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The Path to Denial

The Path to Denial
Words of Faith 3-10-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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John 18
[15] Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's courtyard, [16] but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
[17] "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" the girl at the door asked Peter.
He replied, "I am not."
[18] It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
. . .
[25] As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?"
He denied it, saying, "I am not."
[26] One of the high priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, "Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove?" [27] Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

Denial is different from betrayal. Betrayal is plotted over time. Denial comes not by intention but by slow neglect. We determine to betray. We slide into denial. Peter was different from Judas but there was anguish and despair for both.
Peter’s denial of Jesus started when he followed Jesus at a distance. Distance is comfortable. Distance is safe. Distance keeps the connection vague but gives the opportunity for options and escape. It is very easy to rationalize following Jesus at a distance. It makes sense. It seems more “normal”. Such distance seems “safer” but it is not.
The next step of denial was when Peter stood outside the house of Caiaphas. Peter stood outside the presence of Jesus. Here he was recognized as a follower of Jesus but he did not want that identification. He did not want to come in to where Jesus was. He wanted to be accepted by the crowd outside. He did not want to be rejected by those in the courtyard.
The next step of denial was when Peter warmed himself by the fire in the courtyard. He found fellowship with the world out in that courtyard. He listened and laughed. He found warmth in friendship with the world.
The final step came when someone recognized Peter from the garden. It was no longer deniable. The issue was forced and Peter made the bold declaration that he did not know Jesus. The other Gospels tell us that Peter used curses-- the language of the world-- to make sure he was believed.
As the cock crowed, Peter realized what he had done. His own words must have stunned him as he realized what he had done.
Our path to denial is similar. It starts when we follow Jesus at a safe distance. We want to be identified with Jesus, but not too closely. We want to be close to Him in case there is an emergency, but not so close that we might be directed or controlled by Him. We want to be “in church”, but not a “fanatic”.
With some distance from Jesus it is easy to find ourselves feeling outside His presence. He never leaves us but we place ourselves “outside”. We may reason that, after all, we want to reach the world. So we become a bit more like it. We begin to warm ourselves at the fires of the world. We gain our comfort from the same things that warm those who are of the world. We find our meaning and warmth in the things, possessions, achievements, and fleeting pastimes of the world. The more the things of the world warm our heart, the more our heart grows cold for Jesus.
Then one day we say it. We actually deny that Jesus in the Lord. Maybe not in so many words but we deny the way of the Lord. Perhaps we agree with the disdain for “those religious people”. Or we agree that those who follow Jesus are “fanatics”. We may use the “language of the world” or join in its cynicism. Or perhaps someone notices something that we know is a blessing from God and rather than give Jesus the glory, we take the credit. Denial.
When we come to the place of denial, we always wonder how we got there. No one sets out to deny Jesus. But somehow we slip away and find ourselves in this worldly place where we are saying that Jesus is not so important. The good news is that Peter was restored and we can be too. If we have grown cold in our heart for Jesus, we can come back to Him. He is the God of grace and restoration.
How can we avoid the place of denial?
1) Stay close to Him. Don’t follow at a distance. Keep close to Jesus even if it seems dangerous. Close to Jesus always the safest place to be.
2) Be careful of the world. We must be in the world but we must not be of it. We will interact near the fires of the world but we must not warm ourselves by them. We are called to minister to people around those fires but will not do so by being seduced by their warmth.

Lord, keep me close to You. Draw me nearer, O God. Give me a close walk with You today. Give me the wisdom to know when I am being warmed by the world rather than by You. Forgive me my missteps. In Jesus’ name.

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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2002, 2017
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)
2820 Business Center Blvd.
Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200
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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.