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
"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." —
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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
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
[By JIM KILLEBREW]
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