A Christian Lesson On Peer Pressure
by Rena Furbert
What is peer pressure? Peer pressure is when we feel compelled to act a certain way because we want to fit in and be accepted by certain people. Nobody wants to be the person who gets talked about or laughed at. But, unfortunately, sometimes we lose focus of who we really are because it becomes more important to us to just fit in, especially when we're young.
Sometimes the pressure that we feel involves superficial things, like dressing a certain way to be considered cool. We have to have the name-brand clothes or shoes. Or maybe the pressure involves doing things that we think everyone else is doing. How many people here started drinking or getting high because everyone else was doing it and they didn't want to feel left out? Or maybe the pressure involves doing something illegal. Maybe your friends were in on something and you went along and joined in because you didn't want them to think that you didn't have heart or that you were scared. Maybe you got caught doing something while you were just trying to fit in and go along with someone else. Or maybe you were the one who convinced one of your friends into doing something wrong. So, first off, we sometimes feel pressure from our friends.
But then on top of that, we also get caught up in what the world says is important. The world stresses to us that we have to look a certain way to be cool (elaborate). Or the world says you are not successful unless you have a certain job or drive a certain kind of car. The world's value system revolves around money and status.
Well, hopefully, by the end of this month's lessons, you will realize that it is not the world's standards that you should try to live up to and it is not the people who you consider your friends who you should worry about, but rather God's standards should shape who you are.
So why is it so important for us to fit in and be accepted? I think it is because we all want to belong to something. We want to feel chosen. Have you ever been at gym class and the teacher would pick two guys as team captains, and the team captains would choose people from the group to be on their team? And there was always someone who would be the last person to be picked because maybe they weren't as fast or they couldn't play as well or whatever. Well, no one ever wants to have that feeling of not being as good as everyone else and being that last guy chosen.
But if you are smart, you will eventually realize that there is no way to please the world, so why are you even trying? No matter what you do, there is going to be someone who wants to put you down. If you are really smart, they will say you think you know it all. If you are good looking, someone is going to say that you are stuck up or conceited. If you are really thin or really heavy, someone will call you an unflattering nickname. And if you talk too much about God, they will say, "Oh, so now you're holier than thou."
But If you call yourself a follower of Christ, you are not supposed to even care what is going on with everybody else, let alone try to go along with it. 1 John 2:15-17 tells us, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever."
If you knew that you were going to a foreign country for a short vacation, would you disconnect your phone number at home? Would you change your hairstyle or buy a bunch of clothes similar to the style of the country you were going to, even though you knew you would only be there a short time? Of course not, because you are just a traveler passing through.
Well, did you know that if you are a Christian and you have asked Christ to be your Lord and Savior, that you are a foreigner living in a strange place (earth) and that you are just on a journey to your true home (heaven)? The neighborhood that you live in isn't your home, and the house where your mother and father live, that isn't your home either. When you turned from your sins and became a follower of Christ, you became a son or daughter of God. Heaven is now your true home. 1 Peter 2:11, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." We are just pilgrims passing through!
God's word tells us that the last thing we should be trying to do is fit in with this world. Ephesians 4:17-18 reads, "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart."
Before Christ came into your life, you were just like everybody else. You were a Gentile. But now that you've been adopted into God's family, God says you should no longer live with those old values. As believers, we are not to be just like everybody else.
If you are someone who blends in too easily with the crowd and you are comfortable being in the company of unsaved, rebellious people and if being around you doesn't make ungodly people a little bit uncomfortable, your Christian walk is obviously not where it should be. Your light is somehow hidden. Psalm 1:1-2 reads, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night." This verse is showing us that if we are comfortable being around sin, then eventually we'll be taking a part of that sin. But instead of finding enjoyment in relationships with wicked people, your delight, the thing that gives you pleasure, should be found in the things of God.
And if you are thinking, "But Jesus spent time with sinners." True, He did. But He was not influenced by them! They were not His peers. So we, too, can and should share our faith in Christ with all people, but those people's sinful ways should not corrupt us. Our delight should be in the ways of God.
