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Peter’s Denials; Forgiveness
Matthew 26:69–75; Mark 14:66–72; Luke 22:56–62; John 18:26–27
Matthew Lesson #179
November 26, 2017
“Father, we’re so grateful that we can be here, that we can focus upon You in the hymns that we sing, and that we can reflect upon what You brought together at that most critical time in history as our Lord Jesus Christ was arrested, and tried, and brought eventually to Golgotha, where He was crucified, where He died as our substitute: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
“Father, as we study through the records of the Gospel writers, we come face-to-face with Your grace, we come face-to-face with Your love for us and the love of Christ for us.
“Father, we pray that as we study today we may be impressed with the forgiveness of sin that we have because of Your plan and Your purpose and Your great love with which You have loved us.
“We pray that we will be challenged by Your Word in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 26:69, where we are going to begin our study.
One of the most, if not the most, significant doctrines that is taught in Scripture is that we have forgiveness of sin. It is one of the central teachings of biblical Christianity. It is the greatest gift God has given to us that we have true forgiveness. The King James also used the word “remission” of sin.
Without forgiveness we would live in a world of spiritual darkness. There would be sin running rampant. People would be living totally on the basis of their sin nature with no hope of recovery. We would truly live in a culture of death with no life from God, with no hope for eternal life, with no comprehension of what real love or grace or forgiveness is all about.
This was the reason that Jesus, the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, entered into human history. As we look at this episode of Peter’s denials, they are told to us for the purpose of helping us understand divine forgiveness.
This morning we will be looking at these denials and understanding more about the forgiveness of God, especially from Matthew 26:69–75, but also looking at times at the synoptic accounts, as well as the Gospel of John.
At the beginning and end of Luke there is an emphasis on forgiveness as the purpose for the incarnation. Those bookends tell us that this is a major theme in that Gospel.
In Luke 1:77, the speaker is Zacharias, who is the father of John the Baptist. He has been mute, unable to speak, since he didn’t quite believe the announcement by the angel that his wife, who was beyond childbearing years, would give birth to a son. So, the angel said that he wouldn’t speak again until the child, the son, was born.
When he did, there is a hymn of praise that is voiced by Zacharias, in that he says of John’s ministry in relation to the Messiah, that he would be there “to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the forgiveness of their sin.”
That word “forgiveness” that’s used primarily in the New Testament is an economic word that means to eradicate a debt, to cancel debt, to take that away, to totally erase it. That’s what forgiveness of sins is: that sin is erased by the death of Christ on the Cross.
At the end of Luke’s Gospel, he says, Luke 24:47, “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” closing out that Gospel with the emphasis on forgiveness of sin.
Forgiveness is not a new doctrine in the Old Testament. You often hear people influenced by liberalism or ignorance—sometimes they’re the same—say that when you look at the Old Testament, you hear a God of harsh righteousness, a God of wrath, a God of punishment; and that is far from the truth. You have a God of love and forgiveness throughout the pages of the Old Testament.
For example, in Exodus 34:6–7 we read, “And the Lord passed before him …”—that’s Moses—“… and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.’ ”
There’s an emphasis on His righteous judgment, but the primary emphasis is on His love and grace.
Micah 7:18, “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.”
This is the emphasis of God: the emphasis of the Gospel is on forgiveness and cleansing from sin.
In the New Testament this same message is echoed. Peter in Acts 10:43, as he’s declaring the Gospel to the Gentiles, said, “To Him ...”—that is to Jesus—“… all the prophets witness that through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.”
Forgiveness of sins is very much a part of the Gospel, the focus of the Gospel and explaining the Gospel.
When we come to this next section in the Gospel, we learn of Peter’s denial, which was indeed a spiritual tragedy. It is the low point of his spiritual life, but it is a tremendous opportunity for God’s grace to shine forth. Because we know that where God’s grace is there is always a solution to our sin, a solution to our failure. That no matter how great that failure is, no matter how great that sin is, no sin or failure need to be a permanent reality in the Christian life. No sin is too great for the grace of God, and there is no fall from which we cannot recover.
In this next scene, we shift the focus from Jesus’ trials—the first two trials—to Peter’s trial. It is Peter’s test to see if he will remain faithful and loyal to the Lord. We know he failed. We see Peter at his worst, to remind us that God’s grace always meets us at our worst.
