Grace to you from God beloved. And greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I pray that His perfect love for you is casting out any fear you may have given these fearful days in which we are living. (I Jn.4:18, Isa.41:10, Jn.14:1-4) Christ has left us His perfect peace. (Jn.14:27) And how we need it in this exceedingly unpeaceful world. We are lambs among the wolves. But Christ is our Good Shepherd. And He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. He is with us even right now and to the end of the age. Not one of Christ’s lambs will be lost. We are all safe in Him – eternally safe. Only believe. (Heb.13:5, Mt.28:18-20, Jn.6:39, 10:28)
Beloved, our corporate worship is a respite from the storms of life. When we come out from among the world and we gather together to worship, on site especially, but even to some degree virtually, we are enjoying the refreshing foretastes of heaven to cheer us in our pilgrimage. (2 Cor.6:14-18, Heb.10:25) If I was in another type of church I might be tempted to say, turn to your neighbor and say “more Bible, less news”. Christian we need: More Bible. Less news. More Christ. Less Man. More Heaven. Less earth. More worship. Less striving. (Col.3:1-3)
Today in our worship we are going to be looking at the Gospel of Christ according to Mark. Please open your Bible and read along with me. Read Mark 14: 26-31, 53-54, 66-72.
The declaration and the denial. Mark 14:26. After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP SHALL BE SCATTERED.’ 28 “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 29 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” 31 But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing also.
The circumstance. Mark 14:53. They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together. 54 Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire.
The fear and the failure. Mark 14:66. As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Nazarene.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the porch, and a rooster crowed. 69 The servant-girl saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This is one of them!” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.” 71 But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!” 72 Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” [In Luke’s gospel we are told that here Jesus looked at Peter – Lk.22:61.] And he began to weep. (Mt.26:69-75, Lk.22:56-62, Jn.18:15-18, 25-27)
Join me in prayer please to ask God to bless His word to our hearts and minds and to His glory. May we see ourselves rightly by the mirror of Scripture. And may we see Christ is our all in all as we find Him in revealed to us in God’s word. (I Cor.15:28, Col.3:11) Pray.
This morning I want us to consider the apostle Peter denying that he knows Jesus Christ. In this we see Peter’s pride and self-reliance. He put too much confidence in his flesh. He feared man too much and God not God.
We take no pleasure in the failure and sins of anyone and especially not another fellow brother in Christ. Love takes no pleasure in wrongs done. Love does not rejoice in evil, in ours or in anyone else. (I Cor. 13:1-13) This is an awful sin. But it is full of so much instruction for us. (I Cor.10:1-10)
Before we go any further, I want us all to see that Peter is a true Believer. Jesus had asked the men who do you say that I am. And Peter said to Jesus, You are the Christ the Son of the Living God. And Jesus said to him, blessed are you Simon bar (son of) Jonah, God the Father opened your eyes to who I am. (Mt.16:13-18) Peter is blessed by God because He believes in Christ. He is forgiven. He is loved.
But we see that he has sinned horribly. This is the sin of a saved sinner. As a brief aside every once and a while you will meet with professing Christians that teach a doctrine of perfectionism. They teach that a Christian can reach a place in this life where they never sin. Beloved, this is not true. We will be practically sinless when we go to heaven. Here in this life we sin. Peter proves this.
Peter failed Christ. He denied knowing Christ that he truly believed in. He said three times. I do not know Jesus, I do not know Jesus, I do not know Jesus. I am not a Christian, I am not a Christian, I am not a Christian. I swear to God! Beloved, what would you think about a person that said this to you? That they were not a Christian. But Peter was a Christian. He is a Christian. He loved Christ while he was failing Christ! Oh what lessons for us.
His fear got the better of his faith. But only for a time. We see the failure of his faith with his denial. And then right away we see the manifestation of his faith with his tears.
