Encounters With Christ – Good News For The Guilty

Grace For The Journey

There is a very popular series of children’s books called “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” that follow the life of a middle school boy named Greg and all of his humorous struggles in life.  Now I have not read any of the books nor have I seen the movies that are based on the book.  According to one reviewer that I have read, the second movie in the series, is called “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules” carries a double meaning.  First it refers to the fact that Greg’s older brother Rodrick is one of the cool kids and the second refers to the fact that in this movie Rodrick shares his list of life rules with his younger and not so cool brother Greg.  I would not recommend adopting any of these rules as part of your life philosophy.  Here they are:

1. Don’t be good at something you don’t want to do.

The movie then shows a clip of the boys waxing the family car with greasy rags and the dad freaking out and telling them he will do the job himself.

2. Always lower mom and dad’s expectations.

The next clip is of Greg telling his parent he though he failed his math test.  Just as they are getting really upset, he stops them to tell them he was wrong and that he actually got a C-.  To which the Dad responds, “At least you didn’t fail.”

3. Deny, Deny, Deny – never admit to anything that could get you into trouble.

This rule seems to work pretty well for Rodrick, until evidence comes to light that the boys threw a party while their parents were out of town.  Then Rodrick’s devotion to his rule of deny, deny, deny is put to the test.  Rodrick has run out of options except to stand by his rule of denial which in this case is absolutely ridiculous.

But . . .

That is the thing with denial.  

It, like all sins, will eventually

Bring us to a crossroads.  

We will eventually come

To the point where we

Will be forced to either face

And admit the truth or

So fully embrace the falsehood

That there is not turning back.

That is what we see this morning in our encounter with Christ.

For the month of December we are looking at selected passages from the New Testament that illustrate for us just what happens when we come face to face with the living Christ Jesus.  This morning we will be looking at Mark 14:66-72.  In this passage we see Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, come face to face with Jesus and the sin of denial.  But for Peter the stakes are even higher than they were for Rodrick in the movie.  Because you see . . .

It is not just the fact that Peter is simply

Denying something to stay out of trouble,

He is in fact denying the fact that he even

Knows Jesus in order to stay out of trouble.  

And as we will see, this is a denial

That can have eternal implications.

Before we jump into the passage, we need to look at a few events surrounding Peter’s denial because we need to see how we could just as easily find ourselves in the same situation.  Now you may be tempted to say, “O no, not me.  I would never deny Christ.  I would die before I would say I didn’t know him.”  I hope you are right.  I hope that faced with a similar situation you and I would stand strong and proudly claim to be with Jesus.

However, we need to understand that Peter had made just such a claim earlier in the day before his denial.  Look back a few verses in chapter 14 and verses 26-31, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.’  But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.  Peter said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Verily, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.  But he spoke more vehemently, ‘If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’  And they all said likewise.” 

This takes place right after Jesus shares the last supper with His disciples.  They are getting ready to go to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus will be betrayed and arrested and along the way Jesus tells His disciples that tonight they will be tested and that they will fail.  He tells them that all of them will be too afraid to stand with Him.  He tells them that they will “stumble” and that they will be “scattered.”  In other words, they will falter in their faith and they will try to get as far away from Jesus and the danger as they can.

But look at how Peter responds to Jesus’ words.  He says, ‘Even if every one of the rest of these guys run away from you Jesus, I won’t!’  He says he would never deny, run away from, or forsake Jesus.  And I can imagine Jesus giving him a sad smile and slowly shaking his head as he responds by saying, “O Peter, how I wish that were true, but I know what is coming and I know that you will actually deny knowing me not only once but three times before morning comes again.”  And to Peter’s credit he says, “O No!  Even if I have to die, I will never deny knowing and following you!”  And all the other disciples agree with him.

