Do you remember what a mess Peter was during Holy Week? He was full of bravado, but when Jesus was arrested, he denied he even knew the Lord. Jesus gently restored him to ministry, but even in the first chapter of Acts, Peter seemed quiet and subdued.
Then Pentecost happened. The Holy Spirit came down upon them with tongues of flame, and thousands of people were converted to Christianity in a moment. Peter immediately stood out as a powerful, charismatic person who could persuade an enormous crowd with his words.
That wild excitement did not cease after the day of Pentecost. This Sunday, as we turn to Acts 3-4, we see Peter and John continuing to walk in the confidence and power of the Holy Spirit. They are going up to the Temple to pray, and they pass by the same beggar that they probably have passed hundreds of times. As he always does, he calls out to them, asking for money. Peter looks him in the eye and tells him they don't have money, but they have something far greater. "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (Acts 3:6).
Imagine watching Peter help this man to his feet, and as the man rises, his feet and legs instantly became strong. What a shock that must have been to the man and to the whole crowd! The beggar was so overjoyed that he started jumping up and down - now that was probably not a common sight in the Temple courts! As the crowd gathered at the spectacle, Peter took this chance again to explain the resurrection of Jesus and his saving power as Israel's long-awaited Messiah. Several thousand more people became Christians on that day.
Instantly with this success, though, came persecution. Peter and John were arrested and thrown in jail, and then tried before the Sanhedrin. Would Peter crumble like he had the last time he had been near this jail? Not this time. A completely different Peter emerged, this time full of the Holy Spirit, full of courage and eloquence.
The transformation of Peter is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that the resurrection is real, that the Holy Spirit is real. No human power could have changed this man in such a short amount of a time.
Which Peter are you? It is so easy to be full of bravado, but then as soon as difficulties push in, our human strength crumbles. We are often the Peter who steps out of the boat but immediately gets sunk by the wind and the waves. What makes the difference this time? It is the Holy Spirit. Peter no longer relies on himself. He even asks the crowd, "Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?" (Acts 3:12). He points to the Lord as his only source and strength.
May the Lord fill each of us the same way He did with Peter. May He transform us so that we can walk in the confidence that if the Lord is with us, no weapon formed against us can stand. May we trust the Holy Spirit to put powerful words in our mouths that will boldly tell the story of the gospel. May we walk with the joy of knowing that with God, all things are possible!
I would appreciate your prayers next week - I am leaving early Tuesday morning to spend four days at the EPC's General Assembly in Denver, Colorado. I am especially looking forward to seeing Andrew Brunson, the EPC pastor who has held in a Turkish prison for two years. He and his wife will be keynote speakers for the gathering. He certainly knows what it is like to proclaim the gospel even in one of the darkest places on earth!