Luke tells us what the lesson is that we should learn. I think it’s always important that we go to Scripture to interpret Scripture, and to tell us what the lessons are: what the purpose of a parable is; what the significance of a historical event is.
In Luke 22:32, Jesus is speaking to Peter, “But I have prayed for you …”—this is when He is predicting that Peter will deny Him—“… but I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
There we know that even at the announcement of Peter’s failure, Jesus gives him hope. The Gospel is a Gospel of hope. He says “when you return to Me.” It’s not a permanent failure; it’s not a permanent condition. He’s not going to lose his salvation, but he will by God’s grace return to the Lord, unlike Judas.
If you take a look at what happens in the next episode coming up in Matthew 27, as we learn about Judas, there’s a contrast between Peter and his test and Jesus being tried. Then there’s the contrast between Peter’s failure and recovery versus Judas’ failure and no recovery.
The Lord says in Luke 22:32 is “when you’ve returned to Me …”—the lesson is—“… strengthen your brethren.”
“Establish them” is another way in which that word is translated in the Greek. It means “to make firm,” and it is a word that indicates the strengthening of our spiritual life. Peter, just like us, when we fail and recover, then we can use that to teach and train others and to encourage others in the grace of God.
As we begin to look at this episode, I want to take us back to the earlier part of the chapter. For some of you that’s just across the page. For others you might have to turn back a page to Matthew 26:31.
In Matthew 26:31, we see Jesus’ prediction. What we’re going to do is look at Jesus’ prediction, then we’re going to look at the fulfillment of that prediction in Peter’s denials, and then we will finish by looking at God’s forgiveness for that failure.
The prediction of Matthew 26:31–33: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written, “I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I have been raised. I will go before you to Galilee.’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You I will never be made to stumble.’ ”
We see this prediction coming in Matthew 26:34, “Jesus said to him, ‘Will you lay down your life for My sake?’ ”—that’s what Peter thinks he will do, and then the Lord says—“ ‘Assuredly. I say to you that …”—and Mark adds, “today”—“… this night, before the rooster crows …”—Mark adds “twice.” That’s one of the little differences between the Gospels, is that Matthew and Luke just indicate when the rooster crows. They don’t talk about how many times. Mark says, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you know Me.” This is a prediction.
Now what we go on to read is in Matthew 26:35 Peter responds and said, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” Mark adds, “Peter said vehemently to Him.” It is a strong assertion that he will not deny the Lord—“And so said all the disciples.”
They all agree. They are all denying that Jesus—who is God incarnate, who is omniscient, who has demonstrated time and time again that He is a true prophet and He can and does accurately predict the future—they denied that He can predict the future in this case.
This is a classic example of how not only those disciples, but all of us, want to just deny the truth of God’s Word. This sets them up for tremendous failure. Arrogance—as the Proverbs tell us, “pride goes before a fall.”
We see here at the beginning and through the rest of this episode, down through the arrest, examples in Peter that are reflected in us that show how we set ourselves up for spiritual failure.
First of all, we see that he is boasting. He thinks that he has reached a point of a spiritual plateau, where he has arrived, and he is above certain sins, if any. He thinks that he is spiritually mature, that he has arrived, and that he will not fail.
Ecclesiastes 7:16, “Do not be overly righteous …” That’s Peter; he is violating this; he is self-righteous. It goes on to say—“… nor be overly wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” Arrogance, self-absorption and narcissism are self-destructive—that is the warning.
In Romans 12:3 Paul says that we are “… not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think ...” We need to think soberly. That doesn’t mean without the influence of alcohol; that means objectively. That word in the Greek means to think honestly, accurately, and objectively about yourself. Don’t be bloated, don’t be boastful; don’t be arrogant.
This is what Peter was. This is his first step, as he is operating on arrogance from his sin nature; and second, that leads him to reject the authority of Jesus. He is in effect denying that Jesus can tell the future. He is denying that Jesus is right and he flat contradicts Him along with the other disciples. It’s an indication that arrogance and pride are blinding. We don’t believe the truth, and we will believe the lie.
