The truth of that morning outside Joseph of Arimethea’s empty tomb and on that morning when the disciples had gone fishing and looked ashore to discover Jesus making them breakfast…that is what we need to hold onto. We hear the story, but we need to understand the meaning.
I never fail to be especially impacted by the conversation between the Lord and Peter on the beach that day. Peter had been so sure of himself before that long night in the courtyard when the Lord was being abused and mocked. He had vowed he would never betray the Lord and yet in those shadowy pre-dawn hours, the Lord’s words of prophecy to him had come to pass and he denied him three times before the cock crowed.
Peter had failed the Lord in those moments of denial. He had struggled in the aftermath of that day, shocked at his cowardice. But then as he walked to shore and saw the Lord beside the charcoal fire preparing breakfast, I wonder if he winced. It had been a charcoal fire in the courtyard that morning where his biggest failure had occurred. Only on these two occasions is a charcoal fire mentioned in the Bible. How poignant it must have been for Peter!
Then in John 21:15-19 we read of the conversation Jesus has with Peter. Three times the Lord asks Peter if he loves him. Three times!! It had been three times he had denied the Lord. How Peter’s heart must have ached as he heard the questions.
Peter assured the Lord that he did indeed love him and the Lord gave him his mission and commission to feed his lambs, care for his sheep and feed them. In those short verses, the Lord restores Peter to himself, to oneness with “the” One. He grants him his identity, something only possible because of the Incarnation.
Henry Scougal in The Life of God in the Soul of Man makes clear the main point of the Christian faith: “True Religion is a Union of the Soul with God. It is a ‘real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the Soul’, or in the Apostle’s phrase, it is Christ formed within us.”
That point, that union, for Peter was more important that morning than the dawning of the sun. He was forgiven on a level he could not imagine possible and made “one” with his Lord.
That is what we must hold fast to because those words are for us as well as believers in Christ. They are available to us even when we fail Him; fail Him miserably, if we recognize the price has been paid.
Too often we connect our identities to something or someone outside of ourselves. As long as we do that, we will struggle with our sense of worth.
In Closer Than Close Dave Hickman reminds us:
“But as believers united to Christ, our identities are not in what we do (or even in what Christ has done) but in who Christ is.”
Later Hickman notes:
“Being united to Christ affords us the grace by which we are now fully (and forever) included and accepted into God’s family as true sons and daughters. This is the heart of divine adoption. Knowing ourselves to be actual sons and daughters of God is central to our identity in Christ.”
In Knowing God by J.I. Packer he states:
“If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all…(For) our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.”
Dave Hickman describes the dilemma too many of us have struggled with for far too long.
“Theologian Clark Pinnock once noted that ‘if salvation is union, conversion is awakening to love.’ The pinch of that definition is that until we understand salvation is union with Christ, we will remain unconverted to the reality of our identity as the beloved. We will continue to strive and not rest. We will continue to doubt and not believe. We will continue to hunger and thirst but never be filled. We will continue to peer into the all-consuming love between the Father and Son but never experience what it means to be the beloved ourselves. In short, we will continue to live our lives as orphans, unaware of how deeply and passionately we are loved of our Father.”
This changes everything! It changed everything for Peter on the shore so long ago and it does for us as well.
You and I are in union with the One! The unholy alliance in the Garden of Eden sealed with the eating of the fruit in the ceremony of covenantal relationship with Satan has been broken when we experience re-union with the Trinity through Jesus Christ.
And He gives us a reminder of that new covenant that we saw first in the upper room before His death. He gives us communion (committed union) that we can truly celebrate as evidence of His covenant with us.
Our identity is settled once and for all! Our re-union is complete (though not consummated until His return). Satan’s ploy and hope is that we will never recognize it.
Everything changes because of this truth. In the next and last post in this six-part series, lets look at how different we might look as a result of holding fast to this truth.