The power of God is essential if we want to accomplish His purposes.
Let me repeat that: the power of God is essential if we want to accomplish His purposes. If you don’t agree with that statement, let’s contrast Peter at Pentecost with Peter at the trial of Jesus. On each of these occasions he was given an opportunity to affirm Jesus Christ, each with very different results.
Peter, acting in his own power, was an unstable figure (as many of us are). In an instant, he could be a committed, even militant, follower of Jesus Christ.
“But [Peter] spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. […]” (Mark 14:31, KJV).
“Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus” (John 18:10, KJV).
At moments such as these, he could be so extreme in his devotion to Christ that his fanaticism actually contradicted Christ’s teachings.
“Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11, KJV).
Then, a short time later he could cower in fear at the mere suggestion that he was associated with Jesus Christ.
“And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak” (Mark 14:66-71, KJV).
Peter, on his own, was not reliable or consistent in his faith. The man we see toward the end of the Gospels is a weak and powerless figure. (Before we judge him too much, how many of us can say we are any different on our own?)
Contrast this with the Peter we see on the day of Pentecost. He and the other Christians present were challenged and mocked that day, until Peter stood up and began to preach. I encourage you to go read the entire sermon in Acts 2, but for the moment look at just a few of his statements.
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (v. 21).
“[…] Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (vv. 22-24).
“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (vv. 32-33).
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36).
This hardly sounds like the same Peter! He didn’t suddenly become perfect or superhuman, but the Peter of Acts seems more stable, more committed, more effective than the Peter of the Gospels who bounced between extremism and cowardice. His life was changed from this point on. Why?
The Holy Spirit of God, who came upon Christ’s church on the day of Pentecost, made the difference!
“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (v. 4).
The presence of the Holy Spirit gave them direct access to the power of God, something they had never known before. From Pentecost on, all believers have been baptized with the Holy Spirit at the time of their conversion. That means that we have constant access to the same Holy Sprit of God that empowered Peter and the rest of the Jerusalem church that day. We are never without Him, and if we allow Him the freedom to work in our lives He will empower us to live a godly life and fulfill God’s will.
Now, who are we more like? Peter when Jesus was on trial, or Peter at Pentecost?
Too often, we as individuals and as churches are about as powerful and effective in our ministry as Peter at Jesus’ trial. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
If we want to see God work in our lives, if we want to see God transform our lives, if we want to see God transform our churches and the lives of the people in our communities, we have to stop doing what we can do and allow God and His power work through us.