“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.’ This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”
A Self-evident Truth
We have just read John 21:15-19 for today’s Scripture reading. Here in this passage Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” and Peter answered and said, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Every time Peter answered, the Lord told him, “Fee My lambs,” “Tend My sheep,” and “Feed My sheep.” The Lord then said to Peter, “When you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This took place after the Lord was crucified and rose from the dead.
At that time, some people had seen the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes, while others had only heard of it. At any rate, Peter, James, and a number of other disciples had gone to the Sea of Tiberias to fish. It appears that they were extremely disappointed in themselves over how they had behaved when Jesus was crucified to death. Even though the Lord had risen from the dead for them, they nevertheless had returned to their past. So they worked hard all night long trying to catch fish, but they caught nothing. Jesus, standing on the shore, asked them if they caught any fish, and when they said no, He told them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” When they did as instructed, the net was full of fish.
One of the disciples of Jesus then said, “It is the Lord!” Hearing this, Peter put on his outer garment that he had taken off, jumped into the sea, and swam to the shore where the Lord was standing. When the disciples got to the shore, they saw the Lord waiting for them, having prepared a fire of coals, fish, and bread. But none of them asked, “Lord, have You risen from the dead?” The resurrection was all too real. The resurrected Lord had appeared on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias and told them to cast the next to the other side of the boat. Even though the disciples were all now sitting on the shore, none of them could ask, “Lord, have You been brought back to life?” Why couldn’t they ask this? It’s because it was all too clear to them that Jesus had risen from the dead. It’s because this resurrected Lord was standing right before their very eyes, having lit a fire of coals, cooked fish, and prepared bread, and He was telling them to eat. None of them could ask Him if He was Jesus, for the Jesus who was standing before them was neither from a dream or a vision. Before this event transpired, the disciple had heard twice that Jesus had risen from the dead. So, even though they had not seen Jesus after His crucifixion and burial, they were now seeing Him with their very own eyes, and here before them as clear as broad daylight He had indeed risen.
Spiritually speaking, this is akin the unquestionable validity of the gospel of the water and the Spirit. It is so clear that the Lord has blotted out our sins once and for all with the gospel of the water and the Spirit that it is impossible for us to ask if this gospel is right or not. None of us can question the gospel of the water and the Spirit because all our sins have in fact been blotted out. The gospel of the water and the Spirit proclaims that Jesus Christ bore our sins once and for all by being baptized by John the Baptist. By being baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus shouldered the sins of the world, carried them to the Cross, shed His blood to death on the Cross, rose from the dead again, and has thereby become our Savior. Since our Lord has blotted out our sins once and for all like this, do we have any sins still remaining with us? No, of course not! There is no need to even ask this question, for it is undeniably true that the Lord has blotted out our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit. That the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit have no more sin is incontrovertibly true.
Despite Our Shortcomings
Appearing before His disciples, the resurrected Lord asked Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” Peter then said, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He was able to say this three times. Peter had no choice but to say, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” The disciples were in fact overcome with emotion when they saw Him. They were overwhelmed by the fact that Jesus had come looking for them after His resurrection. When Jesus was arrested by the Roman soldiers in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter had followed Him all the way to the court of Pilate. But there he had denied Jesus no less than three times. Peter did not merely claim not to know Jesus, but rather, he denied Him ferociously no less than three times. The third time Peter denied Jesus so ferociously, the rooster crowed. At that time, Jesus turned around from interrogation and looked at Peter, and when Peter caught His eye, his face fell and he ran away. Remembering what the Lord had told him, that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed, Peter fell despondent and wept bitterly.
Jesus had never committed any sin, yet He was interrogated before Pilate, and after receiving forty lashes less one, His body was torn and covered in blood. They thrust a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, spat at Him, struck Him in His face, and nailed a poster on the Cross with the title “The King of Jews” in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Peter’s Teacher, His God and His Savior, whom he had trusted in and followed was covered in blood. Yet, Peter had denied this Jesus no less than three times. Peter heard of the death of Jesus on the Cross. And he had also gone to His tomb. But Jesus was not in the tomb. Peter was in so much agony, and even though Jesus had actually risen from the dead, he was too ashamed to appear before Him. To save the entire human race Jesus had borne all the sins of the world by being baptized. And shouldering the sins of the world, He was crucified and suffered all kinds of insults, cruelties, and ultimately death. He had poured out all the life blood from His heart and died. Was buried and by rising from the dead again He had saved the entire human race, including Peter.
