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About this series
Keeping Love Alive
Four Biblical Practices Great Marriages Have in Common
How do you keep love alive when you see your marriage starting to teeter, or crumble, and everything in you wants to give up and get out? In this series, Chip provides four biblical practices that all great marriages have in common. For each one, he provides key principles, then practical implications, and finally, super practical tools to make those practices a reality in everyday life. This is a no-holds-barred, candid look at the way marriage really works and how to make yours better. If you’ll invest the time, what you’ll find in the end, are love, hope, joy, and peace - for you, and the one you love.More from this series
As we get started, I’m going to ask you to answer a question, not out loud for sure on this one, but I want you to think honestly and very deeply: what is something in your past or in your present that you’re ashamed of? Something you would rather no one know about or ever find out about or, at best, maybe the closest most trusted friend in the world, but no one else.
Something that would embarrass you if others found out about it. Something that if you thought someone, even your mate might know this, that they would have a lesser opinion of you.
We all have some things like that. And we spend inordinate amount of energy kind of putting them in boxes and categorizing them and pushing them down and denying them and pretending they are not there. And then in certain times, in certain ways, boy, they come rushing back over us.
It’s called shame. Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior or, listen carefully, or regrettable, unfortunate situation or action.
We have shame for three major reasons, according to the experts. One is a theological reason is we all have shame. The fall. Remember? After sin, what did Adam do? What did Adam and Eve do? They hid. And we have been all hiding ever since.
When you’re naked, and I don’t mean just physically, I mean you’re naked and you see who you really are or anyone else sees who you really are, not what we portray, not how we act, not how we cover it, not our sophistication and all of our defense mechanisms – but the real you, the parts of you that you know are not right, you hide.
But it gets worse, because it’s not just shame that we inherit from the fall, but it’s shame from things done to us.
And isn’t it a weird thing, over and over and over, you can tell kids forever that, “Oh, it’s not your fault.” Kids who go through divorce blame themselves. Women and children that are abused blame themselves. People that are rejected unfairly have shame.
And then there’s the third level of shame. It’s things that we do. The affair, the addiction, the explosive anger, the cheating. When you’re the abuser, crime, jail, prison. The abortion. The list can go on.
Some of you have found yourselves in places and doing things that you hope no one, you can’t stand to look at it, let alone the thought of anybody else.
And so, the response of this fundamental imprint on your soul that you don’t measure up, that there’s something wrong with you, that you’re deficient, that you’re flawed, that you’re damaged, that you’re unacceptable, that you’re unlovable, that you’re dirty, that you’re rejected, that you’re inferior, that you’re broken – and in times, in your worst moment, where you feel like you’re disgusting. There are about three natural responses.
Response number one is to hide. Response number two is to numb the pain. And it can be alcohol, porn, multiple partners, prescription drugs, work, ministry. And the other is to compensate. I’ll prove to myself and to others somehow. And it can come out in workaholism or someway that you’re going to prove and somehow balance the scales and do good for all the things that are hidden inside.
It’s interesting, some of the questions – here’s a question. Why do I clam up when things go wrong, sometimes for weeks, and ignore her and all the problems? Why? It’s because of shame. You just bury it and you’re frozen and you’re paralyzed.
And, yet, here’s what I want to tell you. It’s one thing to be forgiven and I think most of you, I pray all of you, have come to the point where whatever you have done and whatever you have recognized, you have come to a living God and said, I know I don’t measure up. I want to trust fully in what Christ did on the cross for me and He paid for my sin and I have received that free gift and I have invited Him into my life.
But there’s a difference between being forgiven and being restored. There’s a lot of people who have been legally forgiven, your sins are forgiven, but you live as a second-class citizen or you’re numbing yourself. Or you have big walls between you and your mate and other people.
There was just something about my dad that you could get so close and then it was just, that was it. Intimacy was just – couldn’t do it. I was probably in my mid to late thirties – I kept, longed for the equivalent of my dad to put his arm around me and I finally came to the conclusion that something happened in the war and he got a compound fracture and they put it in a cast. And that’s what he had. He just couldn’t do it. He was unable to literally give love because he never addressed that. And you know what? He never knew how.
Can I tell you, this isn’t something that is just modern warfare or the shame of people who have been abused or people that have abused others or all the rest. At the heart is a sense of betrayal where you have betrayed someone or you have betrayed your conscience or you have betrayed God.
