Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Denial

            “‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them . . .
            Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’
            ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’
            But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’  And all the others said the same.’  (Mark 14:27-31)
           
            Peter was so sure that he would stand by Jesus’ side through thick and thin.  He spent 24 hours a day with Jesus for several years.  He knew Him to be a supernatural being, capable of miracles and healings and casting out demons.  He knew Jesus was the Truth in a sea of lies.  There was no way Peter would deny the Lord.  Knowing Him that well and having a deep faith and personal, intimate relationship with Him, who could possibly deny Jesus?

            Each and every one of the disciples. 
            And each and every one of us, too - that’s who!

            We deny His omniscience when a new urgent concern comes up and we pray like He has no idea what is going on, or when we sin and act like He doesn’t notice.
            We deny His caring heart when we pray like He has to be talked into doing the “best” thing for us, into caring for us and about us. 
            We deny His wisdom when we try to take the control, acting like we know better than He does. 
            We deny His power every time we “shorten His arm” (Numbers 11:23) and doubt that He can do what we are asking Him to do.
            We deny His love when we live behind walls - hiding the broken pieces of our hearts from Him and keeping certain rooms of our heart closed off from Him because we can’t trust anybody with what’s inside.  Not even Him! 
            We deny His faithfulness when we panic during each new trial or lose hope during those long times of “wandering around the desert,” acting like He doesn’t have a plan and couldn’t possibly handle our concerns.
            We deny His sovereignty when we despair and fail to trust Him and wait on Him and remain obedient to Him during the trials and darkened paths, when we fail to trust that He will work things out for the best and will make good out of the bad, even if it doesn’t happen while we are still on earth. 
            We deny His authority when we fail to live obediently and fail to seek His guidance before we act. 
            We deny His forgiveness every time we hold a grudge against someone else (or against ourselves).
            We deny His goodness when we fail to see the blessings and fail to live in thankfulness for them.
            We deny His mercy when we believe that we are hopeless cases, too far gone for Him to forgive and love.
            We deny His grace when we live like we have to earn His forgiveness, love, and salvation, when we fail to accept them as the free, unconditional, already-available gifts that they are.  They are ours for the asking and accepting, but they are never “earnable.” 
            We deny His holiness when we make choices that are not God-glorifying, when we compromise our values and morals just a little bit, when we fear those around us more than we fear God, and when we seek to appease and please those around us instead of our Heavenly Father.
            We deny His justness (justice) when we live like He winks at sin and like He lets the small ones slide, and when we spread the idea that God is a soft, mushy “only about the love” kind of God.
            We deny His providence when we hoard and pursue money, don’t tithe, don’t live generously, and don’t give to the needy.
            We deny Him every time we fail to see Him in His creation, to remember that He is with us through everything, to focus on Him and seek Him above all else, to see Him in the people around us, to treat others as His valued and loved creation, and to live in a way that shines His love and truth for all to see.

            We will all “fall away” many times and in many ways throughout our lives. 

            But we will have the opportunity and a responsibility to make it right again. 

            After Jesus rose again, He gave Peter the chance to correct the mistake he made when he denied Him.  Peter had denied Jesus three times.  And in John 21:15-17, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him.  Peter had a chance to make it right. 
            And we will too.  When we have done wrong, there will be a time when we have the opportunity and responsibility to make it right (as right as can be on this side of eternity).  And if your heart is sensitive, He will lead you to know how and when.  (The sooner, the better.) 

            Maybe it’s by . . .
            - admitting you were wrong,
            - asking for forgiveness,
            - coming clean about a lie or finally keeping a promise,
            - opening up to Him the part of your heart that you have kept closed for so long,
            - loosening your grip on money,
            - examining and re-ordering your priorities and where you are storing up your treasures,
            - seriously examining your life and home and making necessary changes,
            - giving up “idols of the heart,”
            - taking the first genuine step out of habitual sin,
            - letting go of the control and giving it to Him,
            - finally learning to trust Him and wait on Him in the trials,
            - overcoming a fear that you have lived with,
            - correcting a misconception you have about yourself, others, or Him,
            - finally learning to stand up for your faith instead of hiding it,
            - letting go of bitterness or unforgiveness or self-pity,
            - finally admitting you desperately need Him,
            - humbly accepting the job and position He gave you at this season of life and glorifying Him by working at it, to the best of your ability,
            - learning humility,
            - etc.

            Whatever it is, remember that these are opportunities from the Lord.  Never let the chance to do the right thing pass you up.  Your response will greatly affect the condition of your relationship with Him and the path that you take in life.  Peter’s willingness to proclaim his love for Christ led him back to the heart of Christ, back into fellowship with Him and able to fulfill the Lord’s plans and purpose for him. 
            Be willing to follow Him where He leads, unless you want to end up on a path that leads away from Him.  It’s not the mistakes we make that most affect our relationship with the Lord.  (He is big enough to cover those mistakes and good enough to forgive and forget those mistakes, to wipe the slate clean).  It’s whether or not we make it right again and draw near to the Lord in humility once more. 

            We will all fall away.  But will we all return?                


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