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John #46 The Pathway to Denial

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That you may Believe and have Life #46

John 18:12-26

The pathway to Denial is the title for my message today.  We know that Judas has betrayed Jesus; but as Jesus is arrested and goes on trial, Peter faces his darkest day in scripture. 

He denies Jesus … well I’m ahead of the story, so, let’s read it

READ JOHN 18:12-26

Denial, Peter never imagined that he would be there.  A few verses previous he was wielding a sword.  Now he is not willing to admit that he even knows Jesus.  

How did Peter get there?

Have you ever been in Peter’s shoes?

Have you ever denied that you were a Christian?

Have you ever denied that you believe the Bible?

Have you ever distanced yourself from the faith that you believe secures your eternity?

Have you felt distant from you faith

Perhaps you haven’t come right out and denied but perhaps you have been in a place where you were distanced from the Lord, His People, His Word

Maybe you are there now …

I want us to see three things that lead us toward denial and then I will answer the question, “If I’m there, how do I get Out, how do I get back?”

There are three things that work together or separate in leading us to denial. 

All three of these were true of Peter

The first is …

1. Pride

Def – the quality or state of being proud; an inordinate self-esteem

Aquinas says that pride was first revealed when Lucifer attempted to set his throne on high in independence of God … the fallen devil put cravings to be gods into Adam and Eve and the result was that man was infected with pride through the fall

Do you remember what Peter had said.

John 13:37 “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you.”

John doesn’t give us a full picture of what was going on.  But, there was a battle of pride going on.  Luke gives us a more full account. 

In Luke 22:22 Jesus said one was going to betray him. They began to question who might be that one.  But immediately a dispute rises about which one of them was the greatest 22:24 – Jesus counters that with a call for whoever thinks they are greatest to BE the greatest SERVANT. 

Then he singles out Peter in

verse 31-32

Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers

Yet Peter showed his pride in verse 33 – Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death”

Jesus has revealed to them that he is about to be betrayed, and instead of being concerned about whether they might be the one, they try to defend themselves by arguing over which is the strongest.

They want to defend their own strength to prove their lack of weakness

1 Corinthians 10:12 says if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

ALL of the disciples deserted Christ in his greatest time of need.  The only one at the cross was John. 

In their pride they defended their own greatness in the Kingdom

Defending your own greatness in the Kingdom of God is the one of the worst kinds of pride.  It is evidence that you are Not where you need to be in the kingdom. (“don’t they know how faithful I am”)

The apostle Paul is one that we would consider perhaps the greatest figure in the New Testament apart from Christ, and yet he called himself the least in the Kingdom

But, what of these disciples?  They defend their greatness. 

We need an accurate assessment of where we are in Christ if we are not going to move down the pathway to denial

Lest we think this is only an issue with Peter, where are the other disciples and what was their intention?

Matthew 26:33-35 Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”  But Peter declared “even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And ALL THE OTHER disciples said the same

If the disciples, having lived with Jesus for three years could come to a place where they denied him, then any of us have the capacity.

Don’t let your pride convince you that you are too strong, or too right, or too committed, or too humble, or too anything else

An interesting thing about Pride …

Pride is a tool of satan in the midst of the Revelation of God

It’s amazing how satan will come when God is revealing himself to you and try to convince you that God doesn’t know what he’s doing, that God is not good, or that his word is not reliable

In Matthew 16:16 – Peter confessing the God-given revelation that Jesus is “The Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  … and then Jesus began to explain about how he must go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the priests, and be killed, and raised on the 3rd day. 

And in PRIDE … peter took him aside and rebuked him … “NEVER LORD!” … “this shall never happen to you.”

What pride to think that we know better than Jesus

What pride to think that God needs our counsel. 

Jesus identifies the source … and says to Peter Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

And the next words of Jesus are famous but now make great significance in context

Mk 16:24 – If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me

Pride is a deadly thing

God reveals himself to us and we think we know better or we don’t like the direction or don’t want the discomfort

If we are going to check ourselves today, we need an accurate assessment of where we are in Christ Jesus

We need to go before him and say what the disciples did in the upper room “Lord is it I”

Lord do I stand in arrogance?

or am I kneeling before you in humility

the Next thing that can lead down the road to denial is …

2. Fear

In his pride he never thought he could be in the place where he was

He never could have imagined Christ being taken from him

But now that the inconceivable was reality, could it happen to me too?

The problem with fear is that is skews our perception of the situation. 

Fear makes us believe we are alone, unable, uninformed, and unloved

We’ve looked at fear before.  But fear will also take us down the road to denial

Look at how fear affected Peter.

