More and more I am becoming convinced that the "simple gospel" really is simple. In my last blog entitled "For God So Loved The World That He Gave...", you can read of how the Lord spoke to my heart regarding his love and blessings and told me to "just receive". It's that simple.
Often christians make spiritual things much harder than they need be, and harder than what even God ever intended. If we fall or "fail" we give ourselves that "spiritual beating" over the back; some of us needing to lash ourselves a specific number of times before we deem that we have received the full measure of our rightly deserved punishment. And we know that when we have beaten ourselves to that degree then justice has been done and God will accept us back as one of his own.
Where do we get those beliefs? They are certainly not biblical. There are countless scriptures speaking of God's love for his children, his mercy, his forgiveness, his long suffering. Often times we enter adulthood unknowingly believing that our Heavenly Father is like our earthly one.
I recall a story told by Corrie Ten Boom from her book ""Father Ten Boom". "Every night before I went to sleep, Father would tuck me in. It was always a private moment for the two of us. I knew that the moment would soon come when he would say, "Correman. Sleep well. God loves you." Then I would feel his big hand on my face. I wanted to preserve that happy feeling, so I did not move. I did not want to lose that comforting touch of Father's big hand.
Fifty years later, I lived in a part of the world where waking up and going to sleep were full of danger. I was in the prison of a cruel enemy, and nobody knew what the guards would do to us during the day or night.
I would close my eyes at night and say, "Heavenly Father, lay your big hand on my little face for a moment." He did, and I would not want to move and lose that comforting touch of my heavenly Father's hand.
Because Father showed his love to me, he trained me to understand something of our heavenly Father's love. That was preparation for living. If you are a parent of a little child, please show him your earthly love. You will help him to understand our heavenly Father's love when he needs it."
I would like to focus now on John 21:15-7. "So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep."
I believe that today the Holy Spirit revealed to me a deeper meaning in this passage than I've ever seen before. Why, after changing his name from Simon to Peter, (Matthew 16:18) did Jesus revert back to calling him Simon in this passage? And why, would Jesus ask Simon the same question three times?
What the Lord showed me is much simpler than anything I might have guessed. Jesus asked Simon the same question three times to get the same answer three times. "Yes, I do love you."
It is not a coincidence that Peter denied Jesus three times and Jesus asked him three times "do you love me." He was showing Simon that he had forgiven him his sin of denial. The reason Jesus originally changed Simon's name to Peter was because Simon had declared that Jesus was the Christ. This pleased Jesus that the Holy Spirit had revealed that truth to Simon, and so declared that from then on he would be called Peter, meaning "the rock." And of course Jesus said, "it is on this rock (or truth) that I build my church."
So Jesus would build his church on the truth (rock) that came from Peter's mouth.
When Jesus addressed him as Simon and asked "do you love me", I believe he was making a point. He was using the name given Simon before Jesus had been so pleased with him, therefore showing his forgiveness. It was like saying, "Even though you denied me three times after having the truth of who I am revealed to you, I still forgive you." He communicated that to Peter not just once; not twice, but three times, showing Peter (and us) that he is able and willing to forgive as many times as we sin against him.
And some might say, "Can it really be that simple?" The answer is yes. It can. And it seems that since Jesus will forgive us 70 x 7, that that would negate the necessity of those self inflicted spiritual lashes.
God wants us to come to him as a little child with that kind of simple, childlike faith. I will end this post with one more story from Corrie's book, "Father Ten Boom."
"A traveler in Armenia crossed the country in search of rare plants and flowers. On one of his trips he noticed, in a deep cleft of a rock, a flower of such rarity and beauty that he decided to pick it, whatever it might cost him.
But how could he do it? The sides of the rocks were so steep that it was impossible to climb down to where the flower was. The only way would be to let someone down into the crevice on a rope. But who would risk his life to do that?
After some searching, he found a boy and asked him to go down and pick the flower for a good sum of money. He encouraged the boy by saying, "I will hold the rope very firmly."
But the boy shook his head. "I would not do that for all the money in the world! However, if my father comes to hold the rope, I will do it."
It is simple. Trust and believe that God means what he says in his word about his love for you; that he means what he says about his mercy and grace and forgiveness. That he means what he says about being slow to anger and long suffering; that his mercy endures forever. Like the little boy who knew he could trust his father to hold the rope. It's that simple.