However, while Jesus was suffering like this for salvation, Peter and the other disciples had run away, and the most they could do was just return to their old occupation of fishing. So the disciples were too ashamed of themselves to say anything before the Lord. Yet, Jesus appeared before them on the shores of the Seat of Tiberias, and He told them to eat breakfast. Having cooked fish and prepared bread, He told them to eat.
Do You Love Me More Than These?
Jesus said to Peter here, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” Peter then said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Jesus asked Peter this question three times, and three times Peter answered, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” And the Lord said to him on all those three occasions, “Feed My lambs,” “Tend My sheep,” and “Feed My sheep.”
You and I are now following the righteousness of the Lord. But we must ask the question, are we really following Him faithfully enough to satisfy the Lord’s desire? Just as Peter had many human shortcomings, you and I may also have such blemishes. Even we the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit can lose our strength and find it hard to take another step to follow the Lord when we struggle with our shortcomings. That is why the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Once 15, 20, or 30 years go by since first receiving the remission of sins into our hearts by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, there will be many times when we feel too ashamed of ourselves to follow the Lord. Just as Peter and his brothers of faith had gone fishing in the Sea of Tiberias, there will be times when you and I also fail the Lord and feel too ashamed to follow Him. In other words, even though we believe in the Lord, there are many times when we succumb to our weaknesses. Although our faith ought to grow stronger with the passing of time, but sometimes it fails to do so.
The Apostle Paul said, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Our faith should then grow stronger and we ought to serve the righteousness of the Lord better, but instead, we see ourselves seeking the desires of our own flesh. We ought to lead our lives of faith with godliness and boldness just as we swore we would follow the Lord when we first found the gospel of the water and the Spirit, but we fail to do so. Although we must trust the Lord wholeheartedly to follow Him faithfully, there are times when we can’t do this. Sometimes we follow our Church leaders not by faith but out of fleshly calculations, worried about what they might say to us. And falling into the weakness of our own flesh we end up doing what Peter did. Such things are bound to happen to us while following the Lord.
Although we do love the Lord but sometimes we feel so bad about ourselves that we question if we can even follow the Lord. We know that we must follow the Lord, the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and the life of righteousness, for they are the Truth; however, when we look at ourselves, we feel too ashamed. With passing of time we lose our spiritual strength and turn into wily people. Yet outwardly we become quite adept at how to behave ourselves in God’s Church so as to please everyone and not offend anyone. We know the ins and outs of the Church administration, we know what the right protocol is, we know all about the right manners, and we even know how to curry favor from our Church leaders. Even though we still try to follow the Lord, because of our own shortcomings, we lose our spiritually strength and our authenticity. We see this when we pause for a moment and look back at ourselves.
The Lord knows all about our weaknesses and personalities. He knows all about our fragility and our sins. He knows that even after receiving the remission of sins, we have sinned out of our weaknesses. But despite these inadequacies, Jesus still came looking for Peter and His other disciples, He asked Peter whether he loved Him or not, and He told him to feed His lambs, tend His sheep, and feed His sheep. When Jesus told Peter to tend His sheep, He was asking him to take care of them. This means the Lord had entrusted His sheep to Peter. Likewise, the Lord has raised leaders for God’s Church also, and He has entrusted them with the task of preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit all over the world together with their colleagues. The Lord has done so because He knows all about us.
He Makes It Possible for Us to Follow the Lord even though We Are Weak like Peter?