You cannot extinguish true faith in Christ. It is a gift of God to you. It joins you to the Living God forever. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Not you. Not your sin. Not man. Not Satan. Satan tripped Peter. But Satan cannot extinguish the life of Christ in Peter! Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ. Glory to God. (Rom.8:11-39)
Beloved when we sin against Christ, which we do daily, we are stumbling in our sin. We are giving in to the flesh. We are fearing Man and not God. But it is our weakness. It is our corruption. It is not who we truly are. (Rom.7:1-24, Jas.4:1-8, I Pt.2:11, Gal.5:17)
We are new creatures in Christ. (2 Cor.5:14-21) But we still have many blemishes remaining. But our blemishes do not separate us from Christ. Our failures do not define us. Christ defines us. In God’s kindness and grace even our failures to Christ will bind us even tighter to Christ. (WCF 5.5)
I am not saying there is any inherent goodness in evil. There is not. (Rom.3:8) But I am saying that by God’s grace and by the promises of Christ that Christ will restore us when we fail. And He will make us a better Christian by it, more Christ-like, more useful to the kingdom of Christ. And for the minister, He will make us better ministers by it.
Listen to what Jesus promises to Peter.
Luke 22:31. Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (see uses of WCF 5.5)
For the true Believer, our failures against Jesus Christ can potentially be our greatest occasions of spiritual growth.
Our sins are always ugly and offensive to God. Our sins are forgiven in Christ. But they are always offensive. But God can take them and break our pride and our self-reliance and lovelessness and mold us into the image of Christ.
God will bring spiritual good out of our moral evil. He can do it. And He does. He made a Saul a Paul. And the remembrance of his former hatred of Christ and of Christians made him the most useful instrument in Christ’s hands.
What did Paul say? I am the chief of sinners. I am the least of the apostles. Oh beloved, this is a Christian. This is a useful servant of Christ. (Gal.1:13, I Cor.15:9-11, Acts 22:4, Phil.3:1-10, I Tim.1:15)
Think of evil king Manasseh. He was truly converted to God, not on his throne but in a dungeon for his sin. (2 Chron.33:1-20) Think of the wicked pagan king Nebuchadnezzar. So proud. So arrogant. Walking around saying, I am the best! His pride was the occasion of God’s breaking him. And I do believe of converting him. Though I know some debate this. (Dan.4:1-37)
We do not try to sin that grace would come. That is both sinful and silly. (Rom.6:1-6) But beloved, when we fail God, when we sin against Christ in some awful way and we weep, and we cry seeking His forgiveness. Here is where we learn of the love and the mercy and the power of Christ. Here is where we learn to live for Christ, walking as He walked. Fearing sin. Fearing self. Trusting in Christ. Abiding in His word and in His love. (Jn.15:1-10)
Christ came to seek and to save sinners. And He came to keep saved sinners saved! We are sinners. And as Believers we are saved sinners who still sin. And when we don’t think so, the devil has asked permission of Christ to sift us like wheat and He grants it. But not to destroy us. But to refine us. (Job 2:4, Lk.22:31, I Pt.4:12-19, James 1:1-4)
If we will not be taught by divine precept to seek all our strength, all our wisdom, all our goodness in Jesus then we will be taught by the scourge of our personal sin, and even the instrumentality of Satan as we see with Peter. (Heb.12:1-10, Ps.32, Ps.51) What Satan means for evil. God will work to good.
Beloved, pride goeth before a fall. (Prov.16:16-19) Beware when you think you stand morally, religiously, spiritually tall and upright and you cannot fall. (I Cor.10:1-12)
All things work together for our spiritual good, which is to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. And our sin and God’s scourge for our sin is included in those all things. (Rom.8:28-29, Rom.12:1-2, Phil3:7-11, I Pt.1:13-16, Eph.1:14-15)
God will use our sin to crucify our pride. (Prov.8:13, James 4:6, I Pt.5:5, I Jn.2:15-17, Dan.4:37)
One of the things that feeds our pride is our perceived advantages. And this is even seen in our walk with Christ.
Given the fallen nature of man. Sometimes people think that certain people have all the advantages in life by virtue of what kind of person they are. And this is time and culture specific. Many years ago, there was a story of a woman from Africa visiting the White House and she asked the First Lady how many goats she owned? And people smiled. 😊 For her, a wealthy woman would have owned many goats.
Well in Peter’s day it was common for people to think that it was better to be a man than a woman. And it was better to be a Jew than a Gentile. They thought the Gentiles were moral dogs, unclean sinners.
Let’s look at three things about Peter that might be considered his advantages. His sex. His religion. His church office. He had all three advantages. And for all this he failed Jesus Christ miserably. These things were not his righteousness.
