How to Get Past Your Past


Have you ever experienced an “epic fail?” The internet is filled with videos of funny fails, but sometimes our failures aren’t funny, especially when we let God and others down. Those failures are hard to get past. I’ve heard failure defined as “failing to meet expectations.” If we’re honest, by definition, we have all failed in some pretty epic ways; and those failures can hold us back and can keep us down.


In John 21, Jesus has a life-changing conversation with Peter. Peter had experienced his own epic fail in the hours leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, denying not only that he was a disciple of Jesus, but denying he ever even knew Him! And all this after telling Jesus he would “never” deny him. When Peter realized what he had done, the Bible tells us he broke down and wept. (Mark 14:72). How did Jesus help Peter get past his epic fail and how will He help us get past our past?


After being hidden away for days, fearing for their lives, Peter and his fellow disciples decided to go fishing! They fished all night, but caught nothing. (John 21:1-3). Why do you think Peter decided to go fishing? There are a lot of reasons we might come up with, but in some ways he was reacting to his failure. We tend to do the same things which all amount to: Wrong Ways to Deal With Past Failures…

  • Go back to your “old ways.” Peter went back to fishing because that’s what he knew, even though Jesus had a different kind of fishing in mind for him. When Jesus called Peter to follow Him, Peter had been fishing. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” Matthew 4:19. No doubt Peter was struggling, maybe thinking his failure disqualified him from serving Christ in the way he had hoped. Some people wrongly think that when they blow it, Jesus is done with them, so they just go back to their “old ways”.

  • Think you’re useless for Christ’s sake. Peter may have thought that because he had failed Christ, He was useless. The devil would love to get in your ear and tell you that you are useless for Christ’s sake. That is a lie! Jesus wasn’t done with Peter and He is not done with you!

  • Let your feelings hold you captive. We don’t know for sure how Peter was feeling, but we know how he felt right after he denied Jesus… 72 … (Peter) broke down and wept. Mark 14:72. When Peter realized what he had done, he was broken. No doubt he was feeling like a failure. Those kinds of feelings can be like a ball and chain.

  • Forget that you serve a God of second chances! If our God wasn’t willing to give us a second chance, we would be in trouble! Sometimes we forget how amazing God’s grace is!

Jesus called Peter, and all who believe, to “fish for people.” In the Great Commission, Jesus said it like this: 19 …go and make disciples,… Matthew 28:19a. What happens next is an amazing object lesson for Peter, his fellow disciples, and for us about the importance of fulfilling this mission!


When Peter and his fellow disciples had caught no fish, Jesus called to them from the shore to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they did, they caught so many fish they couldn’t even haul them all in! (John 21:4-6). Peter and his fellow disciples were casting their nets on the wrong side of the boat. It was as if they had forgotten how to fish; and more importantly, maybe they had forgotten Jesus’ call for them to fish for people!


This was a not so subtle reminder to Peter and his fellow disciples that Jesus had plans for them to catch lots of “fish.” Now it was time to move toward that mission. For Peter, despite his failure, Jesus was ready for him to catch more fish than he ever imagined possible. But to do that, Peter had to get past his past.

How To Get Past Your Past


1) Consider what matters most in your life. (John 21:15)


What was Jesus referring to when He asked Peter if he loved Him “more than these?” I think Jesus was talking about the fish they had just hauled in. Peter loved fishing; but did he love fishing more than he loved Jesus? Did he love fishing more than obeying Jesus? If Peter was going to do what Jesus had called him to do, he had to consider what mattered most. The same is true for us. If you are going to get past your past, you must consider what matters most in your life. Is there anything in your life you love more than Jesus?

2) Listen carefully to what Jesus expects from you. (John 21:16)


When Jesus asked Peter two times if he loved him, Jesus used the word “agape”, which is a deep, abiding, unconditional love. But Peter responded with “phileo,” a lesser, brotherly kind of love. Jesus expected more than that from Peter if Peter was going to do what Jesus needed him to do. Jesus is looking for the same level of love from you and me as His followers. He wants us to agape Him; to love Him with all our hearts.

3) Reaffirm your commitment to Christ. (John 21:17)


Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to reaffirm His commitment three times, the same number of times Peter denied him. But this third time, when Jesus asked Peter if He loved Him, Jesus used the word for love that Peter had been using, “phileo.” Peter was hurt; it was clear he wanted to give Jesus more, but something was holding him back. It was his past failure. He didn’t want to risk letting Jesus down again. Don’t let your past hold you captive! God offers you His amazing grace and forgiveness. Peter needed that, and we do too! Seek His forgiveness where you have failed. Turn from that failure, commit to love Christ and serve Him faithfully. Peter did and he helped change the world for Christ’s sake! God has big plans for you too.

For much more, click here to listen to: Light in the Darkness - Part 17 - How to Get Past Your Past.

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