The impulsive disciple—decisive without restraint—had at every turn suffered the crushing failure of self-reliance and human wisdom the night it mattered most, when his Lord was betrayed. Sometimes transformation entails personal failure. The once-boastful one, now humbled before his risen Messiah, had experienced the freedom of forgiveness and the relief of restoration. Transformation includes liberation, as well. Yet when commissioned to spread the good news of life in Christ, Peter still lacked one crucial thing, as did his friends—the spiritual power to do so. This, too, would change. It had to change, for without the presence of the Spirit, there is no change in us.
Before ascending to His Father, Jesus told His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”1 Not long afterward, as the apostles were gathered, “there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind… And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”2 It was the promised power from on-high, and the change in Peter from that point on was clear. For this frightened man who had denied knowing Jesus to “one of the servant girls of the high priest”3 now spoke boldly of the resurrected Christ to the high priest himself.4 This disciple who in Gethsemane had failed to stay awake and “pray that [he] may not enter into temptation”5 now wisely cautioned others regarding spiritual warfare: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”6 He who had proudly pledged unparalleled loyalty7 finally understood where godly greatness lies: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”8
Just as salvation is the gift of God—His Spirit giving birth to our spirit—so also is our transformation into the likeness of Christ. We can no more sanctify ourselves than we can save ourselves. Writes Peter: “[Jesus’] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him… He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”9 As we turn from the ways of our sinful nature, having seen them exposed in the light of Christ, God grows us in His own nature. This is the work of the Spirit; this is change in us.
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6 ESV)
Father, open our heart to your Holy Spirit, that we would know and share your love, understand and apply your wisdom, and serve others in your power. Grace us to leave behind the things of our nature and to live increasingly in yours. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
1 Acts 1:8 ESV
2 Acts 2:2-4 ESV
3 Mark 14:66 ESV
4 Acts 4:5-12 ESV
5 Luke 22:40 ESV
6 1 Peter 5:8 ESV
7 Luke 22:33 ESV
8 1 Peter 5:6 ESV
9 2 Peter 1:3, 4 NIV