So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” John 21:15
This is for all of us who are looking for home. This is for all of us who have been rejected and condemned by the church. This is for you who, in one form or another, walked in service to Christ, but did something stupid, and have fallen out of relationship to Him. This is for those of us who have, for a season, felt the loss when God let you have your way, cut the moorings from his shore, and your ship drifted, alone, lost at sea.
You miss the joy of your salvation. You miss the sweet fellowship you had in your Bible studies, worship, and prayers. You miss the embrace and fellowship of other, like-minded, servants of Christ.
You have been shunned by friends, family, and strangers. You think, “But they don’t know what is in my heart!” No, they don’t, and chances are, they never will. You have to accept some realities, and it is not easy.
Is the joy of your salvation an echo of things past? Is the sweet embrace of the Holy Spirit now just an ache of longing?
Is the weight of your sin so unbearable that sometimes, you wonder if people are right about you, that you cannot be redeemed, that you are better off dead, that you would do more people a favor if you just went away?
I have good news for you. You are wrong. People are wrong. And God is waiting with His arms outstretched, waiting with all his heart for you to come home.
I can tell you this because I have just gone through this.
There was a time in Peter’s life that he swore to Jesus “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” (Mat 26:33) Jesus told Peter, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (Matt 26:34)
Peter was a strong and courageous, if not a bit hot headed, man. The thought of denying Jesus never occurred to him. He rested in his own strength to stand with Christ when things really hit the fan.
But when they did, Peter denied Christ three times before the rooster crowed.
“And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” Matt 26:75
Now, you weren’t at the arrest and trial of Christ, AND you are not Peter. But, you were saved, and you were serving. And you did something that separated you from God’s loving fellowship. You suddenly understood what the first part of the verse in Isa 54:7 meant: “For a small moment have I forsaken thee;” and now you want to have the rest of that verse apply to you as well: “but with great mercies will I gather thee.”
After my fall from God, I went out and wept bitterly. I could feel His absence as loudly as a clap of thunder. I know it is not conventional theology to say that for a season God will separate Himself from you, but He will, and does as He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
I used to tell my wife that I want to return to His fellowship, but I have no way of knowing how to get back to Him. The good news, as you will eventually discover, is that you have not even left the palm of His hand. He has simply left you to your own devices for a season.
Eventually, and my wife will attest to this, eventually, if returning is your hearts true yearning and intent, then you will have the support of the entire Kingdom of Heaven.
CIRCLE 1: Draw a circle around yourself (Not really, but in your mind). Include in that circle everything that is currently you. You have to be totally honest, here. Include all that you perceive is good and from God, and in a separate pile, include all you have said, or done, that is not of God. You will know what those things are by the way they reveal your relationship to God. Everything you do either accepts Christ as your Lord, or it rejects Christ as Lord. Even though the hurt you have caused was to others, as well, in the end, it is a behavior that ultimately denies Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
God may do you like He did me, and have me pick up every little behavior that denied Him, and address each one on an individual basis. But I am, and you can ask my wife, a Jack Ass. It takes me longer to do things because I am stubborn.
Eventually, God will show you that, because you have confessed your sin, He has dealt with them. He promises us all that He has thrown them as far away as the East is from the West. That he has trampled them underfoot, and remembers them no more. That He has cast them into the sea of forgetfulness. Jesus died for ALL of our sin, past, present and future. That is not a license to sin, it is the permission to forgive yourself if you have repented.
Accept this forgiveness, and forgive yourself. Your judgment is not greater than God’s. If He has forgiven you, then you are forgiven, PERIOD. This may take time, or it might be instant. In the end, you will know the joy of your salvation. There is no sin you can commit that is so bad that God will not forgive you, if it is in your heart to repent. All sin is a denial of Christs work on the cross. Be forgiven. You will be free.
CIRCLE 2: Now, draw a larger circle around that first circle. The first circle represents God dealing with you, and you doing business with God.
Circle 2 contains all the people your sin has directly affected.
You are forgiven, but not forgotten. You have hurt people you love. You must lay your offering at the alter and seek forgiveness for all the hurt you have done. This is an ongoing process, and may not be able to be accomplished overnight. But it is necessary. And it is good, albeit a hard thing to do. You have to overcome your fear of rejection, your fear of not being taken seriously, and possible the reality that you may not be forgiven. There really is nothing you can do about that, but you must, with all Godly intention, seek forgiveness for the harm you have done. Whatever happens from your effort, God will show you how it is a blessing. Some loss happens, but if you stand in your faith, God will see it through. Many times, healing happens. And it will be good, and fruitful for both of you.
CIRCLE 3: These are the people that you did not sin against, but are really angry because you have hurt someone thy love when you sinned. Listen closely. You still have to do business with them. You have to obey God in this. Forgive their hatred and the terrible, and hurtful things they have said to you and about you. And seek their forgiveness. It would help a lot if the person or persons in the second circle would go with you, and help smooth things over, so that they can see that a genuine change has happened in your heart.
They will either accept that you are redeemed, or not. They will either forgive you or not. You do not know the hearts of men (or women), but God does. He knows where they are in their walk, you don’t. He knows where they need work, you don’t, and unless God uses you to affect their changes, you have no business interfering with the work God is doing in their lives. BUT, you do get to love them. You do get to pray with them and for them.
Take care of this business. Don’t worry about the outcomes. Your walk doesn’t depend on how people in the second and third circle treat you, what they say about you, or if they believe you. Your walk depends ONLY on your obedience to God. He has called you to return to His embrace. He has cleansed you of your sin. He has demonstrated His overwhelming love for you.
Peter denied Christ three times. In order to restore Peter, Jesus asked Peter, three times, if Peter loved him. This sealed Peter in his love for Christ. Peter eventually did die for the sake of the Gospel.
This leads to
CIRCLE 4: Now you have done all you can to be redeemed to God, your beloved friends and loved ones, and the people who were affected by your behavior.
YOU ARE FREE!
Be free to serve. Be recklessly abandoned to Christ and His service for you. This is the 4th circle. Jesus said:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matt 28:20
Now you feel his call. You do not need anyone’s permission to obey. Lay your hindrances at God’s feet, and He will clear the way for you to serve Christ. It IS your call, and God’s gift is without repentance.
Go, be about it.