Jesus leaves it at that and goes on to pray.  A few hours later we come to the scene where Judas, one of Jesus’ own disciples brings those who want to kill Jesus to the garden in order to betray him.  And according to John 18:10, Peter attempts to boldly make good on his promise to stay with Jesus even unto death.  Peter pulls out a sword and attacks one of those who are there to arrest Jesus.  He pulls a sword and attempts to stand against dozens of Roman soldiers.  At this point I would say that Peter has every intention of following Jesus even if it means following him to the grave.  But Jesus speaks up and stops Peter and heals the man that Peter injured which creates enough of a disturbance that Peter does not get arrested and the rest of the disciples take the opportunity to scatter like the wind.  But Peter simply falls back into the crowd.  He does not run.  So far, he has not stumbled.  He even decides to follow the crowd that has arrested Jesus.  He follows them into Jerusalem and even into the courtyard of the high priest.

That brings us to the passage we read earlier and the one we want to spend a little time in today.  It also should cause us to stop for a moment and reflect on the thought we had a few minutes ago. The one where we said “I would never deny Jesus” the one where we said “I love Him and would sacrifice anything for Him, even my life.”  I am sure all Christians would make that claim with every intention of following through, I am sure many would actually follow through.  I want all of us . . .

To stop this morning and realize

That even with our good intentions

We live in danger of denying Christ.

We may not do it in a way that is as obvious as what Peter did.  We may not actually say, “I do not know the man,” but in our actions and in our hearts, we struggle with denial nearly every day of our lives.  And in our text this morning we see four ways that we too may be guilty of denying Jesus Christ.

Let’s look again at Peter in our text and can identify these four ways we might deny Christ.

1) We Might Deny Jesus With A Distant Curiosity.

Verses 53-54 and verse 66 state, “They took Jesus to the high priest’s home where the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law had gathered.  Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and went right into the high priest’s courtyard.  There he sat with the guards, warming himself by the fire” . . . “Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came . . .”

Do you see what Peter is doing?  He is keeping his distance.  He is staying back, hiding in the shadows.  He is curious as to what is going to happen to Jesus.  He wants to be there.  He wants to do the right thing.  But he is also afraid of what will happen if he does.

Peter has gone from being “all in”

To simply being curious.  

He wants to be identified with Jesus,

But only when it is not really

Going to cost him anything.

Sound familiar?  Is that a struggle you have ever had?  Perhaps it is even something that you have been struggling with recently.

You see this distant curiosity is what it looks like to be a Sunday only Christian.  One of those Christians that gets up on Sunday morning and dutifully puts on their nice clothes, wrangle the children out the door, somehow make it to church close to on time, sits in a worship service, and maybe even small group Bible Study.  And then leaves, pats themselves on the back, and hangs their Christianity in the closet next to their dress or suit coat until next week.

Those with a distant curiosity doesn’t really live for Christ, they don’t have a lifestyle that is different from anyone else in the world, they do not share Jesus when they have the opportunity, they engage in activities that would not bring glory to God.  They in fact do everything they can to fit in with everyone else around them.  Just like Peter trying to blend in with those warming themselves at the fire, someone with a distant curiosity about Christ will try to blend in with everyone else in the world.

But folks, that is a dangerous place to be.  Not because you might be found out by those around you.  Not because they may find out that you are different and that you are a Christian identified in Jesus Christ.  But because of what Jesus says in Luke 11:23, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” 

Did you catch that?  There is not room for a distant curiosity in the Kingdom of God.  We are either all in or we are all out.  There is no riding the fence.  There is no warming by the fire as we watch others live for Jesus.  We are either with Him completely, every day, or we are denying Him.

2) We Might Deny Christ Through A Dismissive Convenience.

Verses 67-68 state, “And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.”  But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.”  And he went out on the porch . . .”  Do you see what Peter does there?  He does not outright deny Jesus at this point.  He simply redirects.  He changes the subject.  He says something that is convenient for him to say.  He does not say “No, I am not who you think I am.” He does not say, “No, I do not know this Jesus you speak of.”  He simply looks at her as if she has three heads and is speaking in some foreign language and says, “I don’t understand a word you just said.” Then he dismisses her and walks away.

