The Power Of The Holy Spirit
I want to share with you my story of discovering the power of the Holy Spirit. Late one summer evening, I flipped nervously through the pages of my Bible. I read Acts 5:12-16 as I did many times before, but reading it this time felt different – as if the words jumped off the page, capturing my complete attention. As I stared at the pages of my Bible, I considered how much power Peter possessed for his shadow to heal people and deliver them from demonic spirits. I asked myself one question: “Could God give me this much power?” Frantically, I turned from one page to the next, trying to discover what made Peter’s shadow so powerful. As I searched, no real answer emerged.
As I contemplated this passage, I was overwhelmed with sadness, feeling as if my life was detached from the miracles of the Bible, especially those found in the book of Acts. I knew of times when God answered prayer, but in those times, I believed God let people know he had not forgotten them even though he was not involved in every detail of their life. Sometimes I felt like I was born at the wrong time for God to give me miraculous signs and wonders. Unfortunately, my life was sandwiched between Acts and Revelation in a space called “church history” before the second coming of Jesus.
When I surrendered my hope of receiving God’s miraculous power, the voice of the Holy Spirit told me something that forever changed my life. He said, “Jared, you are reading this passage the wrong way.” His voice startled me and moved through my entire body. I picked up my Bible and looked again for the hidden key. Still, I found nothing. At that moment, when I was ready to quit looking for what made Peter so powerful, the voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to me again saying, “This story is not about Peter’s power! Peter was transparent enough to let God shine through him without getting in the way.” At once, I realized that something that overshadows you creates a shadow. Therefore, God’s desire is to reveal himself to the world. My job is not to get in the way.
I had enough faith for God to save me from my sins, but I did not trust him to empower me with supernatural abilities. I looked for something more when I already had everything I needed. Until then, I viewed the Book of Acts as a smoking gun from the past with little relevance today. Unknowingly, I read the stories in Acts focusing on the Apostles’ power instead of the Holy Spirit’s power. As a result, I idolized the Apostles as demigods. I now see, as I hope you will, that the Book of Acts is not a highlight reel of the Apostles’ power but the story of the Holy Spirit birthing a supernatural church through ordinary people like you and me. You may not agree that the apostles were ordinary people, but the Scriptures show us over and over that they were just like us.
For this reason, I was confused about Peter. I began to see how many mistakes Peter made when I looked for qualifications for Jesus to use him miraculously. As I searched his life for the hidden key that resulted in his shadow healing people, I discovered that Jesus publicly affirmed Peter only one time.
At Caesarea Philippi (see Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” When the rest of the disciples answered, “Some say, John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets,” Peter boldly confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus affirmed Peter. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
I wish I was there to witness this remarkable moment! However, we must not exalt Peter highly as if he did something wonderful or worthy of applause in his own power. Really we could interpret Jesus’ affirmation as, “Way to go, Peter! You got the answer right – but you did not know that answer on your own; God gave it to you.”
To further prove that we should not idolize Peter, in the next passage, Jesus rebukes Peter when Jesus reveals to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Hearing this prophecy, Peter confronts Jesus and tells him that this tragedy will never happen. Jesus responds by saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:21-23).
What a pendulum swing! One moment Jesus tells Peter that he is blessed and that God speaks through him. The next minute Jesus rebukes him for being a mouthpiece of Satan. Jesus did not rescind his promise to Peter to use him in a key role in establishing the church. People are not perfect when God uses them, but God knows our humanity before he ever calls us. If you struggle with this concept and think that Peter made just this one-time mistake, review a brief list of his failures that happened during his short time with Jesus:
– Did not trust in the storm (Matthew 8:26)
– Told that he had little faith (Matthew 14:31)
– Could not understand the parables (Mark 4:13)
– Rebuked Jesus (Mark 8:32)
– Jesus rebuked him (Mark 8:33)
– Fell asleep during prayer time (Mark 14:37)
– Denied that he knew Jesus to a young girl (Mark 14:66-70)
– Brought curses on himself and denied he knew Jesus (Mark 14:71)
– Chopped off a man’s ear – and he was not swinging for an ear! (John 18:10)
– Lied to the Apostle Paul (Galatians 2:11-14)
After reading this list, you may be puzzled about how God could use Peter in a miraculous way when he violated almost everything God wanted him to do. Even though Peter and the rest of the apostles had problems, Jesus still used them in miraculous ways. As Christians, we should not be surprised. Unlike other religions that demand “perfection” before a god accepts them, Jesus’ message is that he accepts us by grace before he makes us perfects our behaviors.
This grace took a rough fisherman like Peter, who once denied that he knew Jesus to a young girl, and transformed him into the man who spoke with boldness before more than 3,000 people on the Day of Pentecost. You may think you need a perfect life before Jesus uses you, but God does not relate to us based on our behavior, whether good or bad; he relates to us through his grace. Understandably, the power of the Holy Spirit in our life is based on our belief in his finished work on the cross, not our behavior or righteous works. Does that make grace cheap? On the contrary, grace is the most costly thing imaginable. It cost Jesus his very life!
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