When sin entered the world, mankind had done countless attempts of ‘starting over again with God,’ including the sacrificing of animals, the observation of rituals, and the strict adherence to the laws. But no matter how good they were in these acts of atonement, they would always fall back to sin (remember the Pharisees?). Why was it this way?
There Your Heart Will Be Also
My short answer to this would be that starting over is not a matter of the mind or the hand; it is a matter of the heart. Matthew 6:21 tells us that “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What we do is based on what we value, and what we value holds our deepest desires and intentions behind everything we do.
So why do you want to start over? Is it because you want to go back into having some sort of “control”? Is it because you want to go back into living a comfortable life?
You will never be able to really start over if the goal isn’t to restore our relationship with God. If the measures that we take do not lead back to Him, then no amount of apologies, compensation, prayer, good works, or surrendering will matter (Isaiah 64:6).
We go back, once again, to under-performing (I’m too unworthy) or over-performing (I’m the only one worthy) as a means to gain God’s grace. In the process, we become the savior and get the glory. Everything then becomes a bandaid solution to our real problem of sin.
But, if you really want to start over in life, start with God.
Come and Have Breakfast
I can’t think of another person in the Bible who needed to hit the start over button as badly as Peter did. He was considered one of Jesus’ closest friends, and also the guy who rejected Jesus the moment he was in trouble with the authorities (Luke 22:56-62).
One could only imagine the shame, regret, and humiliation that Peter felt when Jesus appeared to all their friends after he resurrected (John 20) or how many “I should’ve known better’s” and “I shouldn’t have done’s” had circulated his head. But this is also where we find the most beautiful thing about God. He loved Peter so much that He didn’t want His story with Peter to end this way.
In the next chapter, Peter goes off to fish with his friends. They went fishing all night but caught nothing. Then they heard a voice from the shore that called out to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” Following the voice’s instruction, they caught an incredible amount of fish. That’s when John told them, “It is the Lord!”
Peter was on it. He put on his clothes, jumped out of the boat, and swam his way to meet with Jesus. But when they all got to land, they discovered that Jesus already had some fish being cooked on charcoal. Then Jesus said (quite strangely), “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught. Come and have breakfast.”
After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you love me?” Scholars believed that this was symbolic of how Jesus restored the three times that Peter denied him. Following this, he told Peter, “Follow me.”
One pattern seems to emerge from what transpires between Jesus and Peter in John 21: Jesus initiates, Peter follows. This is the same with us and God: He initiates, we follow. It is no wonder that Peter wrote this later in 1 Peter 5:10,
…the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Fall and Rise
We can never get to the point of repentance on our own. We can never surrender ourselves and our plans to God on our own. Like how Pastor Michael Paderes once said, “We don’t want to be self-restored, self-confirmed, self-strengthened, and self-established. We want God to be the one to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.”
God initiates all of that through His Spirit in us, we just have to follow and obey. Isn’t this the best way to start over?
If this plot sounds familiar, it’s because this love story is thousands of years old. At the same time, if this plot feels new to you, it’s because this is our on-going story with a God who plans to restore us, over and over again, back to Him.
…the righteous falls seven times and rises again.
So stand up and hold onto Him. Don’t give up on yourself because He hasn’t given up on you. You will fall, stumble, trip, mess up, and get hurt because He hasn’t yet come back to redeem this world. But until then, I want to encourage you that whenever you do all of that, let Him, over and over again, lead you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.