The Signature of Grace
Kurt Bubna

Thank you…honored to be here… We’re going to be in John 21…and we will look at…the SIGNATURE of grace found in this incredible passage.

As you know, when someone places their SIGNATURE at the end of a letter or document it is their personal MARK that says, “I’ve put my hand to this.” If it’s a LOVE letter, your signature says, “This is from my heart to yours.”

I love this final passage from John’s gospel because it is as if John is saying, “Let me conclude this story of Jesus with the MARK of His GRACE…with a an account of the favor and love of Jesus seen in Peter’s restoration.”

CUT me and I BLEED grace…and NOTHING moves me more than a powerful story of restoration.

Story: A young woman came to me some time ago and asked me a VERY important question. She said, “Can God FIX anything and anyone?” She looked at me with an ACHE in her eyes that is hard to describe… I could tell she was desperate for EVEN a SHRED of hope that somehow her life could be changed.

I told her what I want YOU to hear today; RESTORATION is God’s specialty! (It’s what He does BEST!)

You see, the truth is, like Peter, we’ve ALL messed up and wondered,“Can ANY good come out of this?” And the answer is YES because God is bigger than our blunders! We’re never relegated to the “scratch and dent shelf” with God.

STORY: I want you to know that I ALSO speak from personal experience. When I was 23 years old…bitter…angry…walked away from God/wife/family. BUT like the prodigal son (Luke 15), I eventually made a CHOICE to RETURN to the Father. BUT I still struggled with a LOT of remorse and regret. For quite a while, I believed that God had forgiven me, but I was CONVINCED that He could NEVER really USE me or TRUST me again with anything of importance in His Kingdom.

BTW, in case you’re wondering, that was a FALSE belief born out of my LACK of understanding about the POWER of God to restore and renew ANY life fully surrendered to Him.

John 21:1-17 1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.  (AKA: Sea of Galilee)

The “afterward” here refers to after the resurrection and this was the 3rd time Jesus appeared to His disciples…

What you need to know is that they were STILL “processing” ALL that had      happened and wondering about the implications.

They KNEW Jesus was alive! They KNEW that He had conquered death and the grave! BUT they were STILL trying to figure out JUST what it ALL meant to them!

It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.

If my math is correct, 7 guys are referred to here…But what’s important is not just the WHO but WHAT they’re up to! {vs. 3…}

3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

When Pete says, “I’m going fishing…” he’s NOT talking about a recreational activity…he’s essentially saying, “I don’t know what else to do, so I’m returning to my FORMER way of life!”

REMEMBER, Peter KNEW he’d let Jesus down! He KNEW that he’d DENIED Christ not just once, but THREE times!

In his mind—any hope of being the “rock” upon which Jesus would build His Church was OVER (Matt. 16:18)! As far as Pete was concerned, that destiny was FOREVER LOST!

And isn’t that the way WE feel when WE blow it! ALL we can see and focus on is the PAST and how badly we messed things up!

These guys went back to what they ONCE knew…to their OLD way of life…but here’s the problem with “going back” it’s usually an empty pursuit! They fished all night but caught nothing!

We CAN’T UNdo the past, but we can learn from it and grow!

To the Israelites who had REALLY messed things up, God spoke to them through the prophet Isaiah and said in…

Isa. 43:18-19a “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”

God spoke to His people and He’s STILL speaking to US: Don’t fixate/dwell on what WAS…instead FIX your eyes on Me!

Peter wanted to GO BACK…but God had a different plan! He wanted to RETURN to what WAS…but God had a better idea!

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered.

7 guys…1 boat…and ZERO fish to show for a whole night’s labor! This IS the worst nightmare of ANY true fisherman!

These guys were TIRED, GRUMPY, and FRUSTRATED!

BUT I absolutely LOVE that Jesus calls them “friends” here!

EVERY ONE of these guys ABANDONED Jesus in the garden when he was arrested! EVERY ONE of them COULD have rightfully been called “traitor”—but Jesus called them friends!

Here’ the 1st signature of grace I want you to see

  1. Even when we have failed God, He never fails us!

And this is INCREDIBLY GOOD NEWS because we ALL have failed God…with a thought, a look, a word, or an action.

But even when we fail Him…He NEVER gives up on us!

Now listen carefully, I’m NOT saying that God doesn’t care about what we DO or about our failures…of course He does!

BUT His faithfulness to us and His love for us is NOT based on our performance! It never has been…and it never will be!

