Get Out of the Way
GET OUT OF THE WAY!
Victory out of defeat. They say everybody loves a winner. But I=ll tell you what I think people love more than a winner. They love to see the person who, as the old Timex watch commercials use to say, ATakes a licking and keeps on ticking.@
Perhaps the most beautiful example of that truth in all of Scripture is Simon Peter, who failed the Lord miserably, as we will see in John 18.
Peter denied the Lord and proclaimed that he never knew Him. And yet, Peter made the greatest comeback in all of history. He bounced back from his failure to the powerful preacher of Pentecost and one of the pillars of the first-century church.
So I want to examine first Peter=s failure, that we might be warned by it and avoid failing the Lord. Then I want to talk about Peter=s recovery from his failure, that we might be encouraged to realize that failure is never final when we walk with the Lord.
THE CAUSES OF FAILURE
What happened to Peter? What would cause this man who was so close to Jesus, who no doubt loved the Savior with all of his heart, to stumble in his faith and commitment and deny the Lord? Lets examine our text concerning Peter=s experience on the awful night of Jesus= betrayal and arrest and of Peter=s denial.
John 18:15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's courtyard, (NIV)
Peter didn=t just fall into his night of denials by accident. Jesus had prepared him for it by telling him earlier that same night,
Luke 22:31-32a "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail." (NIV)
Peter=s Self-Sufficiency, Self-Reliance, and Self-Confidence
So Peter was warned. But one of Peter=s perpetual problems was that he trusted himself to much. He was self-sufficient. He thought his spiritual power was self-contained. In this case he overdosed on self-confidence.
We know that because of another incident that happened on this same night, during the Last Supper. Jesus and his disciples were reclining around the table in the Upper Room when Jesus said; Matthew 26:31a
Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me,
Peter reacted immediately.
Matt. 26:33 Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."
Peter was saying ALord, I can see where these other guys might cave in. But not me. I would be the last guy on earth to turn You in.
I think Peter really believed that. He was utterly confident that he would never betray the Lord. But he didn=t know the treachery of his own heart. The Bible says,
Jeremiah 17:9 9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Peter loved Jesus, but he was not prepared for the darkness of the night he would face. And he was not aware of the darkness of his heart. Self-sufficiency set him up for his failure.
This is a danger we all face. The Scripture says.
1 Corinthians 10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!
There is a potential for evil in every one of us. Let any of us take his eyes off Jesus Christ, begin to neglect the spiritual disciplines, and trust in his own strength, and given the right circumstances, failure, always lurking in the shadows, will leap out and overtake you. That is what pride will do to the Christian.
Peter said he would never deny Christ. He boasted in his faith, but his faith failed. When we are most aware of our spiritual weakeness, that=s when we=re the strongest. Jesus said,
Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy are those who understand their spiritual poverty.
It is when we think we are the strongest, when we think we=ve got it all together and we drop our guard spiritually, that failure knocks us off our feet. Then we are humbled.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane that night and said,
Matthew 26:38b A Stay here and keep watch with me."
Then He went a little farther into the garden and prayed with agonizing tears and sweat oozing through the pores of His skin.
While Jesus agonized, expecting these disciples to pray, Peter and the other two fell asleep. Peter was so close to Christ in the moment of His anguish he could hear His sobs and see His tears glistening in the moonlight. Yet because of his self-reliance, Peter was prayer less.
Jesus taught us to pray,
Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Every day we face incredible temptations and illusions from Satan.
To be victorious over these temptations we must be on our faces before God. We are no match for Satan on our own. To rely upon our spiritual power is insanity in the face of the Aroaring lion@ who roams about seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8).
You and I are no stronger than our prayer life. When we begin to neglect prayer and the discipline of our devotional life with God, that is when self-reliance sets in.
Why don=t we pray the way God has commanded us to pray? Because we figure we=ve got it all together. Everything seems to be in place. Things are going our way. In our self-reliance we begin to depend upon ourselves and just embark upon a new day or new week, never dedicating and delivering it to Christ.
When this happens, we are set up for fall because we stop praying. It happened to Simon Peter, and it can happen to you and me.
Prayer, on the other hand produces power. We are enabled and energized by the power of God in prayer as we express our trust in Him and surrender our will to His will. We are made strong to face any temptation or test that comes.
Another reason Peter failed was what I=m going to call self-confidence.
When Jesus was arrested, the disciples fled. The fear was too much for them. The crowd began to gather for the trial, and Peter decided to follow. He was confident he could hang around outside the courtyard of Annas while Jesus was inside facing His torturers, and yet not be found out.
According to John 18:16-17 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, "I am not."
Now Peter could have stepped inside the courtyard without denying Jesus at the door. First we see him just walking with the crowd on the periphery. Then we see him standing with the crowd. And finally, we see Peter cozying up with the crowd as he flung himself in the very face of temptation.
So while Jesus was being tried by men. Simon Peter was being tried and tempted by the devil. He was following the downward path of the ungodly man, described in Psalm 1
Psalm 1:1-6 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The Crowd of Failure
Do you see the downward progression in Peter=s life on that awful night? As he identified more and more with sinful men and those who scorned the Lord Jesus, he moved farther from Jesus until ultimately, he had denied his Lord three times.
