By Rev. John Klemin
I would rather receive one personalized letter than ten thousand form letters with their coldness and formality. That handwritten letter, with all the warmth and love of a friend, means much more to me than the formal printed letter with all its beauty of style and form.
In my personal file at home, I have carefully preserved some greeting cards that mean a great deal to me. Why? They were created and handmade by my wife and daughters while we served as missionaries in Argentina. They found it difficult to find just the right card in the Buenos Aires stores; so they created their own, including an original verse. I have discarded hundreds of cards, but these remain special. They speak of resourcefulness and creativeness; yes, even of sacrifice. They say something to me of personalized love and care.
In the Bible in Mark 16:7, we have the revelation of love which singled out a sinful man by name. Jesus Christ deals with individuals, not statistics. The Bible tells me that He cares for me�that He cares for you. Peter encourages us
precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and continue to walk in obedience to God and His Word. You too will find that God shares His sacred secrets with His family.
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (I Peter 5:7).
Peter knew something about this from his own personal experience. The scene takes place after the death and resurrection of our Lord. In His instructions to the women who came to the empty tomb, the angel said,
“Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you” (Mark 16:7).
Why did Jesus Christ single out Peter’s name here for this special word of His resurrection? Probably, because no one felt so insecure and so unsure of himself and his relationship to the Lord as Peter at this particular time. The remorse of having denied his Lord was weighing heavily on Peter’s soul.
Someone has asked, “Is sin a passport to the deeper love of the Lord, that He should so single out Peter in issuing this special delivery message for him?” Yes and no. Certainly there is a calm and a deep joy of the unbroken fellowship with God that the prodigal does not know. Sin does lay waste and impoverish the soul. But on the other hand, our Lord knows that the one who has failed and who is filled with remorse and despair needs the special treatment of His love to bring him back to the place of peace. The farther that soul has strayed, the greater must be that love which travels across the dreary wastes to draw that soul back again to its proper orbit. What marvelous love Jesus expressed to Peter in his hour of greatest need. We observe that there was evidently a secret meeting between the Lord and Peter even after this personal message. For the Bible states,
“The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon” (Luke 24:34).
Oh, yes, letters and messages are fine; but there is just nothing like that personal touch. What passed in that secret rendezvous has been kept from all of our eyes. What deep contrition, and yet what healing, must have marked that meeting between the Lord and Simon Peter. The bond that had been broken was welded together again and was all the stronger at the point of fracture because of a love that did not let Peter go. And the Lord took care of all this in private before seeing Peter in the companionship of others. How difficult that would have been for Peter, and how very painful, had he not had the opportunity of pouring out his soul and his shame to the Lord alone. What tender consideration we see in it all from our Lord.
Sin is mighty, but one thing it cannot do, and that is make Christ cease in His love to us. Sin is mighty, but it cannot prevent Christ from manifesting His love to you as a sinner. This kind of love has its source in the depths of God’s own nature, for the Bible declares,
“God is love” (I John 4:8).
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Actually, you can see God’s deep consideration of the individual in the very order in which He appeared to various individuals after His resurrection. The first to whom He appeared was Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils. Next were those women who bore the message of forgiveness to Peter. In all probability Peter was the next to receive this special ministration from the Lord. Yet Peter was the one who had sinned so grievously.
It seems that Jesus Christ was continually coming ever nearer to those who needed Him most. And that is just like our Lord.
Some of you now feel so alone and so despairing. If your heart’s cry were expressed, it would be, “Does anyone really care? I have failed so miserably! I have wandered so far. Is there any hope for me?”
Oh, yes, my friend. The Lord has a clear personal knowledge of you. You have a special place in His mind and in His heart. Yes, God so loved the world; but He loves every single individual. He loves you�Jim, Ruth, Kendall, Lynette, Tom, Cheryl, Eric, Kim, Peggy.
What did that personal love and attention mean to Simon Peter? In later years as he referred to it, Peter said,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3).
Begotten again! Unto a lively hope! Oh, yes, it meant the beginning of a new day, of a new life for Peter. It made the difference! He had received a new lease on life. He had gone from despair to a marvelous hope. In this account of Simon Peter in his personal encounter with Jesus Christ, we can see the steps that are necessary in making Christ’s forgiving love our own:
First: The message of His love must reach me.
Second: There must be the individual response of my own heart in responding and in coming to Him.
I must allow the love of Christ to flow into my spirit and stir within me the dormant music of my soul. I dare not seal it out. Others may bring me the good tidings of His love. Others may tell me of His redemptive work at Calvary to save my soul. Others can recall how He fills with His Holy Spirit. He is always sending us these messages. But I must respond with faith to appropriate all that He has for me. I must close myself in with Jesus Christ alone. He and I must meet someplace as if there were not another soul on earth. And there in some quiet place as I pour out my frustrations to Him and He in turn shares His love with me, I find that peace which only Christ can give. The awareness or consciousness of sin can sink a soul into the depths of despair. The light shows up the darkness just as the beautiful in nature reveals by contrast the ugly and repulsive. In Psalm 130 we have an individual who has reached the depths of despair and anxiety, but who cries out earnestly for relief and for pardon. Yes, a distressed soul can find relief in cries and tears. The heart would break if it found no outlet for its pent-up grief. But the wail of despair is transformed into a song of hope when one is personally assured and convinced that pardon is available. The writer first questions,
“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalm 130:3).
