Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, "You also were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you mean." And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied it with an oath: "I do not know the man." After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you." Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.
Upon reading this account, we think, "Oh, we'd never do what Peter did!" But I honestly think many followers of Christ deny Him without intending to. Denying Jesus doesn't have to imitate the way Peter denied him. How about that time that you chose not to mention the fact you were going to Bible study that night, when your friends were doing something they had invited you to? Denying Him comes in many forms. Peter was a devout follower of Jesus. He didn't believe in something unseen- Jesus was right in front of him! Yet, Peter still denied him before men, when his reputation and maybe even life was on the line. As Christians we will be persecuted. What will you do when that time comes? Will you stand firm in your love for Jesus or will you be a coward like Peter and deny Him?
The result of denying Jesus before men has eternal consequences which far outweigh the persecution you can undergo from man. Instead of denying Him, we must deny ourselves and fully take up His cross. Matthew 10:38-39 says, "And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worth of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Have you surrendered all you know and all you are to Jesus? This is denying yourself. You are giving up your self-will and submitting to God's will, no matter what the cost. And as verses 34-37 talk about, the cost might be acceptance by your own family. There will be brothers who deny Christ and sisters who embrace Him. Denying yourself is giving up this life on earth to live for yourself and it's rewards, and embracing the life and purpose God has planned for you, to live for Him and reap eternal reward. "Taking up the cross" or submitting to Jesus, is an everyday thing. It's not a one time deal, then hoping to live the rest of your life in peace. In fact, when you live for Jesus, as we've read in this chapter, we will experience persecution. And if you don't continually submit to Jesus, you won't stand when you face trials and temptations, if you are trying to face them on your own. Once you decide to live for Jesus, and you surrender to him daily, living out repentance, Jesus is with you every step of the way. It doesn't make life easy, but it does bring a sense of God's purpose for everything you face, whether it seems good or bad.
Back to Peter- when Scripture says he "wept bitterly", I believe he re-aligned himself with God's will. I believe he asked for forgiveness and re-surrendered his life to Jesus, no matter the cost. I believe this because later in the book of John 21, Jesus has a great conversation with Peter, who is called Simon. Part of this conversation was this: (Jesus speaking to Peter) "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." And after saying this Jesus said to him, "Follow me." In Acts, Peter preaches a sermon that God used to save about 3000 people. It was the beginning of the "church" after Jesus left the earth.
Jesus forbids us to deny Him- in our hearts, in our minds, or from our mouths. Instead, He wants us to deny ourselves and live in the freedom He brings. When we truly die to ourselves and completely surrender ourselves to Him, He uses us in amazing ways. Like Peter, you may be apart of seeing many lives changed. But it takes acknowledging Jesus before men. How can Jesus use us to share the gospel if we act ashamed of it? Take this verse with you today:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes...
If you want to others to experience freedom and salvation in Christ, then you must not deny Jesus, but proclaim Him!