Matthew 26:35, Peter says, “ ‘… Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ ” It is a strong dogmatic assertion. He is saying it’s impossible that he will deny Him, and the disciples all join in in the chorus.
Sadly, this is like too many believers: we think we’ve arrived, that we’re above certain sins, that we won’t commit certain sins, that that failure won’t be our failure. Yet the reality is that that just shows our lack of understanding of our sin nature—our capacity for sin and evil.
Jeremiah 17:9 says that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” The inner man that is controlled by the sin nature is capable of all manner of horrible sins. Peter sets himself up for failure by living in denial, that thinking that he just is above that type of sin.
The third way in which he fails is that he fails to pray in the garden. From the Upper Room, they made their way to the Garden of Gethsemane, as we studied, and in that garden, Jesus gave them direction. Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation …”
The word there for temptation, PEIRASMOS, is the same word for testing. “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is willing …” We saw that with Peter, ‘I’ll never deny You;’ that’s his spirit. He is going to assert his loyalty to the Lord. “… but the flesh …”—that is the sin nature—“… is weak.”
He is unable to live up to his own ideal because he is really operating in the flesh, and he is not depending upon the Lord. He is denying the prayer, and as soon as the Lord leaves him, we have read that he and James and John would just go to sleep. Rather than watching and praying, they slept.
Prayer was vital in this spiritual warfare. This is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit …”—or by means of the Spirit—“… being watchful …” Jesus told the disciples to watch and pray, and here Paul reiterates that: that prayer is related to our watchfulness. It is our guard and we are to keep our guard up in our spiritual life, lest we fail in temptation. Paul says—“… being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
What he means by perseverance there is not the Calvinist doctrine of “perseverance of the saints.” That is what you would hear a Calvinist preacher introduce at this point, but that misreads the context. The perseverance here is enduring in prayer.
It is continuing to pray, not just praying once and done, but continuing to pray because prayer is an exercise that focuses our mental attitude on dependence on God. We are to pray continuously, 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Pray without ceasing.”
We give thanks in all things to the Lord, as we’ve just observed a national holiday related to Thanksgiving. For the believer this is to characterize our every moment as we are grateful. To be grateful you have to be humble. You cannot be arrogant and be grateful at the same time. Peter has failed to be watchful and to pray in the garden.
A fourth thing that has set Peter up for failure is that he is in living in denial about his own weaknesses and his own sin. He is not unlike us, and we are not unlike him.
Too often, we are like what I call the vampire Christian. I have a whole little doctrine on that somewhere. Remember what a vampire is. A vampire is the walking dead. They are the walking dead. They are living in a separation from God, look like they’re alive as believers, but they’re living like a dead person.
Also, when you hold up the cross in front of a vampire, they fall down and flee from it. When you talk about the Cross to a spiritual vampire, a rebellious believer, they become an enemy of the Cross.
Also, when you are a vampire, you suck your nourishment from somebody else, and spiritual vampires are always trying to feed off other believers that are stronger and focused. They are extremely needy.
Then vampires love the darkness. They hate the light. So spiritual vampires walk in darkness, rather than walking in the light.
The last thing is that a vampire can’t see his reflection in the mirror, and a spiritual vampire doesn’t see his reflection in the mirror of God’s Word. So, when you hold up the Word of God, “That doesn’t apply to me! That’s not me!” They live in denial.
This is what is happening with Peter. Jesus has pointed out his flaws and failures numerous times, but he doesn’t accept it. He is living in denial of his sin nature, of his flaws and failures, and thinks that it doesn’t apply to him. He doesn’t recognize his weaknesses: that he’s stubborn, that he is impulsive, that he is impatient, that he doesn’t give things any thought.
This is exemplified in Matthew 26:51 where when the Temple guard came up and the Temple servant is there with the high priest, that Peter pulled out his sword and tried to cleave Malchus’ head in two and missed—either because Malchus dodged or he was a poor aim—and he cut off his ear. He’s trying to handle the problem on his own without dependence upon the Lord.
All of these things have set Peter up and put him in a position where he is not able to withstand the temptation. By following Jesus into the courtyard, he has put himself in a position where he is surrounded by his enemies, and where he will likely be put into an awkward situation. By making bad decisions based on arrogance, he puts himself in a trap, and that trap is where he stumbled.