But what beautiful words, what hopeful words and what comforting words in the very next statement,
“But there is forgiveness with thee” (Psalm 130:4).
Forgiveness is available in the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can cleanse the heart from sin. Why?
No one else cares enough. You have no earthly friend who would care to die for your sins. But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
No one else has the right to take away sin. I cannot go to the courthouse and destroy the records of the court and of the past. But Christ had the right. He was appointed to blot out sin.
No one else has the power to cleanse the heart from sin. No one can reach into heaven and destroy the records there. The private files of God cannot be reached by human hands. No one but Christ can take the records and destroy them. But the Scripture declares that He was instrumental in
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us” (Colossians 2:14).
No one else but Jesus can complete the work of saving a soul. He alone is able to save to the uttermost. His blood is sufficient for every sin you have committed or will commit until the moment of death. He alone can cleanse the heart from sin, for He alone is sinless. The one who cleanses must himself be without sin. A lawyer who is guilty himself cannot represent a guilty client. One guilty man cannot plead for another who is guilty. Jesus Christ alone was without sin.
No one but Jesus Christ can perform the miracle of a transformed life. We might correct the conduct of another, but we cannot change the character. Jesus gives new life and a new nature.
The lesson of God’s love and forgiveness is so beautifully illustrated in the Bible in Luke 7:36-50 where we have the account of the sinner woman who came to Jesus while He was having a meal at the Pharisee’s house, and brought an alabaster box of ointment. She stood at His feet behind Him, weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. As you read the account, you will observe plenty of action; but very few words were spoken. The woman was an outcast in the town. She was known as a bad woman. Sin was written on her face. The record of a wasted life was in evidence. She dared to come into the Pharisee’s house and directly to Jesus in spite of the angry glances cast at her. She evidently realized fully her lost condition. Yet, somehow her life was illuminated by a gleam of hope as she approached Jesus Christ. She came from behind, as one unable to look Him full in the face. She anointed His feet in silence with a degree of pain which could find no words. It was as if she said, “Take all my heart into your hands. You know it better than I do myself. I cannot say how I came to fall so low. But here I am, just as I am.” She wept. At the feet of Jesus is the one place in the world where you need not refrain your tears, your sorrows and your heartaches. He knows them all anyway. Her tears, though, were really of a special kind which came from a deep love she had for Christ. Jesus said,
“She loved much” (Luke 7:47).
All anxiety and all her distress of conscience was poured out in those tears. The deep drama of a lost child coming home was concealed from the spectators. Little did they realize that a little ship was reaching harbor. But Jesus said unto her,
“Thy sins are forgiven. . . .Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:48, 50).
In contrast to the forgiveness of Jesus for this sinful woman, notice the Pharisee’s attitude. He imagined that the accessibility of Christ to this woman rose from a lack of knowledge on His part. Jesus just did not know her. But in reality His accessibility to her came because of the greatness of His love and compassion. It was an act of love, not ignorance. The Pharisee, if he even gave a thought of trying to rescue the sinner, would have tried by holding the sinner back from him, thanking God that he was not like the sinner. But the way of Christ is so different. Jesus took on the form of man so He could be near sinners, touch them. It was to become sin for them, though He knew no sin.
The pride of the Pharisee would not allow him to see this woman as a redeemed soul. It was a pride without pity, which is as cold and as blind as polar ice. The Pharisee could not see that something deep and real was taking place in the heart of this immoral woman. He could not understand those sobs, those tears and the deep purposes of heart. He could not see the change of mind about sin, about herself and toward God. The signs of repentance were there. This condemning Pharisee did not realize it, but in reality he was further from Christ than this sinner woman. In condemning her, he was rejecting the salvation of Jesus Christ.
How many, like the Pharisee, are respectable in life, rigid in morality, unquestionable in their doctrine, and yet lack genuine love for Jesus Christ and the lost which makes his respectability a dead and dry encumbrance. There was no consciousness of sin in the Pharisee; therefore, there was no penitent recognition of Christ in forgiving and loving him.
Someone wrote these beautiful words about Jesus Christ:
Oh, what a love that he gave me Oh,
what a peace in my soul
Oh, what a joy since he saved me
Cleansed me and made me whole.
Isaiah, the prophet, wrote:
“And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you” (Isaiah 30:18).
Just now, friend, He is waiting for you to turn your steps toward Him. He is waiting for you to pour out the frustrations of your heart and life to Him. In
His presence there can be a turning point in life right now. Turn from your sins and take His way. Find a Bible-believing minister who will baptize you in water by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ. Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and continue to walk in obedience to the Word of God. With loving concern, the Holy Spirit is saying,
“Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).
This sermon comes from the book “Harvestime Guest Pulpit Library” printed by the Word Aflame Press in 1982. This may be copyrighted and may be used for study and research purposes only.