He felt like he was alone.  It appears all the disciples except John and Peter had fled

Peter followed to see what was going to happen.

John hada connection with the High Priest’s family and get’s Peter in … in his mind, Jesus was a done deal and Peter was all alone

He believed that he was unable to face the task because he was alone

He believed he didn’t know what was going on or what would happen and what to

He believed that these that hated Christ also hated him and no one there loved him

But OH the Love of God.  Jesus had predicted that Peter would be sifted.  He predicted that this night satan would come against him and yet that he WOULD get to the other side

He was showing Peter his love

Oh though, he thought he was uninformed – Jesus had told him over and over that this was going to happen.  He had said that this was the VERY REASON that they were coming to Jerusalem.  The only thing that should have been surprising was the when, not the what.  He should have known that Jesus would now die but he would also come to life again

So there was no need to Fear

Peter thought he was unable but Jesus had said, “take heart, I have overcome the world”

Peter was not alone … John was there … Jesus was there … the rest of the disciples were in the same situation, but he felt alone.  But God was with him

Jesus had said, “I won’t leave you or forsake you”

What was Peter afraid of?

-         losing his life

-         losing his livelihood

-         losing his freedom

What can this world take from me?

-         a job

-         a relationship

-         my life

-         my freedom

What are those things? They are things … remember “all that I have belongs to you Lord, all that I have is yours?”

Release control of your life, your possessions, your circumstance

Fear that leads to denial comes from a failure to understand and believe God

If Peter had just believed and understood what Jesus had said to him, he would not have denied Christ because he would have known this was part of the plan

Fear that leads to denial comes from a Limited Understanding of Jesus’ Person and Purpose

The disciples had been expecting Jesus to take an earthly throne and so this led them to question his identity as Messiah, God and King. 

Pride leads us down a path to Denial

Fear can lead us down a path to denial

And then the third component that can lead us to denial is

3. Separation from Christ

Of the three things that lead to denial, Separation is the most dangerous

When the lioness is hunting she will scatter the herd of animals she is hunting.  As they are scattered, the young, the weak, or the injured will usually be left vulnerable

There are three ways that we get separated from Christ. 

  A. From His Presence

    1. Peter was no longer close to Jesus, he couldn’t touch him, be encouraged by him hear from him

    2. The writer of Hebrews has encouraged us “do not forsake the assembling of the brothers as some are in the habit of doing”

    3. God dwells / tabernacles among his people and his presence is felt here.  “Where two or more are gathered in my name I am there in the midst.”

    4. when we sin it places a wall of separation between us and the presence of God

Another separation from Christ is

  B. From the People of God

    1. don’t forsake the assembling together of the saints as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another all the more as you see the day approaching

    2. the people of God are encouraging to one another to continue in the faith

    3. Peter was separated from Christ but he was also separated from the other disciples

    4. brothers and sisters, we need each other.  We need each other like we never had before.  And let me tell you the time when you need one another more than ever, that’s when you THINK YOU DON’T NEED ANYONE --- have you been there, “I don’t need them” “I can do this on my own” “I’ll be alright” “I just need to take a break from church”



    5. being separated from God’s people also separates us from God and leads us down the pathway to denial

    7. Worse than that, when we are separated from God’s presence and his people, often times we become surrounded by mockers and scoffers. 

Psalm 1 says “blessed are those who do NOT walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers”

Not only had Peter been Separated from Christ and his people but he was connected to those who would only bring him down

“you weren’t with Jesus were you”

“you couldn’t have been with Jesus”

The first two questions we asked in such a way that was expecting a negative answer

When you surround yourselves with people who expect you to NOT be with Christ, you are in danger of denial.

To the point that the final question was asked by someone who probably had seen Peter in the garden “you were with him, I saw you”, (you cut off my cousins’ ear) … this was asked expecting a YES answer but this time Peter called down curses.  This phrase doesn’t mean he was blasphemous … it meant that he called down curses on himself trying prove his innocence

He was separated from his Presence, and his People and

* Now the thing about Peter and sometimes with us is that circumstances happen that separate us from Christ from worshipping and fellowshipping with his people and we don’t have control over the circumstances.  However that doesn’t HAVE to lead us down the pathway to denial. 