I use that imagery intentionally because the word there for stumbling that Jesus used is the word SKANDALIZO, which comes originally in Greek from the term for that stick that would hold up a trap—it’s the tripwire.
That’s what he has done: he has built a trap for himself, and now he’s going to spring the trap on himself. We do the same thing: by poor decisions we put ourselves in circumstances and situations where we set ourselves up for spiritual failure.
There are three denials that are mentioned in each of the Gospels. However, there are those who analyze the details of each episode in each Gospel, and point out that there are certain differences. I would say not contradictions, but there are those who would try to make them contradictions—that they don’t fit together.
There are two approaches for resolving these apparent conflicts between the Gospel accounts:
The first approach is the more common approach, and that is to recognize that this is a very dynamic situation. As Peter comes into the courtyard of the high priest, there are a lot of people there. There are Temple guards there. There are Roman soldiers there. There are the servants of the high priests that are in there. There’s a large number of people that are moving around.
As he comes in, and one account states that when he is at the door—that is where the first denial begins with “the servant girl sees him at the door”—that he denies it. Others would say he’s already inside the courtyard.
I believe it could be a very dynamic situation where the conversation with the servant girl began when he comes into the door, and it continues as he enters into the courtyard. As she is talking to him, he could very easily be trying to get away from her because he doesn’t want to have his cover blown.
The conversation goes on, but what is picked up by the Gospel writers is that at this point, it is one aspect or another of that conversation. It is not that the servant girl said one thing or asked one question, and he gave one reply, but there was an interaction between them all related to that first denial, and then moving on to the second denial.
That is the most common way of explaining these differences because overall, they are in agreement of the three denials.
The second way that it is handled by a few people—I kept trying to find others in print to look at this. I have heard people teach this, but the only example of this in print I found was in a book I’ve recommended before by Stanley Ellison and Johnston Cheney called Jesus Christ: The Greatest Life—A Unique Blending of the Four Gospels.
This was built on a book that came out back in the late ’60s, I believe, or in the ’60s called The Life of Christ in Stereo. The author of that study died. His idea was to take the four accounts of the Gospels and to blend them together, so that we could sit down and read from the beginning of the announcements of the birth of Jesus all the way through past the resurrection.
Read that in order and get a full picture, because each author of each Gospel has his own purpose and he is choosing different statements and different events in order to fit his basic argument or his basic purpose.
In that work, Ellison and Cheney, and I don’t remember which one now, but one of them was a professor at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary for many, many years and was very conservative, very orthodox; biblically correct in his approach. He has done an excellent job, but he suggests that there are as many as six denials.
When Jesus said, “You will deny me three times,” that could mean “you could deny Me more, but you would deny Me at least three times.”
I find that that might be stretching it a little bit. I’m not convinced of one view versus the other. There are a number of different, let’s say, “conflicts” in Gospel accounts. This is what New Testament professors tie themselves in not knots over and reading a New Testament professor on these topics is really important because that’s where you can determine whether or not a guy really believes in the inerrancy of Scripture.
We have to start with the assumption that God the Holy Spirit is the Author and preserved these men from error, so that what they say, what they describe is perfectly accurate, although they may be looking at it from different vantage points and only recording for us different aspects of a conversation that may have involved several different things.
So I am more inclined to the first option than the second, although that is definitely a possibility.
We come to the first denial in Matthew 26:58, “But Simon Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard ...” I added the next sentence because that comes from the Gospel of John. John never identifies himself. John talks about “the beloved disciple,” “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He’s always the anonymous disciple that’s in the background as you read through the Gospel of John, but that, we believe, is John himself.
“Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard.” “So did another disciple. Now that disciple …”—this is all from John—“… that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest.”
I started off writing that from verse 58 and then added to it from John, so we get a sense of what’s happening here. The disciples were released at the arrest of Jesus, and they just scattered. Like when you turn the lights on and the roaches scatter; that’s how they were scattering. But Peter and John were the closest to the Lord, and they hung back, and followed the soldiers to the high priest’s house at what they would consider a safe distance.
Now the high priest’s house was quite large, and it included both the residences of Caiaphas and Annas and probably a courtyard in between—that is the biblical setting. Jesus has been taken first to Annas, and while He is being interviewed by Annas, as described in John 18, this is when John first makes it into the courtyard and then he makes it possible for Peter to be let into the courtyard.
