By Roger D. Campbell
When you think about Simon Peter, what comes to mind? One of the original twelve apostles, more is said about him in the Bible than any of those other eleven. Most of us can relate to this imperfect man because his weaknesses remind us of ourselves. Let us take a quick glance at a number of the choices which he made. Some of those choices were made one time, while others were ongoing decision. Some of them were great; others were lousy.
Peter chose to follow Jesus. This was his decision of decisions. After his brother, Andrew, brought Peter to Jesus (John 1:40-42), his life would never be the same again. He became a follower, continued to follow when Jesus called him to fish for men (Mark 1:16,17), and kept the Lord’s post-resurrection charge, “Follow Me” (John 21:19). The greatest choice in life is to be a follower of Jesus. Nothing, absolutely nothing, compares with the importance of this choice and commitment.
Peter chose to forsake all for Jesus’ sake. Not everyone was willing to do so. But, Peter the fisherman did, as he told the Master, “See, we have left all and followed You” (Mark 10:28). We sing a spiritual song with great sentiments: “I Surrender All.” The charge to forsake everything for Jesus was not restricted to twelve men—it is for all of us (Luke 14:33). Are you and I really committed to following Jesus, or are we just going through the motions?
Peter chose to submit to Jesus. When? When the Lord told Peter to launch out into the deep and let his nets down there. Peter was the professional fisherman, but he submitted, saying, “… at You word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5). As God’s children, we are to obey Him, (1 Peter 1:14), as servants we submit to His will (1 Peter 2:18), and as citizens in His Kingdom, we honor the King (2:17).
Peter chose to rebuke Jesus. After Jesus foretold His manner of death and resurrection, “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him” (Matthew 16:22). Horrible decision, brother Simon. The Potter does not need any human advisors, nor does He need our approval for His plans. It is never appropriate for us to suggest or imply that maybe, just perhaps, what God says or does is wrong.
Peter chose to confess Jesus. How many times did he do that? The Bible records two of his confessions. After a number of Jesus’ disciples left Him, Peter confessed Him as the Christ, the son of the living God (John 6:66-69). Not long after that, when Jesus asked the apostles whom they thought He was again Peter confessed Him as the Christ and God’s Son (Matthew 16:15,16). How important is a person’s confession of Jesus? It is the difference between spiritual life and death (Romans 10:9,10). Confessing Jesus is more than repeating a memorized statement. It is a life-long commitment a lifestyle. If we are ashamed of Jesus, we can expect Him to be ashamed of us, too (Mark 8:38).
Peter chose to boast about his faith/devotion to Jesus. On the night of His betrayal, the Christ foretold that all of the apostles would forsake Him that very night and Peter would even deny Him three times. Peter thought it would never happen, saying, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You” (Mark 14:31). Yet, deny Him he did. At that point in his life, Peter’s faith was not as strong as he though it was. It is not wrong to speak about our service to the Lord. Paul talked about his fight, faith, race, and finish (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Nothing wrong with that. However, we need to support our claims with action.
Peter chose to deny Jesus. That took place, of course, the same night that he pledged he would never do such a thing (Luke 22:54-61). Was he afraid? Apparently so. Was his faith wavering? It sure was. It is undeniable that when we are under pressure every single one of us has the potential to make bad decisions, either by saying or doing what is wrong. In this regard, we would be wise to remember that “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33). While Peter seems to get the headlines, so to speak, because he denied Jesus, on that same night “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56). Arrogantly denying that we could ever be so weak would be unwise on our part.
Peter chose to humble himself, repent of his mistakes, and move on with his life. For me, this is “the good part of the story.” Peter wept bitterly when the Lord looked right at him after his third denial (Luke 22:61,62). How low our brother must have felt right then, but his repentance is evident. Jesus had told him earlier that same night, “… when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32). Peter took up the Christ’s challenge to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). His courage and steadfastness is seen clearly throughout the book of Acts. He was a changed man after Jesus came forth from the tomb.
Like Peter, we, too, mess up. Some of our mistakes involve sinful activity. It cuts us deeply to think about how weak we can be at times; but Peter’s example reminds us that it is possible to humble ourselves and get back on the right path. We must learn how to forgive ourselves once the Lord has blotted out our sins. By faith, we must learn to accept God’s promise that He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness when we confess and forsake our sins (1 John 1:9).
Peter had a life time full of choices. So do we. Let us strive to choose what pleases God, not ourselves.