We can still follow the Lord despite our weaknesses because we believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. In the Bible, water refers to the fact that Jesus bore all the sins of the world when He was baptized by John the Baptist. We believe that Jesus took upon the sins of the world by being baptized by John the Baptist. And we believe that Jesus, having shouldered the sins of the world through His baptism, was crucified to death, rose from the dead again, and has thereby saved us. We believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit that our Lord has fulfilled. The Holy Spirit is God. Jesus, too, is God. The Father of Jesus Christ is also God. When Jesus came to this earth incarnated in the flesh of man, He took upon all the sins of the world by being baptized by John the Baptist. As a result, Jesus was crucified to death while shouldering all the sins of mankind. And rising from the dead again, He has saved us.
We believe in this gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit now. But, just because we believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, does it necessarily mean that we can always follow the Lord faithfully? No, on our own we can’t always follow the Lord flawlessly. However, because the Lord has saved us perfectly, we can still follow Him even though we have many shortcomings before Him. Although you and I have many shortcomings, we can still follow the Lord because He has saved us by being baptized by John the Baptist to bear all our sins, dying on the Cross, and rising from the dead again. It’s because our Lord has become our Savior like this that we can follow Him.
Because the Lord who has come by the gospel of the water and the Spirit has made you and me sinless, we can now follow His righteousness. If not then it would have been impossible for us to follow the Lord. Because the Lord took upon your sins and mine by being baptized by John the Baptist, bore the condemnation of our sins by dying on the Cross, and gave us new life by rising from the dead again, we are now able to follow the Lord. It’s because our Lord has given us everlasting life, because He has given us the Kingdom of Heaven, because He has become our Shepherd, and because His blessings are boundless, that you and I can follow the Lord by believing in this Truth. Don’t you all agree? It’s indeed true.
You and I are able to follow our Lord and His righteousness because His grace is in our hearts. It’s because the Lord has blotted out all our sins perfectly with the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and because He has made us God’s sinless children. It’s because the Lord has given us everlasting life to live forever. It’s because He has given the eternal Kingdom of God to us the believers the gospel of the water and the Spirit. And it’s because He has given us the heavenly house built with twelve precious stones. That is why we have received the Lord’s blessings. Because we know and believe in this Truth, and because the Lord’s grace is so abundant, we can all follow the Lord despite our shortcomings. It’s because of this that we are following the Lord. It’s not because we have any righteousness of our own that we are following the Lord. Nor is it because our shortcomings have not been exposed yet that we are following the Lord. On the contrary, we are following the Lord even though our shortcomings have been fully exposed.
We can still follow the Lord because His love and grace are far greater than our sins and shortcomings. The Lord has done everything so that we would be able to follow Him always. That is why we can follow the Lord regardless of our shortcomings. No matter how inadequate you and I may be on our own, we can still follow the Lord faithfully and forever.
Are You by Chance, Stagnating Spiritually Because of Your Shortcomings and Weaknesses?
I’m sure this is true for many of you. Don’t you get disappointed at yourself when you look at your personality and see how selfish it is? Whenever you are asked to do something by the Church, the first thing you do is run a cost-and-benefit calculation. Too many believers weigh the pros and cons according to their fleshly thoughts instead of trusting in God, and try to get out of the work if it does not serve their interest. All of this constitutes a sin in God’s sight. Ministering as a pastor by relying on one’s own means and wiles is also a sin. If we fail to turn others into the people of faith and instead turns them into the people of the flesh, then this, too, constitutes a sin.
As you and I carry on with our lives in this world, just how many shortcomings do we see? Even so, you and I must still follow the righteousness of the Lord. We can follow the Lord like this because He loves us, and because He has become our Savior. I have spoken to you repeatedly about the righteousness of God. The Lord has made it possible for us to follow His righteousness, for He has given us new and everlasting life and blessed us to enter and live in the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s because the Lord has given us so many blessings, and because we believe in them, that we can follow the righteousness of the Lord. If we are to put our sins and shortcomings and the love our Lord has given us on a scale and weigh them, our shortcomings are nothing compared to the gifts of the Lord. But this does not mean that anyone should sin deliberately. It’s only elementary that we ought to live according to the will of the Lord. Because the Lord loves us, and because He has given us so many blessings, we cannot help but follow His righteousness.