Luke 22:55 says, “Now when the guards had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together ...”
This tells us something about the crowd. It also tells us something about the climate. It was probably pretty chilly that night. Peter needs to go over and warm himself by the fire. The temperature—if this is in late March or early April in Jerusalem—can be quite chilly; the temperature can drop down into the low 40s or upper 30s.
John 18:18 says, “Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.”
He comes in and that’s the whole background and scenario.
In Matthew 26:69 we’re told, “Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him saying, ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee.’ ”
What she says is presented as an accusation, whereas when John describes it, it’s presented more as a question. Probably both took place. There is a question and then an accusation, so it’s a dynamic conversation that is taking place between Peter and this servant girl.
At the same time, we know Jesus is being interrogated by the Sanhedrin and they’re marching a number of false witnesses into that hearing or trial. Jesus is being tested on the inside; on the outside in the courtyard, Peter is being tested.
Inside the witnesses are coming forward. The word in the Greek that’s used for that is PROSERCHOMAI, which means to come to, and outside the servant girl comes forward to Peter and it’s the same word, PROSERCHOMAI.
So, there’s an intentional comparison and contrast going on in the minds of the authors of Scripture to bring out this particular contrast. Jesus, who Paul compares to the first Adam, is successful in His trial and temptation, but Peter, like the first Adam, fails in his trial and temptation.
She accuses him and says, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” Mark says, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Nazareth was located in Galilee, so she may have said both: “You’re with Jesus in Galilee. You’re with the Nazarene.” She was saying more than just one sentence, so what Mark says is true, what Matthew says is true.
His response is very strong. He denied it before them all. I put Mark 14:68 up there because Mark says, “But he denied it, saying, ‘I neither know nor understand what you are saying.’ ”
Here’s the scene: she’s in front of him. She says you’re with Jesus of Nazareth, and he looks at her, and there’s a crowd around, he looks at her and said, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying …” and then he looks at the crowd that’s with her and says, “I don’t know what you’re saying!”
He tells her, “I don’t understand what you are saying,” and then he looks at the crowd and says, “I don’t know what you’re saying.” He’s addressing her, as well as the overall crowd.
Remember, Mark is the only one who says that Jesus predicted he would deny Him before the rooster crowed twice, and here he says, “… and a rooster crowed …”—the cock crowed. This is the first time.
Another thing to point out here that is significant is that there are two ways that the people understand the cock crowing:
The first way is that this is talking about a literal rooster, and that rooster crowed once, and then later on he crowed a second time. But also that idiom of the cock crowing was used as a technical term for the watch in the night, and so you’ll read different opinions on this, and I don’t know how to resolve that debate.
One says that this is talking about a literal rooster crowing; the other saying no, this is talking about the watch in the night. The first cock crowing would be midnight, so this is taking place at the first cock crowing. It is indicating a timestamp here that this is when the first cock crowed. This is at midnight. It’s my inclination to think that it’s a literal rooster crowing, but I’m not going to fight and die for either one.
The second denial is described in Matthew26:71. He gets away from the girl, he goes “… out to the gateway, and another girl saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ ”
A second time, he denies it. A little stronger, more forcefully he says, “I do not know the Man!”
He moves off, and he goes and warms himself by the fire again. And then we’re told, Luke says about an hour had passed, another one confidently came up and said to Peter, Matthew 26:73, “Surely you are one of them for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.”
I’ve conflated this with the synoptic accounts. Matthew 26:73 just says, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” The idea is that he’s got this heavy accent from the north and that exposes the fact that he’s from Galilee. Just listen to somebody from Maine or somebody from Massachusetts or Boston some time compared to somebody from Houston or South Louisiana, and you can understand how accents give away the area from which you have come.
Now this third time he’s even more strongly negative. He curses, he swears an oath literally, so he swears an oath that “I don’t know the Man of whom you speak.”
And at this time after the third denial, Matthew says a rooster crowed. Mark says a rooster crowed a second time. This is the three betrayals; it fulfills the prophecy.