At this point in the lesson, we wanted to show you a man in the Bible. This man killed someone he respected and liked because he gave in to peer pressure. The Bible account of John the Baptist is that he was a man who wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed in. He wasn't worried about fitting in with the crowd to try to please people. Read his story (Mark 6:17-28
Mark 6:17-28 (Click To Read Mark 6:17-28)
So why was John the Baptist's head cut off? Because Herodias didn't like John saying that her relationship with King Herod was adulterous, and because King Herod wasn't man enough to stand up for something, even though it forced him to kill an innocent man. King Herod liked John the Baptist. He enjoyed talking to him. He even respected John because John wasn't afraid to tell the truth. But in the end, King Herod gave in to peer pressure and had John the Baptist killed.
Is there a time when you should have stood up for someone, but instead you went along with the crowd? Have you ever denied Christ by your words or actions because it was more important for you to be comfortable around your friends? If God were to show you all of the times when you went along with the crowd and did things to be popular or liked -- even though you knew what you were doing wasn't right -- and God asked you, "Why didn't you love me more than them?" What would you tell Him? I bet the explanation you'd give to God would sound pretty lame, even to you.
There are going to be times when you have to make a choice. Are you going to choose your peers, or what God would have you do? Are you going to choose what the world says is important, or what God's Word tells you is important?
In the end when you die and face God alone, will any of your peers matter then? No matter what clothes you wear or how much money you have or how much respect you get in your neighborhood, none of that is going to be able to help on Judgment Day. God is not going to look at you and say, "Oh, you have on name-brand clothes. Come on in." "Oh, you had much respect in your neighborhood. I'm impressed." No, the Bible says that on Judgment Day when the books are opened, only one thing will matter. Are you guilty or innocent? Are you righteous or unrighteous? There is only one way to stand righteous before God, and that is through Jesus Christ. When you die, will you end up in hell with Satan and those other people who never cared about God, or will Jesus step up and say, "He's with Me." I chose him, and I died for Him." Don't you realize that no matter what you look like, whether you have nice clothes or not, no matter what the file that Challenger has on you says, Christ is willing to say, "I'll take him." What do your so-called friends have to offer that compares with that?
* And if you recognize just what Christ did for you by dying on the cross and taking the punishment that you deserved, why don't you show it by following Him. Live your life in such a way that shows that Jesus is the only one you care about fitting in with and impressing.
How Different People in the Bible Handled Peer Pressure
As we've said already, peer pressure sometimes shows itself by the way you act a certain way because you want to blend in and be accepted by a certain group of people. But sometimes we fold under peer pressure not so much by what we do, but by the things that we don't do. For example, when you don't speak up even though something is going on that you know isn't right. Or maybe it shows itself just in your conversations. For example, you work somewhere with a lot of men and the conversation turns to dirty jokes or sexual comments about women that, as a Christian, you know are inappropriate. But instead of voicing your opinion against such talk, you just smile as though you think it's funny.
Did you know that whenever you don't take a stand for your Christian beliefs and instead you just go along with anything and everything that this world says is okay, then you are giving in to peer pressure? If you are a true follower of Christ, you should carry yourself in such a way that you are making God proud of you, not saddened by you. Is God proud of you when you are cussing up a storm with your friends? What about when you are going to all of those R-rated films and watching sex and violence on the screen with your buddies? And would your friends make fun of you if you told them that you didn't want to be a part of those activities? Probably so, but that should not matter to you. The Bible tells us that it is more important for us to care what God thinks than what other people think. Acts 5:29 reads, "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." Before any and every decision, we should ask ourselves, "In doing this, am I pleasing God or man?" Let's look at one man in the Bible and how he reacted to peer pressure. This Bible account is of a man who went along with the crowd, getting caught up in mob mentality.
An example of mob mentality is the situation that happened in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict a few years ago. On the TV news we saw a riot that lasted for days. Ordinary people were stealing from shops and setting things on fire. I bet that most of those people never would have behaved that way on their own, but somehow they got caught up in the frenzy of what everybody else was doing. People sinned because they got caught up with the crowd.
