Joe Grimaldi is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Kenmore in Akron, Ohio.
“And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee. But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all. And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.” (Mark 14:26-35)
Notice what Peter says here and what Jesus says to him. Jesus said in verse 30, “...That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.” But notice verse 31, “But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.” Here is the title – The Downward Steps to Denial. We know that Peter is going to deny the Lord. We know that what the Lord says is going to be true, even though Peter has denied it once and now vehemently says he will not do that. By the way, notice his leadership abilities with all the other disciples in verse 31, “...Likewise also said they all.” The rest of the disciples followed along with Peter, and said, “There is no way we are going to deny You, either.” But obviously before the day was done, Peter had denied the Lord, not just once, but three times.
I believe there is a downward process that happens before we deny the Lord -- a danger in all of our lives. I’m going to point out those things about Peter’s life. Peter had a close relationship with Jesus, yet he denied the Lord. Most of the time we think there is no way. “That will never happen to me.” That will never happen to us, our family, our children, not my wife or my husband. That will never happen to my church. But it happens to the best of them. It can happen to any of us, myself included. We need to take a good look at these steps, that in my opinion, led to Peter denying the Lord -- the downward steps to denial.
Let me point out Peter’s relationship by way of introduction. Notice that he was hand-picked by Jesus in Matthew 4:18-20. “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” Jesus hand-picked him to be one of the disciples and to follow Him.
Not only that, but he accompanied Jesus pretty much everywhere He went. In verse 32, He is going into the garden of Gethsemane, the garden of agony here. In verse 32-33 Jesus says, “...Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John,...” Do you realize how many times you find that in the Scriptures? I’ll point out a few of them.
In Mark 5:35-37 the Bible says, “While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.” When He is going to heal Jairus’ daughter He says to everyone else, “You stay here. Peter, James, and John, you come with Me.”
Mark 9:2 says, “And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.” On the Mount of Transfiguration, the only three people He takes with Him are Peter, James, and John.
These are just the instances in Mark where we see Jesus taking Peter with Him. If there is anybody included in the inner circle, it’s Peter. If anybody is close to the Lord and one of the “special” disciples, it’s Peter. Peter was personally called and hand-picked by the Lord to be one of the disciples and followers. He was in that inner circle of people that seemed to go with Him everywhere close by His side.
Peter also seemed to be the leader among the disciples. In Matthew 16:18 the Bible says, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Can you imagine all the other disciples standing there, yet the Lord speaks to Peter when Peter replies, “...Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The Lord said to him, “...That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church;...” Peter was the leader.
Notice them following Peter’s example in Mark 14:31, “...Likewise also said they all.” By the way, that can be both a positive and negative thing. Remember after Jesus’ death that Peter said, “I go a fishing,” and they said, “we go also.” He was a leader. Peter was hand-picked by the Lord, accompanied Jesus nearly everywhere, and was part of the inner-circle. He seemed to be the leader among the disciples. If anybody would stay true and not deny the Lord, surely it would be Peter! You could look at him and say, “This guy is never going to fall out of favor with God. He will never get to the place where he denies his faith.” Yet, before the night is over, he denies Him, not once, not twice, but three times. Less than 24 hours from the time he cut off Malchus’ ear to defend Jesus, less than 24 hours after he stands up and says, “Even if it means death, I’ll follow You to the cross myself,” Peter denies Him three times.
Friend, I want you to understand we are all in the same position where we could very easily deny the Lord. What a shameful thing Peter had to live with after he denied the Lord. Yes, he did go on and do great things. We’ll talk about that in a few moments, but understand that though he went on and did great things, this probably lingered with him to some degree, that he had failed and denied the Lord three times.
Not only did Peter deny Him three times, but he denied Him three times when the Lord needed him most. He denied Him three times when the Lord was going through the false accusations and trials that would lead to His death on the cross. If there was ever a time when Jesus needed him to stand up and stay close to Him, it was that time. Yet at the most crucial time, he denied the Lord. It seems that the devil quite often dupes and tricks us into denying the Lord at the times when we need to be strongest.