While he did not verbally deny Jesus, he did so in his actions.  He did what was comfortable for him to do, and we can deny Christ in exactly the same way if we are not careful.  This is a type of denial that can be very subtle in our lives.  This is one that often-times takes place on the inside, a denial that takes place in our hearts.  This happens to us when we are not really committed to having a real and meaningful relationship with Jesus.

We may even be doing what looks good on the outside, in order to fool ourselves into thinking that we are committed to Jesus on the inside.  Just like what we see here with Peter.  He is there, he is physically near Jesus, but his heart is not in it.  He is doing what is easy, what is convenient, in order to not have to deal with what is going on in his heart.

If we are not careful, we will do the same thing.  We will get involved in worthy causes, we will serve at church, we may even over-serve in the church.  But often-times what we are actually doing is wallowing in our good works so that we don’t have to deal with what is in our hearts.  That we do not have to do the hard work of living a life that is wide open to Christ.

Do not just live a life for Christ

When it is convenient or comfortable.

 Live a courageous life for Christ

Where you are willing to have

Your sin exposed to Him,

Where you are willing to look

At the tough things in your heart,

And where you are willing to address

Them directly with the mercy

And grace of Jesus Christ. 

Do not dismiss Christ and His

Conviction for your convenience.

3. We Might Deny Christ Through A Detached Communication.

Folks, sometimes we deny Christ even when he is trying to warn us not to do so.  Verse 68 says, “But he denied it, saying, ‘I neither know nor understand what you are saying.’ And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowd.”  Do you see it?  After Peter makes his first denial, he gets a warning.  Jesus told him that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed twice.  Peter was being told to be careful.  He is doing exactly what Jesus said he would do.  He is doing exactly what he said he would not do.  He is getting a message that is saying, DANGER, DANGER, DANGER.

But Peter misses it.  He is so wrapped up in his own situation, his own problems, his own inner turmoil that he misses it when God speaks to him through a chicken.  That is what is going on here.  If God can speak through a donkey in the Old Testament He can speak through a chicken in the New Testament.  But Peter misses it, he is detached from his communication with God.  He has severed the lines of communication.

We can deny Christ in the same way if we are not careful.  We can miss it when He is trying to speak to us.  How? 

  • When we are not in his Word.  

If we neglect reading the Word of God, we will miss it when God is telling us something.  The Bible is God’s primary way of speaking to our hearts.  If we are not reading it we are severing our main line of communication.  We might say, “Well I have read it before, and God will bring it to memory when He wants to speak to me.”  If so. then you have a much better memory than I do.  Because I will tell you, if I am not in the Word, I will forget it quickly, even when I do not intend to, even when I plan to remember.

It is just like with anything else we plan to remember.  Have you ever put something somewhere and said, “I am going to put this here so that I will remember where it is?” Well, if you are like me, that is the kiss of death.  I may never see whatever it is again!  If I simply depend on my memory I am going to forget and detach myself from communication with God.

  • We may also detach ourselves from communication with God by hearing only what we want to hear.

In his book on Prayer, Timothy Keller relates a story about one of the heroes of the Great Awakening in the 18th century, a man by the name of George Whitfield.  Whitfield and his wife had their first child and Whitfield made the mistake of hearing from God only what he wanted to hear.  He told his congregation that God had told him that his son would grow up to be a great preacher of the Gospel and he made a big deal out of it.  However, at four months old the child died.  Whitefield, to his credit realized where he had gone wrong.  He had interpreted his own desire as God’s will and word.  In repentance he prayed this prayer, “Render this parent more cautious, more sober-minded, more experienced in Satan’s devices, and consequently more useful in his future labors to the church of God.”

Do not get too busy, to hear from God, do not listen for only what you want to hear, do not deny Him by detaching yourself from communication with Him.

4) We Might Deny Christ Through A Dangerous Casualness.

