Have you ever told a bald-faced lie and instantly regretted it, but with the words already spun instead of coming clean, you sought to march through it with confidence, hoping no one could see the ocean of guilt threatening to drown you?
We all have our moments, and I’m not excusing it. We shouldn’t lie; we should tell the truth, and we know it. But sometimes, we let our flesh win. We climb back inside our old selves and do things we shouldn’t do. Instead of trusting God, we rely on ourselves, and we wind up bulldozed by a tsunami of shame.
Soaked to our core with feelings of disgust, embarrassment, and regret, we disqualify ourselves. See, I’m no good. I’m the worst of the worst—a useless piece of junk not fit for ministry. Does that sound harsh? I have a feeling you’ve spoken worse things than that to yourself.
The Power of Shame over Us
While godly conviction is good, leading us to repentance, shame tends to overstay its welcome, annihilating who we are in Christ. Shame doesn’t forgive or speak of second chances. On the contrary, the language of shame is soul-crushing, solitary confinement, throw-away-the-key kind of talk.
Shame would rather keep you locked behind five-foot-thick concrete walls, capable of withstanding even the strongest winds of hope, than grant you another go at life. And in many ways, shame is right. We don’t deserve second chances, and we are pitiful people.
Except Jesus didn’t die for perfect people; Jesus died for pitiful people. He took everything we’ve ever been ashamed of—the long list of disgusting, hell-deserving crimes we’re all guilty of—and nailed it to the cross. Then Jesus placed His righteous body over the top, intercepting the wrath of God, so His wet blood could smear the fine print of every sin we’ve ever committed until it was gone.
But what does shame say? Shame says that list is still there. Shame acts as though Jesus didn’t quite get it all. As though we still have something to hide from, something to be severely embarrassed about. So, we shouldn’t volunteer for that ministry or speak up about the gospel or share our story or pray to the God who loves us.
Or so we think.
The devil has us right where he wants us: defeated, beat up, and spent. Unsure of our calling and perhaps even a little doubtful of the one who called us, just like Peter was after his blatant denial of Christ.
Confident in his loyalty, Peter announced to everyone before Christ’s arrest, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). But Jesus knew it wasn’t true and warned Peter that before the rooster crowed—before the dawning of a new day—Peter would deny Him three times.
The Result of Shame upon Us
The details vary depending on which eye-witness account you’re reading, but the evidence is there nonetheless. Peter (probably dumbfounded they weren’t fighting back) followed Jesus after his arrest to the high priest’s house. A servant girl recognized him as one of Jesus’ disciples, but Peter denied it before proceeding farther into the courtyard.
Then, while warming himself alongside other servants and officers over a charcoal fire, Peter denied knowing Jesus twice more. “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed” (Luke 22:60). But here’s the worst part: at that moment, Jesus turned and looked at Peter square in the face. Can you imagine? In one way or another, we’ve all denied the Lord, but none of us have had the soul-shattering experience of locking eyeballs with Jesus as Peter did.
Racked with shame, Peter fell to pieces. Luke 22:62 says he left that place and wept bitterly. Yet at that moment, where was Jesus? He was enduring the thorns of Peter’s shame and ours, and obliterating it with each rip of His flesh. Oh, my friend, if you struggle to see God’s kindness toward you—there it is.
Now jump with me to the next time these two see each other. Jesus is resurrected and glorified, sovereign and victorious, standing in front of the disciples in a locked room with permanent holes in His hands. As incredible as it is to see Jesus alive, what’s Peter feeling in that moment? Where has shame led him? Does he make eye contact with Jesus? Does he speak? We don’t know.
What we do know is that afterward Peter returned to Galilee and went fishing. He went back to what he knew he could do. But he and the other disciples who were with him didn’t catch anything because apart from Christ, we can do nothing.
The Power of Christ over Us
When morning dawned, some stranger yelled at them from shore to cast their net on the other side. So they did, and instantly the net overflowed with fish.
It is then that John recognized, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7) In response, Peter put on his outer garment and leapt into the water. He wanted more than anything to be close to Jesus again, but would Jesus have him? Peter was in for a treat.
When Peter reached the shore, with his clothes dripping and his heart pounding, he saw something that may have caused him to wonder if he should have stayed in the boat: a charcoal fire. Do you remember where Peter stood when the rooster crowed? Over a charcoal fire.
But Christ’s intention was not to torment Peter but to free him. This scene is oozing with kindness and hope, and second chances. Just look what God is doing here. He’s reminding the disciples how it all started: a calling and a miraculous catch of fish. He’s feeding them loaves and fish, just like He’d done before. And He’s inviting Peter to try again.
At just the right moment, when they had finished eating breakfast, I imagine Jesus scooting closer to Peter and whispering, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” It’s not clear what Jesus meant by these. Perhaps it was the other disciples or the fish or the boats or the life Peter knew before, but it doesn’t matter. Jesus comes before all of it, and this was a dagger in Peter’s heart.
“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you,” replied Peter. Then “feed my lambs” (John 21:15). In other words, get back in the game, Peter, because I have forgiven you. Then Jesus repeats the question twice more, not because he doesn’t believe Peter, but because He knows Peter doesn’t believe in himself. Do you see what is happening here? The Lord is offering Peter a job.
The Result of Christ in Us
While we are quick to disqualify ourselves, Jesus is just as quick to reinstate us. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He meant it. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
The kingdom of God is not hanging in the balance due to our mistakes. We haven’t messed things up for God. The Lord knew Peter was going to sin, and He didn’t stop him. Instead, Christ loved him through it, and look what Peter learned in the process:
Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7)
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
Peter knew what it meant to be restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established. And he knew God would do it for us, too.
Jesus didn’t ask Peter why he did what he did, because Jesus already knew why. Christ experienced the same temptation yet remained without sin. Instead, the Lord asked Peter, “Do you love me?” because that’s the real question. Do we love Christ enough to follow Him even after we mess up? Do we love Him enough to get back in the game? Do we love Him enough to trust Him with our shame?
Beloved of God, you aren’t finished—you’re forgiven. Shame hasn’t disqualified you; it’s merely distracted you. Jesus didn’t ransom us so we could sit on the sidelines dressed in regrets. Jesus rescued us so we could proclaim His power over every dark moment we’ve ever lived. While shame says we can’t, Jesus says in Him, we can. So go ahead, my friend. It’s time to get back up and follow Him.