Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
The Christian life is not for the faint of heart. It is full of dangers, hardships, sufferings. And it is full of temptations to quit, to go the way of the world and to give in to fear, greed, hatred, anger, worldliness … It is through many tribulations that we must enter the Kingdom of God, Paul told the church in Antioch (Acts 14:23). But God has given us everything we need not to give in to these things.
Because of this, at least in part, the Scriptures are full of warnings. Warnings from God about falling away, becoming like the ungodly, going our own way, doing our own thing, pride, self-righteousness, self-confidence, self-centeredness, lovelessness, faithlessness, hopelessness, worldliness … . The list is very long of the things that we are tempted to do to forsake the faith.
Colossians 2:8 – See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Hebrews 3:12 – Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
I Corinthians 10:12 – Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
I Timothy 6:20 – O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,
Ephesians 4:14 – that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Philemon 1:24, Colossians 4:14 – II Timothy 4:10
Jeremiah 17:9 – the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked
I Corinthians 9:24-27 – 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
II Peter 3:17 – You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.
We are warned about the sins that lie in wait to trap us and cause us to fall because we are so liable to be trapped and fall away. We can look at Peter, in the Gospel accounts of the events leading up to his denial, and shake our heads in amazement regarding his pride and arrogance in light of the warning that Jesus gave him. Just a few short hours before Peter would deny that he even knew Him, Jesus told Peter that he would do it. Peter just did not believe that he was capable of doing such a horrible thing.
But if Jesus now speaks to us through the Scriptures, are we doing any better than Peter if we do not read the Word, memorize Scripture, get in a Bible study, attend to the preaching of the Word and take painfully seriously all the warnings that He, out of His love for us, gives us in His Word? These things are not about us just knowing more stuff or being able to confound others with our wisdom. They are about keeping us from apostasy.
Why does God keep doing this? Why does He so repeatedly hammer on us about our weakness and proneness to fall? If you read your Bible at least one or two days a week, you are going to encounter some hero of the faith who fell, some warning from God to be careful. And God, in His love for His children gives us these warnings because we need to be reminded. Because without these constant warnings we will forget to take stock. Because without them we will run away from Him. We need to be warned. We need to be yelled at. We need to be told that we cannot make it on our own. These texts are written to us. They are written to us because we need to be warned.
I Corinthians 10:1-11 – For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Are we the exception to this reason why God preserved the Old Testament? We are not. You are not. Peter had the stories of Israel in his head. He knew about the failings of Israel in the wilderness. He knew about the sins they committed and the judgements of God that came as a result. But he fell anyway. Jesus warned him a few short hours before the event. And he fell anyway. We should not think that we are better. We are not.
Say all you want about the Holy Spirit not yet being given when Peter was tempted, the fact is, that there are an awful lot of ways that we are like Peter. If the giving of the Holy Spirit meant that we could not fall into grievous sin, then we would have the warnings that permeate the New Testament.
Heed the warnings – today.