And it’s not an accident that when you read John chapter 21, Peter shortly, the day of the resurrection, Jesus did a quick one-on-one with him. And he walked in a room with Peter and disciples there and I’m sure He looked Peter in the eye, “Yes, you betrayed Me, you did it publicly, you were arrogant.” I think he got forgiveness, but he didn’t get restoration. He had this, “Oh, I understand this up here, but my life is a mess. I don’t know what to do with my life. I don’t think I’ve got anything going for me anymore.” His shame was never dealt with.
And in John chapter 21, Jesus sets up a unique situation to help Peter go from being simply forgiven to be restored, because here’s the thing. You can’t forgive and connect with other people unless you forgive and get restored yourself.
So, open your Bibles to John chapter 21. And as you do, let me give you the context. Jesus has appeared now twice officially to all the disciples. They were commanded to go wait for Him in Galilee. Think about it. It’s familiar, it’s safe, it’s the home to a number of the disciples. It’s where many of them were called, it’s where they were called into ministry to follow Jesus.
Peter, like many of us, is not very good at waiting. We know from Luke 24 that he has had an encounter with Jesus and I can’t imagine Jesus not forgiving him in that moment. But he is still the leader because he decides that, “You know what? I don’t know what to do with my life, so I’m going to, this is what we all do. I am going to default back to what I know.” Under pressure, we all default back to where we’re comfortable and what we know.
So he basically says, “I’m going to go fishing.” And the six other guys, “Well, if you’re going, I guess we’ll go with you.” We pick up the story. John 21. “Afterward Jesus appeared to them again, to His disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias,” that’s Galilee.
“It happened in this way: Simone Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee,” James and John, “and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going to go out and fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Him. He called out to them, ‘Friends, have you any fish?’” Literally, the word is lads or children. It’s a term of affection by someone a bit older and a bit wiser.
“‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul in the net because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved,” it’s John, “said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ And as soon as Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and he jumped into the water. And the other disciples followed in the boat, pulling the full net of fish, for they were not far from the shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals with fish on it, and some bread.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have caught.’ Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net did not break. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared to ask Him, ‘Who are You?’ for they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread, gave it to them, did the same with the fish. This is now the third time Jesus appeared to His disciples after He had been raised from the dead.”
Now, notice, first of all, Peter has gone back to where he is comfortable, dealing with life the only way he knows how. Jesus picks an opportune time and He is going to have a conversation. Notice the conversation doesn’t start with, “Hey, let’s go deep right now.”
Does anybody remember when Peter was called? The experience that he had as a fisherman? Remember, he’s sitting out on that boat? And Jesus used his boat to preach a message. And after He preaches the message, remember last time? He had fished all night and got nothing. And it was a time when you shouldn’t catch fish and He said, “Just go out a little bit and lower your net.” Do you remember what happened? It was overwhelmed, full with fish.
You think this is lost on Peter? This is like, “I have seen this movie before. This is when Jesus called me to follow Him.” And then he pulled it and then remember what he did? He left his nets and he followed Him. Think it’s an accident that he’s – He’s saying, “Peter, unless you go back and relive part of the journey of when I called you and who you were, then you’re not going to be able to reassess this new journey.” So, He does the same thing.
What’s the message there? “Hey, I understand that Peter and I understand the Peter who betrayed Me.” And, by the way, he didn’t just – this isn’t a little betrayal. I think in our culture we think sexual sin is the worst thing in the world. Betrayal is by far, far worse than sexual sin.
In fact, at the heart of sexual sin, if you do it against your mate, it’s not the act of sexuality, it’s the betrayal, isn’t it? It’s the breaking of the covenant. It’s the dissing of the person. It’s breaking the bond. And it’s not like Peter was just like, “Oh, I kind of don’t know Him.” By the third time, the text is a little light, it’s, “Blankey-blank-blank, I don’t know that blank-blank.” That’s what he said. He is cussing. He is denying. “I don’t know Him at all!”
And then Jesus looks over. Remember, this is the guy, in front of his buddies, “Hey, they all might desert you, not me.” “Peter, I tell you,” and Jesus predicted it. “I’m better, I’m stronger, I’ve got your back, Jesus. If I have to die, I’ll die.” He had – right? It’s one thing to betray someone. It’s a lot worse when you have been the one to puff your chest out and say, “Everyone else might betray You, but not me.” And then you’re the one that goes down.
And then do you remember where he was when he betrayed Jesus? Remember the text says there was a, not just a fire, but a special kind of fire. Notice the text talks about the coals again. When he was warming his hands and that little servant girl asked him, can you imagine, some of us have done some things we are not proud of and you can almost smell where you were and you can remember certain things, there’s an imprint like a little movie that’s in your mind. And Jesus is recreating, He is forcing him to go back and face and engage where he had been before, where the pain was.
