The Gifts Part 92
In order to understand the difference the power of the Holy Spirit makes in an individual’s life, we need look no further than Peter the Apostle of Jesus, the selfsame Apostle who stood before the religious leaders of his day and rebuked them for crucifying the Christ, as well as preached a resurrected Jesus to them.
To see a snapshot of Peter on that day after the power of the Holy Spirit fell, one would think him fearless, unshakable, and bold beyond reason. To see the entirety of Peter’s life in ensemble however, we realize the magnitude of change that this one event in his life produced.
One would barely recognize this bold and courageous Peter had they known him in days past, when sitting by a fire he denied the selfsame Christ he was now preaching not once, not twice, but three times. One would be hard pressed to reconcile the cowardly man who would not even acknowledge that he knew Jesus, with the man who now stood and boldly proclaimed a risen Christ, not before some servant girl, but before the greatest religious authority of his time.
It wasn’t Peter digging deep, it wasn’t Peter finding inner strength, it wasn’t Peter pulling himself up by his bootstraps that produced this transformation in him, it was the power of the Holy Spirit that had descended upon him, and filled him, and made him something more than he ever thought he could be.
I realize the unpopularity of the following statement, especially in the era of the ‘little god’ doctrine, wherein we’re all super human entities that can bend the world to our will by simply thinking positive thoughts or uttering some mindless self-affirming clichés, but in and of ourselves we are weak and impotent and readily given to cowardice. In and of ourselves, in our own strength, determined as we might be, we will inevitably bend and break if sufficient pressure is applied.
It is the power of the Holy Spirit in us that sustains us, that keeps us from bending or breaking even under the most extreme of pressures, because this power that resides in us begins where we end, and aids us when we need it most.
I have spoken to a multitude of believers who were tortured for their faith, who endured unspeakable cruelties at the hands of godless men, and to the last, each testified that it was not in their own strength that they stood, it was not in their own strength that they remained faithful, it was the power of God that kept them steadfast and unbending.
I have heard enough people boast as to how they would remain strong in the face of torture and even martyrdom, but sadly those who boast of their hypothetical steadfastness have never once been so much as slapped for the cause of Christ, never mind tortured.
Matthew 26:35, “Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And so said all the disciples.”
These were Peter’s words upon hearing Jesus tell him that thrice he would deny the Christ before the rooster crows.
Although some have said that Peter was just being boastful, or trying to show up the other disciples, I for one believe that his intentions were pure, and he meant it when he said to Christ that if he had to, he would die with Him, yet not deny Him. In his heart Peter believed, and even intended to remain faithful unto death and not deny Jesus, but when it came to it, his flesh betrayed him, and he did as Christ foretold and denied Him three times.
The lesson for us all, a lesson that is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago, is that if we trust in the arm of the flesh, if we believe that we can stand in and of ourselves, when the time comes that we will have to stand, our flesh will betray us just as readily as Peter’s flesh betrayed him.
We need the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us, working through us, giving us the boldness and the courage that He gives so that we might stand not in ourselves, not in our own strength, but in Christ and by the power indwelling in us.
The difference in Peter was stunning, spectacular and dramatic. He went from being Peter the coward, the fearful man who denied Christ at the first sign of confrontation, to Peter the bold, Peter the rock, Peter the steadfast who preached a risen Christ even after he was put in custody and threatened never to teach in the name of Jesus again.
This is what the Holy Spirit does, this is what only the Holy Spirit can do, He gives us boldness and courage to lift high the name of Jesus, to proclaim His love and saving grace, to fearlessly present the gospel even in the face of hardship, persecution and even death.
Keep in mind that when the high priests threatened Peter and John, they were by no means empty threats. Peter and John knew the power these men wielded. They knew they had enough clout to have engineered the crucifixion of Christ and so more likely than not they took the threats very seriously.
We know that both Peter and John had families. Peter was married, John had a brother named James, so the threats the high priests made most likely extended to their families as well. Nowadays, when an individual threatens another it is likely with a lawsuit, or with a restraining order, but the men of that time were not being threatened with legal action, they were being threatened with imprisonment, torture, and death.
I submit to you, that the resolve and courage Peter and John showed, by standing before the greatest authorities of their time and boldly saying, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’, came not from their own inner strength, but from the power of the Holy Spirit that resided in them.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.