My point is that Peter=s denial was a process. Most of us don=t just suddenly blow our testimony. Generally speaking, we don=t fall into sin or spiritual collapse all at once. Most people fail because they=ve got a slow leak, or there is a character flaw that has not been dealt with and it surfaces when the circumstances are right.
People have spiritual earthquakes because they have secret Afaults.@ Peter had a secret fault, which as we have seen was a bad case of Aself-itis.@ He was also hanging out with the wrong people at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Bible says AAvoid every kind of evil.@ 1 Thess 5:22
John 18:18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
That also means we are to run when evildoers make their appearance. Don=t get caught warming yourself at the fire of the compromisers and those who would deny the Lord, or you might get burned.
Psalm 1 doesn=t tell us to shun all contact with the ungodly. The issue is who is influencing whom? When it comes to the crowd, we are to be the influencer and not the influenced!
I don=t care who you are, teenager, father, mother or executive, if you are hanging out with the wrong people I promise you that you will soon be like them.
Simon Peter ended up denying his faith, denying the Lord, and wrecking his witness because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people.
The Cost Of Failure
Peter=s downhill slide continued once he warmed his hands next to those of Christ=s enemies. We have already seen his first denial in John 18:17. But he plunged on recklessly at great cost.
John records in verses 25 and 27 that Peter denied the Lord a second time and then a third time.
John 18:25-27 As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it, saying, "I am not." 26 One of the high priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, "Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove?" 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
With oaths and profanity, according to Matthew 26:74:
Matthew 26:74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed.
Everything had happened just as Jesus predicted. No wonder Peter Awent out and wept bitterly@ Matt 26:75.
He was the most miserable man on the face of the earth. His joy was gone. His victory was gone. His testimony was gone.
It has been said that the most miserable person on the earth is not the unsaved man or woman. The most miserable person on the earth is the Christian who is out of fellowship with God. That=s where Peter landed after his failure.
Loss of Fellowship
You know what I=m talking about because we=ve all been there. The loss of fellowship with God is costly. Deep down you know you=re not being faithful witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ, that if our friends found out we were Christian, they would be surprised. We are doing the same things they do, using the same language they use, displaying the same attitudes they display, and hanging out with the same crowd they hang with.
A Christian in this condition is a miserable and defeated person. And sadly, unless that failure is addressed, believers in this condition often slip away in to the darkness, like Peter, to hide their shame. They just sort of disappear. As a pastor I=ve seen that happen time and again.
You don=t see folks at church anymore. And before you know it, they=ve changed their circle of friends. Then you can barely remember that they belonged to Jesus Christ.
Simon Peter=s failure cost him dearly. He was broken up over his great denial. Spiritual failure is always costly, but aren=t you thankful Peter=s story doesn=t end there?
The Cure For Failure
There is one more chapter to Peter=s story. His failure was not final. It was curable. God went to work after Peter=s denial and restored the apostle by His grace, just as He will do for you and me. The person who has failed and has been unforgiven understands the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Love of Christ
I don=t think Peter fully understood the love of Jesus until he had failed Him. I believe that the crowing of that rooster, while signaling the completion of Peter=s failure, was also a message or reassurance to him as he went out to weep and repent.
How did the rooster=s crow reassure Peter? As he began to clear his head and think about what happened, the crowing reminded Peter that Jesus was in control. He had said this would happen. In other words, as Peter put all of his together he was reassured that none of this caught Jesus by surprise, and that it wasn=t over for him.
Let me tell you, we can do nothing to get away from the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He loves us, sometimes in spite of ourselves. His love is unconditional.
No matter how you may have sinned and failed, it=s never too late to come back to Christ. There is a place of beginning again for you if you will be honest and repentant before Him and GET OUT OF THE WAY!
HONESTY AND REPENTANCE
Peter=s repentance stands in bold contrast to the fate of another disciple who failed Jesus miserably that same week. Judas also denied the Lord by betraying Him to His accusers for a price. Both Peter and Judas failed, but there was a distinct difference between Judas the failure and Peter the failure.
What is the difference? Judas made failure the end of his life. He was so overcome with grief and the tragedy of his treachery that the Bible says he went out and hanged himself.
For Judas, failure was final. He made his failure the end of his life. The other man, Simon Peter, made his failure the beginning of his life.
A QUESTION FOR YOU
Let me pose a question to you. Will your failure be the end or beginning for you? Will you walk away into the night, away from Christ, or will you Get Out Of The Way allow Him to restore you and find full recovery and victory out of defeat?
You need to answer that question because Satan desires to have you, rob you of your joy and your testimony, even to destroy you, just as he desired to have Peter.
Romans 8:28 can be written overthe life of every Christian who fails but turns from that failure in repentance and faith. God can make Aall things work together for good to those who love Him.@ He can turn even our failure around for His glory and ultimately our good.
Failure does not have to end in disgrace. There is always another chance when you know the Lord. There=s always the second half of the game to play, always another opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Peter was knocked down, but he wasn=t knocked out. He got back up and became a winner, and so can you! So GET OUT OF THE WAY!