BREAKING THE POWER OF SHAME
Are you men enough to give yourself to Him, even in the midst
of your failure?
By Mike Bickle
When Jesus had come to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They said, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, "But who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" (Matt. 16:13-16 ISV)
There is no issue more fundamentally important to your spiritual
growth then your understanding of the personality of Jesus Christ. It
goes beyond just knowing His mission to what He thinks and how He
feels -especially the way that He thinks and feels about people in
Jesus says, "Who do you say I am?" Be careful how you
answer. If your perception of Him is incorrect, you will end up
running from God instead of to Him when you discover the
weakness of your own flesh. And you will run in circles of
frustration trying to get God's approval.
The human heart was created with an insatiable longing to be enjoyed
and desired by God. We need to sense that He desires us, that He
delights in us, that He actually likes us! If you struggle with how
God feels about you, I have good news. God's personality is
filled with passion and pleasure, especially for weak people!
If you can grasp how Jesus Christ feels about sincere believers who
are spiritually immature, it will revolutionize your life. Yes, God
hates sin. But there is a difference between spiritual immaturity and
rebellion. Often, I am immature in my faith. But there is a longing
in my heart to walk with God. I want to live as a godly man. I long
for areas of victory that I do not have. The Lord sees that longing,
even in the midst of my immaturity.
This longing to be desired and enjoyed by God is a very powerful
force in the human heart. If we do not answer this longing in the
right way, it will drive us into dysfunction. But God has powerfully
answered this deep longing in Christ Jesus. He does desire us, He
wants us, He longs for us. He enjoys us, not just when we are fully
mature in heaven, but He actually enjoys us while we're on the
journey. As fathers, we enjoy our children when they're young. In the
same way, God likes us while we are growing, not just after we are
grown. The revelation of this is what leads us to maturity.
Most of us imagine that God relates to us and defines our lives
according to our track records of failure. But He sees the longing of
our spirits and defines us according to this because He sees the
heart as clearly as the outward life and the outward stumbling. He
sees all things; nothing is hidden from His eyes.
The Apostle Peter learned this the hard way.
In Matthew 26:31 and 33 at the Last Supper, Jesus said, "All of
you will stumble this night." But Peter argued, "No way! I
will not stumble tonight."
When Jesus went on to explain that that night, Peter would deny Him not once, but three times, Peter said, "Even if I have to die tonight I will not deny You!"
Like Peter, we often give God guarantees that we will not fail. We
want to stand before the Lord based on a vow that we will not do a
particular sin again. The heart of religion wants to bring something
to the table that will motivate God to love us. We want to give Him a
reason to love us instead of just freely receiving His embrace. But
God enjoys us because of whom He is and what He did on the cross, not
because of who we are.
In Matthew 26: 69- 75, Peter denied Jesus three times. This was a
devastating experience in Peter's life. As men, we all have
experienced the same spiritual crisis. We love Jesus, but we sin
against Him. Our desire to obey Jesus is greater than our ability to
walk in obedience. Our spiritual intentions to please Him are greater
than our actual attainment of spiritual maturity.
In John 21:3, the story takes on a new dimension. Jesus had now risen
from the dead, but Peter couldn't forget how he had failed the Lord.
So Peter said, "I'm going fishing." This was a dramatic
statement. To understand this we must ask why he is going fishing.
Peter did not do fishing for financial reasons. He is not fishing for recreation.
Peter was changing his vocational. When he said he was going fishing,
he did not mean for the weekend. He was going back to the fishing
business that he had in Galilee. Peter loved Jesus, but Peter could
not bear his spiritual failure. This deception to go fishing was a
statement of despair and hopelessness. He felt like a hopeless
hypocrite. He lost his confidence before God as a genuine lover of God.
The crisis Peter faced was a result of his misunderstanding the heart
of Jesus. He had more confidence in his commitment to Jesus than in
Jesus' commitment to him! When we have a wrong understanding of who
God is, we began to imagine that when we struggle with sin, He is so
disappointed that we cannot stand before Him with confidence. We feel
the pain of the disappointment that we imagine God has toward us. We
began to reason, like Peter, that we will always have a second-class
relationship with God. So why not just quit and go fishing?
What a difference it would make in our lives as men if we had
confidence that even during the times that we are immature and are
still growing, Jesus has passion for us, and even takes pleasure and
enjoyment in us. This is what gives me courage to press in to God.
When I fail, I do not imagine that He is repulsed and exasperated.
Oh, to feel the longing of His heart for me. This is what makes me
want to run to Him and not from Him when I discover my own weakness.
Finally, in John 21: 15 - 17 Jesus appeared to the disciples and
asked Peter, "Do you love Me? Do you love Me more than
these?" He is pointing to the fish on the ground. In other
words, Jesus is asking Peter, "Do you love Me more than your
safety zone? Will you give yourself to Me even in the midst of your
failure? Will you reach again to be a lover of God like I called you
to be even when you have fallen?"
I imagine Peter struggled to acknowledge and confess that he had
genuine love for God since he had just failed so profoundly. Peter
felt more like a hopeless hypocrite than a lover of God.
There were three denials in Peter's failure and now Jesus asked
three questions. There is a question to correspond to each
denial. When the sovereign God asks us a question it is not because
He needs information from us. He already knows everything! When the
Lord went after Adam in Genesis 3:8, and Adam had just sinned, He
said, "Adam? Where are you, Adam?" It is not that the Lord
had lost Adam. It was a relational question. Thus, when He asked,
"Peter, do you love Me?" He was asking, "Do you know
where you stand with Me, Peter?"
The problem was that Peter did not know where he stood. The shame of
his failure had caused him to lose his confidence as a lover of God
and to define his life as a hopeless hypocrite. This is so common
today with men who sincerely love Jesus but confuse their spiritual
immaturity as rebellion.
I believe the Lord was breaking the shame off of Peter's heart. Soon,
Peter would stand with great boldness on the day of Pentecost because
of this recovery from shame.
Finally, Peter said to Jesus in John 21: 17, "You know
everything, and You know that I love You!" The power of that
confession was breaking shame and awakening Peter's heart to deep
love again. It takes confidence before God to be an extravagant lover
of God. We must feel confidence in God's love for us and confidence
that He sees us as genuine lovers of God and not hypocrites.
A vital part of my worship before God is to use Peter's words. I
pray, "Lord, You know everything. You know that I love You."
This truth cleanses me. "My friends often define me by my
failures, but You define me by my longings for You."
If you want to have a passion for Jesus, if you want to live as a new man in Christ, you must relate to God with the confidence that He enjoys you. Religion wants us to stand before God with a guarantee that we will not fail. But God wants us to stand before Him with the guaranteed that He will never let us go.
Mike Bickle is director of the International House of Prayer of Kansas City, and ministry director of Friends of the Bridegroom. For more information, visit w.w.w. fotb. com.
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