Life of Peter, by N.L. Rhodes Jr. No. — 17
THE STRANGE FIRES WE’VE WARMED BY
This is a sad century:
It sought salvation in two global wars and found hell.
It sought salvation in economic progress and found a great depression and terrible debt.
It sought salvation in the march of science and reaped a mess of gadgets,
Until at last it produced that most awesome of gadgets, the atom bomb.
It seeks salvation in higher education, and finds new ways of denying Christ.
It seeks salvation in psychology, but it can’t build its asylums fast enough.
And all the time the world’s savior, the savior it denied, stands waiting.
We last left Peter warming himself before the fire of the ungodly in the courtyard of Annas. It was shortly after approaching the fire that Peter first denied his Lord.
The Nature of Peter’s Denial
What was the nature of Peter’s denial? The essence of it was nothing more nor less than “I don’t know him.” There were many things that Peter didn’t know about Jesus. This much of what he said was true. But of course this wasn’t the way he meant it. He was acting as if the biggest thing in his life had never happened. He was saying he didn’t know the one thing he had to know, the only important thing for any man to know.
Wonderful things have happened in my life. I have been a man splendidly blessed. I was raised by Christian parents. What a grand blessing that is! They cared for me, loved me, and encouraged me to read my Bible and pray. I no longer live in the same town as my father, or in the same world as my mother. My life has carried me a long way from my childhood home. I have changed in many ways since, as a child four years old, I first read the New Testament on my mother’s knee. I no longer believe in Santa Claus, and I have learned about television and atom bombs since then. The world is, in many ways, quite a different place. But shall I for these reasons repudiate all the good I learned in that home, turn my back on all I saw in my parents that was just and holy and say, “I know them not”?
I consider it a blessing that for many years God has permitted me to preach to my brethren all over this country. They do not represent a large segment of the population. For the most part, they are not very wealthy and not very mighty as the world counts might. They are far from perfect and in some instances not much more righteous than me. Shall I, for these reasons, seek out the company of the great and learned and proud, and turning my back on those to whom God has sent me say, “I know them not”?
But greater than all the great blessings that have ever touched my life; dearer even than the wife who is dearest of all earthly blessings to me, is the fact that God loves me. God loved little, silly, sin-stained me. God loved me so much that he sent the wonderful Jesus to die for me. That Jesus was born in human flesh to be the greatest blessing that ever touched my life. That Jesus lived and suffered and at last died for me. Shall I then, in order to fit comfortably into a modern world that has forgotten how to reverence him, shrug my shoulders, laugh with them at their blasphemies and say, “I know him not.”? Shall I go to the place of ribald entertainment where I dare not speak out for him and, by my influence, speak out against him? Do I want to fit in with the atheists, and skeptics, and moderns, and free thinkers that badly?
I do not know that preachers see more unhappiness in the lives of people about them than anybody else. But if anybody sees more miserable people searching sadly but stubbornly for the shadows of lost dreams than I do, then they see a dreary world indeed.
The Nature of Our Denial
This is a sad century. We started out to be so gay and enlightened in this twentieth century and we have wound up so disillusioned. The twentieth century denied its Savior and, when it did, there was nothing left that could save it. It sought salvation in two global wars and found hell. It sought salvation in economic progress and found a great depression and terrible debt. It sought salvation in the march of science and reaped a mess of gadgets, until at last it produced that most awesome of gadgets, the atom bomb. It seeks salvation in higher education, and finds new ways of denying Christ. It seeks salvation in psychology, but can’t build its asylums fast enough to care for the growing need. And all the time the world’s only Savior, the Savior it denied, stands waiting.
Oh the twentieth century has some kind things to say about Jesus. He was a good man. He was probably ahead of his time. But today we have outgrown him. Today we know that the Old Testament was just the folklore of the Hebrew race. But Jesus believed it was scripture that could not be broken. Today we know that truth, if it exists at all, is unknowable. But Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
And the men he chose were so stupid. He chose Saul of Tarsus to carry his gospel to the Gentiles, but today we Gentiles are just a little sick of Paul. His commands to women to keep silent in church were so disgusting. His insistence on baptism as a burial was so silly. Paul left out so many good things that he should have known about. So the twentieth century mournfully shakes its head and says, “It would be nice if we could actually believe all that, but of course fundamentalism in this enlightened age is possible only to the ignorant.”
If this be true may I say unashamedly, “Thank God for ignorance.” Thank God for the little bit of so-called ignorance today that can still believe God hears and answers prayer. Thank God for the so-called ignorance that still believes knowledge of God is possible, that can still fear the vengeance that shall be taken on those “who know him not.” Thank God for men who can still find enough truth in the New Testament to find it transforming their lives.
Listening for the Cock
The twentieth century has shed some bitter tears but they have not yet been tears of repentance. Yet in my heart I believe the Lord has turned and looked upon us, the Lord who has been making intercession for us. We yet have bitter tears to shed but hope is rising in my soul that this time we may hear the crowing of the cock. This time the tears may hold the same earnest of future glory that Simon Peter’s tears held that dark night so many years ago.
I wonder if perhaps someone reading this will hear the cock crow in his own soul; will feel the eyes of the Lord upon him; will feel perhaps the salt sting of penitent tears rising in his eyes. If so don’t let the moment pass unheeded, for pass it will unless action is taken.