Well, what we are about to read and discuss is an example of someone who wasn't brave enough to go against the crowd. As a matter of fact, an innocent man was killed because this man didn't have the heart to do what was right.
The man we are talking about was named Pontius Pilate. He was one of the governors of the Roman Empire. And before the Jews could crucify Jesus, they needed to get the governor's permission. So they made up some phony charges and brought Christ before Pilate. Let's read about the man who could have stopped Christ's execution, but instead he went along with the crowd. Luke 23:1-3, "And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a king. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it."
Luke 23:4-5, "Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry (Judea), beginning from Galilee to this place."
* Now, Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. He even said to the crowd, "I find no fault in this man." Pilate didn't really want to put Christ to death, but the crowd kept pressuring him. Now let's jump ahead and see how Pilate even tried to get out of sentencing Jesus to death by saying he would have Jesus beaten and released. Luke 23:13-16 reads, "And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people; and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching (concerning) those things whereof ye accuse him: no nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him."
Then Pilate tried to release Jesus on a technicality. There was a custom that said that since it was during the time of a certain feast, one of the prisoners could be released to the people. But instead of Christ, let's read who the crowd wanted released. Luke 23:17-21 reads, "For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast. And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: who for a certain sedition (rebellion) made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison. Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him." As we see, again and again Pilate is trying to get them to let him release Jesus.
Pilate will give it one last try. Luke 23:22, "And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go." So then Pilate chastised Christ by having him whipped and scourged in the hopes that the crowd would see Christ's bloodied body and be satisfied with that punishment. But the crowd still cried out for Christ to be crucified.
* And ultimately Pilate folded under the pressure of the crowd. In Luke 23:23-25 we read, "And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified: and the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will." Pilate listened to the people and let a guilty murderer be set free, yet he whipped Jesus, who was innocent, and sent Christ off to be executed by crucifixion.
Why did Pilate give in to the crowd? Maybe it was because of fear -- fear of losing his political position, or fear of making an unpopular decision. Whatever his reasons, he had to live with the consequences of his decision. And there are always consequences when you willingly do what you know is wrong. Even if you get away with something while you are here on earth, you still have to answer to God when you die. You can't say to God, "Well, so-and-so forced me to go against you," or "I was afraid of what would happen if I stood up for what I knew was right." God gives us the power through the Holy Spirit to not be afraid and to stand up against our peers and the world. And God wants us to obey Him rather than the crowd!
In Matthew 27:24, we read a statement that Pilate made to try to clear his guilty conscience. It reads, "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it." Pilate was trying to separate himself from the situation. But whenever you have the power to stop something that is wrong and you do not, you are just as guilty as the people who did the act. The law calls it being an "accessory."
* Finally, in Matthew 27:26 we see how it all ends, "Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified." Pilate went from standing up to the crowd and saying of Jesus, "This man is innocent. I find no fault in him" to letting the crowd pressure him into letting Jesus be taken away and crucified. Now, I know that someone here is thinking, "Well, Jesus came to earth to die for our sins and it was inevitable that he would be crucified." That is true, but Pilate did not have to be the one to give the order. Pilate could have said, "I will not be a part of this," and the crowd would have had to have found someone else to help them get rid of Jesus.
And I bet Pilate forever regretted his decision. I bet he probably had trouble sleeping after that. And how do you think he felt when he died and had to face God and explain his actions? Can you imagine how stupid he felt saying, "Well, God, I was an accessory to murder because the crowd forced me into it."
And what about you? What choices will you make? In your heart you know those things that are right and wrong. You know the things that would please God. Don't be like Pilate and let the world pressure you into doing things that you later regret. True, there will always be murder. There will always be hatred. There will always be drugs and alcohol. There will always be opportunities to steal. But you can take a stand and say, "No, I will have no part in that. I choose to obey God rather than men."
If you go along with the world, you will ultimately experience much pain. You will do things that you later regret with all of your heart. But I can guarantee you that if you follow Christ with all your heart and let Him guide you, you will never regret that. You will never say the words, "I regret living the way God commanded me to live."
