- Sermon Notes
God’s Grace to Start Over
June 3-4, 2023
On our recent trip to Israel, we had an opportunity to spend an evening next to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. We gathered around a bonfire, worshiping our Lord with fellow believers. A gentle breeze blowing off the waves.
It’s times like that that make you think about all that God has done in your life. It was truly a beautiful, holy moment. It makes you thankful for God’s grace in giving us what we do not deserve.
One of the ways that God’s grace has been revealed in my life is the grace to start over. I’m so thankful that God never gave up on me. When I faltered and when I failed, God’s grace was extended to start over.
One of the most beautiful stories of God’s grace to start over was Jesus restoring Simon Peter after he failed miserably. We can all relate to failure; the question is, how do you recover from it?
Once a person has failed the enemy has a powerful weapon; and that weapon is shame. But the beauty and the power of the story is that God takes away the shame and restores Peter in His great love and renews the purpose and calling on his life.
The story begins shortly after the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection changes everything. It changed the meaning of the cross. Before the resurrection it represented death and struck fear in the hearts of any who looked upon a cross. But after the resurrection it became a symbol of hope and a reminder of how much God loves. It has become a thing of beauty that represents hope. That’s why we place crosses on graves.
The resurrection changed death itself. Before, the grave was the final chapter, the end of all hope, the final curtain. But because of the resurrection, death no longer is master over us, it has been conquered, it has been defeated. Our last breath is not the end; that is when life truly begins.
The resurrection gave us an eternal perspective. Before, all we could hope for was here on earth; our purpose, the meaning of life, it was all centered here, on the material, on things which are earthly. Now, because of the resurrection, all those things seem so unimportant when compared to the eternal weight of glory. We have been set free.
I read the story of a man who was radically changed because he understood how much God loved him when the Lamb of God died on the cross. When he was a young boy, a neighbor gave him a baby lamb. It became his constant companion and best friend. One day he came home to find his father in a drunken rage, fixing a flat tire. Out of curiosity, the boy’s pet lamb had wandered over, but the father, in a drunken rage, struck the lamb with a tire iron, and killed it.
Hatred filled the boy’s heart. He was never the same. He hated everyone and everything, including himself. Many years later, a friend invited him to church. The pastor was speaking about a Lamb; the Lamb of God who died on the cross, willingly giving his life because of love.
For the first time in his life, he understood love. The Lamb of God died so he could receive love; the Father’s love he had never known. It changed him; he could feel the hatred leaving his heart as he gave his heart to this love.
When you look at this chapter in the book of John, it’s about starting over; it’s about the new life that God has in store for us. It’s about faith, hope, and love.
I. God Transforms Failure
- Jesus told the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. They went to the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee and waited. Finally, Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” And the other disciples went also. They fished all night and caught nothing.
- Jesus told Peter that He would make him a fisher of men, yet Peter was going back to catching fish. This is not just a recreational fishing trip, professionals fished at night. But God let them fail; they caught nothing.
- But God will transform their failure; it’s the theme of these verses. This is not the first of Peter’s failures either.
A. Failure shows us our weakness
- Failure often comes when we rely on ourselves. Peter was relying on himself when he went back to fishing, and he was relying on himself when he promised that he would stand by the Lord even when the rest of the disciples fell away.
Matthew 26: 31-35, Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this very night, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you Galilee.” But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.
- It’s interesting that while many often think too highly of themselves, at the same time they often think terrible thoughts about themselves.
- Peter’s overconfidence and self-reliance went down in the flames of failure, then his shame and regret caused him to weep deeply.
Luke 22:59-62, After about an hour passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean also.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken… And he went out and wept bitterly.
B. God’s presence changes everything
- When Jesus appeared on the shore, He told them to cast their nets on the right-hand side of the boat.
- When they enclosed a great quantity of fish, John said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Immediately they were reminded of when they first met the Lord.
- One day when Jesus was by the sea, the crowd was pressing around Him. He saw 2 boats lying on the edge of the lake, the fishermen were washing their nets. He got into Simon’s boat and asked him to put out a little away from the land and taught the people from the boat.
- When he had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” They enclosed such a great quantity of fish that their nets began to break.
Luke 5:8-11, When Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’s feet, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For amazement had seized him… And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.
- The Lord’s presence changes everything. Sometimes the Lord allows us to fail in our self-reliance so that we will recognize the blessing that comes from the touch of His hand.
