“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:12-14) NLT
I stood on my back porch, wrapped in my fuzzy worn robe. The old tree that still had leaves clinging to it shivered in the cool morning crispness, and the world seemed silent …. and then I heard him. That darn rooster. I’m not even sure where he lives, but it’s within earshot ….
I was contemplating my day yesterday, thinking about all my grand words of thankfulness at the beginning of the day, and then feeling the weight of falling far short from the mark by the end of it …. and suddenly, that darn screech filled the silence, interrupting my pondering; and I thought of Peter. I thought of me. I thought of you, and wondered if there was anyone maybe feeling as I was …..
Maybe you know the story. On the night before Jesus went to the cross, He had a chat with His friend Peter. He referred to Peter in his pre-disciple-days name — Simon, as we read in (Luke 22:31-34).
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”
Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”
But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
A few hours later, Peter did deny he even knew Jesus. Three times. And then the rooster crowed ….
That terrible screech….
Peter went outside and wept bitterly. He cried and cried and cried. The next morning, the rooster crowed again, and Peter remembered his failure. And the next, and the next and the next. And Peter remembered all over again and kept replaying that ….
As I stood there this morning, I thought, “how appropriate Lord”….
I have been there. I have failed. I have cried and cried and cried. And I have remembered, over and over. Unable to let go. Shame has poked drain holes in my Spirit-filled confidence before, and just as I felt shameful this morning, I have hidden behind that wall with Peter. And even though I asked God to forgive me, and I knew He had, the rooster still crowed in my heart, and I remembered failing all over again. I wonder if you have too …
I have been stuck like a trapeze artist who refuses to let go of the first bar to grab the second; trying desperately to take hold of grace, but not quite letting go of the past. And there’s been the self-imposed condemnation, guilt, and yes, the shame ….
And yet, God still calls to me … Let go. Move forward. Live boldly. I love you and I forgive you …
And Paul reminds me …
“I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling me.”
I see it clearly. For me and for any of you. When we finally take hold of, grasp, and make our own all that Jesus has already prepared for us, we begin to experience life to the fullest, we experience the faith we’ve always longed for — but just taking hold of what’s new is not enough. We’ve got to let go of the past ….
Let go of shame-filled ponderings, and take hold of grace-filled pardon. Let go of crippling bitterness, and take hold of radical forgiveness. Let go of weak-kneed worry, and take hold of sure-footed confidence. Let go of insecurity, and take hold of our true identity as a child of God ….
God has placed lavish promises in my heart. And letting go of shame and taking hold of grace is where it all begins. Think about this: what did Jesus say about Peter’s failure? Three strikes, you’re out? Hardly. Jesus removed the shroud of shame hanging from Peter’s guilt-weary shoulders and called him to get back to ministry ….
And afterwards; after that glorious day when Peter received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, evidenced of speaking in tongues, he began to preach and teach boldly (Acts 2:14-41). The power of the Holy Ghost made all the difference.
He went from being timid, fearful and ashamed to speaking so boldly that the Word says “he pierced their hearts” with his words (v.37).
And Jesus does the same for me and for you, but the rooster still crows …. The question is, what will we remember when we hear that crow?
May I suggest, not the sin — but the grace. Let’s not let the enemy accuse us of what God has already forgiven! Don’t let him fool us into thinking that Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough. Take hold of what Jesus has already taken hold of and place it in you.
Each of us may slip from time to time in our human frailties and emotions; but we have this hope: God is faithful. His mercy and compassion is fresh every morning. We can start a new day, cleansed and renewed in our minds and hearts and with the full assurance that He loves us and has a perfect plan and purpose for each of us, just as He did for Peter. Rest assured — God IS faithful ….
Let’s pray ~
Heavenly Father; thank You for forgiving me and removing my shame. I’m so sorry for those times I listen to that old rooster crowing in my heart, telling me I am guilty, worthless, and should be ashamed. I acknowledge what Jesus did for me on the cross and I know it is enough, and there’s nothing that I ever need do or add to His precious sacrificial gift. Thank You for wiping away my shame, for cleansing me of my sins, and loving me unconditionally. Strengthen me this day by the power of the Holy Ghost dwelling in my heart and use me for Your glory. In Jesus mighty name I pray, Amen ….
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”
“Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.” (Psalms 34:5)
“Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!’ The Lord is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him.”
God is with us …. God bless you ….