Thursday, April 18, 2013

Remorse or Repentance: Letting Go of Regret

John 21:12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.  13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.  15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep."
I can think of none other who can embody the difference between repentance and remorse better than Peter.   "Huh?" you may ask. Well, let me explain my thinking.

When his beloved Lord and Savior was standing alone before His accusers, instead of coming to His side, he denied the fact that he even knew Him- forcefully! Immediately after Christ's death, we don't really hear a lot about Peter other than he ran to the tomb when Mary came to tell them all that Jesus was alive. I bet he was hoping against hope that he was wrong and that Jesus had never really died after all. But when he got there, all he saw was a pile of burial rags. Not only was he grieving his Master's death, but this would have rubbed his guilt in his face. He probably thought someone was taunting him. After that, he kind of drops off the radar for a few pages. It's not until Jesus shows himself for the third time that we hear about what Peter is doing. He's gone fishing. Back to his old life. As if Jesus had never existed. And this is even after he saw Jesus post-death with the other disciples!

What was wrong with him? Why wasn't he jumping for joy and signing himself up for the Lord's service? I think he felt his betrayal had been too great. His guilt was blinding and incapacitating him. The Evil One was using it to keep him from being an effective servant.

And what was Jesus' response to Peter's betrayal? "Simon. son of John, do you love Me more than these?" When Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, it was His way of giving Peter a chance to "redeem" himself. After Peter denied His Lord three times, it was time to let him do the opposite- declare his love. And notice how Jesus didn't have him stand up in the midst of a crowd and say it. This whole affair (including the betrayal) was just between Jesus and Peter.

Isn't that amazing? Even after His death and resurrection, Jesus thought of Peter. He knew that his disciple would need to stop beating himself up and accept Christ's forgiveness before he could be useful. He had to let go of the guilt.

How often do we hold onto the things we have done and don't even hear when Jesus whispers, "Do you love me?" He's already forgiven us. He forgave us the moment He died on that cross. And yet we dare to keep dragging ourselves back to the past and cling to our regrets! And every time we say, "Lord, I've done too much. I can't let go," Jesus asks yet again, "But... do you love me?" That's what it all comes down to: Do we love Him enough to let Him be enough? Do we believe that He's really and truly taken care of it?

Just like Peter had to let go of his past mistakes and move on, we have to do the same. That's the difference between remorse and repentance. Remorse drags us down and becomes a heavy load that we force ourselves to bear, thinking we are not "good enough" to do anything else. Repentance on the other hand, well, it's a totally different animal. When we truly repent of what we have done, we make the choice to let go  and say, "Lord, I do love You. Use me according to Your Will." Not forget- just let go. And that simple act freed Peter from the past and gave him permission to move on. It gave him the ability to become the person and the leader that would set fire to the church. If he hadn't become that person, 3,000 souls would not have been saved with a single message. The church might not be what it is today. He might never have died for Christ, sealing his place forever in history as the "rock on which Jesus would build His church". And the other disciples who knew how he had been before, would not have seen God's amazing transforming power in his life.

The man who went fishing that day was not the same man who came back. He left as a man weighted down by regret and came back a leader, ready to take up his sword in the upcoming spiritual battle that would rock the world.

So what about you? Are your "issues" getting in the way of your service? Of your happiness?

Maybe you don't know the answers to these questions right now. Or maybe you can't let go yet. But just remember: there is nothing in your life that is greater than Jesus' power to forgive.

Listen. Can you hear Him?

"Little child, do you love Me?"

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Prince Charming: Real or Pretender?

Don't bring me a Prince Charming
In silk and shiny tights.
Don't bring me someone rich.
Just bring me Mr. Right!
He doesn't have to be perfect.
His eyes don't have to be blue.
He doesn't have to sing real fine,
But let him, Lord, be true!
He doesn't have to be talented,
Or wear running shoes.
He doesn't even have to be handsome,
But, Lord, let him love you!
I don't ask for the Mighty Hulk
Or even Superman.
All I ask for is what I know you'll give me-
My Perfect-Match-Man!

(The above is an old poem I wrote several years ago. But the truth in it still resonates today!)

Let's face it- if you are a girl who grew up in my generation, at one point in time or another you dreamed of being a princess. And if you dreamed of being a princess, you dreamed of a castle. If you dreamed of a castle, then you obviously dreamed of a prince to share that castle with. Hey, maybe it was even his castle to begin with and you were the little non-royal Cinderella. (In that case, that castle didn't stay just his for long, am I right?)

 Yeah, that poor prince didn't have a chance.

As you grew up, you figured out that not all royals are princes. Just because he looked good, talked good, and knew how to sweep you off your feet, didn't mean he was Prince Charming. (Unless you were blessed with meeting your prince early in life. If so, the rest of us find you downright annoying.) After seeing so many of these charlatans, eventually you forget what the real thing looks like.

Maturity is a big thing- especially spiritual maturity. Those of us who are Daughters of The King are set in our decision that our prince must be a man spiritually, even if he is young physically. A few weeks ago I was asked by a friend of mine how to tell if a man is mature, so I quickly threw together this answer:
A mature man knows his faults and tries to overcome them. He loves Christ above all else and if it comes down to a choice between Christ and you (not that they are both mutually exclusive, but if there had to be a choice), he would choose Christ. He can lead others while admitting that he doesn't know it all. He also is open to Godly correction from others, showing strength and humility.
He is not easily swayed in his faith by circumstances in life.
He has to be all these things because eventually he will be the leader and pastor of his wife and children. Without them, he will find such a job very hard.
Hear that, guys? That's a lot of responsibility right there. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty basics, this is what we ladies want. But this is also very hard to find. If you are a guy reading this post, take a moment to think about yourself. Do you embody these characteristics? Take another look. Who really does this describe? When I read the above, I don't just see a man- I see Jesus.

Ladies, what a true Daughter of The King should want isn't just a prince. It should be a copy of Jesus. An imperfect copy, true. But a reflection of Him nonetheless. Now, before you go harping on your boyfriend to change, remember this- a prince deserves a princess. Think of the story of The Princess And The Pea. In the story, there were a lot of princesses who tried to win the prince's hand, but only one princess proved herself to be one. And she's the one who received the prize.

Are you a prince/princess? Or are you a royal pretender?

Think about it.

Update: If you liked this, read the accompanying post- True Princess: Sleeping Beauty or Snow White?