We have been in a pretty big discussion this fall, haven’t we?  We are talking about what it truly could and should look like to live a life that is redeemed and forgiven.  This series is intentionally building each week, taking us to a place where we can answer some important questions.  Questions like, how do we live like we have been redeemed and forgiven? How do we take our freedom and apply it to life? How do we live with courage when we face so many challenges in our lives?  I mean life isn’t getting any easier so how do we live with courage while facing sin, pain, stress, fear, harmful relationships, negativity, and all that goes on in this world?  Forget courage, how do we live out this amazing “New Life in Christ” that we keep reading about in Scripture…you know that life and life to the full that Jesus tells us He came to give us?  I mean how do we live with joy, peace, in that abundant life with so much pushing against us.  Well that is the goal of this series to get us to a place where we can truly live as the forgiven and redeemed.  So I don’t know if you remember all the way back to the days when we were meeting outside but in the introduction to this series I let you know that this series is a building process and really breaks down into three sections.  Do you remember that?

  • In part 1 we will talk about the thing that everyone needs, which is transformation. 
  • In part 2 we will talk about the thing that most Christians struggle with, which is living this out. 
  • In part 3 we will discuss the last thing most Christians would ever want to do, which is surrender our lives to God. 

Since the introduction of this series we have been hanging out in that first section on transformation which we will conclude today.  This has been five weeks of diving into the foundational parts of our faith.  We have been talking about living a transformed life, how we can ruin the Gospel, what our true identity is, and last week Ken really talked to us about the choices we make as two kingdoms battle over our souls, and today we will end this section of the series by talking about what to do when we struggle and mess up along the way.  Yes, I used the word when…because we will struggle and mess up along the way.  Then next week Ken will open the next part of this series, which really will focus on the thing that most of us struggle with most, which is actually living out our faith, you know living in out this “New Life.”  But before we jump into that next section there is one more conversation we need to have…and that is what happens when we mess up, you know when we sin…and while we don’t really like to talk about it (especially in church), and probably aren’t always all that comfortable admitting it, we all mess up, we fall short.  Paul says it so well in Romans 3.

Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. NLT

So the question isn’t what do we do IF you mess up but what do we do WHEN we mess up…because we will.  This is our reality as imperfect people living in this fallen world, which leads us all to the same place, that we are all sinners in desperate need of a Savior.  We need Jesus in our lives.  Just to reinforce what I just said there, let’s add just a few of the surrounding verses to what Paul said about us all sinning in Romans 3.

Romans 3:22 The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. 23 Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, 24 God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.  MSG

So let’s think about this for a moment, if everyone sins…if we all fall short, then it is really important for us to talk about what to do when we mess up…because we will.  This doesn’t mean we aren’t striving for holiness, and doesn’t mean we will just willingly sin and abuse God’s grace in our lives, but it does mean that we aren’t perfect, and we do mess up so we need to know how to handle it, which is exactly where we are heading today, but before we do I do want to take a moment and look back at Ken’s talk last week because it was a really important talk, and one that can help us see something that isn’t all that easy to see.

If you remember Ken was talking to us about sin, and the choices we need to make and just the challenges that we all face in it.  He really opened us up to the idea of a battle being waged over your soul…it’s the battle between good and evil and I thought he did an amazing job of helping us understand and visualize this spiritual war, which isn’t all that easy to understand.  It’s amazing how we all struggle with sin isn’t it?  Well now we know that it’s because of this battle that is being fought over you for your eternal destiny!  Does this sound intense?  Well, it’s because it is!  So if you haven’t read or watched his talk I would really encourage you to do so, because it can really help you understand why you, who loves God, and doesn’t want to sin, continues to struggle with sin.  It’s this battle that we all face.  Paul speaks so clearly about this in Romans 7…this is so significant for us to see. I think this section of scripture is something we can all relate to whether we would like to admit it or not, and I think it will lead us into our talk today.