Usually we give in to peer pressure from our friends and from the world in order to fit in with certain people and to feel like we belong. Usually we voluntarily behave certain ways in order to get along with people and blend in with the crowd. You usually have a choice of how you will act. If you decide to do your own thing, you might get laughed at or talked about or shunned, but you probably won't get killed.
But what if you faced a situation where your only choices were either go along with the crowd and live, or stand up for your Christian faith and die? Would you be able to stand tall for Christ, or would you give in to the pressure and turn your back on your Savior?
Well, tonight we are going to talk about three teenage young men who had to make that very decision. We're going to read the story of some young men named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah found in the book of Daniel, and we're going to see how they handled a most extreme form of peer pressure.
To give you a little background on these three young men, they were from a place called Judah. The place where they lived was captured by the Babylonian Empire, which was ruled by a king named Nebuchadnezzar. The king sent out an order that he wanted some of the young men from Judah who were smart and quick to learn and handsome brought to his palace so that they could be trained up to serve him. They were taken prisoner. They were taught the language and history of Babylon, and after three years they were taken into the king's service. Read about it in Daniel 1:2-7
Daniel 1:2-7 Click To Read
As you just read, one of the first things Nebuchadnezzar had done to the young men was he changed their names. I think he did that to try to break their spirit and distance them from their upbringing. Shadrach's original name was Hananiah, which meant, "The Lord is gracious." But the king changed his name to "Shadrach," which means "I am fearful of the god." Meshach's original name was Mishael, which meant, "Who is what God is?" or "No one is as great as God." The king changed his name to "Meshach," which means, "I am of little account." Abed-Nego's original name was Azariah, which means, "The Lord has helped me." The king changed his name to a name which means "Servant of the god Nebo."
And the devil and this world try to do the same thing to us. The world maybe doesn't change your name, but it will try to separate you from the relationship you have with God. The world will try to change you into something different than what God created you to be. The world wants you to forget about God. And just like these young men were taken from their home and from their beliefs, Satan will try to separate you from God a little at a time. Like we've said before, he will start by putting the idea in your head that you don't really need to go to church or that you should neglect reading the Bible. Satan wants you to be defenseless and vulnerable.
Now, back to the Bible. Let's read again something else that the king tried to do to the young men to mold them into what he wanted them to become. Read Daniel 1:5, Daniel 8:16
Daniel 1:5; 8:16 Click To Read
Now, you might think what is the big deal? Why wouldn't they eat the food and drink the wine? But they told the king's chief that they wouldn't defile their bodies in that way. And the reason they didn't want to eat the food is probably because they knew that it was meat that had been dedicated to false gods. And they probably didn't want to drink the wine because they wanted to remain clear-headed and not have anything weaken their minds or cloud their judgment. They didn't want to compromise their beliefs in any area.
Even though to us this might sound like something small, as Christians we should know that if we don't stand for Christ in the small things, then we are only fooling ourselves if we think we will persevere and be able to stand when really put to the test. Don't you know that the devil is always trying to get you to lower your guard? And the devil is smart. He knows he cannot outright trick you. He's not going to say, "Hey, why don't you become an alcoholic." No. He starts off with, "Why don't you just take a sip of beer just to taste it. What's the harm?" He will say, "Everybody's doing it. It's `in' to get high."
Have you ever done something that maybe got you in trouble and when someone asked you why you did it, your answer was "Well, everybody else was doing it." Then the person responded, "If everybody jumps off a cliff, are you going to do it, too?" Lots of times we use "Everybody is doing it" as a reason to explain or excuse our behavior, but as Christians we are not supposed to be like everybody else. We are supposed to stand out from the crowd. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego from the very beginning showed that they weren't interested in being like everybody else.
