The Gospel of John
1. In the Christian life one is either moving forward or backward. You cannot be standing still. If you think you are standing still you are actually backsliding.
2. There are many examples in the Bible of backsliding, and one of the most memorable is the case of Simon Peter.
3. You may remember that in Luke 22:31, our Lord warned Peter that Satan desired to “sift” him as wheat. But the good news is that our Lord was praying for Peter (cf. Luke 22:32).
4. I want to remind you that Satan would like to sift each and every one of us here tonight, but the good news is that the Lord Jesus Christ is praying for us.
5. Romans 8:34 says that Christ is at the right hand of God, making intercession for us.
6. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
7. Tonight I am going to speak on the danger of backsliding and will use Simon Peter as a Biblical example of a backslider. Simon Peter is undoubtedly one of the great heroes of the Bible.
8. He is prominent in all four Gospels and he dominates the first half of the book of Acts. He wrote two of the epistles in our NT. Why then would God allow everyone to see these embarrassing facts ABOUT Peter’s backsliding? For our admonition!
9. If a great preacher like Peter can backslide, so can you and I! There were seven steps to Peter’s backsliding, and Lord willing we will examine all seven of them this evening. As is my custom, I will refer to the other Gospels as well as to the Gospel of John.
I. FIRST STEP: SELF-CONFIDENCE
II. SECOND STEP: PRAYERLESSNESS
III. THIRD STEP: FLESHLY SERVICE
IV. FOURTH STEP: FOLLOWING JESUS AFAR OFF
V. FIFTH STEP: ASSOCIATING WITH THE LORD’S ENEMIES
VI. SIXTH STEP: CURSING & SWEARING
VII. SEVENTH STEP: OPENLY DENYING CHRIST
I. FIRST STEP: SELF-CONFIDENCE (MATT. 26:33-35).
1. For our first step, we will turn to the Gospel of Matthew, and here we notice Peter’s self-confidence (Matt. 26:33). We hear much about improving one’s self-esteem. But actually the problem is most people are too selfish.
2. Peter was overly confident. He was full of himself. As we shall see in a few minutes, over-confidence leads to carelessness.
3. Peter did not really know himself. He claimed to love Jesus more than all the others (Matt. 26:33).
4. Whenever a Christian boasts of his love for God, or of his own accomplishments, the backsliding has already begun.
5. Peter boasted, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matt. 26:33). Then our Lord told him that in fact, Peter would deny Him three times that very night (Matt. 26:34).
6. Spurgeon said, “He who thinks himself so much stronger than his brethren is the very man who will prove to be weaker than any of them, as did Peter, not many hours after his boast was uttered.”
7. That prediction from the lips of our Saviour should have humbled Peter, but it didn’t (Matt. 26:35). Peter was so sure of himself that he actually contradicted our Lord several times (cf. Matt. 16:22; 26:33, 35).
8. Beware of confidence in the flesh. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18).
9. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12).
II. SECOND STEP: PRAYERLESSNESS.
1. Shortly after our Lord warned Peter, He and His disciples left the upper room and crossed the brook Kidron to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:36; John 18:1).
2. Our Lord then took Peter, James, and John and told them, “Watch with me” (Matt. 26:37, 38). But after praying for a while, our Lord came back and found them all sleeping. Notice, our Lord spoke directly to Peter (Matt. 26:40, 41).
3. I think our Lord spoke directly to Peter because He had already warned Peter that Satan was going to sift him as wheat.
4. Then Peter boasted that though all men would be offended because of Christ, he would never be offended. Again our Lord tried to warn Peter (Matt. 26:34), and Peter vehemently insisted that he would never deny Christ (Matt. 26:35).
5. And then after all of Peter’s blustery boastings, he couldn’t even stay awake for one hour after our Lord asked him to (Matt. 26:40, 41).
6. Peter was careless and prayerless. This is one of the biggest problems we face. A prayerless church is a powerless church. A prayerlessness church cannot win souls.
III. THIRD STEP: FLESHLY SERVICE.
1. Prayerlessness always leads to problems with the flesh. I pointed this out when we studied John 18:10, 11.
2. Most of us would never pull out a sword but we often cut people with our sharp tongue (cf. James 1:19, 20). May God help us (and I am often guilty of this) to be on guard.
3. Our Lord said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).
4. There is never a time when we can remove our eyes from the Lord. When we are not depending upon Christ we get in the flesh and we inevitably get into trouble.
5. If Peter had understood the real character of the flesh (our old nature) he would have been prayerful and careful.
6. Whatever is done in the flesh is not accepted by God as true Christian service. I am afraid much of what is done in church work is done in the flesh.
7. It is interesting to compare the four Gospel accounts. In Luke 22:49, 50 it says, “When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them (Peter) smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.”
8. In other words, some of the other apostles were thinking about drawing their swords, but they thought it best to ask the Lord if that was OK.
9. But Peter did not wait to hear from the Lord, he just pulled out his sword and lopped the man’s right ear off. (I don’t think he was aiming for his ear.) Fortunately, Luke 22:51 tells us that, our Lord “touched his ear, and healed him.”
10.Isn’t it marvelous that only Luke the physician records that our Lord healed him? This miracle should have been enough evidence for the religious leaders, but they had already made up their minds that our Lord was in league with Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. They hated our Lord and were determined to kill Him.
IV. FOURTH STEP: FOLLOWING JESUS AFAR OFF.
1. John 18:15 says, “And Simon Peter followed Jesus…” But Matthew 26:58 and Mark 14:54 and Luke 22:54 say, “But Peter followed Him afar off…”
2. This fourth step needs little elaboration. James 4:8 says, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” But Peter followed our Lord from a distance.
