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The Denial of a Disciple

Discipled to Disciple

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." - Matthew 16:22-23

How like Peter we are. We go through amazing experiences with God; He reveals Himself in our lives; we affirm who He is and draw near. At the time, we think we will never stray. Things have changed for good. Then in an unbelievably short time we falter. We deny the very things we had just whole-heartedly embraced.

Then we beat ourselves up. How could we be so fickle and weak-willed? How does God even put up with us? How could He still love us? How do we get off this roller coaster?

Think of Peter. When Jesus asked the disciples who they said He was, he made an amazing statement: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus used the statement as a basis for prophetic announcements concerning the building of the church and the important role His disciples would play. Heady stuff! Even though Jesus reminded Peter that he only gave the pronouncement because the Father revealed it to him, there was probably some self-satisfaction and swelling of pride going on in his heart.

Jesus then began to show His disciples what was coming. He was heading for Jerusalem where He would supper at the hands of the Jewish leaders, be killed and raised on the third day. Peter’s response revealed the change that had occurred in his heart. He rebuked Jesus for expressing the only way His role as the Christ could be fulfilled. He apparently wanted Jesus to be who he said he was, but he did not want him to accomplish God’s purpose in God’s way.

Jesus treated Peter’s rebuke with a stern response. He said, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." Peter needed to learn that God’s plans are only accomplished by His means. People, even His close followers, do not get to dictate to God how the plan is worked out. Even Jesus recognized this in the garden when, after asking that the cup of suffering might be removed, said: “Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done.”

So, how do we change the cycle in which we often find ourselves of strong obedience and testimony followed by miserable failure and sin? Fortunately, Jesus followed His stinging rebuke of Peter with instruction aimed to accomplish just that.

If we want to be people who break the cycle of affirmation followed by denial, we will have to learn to change what we deny. Instead of leaning on ourselves and denying the Lord, we must maintain our trust in Him, lean on Him, and deny ourselves. As Jesus said, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Learning to say “no” to ourselves is the first step of a faithful disciple. Ignored it becomes the occasion for denying the Lord.

It helps to be reminded that the next steps are taking up our cross and following Him. Saying no to self simply opens the door to a life of characterized by self-sacrifice and service. It helps us forsake our own desires for comfort and ease in this life and embrace the harder road that will accomplish His will and bring Him glory. But it must start there. If we can learn to say “no” to ourselves we will find ourselves saying “no” to Jesus far less!

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