November 21, 2020 · C.E. Carter
I often feel like Peter.
Peter was an impulsive and selfish man of unclean lips. He even abandoned Jesus at His most dire hour. For these things, he perceived himself to be a failure. After His resurrection Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?”, and Peter responded with the Aramaic equivalent of “Yes, Lord, I really like you”. How could he say that he truly loved Him, after all of his failures and sins against his Lord?
Critics of Calvinism point to the “free will” excluded from the Doctrines of Grace as evidence that Calvinism can’t be true. “A God who doesn’t respect our free will isn’t loving, and God is love, therefore God respects our free will” or something like that. People who believe that one of the more loving things that God can do is let us do what we freely choose have a grossly misaligned anthropology. They think too highly of their own volition, intelligence, and willpower. Non-Calvinistic anthropology perceives us (human beings) as “mostly good”, or at least “preveniently good”. The Bible affirms, to the contrary, that we are sick, dead, useless, God-hating, God-forsaking slaves to sin. A “free” slave can only choose to do what his master obeys. For someone to say that God is “loving” human beings by leaving human them alone to be “free” in their depraved state is nothing short of twisted.
One of the things which haunted and grieved Peter was the thought that his faults would never leave him; that he would fail and deny the Christ he loved until the day of his death.
Truly, truly I tell you, when you were younger, you used to put on your belt and walk wherever you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will put your belt on you, and bring you where you do not want to go.” Now He said this, indicating by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had said this, He *said to him, “Follow Me!” (John 21:18-19)
The phrase “stretch out your hands” is a euphemism for crucifixion. Tradition tells us that he asked to be crucified upside-down. Some would say that it’s not very loving of God to predestine Peter to a horrible death like that, and maybe even less so to tell him about it in advance. I disagree. The thing a man who thinks he’s a failure wants to hear most is, “you won’t fail Me when it counts”, because the thing a man who thinks he’s a failure wants the most is to be a slave to Christ.
I know my own vices. I know that I am prone to being hard-hearted, nihilistic, selfish, lustful, an utterer of unclean speech. I hate that I do what I want. Apart from Christ, what I would want to do is sin and curse God, and because of this, I find no hope in the fact that I chose to follow Jesus. My hope is in Christ, because He chose me; He came to me and said, “come, follow me”, for the Father gave me to Him, as Christ says, “everything that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I certainly will not cast out.”