3. I know Christians that never used to miss church. They were very close to the Lord at one time. Now they are following Him from afar off. This is a serious step backwards. If you are at this stage you need to get back close to the Lord.
4. Some Christians never used to skip the Sunday evening service, but now they are comfortable staying away from church.
5. I remember when I first got saved my father thought it very odd that I would go back to church on Sunday evening. But I didn’t want to follow our Lord afar off. I wanted to get closer to Jesus.
V. FIFTH STEP: ASOCIATING WITH THE LORD’S ENEMIES (JOHN 18:16-18).
1. While our Lord was being beaten by his enemies (John 18:22), Peter sat in the courtyard of the high priest’s palace and warmed himself at the fire (John 18:18).
2. Peter should never have sat down with our Lord’s enemies. Whenever I hear of a Christian getting into sin I always inquire about their friends, and invariably this is a big part of the problem (especially with young people).
3. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1).
4. It is dangerous for God’s people to associate with worldly people. We should witness to them but we should never fellowship with them. We should never cozy up to the fireplace with them like Peter did!
5. We must witness to the lost, but never fellowship with them. Let me ask you, was Peter witnessing to these Christ-rejecting sinners? No, he was not. In fact, if Peter had not been sitting there with the devil’s crowd, he would not have been recognized as a disciple of Jesus (John 18:25, 26).
6. You may ask, “What was wrong with that?” What was wrong was that in his weak, backslidden condition, Peter denied knowing our Lord (John 18:27).
7. Over and over we are commanded to separate from unbelievers. Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
8. Second Corinthians 6:17 says, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.”
9. God wants us to be separated from the world, and separated unto Him. We are to be a holy people, unspotted by the filth of this world.
10.Peter knew better. Our Lord saved Him and called him away from his ungodly friends and acquaintances. But now in his backslidden condition, Peter is associating with the Lord’s enemies.
11.Ephesians 5:11 says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
12.Peter did not reprove the wicked sinners at the high priest’s palace. In fact, they reproved him (cf. Matt. 26:73).
13.Far too many Christians are careless in this matter. They hang around with sinners and laugh at their dirty jokes. They listen to all of their idle gossip and chitchat.
14.I hate to say this but I must. Some Christians actually prefer the company of the ungodly. If you are like that, then you are carnal, worldly and backslidden!
15.“Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4).
16.Friendship with this world that has crucified our Lord is nothing but disloyalty and treachery.
17.Lukewarm Christian: make up your mind which side you are on!
VI. SIXTH STEP: CURSING & SWEARING (MATT. 26:72-75).
1. Oftentimes when Christians are backslidden they will fall back on old habits, which, had been set aside after their conversion.
2. For example, I had very few Christian friends in the construction business that were saved. One day I ran into an old friend and he told me a mutual friend had started smoking again, a bad habit he had given up when he first got saved.
3. When my friend questioned him about his smoking, he cursed him out. And we see here a similar situation with Peter (26:74).
4. Peter had been a fisherman. No doubt he picked up the bad habit of profanity while working with ungodly men. But when Jesus saved him he cleaned up his vocabulary.
5. For three years Peter was speaking like a Christian gentleman, but now in his backslidden condition he began “to curse and to swear” (26:74).
6. David Cloud told me that he often gets angry e-mails from so-called Christians, who curse him out, using vile and filthy language.
7. It is disgraceful for anyone to use gutter language, but especially one who professes to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
8. Perhaps some of you are familiar with George Washington’s “Order Against Profanity.”
9. “The General is sorry to be informed that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice hitherto little known in our American Army is growing into fashion. He hopes that the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it and that both they and the men will reflect that we can little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our army if we insult it by our impiety and folly. Added to this it is a vice so mean and low without any temptation that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.”
10.When I preached a few weeks ago on the third commandment, I told a true story about American soldiers on a Pacific island during the second world war. These soldiers were surprised to read this announcement posted at the entrance to their mess hall: “American soldiers are requested to please be a little more careful in their choice of language, especially when nationals are assisting them in unloading ships and trucks. American missionaries spent many years among us and taught us how to use clean speech. Every day, however, American soldiers use bad words, and all the good work your missionaries did on our island is being undermined by your careless profanity.”
11.The notice was signed by a Polynesian chief. What a rebuke to these American soldiers!
VII. SEVENTH STEP: OPENLY DENYING CHRIST (JOHN 18:17, 25-27).
1. The saddest and final step is when the backslider denies the Lord Jesus Christ. Three times, and with strong oaths and curses upon his lips, did Peter deny our Lord – just as our Lord had warned him he would (John 18:27).
2. What a sad, sad scene this is! Peter started backsliding little by little. He was too confident. He was sleeping when he should have been praying.
3. He was walking in the flesh. He was warming his hands by the enemies’ fire and he even started cursing. And now he actually denied Christ, only a few short hours after boasting that he would never do such a thing.
1. Peter backslid, but thank God that is not the end of the story. Peter wept over his sin and he repented (Matt. 26:75).
2. There is an interesting statement in Mark 16 that I read many times before I understood its significance (cf. Mark 16:6, 7).
3. The angel said, “He is risen; He is not here…tell His disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:6, 7). It’s as if Peter was no longer considered one of the disciples.
4. These words were both a “rebuke and an invitation.” Peter was out of fellowship with the Lord but the Lord had not forgotten him - “tell His disciples and Peter.”
5. Perhaps there is someone here tonight who has started down these seven steps backward…
6. If you are on one of these steps, you need to repent.
* overly confident
* serving God in the flesh
* following Jesus afar off
* associating with the Lord’s enemies
* cursing & swearing & other sinful habits
* denying Christ
7. Are you saved?