I attended a budgeting Community Group this summer. It was a great class with a great group of people who were willing to be honest about their budgets and all of their emotions around their budgeting, or lack thereof. There’s a lot of emotion around money, isn’t there? Many people feel shame, or at least a nagging sense that they aren’t doing enough. We discussed one of Satan’s most common tricks that he uses on Christians… guilt.
Guilt is a tough one, isn’t it? I mean, I really did whatever it is that I feel bad about, so it feels very legit to feel guilty about it. It even feels like we should feel guilty about it. The Bible talks about godly sorrow, and surely I am supposed to feel it for a good long while, right? In our last budgeting class we look at two well-known sinners in the Bible who committed some pretty serious sins, and how they each responded.
Judas and Peter were both intimate companions with Jesus. They walked with him for 3 years. They were both there at the famous Last Super, where Jesus spent His last meal with his friends. And that night, in very different ways, they both betrayed their Messiah. Judas turned Him in to the people that wanted Him dead, and Peter, though swearing he would die defending Him, denied ever having known Him, three times. They both felt tremendous guilt. But they handled their guilt very differently.
We know that Judas hung himself, unable to live with the shame of his actions. Peter, on the other hand, responded by going fishing, going back to what he knew. You can read the account of how Jesus interacts with Peter in John 21 (see the link below). But I’ll give you the gist of it right here. Peter, John, Thomas, and Nathanael went fishing and caught nothing all night. At dawn, Jesus calls out to them from the shore “Hey kids, have ya caught any fish?” They answer that they have not and He tells them something similar to what they have heard from Him before, the first time they met Him (see Luke 5). He says to them from the shore, “Cast your net on the other side. That’s where the fish are.” And as before, they obeyed and caught so many fish that they could not even pull in the net! John recognizes this miracle and shouts out, “It’s the Lord!” And what does Peter do? He immediately does the very opposite of what Judas did… He throws on his clothes, jumps into the cold water, and swims straight to Jesus! The rest of the guys are stuck hauling this heavy load in on their own. He doesn’t care… Jesus is here, and he finally gets a chance to talk to Him. He trusts the Lord and knows that his sin has not separated him from God forever.
When they all reach the shore, Jesus has some fish cooking already, but asks them to bring some of their fish over as well. Peter immediately jumps into action and grabs some fish for Jesus. Jesus makes them breakfast. How awkward is that moment for Peter? “We’re just eatin’ breakfast, not talking about the fact that I recently denied ever having known the Savior of the world… who just made me breakfast.” Awkward for sure.
After breakfast comes the famous conversation between Peter and Jesus where Jesus asked Peter three times if he loves Him.
“Peter, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord. You know I love you!”
“Feed my lambs. Peter, son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord. You know I love you!”
“Tend my sheep. Peter, do you love me?”
Peter is now grieved that Jesus is asking him again.
“Lord, you know everything, and you know that I love you.”
If it was me, I would be weeping by now.
Peter, in all his shame, gets to Jesus as quickly as he can, and faces a very emotional conversation with Jesus. And Jesus gives Peter a job to do. Something to obey.
The difference between the shame that Judas felt and the conviction that Peter felt is that Judas felt that there was nothing that could be done about his sin, and so he hung himself in a hopeless state. Peter knew that he could run to Jesus, and Jesus gave him work to do!
Here’s how you know if what you are feeling is from Satan or from God. Satan will give you a sinking feeling of guilt over what you’ve done, and that is all. There will be no steps to take, no way out, nothing you can do to change those feelings. Jesus, on the other hand, will offer forgiveness, give you steps to take to move forward, and give you the power you’ll need to take those steps! Peter received his power on the day of Pentacost. In Acts chapter 2 he preaches a heck of a sermon, sharing the gospel, and 3,000 people were saved! I’d say he successfully fed Jesus’ sheep!
Do not let shame cripple you, my dear friends. Take that shame to Jesus, confess your sin openly, weep and wail with Him if you must, and then listen. I assure you that He will have something to say to you. He will not stop at offering you forgiveness, but he will give you a task and then empower you to do it by his Holy Spirit. Obeying those instructions will not bring you redemption. That is the work of the Cross. But it will restore you and your emotions, and move you along in growth and in the kingdom of God.