Beloved this failure was spiritually very good for him. His failure showed him (and us) what to think of what men call ‘advantages’. And of course, this would turn his eyes upon his only true advantage Jesus Christ, the Sin-Bearer, the Law-Satisfier, and the Peace-Bringer.
Let’s look at Peter.
His sex. His maleness is not his righteousness.
Well, let me state the obvious. He is a man and not a woman. I promise I am not trying to be silly. We will see this man fail miserably. Sometimes you hear people say, the Bible is pro-man and anti-woman. To prove this, some say, oh look blaming the woman for eating the fruit! Actually, we blame the man because God blames the man. (Gen.3:9, Hos.6:7, Rom.5:12-21, I Cor.15:21)
The Bible does not support any moral superiority between the sexes. (Rom.3:9-18) Men are not morally or religiously superior to women. Yes, God in some ways has different functions or calling for the sexes. But our moral natures are the same. Men and women without faith in Christ are morally depraved and spiritually dead and under the wrath of God. (Jn.3:36) With faith in Christ, men and women are equally clean and equally loved by God. (Gal.3:24-29, I Pt.3:7)
In fact, I think it is the women disciples of Christ that are last at the cross and first at the tomb. Perhaps this is why Christ honored the women with the honor of seeing Him first risen from the dead. (Mk.15:40-41, Lk.8:1-3, Mt.28:1-7, Jn.20:1-16, Mt.27:55-61)
God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the so-called strong things of the world. So that God gets all the glory. (I Cor.1:27-31, Jer.9:23, 2 Cor.10:17, Ps.34:2)
In part this is why God permits Peter’s failure. It is to show people who think they are the strong ones that we are not strong but rather weak. All to make us find our strength in Christ. (Isa.55:8-9)
And sometimes our physical strength or our intellectual strength or financial strength deceives us into thinking we are spiritually strong. Peter was a physically strong man. He had a strong man’s occupation. He worked with his hands. He had a get-er done attitude. Even if all fall away Jesus I will not! (Mt.26:33, Mk.14:29, Jn.13:37-38) Get-er done! Oh Beloved, physical, financial, intellectual strength is not spiritual strength.
Our sin reveals that.
What blessings God has for us when we are weak and broken because of our sin.
We find out for real, when I am weak, Jesus is strong. His grace is all sufficient for me. (2 Cor.12:1-10)
The deeds of the flesh shrivel up and die in a broken heart and a contrite spirit. (Lk.7:36-50)
Some of our worst failures produce the truest fruits of the Holy Spirit. True repentance. Real tears. Real prayers. True faith. True love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control, True humility. (Gal.5:14-26)
Humble comes from a Latin word ‘humus’ soil or earth – dust! (Gen.2:7, 3:19, Job 10:9, Ps.104:29-30). We are the best in Christ when we are the lowest in our own eyes before God and man.
His religion. His Jewishness is not his righteousness.
Next, we know that Peter is a Jew and not a Gentile. I am not saying this as regards to a reference of so-called race. I believe there is only one race, the human race. I deny different degrees of melanin constitute ‘race’ anyway. I am quite sure that there were and are Jews of various hues. The same is true for Christians. (Rev.5:9) I mean it religiously.
By God’s providence Peter was born to Jewish parents and raised as a Jew. This means that he was born within the visible people of God. You remember, it was God who said that He chose Israel out of all the people of the earth to be His own special possession, the apple of His eye. And not because of anything good in Israel. But all because of God’s sovereign loving merciful providence. God chose them because He loved them. God loved them because He determine to love them. (Dt.7:1-9, Jn.15:17, Acts 13:48, Rom.9:1-29)
God gave this special people His oracles and ordinances. God gave Israel His word that showed Israel His Law and His gospel, the promise of the coming Christ. Salvation is of the Jews. (Rom.3:1-2, Lev.1-16, Jn.4:22, Mt.15:24, Rom.1:16, Rom.2:9-10)
Peter is a Believer by God’s great privileges. He is a Jew with a circumcised heart. He confesses Jesus is the Christ the Son of God Savior. (Mt.16:16-17, Rom.2:25-29, Dt.30:6, 10:14-16, Jer.4:4, Col.2:11-12)
This is why we maintain that ordinarily there is no salvation outside of the visible household of faith. The church does not save. Christ saves as He is revealed to us in the Gospel. And God has committed the gospel to the church. (WCF 25.1-3, Mt.28:18-20, Eph.2:20)
But even as true Believers we still sometimes maintain some of our old sinful biases and prejudices. We see with Peter in the book of Galatians for a time Peter slips back into his old thinking, Gentiles are dirty sinners and the Jews are the good ones.
