Its almost like there were two men named Peter. The one we meet in the gospels is good-hearted, but often says the wrong thing at the wrong time. Only a few weeks earlier, that one fearfully denied to a servant girl he even knew Jesus. But on this Pentecost morning were listening to a very different man. This one has the courage to stand in front of thousands and tell them in unmistakable terms that they are morally responsible for killing the Messiah. Neither afraid nor angry, he says to them,
you nailed Him (to a cross) by the hand of godless men (Roman soldiers) and put Him to death
His boldness is remarkable. Today, this one will be so effective at presenting the gospel, 3000 people will repent and be baptized. The fearful, clumsy man who often makes us chuckle when we read the gospels has been transformed into a fearless, eloquent spokesman for His Lord. What happened? What changed Peter? We want to know because we want that same boldness for ourselves. We want to be able to speak when its time to speak. We want to be able to pray for someone when its time to pray. We want the courage to go someplace and serve when were called to go. We dont want fear holding us back. So lets find out what happened to Peter, so it can happen to us too.
Listen to Peter
DBS (Sun, Mon)
Read: vs 22, 23, 36
So what are the influences that changed this man and made him so bold? Here are three reasons that I can see:
He loved his enemies
Though he is about to indict the crowd for executing their Messiah, Peter addresses them respectfully, he says, Men, Israelites, hear these words
(v14). Later he calls them brethren (v29) and they respond by calling the disciples brethren (v37). In light of all that had taken place in that city just 43 days earlier, the warmth in this exchange is surprising. Obviously, Peters goal is to win their hearts, not rage against them for crucifying his Master. He is loving them like Jesus did.
Mt 5:44-48 love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Lk 19:41-44 He saw the city and wept over it.
Lk 23:34 Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
We see the same attitude in Stephen as he prayed for those who were stoning him. As he died he cried out Lord, do not hold this sin against them! (Ac 7:60)
One of the clear marks of revival is when Christians stop being angry at unbelievers and begin to weep that they are lost, and pray for their salvation. Such love doesnt cause us to soften the gospel, it presses us to tell the whole truth. Peters love for Israel doesnt cause him to pull his punches, he doesnt compromise the truth, but it does change the atmosphere of the moment. His purpose isnt to try them in court and find them guilty, his purpose is to warn them so they can repent. In just a few moments, he will tell them to beware. Jesus is not only the resurrected Messiah who defeated death, but He is also the ascended Lord to whom God has given all authority to rule and judge. He warns that the day will come when they will stand before Him and give an account for what they have done. In effect, he says we disciples have seen Him alive from the dead, and so will you
on the judgment day,
this Jesus whom you crucified.
He didnt fear death
Seeing the resurrected Jesus dramatically transformed the way Peter thought about death. Surely he had believed in life after death before, but now all doubt was gone. Now he knew for sure, and the worry about what the crowd might do to him, if they rejected his words, had passed away. It wasnt that he wanted to die, but the fear of dying was no longer in control.
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He (Jesus) Himself likewise also partook of the same, so that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Heb 2:14, 15).
You and I might say, Well, Peter had the advantage of seeing Jesus alive and we dont, but listen to Jesus:
1) He said to Thomas, Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see and yet believed. (Jn 20:29)
2) He told a parable in which Abraham said to a rich man who had died, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. But he said, No father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent! But he said to him, if they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead. (Lk 16:29-31)
So it is possible for us to totally accept the testimony of Gods Word and be set free from slavery to the fear of death. Scripture contains all the truth we need, and it exposes the heart. Am I, or am I not, willing to live as if I had personally seen Jesus alive from the dead. The issue is deeper than doubt, its ultimately a matter of my willingness to walk in faith. And the more I believe in life after death, the more I want to live, so I can bring as many as possible with me to heaven. Im driven by an urgency of love and compassion, not an urgency of guilt.
He was baptized in the Holy Spirit
Peter has just been baptized in the Holy Spirit. To him, God is now present and personal. At that moment, as he stands before the crowd, hes very conscious of the Lords anointing, of God working through him. Hes not standing there alone trying to do the right thing. Hes doing what he sees the Spirit doing, and hes speaking what he hears the Spirit saying. For the first time were watching what happens when the Spirit indwells a believer (other than Jesus)! There comes:
1. A mental change
Jerry Cook: a radical relocation of God. He moves from a distant throne in heaven, to a loving presence within.
Paul: Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)
greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (1 Jn 4:4)
My relationship with God ceases to be a mental debate about whether or not He exists, and becomes a question of obedience. I no longer think of Him as a distant God on a throne, but as a loving Lord who dwells within.
2. The assurance
The physical consciousness that the Spirit has come upon me and flooded my inner being changes the way I think about myself. Like one of the lepers Jesus touched, I say, He touched me, Im clean. The Holy God has come and is willing to dwell inside me. Not only do I believe I am loved, I actually feel loved, and hear the Spirit testifying within that Im a child of God. (Ro 8:16).
So often this truth is taught apart from the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Im told to repeat Bible promises until I believe them. And thats a good thing, but the process isnt supposed to be just me telling myself He loves me. Its also supposed to be the Spirit within telling me He loves me. John Wesley called this the assurance and told his preachers not to tell people they were saved. He said that was the Spirits job.
So what made Peter so bold? What turned him from a fearful, muddled man into a courageous leader? The answer is the same realities that change you and me. He loved his enemies, and that love compelled him to speak, and softened the hearts of his listeners. He didnt fear death anymore. The terror that chills our bones and turns us into cowards had been broken off of him. He wasnt its slave anymore. Now he was able to speak what God gave him to speak, and trust that his life was in Gods hands. And he was baptized in the Holy Spirit. His whole thinking about God and himself had changed. When he stood up he could feel the anointing, the Spirit was strengthening him. His mind was clear and the words came easily. He felt Gods heart for the people. He didnt see dangerous enemies, he saw sheep without a shepherd. (Mt 9:36).
1) Describe a time when you boldly spoke or acted on Gods behalf. What were you thinking at the time? 2) Can you describe a time when you felt love for your enemies? 3) If youve been baptized in the Holy Spirit, how did that encounter change you?