Matthew

Thrice Denied

Matthew 26:69-75 records Peter’s denial of Jesus Christ before two young women and a group of people who stood outside the house where Jesus stood trial before the chief priests and scribes of Israel.

It’s easy to be critical of Peter for this sin against the Lord, and his spiritual weakness in this unimaginable moment. After all, Peter had walked and talked with Jesus for more than three years, had seen first-hand the miracles Christ performed, and had even seen Jesus in His glorified state talking with Moses and Elijah. Jesus had even warned him, and foretold this moment.

Yet, here stood Peter, the only disciple willing to take up arms to defend Jesus, huddling with the masses outside the house where Jesus stood trial, trying to blend in. Here stood Peter, denying that he even knew Jesus.

It’s easy to criticize Peter for this, being 2,000 years removed from the arrest, trials, and crucifixion of Christ. It’s easy to wonder how a man who personally witnessed Jesus do so much could suddenly turn his back to the Lord. It’s easy, because we get to review this incident 2,000 years later, in the comfort of climate controlled offices, studies, living rooms and bedrooms, while looking at the screens of our laptops, smart phones and tablets.

I tend to have compassion on Peter, mainly because I see a lot of myself in Peter. He was rash, prone to sudden decisions and outbursts, and he tended to live in the “here and now.” Peter “lived in the real world” and often placed practicality over spirituality. If I am to be honest, I am guilty of the same things.

When Peter stood outside as they put Jesus on trial, no doubt he was scared, disillusioned, and confused. So, as he tried to make sense of things, people inquired about Jesus, and in order to buy peace so he could return to his thoughts, he denied Christ.

Peter could’ve spoke up, could’ve preached the Gospel, could’ve told the people that what they were about to witness would be their salvation, but he didn’t. Out of convenience and fear, he remained silent, and denied Christ.

Are we ever guilty of the same thing? Do we ever fail to speak up for Christ out of convenience or fear? Do we ever give blessing to things the Lord wouldn’t bless, all to buy peace or favor? Do we ever deny Christ by our words or actions?

The good news for us, and for Peter, is that the Lord forgives and offers redemption. Just as Peter denied Christ three times, Jesus offered Peter three opportunities to proclaim his love for the Lord in John 21. Just as we often fail to speak up for the Lord, or to represent Him well, He often gives us second and third chances to do just that- to speak and to represent for Him.

Sunday, we’ll study this passage during morning worship. Sunday School at 10, morning worship at 11, and we meet at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E. Industrial, Early, TX 76802.

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If You Can See It, You Can Do It

Many motivational speakers encourage their listeners to envision success. The popular motto is, “If you can envision it, you can do it!” At this point, conference attendees will then begin daydreaming about unparalleled success, fame and fortune. While most people set unreasonable goals and expectations, this approach has led to some setting realistic goals, then achieving success.

The tragic part of this is that the vision-to-action progression is not limited to good things like pursuing your dreams. It can also apply to sin and evil. Over the past few months, America has seen horrific acts of crime and immorality carried out in public view. In each of these crimes, there is documented proof that the offender had a preconceived notion of what he wanted to do. Whether you look at the Charleston shooter, Josh Duggar, or Vester Lee Flanagan, the former TV news reporter who shot and killed two former colleagues after being fired from the station, each offender had envisioned his sin, planned it, then carried it out.

It began with evil thoughts, grew into evil intentions, which then led to evil actions. The Charleston shooter, Dylan Roof, cultivated a hatred of African Americans, before planning and carrying out an attack on a Charleston church. Josh Duggar nurtured sexual fantasies through the use of pornography before using Ashley Madison to set up extra-marital affairs. Vester Lee Flanagan cultivated a hatred of Caucasian Americans before planning and carrying out the murder of two of his former colleagues on live TV. Like a seed that germinates, evil thoughts grow into evil intentions, which then bloom into evil acts.

And the thing that should scare you is that we all have these seeds planted within us. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful, above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Notice, the heart is deceitful. Deceit is the fine art of misleading and lying to people. One of the heart’s greatest deceits is the lie that it perpetuates upon the individual to whom it belongs. The heart deceives us into thinking that we’re good, okay, average, and salt of the earth Americans. Meanwhile, it harbors desperate wickedness.

Jesus addressed this issue in Matthew 15:18-19, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:”

These sins begin as small thoughts, or small feelings of anger, desire, or rebellion. As they grow, they develop into the actions described in Matthew 15:18-19, and the actions we have seen on the national news recently. The scary part is, each one of us is capable of these things if we let this go unchecked.

The remedy is not to try to stuff these things deep within your own subconscious. You can’t hide them away, or wish them away. The way to handle these temptations, which are brought on by the sin nature, is to give them up to the Lord. As King David prayed in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Pray to the Lord to cleanse your heart from these sins and sinful desires, and then refuse to cultivate their growth. The way you avoid growing these sins in your heart is by turning away from sin, and not being entertained by it. Or, as Psalms 101:3 says, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” Do not entertain yourself with movies and TV shows that glorify immorality and violence. Do not entertain sexual fantasies. Do not envision or plot revenge. Don’t indulge in get rich quick schemes.

Understandably, this post will not be the most popular thing posted on “The Point.” In fact, it may very well become the most controversial, due to the fact that it involves recent news stories and the idea that each of us has sin in our hearts. Still, I felt the need to post it, because each of us needs to be aware of his potential for sin, failure, and even evil. Each of us needs to turn to God for forgiveness and cleansing, and each of us needs to live a life on guard, that we do not give in to our sinful desires. May God bless you as you travel your path.