Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page.
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Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, "You also were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it before all of them, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about." When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." Again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man." After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you." Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, "I do not know the man!" At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: "Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.
In the past, I’ve said that “but” is most powerful word in the English language, because it tends to shift the focus from what comes before to what comes after. And for that reason, I’ve cautioned Christians not to tack a “but” at the end of verses that talk about the love and grace of God. For example, I think it distorts the meaning Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”, when we put a “but” at the end and then offer a lot of stuff that we believe really can separate us from God’s love. Suddenly, the focus shifts from the constant love of God to those things that can negate the deal. Therefore, I’ve said that we need to get the “but” out of our faith.
But I’ll tell you, I think the passage we just read from Matthew is the exception, because I think we really need to imagine a “but” at the end, and I’ll tell you why. Without any question Peter failed miserably in these verses. In fact, he did exactly what he said he wouldn’t do when he denied Jesus three times. And at the end, Peter had every reason to weep bitterly, because he denied the one he’d confessed to be the Son of God and knew that he would face the consequences for that denial. But, in spite of what he did, we shouldn’t forget that God still loved him and that Christ included him in establishing his church. Remember, after the resurrection, “the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them”, and this included Peter. Therefore, he was there when Jesus said, “...Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And so you see, although when used in the wrong place it can shift our focus from God to us, the word “but” can also remind of this powerful truth: there’s really nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.