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Turn your back on sin through repentance, confession and love

Text: John 21: 15-19

Text verse: John 21:15

This passage answers another underlying question on the disciples’ minds – the elephant in the room. This is a question that everyone wants to ask, but since it is such a sensitive topic, no one has the courage to do so.

When Peter stood with others around a fire at a previous occasion, he denied Jesus three times – that after Jesus warned him that this was going to happen.

The question that must have been in the back of his mind is, “How are things between him and Jesus now?” Peter must have felt extremely guilty and apart from that, unsure of where he now stands in his relationship with Jesus.

His sin would also cause him to be hated amongst the disciples, perhaps even distrusted. This while Jesus wants to keep him as a leader among the eleven.

Jesus then approaches the matter by asking Peter three times if he loves Him very much. Along with this question, comes the reaffirmation of his command. Peter must demonstrate his love for Jesus in his new calling as a fisher of men.

Sin can paralyse us. It makes us give up on ourselves. It makes us, like Peter, want to fall back into our old ways. The fact that people look at us with condemning eyes only aggravates matters.

In this passage Jesus helps not only Peter, but also each of us whose foot has slipped. He helps us to stand up and to be faithful to our calling again. The first step is:

We must repent

As believers, we find hope in this conversation between Jesus and Peter. We learn here that there is no sin that Jesus will not forgive. What is important is that we realise that every sin is against Jesus. We denied his love. We love something other than Him.

There are two things that emphasise Peter’s repentance. When Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, he uses the Greek word “agapan”. Every time Peter answers, he uses the word “philein”. There is not much difference in meaning between the two words, but it does show that Peter is now modest about his love for Jesus (also see Matt. 26:33; John 13:37).

Furthermore, Peter’s repentance also becomes visible when verse 17 states that he was grieved. That is why John writes: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1: 9-10).

This first step is often the most difficult because we have to admit that we were wrong. We must acknowledge that we are not worthy to receive Jesus’ love.

We must confess Jesus as our first love

Just as Peter openly denied his love for Jesus three times, so Jesus now also gives him the opportunity to openly confess his love for Him three times. With this confession, Peter shows that he will love Jesus above all and everyone in his life.

Likewise, we must have the sincere intention of putting Jesus above everything and everyone in our lives. We can only love when we understand Jesus’ love. His love makes us brave and it gives us strength to want to live in obedience to Him.

We must commit to our calling

It is not enough that we confess with our mouths. We must do the same. For Jesus, this flock of His is important. He has a special love for the church and therefore He also laid down his own life for the church.

So, if we love Jesus, what is important to Him will also be important to us. Our love for Jesus must become visible in our love for our fellow man. We must forgive as Jesus forgives us. That is why it also says: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. (1 John 4:20).

Show your love for Christ daily through your love for your fellow man.

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