Wednesday, January 25, 2012
But it's in Acts when things really get interesting for the followers of Jesus. This is where we see the effects of what Jesus did in action. This is where we see transformation.
They went from arguments 'among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest' (Luke 9:46) to everyone 'together and.... everything in common' (Acts 2:44).
And what would make Peter, of 'denying three times' infamy, become a bold witness? "When they saw the courage of Peter and John...they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)
This seems impossible. If you've ever tried to change something about yourself, or tried to change someone else, you'll know how impossible it is. People just don't change radically, overnight. Their fears, weaknesses, insecurities and bad habits just don't disappear like that.
But the disciples and the subsequent followers of Jesus changed radically. And not just for a few days. Not just a few of them. And even in the face of opposition and persecution. They changed so radically that they disrupted 'the whole world'. (Acts 17:6)
What makes this possible?
What the book of Acts is trying to show us, is that the only answer is the Holy Spirit.
Peter spoke "filled with the Holy Spirit". (Acts 4:8) He was transformed.
And the thousands who witnessed the acts and transformations of the apostles - they weren't won over by convincing arguments - they were also transformed by the power of what they saw and heard and witnessed.
Too often we think of being a Christian as a moral standard that we have to project, to make sure everyone sees how good we are, to make sure we aren't letting Jesus down. So we try to be like him. We try and try and try. And yet we are still dogged by those bad behaviours, those bad habits, that anger, that fear, that weakness. And so we get discouraged because it seems impossible, and we are sick of failing over and over again.
But that's the point. It is impossible. Without the Holy Spirit.
Even those who had seen Jesus risen from the dead and ascended into the clouds didn't do much until the Holy Spirit came. They had seen Jesus more physically and tangibly than we have, and yet they waited.
Even Jesus didn't expect them to act on their own. "...wait for the gift my Father promised...For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5) "...you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:7-8)
It's a gift. A gift that comes with power and authority from God, and transformation.
The thing about a gift is, inherent in the meaning of the word, you can't earn it or work for it. It's not payment, it's a gift. You just have to receive it.
That is the way our lives are transformed. That is the way we become bold witnesses to the ends of the earth. Not through our own efforts to be good or say and do the right thing - but by the power of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in us. A gift.