Last night I was able to go see the movie “I Can Only Imagine”, which gives the story behind the #1 Christian song in history. The song was written in just a few minutes, but was based on the transformative power of the Holy Spirit that Bart Millard witnessed in his own father, and then Bart’s imaginings of the glory his father is now witnessing in eternal life. I can’t recommend this movie or the book (which gives a lot more back story than the movie) enough.
I most probably relate to Jesus’s disciple Peter the most. Even as Christ’s follower and disciple, Peter often acted rashly without first taking his thoughts to the Lord. He was more concerned with his own will and perceived needs than in the Father’s will (Mark 8:31-33). When Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that He would die and then be resurrected, Jesus had to rebuke Peter, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” When Peter witnessed Jesus’s transfiguration, his first thought (after fear) was that they should build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He was rebuked again by the Lord, who told him to listen (Mark 9:2-7).
How many of us in our quiet time with the Lord think of all the things we should be doing instead of asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what the Lord wants us to know from Scripture? Like Peter, I am often drawn into “doing something”. But the Lord says, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (v 7). We are called to work for the Lord, but first we are called to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
When Jesus went to pray before being captured, He asked Peter, James and John to keep watch and to pray (Mark 14:32-42). Each of the three times He returned to them before going back to pray, He found them sleeping. They were thinking of their own needs, and not the needs of the Lord. Jesus told them to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (v 38). Even as Christ followers we are easily tempted to think of ourselves first because in the flesh, we are weak. So the solution that Jesus gave is the same one for us: we need to watch and pray so that we won’t fall into temptation.
While Peter heard what the Lord told him in each of these instances, he still fell into temptation. He was still trying to protect Jesus from what He told him must happen for God’s will for us to come to pass when he cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant (John 18:1-11), and when he denied Jesus three times (Matt. 26:69-75) as Jesus said he would (Matt. 26:31-35). And when Peter realized what he had done, he wept bitterly.
So how did this rash man become the rock upon who Jesus’s church was built? It was the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, who could not come until Jesus was gone. “But 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 1:8) And the power of the Spirit is what Peter testified about, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33) Peter had no power in his own might to overcome his weaknesses, being easily offended and rashly moving to do something, even if it was against the Lord’s will. Before the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, Peter could not have been the rock upon who Jesus’s church was built.
Each of us has availability to the same transformative power of the Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus. “When you believed, you were marked in Him [Jesus] with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph 1:13b). But we must submit to the Lord, become rooted in Him in prayer and meditation on His Word. The Holy Spirit is working on our transformation. “And we all, who with unveiled faces [we now know the Truth] contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)
Bart Millard says of his father who was a monster when he was a child and teenager, “If the gospel could change that guy, the gospel could change anybody.” And that is the wonderful truth about faith in Jesus Christ, He transforms us; it’s nothing we can do on our own. He gives us a new heart, and we learn to love because He first loved us. There is nothing we have done in the past that can “out-sin” God’s grace. And it is in the telling of our own testimonies that we share the hope that can only be found in Jesus. When people see a change in you, they want what you have. Share the light of Jesus with someone today!