Spiritual Self Destruction
Peter crashed and burned, but this did not just happen by accident. There was a process that led to his abject failure. We can learn from Peter’s failure and avoid a spiritual train wreck.
Peter denied Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75); this was a massive deal since Jesus said that whoever would deny Him before men Jesus would also deny before the Father (Matthew 10:33). To deny means to disavow or reject.
Countdown to Spiritual Failure
- Pride: Peter believed he would not fall away even if the other disciples did (Matthew 26:33). When we do not acknowledge our vulnerability to the spiritual danger, we tend to think others may collapse, but we will not. We must not believe that others may fall, but we will stand (1 Corinthians 10:12). Such thinking is a form of pride and leads to a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
- Ignoring God’s Word: Jesus warned Peter that he would fall, but Peter continued to contradict what was said (Matthew 26:31-35). Peter refused to believe what God was saying. Unbelief makes us vulnerable to our spiritual enemies. Faith is essential to please God. Faith means we believe and seek to live by every word Jesus says. We cannot pick and choose which truths we will live by (Hebrews 11:6).
- Lack of Prayer: Jesus warned Peter to watch and pray when they were in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter slept instead and therefore fell when tempted (Matthew 26:41). Prayer is essential for our well-being. If we do not pray, we will lose the benefits that come from this. We will not receive if we do not ask (James 4:2).
- Unreality: Peter did not see what he was doing for what it indeed was. All along, Peter refused to accept that Jesus would suffer and die (Matthew 16:21, 22). Peter attempted to defend Jesus from an armed mob of about 1000 soldiers and temple officials with one sword. He was clearly in unreality. The truth supports us and is part of the armour Paul urges us to wear in our conflict with Satan (Ephesians 6:14).
- Sitting with the Enemy: In Caiaphas’s courtyard, Peter warmed himself amongst the enemies of Jesus (Matthew 26:58). He was in the wrong place trying to find out what would happen even though Jesus had repeatedly told him. He faced temptation that he was not able to overcome. We cannot expect to place ourselves in temptations way and overcome them. We are to flee such situations (2 Timothy 2:22). The company we keep and what we chose to follow has an inevitable impact on our lives for good or evil (1 Corinthians 15:33).
The Progression of Spiritual Failure
The longer Peter stayed in the wrong place, the worse his failure became. He started by denying he knew Jesus (Matthew 26:70). He then denied with an oath (Matthew 26:72). Jewish oaths always assumed they were in God’s presence. In other words, Peter called upon God as a witness to his not knowing Jesus. Finally, Peter pronounces a curse of death by the hand of God if he was lying in his denial of knowing Jesus (Matthew 26:74). If we do fail, we must quickly move back into following after Jesus. The longer we linger in sin and compromise, the worse things become.
Two Outcomes of Spiritual Disaster
Peter was not the only disciple who committed terrible acts. Judas betrayed Jesus. Judas perished, but Jesus restored Peter. The difference between Peter and Judas was that Peter truly believed who Jesus was (Matthew 16:16-19). Judas only thought that Jesus was an innocent man (Matthew 27:4). Jesus will keep those who are saved and restore them when they go astray (John 10:28, 29).
Judas experienced remorse over what he had done (Matthew 27:3), but Peter truly repented (Matthew 26:75). Godly sorrow leads to repentance, but worldly remorse leads to death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Jesus allowed Peter to evidence repentance when Peter had to confess his love for Christ three times (John 21:15-19).
Spiritual disaster is not inevitable if we learn to be humble and prayerfully follow what God says. If we do collapse, we need to be quick to repent and find forgiveness through Jesus. His righteousness is sufficient for us (1 John 1:6-10).