PEER PRESSURE (LESSON 2)

This month's lesson is on peer pressure. Tonight we're going to discuss some different people in the Bible and see how each of them handled peer pressure.

As we've said already, peer pressure sometimes shows itself by the way you act a certain way because you want to blend in and be accepted by a certain group of people. But sometimes we fold under peer pressure not so much by what we do, but by the things that we don't do. For example, when you don't speak up even though something is going on that you know isn't right. (Give example). Or maybe it shows itself just in your conversations. For example, you work somewhere with a lot of men and the conversation turns to dirty jokes or sexual comments about women that, as a Christian, you know are inappropriate, but instead of voicing your opinion against such talk, you just smile as though you think it's funny.

Did you know that whenever you don't take a stand for your Christian beliefs and instead you just go along with anything and everything that this world says is okay, then you are giving in to peer pressure? If you are a true follower of Christ, you should carry yourself in such a way that you are making God proud of you, not saddened by you. Is God proud of you when you are cussing up a storm with your friends? What about when you are going to all of those R-rated films and watching sex and violence on the screen with your buddies? And would your friends make fun of you if you told them that you didn't want to be a part of those activities? Probably so, but that shouldn't matter to you. The Bible tells us that it is more important for us to care what God thinks than what other people think. Acts 5:29 reads, "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." Before any and every decision, we should ask ourselves, "In doing this, am I pleasing God or man?"

Anyway, let's now see how one man in the Bible reacted to peer pressure. This Bible account is of a man who went along with the crowd. He got caught up in the mob mentality.

First, does anyone know what "mob mentality" is? An example of mob mentality is the situation that happened in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict a few years ago. On the TV news we saw a riot that lasted for days. Ordinary people were stealing from shops and setting things on fire. I bet that most of those people never would have behaved that way on their own, but somehow they got caught up in the frenzy of what everybody else was doing. People sinned because they got caught up with the crowd.

Well, what we are about to read and discuss is an example of someone who wasn't brave enough to go against the crowd. As a matter of fact, an innocent man was killed because this man didn't have the heart to do what was right.

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The man we are talking about was named Pontius Pilate. He was one of the governors of the Roman Empire. And before the Jews could crucify Jesus, they needed to get the governor's permission. So they made up some phony charges and brought Jesus before Pilate. Let's read about the man who could have stopped Christ's execution, but instead he went along with the crowd. Luke 23:1-3, "And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a king. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it." (Explain)

Luke 23:4-5, "Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry (Judea), beginning from Galilee to this place."

* Now, Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. He even said to the crowd, "I find no fault in this man." Pilate didn't really want to put Jesus to death, but the crowd kept pressuring him. Now let's jump ahead and see how Pilate even tried to get out of sentencing Jesus to death by saying he would have Jesus beaten and released. Luke 23:13-16 reads, "And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people; and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching (concerning) those things whereof ye accuse him: no nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him."

Then Pilate tried to release Jesus on a technicality. There was a custom that said that since it was during the time of a certain feast, one of the prisoners could be released to the people. But instead of Christ, let's read who the crowd wanted released. Luke 23:17-21 reads, "For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast. And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: who for a certain sedition (rebellion) made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison. Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him." As we see, again and again Pilate is trying to get them to let him release Jesus.

Pilate will give it one last try. Luke 23:22, "And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go." So then Pilate chastised Christ by having him whipped and scourged (explain what that means) in the hopes that the crowd would see Christ's bloodied body and be satisfied with that punishment. But the crowd still cried out for Christ to be crucified.

* And ultimately Pilate folded under the pressure of the crowd. In Luke 23:23-25 we read, "And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified: and the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will." Pilate listened to the people and let a guilty murderer be set free, yet he whipped Jesus, who was innocent, and sent Christ off to be executed by crucifixion.

Why did Pilate give in to the crowd? Maybe it was because of fear -- fear of losing his political position, or fear of making an unpopular decision. Whatever his reasons, he had to live with the consequences of his decision. And there are always consequences when you willingly do what you know is wrong. Even if you get away with something while you are here on earth, you still have to answer to God when you die. And like we said last week, you can't say to God, "Well, so-and-so forced me to go against you," or "I was afraid of what would happen if I stood up for what I knew was right." God gives us the power through the Holy Spirit to not be afraid and to stand up against our peers and the world. And God wants us to obey Him rather than the crowd!

In Matthew 27:24, we read a statement that Pilate made to try to clear his guilty conscience. It reads, "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it." Pilate was trying to separate himself from the situation. But whenever you have the power to stop something that is wrong and you do not, you are just as guilty as the people who did the act. The law calls it being an "accessory."

* Finally, in Matthew 27:26 we see how it all ends, "Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified." Pilate went from standing up to the crowd and saying of Jesus, "This man is innocent. I find no fault in him" to letting the crowd pressure him into letting Jesus be taken away and crucified. Now, I know that someone here is thinking, "Well, Jesus came to earth to die for our sins and it was inevitable that he would be crucified." That is true, but Pilate did not have to be the one to give the order. Pilate could have said, "I will not be a part of this," and the crowd would have had to have found someone else to help them get rid of Jesus.

And I bet Pilate forever regretted his decision. I bet he probably had trouble sleeping after that. And how do you think he felt when he died and had to face God and explain his actions? Can you imagine how stupid he felt saying, "Well, God, I was an accessory to murder because the crowd forced me into it."

And what about you? What choices will you make? In your heart you know those things that are right and wrong. You know the things that would please God. Don't be like Pilate and let the world pressure you into doing things that you later regret. True, there will always be murder. There will always be hatred. There will always be drugs and alcohol. There will always be opportunities to steal. But you can take a stand and say, "No, I will have no part in that. I choose to obey God rather than men."

If you go along with the world, you will ultimately experience much pain. You will do things that you later regret with all of your heart. But I can guarantee you that if you follow Christ with all your heart and let Him guide you, you will never regret that. You will never say the words, "I regret living the way God commanded me to live."

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