Peter needed to learn that the Jews were not (inherently) morally superior to the Gentiles. Peter needed to learn that left to themselves the Jews were vile sinners just like the Gentiles. (Rom.3:9-18)
Also Peter stands on the cusp of Christ taking the gospel away from Israel and giving It to all the nations. (Mt.21:33-46, Rom.10:20, Rom.2:9-10, Eph.2:11-22, Acts 1:1-8)
Peter needs to be convinced that Christ means to save wretched Gentile sinners and join graft them into the people of God. You remember in the account with Cornelius. In the vision with all the animals, God told Peter, rise up, kill, and eat. And Peter said never my Lord, I have never eaten unclean food. God was not talking about food. He was talking about people. (Acts 10:1-36)
God will show Peter his Jewishness is not his righteousness, his church privileges are not his righteousness. God will show Peter that left to himself that he is a wretched sinner who needs a Savior, just like the Gentiles. God will show Peter his only righteousness is Christ.
Our sin against Christ helps us see that salvation is all of God’s grace. Not of our works. Not because we were born in the church. But because we are born again in Christ. (Rom.10:1-5, 11:5-7, Gal.2:11-14)
Ephesians 2:8. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Peter’s failure is part of his lesson in the great commission. Go tell the world, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (Mt.28:18-20, Acts 1:1-8)
Christ requires Peter, the apostles, pastor-preachers, and every true Christian to tell this to everyone that is a sinner, making no earthly distinctions. Because there are no earthly distinctions that mean anything before God. Only ‘in’ Christ. Or ‘apart’ from Christ. (Rom.1:16)
Our sin breaks us and makes us more gracious and evangelical.
His office. His station is not his righteousness.
And the last advantage that Peter possessed was His church office. Peter was an apostle of Jesus. He was an official teacher and preacher of God’s word to God’s people.
Peter had a ‘high’ station in life. Perhaps we might even say the highest calling in life, to be called by Christ to preach Christ.
But Christ has specifically told His men, with this highest calling you are required to stoop to the lowest. Like Christ. (Mt.23:1-12, Phil.2:1-11) Christ did not come to be served. Christ came to serve. And to give His life a ransom for sins. (Mt.20:18-28)
One of the things about high places, high callings, high stations of any sort – even in Christ’s church, they can make us forget ourselves by feeding our pride.
Too many people calling the servant of Christ ‘reverend’ makes the minister think they are ‘reverend’. Oh beloved, holy and reverend is HIS name. (Ps.111:9) And only HIS name. Our holiness is His holiness that He gives to us. Our sin should convince us of that.
Beloved our tertiary standards responding to our primary standard (I Tim.5:22-24) say that the church should be very careful about who they lay hands on to ordain, that they might not be ‘weak or unworthy men’ weak in the faith. (OPC F.O.G 221.1) And this is especially true of ministers.
Many men lust for the high office but they do not know that it comes with being a servant of all. They want to be served. And not to serve. No matter that they say to the contrary.
Sin. Failure to Christ by the preacher of Christ makes the minister believe the words he says.
Do not call me reverend. Christ is reverend. Do not call me domini. God alone is Lord. I am the chief of sinners. I proclaim to you the Savior of sinners. I am His servant by His grace.
Our sin, our giving in to the temptation of Satan and the weakness of the flesh prove to us in a very real and a very personal way that we really are in a spiritual warfare. This in turn breaks our love affair and friendship with the world. This puts us into the posture of a good soldier of Christ. (Eph.6:10-20, 2 Cor.10:3-5, James 4:7, I Pt.5:8, Lk.10:19, I Jn.5:4-5, Isa.54:17)
The Spirit’s conviction of our sin makes us stop comparing our faith in Jesus with His other servants. After we are broken. Jesus restores us. And asks us, do you love Me more than my other servants as you boasted before? We now say, Lord I love you. Jesus is teaching us, to just love Him. And to leave His other servants to Jesus. And just to follow Him. Watch out for our sin. Watch out for Satan. Watch and pray. And follow Jesus. (Jn.21:14-19)
Through Christ we can do all things. (Phil.4:13,22, Jn.15:1-10) In and of ourselves no good things lies within us. (Rom.7:18) By our flesh we can do nothing of spiritual and true value before God. Our sin shows us this.
