People often tell me, “Whatever you need me to do, Pastor, just tell me. I’m there.”
The truth is, I don’t need you to do very much. No more than we all need to do to take care of each other. What I would like is for everyone who tells me that to show up to Bible study. To start their own study group. To be a part of a prayer group. Show up to worship with the rest of the church.
That’s what prepares us to live as followers of Jesus. As we learn and pray, we come to recognize more what God wants us to do. The reality is God may ask you to visit the sick. The Holy Spirit may be nudging you next to care for someone in great need. How many jail visits have you done? Does the Lord want those women and men to know God’s presence there? Forget what I might need you to do. Think of what God wants!
While I appreciate the gesture to help, our faith matures as we understand the call to follow. Remember, the basic invitation of Jesus is “Follow me.” Our tendency is to take the highways and freeways of faith that get us where we want to go. Faster, we think. In doing so, we also get to avoid a few unsightly places and people.
“Follow me” is different. Follow Christ to forgotten or rejected places. Follow Christ to those who are hurting. And, ultimately, follow Christ to the cross. Follow Christ there because those are the turns Jesus makes.
In that moment Peter looked Jesus in the eye, he was ready. He thought he was. “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Turns out, he wasn’t even ready to acknowledge he knew Jesus. There is shame in those moments of failure. Peter wept with a great bitterness. How much anguish do we really feel about our shortcomings?
But shame and conviction are different. God’s Holy Spirit will convict our hearts. That leads to freedom, redemption and joy. The enemy wants us to wallow in shame. That keeps us from truly experiencing communion with God–think back to Adam and Eve hiding. Notice what Jesus said to Peter. Our Lord knew what Peter would not be able to do then. But he also told him, “when once you have turned back.” You see, Jesus also knew what Peter would do later.
So, let Spirit show you your sin and failures. Jesus, though, won’t shame you. He knows and loves you too much. Like Peter, turn back. That’s what I want you to do. The joyful part is so does Jesus and he’s expecting you.