Peter’s Spiritual Inventory
In less than twelve hours I went from someone who said, “Jesus I will never deny you” to someone who denied him three times. Over the course of my life I have looked back on it and I say, “How did that happen?” and by God’s grace, I have been allowed to look at my life and say, “Ah!” I can break down the steps that I took to deny my Lord Jesus.
There was a lot going on that night, I remember having been to several of the Passovers with Jesus but this Passover was different. It was just as crowded as usual when the city of Jerusalem swelled up from about 30,000 to about 300,000. There were all kinds of rumors going on but there was something about Jesus’ countenance that I just didn’t pick up on.
You see just a few hours before we walked into Jerusalem, Jesus had been describing to all of us and mostly he looked at me and He said, “This is what’s going to be happening to me,” but I wasn’t listening. I was so caught up with my own position before the Lord, my own position in Heaven. I was so caught up in who was the greatest among us that I just didn’t catch how sensitive and grieved the Lord’s heart was at the time.
Now I’m a fisherman and the first rule of fishing is to stay afloat in your boat. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I would wake up and walk outside to take a deep breath and smell the air to catch an understanding of the humidity. I’d then look up at the horizon and I see how many clouds there were and try to anticipate what kind of weather I’d be facing as a fisherman that day. If there were real stormy weather coming I would command all my helpers and my brothers, that were also fisherman, to pull back some of the floorboards of the boat and put some more rocks down in the under the keel to make sure that below the water line, where no one else would see, that’s where the real weight would be so that when the wind blew against our sailboat it wouldn’t tip over.
Of course, on days when the weather was great, we really didn’t like lugging all those rocks so we’d take some out. But like any good fisherman, you sensed the weather. I didn’t sense it spiritually because my heart was really not with the Lord. Had I really been listening to Jesus, had I really understood what He meant when He said, “I am going to the cross,” I would have pulled back the floorboards of my life and I would have put many, many more rocks below the waterline so when the winds of Satan blew against me with temptations – I would keep righting I would keep coming back up instead of capsizing. But I didn’t do that. I was so caught up in my own pride, in my own self that I just didn’t get it.
I have asked myself a thousand times, how can I go in less than 12 hours from “I would never deny you,” to some little servant girl comes up, looks under my hood, and with curses so easily deny Jesus. It didn’t just happen! I never intended it. You’re young leaders, ministers. You have a heart for Jesus and a passion for the lost just like Jesus taught me. If there is one person here that thinks you got it together and within a 12 hour period of time you could not go from loving Christ to denying Christ, think again. Because I’m here to tell you that’s exactly what happened in my life and you would be wise as young leaders to really understand the process that I went through in the process of denying my Lord Jesus Christ. Some of us in this very room are caught up in that same process and at any moment each of us is only one decision away from denying Jesus Christ, and that’s scary.
I remember that night. I remember going up to that upper room, that rented room, and I remember going up there with Jesus and all the others and after a splendid meal I remember Jesus doing something, (he was always the master teacher), I remember him always taking physical elements to show us a spiritual reality. That night I remember him taking bread, “this is my body broken for you...” I didn’t understand what that meant at the time but I should have been listening. “This is my body broken for you eat of it.” Then he took a glass of wine, “this is my blood shed for you drink all of it.” I remember him whispering something to Judas and he leaned over and I didn’t understand what was going on but Judas went into the night and we didn’t know what was going on but I should have understood what was going on but I didn’t.
Now what I’d like to do is, I would just like to very simply walk you through the process or the steps, the steps of denial that I took. There are six of them. But I also want to walk through the steps of God’s grace restoring me back to use. And as I go through these steps and try to explain what was going on in my heart and mind, I want to ask you to search your heart and mind and take inventory in your life. Just maybe you are closer to denying Jesus Christ in some areas of your life than you think and if not now when you are on the front lines of ministry both in your family, at work and out in the world, the pressure is going to be so great that if you do not keep yourself aware of these things you will fall like myself.
Six Steps Of Spiritual Denial
The first step was very simple, over confidence in my spiritual position and abilities allowing a very subtle pride that had crept into my life.
As we walked with Jesus we were amazed. In one part of a talk he was giving to a crowd he would talk about how He was the God of the universe, the Messiah and yet 15 minutes later he would show his unbelievable humility. We knew that humility had nothing to do with personality. It had everything to do with character below the waterline. The weight of character was so heavy in his life He knew exactly where he stood with the Father.