YES…according to Heb. 12…God will discipline us when we need it and He never ignores our sin!

But even when we are FAITHLESS, He remains FAITHFUL to us! Again and again the Bible declares, “God is faithful…the Lord is faithful…”                                           

The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thess. 5:24, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (What is “it?” = Sanctify! vs. 23)

God is always faithful to us, madly in love with us, and He STILL calls us His friends…even when we’ve failed Him!

WHY is this SO important for us to understand? Because when you understand that truth it will draw you TO the Father when you blow it RATHER than drive you FROM Him in fear!

Hebrews 4:15-16 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

We are encouraged to DRAW NEAR to our God of GRACE with confidence in HIS mercy even when we FAIL!

The process of restoration in MY life took the better part of TWO YEARS! (Guess you could say I’m a slow learner!)

BUT what kept me coming back to God and moving me FORWARD in my healing was that I KNEW He BELIEVED in me and in my potential even MORE than I did!

6 Jesus said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.

Peter must have been experiencing a little déjà vu! Something very similar had happened to him when Jesus FIRST called him to become a disciple (Luke 5).  

What I hope you’ll see here is something amazing about the character of God…and it’s the 2nd signature of His grace.

  1. God delights in showing us his epic favor!

Grace is indeed, God’s unmerited favor…and His blessing in our lives goes beyond our EXPECTATIONS and beyond ANYTHING we could ever EARN on our own!

When the disciples threw their net on the right side of the boat they DIDN’T just catch a FEW fish…they caught the mother load! 153 fish! So many, in fact, that SEVEN STRONG      GUYS couldn’t haul the net in! THAT’S EPIC GRACE!

If I were Jesus…I would have RUBBED it in and MOCKED their failure to catch any fish! “Good, you jerks got what you deserve…nothing!”

But He DIDN’T mock them or “rub their failure in their faces” in His mercy and grace—He BLESSED them beyond belief!

We DON’T DESERVE His favor either…we haven’t EARNED His kindness…BUT He gives it to us nonetheless!

When I finished my book manuscript and submitted it to Tyndale, I KNEW grace and idiot had to be in the title. WHY? Because His grace truly is epic in my life despite my idiocy!

I believe in the goodness of God because I’ve experienced it a 1,000 times & so have YOU!

God expects more failure from us than we do. BUT here’s a greater truth: He’s NEVER STINGY with His favor and ALWAYS KIND even when we don’t deserve it!

You see, it is in the character of God to show His favor to those who DON’T deserve it! In fact, Jesus said in Luke 6:35b, “Love your enemies, do good to them…because God is      kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

God knows our past, our present, and our future FAILURES! But He is good to us anyhow!

  1. That is hard for us to believe because it’s NOT our human nature!

Ladies, if you KNEW your husband was going to say something really stupid to you tomorrow morning…would you fix him his favorite meal tonight? NO!

If you knew your roommate/best friend was going to betray you tomorrow would you bless him/her today? NO! (God would. God does! That’s epic grace!)

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”                         

At this point in their breakfast, Jesus turns His attention to Peter and ASKS a VERY PENETRATING question.

Do you LOVE me MORE than these?” I think He’s pointing to the other disciples and implying… “Do you love me more than these guys do?” OR Jesus might have been pointing at the nets & saying, “Do you love me more than your old life?”

Either way, you can you imagine HOW Peter must have felt at that moment?

I think he’s probably poking the fire with a stick (it’s what guys do…we like to play with fire…all pyros!) and he can’t even make EYE contact with Jesus as he says…”Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, then… “Feed my lambs.”

For the record, I don’t think Jesus was SCOLDING Peter; He was RESTORING him!

I’m CONVINCED that though this WAS a CORRECTIVE encounter, it was designed to put Peter BACK ON TRACK!

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Notice that with each exchange. Jesus NOT only asks the question of “love” but he also commissions Peter to a task. And what was that task? To FEED and CARE for God’s flock!

{So here’s the final brief “signature of grace” take-away today…}

  1. In Christ, the boundaries of our past don’t have to be the horizons of our future!

No matter what past mistakes you’ve made or what failures you’ve fallen into God can and will REDEEM, RESTORE, and RENEW any life surrendered to Him!{Kenzi Story or Video}

God is in the business of restoration…in the hands of our Master Craftsman…any life can be made whole…IF God can do it with Kenzi/ME…He can do it with anybody!

What is His signature of His grace? He never gives up on us; He blesses beyond measure; & He offers us an amazing future!