And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. Matthew 26:30-35
When I think about this passage I am struck by Peter’s self-confidence…Despite that Jesus himself said “You will all fall away because of me this night,” Peter asserted “I will never fall away.” And despite the fact that Jesus told Peter that he would definitely (truly) deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, Peter (and lest we look too harshly on Peter, all the other disciples said the same thing) claimed that even if he had to die, he would not deny Jesus.
Yet we know what happened. Peter did exactly what Jesus said he would do.
Sometimes Christians say, “I would never do that.” Or “I’m not capable of that.”
Sometimes when we hear of someone falling into sin, we think, “How could they do that? I could never do that.”
Sometimes when we hear of another Christian’s struggles we judge them out of our strengths. My Dad, who was a wonderful man, couldn’t understand how people could have such a hard time quitting smoking. He said, “I smoked for 20 years and one day I just decided to quit. So I did. I just quit smoking.”
Don’t ever say, “I could never do that.”
The minute you say something like that you are setting yourself up for temptation and sin.
Many years ago, I lived in a cockroach infested basement apartment in Philadelphia. One day I came home and when I walked into my living room, there on the couch was a huge ugly grey cat. Scared the wits out me. It snarled fiercely at me then bolted for the door. I didn’t know how it got in there. I had never seen it before. But the next day, as I was about to leave for work, when I opened the inner door to leave, I happened to look down and see it crouching outside the screen door, just waiting to sneak in again. I scared it off. But from that day on for quite a while, I expected to see it waiting there every time I left. Reminds me of what God said to Cain:
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you refuse to do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:7 (Berean Study Bible)
Sin crouches at our door waiting for the slightest opening to get in, just like that cat crouched at my door. Paul told the Corinthians:
Flee from sexual immorality. 1 Corinthians 6:18
Flee. Run from sin. Don’t flirt with it. Get away from it. Paul told Timothy:
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22
Flee. Run away from. Escape. Avoid. Don’t flirt with temptation and sin.
When I was a new Christian, I heard a man say that for him, when he was tempted sexually, he would literally run – physically – to fight the physical desires. I still remember him saying, “A good run is better than a bad fall.” Now of course you could run around a track and still think impure thoughts. But he had the right idea to get away from looking at a magazine or flirting with sin.
Another preacher said, “Stay out of the car in the park in the dark.” In other words, don’t put yourself in situations where you can be tempted. Flee temptation.
James tells us that temptation isn’t simply something from the outside.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. James 1:14
When Jesus saves us, we are no longer slaves of sin. It no longer controls us. No longer has dominion over us (Romans 6). But it can still tempt us. And we can still fall into sin, and even become enslaved to sin. We should never think that we are incapable of any sin.
Maybe we know we are more prone to certain sins, and less tempted in other areas. But we should never think “I could never do that.”
That is why Paul tells us:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1
In other words, if someone confesses to us they have fallen into sexual sin, we should not look down on them or rebuke them harshly, for we too could be tempted and fall. We should never think, “How in the world could you fall into that sin? I would never do that.” No! Paul says too can be tempted of any sin anyone else commits.
We are all capable of any sin. So how can we keep from falling?
First of all by fearing the Lord:
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. Proverbs 3:7
When we are wise in our own eyes, we think, I can do that and I won’t fall into sin. I’m above being tempted. I am married but I can spend some time alone with this other woman and I won’t fall into sin. I can look at this stuff on my computer and it won’t hurt me.
When we fear the Lord we will turn away from evil. When we fear the Lord, even if we are in an airport far from home, and no one we know is around, we won’t go into the newstand and look at something impure, because we know that God sees us. And he will not be mocked.
If we are truly wise we will flee temptation:
One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. Proverbs 14:16
Billy Graham was known for what was called the “Billy Graham Rule” which was not to travel or meet alone or dine alone with any woman who was not his wife. If more pastors would use this rule, many failures and sins could be avoided.
A humble, wise person who fears the Lord, knows that he is capable of falling into any sin. Let us learn from Peter. Let us never say, “I could never do that.” Let us never look down on anyone who falls and think, “How could he do that? I could never sin in that way.” Let us pray every day, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.”