Perhaps the most likely time for trusting in our own strength is when we are experiencing a spiritual high. Peter was in the presence of Jesus, listening to his teaching. He had just gone through a moving experience when Jesus washed his feet, although he had not learned the lesson that Jesus was teaching, which was that his people have a permanent need of cleansing.
Three aspects of Peter’s self-confidence
A first aspect was his ignoring the word of Jesus that he could not follow Jesus in the path he was taking, which was via Calvary to heaven. We may be amazed that Peter should ignore the word of Jesus, but are we not also guilty of it? After all, every sin that we have committed as Christians is forbidden in the Bible.
A second aspect was his looking down on other believers. This was an obvious fault in Peter’s outlook at this time because he was sure that he would perform better than the others. It is likely that he had more natural strength than some of the others, yet he should have had sufficient self-knowledge to know that he was liable to fall.
A third aspect was his failure to mortify particular sins. Peter had a sinful tendency to disagree with Christ about his death. On a previous occasion, Peter had been given a warning on this matter by Jesus (Mark 8:31-33). We may not have the same particular sin of Peter, but we are prone to particular sins. And if we don’t mortify these sins, it is a sign of self-confidence.
Two possible aspects of our self-confidence
A willingness to walk as close to the world as possible. This attitude can range from the comment that there is no harm in a particular action to an articulate defence of Christian liberty. But behind that outlook is an expression of self-confidence that the individual will be able to handle the situation.
It is a sign of rash self-confidence to attempt to go as near the world as possible. Persisting in this behaviour will result in a reduction of our commitment to Christ. Very few Christians fall suddenly; it is usually the result of a process. They develop other interests which stifle their spiritual development. A good rule is, if you are not sure of an action, don’t do it, no matter who else is doing it.
A second is not to be in a spirit of ongoing prayer. It is likely that most Christians will have a set of time of prayer every day, sometimes two or three set times. I suspect that the disciples as devout Jews engaged in set times of daily prayer. Perhaps Peter and the other disciples already had had their devotions; after all they would have been preparing for participation in the Passover. Yet it is evident that they were not in a spirit of prayer at this time.