If you have ever felt “used” by someone, you know first-hand the ugly, negative emotions that produces in us. We’ve all been on the receiving of this experience . . . and probably on the delivering end as well. The sin nature in all of us does everything in its power to satisfy its selfish desires and this may often be accomplished by using others.
However, there is One who wants to use you, and He brings with Him a sense of empowering freedom and joy that can only be experienced on the other side of being used.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)
You will remember that on the night Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, just as Jesus had predicted he would do. Peter was crushed under the weight of his denials and was filled with a godly sorrow for having turned his back on his Lord. Peter must have felt like he was completely disqualified for future service, having so wretchedly failed the Lord in His hour of greatest need. And Peter was the guy who condemned all of the other apostles who were gathered at the Last Supper!
Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ” ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:31-35)
Can’t you picture Peter self-righteously thumping his chest as he declared that he would follow Jesus to the death? The apostles certainly had a reason to consider Peter as “useless” in serving the kingdom of God after such arrogance, which was followed by such a pathetic and self-protective response to a servant girl who questioned Peter’s involvement with Jesus.
But this was not the view Jesus took! Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” And each time Peter responded with an emphatic “Yes.”
Why do you think Jesus asked him three times? Peter’s three confessions of his love paralleled his three denials. It was almost as if Jesus had handed Peter an eraser and invited him to wipe his craven denials, one by one, off the blackboard of his mind. Clearly, Jesus intended to leave no doubt in Peter’s mind—and in the minds of the other apostles—that Peter was not only still “usable” but that he would most surely be used by God.
We should all see ourselves in the role of Peter. We deny our Lord every day when we seek to satisfy our selfish desires rather than serving our Lord. We deny Jesus in our marriages when they become a battle for control and self-satisfaction. We deny Jesus in our relationships when we look at people as obstacles to getting what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. We deny Jesus in our personal lives when our love for self supersedes our love for God and others. We deny Jesus when we are filled with envy, blame, and greed. There is simply no end to the ways we deny our Lord. Peter only denied Him three times! You and I are much, much worse.
Yet in all of our daily denials, Jesus is there, ready to receive us back into the fold of faithful and fruitful service, asking us, “Do you love me?” If not for that loving confrontation with Jesus, Peter would have lived a life shrouded in the darkness of denial. But the darkness was vanquished forever; Jesus let Peter know that God still had a plan to use him up and consume the rest of his life in doing the Lord’s work.
What was true for Peter then is true for you and me today. We are never disqualified for service, no matter how many denials we deliver up to our Lord. We need only remember the question Jesus asked Peter—“Do you love me?”—and know that if our hearts beat with an emphatic “Yes,” we can get back up and get back into being used by God to expand His kingdom in this world.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!