Every year I write a little blog post about the word of the year. Last year I was still working on the year before. The word was “Cut.” I felt like God laid it on my heart that my life was cluttered and much of what I needed to do in the past, I no longer needed to do. Life is like that. Some of what is fruit bearing in one season is no longer necessary in another. I needed to make some professional changes. I needed to find easier ways of handling an existing business and maybe cut out a ministry I was heavily involved in altogether. It took two years but I did just that.
When I prayed about this year, the word that seemed to grab my heart and captivate my mind was the word, “Freedom.” This year I stood at the Sea of Galilee at the designated spot where it is believed the apostle Peter was told to throw his nets on the other side of the boat and they brought in such a great haul of fish, it brought Peter to his knees. Peter also returned to this very spot after all the excitement seemed to be over. He traveled north from Jerusalem to fish again. This time the resurrected Jesus called to them from the beach and they brought in another haul of fish. It was 153 fish which may have been the same amount as the first time three and a half years earlier, I am not sure what the significance of 153 was, but the detail is included for some reason.
There is a little church built at this spot, and their was a Catholic group Celebrating Communion outside and there was a lot of religion going on, but where I was drawn was to the Sea of Galilee. As I looked out on the water there were some jet skis making some waves and I knelt down and touched the water.
Like Peter, I experienced the question, “Do you love me more than these?” Only all I heard was three things in my mind as the waves gently touched the tip of my shoes. It went something like, “Your sin,” “Your name,” “Your family.” I had a moment between each wave to hear it and let it sink in for later. Out on the Sea of Galilee were the jet skis freely moving and creating the waves. But, we are faced with this question. Do we love him more than these?
Peter experienced so much but when it seemed to be over, he said, I am going fishing and he left Jerusalem to go way north back to the Sea of Galilee. Peter is also being restored knowing that he denied Jesus three times before the cross, he was now given the opportunity to say that he did in fact love the Lord.
When we knowingly choose sin over God it reveals that in that moment we do love our self, our sin, our own prisons more than God. That is just honesty. Because we all knowingly sin and struggle daily, this is a hard reality that we don’t really want to face to often. We would rather hide, make excuses and compare like Adam and Eve. We have been eating from the wrong tree ever since that fateful day. But, we need to face the reality that holiness isn’t as much of a priority as we proclaim. We love our sin, that is why we do it. But, what do we do with the question. “Do you love me more than this?” What is getting in the way? What do we need to just get rid of? What poison do we consume? What are we doing that is just plain hurting us?
This is very difficult to admit, but it is important to come to terms with the reality. “Man, I love me some me!” I like to be noticed. I like to be special. It would be great if people still remembered me as a young college athlete, or they found me witty and funny. It sure is great when people think I am smart, or worst of all, I want people to see how spiritual I am. It is all just hay to be thrown in the fire. It will be burnt up in about 5 seconds. Why? Because like the song says, “Jesus is the only name to remember.” This journey of following after the living Christ is not to be about self assurance it is about becoming less self involved. Tim Keller calls it, “Self-Forgetfulness.” We shouldn’t focus on our sinfulness, shame or our greatness, because really it is just the two sided coin of pride. God makes men who they are. We lean in and depend on Him and God works through us. But it truly is about His name and not ours.
This is where it gets really irritating to read something like this. I get it, because I don’t like writing it. But, the only way to truly love my wife and my daughter and all of the family and friends in my life, even my dog, is to love God first. I can’t love them more than God does. He wants them to win. He wants them to be at peace. He wants what is best for them, even more than I do. He wants them to thrive. He wants us to be a great family for His glory, so I must love Him first, and trust Him most. He can make it happen.
It is important to note that Peter was being rebuked and then restored as the questions were asked. Peter was being called to a new life, but the fact that he needed this talking to wasn’t enjoyable for him in the moment. Yes, it is great to identify with Peter’s moment in the moment I had in the same place, but it would be better to not need this talking to.
The fact that Jesus and I are having this conversation reveals that I in fact need this conversation. To be honest I still do, that is why I am going to spend the next 365 days on it. Do I love God more than these three things? True freedom happens when we can, “Yes Lord, I love you more than all of these things.”
True freedom begins when we lay it all down. When we see that we are slaves to the masters we created, but the living Christ offers freedom. That freedom oddly exists under His authority where His care resides. So, Do you love Him more than these? If you do there is freedom. Even if like Peter one day you will be dressed and taken somewhere you don’t want to go, God will go with you and you will be free. Oddly enough Peter is the one who wrote if you humble yourself you will be exalted. Exalt yourself and you will be humbled.
He wasn’t in to following Jesus to the cross in this moment, but when that day came Peter willingly gave up His life and history tells us he wanted to be crucified upside down to avoid dying in the same way that Christ died, because deep down He knew where he stood. Peter died with much pain and in a horrific manner, but he died free.
Thanks for reading! Happy New Year!