"Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him.
'You also were with Jesus of Galilee,' she said. But he denied it before them
all. 'I don't know what you're talking about,' he said. Then he went out to the
gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, 'This fellow
was with Jesus of Nazareth.' He denied it again, with an oath: 'I don't know the
man!' After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said,
'Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.' Then he began to
call down curses on himself and he swore to them, 'I don't know the man!'
Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken:
'Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.' And he went outside
and wept bitterly." (Matt 26:69-75 NIV)
Can you imagine being in Peter's shoes? For three and a half years he had followed someone he believed to be the Messiah. He had forsaking his home, his family, even his career, truly believing that this man was THE one who would make all things right. After all, he had watched Jesus heal the sick, free the possessed and proclaim the Good News that the end of oppression was at hand. Popular interpretation of prophecy now pointed to the next step: The Romans would be defeated and Israel would become THE world power, all because of Jesus!
But it had all been nothing but pipe dreams. Jesus had just been arrested and condemned to death. No Romans would ever be defeated by this man. Israel would continue to serve Rome and suffer under its cruelty and oppression. It must have seemed to Peter that he had been following nothing more than a lie. How could he have been so wrong? And now he was accused of being one of Jesus' followers. What if he, too, were arrested for a lie? He couldn't let THAT happen! So he swore, he called down curses, he disassociated himself from the One he had followed so faithfully.
Before you come down too hard on Peter, think about this for a moment. Have you ever fervently believed in something, only to be disappointed when you learned that it was not true? Perhaps you are, right now, believing in something or someone that is a hoax. How can you be sure? So many proclaim to follow God's Word and even to have a personal relationship with God, but are they really from God, or are they proclaiming the doctrines of men?
When I was 16 years old, I was introduced to God's Word. The religion I had been raised under never promoted the reading of the Bible, and my eyes were opened with astonishment and excitement. I welcomed the opportunity to learn more about this book, and when the man who first introduced me to the Bible asked me if I would like to take Bible studies, I readily agreed. Soon I was baptized into his church, and for the next 25 years, I fervently supported this denomination.
As time went on, however, I began wondering about certain doctrines this church promoted. For example, people seemed to be measured by their works, and often judgments were pronounced against certain members who didn't measure up. Where was grace in all of this? Also, if these people were really following the Bible, why did they place the writings of their 19th century prophet equal to, or even above God's Word? Oh, they always said they would NEVER do this, but whenever disagreements arose, Bible texts were ignored in favor of that prophet's writing.
The longer I supported this denomination, the emptier I felt. Subconsciously I thought that if I just tried harder, I would be filled, so I served the church all the more fervently. Nothing changed, however. I continued to feel emptier and emptier, until one day, discouraged and disappointed, I cried out to the Lord, "Lord, show me Your truth!"
Little did I know that this prayer would change my life!
Within 2 weeks, a Messianic Jew I knew over the Internet invited me to visit his synagogue. I wasn't interested, even then, in changing churches, but I was curious about how Messianics worship God, and when I learned that the synagogue was only a two hour drive from my home, I decided to accept the invitation.
It turned out to be a life-changing experience. I entered the synagogue, I was overcome, for the first time in my life, by the presence of the Holy Spirit. At the close of the service, the Rabbi's wife began to prophecy. She said that there was someone in the congregation who was facing an open door, the door of the Messiah Yeshua. She then proceeded to encourage that person to not hesitate any longer, but to go through that door. Little did she know that she was prophesying to me.
As I later thought about this experience, I decided that the Holy Spirit had to be present in my own church as well, even if I had never sensed it before. After all, this was the one true church! Surely now that my eyes had been opened, I would sense His presence there as well! But I was in for a bitter disappointment. God's presence wasn't at my own church at all!
I started to attend services at the synagogue once a month after that, and each time, upon returning to my church, I was again disappointed. What was the difference?
I started to study God's Word more vehemently. To my surprise, the One Who I had invited into my heart at the synagogue, God's Spirit, began making His Word come alive for me. It is then that I remembered: "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13 NIV)
I was now faced with a tough decision. I had believed and promoted the doctrines of this denomination for more than 25 years, but now that I realized that God's Spirit didn't reside in this church, how could I continue to support it? I decided to separate myself from that church and start to follow God instead. The Messianic synagogue served as my stepping stone to experiencing God personally, and though I still enjoy visiting there whenever I can, God directed my family and I to a local Bible believing church. Here, His Word became my guide and His Spirit made it come alive. I soon discovered that God's Truth is not a set of doctrines, nor is it a book of abstract concepts. God's Truth is a person and that person is Jesus Christ! "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 NIV) Jesus became a reality to me. No longer did I feel empty. Peace now flooded my soul and His dwelling in my heart became precious. "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." (Eph 3:16-17 NIV)
In reality, I was no different from Peter. Peter had believed something other than Truth about Jesus. He had believed Him to be the One who would free Israel from the Romans. However Jesus came to bring true freedom: "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36 NIV)
Let's look at the rest of Peter's story. A few days later, after Jesus' resurrection, he was out fishing and he realized Jesus was ashore: "Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!' As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, 'It is the Lord,' he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water." (John 21:7 NIV) Peter suddenly realized that his beliefs about the Messiah had been wrong. He remembered Jesus' prediction: "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." (Mark 9:31 NIV) Jesus had not come to free the oppressed Israelites from the Romans, He had come to reconcile the world with God! "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NIV) What did Peter do with this new Truth? He swam ashore to be with Jesus!
Are you following a lie? If you aren't sure, then just utter this simple prayer to God, our Father: "Lord, lead me to Your truth."
Be aware that this prayer could be earth shattering!
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 NIV)
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