And what about you? Wouldn't you rather be special and unique and blessed by God instead of being just another face in the crowd? In the Bible, we read that even the king could see that these three young men were unique and that they were the best men around. Daniel 1:18-20
Daniel 1:18-20 Click To Read
So the young men lived in the king's palace and held very high positions of authority. But now the real pressure is about to come. There came a time when King Nebuchadnezzar had an image of gold made of himself that was 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. And he sent word to all of the chief officials to come to a dedication ceremony to see his great statue. Then an order was given that as soon as they heard the music, they were all to fall down and worship the image of gold that the king had set up. And if anyone did not fall down and worship his statue as a god, they would immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. Daniel 3:4-7
Daniel 3:4-7 Click To Read
Can you imagine what that scene looked like? There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of people gathered to pay worship to the king and his image. And the music is played and everyone drops except these three young who love the true and living God that we serve. They refuse to bow to an idol. Let's see what happened next. Daniel 3:8-18
Daniel 3:8-18 Click To Read
As you can see, these young men had a lot to lose. They were in positions of power, living in an opulent atmosphere. To not bow meant they would lose all of that and possibly their lives. But they were willing to trust that God would see them through this. They knew that it is better to burn for a few minutes and die for being obedient to God than to burn for eternity, which is what the people who bowed to the idol faced. They knew that with God on their side, they would be victorious either way. If God saved them from the fire, good, or if they died and got to be with their Heavenly Father in heaven, that was fine, too. But they would not worship the gold image.
Some people think that God always has to save them. Maybe He will and maybe He won't, but either way you should have the kind of faith and contentment that comes from knowing that God will be with you through whatever is going on in your life. God is good whether He heals your body or not. God is good whether you get released tomorrow or you have to be locked up for some time. He's good if he answers your prayers today or next year or even ten years from now.
Well, back to the boys. Read Daniel 3:19-30
Daniel 3:19-30 Click To Read
Here we see that God works in many different ways. God could have done something to the king and kept the young men from having to walk through the fire, but instead He chose to stand with them right in the middle of it and protect them. Sometimes God wants us to face hardships in our life because He knows that it helps to build us up and ultimately strengthens our faith. Isaiah 43:2 reads, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
So if any of you in the past have wondered why God hasn't answered your prayers and changed your circumstances and gotten you out of here, instead be thankful that you have God to comfort you, and ask Him to open your eyes that you might see the lessons He would have you learn. 1 Peter 1:6-7 reads "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
I have a question: How many of you would die for Christ? If the pressure was on and you had the choice of bowing down and turning your back on God or facing death, could you be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego? And for those of you who said you would die, here's another important question: Will you live for Christ? I think in a way it is easier to die a quick death for your faith than it is to live every day for Christ, to not go along with the crowd, but to stand up and live your life so that people see Christ living in you. A lot of us have asked Christ to come into our lives to be our Savior, and that's great, but there has to come a time when you ask him to also be your Lord. That means you surrender your life to Him.
And in the end, people will respect you more if you stand up for what you believe in. We read how after all was said and done, the king respected the boys and promoted them. God can do that. He will turn things around to where even your enemies will be at peace with you. The way to reach people isn't by coming down to their level. It is by holding your head up high and standing your ground. Later in the Book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar is further humbled by God and ultimately ends up recognizing God as the one and only true living God, and he praises Him. (Found in Daniel 4:34-37
.) And who first introduced him to God? Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.
Daniel 4:34-37 Click To Read
And we, too, can play a part in introducing our unsaved friends to the one true living God when they see us live lives that honor God and when we refuse to bow down to peer pressure.
Peer pressure happens, basically, when we lose focus. Instead of focusing on God and listening to God's voice and being in touch with what God is trying to do in our lives, we start looking at those people around us. Then we start worrying so much about what other people do and what other people think that we let other people influence our actions. Ultimately we can even miss out on what God is trying to do with our life. So peer pressure happens when instead of going forward towards God, we get stuck trying to fit in with the world.
Let me ask you guys something: Are you being influenced by God or by your friends, those people you hang out with? Have you lost focus of the Lord and just become part of the world? Let's read a bible account that shows how one of Jesus' followers started off strong, seemed to be on the right track, but then temporarily lost focus and was influenced by the crowd. This man's name is Peter.