Romans 7:15 What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. 16 So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. 17 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! 18 I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. 19 I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. 20 My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 21 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. 22 I truly delight in God’s commands, 23 but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. 24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. MSG

Ken really helped us see that there are two kingdoms at war over you.  And how you live today opens your life up to one of these kingdoms.  This is the battle, and there are ramifications, big ones, eternal ones…and the beauty of all of it is, that we have the answer in Jesus to all of it.  So with all of that said, we need to get back to the big thought of the day.  We aren’t perfect.  We know that we ALL mess up and fall short of God’s glorious standard and while we are doing our best to move towards holiness, we will continue to mess up from time to time and deal with sin.  Which leads us into an important discussion on what to do we do when (not if but when) we mess up.  To do that we are going to look at one of my favorite people in the New Testament, Peter and how he messed up and also how Jesus restores him because the reality is we will mess up but God’s love and grace and forgiveness are bigger than our past, present, and future sins…so there is a way through and it’s all found in God’s love.

As I thought through the idea of dealing with our sin and mistakes I wanted you to see that there is a bit of a process emotionally and spiritually, and I think you can see this unfolding in Peter’s life as he messes up too.  I want you to think through this and I think as you do you can see a lot of it unfolding for Peter in a story today…and hopefully we are able to personalize it, and see that this happens for all of us too.  So we mess up, and then this process of restoration can begin and it looks something like this.

Conviction – I think for anyone who loves God and understands right from wrong, when we recognize our sin we will feel bad about it.  There will be remorse because we do love God and want to do what is right.  You will see Peter grieve over his sin and selfishness and we do the same.  Now this conviction is a good thing, but can lead to guilt that if not dealt with can cause us to continue to sin or to walk in a weight that just shouldn’t be as people who should understand that Jesus and what He did for us on the Cross is bigger than our sin…which leads us to the next part of this process.

Confession – When we can talk to God and others about our sin and mistakes, that sin loses its grip on our lives.  That grip can become a prison which is caused by guilt, and if we keep things hidden it will only grow.  It’s amazing what happens when we confess our sins to God and to others now we don’t really see that in Peter’s story but it is an important step in our process of restoration.

Going to Jesus to Repent and Seek Forgiveness – One of my favorite places in Scripture lately is found in Hebrews the writer says we should come boldly to the throne of our gracious God where we will receive His mercy and grace!  Check this out…

Hebrews 4:16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. NLT 

That isn’t easy to do when we sin, but we should, and we can because of God’s great love for us!  You will see Peter after his fall to sin, diving into the water and swimming to Jesus!

Centering on God’s Love – I think it is so hard to grasp God’s love for us because we know ourselves so well…we know our thoughts, our sins, our secrets, and all of our weaknesses and we aren’t exactly proud of them and I think a huge step in our restoration is to really center on and reflect on God’s love.  You will see Jesus do this with Peter, pushing him back into love.  There is one more step in this process which is often missed by Christians…which is interesting because when you have truly experienced God’s grace and forgiveness it becomes something you want others to experience too.

Help others experience God’s love too – One of the things that is amazing to me is how rare it is to hear Christian’s and churches talk about the mission of Christ which is to help others experience what they supposedly have experienced in God’s love.  This is what it is all about, once you have experienced this redemption in your life, and have truly experienced grace you want to help others experience it too.  You will see Jesus doesn’t end his time with Peter by just restoring him, but part of the restoration is also sending Peter out to help others experience what he himself experienced!  David speaks of this after being crushed by his scandalous sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51.  Check this out…

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. NIV

What is David saying?  Help me experience your grace and when you do I will help others experience it too!  This is what it’s all about, and for those who have truly experienced God’s grace I think it’s something they understand and want others to experience too!  So with all of this in place let’s look at our story today, because in Peter’s big mistake and restoration we can learn so much.

