It is exceedingly rare to see someone’s entire personality change within a short window of time. Frankly, I couldn’t come up with a good illustration of having seen such a thing, nothing that rivals the complete reversal we see in the life of Peter before Pentecost as compared to after the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The disciples of Christ feared being left alone. That is clear in their response in John 14 about his teaching concerning going away to prepare a place for them. To comfort them, he speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit to not just be with them, but to be in them …
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (vss. 16,17)
In terms of rootedness and not drifting from the Lord, the indwelling Holy Spirit—God living within—makes all of the difference in the life of a believer. The issue now is a matter of yielding to the leading of the Spirit.
The change is no more evident anywhere than it was in the life of Peter. Just two months after denying Christ, Peter preaches publically at the Day of Pentecost, and 3,000 are saved.
Later, in the next chapter, he comes into the Temple with John, and a lame beggar calls out to them. Peter heals him – a fellow well-known to everyone there. It creates a scene. And then we read the following (from the guy who was ashamed to be identified with Christ two months earlier) …
Acts 3:11 – While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
The result? A couple thousand more people come to know Christ. The authorities are enraged. And Peter and John are thrown in jail overnight.
The next day they appear before the same leaders who crucified Christ and boldly preach the full gospel message to them, and it says …
Acts 4:13 – When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
The religious leaders tell them to shut up, and then they let them go. But Peter and John basically say that they can’t stop talking about what they know is the truth.
What is the difference? How does this transformation happen?
Before – Peter had drifted. He had become un-rooted.
After – Peter had the power of the Holy Spirit living within; and he chose to be anchored and rooted to that power, making all of the difference.
We may often feel like Peter did after the events of the denial, the crucifixion, resurrection … recalling our failures, yet knowing our true heart of belief that Christ is indeed the only way, truth and life. We recall some gold medal moments of life, yet feel disqualified by our too-obvious failures and weaknesses and crashes in front of a stadium of people.
How can we be used of God?
The wonderful truth is that Christ invites us back to himself, to connect anew, to return from our drift, to find new life and forgiveness in him. In that place is empowerment to do bold things in his name in spite of our failures, even seeing them turned to gain for Christ as examples of his grace.
Rather than seeing ourselves as disqualified, we are newly-qualified to serve through the Spirit’s power. Paul wrote, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…”
That quote is from the beginning of 2 Timothy. And as we end today with our two summer series, I’ll mention that we begin again right away this coming Sunday with a new seven-week study in the Pastoral Epistles of Timothy and Titus. It is to be called “Nuts and Bolts,” as we talk about the essentials of effective ministry.