Psalm 127:1-2, Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for it is He who gives to His beloved even while He sleeps.
- Self-reliance can build a house, but it is in vain. Self-reliance can guard the city, but it is in vain.
C. Success can be a snare and a ruin
- You can do worse than fail, you can succeed and be proud of your success, or you can worship the net and forget the hand of the One who supplies all things.
Matthew 5:45, “for it is He who causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
- As one author wrote:
“Success – even spiritual success – can be a snare and a ruin, while failure can be an unspeakable benefit. Failure is often the only test by which the real worth and quality of a man or woman can be tried. It is in failure that a man begins to think, to wonder whence his failure comes, to look around and seek for the reasons, to put into his work double watchfulness, and to look upwards to Him who can turn failure into glorious achievement.”
App – Here is a great lesson; one of the worst things that can happen is to do the wrong thing – and win. You’ll only repeat the thing that was wrong and will have learned nothing; or worse, you will think that you don’t need God.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18, “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth; that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
II. God Restores You with His Love
- In the next verses, Jesus has a private conversation with Peter. He needed to be restored.
- Peter had made great promises to Jesus; though the rest of them may fail, Peter said, he most certainly would not. Yet he failed worse than all of them.
- There is a great lesson here for all of us. We all understand what it means to fail, and we need to know the heart of God when we do.
- We feel shame, we’re embarrassed, and we pull away because we don’t feel worthy of being in God’s presence.
- Some people feel so unworthy they say to themselves, “What’s the use of trying? I’m a failure anyway, I might as well give up and stop trying to be righteous.”
- If you have those thoughts, can I say something to you? In love. “Stop it; stop it right now.” You are allowing your flesh to convince you of something that is not God’s heart. What a clever thing for your flesh to say; to use your shame against you so you’ll stay defeated. Hasn’t the flesh had too much victory already?
- What a contrast between God’s heart to restore and the enemy’s desire to keep us in shame.
A. Love God as your highest priority
- When Jesus was asked which was the highest and foremost of all the laws God had given, Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”
- For Peter to be restored, love had to be reconciled.
- What happened between Peter and Jesus could not go unspoken; it had to be addressed, it had to be worked out.
Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”
- When Peter failed it was as though he was saying, “I won’t deny You because I love you more than these.”
- Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John do you love Me more than these?” Peter responded, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
- In English we have one word, ‘love,’ which is used to mean many things. I can say, “I love my wife,” or, “I love golf,” or, “I love apple pie with ice cream.” The word love can mean different things.
- There are many Greek words for love; eros-love, which is physical, sensual desire and longing. There is phileo-love, which means friendship and a general type of love between family and friends. Then there is agape-love, which is the deepest sense of true unconditional love; love that is selfless, it gives and expects nothing in return.
Illus – For example, what does the phrase, “Let’s just be friends,” mean? When Jordi and I first met, we were in a worship band together and I heard those words, “Let’s just be friends.”
App – If we had different words for love in English, it actually might be very helpful.
- When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you have agape-love?” It’s as though He was saying, Come back to this, Peter, come back to true, unconditional love.
- Peter is making no bold claims now, he carries his shame and failure, “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo”
Illus – When Jesus spoke of the highest and foremost of all laws, He said, “You shall agape – love the Lord with all your heart…” Is it possible to have an inadequate type of love for God? Yes. There is an experience of God where someone feels moments of passion, such as in intimate worship, but they don’t want the commitment of selfless, unconditional love.
- Finally, the third time, Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you phileo– love Me?” Peter was grieved when Jesus used that word for love the third time.
- Jesus wanted Peter to affirm agape love, but Peter only affirmed his phileo Finally, Jesus came to his level and asked him to affirm even that.
B. Love God by following Him
- Each time Jesus asked Peter to affirm his love, Jesus then told Peter, “Tend My lambs,” or, “Shepherd My sheep.” In other words, Peter, if you love Me, don’t go back to fishing, care for those I love; become a shepherd.
Ezekiel 34:15-16, “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God. “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick;”
- Then, in verse 18, Jesus told Peter that he would grow old, but also signified by what kind of death he would glorify God. By this He meant crucifixion.
- It’s as though He were saying, You once said that you would die for Me. Yes, you will, but it will be when you are old.
- Trust Me and walk with Me with the rest of your life.
John 21:1-22 NASB