We all know who Peter is at this point right?  Peter is one of the disciples and really of all the disciples, he seems to really be Jesus’ right hand man.  He is at the very least part of what looks to be the big three disciples.  His name was Simon but Jesus has nicknamed him “Peter” and has told him the reason is because he will become The Rock that Jesus’ church is built on.  So, Peter has been shown a lot of favor and a lot of patience by Jesus because without getting too far into, Peter does some really dumb things along the way.  He is all heart, and at times his passions probably get out ahead of his decision-making process, to say it nicely…but Jesus walks with him through all of it.  He is so blessed to walk with Jesus and it’s obvious that Jesus sees a lot in Peter telling him he would do great things for God.  I don’t want this lost on you.  Peter loves Jesus with all of his being.  Peter is blessed by Jesus and loved by God…and Peter ends up denying Jesus’ name three times before Jesus is crucified.  Jesus even told him at The Last Supper that it would happen and what was Peter’s reply?

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”34 But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” NLT

Imagine what is going through Peter’s mind here…he knows he would never…NEVER do this, but it ends up happening just as Jesus says.  So Jesus is arrested that very night and Peter denies him three times and in the most gut wrenching moment Jesus and Peter’s eyes meet…

Luke 22:54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  62 And he went outside and wept bitterly. NIV

I want us to slow down here and think about this…Peter loves Jesus and is so loyal to him and hours after Jesus warned him of what he would do, and hours after he promised Jesus it would never happen.  It ends up happening.  Can you feel that moment where Jesus and Peter’s eyes meet after the third time, he denies His name?  Imagine saying it, then hearing the rooster crow, and meeting eyes with Jesus in the moment.  Peter is crushed and while we don’t get to read about it, imagine walking with this on your shoulders for the next month or so until he sees Jesus again.

So before we move on can you personalize any of this?  We love Jesus.  We are so blessed in so many ways to walk with Jesus…not physically like Peter, but we are walking in a relationship with God and have been so blessed by God’s love and provision in our lives…and we turn from him too at times don’t we?  So we see Peter just crushed by this, but the story didn’t end there.  If we turn to John Chapter 21 we can find out what happens next, and see that around 40 days later, Jesus restores Peter…and I find this so beautiful and think often of how Peter felt during those 40 days.  So let’s pick up this story and watch how Jesus pulls Peter back in…

So after Jesus’ death on the Cross and Resurrection, He spent 40 more days proving that He is alive and preparing His followers to continue His mission of helping others connect to Him and God’s love.  So after all of this went down the disciples went back to doing what they were doing before Jesus invited them into His mission…they were back out there fishing.

John 21:1-14 After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.” The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. 4 When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognize him. 5 Jesus spoke to them: “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?” They answered, “No.” 6 He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.” They did what he said.  All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in. 7 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Master!” When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in by boat for they weren’t far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. 9 When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it. 10 Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” 11 Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore — 153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn’t rip. 12 Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready.” Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Master. 13 Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead. MSG

 So let’s stop and talk again for a moment, this is so beautiful but we need to break it down a bit. First they fished all night and caught nothing, and then Jesus reveals himself by saying hey, your nets are on the wrong side of your boat…and now they have so many fish they can’t hardly get them in, but the net doesn’t burst…there are a few sermons in those few statements as well but we need to keep moving here!  I also like to point out that John is pretty interesting and calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” more than once…but it is his book so he has that right I guess.  But he realizes it’s Jesus and what does Peter do?  He dives into the water and swims to shore!  Do you remember the process we looked at earlier about what happens when we mess up?  First, we feel conviction and grieve over our sin.  We certainly saw Peter deal with this step.  We don’t know much about how things went for Peter during these 40 days after this heart-breaking mistake that he had made but I personally imagine it was just a weight that was hard for him to bear but we see him here diving into the water to get to Jesus.  Remember we must go to Jesus as boldly as we can!  This is pretty bold, wrapping an outer garment around yourself and just going for it!  Remember that scripture from Hebrews?

Hebrews 4:16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. NLT 

But it’s this next moment that I find so beautiful as Jesus restores Peter and takes him to God’s love and centers him there…

John 21:15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.” NLT

What Jesus is doing here is so beautiful and so powerful for Peter.  Think about this…how many times did Peter deny Jesus?  Three times.  Now how many times is Jesus having him say he loves Him?  Three times…this is mercy, this is grace, this is restoration…it’s so beautiful.  So Peter has grieved his sin and boldly come to Jesus, and Jesus is now centering him firmly in God’s love and also giving Peter the mission to carry out into the world.  Peter is experiencing God’s redemption and forgiveness and now is to go help others experience it too!