In my lifetime, all the way back to when I was a kid and a teenager, I’ve seen all sorts of church problems and situations. I think some really good people have done some really carnal and stupid things at very difficult times in their church’s life. Times that, if ever they needed to step up and let their faith shine and show the Christian graces, it was then. Yet, it was at that time that they really denied the Lord and showed themselves to be very carnal.
Peter did the same thing. Here is the difference. On the day of Pentecost, Peter is the great preacher used of God to preach the Gospel to multitudes, and see 3,000 people saved, baptized, and added to the church. But if that was now-a-days, the other disciples would never have let him be part of the group. Because after all, he denied the Lord. By the way, where were they at? What were they doing? He denied the Lord, but some of them probably weren’t there at all. I’m saying that we live in an era where it is much more difficult for people to ever reclaim or “redeem” themselves, to ever get back on their feet. The reason is, though God is a God that can forgive and forget, even people who can forgive never forget, and they put all sorts of parameters on it. “Now that you’ve done that, you can never do this.” They would have never let Peter be the preacher or the guy in charge at Pentecost. They would have never followed Peter anymore. But God chose to use him again in a big way.
Let me give you the downward steps to denial.
#1. The first step is that we are deceived by pride. Look at verse 29. “But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” Peter said, “All these other disciples, they might deny You, but it’s not going to happen to me.” Then after the Lord speaks to him and tells him that he is going to deny Him before the cock crows twice, notice what it says in verse 31. “But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise...” He said there is no way, no possibility that I could deny you, it will not happen, even if they kill me with You. I don’t care what happens. I’m never going to deny You.” The first downward step toward denial is pride. Let me say several things about pride.
First of all, pride always precedes more devastating sins. That’s why the Bible in Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” You hear me mention quite often about not coming forward to the altar. Why? Because often that’s a prideful thing. It’s a humbling thing to come forward in services and kneel at an altar. That’s why I think it is important that we keep having altar calls, and we keep the invitation alive, and keep people moving down the aisles, because we don’t want to get so prideful. We don’t want to get to a place where we think we are too good for that, or beyond that, or that’s just for the terrible, wicked sinners, but not for me. I’ve always wondered about that. What’s the difference between wicked sin and not-so-wicked sin? Wicked sin is what someone else commits. Understand that pride is always that sin that precedes so many other devastating sins.
Not only does pride precede more devastating sins, but pride puts your will above God’s will. Pride always puts your will above God’s will. Two things I’ll point out to you. Isaiah 14:14, talking about the devil, remember what he said. Actually at this time, he is still an angel of light. But he says, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” It was the devil’s sin of pride where he put his will, “I will,” above God’s will, and it made a devil out of an angel. What do you think it does to you? When you put your will above God’s will, if it made a devil out of an angel in Lucifer’s case, won’t it do the same to you and more? Won’t it be worse and more devastating to you? Of course.
When Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane, remember one of the things He prayed in Mark 14:36 is this: “And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” Peter is going to see a great example of someone who puts God’s will above their own will. Yet, in a few hours, he doesn’t follow Christ’s example, but he makes these devastating mistakes instead of putting God’s will first.
I don’t know what you think is more important than doing things God’s way, but it’s obvious in many choices we make every week that we put our will above the will of God. Every time you put your will above the will of God, you are taking another downward step, and those steps will lead you eventually to denial, a place you never thought you’d go. Because after all, I’m close to the Lord. Peter was close to the Lord. After all, I’m serving God. Peter was serving God. After all, I’m a leader. Peter was a leader. It doesn’t matter. Those steps are going to lead you to a place you never wanted to be. It starts out with pride. Pride always precedes more devastating sins. It puts your will above God’s will. Pride produced the devil. Isaiah 14:15 says, “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” If it produced a devil out of one of the three archangels, just consider how devastating pride can be to you and me.
