Following Afar Off

by Chuck Smith

Text: Mark 14:71 “But he began to curse and to swear,  saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.”

1. I would like to point out two very contrasting confessions by the  same man.

a. There is such a tremendous contrast, you wonder if the same man could make them.

b. Even more difficult is the order in which they were made.

c. The reverse order could be better understood.

d. We find Peter, along with the other disciples with Jesus, in Caesarea, Phillipi. Jesus asked the disciples, “Whom do men say I am?” They answered him with some of the current concepts and ideas. King Herod thought he was John the Baptist; others thought he was Elias. And  he saith unto them, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter answered, “THOU  ART THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.” (The first confession)

e. What a beautiful confession. Jesus is lifted to the height of spiritual experience; a glorious revelation form God. What a glorious confession of Peter. Jesus said, “Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is  in heaven.”

2. The steps of backsliding are what we want to look at and study.

a. That which led Peter from a glorious confession to declaring, “I don’t know this man you are talking about.” (The second confession-Mark 14:71)

b. Peter’s backward steps began shortly after Jesus made this  statement, “upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of  hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus began speaking to his disciples how the son of man must be betrayed and to be given over to the hands of sinners. And how he must be crucified and the third day rise again.

c. Peter rebelled against the cross, the Word of Christ, concerning the cross saying, “Be it far from thee Lord.” Peter challenged the words of Christ! Jesus said unto Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan: thou art an
offence unto me; for thou savourest not the things of God.” That began his estrangement from Christ.

3. God often times says things we do not understand.

a. I do not understand all of the scriptures. I believe them all, but I don’t understand them all. I do not understand in my life why I must face suffering. MY FLESH REBELS AGAINST THE IDEA OF THE CROSS!

b. Things happen to me that I cannot explain, nor in my mind rationalize with a loving God. I find tendencies in my own life to challenge the Word of God. “Ha, all things work together for good; I
like to know what good could ever come of this situation.” There I am with Peter challenging the Word of God, but the moment I come to that place where I begin to challenge the Word of God, I AM BEGINNING AN ESTRANGEMENT FROM THAT DEEP FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD!

c. Better than challenging the Word of God, I should store it in my heart and wait and see. Better than challenging, just believe and say “Lord I can’t understand it but I know you’re working out a purpose and
a plan I can’t see or understand.

d. That’s what Habakkuk did. He said, “Lord I complained unto you and you told me you were working and I sure don’t understand what you’re doing, But keep on doing it.”

e. But in his challenging of the words of Christ, there began an estrangement. You see as long as Jesus was talking about building the Church; as long as Jesus was talking about the kingdom of God, Peter was right there. “I’ll stand at your right hand, when you’re there in your power in all.” Peter was all for that?

f. But now the Lord was beginning to talk about the cross. “No Lord! No! No! You’ve got things all mixed up. No cross Lord. It’s going to be the kingdom!” He thought he knew more about the kingdom than Jesus did. He thought he understood things of God better than the Lord.

4. BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU BEGIN TO CHALLENGE WHAT THE LORD HAS TO SAY! Be CAREFUL when you think better how to run your life than he does; when you know better what to bring into your life than He does.

5. THERE IS NO STATIC RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST.

a. You are either growing closer or you are drifting away from Him.

b. You can not remain in a static relationship.

c. The Lord is constantly seeking to draw us into yet a closer more intimate fellowship. And the closer we get to him, the closer we get to, what Paul referred to as the fellowship of suffering. He cried in Philippians, “That I may know Him in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering.”

6. And many of you draw to the Lord in the power of His resurrection but when he begins to talk about the cross and the fellowship of his suffering, we find ourselves stepping back. “Oh no Lord. I didn’t bargain for that!”

7. The Lord was seeking to draw him into that full, rich fellowship of suffering. But Peter stepped back, “Oh no Lord. Be it far from thee.” And there began a moving away from the Lord.