Humility was a Hebrew word meaning the lowering of the Nile River. Now I know a lot of Egyptians friends that use to come through Galilee and we would talk and they would tell me that the Nile River meant everything to them. They were totally dependent upon it. When the Nile River went down so did their quality of life and when it rose the quality of their life rose up. Jesus was so dependent upon the Father in the Spirit for everything that is where He got His humility. My first step was being over-confident in myself, forgetting how dependent I was upon my Father. How many times had I memorized Scripture? In Proverbs it says, “Guard over your heart with all diligence for from it flows springs of life.” How many times did I need to hear, “ A haughty Spirit precedes falling?” How many times did I need to hear it as I walked miles and miles every day with Jesus? But I didn’t hear it.
Is there anyone in here that is starting to put confidence in your abilities, your personalities, your education, your gifts, your relationships, your position? Those are the first steps any time that you are dependent on anything else but the Spirit of God you have taken the first steps in denying Christ. Remember, 12 hours – “I will never deny you! All these other could.” (I really was one that built a lot of unity amongst the disciples!) “All these other could deny you, but not me.” I remember Jesus saying, “Peter, Satan has asked permission to sift you like wheat.” Now I’m a fisherman I’m not a farmer but I know the nature of sifting wheat where you cut it down and then you crush it and then you throw it up in the air and Satan was asking, “God, let me cut Peter down.” “Let me just crush him. Let me just throw him up in the air. Let’s just let the wind blow him away.” Jesus never said, “Hey, but I’m going to make sure that he doesn’t.” No. Jesus said, “but I’m praying for you Peter that you won’t fall to the temptation.” I should have been listening but I wasn’t.
The second step was a lack of prayer, which made it easy for me to give in to the flesh.
Jesus taught us over and over again, no prayer – no power. No prayer – no power. How many times did I wake up early in the morning just so of before it was even light, just hearing some sort of rustling going on and just sort of turning over and lifting back my cloak and seeing Jesus’ silhouette just disappearing into the darkness. We knew where he was going. He was going to be with the Father. What were we doing? We kept sleeping. He was constantly in prayer. That’s where he gained his power. He was so connected to the Father. I remember after communion that night we sang a hymn and he said, “Let’s go to the Mount of Olives!” I’ve been there many times with Jesus. It was His favorite place to pray where he could look to the father and sense that closeness, physical proximity, being up 700-800 feet above Jerusalem and still looking down over the city to gain perspective. He said, “Wait here.” and he used some very peculiar words, “I am grieved of Spirit.” I’m borderline death. It didn’t phase me. I didn’t even think that Jesus was hurting but there was something about him. He went just far enough away where we could hear him crying and wailing but not close enough to hear his actual words. But He was praying. He came back and said, “I really need you, please keep alert please pray for me,” and He went back again. He came back again and we were sleeping. He woke us up, “Please I beg you.” He went back again but the third time he came back it was not his words that woke us up. It was the smell. Gosh he stunk. Jesus just reaked. I didn’t learn until later that the pressure was so great during his prayer, he was so alone, that literally small blood vessels broke in his glands and that sweat and that blood mixed together ... it was just rank. It was ugly. But so was our lack of prayer. Anyone in here like I was just as a token... prayer mode? Just praying enough to feel spiritual but not praying enough to receive his power. Anybody here not alert? How many times has Jesus had to come back to you and said, “Hey. Pray with me. I really need you to pray?” Just that the God of the universe would even ask you to pray, that he needs my pray is unbelievable. That was the second step.
The third step was, I resorted to total human effort. It was predictable. You see, my good friend Mark when he recorded my life story, he was gracious and didn’t mention my name but John, my good brother in Christ was not as gracious. You see Jesus came back that third time and the smell and something was going on and He wasn’t panicked but all of a sudden He said, “That is enough. The time has come.” Oh! All of a sudden we heard several hundred soldiers with swords and clubs and torches come up the side of the Mount of Olives being led by Judas. We didn’t have a clue what was going on. But Judas came up, kissed Jesus and some of the soldiers grabbed Jesus and because I had not been sharpening my spiritual armament, I resorted to my physical armament. I took out my dagger, cut a slave’s ear off. That was me. You see when you are over-confident in pride and you are not praying, what’s left but your own human effort, your own warfare. I was sharpening the wrong sword. Some of us are sharpening the wrong swords. Truth be known, the activities, the events we’re in the discipleship programs, the outreach, whatever we are in, even the worship so much of it are our own human effort because we’re going down that path, it’s predictable. Again, Jesus had us memorize things like, Proverbs 25, “Like a city broken into and without walls, so is the man who has no control over his spirit.” I had no control over my spirit. Why? Because my spirit was not under His control. Because I had not prayed and I because I was proud and I feel like I did not need God but only in crisis situations.
