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In the apostle Peter we can learn about law vs grace. Let me explain by showing you something about him at the end of Jesus’ earthly life, first:
Matthew 26:31–35 (NKJV)
31 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:
‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
33 Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”
34 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”
Then we see that Peter did fail just as Jesus said he would:
Matthew 26:74–75 (NKJV)
74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.
What is very interesting is what Jesus did NOT say before He knew Peter would fail miserably:
Luke 22:31–32 (NKJV)
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
So why would Jesus pray this? Why didn’t Jesus say, “I have prayed that you would not fail AT ALL”? Why would Jesus only pray that Peter's faith would not fail? Why did He not pray that Peter would not deny Him? Because Jesus knew Peter had pride in his heart and this was needing to be dealt with. Let me show you what I mean:
John 21:15 (NKJV)
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
Here we read that after Jesus was resurrected He came to Peter and basically asked him, “Do you love Me more than all the others?” Or, “Are you still willing to exalt yourself after denying me?” Jesus was not trying to embarrass Peter here, but He was trying to teach him a lesson on pride.
Again, concerning what was NOT said here, what did Peter NOT say in response to Jesus? He did NOT say, “I DO love you more than these other disciples.” You see, this is the very thing Peter thought in his heart before he denied Jesus three times. Likewise, this is the very reason Peter was permitted to fail, and fail miserably. So how does this apply to us?
When our heart is “law driven” it is driven by our outward conduct and we exalt ourselves over others and compare ourselves to them. In other words, when we are under law (or slip into it accidentally), we are simultaneously walking in pride, not humility. And when we are in pride, we are outside of grace:
James 4:6 (NKJV)
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Without grace we are simultaneously without victory, period. In other words, if God is resisting us, rather than exalting us, what hope do we have? How can we live over sin rather than sin living over us if we do not have grace? And how can we have grace if we do not have humility? We can’t.
To walk in the Spirit is to live under grace rather than law. This is what is meant when we read:
Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
The book of Romans helps us understand this also:
Romans 6:14 (NKJV)
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
The flipside of grace is to be under law and to have sin in dominion over you. So what is the summary of all of this? What do we need to learn from Peter here?
1. Pride causes us to exalt ourselves in our hearts over others, like Peter did
2. When we are proud we are looking at ourselves instead of Jesus, which is self-righteousness/law
3. When we look to Jesus we will live in humility, because we cannot look at the true Christ without being humbled
4. When we live in humility we receive constant grace from God to live the Christian life victoriously
5. If we get proud after we have become true Christians, God will allow us to fail, if necessary, to teach us humility
6. Many in church today exalt themselves over others because they do, or don’t do, certain things
7. This pharisaical mentality comes from the ignorance that some strengths are simply genetically inherited
8. These same people have no idea they are proud, and likely defeated (in private) because of it
9. Lastly, they do not know they are under law rather than grace, and oftentimes won’t learn apart from failure
How do you know if you are truly walking in humility?
1. When you look at others that are not like you, you love them rather than look down on them
2. When you look at others, you know immediately that you could be in the EXACT SAME SINS they are in if it were not for the grace of God
3. You are mindful that the only reason you have any good thing, or victory, is because of God…NOT yourself, your special church group, or your family
4. You judge yourself before you judge others
From my heart I tell you that I have learned more from failure than any victory. And one of those things I have learned is this; the minute I lose sight of whom I am, and who Jesus is, is the moment I slip into law, and simultaneously start to slide downhill until I see the truth about myself.
Let us pray for grace to see ourselves in truth and remember what we have learned in our failures, not forgetting as soon as things start to get better, lest we be permitted to fail to keep us living in reality for the glory of God.