But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.
Romans 5:8 AMP
I come back to this verse over and over. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, and God the Father sent Him to die that we might live. I have a deep, deep need to take this in so completely that it becomes permanently grafted into my heart, largely because the temptation I face after every disciplinary revelation of the Holy Spirit is to move to despair and hopelessness.
It’s subtle and vile and can be very effective. My flesh fights dirty, that’s for sure. It will latch onto Spirit-born tears and muddy them by suggesting that I’ll never really change, or that this is probably the last straw with God, or (when its in a particularly nasty mood) “maybe you were never saved in the first place.”
Maybe the rewards of repentance are so enormous that the warfare against it is almost guaranteed? I don’t know for sure, but it does seem to work out that way. Regardless, the Holy Spirit tells me and shows me again and again and again the completeness of the Father’s proven love for me, with or without the mess.
The prodigal son wasn’t bathed and deloused before he was grabbed up in a bear hug by his father. He came home with nothing to offer but “a broken and contrite heart” and he was not despised (Ps. 51:17). That’s who our Father is.
Peter did nothing by halves, and more than any other disciple, the “successes” and “failures” of Peter were recorded for us to see. But Jesus didn’t wait until Peter was clean and forgiven and born again before He commended him. Peter was still in the thick of it, very human and very messy and very exposed, when Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mt. 16:17-19 NKJV).
Peter was no more or less a mess than any other human being, and I don’t think that Jesus had any expectations of him that lead to that kind of thinking in the first place. Peter was just human, a sheep in need of a Shepherd. And so am I, and so are we all.
My overriding experience with the whole of the Bible is that it constantly shows me two things: who I am, and who God is. So after I’ve seen who I am, and I’m broken by that truth, I NEED to see who He is. I can’t go on unless I see Him. I can’t begin again without my Father’s embrace. But I can get distracted by all the dirt on me, and I pull back and try to get clean first. I don’t want my filth to be anywhere near Him! And that’s when the Holy Spirit comes and turns my head back towards the Father and reminds me, as often as I need it, that only HE can make me clean.
For God SO LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son…
John 3:16 KJV