To the death. That was Peter's declaration.
Was it feigned sincerity? I don't think so. Perhaps the following gives some possible insight into why this disciple's conviction later crumbled.
"Without the doctrine of sin, we are led toward being unusually optimistic about our humanity. We will refuse to face the viciousness of our capabilities and will trust our desires too much and fear ourselves too little." --Jen Pollock Michel
We make profound statements; create “foolproof” action plans; give ourselves ultimatums; because, like Peter, we strongly believe we'll keep up our end of it. In fact it's so palpable – this desire to do right, to be different – that you can almost feel the texture of it.
So when the ball drops from our seemingly steady hands, we are more often than not devastated.
We are unusually optimistic about our humanity....
I think we sometimes forget that even our most heartfelt convictions rise from a place that is "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9).
Hard pill to swallow. I've choked on that reality more times than I can count.
What then is our saving grace?
“He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” Psalm 103:10
Literally it is the grace of Jesus Christ, made available through his death, which saves.
Let’s just admit that on our own we cannot do or be good. When Jesus said without Him we can do nothing – he meant it. Every day we must be in surrender mode. Because if we for one second believe “I got this”, we better prepare for some bruised and broken egos (Proverbs 16:18 puts it this way: pride goes before a fall).
As someone who has the scars as testament to that truth, I know how hard it is to let go of the I-can-do-it-by-myself-so-I-don’t-need-your-help attitude. I mean, who wants to feel like they’re wearing “trainers” when they’re grown and capable, right? But if I honestly assess my “grown-up capabilities” I’d stop talking tough and let God lead in every area of my life. Because when I’m defiantly or unwittingly making a mess, He shows up with mop and broom to lend a hand or handle the job Himself.
Proverbs 24:16 reminds us that there is hope. “A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.”
Peter’s story quite likely would have ended differently had he believed himself to be infallible. He could have despaired so much over his decision to deny Christ that he opted for an “out” like Judas did. But he rose again with the knowledge that even though “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” we “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).
Just because you’ve messed up (again), doesn’t mean you can’t get up (again). Why do you think Jesus died? Of course not so that we can treat Him like a get-out-of-jail-free card; but because He knows on our own we are lost. And He wants us to accept the redemption He freely offers.
Confess your mistake, believe He’s forgiven you, and go forward with Him knowing that “with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption” (Psalm 130:7).