I bailed out with the others giving into peer pressure and the path of least resistance when the tough times came.
The fourth step, after total human effort was I gave into peer pressure, the path of least resistance. I understand that your culture is into short cuts. There is no short cut to true spiritual growth. There is no short cut. The record explains very clearly, WE ALL LEFT, WE ALL RAN, Every one of us, in fact, one of us ran so hard that his clothes came off! We just ran in to the night and I remember running into the night just crying, “I don’t know where to go. I don‘t know what to do.” All I know is that I took the path of least resistance. When the pressure was on I didn’t walk towards Jesus I ran away from him. I didn’t walk, I ran. Some of us, in here are running. Some of us, even though everything Jesus does, he moves towards us, some of us are moving back and we are trying to take short cuts. Taking shorts cuts as far as taking God’s word and processing it through our lives. Short cuts in the Spiritual disciplines. Prayer is hard. I am not a disciplined person and yet Jesus has called me to be a discipled one. You get your word math (maqhthoj) We are number upon number. I don’t like the discipline so I look for short cuts and every time I look for short cuts, my life doesn’t add up. Two fish and two fish are always four fish but I want a short cut. Anyone here taking a short cut spiritually? Anyone here trying to go the easy way? If you are, this next step, you can count on it. The next step is simply this.
So I resorted to following my Lord at a distance and focused instead on my own needs.
Following my Lord at a distance. Now everyone of you stated last night that your passion was to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and even though that is your passion and purpose, you may not have the power to do it. You can have all the passion you want. You can have all the purpose too but if you don’t have the power, where are you? I did not have the power but I knew that I loved Jesus and so what I did was I came and I followed Jesus just close enough to assuage some of the guilt but not close enough to be identified fully with Jesus. I was meeting my own needs, warming myself by the fire.
Here’s Jesus just a few yards away at Caiaphas’ house just outside the Temple being tried at a mock trial. I could hear the soldiers slapping him. I could hear the accusations. I could hear the false judgements against him. I could hear the robe being ripped by the high priest when they called for Jesus’ blaspheme. I could hear all that and I was just close enough to feel spiritual but not close enough to be fully identifiable with Jesus and don’t kid yourself. God will put you in situations where the pressure is so great that you will follow Jesus at a distance if you’re walking down this path like I did. Count on it. Again, you will come and you will try to be close enough to Jesus so that everyone else will think you are spiritual and everyone else thinks you impress them but you know, you know. It’s like here’s God’s life and purpose and here’s mine and we touch just enough to touch but not touching enough to be fully submitted to Him and you’ve been there. I’ve been there. It’s a calculated process that will happen to each one of us if we don’t recognize it. The last one is simply this...
It took less than 12 hours for the actual denial to take place! Feel what I felt, will you? Feel what I felt being with the God of the universe in the Upper Room as he explained how He was going to lay down His life for my sin. How He had built into me, I was His closest. He had spent more time with me than anyone else. I said, “I WILL NEVER DENY YOU!” And within twelve hours I did. I remember sitting there warming myself and my hood was over me like this and this little servant girl, (oh, I wish she was taller so she couldn’t see up over my hood, but she wasn’t), “Hey, I know, This was one of, Hey Look at!,” “SHH! I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She came again and said, “No, I, I know you, Look everybody.” The third time she said it I said, “DAMMIT I DON’T KNOW HIM!!,” with curses. The very one I should have been worshipping I denied with curses. God’s timing is never off because at that moment, I was just huddled under just cursing like this when I heard a cock crow, I lifted my head and my eyes met Jesus’ eyes going through the corridor on His way to Pilate. I cannot tell you how I felt when our eyes met. If there is any young leader in here that thinks you cannot fall and deny Jesus, I am telling you that as a senior leader six steps will do it. Which step most represents you? Which represents your life right now? Which step seems to grab your heart and just won’t let go? You know.
So where are you in this progression?
Be honest, which step most describes your life at present?
I also want to encourage you with something. One of the things I have learned over the years is that with Jesus, failure is never final. I remember, just as there were six steps in my downward plunge, Jesus rebuilt and restored me with six gracious, beautiful steps. So I don’t want to leave you down, I want to encourage you with the steps that Jesus took to restore me to usefulness.
