When the Cock Crows!

Satan does not have a one battalion, one gun army. He is a capable enemy who can and does wage a deadly warfare with people in every form of existence on every front in life. Satan has such an arsenal of weapons that there (a) is no level of spiritual existence, (b) no point in Christian life that is beyond his ability to attack. When a Christian fails to realize that Satan has effective attack weapons that targets the spiritually strong, that person invites serious spiritual crisis and perhaps spiritual disaster.

I fear none of us give proper consideration to Satan's ability to attack the spiritually strong. We know the evil person should fear Satan. We know people trapped by sin are enslaved. We know Satan controls and manipulates the person outside of God through his/her thought process, reasoning, and understanding. We know the person who rebels against God is the victim of his/her own rebellion and weakness and is powerless to defeat Satan alone.

We understand the godless person is Satan's victim. We know Satan commonly attacks a person's weakness. We know Satan tempts people who does not belong to God in the attempt to capitalize on their weakness. We know such people are easily deceived by Satan . We know that the only hope for those who live in the absence of God's presence or in spiritual weakness is to grow closer to God and find strength in Him.

We acknowledge all those things without hesitation.

What about the spiritually strong? What about the person who used his/her weaknesses to grow spiritually? What about the person who overcame major temptations? What about the person who built his/her faith on knowledge and understanding of God's word? What about those who are committed to God's service? What about those committed to serving and evangelizing other people? What about those who worship God from the heart? Is this person beyond Satan's attack? Should he or she be afraid of Satan?

I ask you to consider a paradox in the way we think about ourselves. Ask us individually if we are spiritually strong, and most of us will say, "No! I have too many flaws!" Ask us if our weaknesses are so significant that as Christians we are going spiritually to fall, and the most of us will be insulted. We might even say, "I hope not and seriously doubt it. I am much too strong and committed for that to happen!" So most of us feel weak and strong at the same time with the strength being our dominant force. In that strength many of us feel secure.

  1. Let me use Peter to illustrate Satan's ability to attack the spiritually strong.
    1. I want to begin by acknowledging Peter's deserved recognition as an exceptional man.
      1. He was decisive, and that is an admirable quality.
        1. The morning Jesus asked him and his brother to be followers, Peter immediately accepted the invitation.
        2. Have you wondered how receptive you would have been in the same circumstances?
          1. Peter had worked all night fishing.
          2. He could have said, "Jesus, I am too tired right now to think this through."
          3. He could have said, "This is the wrong moment for me to make a decision like that without first getting some sleep."
          4. He could have said, "I am complimented and interested, but I have to get some rest!"
          5. Instead, he made an immediate decision that would unsettle his life for two or three years that meant giving up his job with no promise of income.
      2. Peter was a wholehearted man.
        1. No matter what the circumstance, he never wondered about his commitment or his loyalty.
        2. He always knew he was 100% for Jesus and 100% with Jesus.
      3. Peter was a perceptive man.
        1. He really saw, and he really heard.
        2. In John 6 a multitude of disciples permanently left Jesus because they disagreed with a difficult teaching.
          1. Jesus asked the twelve if they, too, were leaving him.
          2. Peter replied in John 6:68, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
        3. Of all the twelve, Peter knew and confessed Jesus was the Christ (Matthew 16:16)
      4. Peter was a loyal man.
        1. To him it was unthinkable and unacceptable to consider any possibility Jesus would be killed.
        2. If it was necessary for him to prevent it, he would die trying to prevent it.
        3. Jesus had no one more openly, totally committed to him than Peter.
      5. Jesus recognized and complimented these highly commendable qualities.
        1. He made Peter one of his inner three disciples.
        2. Jesus always took Peter with him on special occasions.
        3. In Acts 2, he used Peter to open his spiritual kingdom to the Jewish people.
        4. In Acts 10, he used the Jewish Peter to open his spiritual kingdom to the gentiles.
    2. Because we know how common it was for Peter to say something, it is important to realize the man was not boastful but quickly said what he felt.
      1. It is easy to look at some of the things he said and conclude he was an arrogant grandstander.
      2. I am personally convinced that is an incorrect view of Peter.
      3. What Peter felt, he totally felt.
      4. What Peter thought, he said with conviction.
      5. Certainly there were times he opened his mouth when he should have kept it closed.
      6. Certainly there were times his conviction lacked good judgment.
        1. There were times when he was so certain he was right that he equally was certain he could not be wrong.
        2. On such occasions, even if Jesus disagreed with him, he was sure he was right.
      7. Certainly there were times when he overestimated his knowledge and understanding.
        1. Sometimes he was so confident he was right that he would not hesitate to tell Jesus he was wrong. (Can your picture anyone doing that?)
        2. He regarded his insights so "on target" he thought he knew when Jesus was mistaken.
      8. Yet, none of this was arrogance; it was just wholehearted conviction.
    3. Note Peter was a combination of notable success and notable failure.
      1. Peter's successes were many.
        1. His immediate following of Jesus was incredible; he left job and economic security with a family and with no material promise about the future.
        2. He stood up for Jesus in Gethsemane.
        3. He masterfully preached to the Jewish people on the Pentecost following the ascention.
        4. As a Christian, his courage in his arrest, trial, and abuse are nothing but admirable.
      2. Yet, his failures were just as memorable.
        1. His denial of Jesus will never be forgotten.
        2. His giving up and returning to Galilee to fish is surprising [after the resurrection].
      3. My point: it is not unusual for a person committed to Jesus to be a combination of notable success and notable failure.
        1. If you are observant, you have noted it in the lives of the spiritually strong many times.
        2. People who do great things for God often make significant mistakes.
      4. How can that be?