#2. The second step downward is being dulled by laziness. Look at Mark 14:32-37. “And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou?...” How many people are there? Four counting the Lord, right? Who does He call out? Peter. Why? Peter is the leader, the main guy. If you get Peter in line, people are going to follow him. They’ll follow him to do wrong, or they’ll follow him to do right.
By the way, you have to realize something. Everybody is a leader. There is somebody that follows you. They are going to follow you to do right, or they will follow you to do wrong, but they will follow you. So He calls Peter out and says, “...Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him. And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.” (Mark 14:37-42) Three times He comes. Twice He says to them, “Wake up. Watch and pray.” The third time He says, “Sleep on now. It’s too late now.” By the way, that is one of those sad statements in the Bible, when the Lord pretty much says, “You had your chance to make a difference and you didn’t. It’s too late now. You might as well just continue to sleep.”
One of the downward steps to denial is not only being deceived by pride, but being dulled by laziness. Laziness will put us into this duped state, almost a drunken stupor. Do you realize that a tired person drives a car just like a drunk person drives a car? They drive very similar because they are not aware of what is going on. They are not in control of what is happening. When you get yourself in that kind of spiritual state where you are dulled into this laziness, all kinds of dangerous and bad things can happen.
Matthew 25:5 says, “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” Remember the ten virgins – five wise and five foolish. The five wise had oil in their lamps and the five foolish didn’t. The five that didn’t did what? They slumbered and slept. By the way, the five that had oil were slumbering and sleeping, too. All ten virgins slumbered and slept while the bridegroom tarried. That’s interesting to me. The analogy there is that right now our Lord is in Heaven preparing a place for us and going to come back soon. If you are saved, you are represented by those five virgins that had the oil in their lamp. If you are lost, you are represented by the five virgins that didn’t have the oil, a symbol of the Holy Spirit. But guess what the Bible recorded in that parable? They were all asleep, unaware of what is going on around them, the saved as well as the lost. When you are asleep, you are unaware of what is going on around you.
I used to be able to sleep through just about anything. Now that I am getting older it’s not like that. I could go to sleep, thunder, lightning. A tree could fall on the house and it wouldn’t wake me up. When I went to sleep and woke up, it wasn’t just an awakening; it was a resurrection. Every morning it was like I was born over again. I would wake up in a fog and try to figure out who I was and where I was and what day of the week it was. Everything was new.
You’ve seen guys fall asleep. In college guys pulled all kinds of pranks. Put shaving cream in their hand and then tickle their nose with a feather and they’d go to scratch it and get shaving cream all over their face. I’ve seen guys fall asleep and people put make-up on them. I mean do their whole face, lip stick, rouge, eye stuff, because they were just dead to the world, totally unaware of what is going on. If there is ever an analogy of modern era Christianity, it is being asleep, totally unaware of what is happening around them spiritually. They may be aware of what is happening on the political scene, on the financial scene, on the family scene, but they are asleep to what is really going on spiritually. It is evidenced by all the mistakes they make, by all the things they leave out.
Dulled by laziness. Laziness is a rebellion against God’s judgment. In Genesis 3:17-19 God said to Adam, “...Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” When God pronounced a curse on Adam for listening to his wife, the curse was that he was going to have to work. Now everything was going to be more difficult. In the sweat of his face, he would have to earn his living. Laziness is a rebellion against the judgment of God because God’s judgment on man was the necessity to work hard. When we are lazy, what we are saying to God is, “I know better how to live my life. I’m not going to submit to doing it Your way. I want everything to be easy.”
By the way, parents, don’t baby these boys. Make them work. Mama, don’t be a slave to your kids. Don’t pick up after them. Don’t clean their rooms. Don’t do everything for them. Make them work. Don’t let them learn to be lazy. If there is anything I’ve seen in the last twenty years, I’ve watched each generation getting lazier and lazier and not know how to work.
We used to go to Mt. Salem Revival Grounds all the time. One year I was there seven different times, usually to do some kind of work. I used to laugh because often they would assign some young preacherboys to work with me who were there for the summer. I’d have a couple guys for a while and they would disappear. Then I’d go find somebody else and they’d disappear. Finally I started bringing some older guys with me because the older guys would stay with me and work all day. Some of those young guys didn’t know how to work, or just didn’t want to.