Could you imagine what I felt? I felt like there was no way God could use me. You read about me. You know that one day a few weeks later how I went and just said, “I’m going fishing.” Do you know what I was saying? I was saying, “I know that Jesus still loves me. I know that He has forgiven me but as far as being used as a leader, I’m going to go back to my old fishing I can no longer be the fisher of men that Jesus called me to be.” Some of you feel that way. Some of the habits, the attitudes, the sin in our lives we’ve had in our lives for years has so strangled us that we feel absolutely useless by God in some areas and I’m telling you, no way. Six Steps to restoration...his gracious beauty here. The first step is this..
Six Steps of Spiritual Renewal
Get yourself a loud “rooster” who will faithfully hold you accountable and remind you of the Lord’s words.
Get yourself a loud rooster. Get yourself someone in your life who will look you in the face and care enough about you to confront and say, “YOU ARE WRONG.” Any David’s in here, get a Nathan. Get yourself an Isaiah. Get a prophet. Get someone. Old Solomon said, “Beautiful, gracious are the wounds of a friend but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Don’t hang around people that kiss you all the time. Find yourself a couple of people, a spouse, a child, a friend, an older mentor, a professor, a pastor, someone who will look at you and say, “you are wrong,” and they will do it loud, and they will do it at the most inconvenient times. Don’t cover it up. The second one is...
Learn to weep with repentance so that Christ can restore you with a soft and contrite heart.
Learn to weep with repentance. That night that I ran into the darkness after denying Jesus, there was a weeping of sorrow but there was also a weeping of joy because it was just therapeutic. You may have real tears you may not but there is something about the tears of repentance that flushes out the guilt when you come heart to heart again with the Lord. ALL PASSION IS DEVELOPED IN PRIVATE. You want to be passionate about leadership, you want be passionate about evangelism, THEN YOU DON’T GO OUT AND DO STUFF. YOU PULL AWAY FROM STUFF AND YOU BE WITH JESUS. Get your prepositions right, Jesus did not say, “Go into all the world and do things FOR me,” he said, “you go WITH me.” Make the decision now whether you are going to be the kind of Christian that does stuff for God or you’re going to do stuff with God. Instead of asking God to come to where you are start asking God to show you where He is and ask Him to let you come to work where he is in your life. If you do stuff with God the tears will come. There will be a grieving process over your sin. Way beyond emotions. The third step, gracious step.
Start right where you have failed the most resisting the temptation to return your old way of life.
Start right where you have failed the most. I remember that evening running out and I remember the words in Psalm 51, (Read Psalm 51) David after he confessed his sin with Bathsheba he said, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Do not separate me from your spirit.” You know those words but then the last part of that prayer grabs you, “THEN I will teach sinners your way. Then I will bring those in iniquity to you.” I will do the work of an evangelist he is saying. There is something about the confession. There is something about starting right where you have failed the most coming before God and saying, “God, here I am” and God says, “Yes, that’s all I ever wanted you to say, I’ll take you just the way you are just where you are. I just want to be with you.”
I remember Jesus being so gracious. I remember being out on that boat a few weeks later. I was so discouraged. I knew that Jesus loved me but I was out fishing and we caught nothing all night. Just, I couldn’t even make it professionally and I remember John saying, “Hey! There’s someone on the shore.” and we sort of listened, we were so discouraged and this person on the shore said, “Hey! Cast your net over on the other side of the boat.” Six feet is really going to make a difference. We were so discouraged, we didn’t care, why not? We threw it over on the other side of the boat, our nets began to tear. Immediately we knew it was Jesus. Immediately, I didn’t wait for the others, I threw myself in the water, I swam ashore, just maybe, maybe God could use me just a little bit. I wasn’t sure. I swam ashore, the others came, Jesus had built a fire. The last time I had smelled a fire like that was the fire I was huddled over when I was denying Jesus and there is something about smell that brings back all the memories. Like when you go back to your home where you grew up and all those smells of your mom’s cooking brings back memories. That kind of thing. I remember feeling those feelings of denying Jesus. But then Jesus said, “Hey! Bring the fish in.” and He was talking to all of us but I was the one that brought the fish in because the next step was...
Serve the Lord with a glad, reckless joy!
