Are you stuck in the rut of this world? Jesus Christ offers you spiritual power that can transform your life.
Peter would begin changing and in the end would be a different person through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Source: Standard Publishing, GoodSalt
Picture this: You're in church, the temperature drops, and a sudden gust of wind comes through the windows. Papers start flying everywhere. You see what looks like flickering tongues of fire over the heads of the other people. Everyone looks around in shock. No one has seen anything like this before!
Does this sound strange? It's actually happened! We find a scene like this described in the Bible, in the book of Acts, chapter 2. It takes place on the day of Pentecost, one of God's annual Holy Days.
What does the event that took place on this Holy Day teach us about God's purpose for you? Change is something God wants and expects from us (Romans:12:2). However, He doesn't expect us to do it alone. Neither does He expect us to rely on a lot of self-help ideas and techniques. He provides a tool and a guide for us to truly change, because God wants us to live successful, positive lives.
He promises us the help (John:14:26) that we need to transform our lives into the vibrant, happy lives we desire but often find so elusive, if we are truly seeking change.
The dramatic events of Pentecost in Acts, with tongues of fire descending on Christ's disciples, is a miracle that paved the way
for us to make changes—the most critical and lasting changes in our life—the kind of change that leads to eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
What is it that Jesus said would create this kind of dramatic change, and how did it work in the life of one of His followers?
Transformed by the promised Helper
Jesus Christ promised His disciples the help they would need to live transformed lives. He said, "The Father is sending a great Helper, the Holy Spirit, in My name to teach you everything and to remind you of all I have said to you" (John:14:26, The Voice). Here on the night before His death, Christ revealed the promise of the Holy Spirit to His disciples. This is recorded in the Bible for all future Christians.
One disciple listening on that very serious evening before Christ's death would be an example of the transformation that was coming through "the Helper." It was the apostle Peter. Peter would sink to despair and then recover and help lead the greatest beginning in history, the beginning of the Church that Christ promised He would build. Peter would stand up before a crowd and deliver a powerfully eloquent sermon that would in turn change thousands of human lives.
However, on the night before His death when Christ was arrested, Peter acted in a very cowardly manner that sent him into deep remorse (Luke:22:56-60).
Peter's cowardly action, at the most critical moment of Christ's earthly life, would highlight the underperforming life Peter had been living. It's a powerful lesson for all of us to learn. You see, God cares so much that we succeed that He carries us far more through life than we might realize. God carried Peter that night to enable him to recover later.
Jesus foretold that Peter would betray Him when pressured. He had said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me" (Luke:22:31-34).
Those are strong words to say to a close friend, and sadly, what Christ warned of happened. After Christ's arrest and while He was being shuffled between the Jewish and the Roman authorities, Peter, who was following nearby, did exactly what Jesus said he would do.
We read that Peter went out and wept bitterly after denying Christ the third time, hearing the rooster crow, and seeing Jesus gaze at him (Luke:22:60-62). Later events would prove that this was going to be, and indeed was, a turning point in Peter's life. Peter would begin changing and in the end would be a different person. The power of the Holy Spirit would change his life.
In Acts 2 we see that Peter was changed—powerfully transformed from the proud yet cowardly friend he had been to Christ. He stood up among the disciples and a multitude and delivered an inspired message to thousands who were astonished at the sight of the disciples speaking in many different languages (Acts:2:14-15).
The power that transformed Peter and the other disciples is available to you today. Christ promised this power, and you can have it in your life as well!
Peter stood with the other apostles and called on the audience to listen carefully to his words. He did this under the influence of the Holy Spirit, which God sent to him and the other disciples on Pentecost. The scene there in Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts, was the beginning of what was foretold by the prophet Joel, who wrote that God would pour out His Spirit on mankind (Joel:2:28).
The result of the Holy Spirit coming to man would be transformed lives in those who would hear and respond. Men and women of all times would have opportunity to call on God. And His Spirit of love, peace and a sound mind (2 Timothy:1:7) would provide clear-minded thinking to help create a life as God intended—a life fashioned and molded in the image of Christ.
Listening that morning, the crowd was stunned to hear that the Jesus of Nazareth whom they had seen and heard was the One sent from God to show them not only the Father but also how to live as His children. Those who had watched Christ teach the masses, heal the sick and the disabled, and command evil spirits to leave the mentally tormented were now learning that they had seen God walking among them.
The Helper brings hope
Peter's message that morning was full of hope. It was a message that God can restore the years that were lost. That's why Peter was inspired to quote from a prophet of Israel's past. The promise of the Holy Spirit is a promise from God to provide the help to recover from the ravages of sin and its destructive effects on the lives of all of us.
Christ's teaching and example revealed a way of life filled with joy. It showed how to live before God and among people. It showed the only way to build a solid relationship with God.
What about you and your life? Are you ready to give up the way you've been living? Are you ready for a change? Are you at the point where you're ready to learn a new and a different way? Do you desire a relationship with God?
Peter's message had a profound effect on his listeners. They were worried. They were thinking. And they were realizing just how seriously flawed their lives really were. They were no different than us in coming to see that there was a gaping void in their lives that needed to be dealt with, one that could be filled with joy and hope and meaning. They were hearing a new message, and for the first time they saw a way forward out of the tiny little traps of the life they were living.
For the first time, they were hearing words that truly made sense. They were hanging on a positive message that could frame the remainder of their lives. Nevertheless, there came a moment where they had to act and decide. It was similar to the moment Peter had when he denied knowing Jesus and was then struck by the turn of Christ's head and His penetrating gaze.
Peter came to the decisive moment in his message and said, "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts:2:36).
