A Sinner's Prayer...A Savior's Response!
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation!
And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So Peter went out and wept bitterly.
In Christ Jesus, who earnestly desires the salvation of our souls, dear fellow redeemed:
“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice…. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning—yes, more than those who watch for the morning” (Psalm 130:1, 6).
We read those words together earlier in our service a part of our responsive Psalm reading. Those words reflect the sorrow of heart and soul experienced by a repentant sinner longing for the certainty of divine forgiveness and desiring the confidence that comes with a restored relationship with God. David, the repentant sinner, summarized that longing and desire with His petition, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation!”
David, who had committed gross sins against both God and man through his adulterous act with Bathsheba and murderous plot against Uriah, had been forgiven. David heard the words of Nathan the prophet who, upon hearing David’s confession, announced: “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13b). Yet, David was still experiencing the fall-out that so often accompanies sin. The son conceived through his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba had died, for as Nathan explained—David’s sins had “given great occasion for the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:14). God used that death to chasten David and to serve as a warning to everyone against such blatant sins. David’s reputation among the soldiers of his army, among the people of his nation, and even among the members of his household had been tarnished. It would be more difficult for him to fulfill his God-given responsibilities as leader in each of those areas. It seemed as if David may well have also been suffering from something so very common among people as they survey the damage done by their own sins—the difficulty of forgiving oneself. In his sorrow David uttered A SINNER’S PRAYER: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation!” OUR SAVIOR’S RESPONSE can be summarized in the final verses of Psalm 130 with this encouragement: “O Israel, hope in the LORD, for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities!” (vs. 7-8) Yes, the hope David had for renewed joy lay in the LORD, in His mercy, and in the fact that He would redeem him from all of His sins through the coming Savior—Jesus Christ! Therein lay David’s hope for renewed joy! What was true for David proved true, as we shall see, for Peter; and what was true for both David and Peter will also prove true for you and me!
There are some situations that scream out to us: “Don’t do that!” “Don’t go there!” Yet, so often it seems that our ears are plugged and our minds closed, and we do that or go there anyway! Such was Peter’s situation on Maundy Thursday evening at the palace of the high priest. He should have known better than to have gone there that night, but his curiosity got the best of him. When John arranged for him to enter the courtyard of the palace to warm himself at the servants’ fire, he should have understood this was a dangerous place to be, but Peter—so very bold and yet so very often wrong—walked right into Satan’s trap. Oh, there is no doubt that Peter loved Jesus and meant no harm. His heart was aching…he just wanted to see what was going to happen. But when first one girl and then another identified him as a follower of Jesus, he did not know what to do. The first thing that popped into his mind was to deny any connection with Jesus, and that is exactly what he did. “I am not!” he said, “I do not know the Man!” When further pressed to admit his association with Jesus in view of his Galilean accent, and when pressed by a relative of Malchus, the high priest’s servant whose ear Peter had earlier that evening cut off, Peter reacted with fear. Like a cornered animal, he denied his Lord and punctuated his lies with oaths and curses.
It was at that moment, after Peter had denied Jesus three times and the cock had crowed twice, that Jesus, no doubt being taken out of the presence of Annas and over to the court of Caiaphas where he would be tried, “looked at Peter.” What pain there must have been in the heart of Jesus at that moment—what disappointment in His mind. He had, after all, warned Peter specifically about what was going to happen. Yet coupled with that pain and disappointment were also understanding, kindness, grace, forgiveness, and unspeakable love. Jesus would be tried, sentenced, and executed for this very reason—that sinners like David, like Peter, like you, and like me fail so miserably. He had prayed for Peter. In fact, He had told Peter of that prayer. Earlier that evening when Jesus had told the disciples that they would be offended that night and desert Him and Peter had boasted of his surpassing love and faithfulness—“Even if all are made to stumble because I You, I will never be made to stumble!” (Matthew 26:33), He had informed Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 222:32).
Peter, whose eyes connected with those of his Lord, suddenly remembered Jesus’ words of warning, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” He was crushed. His pride, which had been replaced by fear, was now replaced by profound sadness. How could he have done what he just had done? How could he deny the One he truly loved the most? He fled the courtyard out into the darkness and fell to the ground weeping bitterly. How could he claim not even to know the One he knew to be the Son of God and the world’s Savior? Peter’s sorrow, however, was not like that of Judas—a sorrow leading to despair and finally suicide, but rather it was the true sorrow of a repentant sinner leading ultimately to restoration and life. It was a sorrow, devoid now of pride, and humbly depending upon the grace and mercy of a forgiving God. But how could his joy and confidence return? In the same way that David’s once did. Peter placed his hope and trust now in his Savior God. He trusted in the mercy and the grace of his God. That look of sorrow had also been a look of invitation. After all, Peter had heard Jesus say once, “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). While perhaps uncertain about how all this would turn out with his Master in custody and his companions dispersed, Peter would soon learn and come to depend upon the good news that every one of his sins were forgiven! The Scriptures tell us that the risen Savior appeared to Peter personally on that first Easter afternoon to assure him of his forgiveness and to help restore that joy of His now completed work of salvation!
My dear friends—we are not unlike David and Peter. We, too, have sinned. We, too, have had to bear the consequences of our sins. We, too, at times have found ourselves chastened by the Lord. We, too, may well have a hard time believing we are forgiven and forgiving ourselves. We, too, may well find ourselves crying out to the Lord with the sinner’s prayer: “Restore to me the joy of Your Salvation!” The secret to the restoration of true joy begins with the humble repentance of our sins. Let us resist the temptation to blame others, to avoid accepting responsibility. Rather, let us with sorrow confess our sins both against God and against man. Let us turn to and depend upon the mercy of our God—a mercy we know exists, for it was the mercy which led God to send Jesus to save us! It is that mercy which washes away our every sin and so removes all reasons for guilt! It is a mercy that invites us into the family of God as adopted sons and daughters. With sin gone and our relationship restored, let us then seek diligently to follow our Savior’s will and ways as revealed in the Scriptures. Therein we will find blessing and hope, for thereby God will be pleased. We can then live our lives with confidence and joy in anticipation of God’s ultimate gift and blessing—everlasting life in His presence! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting