Picture Perfect

"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." Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)

Have you ever been caught in a shameful act that was generally uncharacteristic of you? I have. Those kinds of experiences are ones whose memory still makes me cringe and run in my mind. Funny how I can never forget the humiliation of those moments. Unfortunately for me, the person who caught me in the act might still think of me that way, no matter how much time has passed.

I have often pondered over the somewhat motley group of twelve men that Jesus chose to minister with while He was here on earth. Several were fishermen once destined to take over the business that their fathers had been in before them (Peter, Andrew, James, and John). One was a despised member of society who might have cheated more than one person out of money when he collected taxes (Matthew). One was a zealot-Simon-who was probably passionate (a.k.a.: hothead) while another was a true Israelite in whom Jesus found nothing false (Nathanael). One would reject the truth of Christ's resurrection until he could see with his own eyes the nails that produced the scars in His Master's hands (Thomas). One would be the ultimate betrayer (Judas Iscariot). Philip would go on to affect the continent of Africa when he led an Ethiopian eunich to Christ. But some, like James, the son of Alphaeus, and the other Judas--not Iscariot--remained more in the background.

Of all of Christ's closest circle, Peter is, without question, my favorite. Scripture portrays this rough and tumble fisherman in both his moments of glory and shame. I love Peter because Peter wore his emotions on his sleeve, unwillingly or unable to hide whatever he was feeling at the moment. I love him because he messed up big time and Jesus still loved him so much. Sounds so much like me.

I used to honestly think that those written about in the Bible had some supernatural inside track with God. That had to be why He used them, right? Wrong. Peter was a human being just like me. But what elevated him was the fact that he could be taught and that he dared to take risks.

What would we think of Peter if all that Scripture revealed were his shortcomings? What if the the snapshots we had in God's Word were only of his betrayal of Christ? What if the only words that were recorded were the following:

Then seizing [Jesus], they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him."

But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them."
"Man, I am not!" Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean."

Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Luke 22:54-62 (NIV)

If those were the only words recorded, we would never know that the same mouth that uttered those devastating words of denial also said these amazing words:

"Lord, if that is you, tell me to come to you on the water." (Matthew 14:28)

"But what about you?" [Jesus] asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "The Christ of God." (Luke 9:20)

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68)

"Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." (John 21:17)

"Peter said to [Jesus], 'We have left everything to follow you!'" (Mark 10:28)

I believe Peter's denial of Christ was so devastating to him personally because Peter truly meant every one of those words of devotion spoken by him to Christ. Those bitter tears he cried after Jesus looked straight at him were because Peter knew how had just folded under pressure. He was caught in one of those trembling moments of realization that he had just denied his true character. Hasn't that happened to you and me?

Do you and I really think that Jesus held that one moment of shame against Peter? NO! Jesus knew Peter's true heart. He forgave him when Peter cried bitterly outside that courtyard, the moment the first words of sorrow over his actions left Peter's lips. Don't you know the anguish and remorse that made up those tears?

My beloved sisters, what are we still beating ourselves up over that our Jesus has long ago forgiven? What have we participated in that was so unlike our character that we cannot even believe we were involved in it:

* Our betrayal of a friend that devastated a close friendship that we grieve over daily.

*An affair that began because boundaries were crossed before you even knew it.

*Words of hatred spoken in the heat of anger that have alienated a beloved child or parent.

*A compromise of purity that had been so carefully guarded before.

*A label of addictive behavior that took over our lives for a time.

*An unforgivable act on our part that we cannot forget that replays over and over and over again in our minds.

Peter accepted Christ's authority to forgive him. Peter went on to be the head of the new church of believers. He was the first to accept the Gentiles. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, he raised a little girl from the dead, saw a lame beggar walk, and replaced all the fear he once had over being associated with Jesus with bold allegiance to Christ that cut people to the heart. Who has convinced us that we are not forgivable? It certainly is not our Jesus. With Him, there is no condemnation. His death took care of that.

We need to stop believing the lie that we have done something unforgivable. If we have claimed the blood of Jesus over that sin...it is gone! We need to see ourselves as God the Father does. Those snapshots of shame are not how He sees us. If we have repented of that shameful deed, He sees us as picture perfect. We need to start believing it and live again.

Jesus, I am a sinful woman. I will continue to disappoint myself and others with actions that are not like You. Help me to believe that I am forgiven and not stay imprisoned where You have declared me to be free. Help me to forgive myself and move on to the abundant life You gave Your life for me to have. Thank You that when my heavenly Father sees me, He sees You!