What a difference the Holy Spirit makes! In today’s read of Acts 2, we get an up-close and personal look at how God’s Spirit transforms a man. Just 50 days before, Peter had boasted of his loyalty to Jesus, but failed miserably, denying Him and abandoning Him at the time when his beloved friend needed him most. Ashamed and repentant, he found grace and forgiveness when he met the risen Savior. For the last 10 days, he and the other disciples have withdrawn from the chaos of the city, gathering in the upper rooms to pray and wait as Jesus had instructed.
Now we see a different Peter. Instead of cowering in fear and denying any knowledge of Jesus, he is preaching in the streets, publicly and boldly confronting the religious Jews with their responsibility in crucifying the Messiah. He leaves no doubt where his loyalty and faith rests: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (2:36)
What changed? Peter hasn’t completed a crash course at seminary. He hasn’t attended any workshops, taken any tests to discover his strengths and weaknesses or had his personality profiled. He hasn’t completed a program in good works; he hasn’t meditated every morning or met with a psychologist. The difference was not something Peter did, it was what was done to him. The Holy Spirit, the promised One, had come to take up residence in Peter’s spirit and transformed him.
When the Spirit came, fear gave way to faith.
Confusion gave way to conviction.
Apprehension gave way to assurance.
Caution gave way to courage.
Betrayal gave way to boldness.
That’s what the Spirit of God does. When we receive God’s gift of salvation, we don’t just gain eternal life. We also receive the gift of God’s indwelling Spirit. Maybe we don’t see the tongues of fire or feel the rushing of a violent wind from heaven, but the same Spirit who descended on those first apostles is the same Spirit who takes up residence in every believer. We also experience transformation, just as Peter did.
When Jesus comes to live in us, all our past failures cease to matter. Who we were no longer defines who we are in Christ.
Do you wish you could start over?
Do you have regrets?
Have you done things you wish you could undo?
You can’t rewrite your story, but God can. Peter tells us how, and he’s speaking from experience.
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)