One time a guy in his fifties went with me and we started early in the morning. We put all the shingles on that Joe Boyd Tabernacle in one day. Not only did we put all the shingles on it in one day. I have a picture where I’ve got three pieces of sheeting on the roof. There are people nailing shingles on the first piece of sheeting and on this far side of the roof there is a crane setting trusses. They haven’t got all the trusses set on one end and we are already putting shingles on over here. That was at the beginning of the day. When that day was finished, that roof was done and every shingle was nailed on. We were nailing the cap on the top in the dark by flashlight. In that process of the day, I had seven different helpers that only made it a couple hours. They’d come and they’d disappear. I’d have to find someone else. We worked from eight o’clock in the morning till 10:00 at night. The only guy who was with me the whole time was the 58 year-old guy.
Why is that? Because the younger generation doesn’t know how to work, just play. That laziness that has set in is absolute rebellion against the plan of God. By the way, there is a streak of laziness that runs through all of us. We have to understand when we allow ourselves to give into that laziness, we are rebelling against the judgment of God.
Laziness reduces our redeemable time. In John 9:4 the Bible says, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” Our laziness reduces the amount of redeemable time we actually have. One things that always disturbs me is when I sit down and evaluate my life. I think that I’ve wasted too much time in unprofitable areas. We all probably, when we were 21, thought how our life was going to be, or maybe you planned it out. ‘Here are all the things I want to accomplish. On this life plan, where am I at with this? What am I accomplishing?’ If you are not as far along as you expected to be, you sit back and say, “Where did I waste my time?” A lot of time was wasted on pure laziness.
Preacherboys, that’s why I pick on you about making sure you work hard on your sermons and not just preaching the same sermon over and over again from here to there. Work hard on it, put the time in, put the effort in. God blesses effort. God blesses work. He looks at a man that is faithful and diligent in his work and God puts His stamp of approval on it. That’s why I pick on Sunday school teachers and bus captains. That’s why I pick on people that sing special music or cleaning the building. Whatever you are doing, it’s a shame that we are so prone to be lazy. We want the fastest way to get it done, just a shortcut, instead of doing it right, and putting our all into it.
Over the years I watched people that didn’t seem to put any effort into things. I watch where they end up. They don’t end up in a good place. When I first started refereeing basketball years ago, when I’d go to the school the person that met me was always an old janitor. Now I go there, and I hate to say it, but the janitors are younger than me!
That janitor would meet you at the door with a broom or a mop in his hand, a whole pile of keys on his side. He’d be there when I got there. When I’d go to leave, he was still there. One day I was going to change after a basketball game and I asked him, “How long have you been here today?” It was a snowy day.
He said, “Well, I had to get here at five o’clock this morning to make sure everybody was getting the walks cleared and everything was getting ready for the kids.” I looked at the clock and it was after 10 o’clock at night.
I said, “What time will you leave tonight?”
He said, “I’ll probably get out of here about midnight or so, but I don’t mind it. This is my job. I want to make sure that it is done right.”
I asked about the two young guys that worked for him. He said, “I want them to be able to spend some time with their families. There will be times when I call on them to do something. They need to see me doing it so when I expect it out of them once in a while, they can step up and do it. I’m not afraid to work. I’ve done it my whole life.”
Can I tell you what the sad reality is? Generations after mine, all they’ve done is play their whole life. They don’t know how to work, but they know how to play. You need to understand that one of the downward steps toward denial is being dulled by laziness. Laziness is a rebellion against God’s judgment. It reduces our redeemable time.
It removes our zeal. We are supposed to be a zealous people, zealous of good works, Titus 2:14 says. What happens is, when you get into this lethargic lazy state, you lose your zeal to do things. When I was sick I had to nap most every day. Do you know what happens to me when I take a nap? It takes me so long to get started again. It’s like I’ve got to get myself all wound up again. It takes away my enthusiasm and my zeal.
