A number of years ago I was flipping through the channels on the television when a woman speaking on a Christian station caught my eye. She was sharing her story of how she had come to know Jesus. For many years, she had worked at an abortion clinic and assisted physicians in performing thousands and thousands of abortions.
One day, someone shared with her the Gospel of Jesus and she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Immediately after this life changing moment, she went back to the abortion clinic and shared Jesus with the physicians and her coworkers…explaining the importance of not performing these abortions. They wouldn’t listen to her.
She walked away that day from her job…a different person…a new creation…a child of God…a changed life.
She continued to explain how afterwards she experienced many years of shame and guilt as she would replay in her mind the many babies that she had helped abort. She had confessed her sin to the Lord…but she couldn’t forgive herself. How could she?!! I mean all the lives that were taken away because of her hand …
Are you carrying shame…guilt…regret today…even after confessing your sin to the Lord? Are you struggling to forgive yourself from past mistakes and failures? Is the burden of guilt weighing heavily upon your shoulders?
Jesus’ disciple…Peter…aka Simon Peter… is a great example in the Bible of someone who made some mistakes…some big mistakes… and who most likely struggled with guilt and regret too.
So what exactly did Peter do?
John 18:25-27 records the account of Peter denying that he knew Jesus…not just once…but 3 times! He knew Jesus personally as his friend, his teacher, and his Master. He spent a lot time with Jesus…and yet his fear drove him to failure…and denying his association with Him!
Can you imagine what Peter must have thought… how he may have felt…after denying Jesus 3 times?
Peter…realizing his mistake…demonstrates afterwards his deep sorrow and repentant heart as he “went outside and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:62 NIV
Peter said he would never deny Jesus and he blew it! He probably thought that now he would be disqualified from ever doing the Lord’s work again…wouldn’t you?
After Peter denies Jesus 3 times, we see in John 21:1-14 that Peter decides to go fishing. You may be thinking…so what is so significant about that?
Well, considering that Peter’s decision to go fishing occurs after he denies knowing Jesus, we can assume that Peter is more than likely not feeling too good about himself at this point and not really sure if Jesus would want him as his disciple anymore. Why?
Because by saying, “I am going out to fish.” John 21:3… Peter is going back to his previous life as a fisherman. He may have thought… “I have totally failed the Lord…I feel so guilty and ashamed… I can’t forgive myself …I will just go back to fishing.”
With the weight of guilt hanging heavy on his shoulders…Peter returned to his old life of fishing. He probably replayed the tape of denying Jesus …over and over in his mind. He couldn’t forgive himself and maybe he wasn’t even sure if Jesus would forgive him either.
Have you ever felt guilty for something you have done and wondered how God could ever forgive you?
Do you know that no sin…mistake…or failure is too big or too great for God to forgive?
Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from EVERY lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:14 NASB
Do you tend to replay your mistakes and failures over and over again in your mind…even after asking for God’s forgiveness…but just can’t seem to forgive yourself?
It isn’t always easy to forgive ourselves for a wrong that we may have done. And there are certain things that we may have done or we punish ourselves for…over and over and over again! The shame …the guilt…the regret…can seem unbearable and almost impossible to overcome!
So how can we get past these feelings of shame…guilt…and regret…that keep us chained to our past?…that keep us focused on our mistakes and failures?
The answer…accepting Jesus’ invitation to “Come and have breakfast.”
Check this out! What is truly amazing is that after Peter and the disciples went fishing, Jesus says, “Come and have breakfast.” John 21:12. Jesus took initiative to invite Peter to breakfast.
Unfortunately, too often, especially when we are experiencing guilt and deep regret, we do not pick up on the Lord’s invitation.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 28:11 NIV
We may not hear the Lord’s voice and invitation because we are too busy beating ourselves up over our past and are stuck in our shame….stuck in our guilt…stuck in our regret.
Peter could have refused Jesus’ invitation to breakfast. He could have said, “I am going to stay right here. I am not going to risk it….I am not going to risk failure again. But he didn’t…he accepted the invitation and came to breakfast with Jesus.”
The biggest obstacle in self-forgiveness is the tendency to stay focused on our own self-guilt. God doesn’t want us to dwell on our past mistakes, failures, and sin…He wants us to be free!
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1NASB
God says that He will trample our sins under his feet and cast them into the ocean depths (Micah 7:19)…and that He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west and remembers them no more! (Psalm 103:10-13)
If God removes our sin and remembers them no more…then who are we to remember and carry the burden of shame and guilt?
True freedom from shame and guilt comes because of what Jesus endured on the cross.
Simply put…when we can’t forgive ourselves, then what we are really saying is that what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t good enough! The beatings, the torture, the blood that was shed…the death, burial, and resurrection…wasn’t good enough!
It wasn’t good enough? Really?
Of course it was! …We can be free of all guilt and shame… and the Lord will even heal our hurts/pains when we confess our sins…ask for the Lord’s forgiveness…and accept Jesus invitation…like Peter…to come and have breakfast.
Accept Jesus’s invitation that His grace is sufficient and our slate is clean!
My grace is sufficient for you… 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
Jesus’ invitation to Peter to Come and have breakfast is a demonstration of Jesus’ love, compassion, forgiveness, grace, and mercy towards us!
Let’s move forward today…be free of all shame and guilt….accept Jesus’ invitation of forgiveness…and forgive ourselves!
1) Have you ever felt guilty for something you have done and wondered how God could ever forgive you? Do you know that no sin…mistake…or failure is too big or too great for God to forgive?
2) Are you carrying shame…guilt…regret today…even after confessing your sin to the Lord? Are you struggling to forgive yourself from past mistakes and failures? Is the burden of guilt weighing heavily upon your shoulders?
3) Do you tend to replay your mistakes and failures over and over again in your mind…even after asking for God’s forgiveness…but just can’t seem to forgive yourself?
4) So how can we get past these feelings of shame…guilt…and regret…that keep us chained to our past?…that keep us focused on our mistakes and failures?
1) The first step is understanding that no sin…no mistake…no failure is too big or too great for God to forgive.
2) The next step is asking Jesus for forgiveness by confessing and repenting (turning away from your sin.)
3) We must then accept and understand that God removes our sins and remembers them no more. It is accepting that God’s grace is sufficient and Jesus’ death on the cross is enough to cover all our sins…every single of one of them!
4) God doesn’t want us to carry the burden of shame and guilt. He doesn’t want us to condemn ourselves for our past mistakes and failures. (Romans 8:1)
5) Nowhere in the bible does it talk about us forgiving ourselves. By understanding this…we can then forgive ourselves and accept Jesus’ invitation like Peter to come and have breakfast.