So, consider the mess that Israel was in for hundreds of years. God spoke to His children through Isaiah with these words:
Listen, O heavens, pay attention, O earth! For the Lord speaks: "I raised children, I brought them up, but they have rebelled against me! An ox recognizes its owner, a donkey recognizes where its owner puts its food; but Israel does not recognize me, my people do not understand." The sinful nation is as good as dead, the people weighed down by evil deeds. They are offspring who do wrong, children who do wicked things. They have abandoned the Lord, and rejected the Holy One of Israel. They are alienated from him. Why do you insist on being battered? Why do you continue to rebel?" -- Isaiah 1:2-5
- They did not keep God's covenant.
- Refused to live by His instructions
- They forgot what He had done
- They did not remember His power and His rescue
- They did not obey His laws
- They kept testing and rebelling against Him
- They angered God by building shrines to other gods
This rebellious and sinful behavior went on for generations and generations. And for 400 years, God was completely silent. What a giant mess!
But then, an angel appeared to a young girl named Mary and said:
Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!" Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. "Don't be afraid Mary," the angel told her. "for you have found favor with God!" You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end." -- Luke 1:26-35
While we were still sinning against Him, He demonstrated love for us. This is the literal essence of the Christmas story and the work of God here on Earth. The entire reason that Jesus came to our planet was because we desperately needed help getting out of our giant mess. If you need a good example in order to see the reality of this truth, look no further than Peter, one of the great heroes of our faith.
In the book of Acts, Peter preaches and thousands come to Christ. He heals people of their infirmities. In fact, in the book of Acts, Peter's shadow can pass over someone and they will be healed. Now that's amazing. He's so close to God and so in-tune with the Holy Spirit's call in his life that he can minister grace at insane levels. But please note that just months prior to this time of great ministry, he was a giant mess.
Peter started out great. He was following Jesus after hearing Jesus explicitly say, "Follow me." (Matthew 4:19) He abandoned his fishing business as well. In the latter part of John 6, Peter makes the great declaration, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." In Matthew 14, Peter walks on water. No other man in history has walked on water like Jesus. Impressed? Me too.
But, then there's a string of messy choices and foolishness that allow us to glimpse a completely different side of Peter -- sort of like when he walked on water (you'll remember that he nearly drowned in the process.) In Matthew 16, Peter "rebuked Jesus" (verse 21-23) in a conversation where Jesus had to return the rebuke and refer to Peter as "Satan." In Luke 22, Peter was talking at the Lord's last meal when he should've been listening. In Mark 14, Peter was in the garden with Jesus prior to His arrest and was sleeping when Jesus had specifically asked him to pray. In that same night, Peter decided to erratically draw his sword and attempt to murder the servant of the High Priest. Within a few hours, he would also deny even knowing Jesus, not just once, but three times. Then, by the time you get to John 21, after Jesus' resurrection, Peter is an emotional, mental and spiritual failure and a complete basket case. He returns to his fishing boats and fishes all night. John records the fish count as zero (imagine that!). Well, that is, until Jesus shouts some instructions to them from the shoreline. Then, the fish count is massive. Jesus later makes breakfast for all of the disciples, including (and especially) Peter.
Then Jesus says to Peter the exact words that started this entire process: "Follow me." (John 21:19) Wait, what? So, this faithless, foolish, fleeing, failure of a man is asked to follow Jesus once again? Yep. Grace is amazing, isn't it?
Have you found yourself in a big mess this year? Do you need help getting out of the mess? Follow Jesus. I can hear you saying, "Well, I already have and I'm still failing." It's ok. So did Peter. Follow Jesus again. It's time to let Him lead you. Listen to Him. Listen to all of His instructions. There is hope for all of the messes that we make. There is hope in Jesus and in Him alone.