If we will not be separated

  C. From his Prophesies

    1. for us we could say separated from his Prophets

    2. there are times when you can’t be with God’s people because of work, because of illness, because of circumstances

    3. Hold on to his Promises and his Prophets.  It is his Word that will keep you connected to him. 

    4. you should do everything in your power to not be separated from Christ not to be separated from his people in worship and Bible Teaching … But if you are DOUBLE / TRIPLE / QUADRUPLE your personal efforts in Bible Study – you want to know how to make it in life – study Psalm 119 – David understood what it was to hold onto the promises of God.  David knew what it was to be away from God’s presence and people but still feel him and know him in his promises

    5. Jesus had TOLD Peter “I have overcome the world” he had told him “I must die” “I will be raised to life” – Peter had words that he could hold – so that he didn’t have to deny

    6. we have words, promises, the commands and prophets on which we can stand.  “I am coming in a little while” “as he has been resurrected, so will we” “we are strangers here in a foreign land” “we look for a kingdom and a city from heaven”

We can HOLD on to his PROMISES … and not have walk down the Pathway to denial

So … I have said all that to say this …

When we find ourselves separated, fearful, or pride has gotten in the way, and we have taken the pathway to denial …

Conclusion: How do we get out?

1. Remember – Peter “Heard the Rooster” – the Prodigal Son was in the hog pen and he came to himself and remembered how good it was at home with his Father – we all get in a place where we shouldn’t be and we must remember where we were supposed to be – When the rooster crowed, Luke 22:61 says that Jesus “looked straight at Peter and he remembered the word of the Lord” – that was NOT an “I told you so look” … it was a look of pity, it was a look of understanding … it was a look of calling and longing … you see that Christ is part of the Remembering process.  He gave us his Spirit to Remind us of everything that Jesus has said.  You are out there sometimes, where you shouldn’t be denying and God brings to mind a scripture, a song, a message … and you remember

But remembering alone is only sadness we must also

2. Repent  - Luke 22:62 says he went outside and wept bitterly – Ps 51:17 – a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise

Repentance is doing a 180 – it is a change of heart and mind –

2 Cor 7:9-10 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led to repentance.  For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death

After remembrance and repentance, turning around … then begins the process by which we  

3. Return to Jesus – Peter’s return / restoration was a process.  It began with the remembering and the weeping – the Sound of the Rooster was not the END of the Line for Peter, it was the beginning of a new day.  – When Jesus was resurrected the Angel appeared to Mary and said  “go, and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘he is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him, just as he told you’”

Jesus wanted Peter to know there was still a place for him

When Peter got the word, he ran to the Tomb to see

Then Jesus appeared separately to Peter in Luke 24:34 “the Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon”

Finally in John 21 Jesus gave Peter his full restoration letting him know that he was not only forgiven but there was still work for him to do.

Perhaps you have been away from the Lord … in that place of denial

Know that through Remembrance, Repentance and Return, there is still a place for you in the Kingdom

And once you are OUT … don’t turn back

4. Rehearse his deeds – Tell his Stories, Admit you belong to Jesus.  In the book of Acts we see a different person.  We see him Boldly Preaching at Pentecost – Acts 2 – let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. The people were cut to the heart and said … what shall we do?  Peter replied Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ …”  and in Acts 3:14 he proclaims you disowned the Holy and Righteous One … you killed the author of life …”

Peter Rehearsed the wondrous deeds of Jesus because in remembrance, repentance, and return there is restoration and life in Jesus

Rehearse his Deeds

Remember – Jesus didn’t condone what Peter did, but he knew along and was praying for Peter in the midst of it, and preparing a ministry for him after he restored him.  

Even in the midst of denial, know that Jesus is making all things work together for your Good –

Don’t stare at the Stain of your Sin, Stare at the Face of your Forgiver

Tea on the Wall

In his book, How To Be Born Again, Billy Graham writes: “There is a well-known story of some men in Scotland who had spent the day fishing. That evening they were having tea in a little inn. One of the fishermen, in a characteristic gesture to describe the size of the fish that got away, slung out his hands just as the little waitress was getting ready to set the cup of tea at his place. The hand and the teacup collided, dashing the tea against the whitewashed walls. Immediately an ugly brown stain began to spread over the wall. The man who did it was very embarrassed and apologized profusely, but one of the other guests jumped up and said, “Never mind.” Pulling a pen from his pocket, he began to sketch around the ugly brown stain. Soon there emerged a picture of a magnificent royal stag with his antlers spread. That artist was Sir Edwin Landseer, England’s foremost painter of animals.

“This story has always beautifully illustrated to me that fact that if we confess not only our sins but our mistakes to God, He can make out of them something for our good and His glory. Sometimes it’s harder to confess our mistakes and stupidities to God than it is our sins. Mistakes and stupidities seem so dumb, whereas sin seems to more or less to be an outcropping of our human nature. But Romans 8:28 tells us that if they are committed to God He can make them work together for our good and His glory.”*



* Billy Graham, How To Be Born Again (Waco: Word, 1977), 129–130

[1]Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (572). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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