When those words penetrated their minds, "They were cut to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?'" (Acts:2:37).
Repent and be baptized
They each essentially felt Christ looking at them, as He did at Peter on the night that He was betrayed. Today, Christ is looking at us with a look from which we cannot turn away. What, then, do we do?
Peter had their attention. He said, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts:2:38-39).
On this Holy Day, this festival called Pentecost, the Church began with the gift of the Holy Spirit given to humanity. God began to give His Holy Spirit of power to those willing to change and look into the eyes of Christ and admit, "I am a sinner who needs forgiveness and help." Pentecost, marking the giving of the Holy Spirit to humankind, is the beginning of a transformation that can produce the quality of life that represents the Kingdom of God.
God holds out to each of us a promise. It is the promise of a transforming power, the power of His Holy Spirit. We can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit of power that enables us to deal with all of the challenges of everyday life with peace and confidence.
That promise begins with a desire to change how we live. Do you have that desire? Do you want to change your habits? Will you come to see that your life, no matter how honest, no matter how sincere, no matter how good, is still insufficient? You see, we have all fallen short of the mark of righteousness—the true godly life—that God through Peter summoned people to live (see also Romans:3:23; Romans:12:2).
To receive God's Holy Spirit we must repent, which means to change and turn to a life based on God's law as exemplified by Jesus. This change begins inside you, winning over the desires of self and personal interests that crowd out a godly life.
The challenge for you and me
Here is the challenge. Christ is looking at us, as He did Peter, and in His eyes is the summons to follow Him, to become a disciple, one who wholeheartedly desires to walk in His footsteps and do what He taught and practiced.
It is the opportunity to change your life—the opportunity to pull out of the rut that entangles you in a world that has missed this summons of Christ to a new way of life—a tried and proven way that works. That way is based on God's eternal law, found in the pages of your Bible.
Receiving this look from Christ requires a response. Peter melted in despair on the night of Christ's arrest and ran. But the story doesn't end there. He returned, learned from the experience, and went on to accomplish great things by the power of the living resurrected Christ within him—the power that is the Holy Spirit.
Peter called on others to do the same. That message is before you right now. The challenge is to turn around, face Christ, and meet His gaze. Turn toward God and let your eyes meet Him in willing obedience and surrender of your life to Him.
You can change, and your life can be transformed by this power. It is the power of the Holy Spirit given on that day of Pentecost. Christ said He would not leave His disciples without help, a comforter sent from the Father. On Pentecost He dramatically fulfilled His promise. The Holy Spirit came on the disciples, and the Church of God began. To be part of that Church it is important to understand and observe this Holy Day.
Once you admit, "I need God's Holy Spirit," the process begins. If you are at this point, then God is working with you! John:6:44 tells us that the Father has to draw you to Christ. Once that process begins and we recognize that need, God draws us or calls us, and then we have to do something about that calling.
He calls us into a life of transformation. That means we have to repent and be baptized, just like the people in Acts 2. In fact, that is exactly the kind of lesson Peter talked about on Pentecost.
Repent is a word people don't always understand today. It's also a hard word for a modern mind to conceptually fathom. Repent from what? Repent of what? What does that mean? Romans 8 explains that repenting means changing from a physical perspective to try to embrace a spiritual frame of mind. Paul said we should have the mind of Christ. Where are we going to get the mind of Christ? We need God's Spirit to change our perspective to Christ's way of thinking.
So we have to change our thinking. That's what repenting is all about—changing our way of thinking from our own self-centered way to God's way. Once we do this, Galatians:2:20 describes this change as being "crucified with Christ" while we still live—the difference being that Christ is now doing the living within us!
When we make this commitment to change, we repent and are baptized—symbolically putting to death the old person and rising from the water of baptism to a new life. In this we pledge to put away the physical and become transformed into thinking and living God's way. And for that we need the Holy Spirit. God gives us His Spirit—we cannot work it up. We have to repent and be baptized and have hands laid on us by a true minister of God to have the gift of the Holy Spirit given to us (see Acts:8:17; 2 Timothy:1:6-7).
The Holy Spirit—the power to transform your life
The Holy Spirit is a power—the power of God sent as a gift, a Helper, from the Father. It is something God gives to us as a gift as we repent and obey Him (see also Acts:5:32). That's different than how most religious people will look at the Holy Spirit, and yet it truly is God's power that will work within and through us. What is the role of God's Spirit in our life today?
Once we've received God's Spirit, it's His power in our life to change our life. It gives us the opportunity to draw closer to God, to have a spiritual relationship with Him, to understand more about what His will and His purpose for us is.
God's Spirit helps us to understand His Word so we can read the Bible with much deeper understanding. When we begin to do that, then we will see the need to change further, and where and what we need to change in our lives. We will see the shortcomings in our life, and through God's Spirit we can overcome. The Holy Spirit is the power that helps us to truly change. It convicts us. It works with us. It helps us to see where we need to realign our lives with God's way.
One of the most encouraging descriptions the Bible offers about the Holy Spirit is what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy:1:7, cited earlier: "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." Obviously God's Spirit is a serious gift—an uplifting, transformative gift. It is important, it is available, and it is something you need to think seriously about incorporating in your life if you're ready for a true change—a change that involves God in your life.
The day of Pentecost represents the only way we can really change our lives. We need the power of God's Spirit working within us to be the kind of transformed people God wants us to be.
Remember Peter: With the help of God's Spirit, he went from being an underachieving disciple to becoming a bold apostle of Jesus Christ and a representative of the Kingdom of God. You too can experience this change in your life with the power of God's Holy Spirit through the miracle that happened on the day of Pentecost!