Except instead of, instead of betrayal, what’s He doing? “Come and have breakfast. I’m for you.” All the fear, all the arms crossed, all the sense of shame. “You don’t measure up. You’re a loser! How could you betray Me?” It’s not that. It’s, “Let’s eat some fish.” There’s conversation.
And do you remember, He did it in front of people, right? He boasted in front of the disciples. Do you understand what He is recreating here? Now, psychologists and people who do work with PTSD and all this, they talk about the painful, dramatic necessity of going back through part of what you have been through and experiencing the grace of God in the reliving of some of those moments.
And long before there were experts or psychologists, Jesus is walking him back through the very journey, but this time it’s with grace. This time, it’s with, “I understand. This time, yes, you’re fallen. Yes, you betrayed Me. And, yes, I love you. And it doesn’t define you.”
But He doesn’t stop there, because it’s not enough to relive the experience. Psychologists can do that with us; only God can do what happens next. “When they finished eating,” notice, it’s a special time, it’s a special place, it is recreated. Can you imagine, some of you don’t have to imagine, but can you imagine what is going on in Peter’s mind? He is reliving his calling, he is reliving his betrayal, he is being treated in a way that just, it just, it’s so foreign, it’s so unnatural, it’s so what he doesn’t deserve. He’s experiencing love and communication.
“And then when they finished eating, Jesus said to Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love Me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘You know I love You.’ ‘Feed My lambs.’ Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love Me?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, Lord, You know I love You.’ And Jesus said, ‘Take care of My sheep.’ The third time He said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love Me?’ And Peter was hurt because He asked him a third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ And Jesus said, ‘Feed My sheep.’”
And then He goes on to tell him then, “‘I tell you the truth that when you were younger you dressed yourself, you went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ And Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death in which Peter would glorify God.”
Then don’t miss the next line, “Then He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’” Remember the last time He said, “Follow Me!”? Peter, you’re back on the team. Peter, you’re not just forgiven, I have a purpose for you. You can’t wallow in your betrayal. You just can’t live with the nightmares. You can’t make a little compartment and somehow go back to fishing and just try and be a nice person. I called you, you messed up, this was traumatic, it was difficult. We are going to relive it, we are going to go back in the past. And then how many times did he deny Him? How many questions does he get?
You think it’s accidental? Now, scholars will tell you, and many of you probably heard messages. It’s interesting the first two times He says, “Do you agape Me? Do you agape Me?” Unconditional, full-court press, love Me unconditionally? And Peter answers, “You know the facts. I love You.” “Do you love Me?” And, you know, the way you claim to be agape?” Peter answers, “You know the facts.” Then finally, Jesus changes it. “Do you phileo Me?” Do you love Me like family? When you love like family, you mess up in families, don’t you? Families are where it’s safe to mess up. Families are where we accept that one another are human.
He says, “Do you love Me like a brother?” And like brothers and sisters and families, we are going to give it our best shot and there are going to be times where we let one another down, but when we do, as family, you come and you own your stuff and you say, “I’m so sorry.” And it’s not an end to it.
And Peter, interestingly, changes. And he says, “You know,” ginosko, “by way of experience.” You look into my heart, You know my journey. And He said, He started first with, “Well, feed My lambs.” There’s a little responsibility you could take. I want you to be, are you ready? I want you to be tender with, what’s a lamb? It’s vulnerable. Peter, I want you…
Remember Peter is the, he’s the, “Hey! Everyone else will, but I’m…” Remember? “I’ll walk out on the water.” I mean, this is the fiery, type A, I can make it happen. And he is broken. And so, his first assignment is, “I want you, because of what you have now experienced, I want you to be vulnerable and tender with people that are vulnerable, lambs. I want you to feed them.”
Second time, “I want you to take care of My sheep.” It’s leadership. “I want you to be responsible.” And then, finally, “I want you to feed My sheep. I want you to be the kind of leader that I called you in the very beginning and that these six men that around this fire are looking at you to be. And I want you to follow Me with your head up, because you’re not only forgiven, you’re restored.”
And that broken betrayer had to relive his moment, the worst moment of his life. But he received both truth and grace. And it brought healing inside. And that’s what some of you need, because if you don’t, that wall, you get so used to it, but your wife or your husband, they feel it. They are like, they keep trying to knock on the outside and get in and get in and get in and you’re almost oblivious; you won’t let them in. And you won’t let them in because maybe you have accepted God’s forgiveness, but you just feel like this imprint, this shame, this picture, this experience – it defines you. It doesn’t. You’ve got to go back through that and you’ve got to do it in the presence of Jesus.