In God’s economy, where the mystery of predestination is in play, where He works out all things after the counsel of His will, one might wonder then, just what is the point of any decision we make or anything we say or do. It would seem that whatever our motivation might be, good or evil, it is really of no account, because it is ultimately trumped by God’s will which we must assume is entirely good. Wouldn’t this undermine any personal motivation, knowing that our contribution has no essential bearing on any outcome?

Another puzzle of sorts has to do with why God, being omniscient, would ever ask us a question. In fact, as Psalm 139 has informed us, even the content of our thoughts, which have not even been expressed, is known to Him. No, God is not deficient in knowledge. Yet, He asks Peter; “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” Most of us probably know that Jesus asked this same question three times, with an increasingly grieved Peter always responding, “Yes Lord.” He finally said, correctly, “Lord, you know all things!” Peter had to be wondering what the point of this exchange was. And we note that Jesus didn’t say the expected thing, “Yes, Peter, and I love you too.” Instead, three times, He simply repeated the simple and straightforward instruction, “Then, shepherd My flock.”

One thing we could project happening from Peter’s final conversation with Jesus is that, unless Peter was actually engaged in caring for His followers, his conscience, unless it grew very hard, could never entertain the notion that his love for Christ was authentic. I think there was also something else going on in this exchange that might be less obvious.

Just as there was affirmation of calling in triplicate so had there been denial. Just as Jesus foretold, Peter had denied Him three times. I don’t think Jesus wanted to leave the earth with Peter’s words of denial being the last words he heard himself say—ringing on in his ears and resounding in his heart. This may shed some light on why God asks us questions when He already knows the answers. Our answers help us hear what’s in our own hearts, things we must take ownership of.

As our heart motivations are somehow converted into thoughts and then into words that are eventually expressed publicly there is a powerful spiritual dynamic. Questions draw us out. They invite us to make ourselves known to ourselves and to each other. Peter was no doubt horrified with himself at failing three times to openly associate with his increasingly unpopular friend. He did not really know himself. He had previously thought of himself in a heroic light, as one prepared to suffer and even die with Jesus. To continue as a follower of Christ, it was essential for Peter to take ownership of the reality of what was in his heart. From Peter’s denial to his affirmation of love, the Lord provided sufficient time for him to reflect, mourn, and repent.

It was fortunate that the Good Shepherd tended to Peter, his wounded young lamb, providing him, and others, an opportunity to hear him say, “I love you Jesus.” Jesus’ questions drew Peter out so that he could discover and take ownership of something more real within himself than the self-image of a coward and a traitor. Peter’s destiny was that of a lover of God. His public statement to this effect reinforced his identity as a beloved lamb of God. So, what is the application for us?

Our public profession and association with Jesus is a very big deal! I invite you to read Matt. 10:32,33 and then, the larger context of those verses Matt 10:24-42.

Peter’s profession, “I love You,” are, I believe, the words God longs to hear from us. I know He loves our sacrifices of praise: “We worship you Oh Lord,” and “We praise You.” How appropriate for us to regularly sing to a Being so glorious and powerful, the great omniscient and omnipotent Alpha and Omega and King of Kings. Yet, utterly astounding, He is also, Abba Father, which invites another level of response—something that should be by no means a sacrifice—a heart felt, “Oh Lord how I love You; I aspire only to love You more!” In light of who God is and what He has done, “What is it really in our worship that we are sacrificing?”

The Spirit He has given to those who are trusting in Him exclusively as their savior is a Spirit of adoption by which they cry out, “Abba! Father!” Just based on the way I read scripture and have processed my own experience as a father, I believe that our I love you’s, especially our regular and privately expressed ones, are the consummation of worship. These all-inclusive words of adoration cover the gamut of other expressions of praise. Coming from our hearts, which have been refined as Peter’s was, these words are the Father’s reward of His suffering. Hearing your child say, “I love you, Dad, and I am utterly content in You,” pretty much says it all.

Where the line is defining the conflict between God’s sovereignty and man’s is a mystery. The problem for us westerners, allergic to mystery as we are, is that we want to fit God into the rational grid of our logic where He just will not fit. Our natural constructs are far too fragile and minuscule to contain God’s Life. Our reason and logic tend to provide only either/or explanations when the reality within God’s eternal economy is that the God/man-sovereignty conflict is only an apparent one to us, who remain, at this time, partially sight-impaired. In His vast domain, it is really a both/and reality, regardless of how it offends our almighty-rigid wine skins of western reason.

As there is scholarship making cases for both sides, I have decided to start a new file for my wineskin ( i.e. my vision). I have labeled it “Mystery.” In this file, like David, I try to place the things of scripture and of life experience that I cannot currently attain to, things too high and too wonderful for me. Before I place it in that file though, I try to make sure it is stamped, God Is Good.

I had previously had a file labeled Is God Really Good? It was huge and growing as I accumulated more and more observations that questioned this apparent contradiction between His sovereignty and His goodness, which inevitably undermined the notion of His goodness. My spirit was being crushed by the weight of the unanswered questions that I had filed away. In this season, the only praise that escaped my lips was indeed a sacrifice and, sadly, it was often no more than lip service. There were certainly no heart felt ‘I love you’s’ flowing from my heart. Those were overshadowed by my ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’s!’

I don’t understand cancer, tragic accidents, abuse, or poverty and perversion, or the hundreds of other evils that are crouching at the door, prepared to waylay us. I do not believe they came from heaven. I don’t believe they are God’s will. We are caught up into a cosmic battle and these things are to me a mystery. Before the creation of this “Mystery” file, the either/or options in my mind haunted me. Something was amiss.

Since I have more fully embraced “mystery,” I have noticed that the Lord is answering an important prayer of mine: to restore my heart to innocence and simplicity in devotion. I have noticed that two sentences more frequently escape my lips these days. The first is: “I don’t know.” I don’t know why everything happens, but I will not credit God with evil, regardless of how theologically sound it may seem within a Calvinistic mindset . Many would call this denial—others, error. I call it mystery. I just don’t know. My prayer is that the content of this file would continue to break my heart and lead me into prayer. I just do not want to pull it out regularly and subject its content to the why’s of my human scrutiny.

The other sentence is “I love You.” From my heart, without shame or guilt, with boldness and joy, I am learning to come before Him and simply and innocently say, “I love you, Father.” This is where my journey with Christ started, and it is the sweetest spot I have found as a sojourner traveling with Him. Therefore, I aspire, wherever I can, to tell my story and make public profession in regards to Jesus. I have discovered that our individual stories are high protein spiritual nourishment to each other. We can each tend the flock and feed quite a lot of lambs with this food.

Father, make us to lie down in green pastures where we can listen to the questions You are posing to us. Lead us beside quiet waters, where our hearts can frame our answers. Create safe spaces for us, like this, where real authentic conversations can take place. Restore our souls so that we can reciprocate the love with which You have loved us. Help each of us in Your family learn to live in Your holy presence with simplicity of devotion so that You hear a rising tide of ‘I love you’s coming from Your vast family. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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