In a famous scene, Peter tells Jesus that he will never disown him. Even if he has to die, he would never do it.
Jesus tells him that, in fact, he won’t even last the night. In fact, he will disown him three times before the night is over. It won’t be that he will just disown him once, but instead three times.
Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
“Truly I tell you,” 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.Matthew 26:31-35
And that is exactly what happens. Things begin to fall apart. Jesus is arrested and Peter comes out swinging with his sword, only to have Jesus tell him to put it away.
They take Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to the High Priest’s house and start to question Jesus.
And then it comes down to a couple of servant girls and some people standing around a fire. They accuse Peter of being with Jesus, and with only this little bit of social pressure and fear of being arrested, Peter does exactly what he said he wouldn’t do. He denies knowing Jesus or ever having been part of his group of disciples.
And when he hears the rooster crow, he weeps bitterly.
The scene is fairly familiar. Peter says that he won’t commit this grievous sin, but Jesus says that he will. He knows he will, and yet interestingly, Jesus doesn’t disown him immediately, but instead actually even takes Peter with him to be one of the three who will pray and watch with him in the garden.
But why is the scene familiar? Because we have a tendency to do the same thing. Jesus tells us through his Word and through the Spirit not to do something, and yet we do it. We sin just as Peter did. We betray Christ. Maybe not necessarily just as Peter did by saying that we don’t know him, but we act as if we don’t know him. We do what he has said not to do, and in this way we deny him.
And we can find ourselves in a situation where we then weep bitterly over our sin, just as Peter did.
And yet, then, we can do it again. And again.
And we know that we have to remove ourselves from the cycle of the sin that we are in. Whatever the sin is. We have to leave that cycle of sin. But how is it possible?
The first step is repentance. We must admit what we have done, and admit that we have sinned. This is difficult because it is embarrassing and is an assault upon our pride. Our pride says that we are important. We do it right. We are correct.
But repentance says that we are wrong. We have been wrong, we are wrong, and we’ll keep doing wrong if we are left to our own devices. And we know that this is correct. In the midst of our sin, and in the midst of repentance, we know that this is the only correct answer.
From there, we have to find joy in the midst of what is correct. Our sin can be pleasurable…for a time. But instead of finding joy in the pleasure of our sin, we must learn to listen to the Spirit of God and find joy in living in the way that God has called us to live. We are creatures that seek out happiness. We are creatures that look for ways to avoid pain. Yet we need to find joy in the ways of God.
The only way to do this is to allow God to change our hearts. We must abide in Christ. We must read his Word. We must speak to him and listen to him in prayer. We must draw our strength from him. Whether in more pleasurable times or in times of difficulty or times of pain. We must find our joy in him. He will change our hearts. He will change what we desire as we desire what he wants instead of what we want. Instead of the desires of the flesh, we will desire the things of the Spirit. In this way, and only in this way – through the changing of our hearts by the Spirit of God – can we remove ourselves from saying Never, only to deny Christ in that very night.