I haven’t refereed in basketball tournaments for a while. I used to go to Iowa and do that tournament for Brother Brown’s place, they wanted us to do two or three games and sit for one or two games and rest. I put three men on a court and I stay on the court the whole time. Brother Shaffer said, “Brother Grimaldi, why don’t you take a rest?”
I said, “You don’t understand. If I take a rest, I’m done. Once I sit down over there for an hour, I can’t get back up and do this. I’ve got to keep moving. If I keep going, I can go all day, but if you sit me down for two hours and put me back up here, my body will fall apart.” I found a way to pace myself so I can go all day long. Laziness takes the zeal right out of you.
If you get out of soulwinning for a while, it takes all your zeal out of you. It’s hard to get started again. Get out of Bible reading; it’s hard to get started again. Get out of the habit of prayer; it’s hard to get started again. Get out of church for awhile; it’s hard to get started again. Bus captain, Sunday school teacher, the most important student is the one that has missed one Sunday. Because after he misses two and three, he’s almost gone. It’s hard to get going again, when we get into that lazy state. By the way, most of the things that we are supposed to be doing that we don’t do are simply because of laziness.
#3. The third downward step is being defeated by fear. Look at Mark 14:50. “And they all forsook him, and fled.” I’m not going to belabor this point, but remember that Peter said he would never forsake Him. Peter said, “Even if they kill me, I’m not going to go,” but when they finally took Him, Peter has cut off Malchus’ ear and Jesus already healed it. When they finally come to take Him, they all forsook Him, and fled. The third in the downward steps to denial is being defeated by fear. Let me tell you a few things about fear.
The first thing I want you to understand is that fear paralyzes us. In Matthew 28:4 when the guards see the angel that comes and rolls back the stone, the Bible says, “And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” Scared stiff. Fear paralyzes them to where they don’t do anything. A rabbit, when it gets scared, stands still freezes. It paralyzes him. Fear will do the same thing to you. Sometimes it is fear that you can’t be successful, fear of failure. Sometimes it is fear that the work will be too difficult. Fear will always paralyze you. Once you are in that paralyzed state, you become easy prey. The Bible says the devil is as a roaring lion walking about, seeking whom he may devour. I’ve got news for you. It’s not hard to catch an animal that is standing still. When you get paralyzed by fear, you become easy prey to the devil. You need to let your faith over-ride your fear, instead of letting your fear over-ride your faith.
What happened to Peter and the other disciples was that their fear over-ruled their faith and they ran and forsook the Lord. This is the Lord they said they would never forsake. This is the Lord they saw do all kinds of miracles. Yet, they forsook Him. They were defeated by fear. Fear paralyzes us.
Secondly, people are not only paralyzed by fear, but they are panicked by fear into bad decisions. Remember the story in Numbers 13 when the spies come back from the Promised Land. They say, “There are giants in the land, and we are as grasshoppers in their sight.” Because they are so afraid of the giants, they make a bad decision. Because they are so afraid of the will of God, by the way, realize that Egypt represents the lost world. The Red Sea represents salvation. The Jordan River represents surrender to the will of God. The Promised Land represents the will of God for you. Most people are not in the will of God today for one big reason. They are afraid. They saw the giants in the land. Because they’ve seen the giants in the land, that fear causes them to make a bad decision. Do you know what that bad decision usually destines them to do? Wander in the wilderness the rest of their life. I don’t want to wander in the wilderness the rest of my life. I’d rather fight giants in the will of God than wander in the wilderness and live to be an old man. I’d rather die young fighting the giants than live for years and years wandering aimlessly in the wilderness. They were panicked by fear into bad decisions.