Now we turn to Mark, chapter 14 and we follow this progression of Peter away from the Lord. In verse 27, Jesus is telling his disciples, “All shall be offended because of me this night, for it is written I  shall smite the shepherd and the sheep be scattered, but after that I  am risen and I will go before you into Galilee.” Peter said unto Him, although shall all be offended yet shall not I.

8. There is Peter now again challenging the word of Jesus and challenging the scriptures. The scripture says that the shepherd shall be smitten and the sheep scattered. Jesus said, “All of you will be offended.” Self confidence is always a very dangerous thing. Take heed when you stand lest you fall.

9. That person that comes around and tells of their great victories, and how much they’re able to do and how they got things under control, I’m a little leery of.

a. Because pride cometh before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.

b. But that person that comes around that speaks in fear and trembling about being concerned about if he can hold up and if he can overcome the temptations of the enemy, and so fearful that he might fail the
Lord, him I feel great about. I know as fearful as he is, as long as he’s trusting the Lord, the Lord will sustain him and will keep him from falling.

10. Lord, thou they all forsake you, I will not be offended. That’s that comparative kind of boasting which is always bad.

a. It puts him above others

b. It’s elevating yourself above others. I’m better than they are; they may fail you but I won’t fail you. I don’t trust them but I trust myself.

c. You’re putting yourself on a pedestal. LOOK OUT YOU’RE GOING TO FALL.

d. That’s comparative kind of boasting; boasting in yourself.

11. We usually aren’t as strong as we think we are. Paul said, “When I am weak, then am I strong. For His strength is made perfect in my weakness.” When I’m aware of my weakness, then am I more apt to trust
in his strength and thus really know the victory.

12. As we move further into vs 37, we see Peter further slipping backwards; another step into his backsliding. For Jesus had gone into the Garden of Gethsemane. He took along Peter, James and John. He said unto them, watch and pray with me. He went forward a little and knelt on the ground in agony and prayed. And he cometh again and found them sleeping. He said unto Peter,(notice he singled out Peter). Peter was the one who said, “They may fail, but I won’t.” Jesus said, but didn’t use his name, Peter, but his old name, Simon. He’s no rock! The guy’s fractured at this point. He said unto him, “Simon are you asleep? Could you not watch with me one hour?”

13. We see now the failure in devotions. It’s always an outward sign of inward estrangement from God. You see this process of backsliding is a  slow drawing away from the fellowship of God. The Bible tells us in
Hebrews 2:1; “Let us take the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should drift away.” And that is always the process of backsliding. It is slow and preceptable, just drifting
away until you find yourself estranged and saying, “I don’t know the man you’re talking about.” So here is a further step.

14. You remember the first time you said, “thou art the Christ, the son of God.” and you felt the passion of your soul crying out to him. You were so thrilled you attended church twice on Sunday and you went every
night of the week you could get off. BUT NOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED! You sort of draw back. You attend church once on Sunday. In fact , you wake up and see if the sun is shining or if it is raining before you determine whether you are going today. Somehow you begin to fail in your devotions.

a. You don’t pray as much as you used to.

b. Prayer becomes a chore.

c. If things get heavy and all else fails, you might offer up a quick one.

d. The Word of God isn’t exciting to you anymore.

e. You have to force yourself into the word.

f. You don’t find yourself being drawn into the Word anymore.

15. Look Out! These are dangerous signs that are telling you that you are drifting away. You are drifting from that beautiful, close, intimate relationship He wants you to have with Him.

16. With the Church of Ephesus, `you are leaving your first love’, which leads us to verse 47. Now the soldiers are come into the garden to arrest Jesus. Judas Iscariot has kissed Jesus marking him out, and
one of them that stood by drew a sword. John tells us who that one was: our friend Peter. He smote the High Priest and cut off his ear.

17. So often, as a person begins to fail in his devotion. You lose the fervor and fire in your heart, so now you try to substitute works. God doesn’t want your works, He wants the true devotion of your heart.

18. Someone says, “Well I really have gotten away from the Lord. Maybe I need to teach a Sunday school class so I can get back into the Word and get on with it. No! You stay away from those kids until you first
get on with the Lord yourself. Then you will have something to give to them. So many times we try and substitute our works for devotion.