  2. The foundation of Peter's problems rested in Peter's faith.
    1. Begin by examining Matthew 16:21-23.
      1. This incident occurred shortly after Peter's confession.
      2. Peter had just openly confessed Jesus was the Christ.
      3. This Christ began to tell the disciples he would be killed.
      4. Peter dared contradict Jesus.
        1. "Lord, you are wrong!"
        2. "This cannot happen to you!"
      5. Why would Peter contradict Jesus so strongly?
        1. He did not believe this would happen.
        2. He did not want it to happen.
        3. He would not let it happen--it was not in his plan for Jesus to die.
      6. Jesus who shortly before blessed Peter now condemned Peter by calling him Satan and declaring him a stumbling block.
        1. Satan used Peter as a serious source of temptation to Jesus.
        2. Here "stumbling block" comes from a word that means a bait stick in a trap.
        3. Satan used Peter (consider that) to be a bait stick in a trap Satan hoped to spring on Jesus.
      7. Look at the contrast: in Matthew 16:16 Peter is the decisive man who knew Jesus was the Christ, and in 16:23 he is the bait stick in Satan's trap.
    2. Continue your examination by looking at the events prior to Jesus' betrayal.
      1. Examine Matthew 26:31-35.
        1. Jesus said everyone would be offended in him that night.
        2. They would flee like a flock of sheep when the shepherd was killed.
        3. Yet, he would be raised and precede them to Galilee.
      2. Note the conversation:
        1. Peter: "They may be offended, but not me!"
        2. Jesus: "You will betray me three times before the cock crows."
        3. Peter: "If I have to die, I will not betray you!"
        4. All the disciples agreed with Peter--they would die rather than betray.
      3. Look at the account in Mark 14:27-31.
        1. Peter was "exceedingly vehement", or as the NIV translates, "insisted emphatically."
        2. Peter regarded Jesus' prophecy as outrageous and disgusting.
      4. Luke 22:31-34 contains the statement the Satan wanted to sift Peter like wheat.
    3. Since Jesus said it would happen, why did Peter strongly deny the possibility?
      1. This is the weakness, the flaw I want you to see: Peter had enormous confidence in Peter.
      2. Peter's confidence was not in Jesus, but in his own personal strength.
      3. Peter had great faith in himself.
        1. He trusted his commitment.
        2. He trusted his loyalty.
        3. He trusted his judgment.
        4. He trusted his strength.
        5. He was so confident in himself he could not imagine a situation too big for him to handle.
      4. He genuinely, devoutly believed in Jesus, but he believed in himself more.

  3. With all of Peter's confidence in himself, it happened.
    1. It happened exactly as Jesus said it would.
      1. Judas came with soldiers and betrayed Jesus.
      2. Jesus was arrested as if he were a common criminal.
      3. Peter in his own way tried to stop it from happening, and Jesus stopped him.
      4. Everyone, including Peter, fled.
      5. The Jewish trial began.
      6. A timid, scared, bewildered Peter came to the trial quietly.
      7. Peter was recognized.
      8. Three times he denied even knowing Jesus, the last time with cursing and swearing.
    2. The third time the cock crowed.
      1. Jesus looked at him.
      2. Shattered, crushed, inwardly destroyed, Peter fled into the night.
      3. He wept bitterly--I doubt any man ever cried harder with more anguish, frustration, and despair.
      4. I wonder how Peter felt for 3 days before Jesus' resurrection.
    3. I am confident of this truth: for every Christian who dares to grow and mature in Jesus Christ, there will come a moment when the cock will crow for us as well.
      1. Satan's most powerful weapon against the spiritually strong is to attack their confidence in themselves.
      2. Just as Peter could not be told of the danger, the spiritual mature of today resist that knowledge.
      3. It is essential that every spiritually mature person have self-confidence.
      4. It is also essential that he/she not place his/her faith in his/her self-confidence.
      5. Ironically, the stronger and more mature a person becomes, the easier it is for us to feel like we are taking care of the Lord instead of him taking care of us.
      6. Inevitable we will be tested in ways we never dreamed we would be.
      7. As a result we often make mistakes we never thought we were capable of making.
      8. When the cock crowed for Peter, he wept, was broken, retreated in confusion, but ultimately let the Lord put him together again to be an even stronger servant.
      9. What will we do when the cock crows for us?
        1. Quit?
        2. Be a permanent critic or negative evaluator?
        3. Never exert ourselves again?
        4. Never serve again?
        5. Be hurt, frustrated, and jealous?
        6. Or, let the Lord put us together again, learn from our mistakes, and serve mightily?

A person cannot be told to trust in God instead of himself/herself. A person must learn to trust in God instead of himself/herself. The irony is this: we usually learn that truth when we think we are already trusting the Lord instead of ourselves. I am confident that if we had interviewed Peter just prior to the events of Gethsemane and after and asked if his faith was in the Lord, he would have replied indignantly, "Of course! Why do you think I follow him, serve him, and sacrifice for him?" Though Peter was sure his confidence was in Jesus, it was actually in Peter. It was only when the cock crew that Peter saw that truth.

There is a lot of Peter in all of us. What about you? Is your confidence in God or yourself?
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