In so many ways our story is Peter’s story.  Now sadly, not everyone’s story of messing up and sinning ends with them back in the loving arms of Jesus but it can and hopefully will.  If we slow down for a moment, I think we can really personalize this.  I think we can all relate to how Peter felt in those 40 days after he messed up.  Playing those three moments where he denied Jesus over and over again in his head, wishing he wouldn’t have done what he did.  Picturing Jesus’ eyes meeting his eyes over and over again after he messed up so badly and it’s gut wrenching isn’t it?  You know how it felt, and what he dealt with each day as he had to wake up and look himself in the mirror knowing what he did, because you have sinned too and when that sin isn’t dealt with you just carry it around, knowing what you have done, very aware of your sin and your mistakes and your issues.  Do you know how I know that you know this feeling?  Because we all sin…and we are all part of the “all” that Paul spoke of in Romans 3 who fall short of God’s glorious standard.  We know how it feels to want to do what is right but to still struggle and do what is wrong as Paul so perfectly wrote out in Romans 7.  I know that I do…but we must remember that Jesus and what He did for us on the Cross is bigger than our mistakes.  God’s love, and grace, and mercy is bigger than your sin.  Jesus and what He did for you is bigger than what you did to mess up!

So let me ask you some questions as we close today.

Are you struggling with guilt over a mistake or sin that you have made?  You hate that it’s there and that you messed up, it grieves you, and you carry it every day…can I tell you something…you don’t have to live that way anymore.  Listen, realizing you have sinned should cause you grief, it should bother you to know that you sinned, but this is just step one of the process, and it doesn’t end there.  We have a way out of this sadness and grief over our sin.

Do you understand that we all sin and fall short of God’s glorious standard?  If you grasp the significance of this statement, then you do not have to hide your mistakes and sins and issues because you realized that we all have them.

Are you carrying a secret, hiding something that is eating you up inside?  Hiding it, keeping it a secret is only giving that sin power and ground in your life that it should not have.  What is it?  Can you name it?  Have you taken this to Jesus?  This is the way out of our guilt and grief over our mistakes.  We confess our sins to Jesus and to those we hurt and turn away from those things!  Once we confess our sins to Jesus and boldly go to Jesus with our sins seeking forgiveness, we have it!  Jesus has paid our debt once and for all!

Do you understand the restoring power of God’s grace and recognize the enormity of God’s love for you?  This is so big and so hard for us to accept.  God loves us so much and just like Peter we must remember and center on this love.  It’s so hard to accept because we know our sin and issues and mistakes…we don’t always feel like the royalty that God views us as…but we are, and we must get to that place where we understand just how big and all-encompassing God’s love for us truly is.

Would you say that you have experienced the enormity of God’s love, mercy, redemption, and grace are your life?  If so you should be helping others experience it too…so the question becomes…are you?   If you want to know if you have truly felt and experienced God’s love and grace I think a huge sign is to check your passion level for the mission of Christ which is to help others experience that same amazing grace and love and mercy that you have experienced.  I don’t think it’s possible to truly feel and experience the enormity of God’s love in your life without then wanting to help others experience it too.

Last question I have for you today is this…do you want freedom from the guilt, and shame of your mistakes and failures?  Do you realize that you can have that freedom today?  It’s as simple as us taking our mess to Jesus, and not carrying the weight of all our issues, guilt, sin, and mistakes on our shoulders anymore.  We don’t have to carry this stuff anymore!  Life is hard enough without adding to it…and you do not have to carry that around anymore.  You don’t have to look in the mirror and see your mess anymore, but you have to be willing to give it to Jesus.  If you need help with that please talk to Ken or I after church, or send us an email if your watching online…and step into your new life in Christ today…right now…take it to Jesus!  Dive in and boldly go to Jesus and allow Him to restore you today!  Hey, remember we all sin…we all fall short…Podody’s Nerfect and because of that fact, God took care of it for us and He did it through His son Jesus.

Romans 3:23 Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, 24 God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.  MSG