You Will Receive Power

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

Restored!

We’d heard inmates share life perspectives that only the incarcerated could gain, but the prison ministry volunteers were unprepared for what this man had to say. “What I did was wrong, and I’m serving my sentence for it. But how would you like for your entire life to be judged by your worst decision on the worst day of your life?” We caught our breath; we understood. We’d all experienced “worst” decisions and days, and would prefer they not define us.

Peter had grievously erred. Shortly before His betrayal, Jesus had forewarned his disciples they would soon desert Him as foretold through Zechariah centuries prior, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”1 Yet Peter asserted his will above God’s word and his allegiance beyond the others’, insisting, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”2 He scattered like everyone else, of course, and of the Twelve only Peter denied knowing the Lamb of God—not once but thrice—surely the worst decision on the worst day of his life. Would this tragic moment define Peter? Is this how he would be forever judged?

In Christ Jesus, what appears to us as a defining point of sin and death becomes for us the turning point of truth and grace. Appearing to his disciples for the third time since His resurrection, Jesus engaged Peter, not to condemn him, but to restore him—to mend this broken disciple and to send him whole again into a meaningful life of Kingdom work. Peter had proclaimed unequaled loyalty to Jesus, but now when asked if his love for Jesus exceeded that of the others, the humbled disciple avoided comparison, saying only, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”3 Peter had denied Jesus three times, and now three times Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” At each “Yes,” Jesus pointed Peter to the Divine call of proactive love: “Do you love me? … Feed my sheep.”4

We don’t have to be defined by our worst decisions and days, for Jesus has overcome them, and all who live in Him by faith are made new. We stand in the truth of forgiveness and serve in the freedom of grace, knowing this: “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”5 It was true for Peter; it will be true of us who believe.

Father, thank you for new life in Christ, and that our sin defines us no longer. Strengthen us, and send us to feed your sheep, however you call us to do this today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

1 Matthew 26:31
2 Matthew 26:33 ESV
3, 4 John 21:17 ESV
5 1 Peter 5:10 ESV

Peter’s Very Bad Day

Have you ever had one of those days when seemingly nothing transpired the way you had hoped? Of course! We all have. How much worse are calamities of the self-inflicted variety, when pride prevents us from recognizing our limitations, accepting others’ correction, or soliciting their help! Consider, then, Peter’s very bad day. On arguably the most pivotal night in human history, this disciple refused to let Jesus wash his feet, naively vowed unequaled loyalty and then argued when foretold otherwise, slept when commanded to pray, and severed the ear of the high priest’s servant—all before denying Jesus three times! “And he went out and wept bitterly.”1 Who wouldn’t? Peter had experienced Spirit-led moments before, as when confessing Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,”2 but this was not one of them.

It is easy to point to Peter’s foibles and somehow feel better about ourselves by comparison or to find curious relief in a misery-loves-company sort of way. Peter’s very bad day, however, was a real-life illustration of the human condition, for we are by nature “unspiritual”3—unwilling and unable to lead a godly life in our own wisdom and strength. The apostle Paul’s confession could just as well have been Peter’s and ours: “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”4 Without the Spirit, our mind is “hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”5

We find no relief in Peter’s perils, for they only parallel our own. The hope we take from Peter is in his God, for God does not abandon us to the hopeless task of changing our sinful nature as if to “fix” ourselves, rather He fills us with His Spirit and stirs our hearts to love Him and trust His ways. Wrote a wiser Peter, long since restored, “[Jesus’] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these 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.”6 Then we cease striving in our natural power, and we start thriving in God’s Spirit. He calls us to this, and He causes it to happen. Praise His name.

Father, you are good, and you seek only good for us. Deliver us from the temptation to please you in our own wisdom and strength, and be pleased to fill us to with your Spirit. You are our life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

1 Matthew 26:75 ESV
2 Matthew 16:16 ESV
3 Romans 7:14 NIV
4 Romans 7:18 ESV
5 Romans 8:7,8 ESV
6 2 Peter 1:3,4