John 12:42 ( NKJV ) Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;
In the above scripture we see that many rulers believed in Yeshua/Jesus but because of their fear of being put out of the synagogue, they did not confess that they believed in Him. Their fear of man and man’s reaction to their choice kept them from being open about the faith. They were conforming to the expected norms of their society instead of being open about their beliefs.
What is conformity?
Conformity – behavior or thought that is socially acceptable or expected; agreement, correspondence, or similarity in structure, manner, or character.
In the Spurgeon quote, we see what happens when we sacrifice our ideals for acceptance. We lose our character and integrity.
Psalms 29:5 tells us that fearing people is a dangerous trap. In the KJV and the NKJV the word for a trap is “snare” which is a hook or a noose. Generally, it means something that is elevated off of the ground so that once the target is hooked it cannot get any footing to escape. So, when we give into the fear of man, of what people think about us we lose our footing and cannot get away. We cannot take a stand for the things we should. We become powerless.
One of the best examples of this other then the above scripture and the story of Nicodemus coming to speak to Yeshua/Jesus at night so that no one could see him is the Apostle Peter after the Lord has been arrested in Luke 22:54-62.
We see in this part of scripture that as the Lord is being led to the house of the high priest Peter follows at a distance (verse 54). He wanted to be with the Lord but his fear kept him in the courtyard with the crowds that had gathered. In verse 56 we read where a servant girl recognized him as a follower of Yeshua/Jesus. Because of fear he has lost his integrity and commitment to the Lord and denies he knows Him (verse 57). He tried to fit in with them but once you know the Lord you cannot fit in no matter how hard you try. I wonder what was going on inside of Peter at that moment. In a split second, he denied he even knew Him. Did he duck his head and try to hide? Probably. But when the enemy sees you compromise he smells blood, your blood, and the demonic sharks begin to circle you.
In verse 58 another person notices him and says “You also are one of them.” Instead of proudly saying “Yes I am!” he says “Man, I am not!” It most likely got easier the second time. Compromise always does. For an hour no one said anything to him except his guilty conscience speaking inside his heart and the voice of condemnation in his ear. By now Peter is probably bound up by fear. Fear for the Lord’s well being, fear about what would happen to them and fear that he would be found in the courtyard and punished as well. I will bet it was the longest hour of his life and just like the enemy to back off just enough to catch you off guard. And then comes the final slip of the knot. The final wrap of the snare around Peter’s ankle.
Luke 22:59-62 ( NKJV ) Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”
But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
So Peter went out and wept bitterly.
And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.
In a split second, Peter’s heart was broken because he knew that not only had he let the Lord down but he knew the Lord saw it. When their eyes met no words needed to be spoken. What did he see when he looked into the Lord’s eyes. Sadness? Sorrow? Disappointment? It’s not like the Lord didn’t know he was going to do it. He had told Peter so only hours before.
Luke 22:31-34 ( NKJV ) And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”
By these words we know He knew Peter would fail the test – and when you have returned to Me.
Verse 62 tells us so much more then our English language can say. In the original Greek that was translated into the KJV in 1611, it says that Peter didn’t just weep. The words used for “wept bitterly” means he sobbed and wailed violently. You know what that is. Gut wrenching, violent chest heaving sobs. The kind of sobbing where you cannot catch your breath and it hurts so bad that death would be pleasant. Peter had looked into the eyes of the Man who for three years had not only been his Master and Teacher but also his best friend and knew he had let him down. How would you feel if you knew He was watching you at your moment of conformity?
Adding to that pain was the knowledge that John was inside with Yeshua/Jesus. In John Chapter 18 we read that John had gone in with the Lord while Peter waited fearfully outside. He was supposed to be the leader and the strong one and he was outdone by the youngest of the disciples. This would be a sad ending if we didn’t already know that when the Lord rose from the dead an angel told the women who had come to dress the Lord’s body in Mark 16:7 to tell the disciples and Peter (bold letters mine) to meet the Lord in Galilee. How cool is that? The Lord wanted to make sure Peter knew he was welcome.
You see the Lord knows your failures. He’s seen the end from the beginning and He knows where and when you will fail Him but He’s already making a way for you to return to Him. He didn’t stay to Peter “if you return to Me” He said, “when you have returned to Me.” He’s already made a way for you when you fail that test. An angel is waiting to be dispatched to remind you where to meet Him.
No matter what you’ve done He’s letting you know you are welcome to come back.
If you understand what happened to Peter, you can understand why he never backed down again. He was bold for the Lord and set his heart to never let the Lord down again. We see that in his answers every time he was arrested and told to stop preaching about the Messiah. We see it in his boldness after the Upper Room. He stood up in a public square filled with thousands of people, maybe millions of people, and preached the first sermon of the New Church. That boldness was born from brokenness and sealed by love.
Where are you right now in your walk with the Lord? If push came to shove would you stand up for Him and His Word or would the fear of man ensnare you? How easily do you compromise or confirm when the risk is your livelihood or acceptance from people who you want to impress? Is there anything in this World that can keep you from boldly and publicly saying ‘YES!” when they ask “are you one of them”? Or, will you drop your head, hide your eyes and deny Him by your words or your actions? Just sitting in a pew isn’t enough. We are called to live it for everyone to see.
Matthew 5:14-16 ( NKJV ) “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
You might be saying “I want to be like this, but I don’t know how!” What is your fear? What could it cost you to take a stance for the Lord? Is that cost worth what it does to you inside? Is it worth giving up your character for? Is it worth losing your footing and being ensnared by that fear? Only you can answer that question. Personally, I don’t know any other way to live. I have to live with that Light shining no matter what the cost. I love Him so much for what He’s done for me and how much He has loved me that I believe I would have been like John. I would have marched into Caiaphas’ house with Him and been standing at the foot of the Cross too. He died for me. Can I do any less than live for Him?! But, even if I were like Peter I know that He will be waiting for me to return and embrace me with open arms as He did Peter in John Chapter 21.
Find out where your thoughts and decisions have led you to conform. Ask the Ruach HaKodesh/Holy Spirit to change the way you think. That’s what the Apostle Paul, who knew all too well the cost of following the Lord, meant in Romans 12:2.
Romans 12:2 ( NKJV ) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:2 ( NLT ) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
When you do you will feel that rope slip off of your ankle and you will be set free from the snare of this World and what people think about you.
You will never be the same!
Shalom & Blessings,
Richard J Grund