Read Matthew 26:69-75.Five terrible little words that can change a life for eternity. I know thousands of my brothers and sisters around the world throughout centuries were faced with this dilemma - Do you know Christ? When said in a friendly conversation, it's a wonderful opportunity to share what Jesus means to you. But amidst persecution, your answer could mean death. And for too many, it has.
"I don't know the man!" NIV
You really can't cast too much animosity toward Peter for denying Christ. How many of us would have done the same thing? Even though Jesus had warned His disciples that this would happen, when faced with reality, the human resolve can be very weak. Peter had been traveling for three years as a close confidante of Jesus. He had watched a gentle carpenter's son reach out to people all over the region to offer healing from their sicknesses and demons. He heard the parables Jesus told the people and the great wisdom He layed before them. So if these religious leaders would want to kill this gentle giant of a man, then what would happen to a simple fisherman that had followed Him? Peter probably thought he was a dead man walking and the fight for preservation kicked in big time. Notice how his denial escalated each time he was accused of being with Jesus. He was reaching panic mode.
Fortunately, that is not the end of the story. Peter's resolve later turned from self-preservation to complete surrender. Peter died for his beliefs because He would not deny his Lord again and is one of the great fathers of the Christian church for the leadership He gave after Christ's resurrection.
Not many in America have been faced with death for being a follower of Jesus Christ, but we do face a verbal persecution all the time. The same question, Do you know Jesus? when said in a hostile, hateful way takes on a whole new meaning. How many times have I been sitting in on a conversation that turned to a "those Christians" diatribe. A little part of me wants to run from the conflict. It's not easy being in the minority or having to defend what you believe when you are standing alone. What do we do with Jesus then? Deny or defend? Flee or stand?
When we are confronted with opposition to our beliefs, we don't have to prove anything. We do not have to have twenty Scriptures to rattle off, commentaries to whip out, or extensive debates to prepare. We need to know one thing - what Jesus did for me. I sat in church last week and watched video testimonies of fellow believers given right before they were baptized. Some were children that had the simple faith only a child-like heart can have. Others were older that had faced a lot of life. But all of them had one thing in common -- they'd met Jesus. There is nothing more powerful than hearing how Jesus transformed someone's life. That is why I believe what I believe - because Truth touched me and I was changed forever. That's what I can stand on. That is why when faced with opposition for being a Christian - physical, verbal or emotional - I can stand.
- Think of a situation where you were tempted to deny Christ. How did you handle it? Why? How would you do it differently next time?
- Read further about Peter after Christ's resurrection? What was Peter's resolve? How did he reach that? How did he pay for that?
- What Scriptures can we rely on when faced with opposition to Christ? Search for and memorize them so you are ready to face temptation.