Listen to what good things Peter learned by his sad failure.
I Peter 5:1. Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- Why can we as Believers in Jesus Christ have peace in an unpeaceful world? How does Jesus give you peace when you read the Bible, pray, and worship on the Lord’s Day? (2 Tim.3:1-5, I Jn.4:18, Isa.41:10, Jn.14:1-4, Jn.14:27, Heb.13:5, Mt.28:18-20, Jn.6:39, 10:28, 2 Cor.6:14-18, Heb.10:25, Col.3:1-3)
- Read the different accounts of Peter’s denial of Jesus. What are the similarities and the differences of the accounts? (Mt.26:69-75, Mk.14:66-72, Lk.22:56-62, Jn.18:15-18, 25-27)
- How do we know that Peter is a true Believer in Jesus? What does Peter’s sin teach us about the nature of true Believers in the present age? Did Peter’s sin separate his union with Christ? What do we learn about our Savior and our salvation by this? (Lk.22:31-32, Mt.16:13-18, Rom.8:11-39, Rom.7:1-24, Jas.4:1-8, I Pt.2:11, Gal.5:17)
- Is sin ever inherently ‘good’? Why? Why not. (Prov.6:16-19, Eccles.12:6) How did God turn the sin of Saul-Paul, Manasseh, and David to their good? (Gal.1:13, I Cor.15:9-11, Acts 22:4, Phil.3:1-10, I Tim.1:15, 2 Chron.33:1-20, Rom.6:1-6, Job 2:4, Lk.22:31, I Pt.4:12-19, James 1:1-4, Heb.12:1-10, Ps.32, Ps.51, Rom.8:28-29)
- What are some physical, societal, and religious advantages that Peter was perceived to have? What do men call ‘advantages’? What does God call advantages? Or what do men value versus what does God value?
- Does the Bible teach that men are morally superior to women? Does the Bible elevate men over women? Does the Bible degrade women? How are the sexes equal apart from Christ? How are the sexes equal in Christ? (Gen.3:1-15, Hos.6:7, Rom.5:12-21, I Cor.15:21, Rom.3:9-18, Jn.3:36, Gal.3:24-29, I Pt.3:7, Mk.15:40-41, Lk.8:1-3, Mt.28:1-7, Jn.20:1-16, Mt.27:55-61, I Cor.1:27-31, Jer.9:23, 2 Cor.10:17, Ps.34:2)
- Why do the deeds of the flesh thrive in the soil of pride? Why do the fruits of the Holy Spirit thrive in a humble heart? (2 Cor.12:1-10, Gal.5:14-26, Gen.2:7, 3:19, Job 10:9, Ps.104:29-30).
- In what ways was it a religious blessing and advantage for Peter to have been born a Jew and not a Gentile? How did Peter’s gross sin teach him that Jesus would save even Gentiles and that external ‘Jewishness’ is not saving? (Dt.7:1-9, Jn.15:17, Acts 13:48, Rom.9:1-29, Rom.3:1-2, Lev.1-16, Jn.4:22, Mt.15:24, Rom.1:16, Rom.2:9-10, Mt.21:33-46, Rom.10:20, Rom.2:9-10, Eph.2:11-22, Acts 10:1-36, Rom.10:1-5, 11:5-7, Gal.2:11-14, Eph.2:8, Acts 2:39)
- Peter had the highest office in Christ’s church, He was an apostle. Who was he to imitate? In what ways can ministers feed their pride because of their office? In what ways can we Christians feed our pride because we are Believers and not unbelievers? (Mt.23:1-12, Phil.2:1-11, Mt.20:18-28, Lk.18:9-14, I Cor.6:9-11)
- How can our failures to Christ, our sins against Christ and the Spirit’s convicting us work good for us? (Eph.6:10-20, 2 Cor.10:3-5, James 4:7, I Pt.5:8, Lk.10:19, I Jn.5:4-5, Isa.54:17, Jn.21:14-19, Phil.4:13,22, Jn.15:1-10, Rom.7:18, I Pt.5:1-11)