Peter was one of those kind of people who always spoke up. When he was with other Christians, he seemed to really love the Lord. He even promised Jesus in front of many others that he would never leave Jesus. Peter exclaimed that he was even willing to die for his faith. Yes, Peter said all the right things when there was no pressure, no distractions. Let's read. Matthew 26:31-35, "Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples."
As we just read, Peter and the other disciples made some strong promises to the Lord. And that's true of many of us Christians. It's easy to follow Christ when you are surrounded by other believers and when Christ is the center of your attention. For the hour that we come together and read our Bibles and talk, your faith is strong. When there's no one around you offering some kind of temptation or when you don't have the world forcing you to choose, there's no pressure. You feel as though there is no way you would betray Christ.
And that's great. That strength that you get from being around other believers is something that you should rely on. That is one of the reasons why it is important to be involved in church and to be involved with other Christians. We build each other up. But like we said before, the real test is going to come when you are outside of your Christian circles. Though you are sincere now in bible study, what about when you are back home with the same old sinful people in your old neighborhood? The Bible warns us that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:14).
Like Peter, how many of us have made big promises to the Lord, but later didn't follow through? Well, if you read this bible account before, you know that later Peter wasn't able to follow through on his promises. Let's see the mistakes that Peter made when the pressure was on, because they will show you why he ended up sinning and eventually denied even knowing Christ. So back to the Bible. The next thing that happened was a great multitude came with swords and clubs to take Jesus away to be tried and crucified. Let's see how Peter and the other disciples acted when faced with this test of their sincerity. Read Matthew 26:47-50, "And while he [speaking of Jesus] yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him."
Matthew 26:51-56, "And behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest, and smote off his ear. Then Jesus said unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him and fled."
At first, impulsive Peter grabbed a sword and cut off the ear of one of the guards. But Christ doesn't want us to take a stand for Him by using violence. God doesn't want us to kill people who don't share our faith. He doesn't want us to secretly blow up abortion clinics or do harm to those who are doing wrong. God wants us to courageously speak out against sin. God wants us to let our Christian faith be known even in those situations when it might make someone in a position of power not like us. Jesus wants us to stand tall for Him by our words and actions even when it means we might be crucified (figuratively or literally) because of it. A person that takes a stand for Christ against the world and doesn't back down no matter what the situation is, is more courageous than someone who uses a weapon to show how tough they are.
But, sadly, as we just read, the disciples weren't yet ready to take a stand for Christ against the multitude. Peter and all the rest of the disciples deserted Christ as soon as the going got tough. They lost focus. They forgot that Jesus is God. They forgot all the things he taught them, all the miracles they had witnessed. They forgot the declarations of love they had made, and they let the world influence them.
Again, is that what you are going to do? As soon as you are back on your block and back with your unsaved friends, are you going to bail out on Christ? The disciples left Jesus because they were afraid. Will you let fear make you desert Christ? (fear of being unpopular, fear of being misunderstood). I bet that breaks God's heart. Even though he knows that we are going to do it, I bet it saddens Him greatly when we let the world influence our actions and we desert Him.
Now back to the bible. They take Christ away, and all of the disciples have deserted him. But Peter did follow from a distance to see what they were going to do with Jesus. Luke 22:54 reads, "Then took they him, and led him and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off."
It says that Peter followed Jesus, but from afar off. And that's the second mistake that Peter made and a mistake that we often make. Even though we know that we are our strongest against the pressure of this world when we stay close to Christ and read our Bible and pray often, we sometimes let ourselves get into a pattern of following Christ from a distance. How? For example, sure, we own a Bible, but we seldom read it. We know the power of prayer, but we only pray after we've made a mistake. We love Christ and have faith in Him, but we treat him like a long-distance friend. After a while, we get to a point where we are spending all of our time with the enemy, and we forget about Christ altogether. And that's what Peter did next.
Read Luke 22:55, "And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them." What is Peter doing? First he ran when the going got tough. He didn't stand tall for Christ. And now he is following Christ from a distance and sitting down at the fire with the enemy, the very people who led Jesus away! And, remember, Jesus had even warned Peter that he would deny him. Let's see how that happens just like Christ said it would.
