Summary: What steps led Peter to deny Christ? Can these steps be repeated in the lives of believers? How can we avoid repeating Peter's denial of Christ in our own lives?
We know from the Gospels that Peter was a transparent man. He would ask Jesus the obvious questions, showed his feelings, and even boasted that he would stay with Christ to the end. However, that boasting did not last very long at all:
...she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not...(Mark 14:66-68).
Jesus had just been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper and taken to the house of the high priest, Caiaphas.
Peter said earlier in the evening that he was ready to die for Christ, but when Jesus was arrested, the disciples scattered—including Peter.
Peter followed from a distance and ended up warming himself at a fire before the house of the high priest.
When a servant girl pointed out Peter as one of Christ's followers, he denied that he knew Christ, just as the Lord had foretold.
To deny knowing someone is to refuse to acknowledge a connection with them. In Peter's case, he refused to acknowledge that he was a disciple of Christ.
Since Christ is no longer physically walking on earth today, Christians can deny knowing him in their attitudes, behaviors, words, actions, and even lifestyles.
People tend to give steps to the Christian life: steps to a closer walk with God, steps to a more fruitful Christian life, steps to more ministry effectiveness, steps to a better prayer life, etc.
But how about approaching things from a different angle: steps to denial—steps to denying Christ.
If Christians follows the steps listed here (1-5) they will likely end up denying Christ in their lives outright (6) as Peter did; they will in essence be telling the world, I do not know Him.
1. Confidence in Self (Mark 14:29, 31)
Peter was sure of himself—that he would fight for Christ to death, but things did not play out the way he imagined. He was confident in his own ability instead of trusting Christ.
Perhaps we too are confident in something such as our own physical strength, our employment, our finances, or our know-how. But, will these things hold out when the time comes?
Confidence in ourselves will lead to the next step.
2. Lack of Prayer (Mark 14:37, 40-41)
Instead of praying with Jesus, Peter was sleeping. He wasn't thinking about how he needed God's help in his life. The Lord warned him to watch and pray so as not to enter into temptation—wise counsel from our God who knows our frame, that we are but dust.
Confidence in ourselves brings a proud slumber upon us. We neglect the humble reliance upon God that we need from day to day (Give us this day...).
From a lack of prayer, the next step is even worse.
3. Not Heeding God's Word (Mark 14:47)
Peter tried to fight the arresting officers but Jesus' arrest was needful to complete His ministry on earth. He had already indicated that.
Peter spent nearly three years learning at the feet of Jesus but on this night, as he progressed down the steps to denial, his mind was not on the words that Jesus spoke.
As Christians, when prayer time suffers, so does time spent in the word. If we rely only on a simple, quickly-read devotional or half-listened-to sermon on Sunday morning, we too are not really paying attention to what the Lord is telling us.
When we do not heed God's word, the next step is a natural progression.
4. Hanging with the Wrong Crowd (Mark 14:54)
Peter was standing with the people outside of the house instead of with the disciples encouraging one another. In his isolation from God's people, he was eventually put on the spot, and verbally denied Christ (Step 6).
Confidence in self, failure to humbly rely on the Lord, and missing the word of God, will inevitably lead to hanging out with the wrong crowd. Christians not walking as they ought to find more comfort with the world than in church with God's people.
Are we hanging out where we should not be? Are we spending time with the people of the world instead of the people of God? If so, it would be a good time to examine ourselves in the light of Steps 1-4, to avoid the next plunge to Step 5.
5. Back to Old Habits (Mark 14:71)
Peter started cursing. Something he would not likely have been doing in the presence of the Lord. Peter's progress to the next step reminds us that the more spend time with the world, the more the world influences us. Psalm 1:1 paints an excellent picture of this.
If we have confidence in ourselves, fail to pray, fail to be in the word, are hanging out with the world instead of believers, and going back to old habits, it is quite likely to lead to the sixth and last step of denial.