“The woman asked Peter, ‘You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?’ ‘No,’ he said, “I am not.’ Because it was cold, the household servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire. They stood around it, warming themselves, and Peter stood with them, warming himself.” John 18:17-18
Our convictions flow out of who we are or who we think we are. By this time Jesus had spent a few years with Peter, revealing who the Father was, but Peter for himself had yet to have a revelation of who he was in Christ. He had a revelation of who Jesus was, that Jesus was the Messiah, but it seems here in these verses that Peter still lived in denial of who he was in Christ. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest and most faithful followers, is now denying that He is a disciple of Christ—out of self-preservation. Peter is preserving who he thinks he is out of fear of death and out of fear of association with Jesus.
We find out who we are when what we truly believe to be valuable is threatened with loss. Peter, like all of us—and understandably from a human point of view—is trying to preserve his life. Can we blame him? How would he be any help to others if his very life is taken away from him?
Maybe that is a similar justification for all of us when we deny Jesus in our lives. We would rather preserve the perception our friends hold of us, one which doesn’t acknowledge Jesus in our lives. Or we would rather preserve our financial well-being than do the right thing in our business. The list can go on and on for all of us, for not one of us is exempt from denying Jesus in some way.
What is fascinating, though, is who Peter becomes after the revelation of Christ’s love for him on the cross, after the Holy Spirit reveals His power through the resurrection of Jesus, and still after the indwelling empowerment of the Holy Spirit, when Peter took the time to wait until the Spirit fell on his life. He seems to give himself over to a total abandonment of what God thinks of him, denying fully what anyone else thinks of him. He stands up and preaches the Gospel and starts the church, as Jesus had promised he would. Peter withstands even greater pressure as his leadership and influence grew in the early days of the church and yet even then he did not deny Christ.
When we deny self we discover who we truly are, now, in Christ. The old self passes away, the self that denies the One who created us. When we deny that self which sells out for a cheap imitation of love, we end up receiving the genuine, real love from the Father. Peter learned the power of “denying self,” as Jesus taught the disciples. Peter let go of who he thought He was for who Jesus said he was. Peter let go of trying to live for Jesus in his own strength, for he discovered that his own strength wavers but the faithfulness of Christ is unchanging—that His strength never wavers, that it remains the same always and forever.
May we be a church that denies who we think we are apart from Christ and embrace who we truly are now in the Father’s love. Now we are found in Jesus Christ, and now we are empowered by the very spirit of His love, His Holy Spirit. It is undeniable who Jesus is, and it is undeniable who we will become when we gaze upon His glory.