What about you then? Do you feel you can follow the Lord, or are you still unsure? No matter how many shortcomings you might have, can you not still pray to the Lord? Of course you can. No matter how inadequate you might be, won’t the Lord answer you when you pray to Him? Of course He will answer you. Can we then live as the instruments of righteousness or not? We can all live as the instruments of righteousness. We can all renew our lives every day to always shine like the rising sun. That is the life we are destined to live as the righteous. And that is the blessed life that God has given to you and me.
Even though we have many shortcomings, because the Lord has no shortcomings at all, we can still follow His righteousness. It’s because the Lord loves us more than we love Him. You can love the Lord because the Lord loves you more than you love Him. So it is more than possible for all of us to follow the righteousness of the Lord. This is not because of our own faith, but because the Lord has made it so.
The Lord Has Raised Us up as God’s Workers
Jesus said to Peter, “When you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish” (John 21:18). This means that the Lord raised Peter as the leader of the Church, to head the Early Church. The Lord also raised all his colleagues as God’s workers and little shepherds. And He entrusted them to serve His gospel. God has done the same to you and me also today. Are you thinking to yourself, “I am too inadequate to do God’s work. I’m made out just to be a layperson”? But that’s not the case at all.
There are several praises in our hymn book that were composed by our Brother Minwoo. I do consider him as just a layman. I have not spent much time with Brother Minwoo, nor have I spoken with him that much; I only saw him a few times in the Church. However, when I look at the lyrics of the hymns he composed, I can see that this brother has so much spirituality in him. I have a heartfelt respect for him. I do not look at people just in the outside appearance. I know who composed each and every one of these hymns. Although I don’t share everything in my mind with you, I can see that it is all God’s work. So I want to work with Brother Minwoo as a co-worker. I want to work not only with Brother Minwoo, but with all of you. We are all God’s workers. It’s not the case that some of us are laypeople and some of us are ministers. Each and every one of us is God’s worker. We are all ministers. We are all shepherds. Don’t you agree? It’s just that the task entrusted to each of us is different; all of us are God’s workers.
My fellow believers, the Lord loves us so much that He has blotted out our sins, made us God’s own children, and given us everlasting life. He has given us the Kingdom of Heaven. And even at this very moment, He is working together with us. Therefore, my fellow believers, we lack nothing to live as God’s workers. You and I are the servants of righteousness who are more than able to please the Lord by submitting to His work and obeying His commandments by faith. That is who we are. Do not be bound by yours own weaknesses, only to submit yourself to Satan’s desires.
The Devil attacks us by exploiting our human weaknesses. He tries to make us stumble over our human failures, saying to us, “What can you ever do when you are so worthless?” We are of a fundamentally different seed from the Devil. The people of this world are of the Devil, whereas we are of God. We can all follow the Lord by faith. All that you have to do is just believe in what the Lord has given you and follow Him. That is what every servant of righteousness does. The Bible says that the just shall live by faith alone. I’m so thankful to our Lord for this.
Although I don’t know as much compared to our Lord, I still know very well that our ministers, our brothers and sisters, and our coworkers abroad are struggling with their weaknesses. But such weaknesses don’t matter to me. All that I ask is that you remember the blessings the Lord has given you, and that you accept the will of the Lord. You will then become the Lord’s worker. No one can carry out God’s work by themselves, but together we can fulfill this work. We can all become the instruments of righteousness. We can all come into the Lord and live a life that’s pleasing to Him as the instruments of righteousness. I consider not just Brother Minwoo as an instrument of righteousness, but all of you also. I have no doubt that you can all become faithful workers. Do not bind yourself in your own weaknesses. The Lord will be saddened if you do so and say to you, “Is that all that I have given you?”
Imagine for a moment that someone gave you a box full of sparkling diamonds. But let’s say that you are still going around in rags. What would the person who gave you the box of diamonds think? He will be ashamed, thinking to himself, “Is that all that I have given him?” So would Lord feel the same way if we were not to recognize just how much He has given us. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We are the servants of righteousness. We are the instruments of righteousness. There are so many blessings we are yet to receive, both earthly and heavenly riches that words cannot even describe them all. So let us all live by faith as the instruments of righteousness on this earth and follow the Lord until the day we see Him face to face.