Acts 2:14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.”
The transformation of Peter from how he was 50 days earlier is absolutely remarkable. He was always one to speak up no matter what the circumstances, even when it wasn’t appropriate, so that much is in character. However, in the courtyard at Jesus’ trial he denied three times that he knew Jesus, in an effort to save his own skin. (Luke 22:54-60) After that, three things happened. First, Jesus confronted him with a look, he recognized and acknowledged his sin, and repented strongly. (Luke 22:61-62) Second, he received the forgiveness that Jesus offered him. (1 Corinthians 15:5, John 21:15-19) Third, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, which is what has just happened here. True transformation always requires these three elements: genuine repentance, receiving forgiveness, and yielding to the Holy Spirit. All of us have “character flaws” that get in the way of representing Christ effectively. Sometimes we are oblivious of them, and sometimes we agonize over them for years. The answer in every case is the three steps that Peter went through. If we refuse to acknowledge that our behavior is unpleasing to the Lord, we will never change: we’ve got to repent. However, some people try to keep a tight rein on their flaws, but for one reason or another can’t seem to believe God has really forgiven them. Such a person never experiences the freedom that God intends for them from whatever their problem is. Lastly, all of this is the work of the Holy Spirit in us today, since we don’t interact with Jesus physically. If we aren’t open to His work in and through us, the transformation God intends will largely be dormant, until we “let go and let God,” so to speak.
As a pastor I deal with this constantly, and with people who are stuck on one or more of the three stages. I have some who try to be open to the Spirit without receiving the forgiveness, and some who lament not feeling forgiven when they haven’t really repented. These three can happen virtually simultaneously, but in my experience that isn’t common. I can’t force anyone into or through any of these stages, but I can be available to the Holy Spirit for Him to use me in leading people through them. The less spiritually mature someone is, the more they need “Jesus with skin on,” as a child once so graphically expressed. I can be that for people, but only if I let go of pride and humanistic motivation and love people with God’s love. That is what I want to do.
Father, You know the situation that came so strongly to mind as I wrote that, but it’s far from the only one to which this applies. Help me walk in repentance and forgiveness and fellowship with Your Spirit myself, so that I may be effective in leading many out of the traps of the devil into the liberty of Your Spirit, (2 Corinthians 3:17) for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!