“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.”—Luke 22:61, 62.
That was the turning-point in the history of Peter. Christ had said to him: “Thou canst not follow me now.” Peter was not in a fit state to follow Christ, because he had not been brought to an end of himself; he did not know himself, and he therefore could not follow Christ. But when he went out and wept bitterly, then came the great change. Christ previously said to him: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Here is the point where Peter was converted from self to Christ.
I thank God for the story of Peter. I do not know a man in the Bible who gives us greater comfort. When we look at his character, so full of failures, and at what Christ made him by the power of the Holy Ghost, there is hope for every one of us. But remember, before Christ could fill Peter with the Holy Spirit, and make a new man of him, he had to go out and weep bitterly; he had to be humbled. If we want to understand this, I think there are four points that we must look at. First, let us look at Peter the devoted disciple of Jesus; next, at Peter as he lived the life of self; then at Peter in his repentance; and, lastly, at what Christ made of Peter by the Holy Spirit.
First, then, look at PETER THE DEVOTED DISCIPLE OF CHRIST
Christ called Peter to forsake his nets and follow Him. Peter did it at once, and he afterwards could say rightly to the Lord:
“We have forsaken all and followed Thee.”
Peter was a man of absolute surrender; he gave up all to follow Jesus. Peter was also a man of ready obedience. You remember Christ said to him: “Launch out into the deep, and let down the net.” Peter the fisherman knew there were no fish there, for they had been toiling all night and had caught nothing; but he said: “At Thy word I will let down the net.” He submitted to the word of Jesus. Further, he was a man of great faith. When he saw Christ walking on the sea, he said: “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee”; and at the voice of Christ he stepped out of the boat and walked upon the water. And Peter was a man of spiritual insight. When Christ asked the disciples: “Whom do ye say that I am?” Peter was able to answer: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Christ said: “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” And Christ spoke of him as the rock man, and of his having the keys of the kingdom. Peter was a splendid man, a devoted disciple of Jesus, and if he was living nowadays, everybody would say that he was an advanced Christian. And yet how much there was wanting in Peter!
Look next at PETER LIVING THE LIFE OF SELF pleasing self, and trusting self, and seeking the honor of self.
You recollect that just after Christ had said to him: “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven,” Christ began to speak about His sufferings, and Peter dared to say: “Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee.” Then Christ had to say:
“Get thee behind me, Satan; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
There was Peter in his self-will, trusting his own wisdom, and actually forbidding Christ to go and die. Whence did that come? Peter trusted in himself and his own thoughts about divine things. We see later on, more than once, that among the disciples there was a questioning who should be the greatest, and Peter was one of them, and he thought he had a right to the very first place. He sought his own honor even above the others. It was the life of self strong in Peter. He had left his boats and his nets, but not his old self.
When Christ had spoken to him about His sufferings, and said: “Get thee behind me, Satan,” He followed it up by saying: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” No man can follow Him unless he do that. Self must be utterly denied. What does that mean? When Peter denied Christ, we read that he three times said: “I do not know the man”; in other words: “I have nothing to do with Him; He and I are no friends; I deny having any connection with Him.” Christ told Peter that he must deny self. Self must be ignored, and its every claim rejected. That is
THE ROOT OF TRUE DISCIPLESHIP
but Peter did not understand it, and could not obey it. And what happened? When the last night came, Christ said to him:
“Before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny me thrice.”
But with what self-confidence Peter said: “Though all should forsake Thee, yet will not I. I am ready to go with Thee, to prison and to death.”
Peter meant it honestly, and Peter really intended to do it; but Peter did not know himself. He did not believe he was so bad as Jesus said he was.
We perhaps think of individual sins that come between us and God, but what are we to do with that self-life which is all unclean, our very nature? What are we to do with that flesh that is entirely under the power of sin? Deliverance from that is what we need. Peter knew it not, and therefore it was that in his self-confidence he went forth, and denied his Lord.
Notice how Christ uses that word deny twice. He said to Peter the first time, Deny self; He said to Peter the second time, Thou wilt deny me. It is either of the two. There is no choice for us; we must either deny self or deny Christ. There are two great powers fighting each other—the self-nature in the power of sin, and Christ in the power of God. Either of these must rule within us.
It was self that made the devil. He was an angel of God, but he wanted to exalt self. He became a devil in hell. Self was the cause of the fall of man. Eve wanted something for herself, and so our first parents fell into all the wretchedness of sin. We their children have inherited an awful nature of sin.
Murray, Andrew. 1897. Absolute Surrender. New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell Company.
Check out our Bible Study on the book by classic book by John Murray, Absolute Surrender
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.