Focal Passage: John 18:15-18, 25-27; 21:15-19
Years ago, a Christian brother who had partnered with me in ministry several times informed me that he had fallen into sin with a woman who is not his wife. He was repentant and wanted to make things right but his choice led to years of struggle.
I could not help but notice the different reactions from other Christians who knew him. Some permanently wrote him off because he should have known better. Others recognized that they too were subject to temptation and showed him grace. How does Jesus respond?
In John 18:15-18, 25-27 we find Peter with his back against a wall. He wanted to follow the events of Jesus’ arrest but soon found himself confronted by scornful people accusing him of being in league with the criminal Jesus. In Matthew 16:16 Peter was the first to publicly acknowledge Jesus as “the Messiah the Son of the living God.”
During the last supper he promised he would lay his life down for Jesus if necessary (John 13:37). One would think that, when pressed, he would proudly identify himself as a disciple of Jesus. But he didn’t. He was afraid and he denied the Lord.
Peter’s sin was not committed in ignorance. Like a Christian man who falls into adultery, he knew full well what he was doing. He knew he was lying. He knew he was betraying Jesus. What should be done with Peter?
What should be done with the Christian who knowingly falls into sin?
When we sin intentionally, knowing full well what we are doing, we are denying and disowning Christ. Sure, we plan to repent and return to Him after the fact but for that moment we are pushing Him away. “I have no part with Him” is what we have to say before we can indulge our sinful nature. It begs the question, if I can do that am I a Christian at all?
Some would say that a denial of Christ, even to save one’s life, means the person is lost. They were never really saved because a truly saved person could not deny Christ. Right? After all, a tree is known by its fruit (Matthew 7:16, Luke 6:44). Why did you do it Peter? You knew better. Peter didn’t want to be arrested and killed. He loved his life more than he loved Jesus in that moment.
What Peter did next is of ultimate importance. He wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). Ever been there? In the aftermath of your sin comes the remorse, guilt, grief, and regret. My friend also wept bitterly as he felt all those things. Humility and repentance is key (Acts 3:19). How many believers have fallen into sin they thought they’d never commit? Christians who are prideful about their ability to resist sin should heed Peter’s failure. Oh how he wanted a do over. The last time he saw his Lord it was Jesus’ sorrowful face in the aftermath of his denial (Luke 22:61). My friend would have done anything to set things right … but he couldn’t. The damage was done and he was responsible.
Hard as our talk was, I took great joy in sharing these words with my friend, “Jesus wasn’t done with Peter and He’s not done with you.” In John 21:15-19 the resurrected Jesus restores Peter to ministry. Three times He asked, “Peter do you still love me?” Peter is given the opportunity to affirm his love anew as was my friend. This is redemptive. Jesus’ responds “Feed my lambs.”
Don’t quit because sin got the best of you. Prove your love by pressing on for the cause of Christ. We may not get “do overs” but because of God’s great love we get “I still love you, try again.”
— Cort is senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Greenbrier.