Now what is interesting about this is that this episode is put in this location by Matthew for a reason. He has not informed us about the first trial. That’s John 18. He focuses on the second trial before Caiaphas, which is Matthew 26:57–68, and at the end he is being ridiculed by the guards, and they say to him in verse 68, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who is the one who struck you?” And, of course, He doesn’t respond.
But the way, Matthew organizes the text as he gives you the example of Peter’s denial, which is the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, telling the reader Jesus is a prophet who accurately predicted the future.
This tells us what has transpired, and Mark closes it out by saying that, “A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.’ And when he thought about it, he wept.”
Now there’s something that neither Matthew nor Mark tell us, and that is in Luke 22:61, when the cock crows the second time. Jesus is being moved from one location to another, so that He can look down and see Peter. He looks at Peter, and Peter sees the Lord looking at him, and that is what drives the point home so that “Peter remembered the word of Jesus, ‘before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So he went out and wept bitterly.”
The story does not end there. Peter is not mentioned again in Matthew, which I find interesting. He is not mentioned again by name. He is not mentioned at the tomb by name. You can do a search. This is the last time we hear about Peter in Matthew.
Mark tells us about Jesus telling them to go tell the disciples and Peter “to meet Me in Galilee.” Only Luke tells us of Peter running to the tomb with John on resurrection morning, as does John in his Gospel.
Then John tells us of an event that occurs that is not mentioned in the other Gospels, that after Jesus goes to Galilee, the disciples—Peter and the others—are out in their fishing boat and they’ve been fishing all night and they can’t catch anything.
The Lord comes down and walks down to the beach, and He shouts out to them, “Cast your net on the other side of the boat.” They don’t recognize Him. They cast their net to the other side of the boat and they bring in a haul of fish, and then Peter realizes that it’s the Lord.
We never are told when there’s this meeting with Peter and he’s forgiven. But Peter leaps out of the boat and he swims to the shore. It is at that time that the Lord asked him three times, “Peter, do you love Me? Feed My sheep.” Three times. That’s a whole lesson in and of itself, but the point is that Peter is restored to fellowship with the Lord, and he is restored to ministry.
There is no sin that we can commit where there’s not a solution of forgiveness and restoration in our relationship with the Lord, restoration to spiritual growth and growing and even restoration to ministry and service to the Lord. There are a lot of people in legalistic churches that if you commit certain sins, then there is no restoration. That’s it. You can’t serve the Lord anymore because you did this, or you did that, or this is in your background.
That’s just a denial of grace. Peter is forgiven after the horrible sin of denying Him. Peter is forgiven and restored to an incredible ministry. We’re all sinners. We all fail and fail miserably at times, and some of the failures that are our worst are mental attitude sins.
I’ve been around a lot of pastors. I’ve been around pastors who have failed overtly in spectacular ways, and I have been around a lot of pastors who people respect because of their high level of morality. But I also know them well enough to know that they have a high level of pride and arrogance. And that pride and arrogance is just as devastating, even more so because it’s hidden as any overt sin could possibly be.
The hypocrisy that takes place in churches about people’s sin is just unbelievable. There is forgiveness; and if God forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, we need to completely forgive others and cleanse the slate.
In Ephesians 1:7, that “in Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
Colossians 1:14, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
Forgiveness is our possession as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have remission of sin, and if we sin after we’re saved, then we confess sin, and God is so gracious that He forgives us of those sins that we admit to, but He goes on to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is what grace is all about.
“Our Father, we’re thankful for this opportunity that we have to come together and to study Your Word and to be reminded that we are like Peter too often. We are stubborn, we’re arrogant or blind to our own faults and failures. We do not listen to You; we do not submit to Your authority. We’re in rebellion.
“Yet, Father, we know that You forgive us of these sins. You have provided perfect cleansing from all sin, that there’s no sin too great for Your grace and no sin that Your omniscience did not take into account when You poured out our sins upon Jesus Christ on the Cross.
“Father, it’s our prayer that if there’s anyone who is listening to this message, anyone who is present that has never trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior, that they would take this time and this opportunity to do so.
“Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us with the need to depend upon Your forgiveness, to internalize your forgiveness for whatever sins may be on our back trail. And Father, that we also forgive others, just as You for Christ’s sake have forgiven us.
“We pray this in His name, amen.”