LOVEST THOU ME MORE THAN THESE?
Of the company called to be the Bride of Christ, but one requirement is made, and that is, supreme love for the Lord which will recognize no rival.
You may have inherited a disposition which more or less continually wars against your efforts to please God, but that need not interfere with your acceptableness. The Apostle Peter was afflicted with two perverse elements of character, which doubtless often led to great discouragement and almost to doubt of his acceptance. He was naturally very desirous of the approval of men, and also very impulsive.
That Peter loved the Lord, is evident from the fact that he so far overcame these tendencies as to become an open and constant follower, thus sharing the reproach of Christ. But when the dreadful hour came that to the popular mind proved Jesus an imposter, and his disciples despised and blinded fanatics, that was too much for Peter, and pride and impulse, coupled with fear, led to an emphatic denial that he ever knew the Lord. Just a little before this, the same impulsiveness had led Peter to draw the sword in the Lord's defence.
Notwithstanding Peter's denial of the Lord when under severe trial, he sadly remembered Jesus' words and repented, as his actions show. He still kept in company with the other disciples, all of whom were greatly perplexed and disappointed. Love still cherished the blessed memory of the past, though sadly they said, "We trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel."
When Mary learned that the Lord had risen, she ran at once to tell Peter, knowing it would be welcome tidings to him; and his impulsive love now bounded with joyful hope to find his risen Master.
When the Lord had met the few disciples and Peter, after ministering to their temporal wants in the old familiar way, which led all to recognize him, he addressed Peter, saying, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs." A second and a third repetition of the Lord's question brought a second and a third assurance and emphasis of Peter's love and a second and a third repetition of the commission to feed the Lord's children--to preach the Gospel.
It should be noticed, however, that though Peter was thus commissioned to preach the Gospel, he and all the disciples were told to tarry first at Jerusalem until endued with power from on high. And in due time--on the day of Pentecost, they received the anointing which was the earnest of their inheritance of the divine nature and the pledge of their acceptance as members of the prospective Bride of Christ.
There is much encouragement for weak, yet earnest and loving, saints in the Lord's dealings with Peter. His impetuous, ardent temperament, while it yet overflowed with love for the Master, and could truthfully say, "Thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love," was yet constantly a great disadvantage to him, even after he had received the spirit of adoption into the divine family.
The one most praiseworthy trait in Peter's character was his perseverence inspired by his ardent love. If he made a misstep, he was just as quick to realize it and to retrace it. He never deliberately and entirely turned away from the Lord or admitted another as a sharer of that supreme affection. If asked, "Lovest thou me more than these"? could you say with Peter, "Yea, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee"? Then, to the best of your ability, show your love by your works. Then, though you may fall or stumble, you shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth with his hand, (Psa. 37:24,) and in due time, by constant effort, you will be able at least measurably, to overcome the weaknesses of your nature.
But, lest we should become so discouraged with our repeated failures or only partial victories over old tendencies, we should ever bear in mind that all this imperfection of our old (Adamic) natures was imputed to Jesus Christ, and that his death canceled it, and that now his righteousness is imputed to us; and, therefore, through faith in him, and not in our own actual righteousness, we are acceptable and may have a well grounded hope of acceptance.
To him that overcometh is the blessed promise of eternal union with Christ-- but not to him that overcometh every perverted tendency of his human nature, and is able to present himself actually perfect. If that were the requirement, not one of us could meet it. But "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4.) If we have that love for the Lord which leads us to persevere in our efforts to show ourselves approved unto him, even though we persevere through great difficulty, and if our unwavering confidence abides in his finished work of our redemption, then we are overcoming, and in the end will be reckoned of God as having overcome, even though we and those about us will realize our human imperfection.
Courage, then, disheartened one! Go feed my sheep. I would not send thee on such important mission did I not know thy love supreme for me and mine. And all thus sent I will endue with power from on high--the spirit of adoption, which is the pledge of your great inheritance with me.
MRS. C. T. R.