Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Whatta Comeback!

Based on 1 Peter 5:10

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Peter’s two letters in the back of the New Testament are often overlooked. It’s easy to do, I guess. They’re short, hard to find, and they are, after all, near the end of the Bible, tucked away between Hebrews and Revelation.

Peter himself has a larger-than-life reputation, mostly centered on his early days. We remember him as a fisherman, bold and confident, proclaiming Jesus as Messiah before contradicting Jesus’ plan; walking on water before sinking and calling out to Jesus to rescue him; refusing Jesus’ offer to clean his feet before asking Jesus to wash his hands and head as well; proclaiming his loyalty before denying and deserting Jesus…and the list goes on. (Try doing a word search at www.BibleGateway.com on “Simon Peter” to skim through Peter’s life in the New Testament.)

Peter’s successes are recorded for all to see, along with his failures. As hard as it is for us to have others know how we’ve failed, Peter’s failures help us relate to him.

Where do you identify with Peter’s failures?

We find common ground in the shared reality of knowing that, even with the best of intentions, we all fail—and sometimes we fail spectacularly, as Peter did.

When you stop to think about it, Peter’s failures, in and of themselves, aren’t really what draw us to him. I think it’s actually the way Jesus meets Peter in the midst of his failure that gives us hope.

While we might be tempted to write off someone who fails as often as Peter did, Jesus never does. Jesus doesn’t overlook Peter’s failures, nor does He abandon Peter in the midst of his failure; rather, Jesus confronts Peter’s failures and restores Himtime and time again.

Where are you in need of a comeback?

God’s restorative nature is revealed early in His relationship with His people. In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve disobey God in the Garden of Eden, God comes looking for them, refusing to leave them isolated and trapped in their sin. His question to themand to usreveals His heart: “Where are you?” God’s desire for relationship with His people is so great that He humbles Himself to meet us at the point of our need.

The theme of restoration stretches throughout the Old Testament, finding some of its most poignant expression in the Psalms.

Which of the following Psalms speaks to your need for restoration today?

Psalm 23 speaks of the LORD’s intimate care of us

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Psalm 51 is a heartfelt cry for mercy and restoration

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

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.

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

Listen to the last part of Psalm 71 as the writer declares his hope that he will see God’s restoration in the midst of the troubles in his life

19 Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God,
you who have done great things.
Who, O God, is like you?

20 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.

21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once again.

22 I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.

23 My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you—
I, whom you have redeemed.

24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
have been put to shame and confusion.

Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, God’s anointed one, spoke of one who would bring restoration for God’s people, which many of Jesus’ followers interpreted as political restoration for the nation of Israel. In contrast, Jesus brought restoration to individuals, restoring withered bodies and sight to the blind, restoring dignity and worth to those who had been cast aside, and restoring broken relationships with God.

What kind of restoration are you longing for today?

As a follower of Jesus, Peter experienced His restoration firsthand. Peter wrote to brothers and sisters in Christ in 1 Peter 5:10, sharing his personal testimony that God will not leave us at our point of failure, that there is hope beyond failure, that God is a God of “comebacks.” He meets us in our brokenness, restores us, and calls us to move forward in faith, living out of the overflow of relationship with Him, in the power of His Spirit.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

What personal testimony of restoration can you share with others to encourage them?

Timothy, one of Peter’s contemporaries, reminds us that Jesus is wholeheartedly committed to us

if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
—2 Timothy 2:13

Our brokenness, the point at which we acknowledge our failure, is not the end of the road, it is the starting point for the restoration and hope that Jesus offers us. Let your brokenness lead you to hope in Christ, not your own efforts; then let that hope find its fulfillment in Him and let your life become a living work of restoration that draws others to Christ.

It’s never too late and you’re never too far gone. Just ask Peter.

Brokenness is realizing He is all we have.

Hope is realizing He is all we need.

Joy is realizing He is all we want.

—Larry Crabb

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