The third thing that fear does is put us in the direction of retreat. You remember what the Psalmist said in Psalm 78:9. “The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.” Remember in Ephesians six, all of the armour that is given to the child of God is on the front. There is no armour on the back because God does not anticipate you going to retreat. When you retreat, you put yourself in a very vulnerable position. There is no armour to protect you. You are moving in the wrong direction. Fear puts you in a direction of retreat. Quite often, sadly, that direction of retreat, you never recover from. The downward steps to denial, deceived by pride, dulled by laziness, defeated by fear.
#4. Detoured by worldliness. Look at Mark 14:54. “And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.” Peter warmed himself by the devil’s fire. Quite often, people are detoured by worldliness. Friend, you be careful. There are people that are not here today that used to serve God. They started out just getting around lost people, warming their hands by the devil’s fire. While they warmed their hands by the fire, they listened to the dialogue that went on. They wanted to be part of it. They wanted to be accepted, to fit in and have friends.
I don’t know how many times teenagers have said to me, “Brother Grimaldi, I just want to have friends. If I live the Christian life the way you say, I’m not going to have friends.” Christian young people, sometimes you get around the wrong kind of friends, even in church, or Bible colleges, and you do wrong things with them just because you want to have friends. Or they say, “I just want to have fun.” These are the two excuses for all kinds of stupidity. Those same people that just wanted to have friends, that just wanted to have fun are living devastated lives today.
Today I thought about my old youth group and some of the kids. A particular young lady came from a difficult background. I remember picking her up once for a youth activity and her nose was bruised and both eyes were kind of black. She always ran into a door, fell down the stairs, all those excuses people give in abusive situations. While the activity was going on and everyone was busy, I asked, “What happened?” She said, “My dad came home drunk and hit me.” We were able to help her work things out, help her deal with her dad. We got her in the Christian school and people helped to pay her way.
Do you know where that girl is at today? When she got to be an older teenager, she wanted to have friends, more than the friends from the Christian school and church. She started doing things with the other kids in neighborhood. Eventually, she went to Bible college for a semester, quit and never went back. She ended up with a child out of wedlock, had a baby to another guy, quit going to church, living on welfare in some apartment building downtown. Somebody ran into her years later knocking on doors in that area. She said, “You know, I used to go to your church and your Christian school. I never thought I would end up here. This is where my mother ended up and I never wanted to be here.” Do you know how she got there? By warming her hands by the devil’s fire. That’s how she got there.
Young people, you better wake up and realize that you can’t keep warming your hands by the devil’s fire and think it’s not going to affect you. “I’m just hanging out with them. I’m just playing baseball with them. I’m just on the team with them.” It’s going to affect you. Mark it down, because you’d rather be with them than with God’s people. Twenty years from now, do you know where you are going to be? You are going to be where you never thought you’d be. “It will never happen to me.”
By the way, where are all your good friends then? I want to know where her good friends are. Thanksgiving rolls around and somebody turns her name into the church for a Thanksgiving basket. Where are all her good friends now, when the church is putting food on her table? It’s always interesting to me that the church isn’t good enough for us until we need help. Now all of a sudden, the church is good enough for us and we need the church.
The downward steps to denial – deceived by pride, dulled by laziness, defeated by fear, and detoured by worldliness. What happens is the delight in the world is stronger than our delight in the Lord. In Psalm 37:4 the Bible says, “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” We have changed that into delighting ourselves in the world instead of delighting ourselves in the Lord. I want to tell you young people something. You’d better figure out how to find some delight in the Lord, how to find joy and happiness in God. If you don’t, you will keep chasing delight in the world. I’m not against having fun. Everybody that knows me knows I like having fun, but there is nothing more fun to me than what I’m doing right now. I do it because I love it. There is nothing greater than serving God. I only get to do this 52 Sundays a year. If I’m not preaching here, I’d better be preaching somewhere else because I don’t want to miss a Sunday preaching somewhere. This is what I do and it’s fun.
I played all the sports. I hung out with the guys in the neighborhood and did bad things with them that were supposedly ‘fun.’ A year after I got saved, I figured out it’s really not that much fun. I quit all the sports teams. Do you know why? Because everything in my life that was fun had to do with sports. I decided it really wasn’t all that much fun. The only thing that was really fun was spiritual things. I was going to have to teach myself how to have fun.