19. Here we see a classic example of zeal without knowledge. Very zealous, but in reality you see it is the same basic problem with Peter that he had at the beginning of his estrangement. He is still fighting
the cross. He is going to defend the Lord and keep Him from the cross. “Be that far from thee”. Peter is still in that position. No cross for you Lord; we’re going to see you crowned. Peter is still fighting the
cross. BLIND ZEAL! Zeal not according to the knowledge of the Word of God. Then we read in verse 54, and Peter followed Him afar off. There are so many people that are endeavoring to do that today. No longer are they in that close, tight fellowship, yet they don’t want to be totally out of it. They will come to church, but not regularly. They still give to the Lord’s causes, but not much. They still pray in dire emergencies.They have, they hope, enough of Jesus to get them in. But not so much that it cramps their life style. Jesus is welcome to go along, as long as He promises not to spoil their fun, and they begin to
follow the Lord afar off.

20. This leads to the next step. (again in verse 54) He warmed himself at the fire. Now we read outside the house at Caiphas the soldiers had built a fire, and Peter came and warmed himself by the fire.

21. You know it’s interesting: so often when a person gets cold in his relationship with God, he warms himself at the enemy’s fire. You become cold and unresponsive to the Spirit of God. Your relationship has grown cold so you look for something that will substitute of replace that relationship. You begin to turn to the enemy’s fire: a week-end in Las Vegas, the disco. You start going towards the enemy’s fire to warm
yourself but the enemy’s fires are illusions; they are painted fires that can’t warm anybody. You say to yourself, `What are the enemy’s fires?’ I’m not going to tell you. THE WORLD WILL TELL YOU.

22. There is always a maiden there that will say, “I thought you were a Christian. What are you doing here?” Whenever you hear that, you know you are at the enemy’s fire. THEY KNOW YOU DON’T BELONG THERE. You see there was a maiden at the fire that said, “Are you not one of His disciples?” “No you got me mistaken.” A little later on he said, “I’m sure you are one of his disciples. Your speech is giving you away.” Peter began to curse and swear, “I know not this man you’re talking about.” That horrible, tragic denial of Jesus Christ. Why? Because he had drifted further and further away, until he finally found himself
trying to get warm at the enemy’s fire. And some of you this past week have been trying to get warm at the enemy’s fire. You’ve drifted so far away. The next step is DENIAL. `I don’t know what you’re talking about;
I don’t know this man.’

23. It is interesting though; it doesn’t matter how far you have drifted away from Him.

a. In your own walk

b. In your own experience

c. In your own devotional life

d. In the things you are doing now
No matter how far you drifted away, it’s only one little step back, for the scripture says, “when the cock began to crow, Peter remembered the Words of the Lord”. AND HE REPENTED AND WEPT BITTERLY.

e. Restored

f. Forgiven

g. Washed

h. Cleansed

i. Back into that tight

j. Intimate

k. beautiful fellowship with Christ Jesus You’re just one step away from that work that God wants you to do in your life; from that warmth of his love. He is waiting for you. Find your way back and repent for a full, rich relationship you once knew.

24. Not withstanding I like Peter. Man can I identify with him. I’m glad there was a Peter with all his failures. What if he was a perfect saint? It would just destroy me.

a. But he was a man just like I am.

b. He had problems just like I do.

c. He found the answers just like I did.

d. He learned just like I did. And I trust you will learn today that it’s always dangerous to challenge the Word of Christ. He knows better about his business then what I know. And when I don’t understand, my best position is just to trust his superior wisdom and his love, that he might draw me into the full fellowship; if necessary the full fellowship of His suffering, that I might know the power of God resting upon me. That full, rich fellowship of His Spirit in my life.

25. Today, like Peter, you could be drifting afar, you’re failing in your devotions, and you try to substitute works and the real fire is lacking. And you’ve grown cold and you try to warm yourself now with other experiences.

26. Your only a step away from help. If you will turn around and recommit yourself to Jesus Christ.

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