I was reading recently in Luke 23:54-62 and the account of Peter’s denial of Christ. When we think about failure within our own lives and ministry, there are many things that don’t quite measure up to this type of failure. Our own stinky attitudes and pride may contribute to some failure in our lives, but they pale in comparison to what Peter has done. Peter told Jesus, to His face, that he was “…ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). Yet we find later that Peter is “following [Christ] at a distance” (Luke 22:54) and we find Peter vehemently denying that he ever had anything to do with Jesus (Luke 22: 57-60). What makes this all the worse is that not only does Peter go against his very word that he made with Jesus, but we find a very eerie verse, after Peter’s three-fold denial, that reads, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter...” (Luke 22:61a). What a tremendous sense of failure that must have come over Peter to see the look on Jesus’ face after he denied Him three times. We can see the great effect that this had on Peter when the passage says about Peter, “And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). Yet, as we reflect on even our “smallest” sins, Christ is consistently turning and looking at us as well. Peter has failed, but so have we, and that in no small way.
WEEPING DUE TO SIN
When is the last time you “wept bitterly”? When is the last time you were broken over your sins and humbled in your heart because of it? When is the last time the Lord brought some sin (or sins!) to mind and it made you tear up due to the shame and guilt, and even, sense of failure that you felt? I’ve felt this recently in my own life over a couple of areas in my life. The only response that has arisen from my heart is, “I have sinned.” I have sinned primarily against God (see Psalm 51:4 and David’s admission of sin and repentance), and I have sinned against people. Unless we have this reaction, we will remain proud and convinced of our own righteousness and goodness. We will remain worse for it until we are convinced of our own sin. It is a mercy, and a good gift from God, that we see our sin in its darkest shade, for it is only in this lowly place that we can be exalted for “…the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14b).
YET GOD IS UNSPEAKABLY GRACIOUS TOWARDS US
Yet, in the midst of our failure, in the midst of our own shortcomings, and in the midst of our own sin, no matter what it is, God is amazingly, and unspeakably, gracious towards us. Here is a quote at the bottom of my study bible regarding this passage:
“God uses these real-life, flawed people as pictures of his loving and merciful kindness towards us. God cares most about our hearts, and even when we fail out of fear and rebellion he restores us out of his abundant grace. Such stories reveal God’s heart of acceptance and forgiveness. When we understand God properly in this way, it creates in us a freedom to be honest and open about our weaknesses and failures, which is precisely the humility needed to approach God. Our acceptance of God’s acceptance of us–free from condemnation, because of Christ (Rom. 8:1)–woos and draws us near to God and frees us from shame and fear” (pg. 1399 of “The Gospel Transformation Study Bible.”).
DO I ACCEPT THAT GOD ACCEPTS ME IN CHRIST?
Here’s my main question to myself today: “Do I accept that God accepts me in Christ?” In one sense, I can understand why I ask that question to myself. Look at my life and the mess I’ve made. I’m proud, arrogant, boastful, a “know-it-all,” and I have taken most of the good things that God has given to me for granted. How could God love me? How could God accept me? Yet, when I look at the first question asked above closely enough, it is rich with theological and practical significance. The question does not merely ask, “Does God accept me?,” but instead asks, “Do I accept that God accepts me in Christ?” If I am In Christ, If I have accepted Christ as Savior, if God has reached down, in mercy, and has saved my soul through the cross of Christ, then How Could He Not accept me, since His acceptance of me is Not based on my own merits, but on Christ’s perfect merits? When the question is put this way, it is actually blasphemous and heresy to claim that God won’t accept me if I am in Christ, if I am His child, since it would be like saying Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient to cover my guilt and shame. But Christ’s sacrifice Is sufficient enough to cover All my guilt and shame; all the guilt and shame that I’ve accrued to this point in my life and all the guilt and shame that I’ve yet to accrue in my life. How could I Not worship and love a God that has been so good to me? How could I not live for a God that has shown grace upon grace to me, especially at the times in my life when I’ve least deserved it? It is only as we see His grace day by day that we are formed into His image, of sanctification and holiness, day by day (see 2 Corinthians 3:16-18). May God give us the insight and the discipline to “preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” (taken from Jerry Bridges and his book “The Discipline of Grace“) so that we can live for Him in humility and serve Him with all gratitude and thankfulness, no matter what He may allow to come in our lives, and now matter how great we fail. “But God demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
I’d love to hear your comments in the “Comments” section below about your own interaction with failure and God’s grace.
- How do you wrestle with, and accept, the fact that you have failed, but that God is still gracious enough to accept you because of what Christ has done for you on the cross?