Choices That Determine Destiny - Lesson 4

By Dudley Chancey

Choosing Right, Choosing Wrong, Choosing Right

Text: John 13:31-38; 18:15-27; 21:15-19

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will choose to stand firm with God, even if other youth group members walk away.
  2. The student can explain that even well-intentioned people make bad choices, stumble, and can get back on their"spiritual" feet.

Preparation: (Some items are for extra work if time allows)

  1. Bible for every student (NIV is used for quotes and handouts in this series)
  2. Copies of student handout
  3. Bible concordances or Bible computer program
  4. Chalk or markers for board work


If you have been a Christian very long, you have probably concluded at one time or another that the story of Peter is in the Bible specifically for (or about) you. This man was not afraid to step out and take a risk. He was not afraid to speak up. But, like most of us, when the real pressure was on, sometimes he stumbled. The good news is, he didn't quit. He didn't give up. He comes back stronger when he stumbles. The final period of his life is one of the great Christian witnesses to God, Jesus Christ and the church.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (5 minutes)

  1. Prayer time (ask for requests, ask for answered prayers)
  2. Check calendar of events coming up
  3. Connect any students visiting, to individual students and the youth group

Review from Lesson #3: (5 minutes)

  1. Go over the answers to the handouts. Take these up if you are using them for some type of reward (mission trip credit).
  2. Give a one-minute summary of Joseph's choices in last week's lesson.

Learning Experiences: (20 minutes)

  1. Remember the two general points that provide a background for our story (see Lesson #1 for a more detailed description).
    1. First, we will be studying a method of making godly choices in our everyday living
      1. The 4 C's. Consider the choice. Compare our attitudes and actions to God. Commit to God's ways. Count on God's protections and provision.
      2. We are studying principles rather than rules.
    2. Second, we will see how much the people we hangout with influence our lives.
  2. Our Bible case for study today comes from the book of John (there are other pieces of this story in the other Gospels). The text from this book tells a story of a person a lot like you and me (What if /Stumble, What if I Fall by DC Talk). God does an amazing thing with the Bible. He has recorded for us stories that show the good and the bad in people. He doesn't try to hide the bad. Such is the case with Peter. We get to see his weak side and his strong side. We get to see Jesus Christ making a difference in his life. The same happens to you and me. The lesson today will focus on three periods in Peter's life:
    1. Period 1—Choosing to lay down his life for Jesus (John13:37)
      1. In the heat of the moment, Peter announces that he will follow Jesus even to the extent of giving up his life for him. Judas has just began his betrayal of Jesus. Peter can't imagine himself doing anything like that. Up until this time, Peter has been a faithful follower of Christ.
      2. What is the difference between Judas and Peter at this point? It may be that Judas had already been dipping into the money pot, and was driven by greed. Maybe he saw the tide turning and figured he better bail out while he could-and make a little money off the deal. Peter seems to fully trust Christ at this point (after trying to walk on water, it would seem he would trust Christ for anything).
    2. Period 2—Choosing to not know Jesus (John 18:15-27)
      1. Once again, the heat is on and Peter has to make some quick choices. He is approached three different times while Jesus is questioned by the high priest.Each time someone asks him if he knows Jesus, he denies knowing him. Why does Peter go from "I will lay down my life for you" one moment to "I don't know you" the next? Perhaps he was very human.Perhaps he had never been in a crowd that wanted to kill someone. Can you see God working in this situation? Why would Peter leave Jesus high and dry? Can you think of more questions that might be going through his mind as he hears the rooster crow?
      2. We all go through periods that seem dry spiritually. It is difficult to remain "high" all the time. In fact, that is probably not biblical. You don't find anyone in theBible on a mountain top all the time. So what does one do when they hit a dry spell? Where do you turn? Do you give up on God and Christ every time things go wrong? (You could use "Divine Desert" here from the Talksheets.) Life certainly has ups and downs. We need to learn to trust God in both.
    3. Period 3—Choosing to come back to Jesus (John 21: 15-19)
      1. You may have seen this part of Peter's life compared to the end of Judas' life in books or maybe in a sermon. It's easy to see the physical difference. Peter lives-Judas dies. The account in Matthew 26 and 27 depicts both men realizing that they have betrayed Jesus. They both appear to be very sad about the choices they made. The bad choice that Judas made is so powerful, he ends his life. Peter finds the strength to keep on living, even though he chose poorly earlier.
      2. Jesus asks Peter three times "do you truly love me." Peter is actually hurt that he has to answer Jesus three times. Why do you think Jesus asks Peter three times? Some say because he denied him three times. What was the commission from Jesus each of the three times? Feed my sheep. Jesus wants Peter to choose to love him, but he also wants him to be active in telling others about Jesus. Of course, we can read in Acts where Peter and others take the Good News of Jesus and turn the world upside down.When Peter chose to follow Jesus that day on the beach (John 21:15- 19) he never turned back. In fact he would die for the cause one day. (See More Background on Peter's life)

