Using My Mess Ups
He kept messing up and yet God used him in powerful ways. I keep coming back to the story of Peter. We see the ways he missed it when walking with Jesus, yet Jesus always took the time to help Peter overcome the mess he made. The result: a transformed leader of the early church.
How often have we or someone we know felt that God couldn't use us because of some mistake in our past? I believe that is why the Bible records so many of Peter's faults - we can relate to the mistakes, yet still be used for God's glory. Just a few of Peter's mess ups:
Peter talks on the holy mountain of transfiguration when he should have been silent (Luke 9:28-36).
Peter starts walking on the water then gets fearful when he takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to sink (Matthew 14:28-32).
Peter tries to single handedly fight the soldiers coming to arrest Jesus (John 18:10-11).
Peter denies knowing Jesus during the trial before the crucifixion (John 18:15-27).
After the resurrection of Jesus, He restores Peter following his denials of Christ. John 21:15-19 records the dialog between them that helps us see how God's mercy covers all problems.
Before we look at this dialog, we need to look at the different words for love used in the New Testament Greek. Their different meanings bring clarity to this passage. Agape demonstrates an unconditional, no-strings-attached type of love that God showers on us. Phileo represents a brotherly or friendly type of love. Obviously, God calls us to agape love and provides the foundation for our look into this passage in John.
"So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (agape) Me more than these?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.' He said to him, 'Tend My sheep.'" (John 21:15). Notice that Jesus asks if Peter agape loved Him, but Peter could only answer with phileo love.
Jesus asks again in the next verse. "He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (agape) Me?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.' He said to him, "Tend My sheep.'" Again, we see Peter change the meaning of the word love.
Watch what happens the third time Jesus asks in verse 17. "He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (phileo) Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love (phileo) Me?' And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You.'" Jesus realizes Peter cannot yet say he can offer agape love, so Jesus comes down to the level of love Peter has. He meets Peter where he is.
The beautiful thing - Jesus doesn't leave Peter there. By the time we read Peter's epistles, we see the transformative work of God's love and mercy in Peter's life. Throughout I and II Peter, he commands his audience to agape love others. Between the time of his breakfast and conversation with Jesus and the time he spreads the gospel of Christ to the early church, Peter's love transformed from phileo to agape.
Jesus' transformative work in Peter's life provides such encouragement for us today. Regardless of our past sin and mistakes, God meets us where we are, but doesn't leave us there. His redemptive work moves us to a place of usefulness for His kingdom. Never let the enemy tell you that past messes and mistakes are too big for God to overcome.