Serving the Lord with a glad, reckless joy! OK Jesus maybe I’m not your top disciple anymore but that’s ok, I’ll do anything. I’ll bring the fish in. I’m not going to delegate anymore. I’m going to serve you whole heartedly with a glad reckless joy. Whatever it is. I didn’t do this to earn points. It was a love-motivated obedience. You see there was a time in my life that I thought Christianity was just this list and Jesus was giving me this list of stuff to do. If I gave you a list of stuff to do many of you would go ahead and do it because you are pretty nice but after three or four things you would no longer do it. However, if you were out on my fishing boat and a wind came up and the boat went over and you and your family were cast into the sea but I came and pulled you ashore and saved you and your family and then gave you the list, AH would your attitude then not be different? Because of Peter’s love I’d be glad to do that. Hey! Christianity is not a list. It is love-motivated and Jesus had loved me so much that forgiving me and restoring me that I would do anything including picking out and pulling in the fish. Serving wish a glad reckless joy. If there is anyone serving to try to earn God’s love, stop. You will burn out in ministry. Ask God to give you a love-motivated reason where you are serving because you are so overwhelmed with His love for you that you have just got to serve. There is a big difference. One will make you faithful finishers, 20, 30, 50 years in full-time ministry, the other – you will not last but five or six years maximum in a good situation. Decide now as a young leader. The fifth step is...
Rekindle and reaffirm your love for Jesus in humility.
Rekindling and reaffirming your love for Jesus. Jesus again, three times I denied, three times he said, “Peter, do you love me?” Just, “Is your heart with me?” Reaffirm your love for Jesus. Be assured of His. Respond to His love. If there is anything separating you from Jesus, push it aside, it’s not worth it. The last step was this...
Follow Him fully regardless of the cost.
Follow Him fully. Follow Him fully. You know, I remember Jesus after asking me three times “Do you love me?” and He described what type of death I was going to have and I remember walking with Him and passing John the disciple and I said, “Well, what about Him?” Jesus said, “Peter, what’s that to you? You follow me.” Comparison. There was still enough pride left in my life that I was comparing myself to others, especially my friend John. If any of you are comparing yourself to someone else with their spiritual gifts, their abilities, their position, their passion, their results – give that to Jesus. Don’t take one more step, do not spend one more day studying, and do not spend one more day in your ministry until you do that. Comparison will kill you. You be so focused on the person of Jesus that it doesn’t matter what’s going on around you. You are so focused on Him that you want to build up and if someone else in the body is exalted, you are right there holding up higher than anybody else. If you do not, if you do not, you will not make it in your ministry.
Let me conclude my reading to you, I’m not much of a writer but I did write a little bit and God blessed and has decided to let other people hear it. Here is something that I wrote and it takes me all the way back to the very first question, the very first recorded question that anyone ever asked Jesus, any of His disciples. We were again in my boat, Jesus taught so many things to me from my boat, we had just finished all day fishing and He was tired and He was sleeping in the back end of the boat and a storm came up and the waves were coming over the front of the boat and Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat. I was getting angry because of my fear. I was the one that woke Jesus up and the first question that I asked Him as the spokesman for all the disciples was, “Do you not care?!” Isn’t that interesting? The very first recorded question of anyone asking anything of Jesus is, “Do you love us?” Let me tell you what I wrote years after, after I was able to reflect upon these six steps of denial and six steps on being restored, (1 Peter 5:5-7) “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He ......cares .........for......... you.” God has asked you to be a risk taker. When I wrote that I used a very simple word, when it say casting all your anxieties all your worries, I chose to use a word meaning to gamble. You see many of those night when we caught no fish I would be up in the front gambling with dice at the bow of the boat with the other fisherman, taking a risk seeing if I could get a return. In a spiritual way of thinking, I want to challenge you, as young leaders that Jesus...is...worth the risk. If you are going to gamble, gamble on Jesus with this fact – Jesus cares for you. Let no one leave this retreat not absolutely convinced of the love of God through Jesus Christ.
That’s my life story, what’s yours? My life story is one of failure and restoration. A living color portrait of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and what I’d like to ask you to do is to pair up with whoever you are paired up with this morning and I’d like to ask you to go through which one of those six steps are you most caught up in? Which one of those six steps most scare you? Where you’ve taken that step or two
or three or four in denying Jesus Christ?
But also, which one of the steps of His grace do you most need now in your life? Do you need to serve Him again with a glad reckless joy? Does he need to re-instill in you a love motivated obedience? Which one of those steps do you most need? Let me pray and then I’d like to have you pair up and share those very things and then we will do our next session later.
So which one of these steps do you sense you most need to apply to your life?
Father in heaven, I pray that you’d do business in each one of our lives right now. Take these young leaders. Convict them but encourage them too through your Word. In Jesus’ name, amen.