I remember sitting on the couch with a sleeping baby on my lap and praying, “God, You had done amazing things through me before, but I messed up horribly. I promised I wouldn’t have sex before I was married. I knew it was wrong, yet I did so. And more than once. I won’t deny You, because that’s foolishness. But right now, I feel like You will never again use me to accomplish great things in Your name.” It had been years since I had committed the sin, yet the shame from what I had done still plagued me.
Even so, I longed to be close to God. I continued to pray and read the Scriptures. That particular morning, I read about the last supper in Luke chapter 22. Peter was one of Jesus’s closest friends amidst the twelve disciples. All twelve of them loved Jesus immensely. They had left everything to follow Him around Israel for three years. Multiple times, Jesus warned them that He would be betrayed, arrested, and killed yet they didn’t understand. But as the time approached, the weight of the situation hung in the air. Still, Jesus took time to share a holiday meal with them. During this meal, He meets Peter in the eye and speaks thus:
“‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.’” (verses 31-34, emphasis added.)
It was that little phrase that caught my eye. “When you have turned, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus already knew Peter was going to deny Him when he asked Peter to drop his fishing nets to follow Him. In the same way, God already knew what I was going to do when He called me. And Peter didn’t just deny Him on any old day, but on the most excruciating point in Jesus’s life. Truly, what could be worse than abandoning and denying your friend, whom you believe is God, as he’s being sentenced to crucifixion? If Jesus could look at Peter and tell him, “When you have turned, strengthen your brothers,” then surely He would say the same to me.
It also dawned on me that the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), was about a son. This young man was already part of the family. He had an intimate relationship with his father. Yet still, he wrongly took the gift given to him and squandered it. For the prodigal, it was a financial inheritance, yet for us, it’s God’s amazing grace.
See, God gives us grace, not so that we can continue in sin, but so that we would not be encumbered by following rules while serving Him. This is what Paul means in Romans 6, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?… For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (verses 1-2, 14). God has His standards. Sin will always be sin. But the gift of grace was given to Christians so that we don’t need to fear sin and its consequences. Yet too often, like my spouse and I did before we were married, and just like the prodigal did, we trample upon this grace to make room for sin in our lives.
But after we repent, God is waiting with open arms. “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20). God was waiting for me to realize my foolishness and turn my face towards him. Once I did so, He ran to me. He discarded my filthy rags of shame and clothed me with peace and hope.
Dear friend, perhaps you’re reading this now, and yearn for a renewed relationship with the Lord. There is hope because God’s not done with you yet. Return to Him.
Almighty Dad, I’ve run from You. I’ve fallen into sin that I knew was wrong. I practiced that sin. I’m sorry. I’ve squandered Your grace in this area needlessly. Only You can take away my shame and wash me clean. Please do so. Thank You for Your forgiveness. Thank You for welcoming me back into Your arms. Today, I decide to live differently for You. I know that I’ll witness Your glory as You use me as Your instrument in this earth. All glory, honor, and praise to You alone who is worthy, Jesus. Amen.
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”