By Kyle Idleman
They both sinned, in very similar ways, with a very similar effect. You might say even oddly similar. Except the rest of their stories could not be more different.
Why? Because one missed out on the grace of God.
The Poison of Bitterness
God gives us a critical warning in Hebrews 12:15, “looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;“
The word translated “fail” could also be translated as “fails to receive” or “fails to obtain” or “fails to experience”.
I recently wrote a book called Grace Is Greater. My purpose in writing it, my prayer, was that it would help people experience the grace of God.
The warning, “looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God;” is followed by a warning of the consequence. When grace fails a bitter root begins to grow. In Hebrew culture any poisonous plant would be called a “bitter” plant. The author of Hebrews uses “root of bitterness” as a metaphor to make it clear that when grace gets missed things become toxic.
- Religion without grace is poisonous.
- A relationship without grace is poisonous.
- A church without grace is poisonous.
- A heart without grace is poisonous.
There is a grace effect and there is a non-grace effect.
When grace gets missed, the poison of bitterness and anger and guilt and shame will become too much to keep buried, they will eventually destroy a soul.
Dealing with Remorse
The night before Jesus was crucified he was betrayed by Judas. Judas might have been able to prevent what happened to Jesus, but he didn’t. Instead, driven by self-interest, he sold Jesus out.
The night before Jesus was crucified he was betrayed by Peter. Peter might have been able to prevent what happened to Jesus, but he didn’t. Instead, driven by self-interest, he sold Jesus out.
Judas and Peter both sinned against Jesus. We see that they both regret what they’ve done. They are both filled with remorse. That’s when their stories diverge. They deal with their remorse differently.
Judas tries to make things right, returning the 30 pieces of silver he had received for betraying Jesus. But he realizes that he cannot undo what he has done. His remorse leads him to shame. He became bitter and he hung himself. Missing grace destroyed his soul.
Peter, like Judas, is filled with regret, but his remorse leads him to repentance. Repentance is a turning of one’s life. It’s a turning towards God and makes a person an open vessel God can pour His grace into. The Bible says it this way in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.“
Peter repents … and grace comes running.
Peter goes back to his old life of fishing, but right in the middle of it, Jesus comes to him. Jesus and Peter have a conversation on a beach. In their talk, it became obvious that Jesus was telling Peter that he didn’t have to be held prisoner by his regrets. Jesus still had a great plan for Peter. Grace has the power to redeem regrets.
Power To Transform
One of the most amazing things about grace is that it doesn’t just save, it also transforms. Grace changes us in a way fear and guilt can’t.
When my wife and I were first married she discovered my dirty little secret. I have a messy closet. My wife is a very neat person. She likes an orderly and neat house. For years it drove her nuts that my closet was a disaster area. Her objective became to change me into a person who keeps a clean closet.
Initially she tried guilt. She reminded me of how much she was doing around the house. Was it really so much to ask for me to have a clean closet? After enough guilt I would clean out my closet. But the change never lasted long. Soon my closet was, once again, a mess.
My wife also tried fear. She made threats. If I wasn’t going to clean my closet or put my dirty clothes in the hamper, she wouldn’t wash my clothes. She underestimated the male species willingness to wear dirty clothes. Still, after a while I would need clean clothes, so I would clean my closet. But soon my closet was a disaster area again.
This cycle went on for over a decade. I would show signs of change, but I was never really transformed. In my heart I was still a messy closet person. Then my wife took a different approach. She started cleaning my closet for me. This was no small task. She even organized my closet to make things easier to put away.
She didn’t make a big deal of it. She wasn’t being a martyr, didn’t try to make me feel guilty. She had just decided that she loved me and would clean out my closet for me. And something happened. Ever since I’ve been keeping my closet fairly clean. But I never made a conscience decision to clean out my closet. I just found myself wanting it to be cleaner. It was her love, her grace, that led me to want to change. See, fear and guilt may cause you to go home and clean out your closet, but grace transforms.
That’s what Peter learned. On the beach that day his life collided with the most powerful force in the universe, the unconditional love of God. God’s grace saved him, and it did more. It transformed him.
Sin leads to remorse. When remorse leads us to repentance, God’s grace comes running. It will save us, and it will redeem us. We will be forever transformed.
Has your sin led you to remorse? Has your remorse led you to repentance? I’m not just talking about the one time, way back when. I’m talking about your sin from a couple hours ago, and the sin from a couple days ago too.
Don’t miss out on the grace of God. And see to it that no one else misses grace either.
Some of this material is excerpted from Kyle’s new book, Grace Is Greater.