Matthew 16:24 – “If anyone desires to come after me, they must deny themselves, and take up their cross, and follow me.”
When we decide to follow Jesus, everything changes. You became a new creation, the Holy Spirit moved in, to live in you. God now lives inside of you empowering you to live out the life of Christ. Everything about your life is now changed. The most amazing change is that His ways and desires now become yours. This is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit living in you. In spite of this supernatural birth, we still have a will, and we must grow to the place that His will for our lives becomes the priority of our lives. Jesus says that as we follow Him there will be times when we have to choose between our will or His, denying ourselves for Him. Jesus says that we must take up our cross to follow Him. As we know, the cross is never a pleasant experience. Jesus Himself on the cross had to deny Himself to submit to the will of the Father. There are sorrows and joys. There are test and trials. There are failures and triumphs. But Jesus lets us know in John 16:33, that while we are in this world there will be trials and sorrows, but we can be at peace because He overcame every test and trial so that we can through Him also overcome every test and trial. Here lies one of the major differences between a believer and an unbeliever. Everyone in this world faces problems, test, and trials, believer and unbeliever. The unbeliever walks through them on their own, while the believer has the Holy Spirit living in them empowering them to live in peace to triumph over any test, trial or problem. Because Jesus has already been there and triumphed over it, HE WALKS WITH US through it knowing the victory that awaits us (Hebrews 4:15).
I look at the life of Peter and can relate to why we don’t always experience the victory that Christ promised us. After three years of walking with Jesus, Peter saw the miracles, blind eyes opened, the dead brought back to life, demons cast out. Peter himself even ministered seeing signs, wonders, and miracles (Luke 10:17). But while Jesus was on the cross dying for his sins and ours, Peter denies Christ not once, not twice – but three times. I don’t know about you, but I can relate with Peter. How many times have we had the opportunity to deny ourselves and do His will and we deny Him instead?
What I love about Peter is that I relate with him in his failures. But what gives me hope is the consistent pursuit of the love of God. After Peter fails and even went back to his old way of life, Jesus pursues him to prove His love and restores Peter back to a relationship. After that encounter with the love of Jesus, Peter returns to triumph. Let’s learn from Peter’s failure and how he returned to triumph.
Jesus pursues us, to prove His love for us!
While Jesus was being taken captive to be beaten and tortured, it says in Luke 22:54 -“But Peter followed from a distance.” Peter had been following Jesus as a disciple for three years but when it looked like there could be consequences to following Christ, Peter’s commitment wavered. We may find ourselves following from a distance by not going to church as much as we use to. We don’t read the Bible as much as we use to. We don’t have the desire to worship or we don’t spend time praying and talking with God like we need to. These are all indications of following from a distance (and following from a distance is a dangerous place). Being in this place of distance, we are attempting to do life on our own. It’s like being “up a river without a paddle.” Now is the time to get back to following Jesus and make the change. Because of the downward spiral of following from a distance, Peter said, “I am going fishing” (John 21:3). What Peter is showing us is that what happens after following from a distance, is we return to who we were before Christ. Because of following from a distance, the enemy now beats us up, condemns us and convinces us that we’ve blown it. We’ve failed, we tried following Jesus, but we can’t do it, so we give up. Listen to me, messing up does NOT MEAN you should give up! We all mess up; we all blow it but it’s not getting knocked down that makes us it’s the getting up. Every one of us get knocked down, and anyone can stay down, but when you mess up, it’s time to look up, not give up. Ask for forgiveness and ask, “Lord, what can I learn from this?” His strength is matured in us when we recognize our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). When you mess up, don’t give up, LOOK UP! Look up and do as Jesus did before going to the cross, make the commitment, “Father, not my will, but yours”(Luke 22:42).
It’s not getting knocked down that makes us it’s the getting up.
Peter’s return to triumph after failing is so encouraging to me because it reinforces God’s unrelenting love for us. In John 21 it shows us that Peter had returned to his old life. While out fishing, he saw Jesus on the shore waiting for him. It didn’t matter that Peter had messed up; Jesus still pursued him with His love. No matter how good you think you’ve been or how bad you’ve messed up, you can’t make Jesus love you any more or less. He will relentlessly pursue you because He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Like Peter, Jesus waits for us to make the choice to deny ourselves and follow Him. Peter, by making the right choice, was later filled with the Holy Spirit and preached the first sermon of the new testament church and saw three thousand people come to Christ. Now that’s a return to triumph.
Wherever you are, be assured that His love for you remains steady and unquestionable. Your calling remains sure (Romans 11:29). When we mess up, Jesus doesn’t turn His back on us; instead, He opens His arms to draw us back to Himself. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end” (Lamentations 3:22). You may give up on Jesus, but He never gives up on you! Since Jesus did it for Peter, He will do it for you.
Jesus does not turn his back on us; instead, He opens His arms.
My prayer for you today is that you will continue denying yourself to follow Christ, by taking up your cross to follow Him. If you’ve missed it, if you’ve messed up – look up! His love never fails.
Pointing People to Jesus,
“On Earth as it is in Heaven!”