Tuesday, March 6, 2012

One More Chance

Sunday night, my pastor preached a message entitled “The Law of Joy and Thanksgiving”.  One of the asides struck me.  He mentioned that Peter is spoken to by God in Acts 10 (verses 9-16) about freeing himself from the law about what can be eaten and what can’t.  The dialogue had Peter responding to God three times, just as he denied Christ three times before the cock crowed.  And I was reminded of John 21:15-17, where Peter was asked if he loved Jesus, also three times.  Here’s what came to mind:

As I thought of those things, I wondered about the fact that each of these was a triple repetition.  The thing that came to my mind was that it was very possible that each question came from a different person of the Trinity.  There’s no proof of that, but wouldn’t it be like God to include all aspects of Himself, even if the actual communication came through one source?  And wouldn’t it be like God to give us more than one chance to get things right?

In Acts 10, Peter sees a vision and hears a voice teaching him that nothing external is intrinsically unclean.  It’s what we do with it and how we see it that can make it unclean.  Each time, till Peter understands what God is showing him, Peter fights “eating unclean food” because he still limits the lesson to what he sees and hears in the vision.  In the following verses, we see that Peter leaves, still confused by the vision.  But, several verses later, he explains it clearly to the centurion he’s visiting.  Triple repetition to give Peter an opportunity to free himself from legalism, so he can truly live his life with the heart of God.

In the period between Christ’s capture in the garden and His crucifixion, Peter is asked three times if he’s a disciple.  Each time, he denies knowing Christ.  Another lesson for Peter.  Into how “black” his heart really is.  But not to condemn him.  To show him the alternative without a relationship without God.  We know that nothing can happen unless God allows it.  If we think of each question as coming from a different person of the Trinity, then Peter has to deny the full Godhead, making the action darker than it already is.  And more in need of redemption.

In John 21, Peter is asked if he loves Jesus.  Again repeated three times.  This is probably the most likely incident where the question comes from all three persons of the Trinity.  Because, in the original language, the word Jesus uses is agape, describing a love that comes from God, has a capacity that only God can give, and flows back toward God.  Peter’s answer is, yes, he loves Jesus.  Phileo, a brotherly, human love.  It could be described as, “What I see is what I love.  Nothing more.”  Peter hadn’t yet latched onto the capacity Jesus was offering him to love with God’s love.  But God knew how Peter would grow spiritually.  After Jesus asked Peter about his love, He told Peter to feed the flock.  And, again, after he asked Peter the third time.  For emphasis. 

Peter’s failures didn’t separate him from his call.  As Romans 11:29 tells us, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”.  God’s call on Peter’s life and on ours isn’t based in our merit, but on the Will of God.  Based on His will, His love, His very nature.  Like God, what we see of the call may change with time, but it is also unchanging.  If we’re out on the water in a boat, what we see of the  fish and plant life look very different depending on the distance and angle we look at them from.  Those things don’t change, just our perception of them.  It’s the same with God’s call on our lives.  What we see from human perspective is going to vary with time and circumstances.  What God shows us is like Himself, immutable, accounting for all things.

When Job went through his trials, there was one where he failed.  And God didn’t give him three chances, He gave Job six chances.  A double triple repetition!  I don’t hang onto the possibility that each of the three parts of these repetitions comes from a different aspect of God.  I don’t have proof of that.  And I’m not expecting every opportunity from God to come in threes.  I’m not superstitious.  And, since God made the rules, He can modify them any time He chooses.  But thinking of the triple repetitions as relating to the Trinity on occasion is something I consider a nice tool from God to help us recognize what we can’t do on our own, how He’ll give us as many opportunities to get things right as it takes for us to do things God’s way or see we’ve decided on a different path.  As many opportunities as possible because He loves us and wants us to be blessed.  There’s always one more chance.

Have you chosen a relationship with God to keep getting one more chance?  If not, consider what we’ve said about God’s love for you and accept His salvation.  If you’ve already done that but you don’t think you’re living the way you should, once again here’s one more chance.  Why not take it?  God loves us and wants to bless us.  Latch onto that.  Grab that one more chance.

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