Forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to the things that are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14)
Paul, who wrote these words, is often thought of as one of the greatest apostles, if not THE most accomplished apostle in terms of his works. Paul had to face his past failures and people’s hatred of who he was. Sometimes, when you have a reputation, whether it is from whispers and innuendos or something you’ve really, truly done, it takes courage to push past that and do God’s will in spite of people’s rejection. Paul had to endure great susupicion when the Lord saved him and called him to preach the gospel. He was truly chosen by God, but had to overcome obstacles. Everyone did not welcome him or pat him on the back. Regardless of Christ’s message of forgiveness, they had “heard” about him and that was enough from them. Paul really had done all that they whispered about. He does not hide it in scripture or shy away from his former life. These were not hearsay crimes, but actual documented persecution that he admits to visiting upon the church. Who knows what mothers, fathers, sisters, or friends of the saints he had put to death. But this did not stop God calling him to preach nor did he doubt his calling.
Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: Galatians 1:23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
Paul did not let this stop him from serving God to the fullest. He even said that because of his past he was not worthy to be apostle, but He knew one thing–God is is a forgiving God. Where God will often wipe the slate clean, people often set out limitations. Where God says “yes”, people often find reasons to say “no”. At that moment the naysayers themselves are outside of the will of God. God could have easily said, well, Paul, because of what you did in your past, I can’t use you to preach. But Paul’s willingness to confront foes, his earnestness in laboring for causes, and his honesty, is what God saw in Paul that He wanted to use. God is not looking for people who never make errors. God is looking for honest people. In fact, those who appear to never make mistakes and appear spotless, almost without fail, have deeper, more hidden problems that just have not surfaced yet.
Let’s take look at Peter. Peter sinned in denying Christ, but after Peter’s bitter repentance, he saw the needed to change and God welcomed him with open arms. He did not rub it in Peter’s face, or say “Peter, I just don’t see how you could be one of my apostles and be that weak, it’s obvious to me you are not fit for this job” but challenged his heart with “lovest thou me more than these?” God greatly used Peter on the day of Pentecost to preach the first message of the new church. Unfortunately, later in the book of Galatians, Peter still had a weakness with people that he had not quite overcome.
Back then, there was a controversy among the saved, newly converted Jews as to whether gentiles were fully accepted into the new faith without performing some of the Jewish rituals (Acts 15). Peter new that God accepted the Gentiles ( Acts 10). However, when Peter was influenced by his Jewish brethern and concerned about what they would think of him if they saw him feely mixing with gentiles. So when Peter saw the Jewish brethren enter a space where jewish and gentile Christians were gathering, he withdrew himself from the gentiles out of fear what would be said of him. Paul scolded Peter about this sin. Yet, God was still not through with Peter and saw fit to include his Epistles as part the divinely, inspired word of God.
God does give second chances and sometimes more, if he sees fit. He can have mercy on whoever he wishes.
Romans 9:17-18 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Galatians 6:1 teaches that if a brother is overtaken in a “fault”, that a spiritual person should help restore that fallen one in the spirit of meekness. The word “fault” in I Peter 2:20 and in Galatians is Ham-ar-ratos which means to violate God’s law, sin, or transgress the law of God. What does that teach us? People that fall can be restored. When the power of the blood is applied to that person’s heart, God does not withdraw his support and help because of their past.
But we should never doubt God’s depth of forgiveness. There is no scripture that prevents people from reclaiming their place in God’s kingdom, only the acceptance of the people that they serve. Many good preachers and leaders have been abandoned by the church in their hour of need, simply because someone of influence “felt” that they could not or should not be restored. This is a decision that should be handled by the one that rules the government of the Church- Jesus Christ.
One thing about Peter and Paul is that they did not quit because of their challenges and failures. They knew that God was with them and moved forward even if everyone did not accept them, they didn’t allow any short-sighted people to change their destiny. One of the worst things in the world that can happen becuase of a spiritual fall is for that person to never get up and try again.
If you have suffered a failure or sinned, the most important thing in the world is that you make your amends and are honest with God. Don’t allow the guilt and shame of spiritual failures to destroy you, and cause you to sink into depression. Never let people’s negative opinion of you become your reality. The only person or people that matter at the end of the day is God. It’s Him that we must all stand before to be judged and God is never looking to destroy us if we are looking to Him.
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