Applications: (10 minutes)

The point here is that you not only want them to know about the Bible text, but you want them to take action on it. Can the students think of two people maybe in their own church that made bad choices-but then one renews his/her relationship with Christ and the other runs away? Why do some people come back and others keep running? God gives us free choice. We aren't robots. We can do whatever we want to do. Where do you see yourself in the story of Peter?

1. Does it appear that Peter was working from any standards?It doesn't seem like he has a problem with money (other gods before me) like Judas had. As far as we know, he was not breaking any of the Ten Commandments. At the end of the text for today's lesson, what makes Peter make the choice to follow Jesus till the end of his life? He is obviously impacted by the resurrection of Christ. Perhaps the resurrection along with a recollection of such scripture asDeuteronomy 30:15-19 (choose life), inspired him to finish strong. So what about you? Have you made a life-long commitment to Jesus Christ? If you have, you have made the best choice you will ever make in this life. If you haven't, and realize that bad things (sin) separates you from a relationship with God and Christ, then you need to choose wisely- today!

2. Using the concordances, look up several Bible verses on some of today's discussion. For example, students could look up the following: Sin, salvation other gods, etc. Ask students to discuss the definitions of these different words and to give some of the Bible contexts in which they are used. You might even take advantage of the setting and ask who are Christians, to see who aren't. Capitalize on the GoodNews of Jesus in Peter’s life.

3. Have students set up a defense trial for Judas and Peter.Which one of these men is guilty for betraying Jesus? Is there a more or less sentence here?

4. Restate the objectives for this week, tying them to the story of Peter. The story of Peter's life should be an inspiration to all of us. His life shows the ups and downs of making different choices, but most importantly, his life shows the importance of making the all-important choice of following Jesus Christ-all the way.

Assignment: (2 minutes)

  1. Pass out the handouts to take home. Encourage the students to fill in the answers to the questions about Peter sometime during the next week and bring these back to class with them. The "fill in the blanks" section is straight out of the text for today's lesson. This assignment will give students time to "be in the Word." The following may help you next week as you go over the thought questions:
    1. Hot or cold. Make a point to students that life has ups and downs. You trust God no matter what. This would be a good opportunity to stress the importance of having good friends around. When we are down, we can turn to them for help, and not risk turning away from God.
    2. 4C's. This is not a perfect process, but it is better than nothing, and that is what most students are using to make choices. Take advantage of this and share with students how they can walkthrough this process for every important decision in their lives.
    3. Leaving? You might mention the story in John 6.Verse 66 says many people left him (and guess who is there saying he won't leave?-Peter).
    4. If students don't have some type of plan or goal,they will do nothing. They aren't that much different from you and me. Ask students to come see you if they need help in staying on fire for God. (Remember, the devil is prowling around looking for them)
  2. Read Ruth 1-10. The story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz for next week.

Evaluation: (5 minutes)

  1. Ask students to explain the providence of God in Peter's life.
  2. Ask students to name one principle from the lesson today.
  3. (After class) Have an intern or another adult evaluate your teaching. Occasionally, ask some students to blind review the class. Ask questions like, "What was the main goal of the class tonight?" "What really made an impression on you tonight about the lesson?"

Further Resources:

(You do not have to have these to make these lessons work)

Lynn, D. (2001). Junior high-middle school talksheets Psalms and Proverbs-updated!. 50 creative discussion starters for junior high youth groups. El Cajon: Youth Specialties. More Background: A good article can be found on Peter in the Easton's Bible Dictionary inmost libraries, or you can find it in the Nav Press Word search Bible program on CD.

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