Everybody loves Peter — the apostle with a foot-shaped mouth. Everybody can identify with him; he blustered and blundered his way along, and we all love him because of it. But I think we sometimes overemphasize his failures and forget some of the amazing things he did.
Peter was the disciple who walked on water (Matthew 14:29). And in Matthew 16:16, Peter was the disciple who made that remarkable statement about Jesus’s identity: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Not only that, he had miraculous courage. In the garden, when the soldiers came to take Jesus captive, Peter was the one who pulled his sword out to defend Him. In the face of a Roman cohort loaded to the teeth with weapons, Peter has the courage to draw his sword and attack the high priest’s servant (John 18:10). He was ready to fight the Roman government itself.
Now, what is the common denominator in all three of these examples? At all three times, he was standing in the presence of Jesus Christ. When he walked on water, he was next to Jesus. When he said, “You are the Christ,” he was talking to Jesus. When he pulled his sword to fight the Roman cohort, he was near Jesus. This illustrates a general principle in Peter’s life: When he was close to Christ, he found tremendous power.
We can see how this principle played out through the rest of Peter’s story. After Jesus was taken prisoner, Peter was left outside, warming himself by the fire while Jesus was on trial. And what did he do while he was separated from Jesus? He denied Him three times. Separated from Christ, Peter turned cowardly. All his courage, all his integrity, and all his credibility went out the window. He even denied Christ to some little servant girl, and he did it with profanity. In that moment, he was a totally different man from the one who had just been ready to fight the world for Jesus. Apart from Christ, Peter had no power.
Now go forward to the day of Pentecost. By this time, Jesus had ascended into heaven. And we ask ourselves, “If Peter was a coward when Jesus was only a hundred feet away, what’s he going to be like now that Jesus is in heaven?”
We see in Acts 2:14 exactly what he is like: “But Peter, taking his stand with the other eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, know this, and pay attention to my words.’” He goes on to preach Christ boldly to the Jewish crowd, and 3,000 people are converted.
Then in Acts 3:1-7, while Peter is in the temple, we see him healing a lame man. And when he is later arrested by the Sanhedrin and commanded to stop preaching, he says, “You judge whether we should obey God or men,” and then he goes out and preaches Christ even more boldly (Acts 4:19-31).
This is Peter at his finest: doing miraculous things, speaking powerful words and acting with great courage. But the difference is that, now, Jesus is in heaven. And so we ask, “Where is Peter getting this strength from, if he is no longer standing close to Jesus when he does these things?”
The answer comes in Acts 2:4 with this statement: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Being filled with the Holy Spirit made Peter act the same way he acted when Jesus Christ was in his presence. Let me draw one conclusion from this: the Spirit-filled life is living in the consciousness of the presence and the power of Christ. The essence of being Spirit-filled is being Christ-conscious.
Colossians 3:16 puts it this way: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” As the Word dwells in you richly — as you feed on the Word of God and saturate yourself with Scripture — it becomes the presence of Christ, because the Word is Christ’s. And as the Word of Christ dominates you, the Spirit will control you.
There’s nothing mystical about this process. You don’t lie around and hope somehow you get zapped. Living every moment in the full conscious presence of the ever-near Christ is the issue. And that happens to people who are saturated with Scripture. These people have the Word of Christ dwelling in them, and so Christ is alive and real to them, and His influence is the controlling element in their life.
This is what we have said about God’s will so far: first, God’s will is that you be saved. Second, God’s will is that you be Spirit-filled by allowing the Word of Christ to dwell in you and control your life. Next time I will be looking at the third step of God’s will for our lives.
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