We might find it too easy to turn our devotion to Christ on and off.  Verses 69-71 state, “And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, ‘This is one of them.’  But he denied it again.  And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, ‘Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.’  Then he began to curse and swear, ‘I do not know this Man of whom you speak!’”  This is the easiest place to see Peter’s denial.  This is where he actually says ‘I do not know Him. I am not identified with Him.”  This is the one about which we might be tempted to say, “Not me, I would never do that.”  But be careful, this can happen in subtle ways as well.

  • When we decide to pick and choose which parts of Scripture we will believe or not believe we are denying Jesus and His authority.

We are in essence saying “I will believe about You and Your word only what I want to believe.”  And when we choose not to believe something in His Word it is the same as saying that on this matter, He is not God.  Or at least not God enough to be correct.

  • We deny Christ in this way when we are too casual about, “What He would understand.”

A few years ago, a movie came out called “God’s Not Dead.”  In it a college professor asks all his students to sign a paper saying that God is dead in order not to endanger their grade.  In the movie only one student, in a very large class, refuses to sign the paper.  I was struck by what I imagined must have been going through at least some of the other student’s minds.  The movie portrays the town as one that is not unlike a town in the Bible belt so I imagined there must have been other Christian young people in that class.  Young people who rationalized that God would understand why they had to do what they had to do in order to get a good grade.

Folks, we must never deny God and Christ by imposing upon Him what He would or would not understand.  Denial of Christ is a dangerous thing.  It is so dangerous in fact that Jesus warns against it in Matthew 10:33 where he says, “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”  We find Peter in a very dangerous place.  He has denied Christ 3 times. And you might be looking at these verses and perhaps you see yourself in a dangerous place as well through denial in your own life.  If so, take heart, because there is encouragement at the end of these warnings. There is Good news for the Guilty. And we see that good news in two ways.

  • We see in the passage that God offers Divine Correction.

Verse 72 says, “A second time the rooster crowed.  Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.’  And when he thought about it, he wept.”  The rooster crows a second time just as Jesus told him it would.  God in His goodness, grace, and mercy said to Peter through the rooster, “It is not too late, you can still follow me.”  And in the parallel passage in Luke we see that it is not only the Father speaking through the chicken that offers Peter the chance at forgiveness and redemption but it is also Jesus the Son.  In Luke 22:61 we learn that as the rooster crowed Jesus made eye contact with Peter.  Not in a way as to say “I told you so” but as to lovingly say it is not too late to follow Me.

Folks, we too have this wonderful gift of divine correction.  It is called the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Sure, Peter came under the conviction of Jesus Himself as they made eye contact, but Jesus told His disciples that it was going to get even better.  He told them in John 16:7 that it was good that He was going to go away because then He would send a helper, the Holy Spirit, who would not just be near us, Who would not simply be living with us, but would be living inside us so that He might bring us under this kind of loving conviction every time we might be tempted to deny Jesus in our thoughts, words, or actions.

Jesus wants us to be with Him . . . He wants us to be committed to Him . . . He wants us to love Him . . . So, He in His loving kindness offers us this correction, this conviction, so that like Peter we might come lovingly and devotedly back to Him.  And that is what Peter does.  The passage leaves us with the picture of Peter “weeping bitterly.”  

He is convicted of his sin,

He is broken by his failure,

And he experiences deep conviction.

Conviction that causes change in his life.

Conviction that brings about a new and

Devoted commitment to his Lord Jesus Christ.

If we had time, we could look at how Peter from this time forward stands strong for Jesus.  How he is arrested and beaten in the name of Jesus.  How he became one of the greatest voices and witnesses for Jesus in the early church.  And how according to church history he even ended up dying for Jesus just as he said he was willing to do.

There is good news for the guilty . . .

Jesus wants us to experience his mercy,

Grace, forgiveness, and redemption.

And . . .

It doesn’t matter how bad we may think we are.

It doesn’t matter how bad our denials have been.

He wants to make eye contact with us this morning so that he might show us his love.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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