Do you know what our problem is? Kids don’t know how to make things fun. They don’t have enough character and mental toughness. “That’s boring.” Figure out a way to make it fun. You are a TV generation where everything has to be given to you. We have to tell you everything and show you everything and do it in five minute increments because your attention span is not that long. We’ve got to make it entertaining or you are not going to watch it. Do you know what they say is the most entertaining thing on TV? Commercials. It used to be they sold products in between the entertainment. Now apparently that is the entertainment.
If you keep delighting yourself in the world, that’s where you will go. You will keep going toward that which delights you. Detoured by worldliness. We delight in the world and not in the Lord. The desires of the world are stronger than our dedication to the Lord.
Genesis 13:12 says, “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.” The desire of the world is stronger than our dedication to the Lord. How dedicated are you? We talk about dedication to our husbands and wives, dedication to our family. How dedicated are you to your faith? Where are you at when it costs you something?
I’ll tell you where you are going to be in 20 years. You will be at the end of that road that you are heading down right now. That’s where you are going to end up. It’s not rocket science, but you can’t see it. We claim to be headed in one direction while we are pointed in the other. You’d better figure out how to get your delight in the right place. By the way, adults, you’d better set the example. Show them how to put their joy, excitement, and enthusiasm in the right direction. Help them to understand how joyful church can be, how much fun serving God can be. When you drag your feet and find excuses to miss all the time, what are the young people supposed to think? When you can’t wait to get out, what are you telling everybody? Detoured by worldliness. Our delight in the world is greater than our delight in the Lord. Our desires for the world are stronger than our dedication to the Lord. Our direction can be permanently changed by being detoured by the world. Like the children of Israel, quite often, a detour takes you off course and you never get back on.
We used to drive to Denver every two years to visit relatives, traveling I-70 from Pittsburgh all the way across. It’s a terrible road, always under construction. Back when I wasn’t as enlightened as I am now, I never let my wife drive. Now I prefer that she drives. We were driving I-70 at night and I was getting so tired I couldn’t drive. So I let her drive and fell asleep for a couple hours. I woke up, looked around, and thought everything looked really familiar. After I came to enough to figure it out, I realized we are further east than we were when I went to sleep and we are supposed to be headed west. I said, “Hey, we passed these cities before. What happened?”
She said, “Well, the road was under construction and there was a detour. I got off on the detour and after a little ways the detour signs quit. I was lost. I wandered around and finally asked someone how to get out here.” Not only did she not get back on the road in the right direction, when I woke up she was further in the wrong direction than she had gone in the right direction. Can I tell you how that applies to your life? Quite often, when you get detoured, not only do you not get back on the right track in serving God, you end up moving even further in the wrong direction. Don’t we all know people like that? Detoured by worldliness.
You end up in the depths of denial. Notice the last two words in verse 72. “...he wept.” When he heard that rooster crow the second time, he remembered what the Lord said and realized what he had done. In less than 24 hours, he never dreamed it would happen to him, but it did.
Thankfully that was not the end for Peter. He wept, repented and rebounded from that before Acts chapter two. Peter is that greatly used preacher on the day of Pentecost. He did rebound from this position of denial. That doesn’t always happen. As a matter of fact, most of the time that doesn’t happen.
The question that I have for you is, where are you at with this? I know you are sure it’s never going to happen to you. You’ve taken the first step. You are deceived by pride. Maybe you are dulled by laziness. You just lay back and laziness has allowed you to waste so much of the redeemable time that you have. Defeated by fear and detoured by worldliness. You are going to find yourself in a place you never wanted to be – in the depths of denial.
The best thing you can do is stop moving in the wrong direction, turn around, and get back to where you need to be. That’s the best thing you can do. First you have to realize it. You have to admit it, confess it, and start moving in the right direction. Don’t allow yourself to get to a place you never wanted to be. These are the steps that Peter took in a wrong direction -- the downward steps of denial.