chosen" people of God, as in being Jewish,  is not good enough outside of the blood of Christ. In fact, Paul said that no person in the entire world could be saved outside of the blood of Christ. He culminates his argument by saying that all have sinned and fall far short of God's glory, and of course, the wages of sin is death.

The Apostle Paul affirmed his faith in the gospel of Christ and the power it has to save us. He openly confirmed his belief and preached it without shame. He said: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'"  Romans 1:16-17 KJV

As we continue to live by faith in Christ and put our trust into Him and the work He did on the cross, we are safe in His arms. God is always ready to make sure that we are loved. Paul reminded us of that by telling us just how loved we are. He said: "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:37-39 KJV

Now, sometimes Christians can begin to live in ways that brings separation between God and that Christian. Choices to live in faith in Christ Jesus are constant; we continue to choose each day, perhaps even multiple times per day. But even when we move away from Christ, we are still loved by Him. We can revive the sin nature within us and drive away the Holy Spirit from our lives by the choices we make and the life we choose to live. We can even deny Christ, and in a sense, re-crucify Him.

If we continue in that denial of Christ, we are in danger of being lost; or we can return to Him and be restored by Him because He continues to love us even when we have denied Him. We have two distinct examples in the Gospel accounts. Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was lost because he never came back to Jesus for restoration. Instead he hanged himself, thereby separating himself from that love forever. Peter, on the other hand, denied Jesus three times on the very night that Judas betrayed Jesus.

Peter had recognized his denial and had bitterly wept because of it. But the moment he heard that the tomb was empty, Peter ran to investigate. When Jesus was resurrected from death, He appeared to Peter and the other disciples during a 40-day period. We don't know for sure everything that went through Peter's mind during that period when Jesus walked and talked with them. But it may be that Peter often thought about that night when he actually denied his Lord with a curse for the third time.

Luke, the physician, is the only one of the Gospel writers who records that at the very moment Peter denied Jesus the third time; the Lord turned and looked at Peter.

"And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly."  Luke 22:60-62 KJV

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Sometimes when we are in the very act of denial of our Lord we can feel the impact of His soft, gentle, piercing, but loving eyes gaze our way. He looks directly into our heart even as we deny His existence. Yet when we feel that piercing in our spirit, we know there is still hope. His message is that He still loves us and wants to restore us to Himself.

We know that because we have seen that restoration. We simply look at Peter and his denial of Jesus. The Apostle John preserved for us the account of Peter's restoration to Jesus.

"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep."  John 21:15-17 KJV

Three times Peter denied Jesus and three times Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to reaffirm his love for Jesus. Notice the words that are used in this passage. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him more than those people or things around him. Peter answered Jesus by saying that he loved Him. Jesus asked Peter again with the same response. Finally, a third time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. This time Peter is a bit grieved, and he said in essence, "You know, Jesus, I love you."

Two different Greek words for love are used in this passage. One word for love is the word agape, which denotes a form of love that God has for mankind. The other word used is the form of the word philo. This word is a good word and may also be used to express the love between God and man, or man toward God. However, it also has a slight variation that means the same as a love between family members, like brotherly love or friends. Some believe that the agape is a much stronger word than philo. Jesus used the stronger word in this passage, and Peter never used the stronger form of the word. Using the words as they are in the original, the conversation between Peter and Jesus would be like the following:

Jesus asked Peter if he truly loved (agape) Him like God would love Him, and Peter replied to Jesus that he was His friend (philo). A second time Jesus asked Peter if he truly loved (agape) Him, and again Peter replied that he was Jesus' friend (philo). The third time Jesus asked Peter if he was His friend (philo); even though this grieved Peter, he still replied to Jesus that he was His friend (philo).

The outcome of the conversation was that Jesus restored Peter and lifted him to great heights in the ministry. Peter preached the first message on the day of Pentecost where 3,000 accepted Jesus and were baptized into Him. So Jesus stands ready to restore any of us who might want to return to Him and live in faith through Christ.

[By JIM KILLEBREW]

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