Luke 22:56-57, "But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.'" Have you ever done that? Do you act one way at church? Maybe you are neatly dressed and polite and kind of respectful and quiet. Then when you get around people who aren't Christians, do you begin to try to blend in with those people and by your actions deny even knowing Christ? And then later, you maybe feel bad because of what you had been doing. But instead of getting away from those people who cause you to deny Christ, you make the mistake that Peter made and just stay right there even longer with the enemy.
So Peter has already denied knowing Jesus once. Let's see what happens next. Luke 22:58, "And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not." Here we have denial number two. And this guy Peter is talking to was a relative of the guy whose ear Peter cut off. But Peter still thinks he can get away with lying and denying. He's letting the pressure of the world dictate what he does. Let's read on.
Luke 22:59-62, "And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him; for he is a Galilean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly."
Why is it that we can see the trouble and we can know that we are making a mistake, yet we don't do anything to stop ourselves from doing something that we later regret? Can you imagine how sad Peter must have felt when he realized he had denied Christ three times, just like Jesus predicted he would? Have you ever done something because you put yourself at the wrong place at the wrong time, and then later you ended up weeping bitterly because you knew you had messed up and let the Lord down? Have you ever had to look in the eyes of someone who you knew you disappointed? Like Peter, have you ever been ashamed to face Christ?
Well, we can learn from Peter's mistake. Again, the mistake that Peter made was being at the enemy's fire in the first place. Why would someone put himself or herself in a position where they are going to be the most vulnerable? If you have issues with alcohol, don't go to happy hour or to that party. If you have sinned because of sexual situations, don't be over that woman or man's house alone late at night. Wherever the pressure comes from, avoid that situation!
And why didn't Peter leave after the first time he denied knowing Christ? It wasn't until AFTER Peter did exactly what Jesus said he would do that he left that pressure-filled situation. Why, oh, why can't we learn the lesson BEFORE we shame ourselves?
In closing, know that there are pressures in this world. The pressure comes from your peers, it comes from the media, and it's all around us. If you truly love the Lord, then don't follow Christ from a distance. Don't deny Christ by your actions. Read your Bible daily. Pray daily. Find a good church to fellowship with. And surround yourself with people who will help you to grow in your faith. And if you have been a liar or thief or violent person or drunkard or sexually immoral person in the past, TODAY can be the day when you see those sins the way God sees them, and turn from them. You can stop living like the rest of the world and start being a true follower of Christ!
And fortunately for us, God is so good that even when we've denied Him in the past and given in to the temptation of this world, he will still give us another chance. But only if we sincerely ask his forgiveness and admit our mistakes and turn from them.
Jesus gave Peter a second chance. After Christ was crucified and rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples. In front of everybody, Jesus specifically asked Peter if he loved him. And when Peter said, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you," Jesus told Peter, "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-19). What the Lord meant by that was that he wanted Peter to take on the role of a leader. Jesus knew that Peter was truly sorry for denying Him in the past, and he showed Peter that he still believed in him and that he wanted to use him for great things.
And Peter went on to do many works in the name of Christ. He boldly spoke out and told others about Jesus and about the need for people to turn from their sins (Acts 2:38, 4:13). God allowed Peter to do great miracles (Acts 3:4, 9:34, 9:40). Peter took on the role of leader and rebuked his fellow Christians when they acted out of God's will (Acts 5:3, 8:20). These are just a few examples. Much of the New Testament tells of the things that Peter later did. Peter was without fear! He was thrown into prison. He was bound with chains. He was beaten. He eventually was even killed for being a Christian. Peter went from being someone who at first gave in to worldly pressure, to ultimately becoming someone God used in a mighty way. And God can do the same for you, but you have to make a choice: Jesus or the world.
When Peter was trying to stand with the world, he was lying and denying. But, oh, the great things God can do to and through those who boldly choose to acknowledge that they are followers of Christ and who are willing to be used! Will you come out from the crowd and be a true disciple?[End]
Rena Furbert is a dear sister in Christ residing in Canada, and presently doing the Lord's work in seeking to help our troubled youth in a juvenile facility located in the North.